Lessons We Have Learned in Leading Transformation

Time and again, Paul Borden has been so helpful in North Alabama in offering his insights on pastoral leadership and congregational change. Recently, Paul and I contributed chapters to a book on leadership that is edited by Hugh Ballou (who served a church in North Alabama a few years ago). I offer some of Paul’s insights that I found to be challenging and helpful:

  1. Congregations that have been on a plateau or in decline for more than three years require intervention to produce any significant change. Without intervention these congregations will continue to be disobedient to God’s Great Commission for the Church
  2. Leadership is essential. The pastor must be a leader or have the ability to exercise leadership behavior. However, most pastors cannot lead such change alone. Pastors need help from the outside. A key and fundamental role for denomination personnel is to stand with leader pastors and risk the loss of congregational dollars and affirmation.
  3. Pastors and denominations that do not want to disrupt comfortable congregations must understand they are abdicating their responsibilities as Christian leaders to serve God well. Enabling and helping congregations to continually exercise sinful dysfunctional behavior means that such pastors and denominational leaders are practicing carnal co-dependent realtionships that work against God’s mission for the Church.
  4. The ultimate issues in congregations that fight and resist change relates ultimately to people wanting to hold and control the power (to influence the congregations), money, and turf.
  5. Leading congregational transformation is much more difficult than starting new congregations. However, the investment is worth it when one sees expensive facilities sitting on valuable properties being used to achieve grand missions that produce changed lives and communities.

— From Transforming Power – Stories from Transformational Leaders for Encouragement and Inspiration, Compiled and Edited by Hugh Ballou, Discipleship Resources, P.O. Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003

Will Willimon

2 thoughts on “Lessons We Have Learned in Leading Transformation

  1. Bishop Willimon: I am a grateful former student(Duke M.Div 1986)and really appreciate your candid, from the front-lines approach to leadership. While reviewing the significant points made in your most recent blog I was reminded of a similar word found in ReJesus, co-authored by my old friend Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The boys from Down Under reminded me of singer/songwriter Sinead O’Connor’s album of 2007 entitled, Theology. They note, “Raised Catholic, the brunt of her attacks has invariably been borne by the church of her childhood, but the sting in her beautiful songs can be felt by any church or denomination that shuts Jesus out of its religious system. In her searing lament “Out of The Depths” she captures the Psalmist’s broken-hearted cry for mercy. It begins with a paraphrase of Psalm 130:1 In her song (O’Connor) imagines this lament being sung for a God who is locked out of (his) own church.This is actually the same thing Vincent van Gogh was trying to say in the late 1800s when he painted “The Church at Auvers”. Take a close look at Van Gogh’s depiction and you catch a glimpse of a church with no doors, no light, and no life. Life flourishes outside the church, but that is in spite of the life-less church of Auvers. Many people don’t know that Van Gogh was at one time a student in seminary. His stinging criticism is more subtle than O’Connor’s, but no less damning. It makes me think of another daughter of the church, Flannery O’Connor, who writes about the church pastored by Reverend Haze Mote, in her novel Wise Blood. She describes that congregation as being one where, “the blind don’t see….the lame don’t walk, ….and what’s dead – stays dead!” My prayer is that the same God who raised Jesus will raise us as well, not for our glory but to empower us to be a light to the nations. Jon E. Strother aka Jon(the methodist)


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