There are two primary reasons ministry leaders need to pioneer change: They have a vision to expand the Kingdom, or there’s a problem to fix. Both of these scenarios require a certain set of leadership skills to guide people, as Bill Hybels would say, “from here to there.” This is the essence of leadership — leading people to the “there.”
How do you do that? Knowing where “there” is located is sometimes hard enough, but even harder is guiding people from one place to another. I’ve been in several ministry situations where the ministry I inherited was not reaching its full potential. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a few principles that have helped me lead through change.
The path from “here to there” is often filled with pain. We can’t stay here. You can feel it in your bones. As a leader you feel it before anyone else, and that’s the problem — many times, you’re the only one. Before change can stick within an organization, the leader must lead everyone through a process of discomfort, discontent, and disgust.
Discomfort – “I don’t like it”
As a leader, our ability to lead change is directly related to our ability to withstand pain. Change itself is painful, and you can’t lead anyone beyond the level of change and pain you can withstand yourself.
Change means things aren’t comfortable. They’re different than the way they were and people don’t usually want to risk what they have, even if it’s something better. “Until the pain to remain the same is greater than the pain to change, things will remain the same.” So, as a leader we have to begin a process of creating a level of discomfort where we are that is greater than where we want to lead others.
You and the people you’re leading having to first come to a place where you don’t like where you are and you want something better.
Discontent – “There is something better”
So if not here, then where? What is that thing stirring within you as a leader? What is the vision God has placed in your heart for your people? You as a leader have to clarify it in you, and when you get that clarity, paint the picture of the preferred future.
It’s got to be a Holy Discontent. God has called us to do something greater and be something greater. The key to leading through lasting change is making sure it’s not about you, but about Him. This is His church, not yours. So you’ve got to find out what He wants you to do with His church.
When you get that clarity (which He will give you), let it be a rally cry for you. It has to shift from a belief to a conviction. Conviction creates discontent. And discontent leads to disgust.
Disgust – I never will go back
Once we’re moving, we won’t want to go back, right? I’ve got one word for you: Egypt. Once freed as slaves, the “comfort” of Egypt called to the children of Israel. When things got tough, they told Moses, “We want to go back to Egypt.” What?!?
I asked a leader I deeply respect, “How do you lead people to change?” What he said took me by surprise. He said, “It’s disgust.” Until people hate where they are and where they’ve been, they won’t fully change. I believe that’s true. I’ve seen it in my own life.
About five years ago, I weighed a little more than I do now. I was about 50 pounds heavier and about 40 pounds overweight. I came to the point where I was disgusted with how I felt and looked. It wasn’t healthy for me, or my family. I put in the work, I ate right, and I got healthy. I lost the weight. I’ll never forget the clothing purge of 2011, where I got rid of my “fat clothes.” I burned the bridge, and I’m not going back.
It’s ok to burn the bridge, and live in the disgust of where you were. You have to create an organizational mirror that you can look at yourself in to see if you are “putting on a few pounds.” Hang up a pair of fat pants on the wall — do whatever it takes to not got back to your place of unhealth in ministry.
God has called you and prepared you to lead to the new “there”. Lead your people through the process of discomfort, discontent and disgust. And remember that as the LEAD, you have to go first.