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Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church Hardcover – June 1, 2016
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I turn around and ordered more for my Pastor and for a deacon at the church.
Motivated by an email he received from a frustrated pastor asking for help in learning how to lead his church through some much-needed change, Dr. Rainer tackles the issue by offering church leaders a pathway of hope through the necessary changes needed in most churches.
Dr. Rainer’s approach, as he readily admits, is not a “plug-and-play” program that a church leader can use that will guarantee results, but rather a Biblically based process that is at once theological, ecclesiological, and foremost practical. The title emerges from an event in the ministry of a midwestern pastor who, in trying to make the church more relevant to a growing millennial presence, replaced the pulpit which had stood on the platform of his church for decades and replaced it with a smaller, more modern version. The move, thought insignificant by the pastor, turned out to be more than the church was prepared to handle.
In consultation with the pastor, Dr. Rainer and his team developed an eight-step “roadmap” that will enable a church leader to better navigate through the dangerous journey of necessary church change.
Dr. Rainer suggests that no successful change will endure that was not birthed from a time of serious prayer on the part of the leader, and that the leader find someone else to join with him in prayer. Drawing from the example of Nehemiah, he suggests the leader pray for wisdom, courage, and strength. “I have never seen successful and sustaining change take place in a church without prayer.” (p. 36)
The second phase of the roadmap is to confront and communicate the reality with a sense of urgency. Dr. Rainer encourages church leaders to take a look at three important statistics – average worship attendance, baptisms, and average attendance in small groups. Those three indicators will paint a picture of the rise or decline of the church more than any other statistics. He also suggests the church leader ask “outside eyes” to visit and evaluate the facilities and worship services. Those outside eyes will more impartially see what those who are at the church on a regular basis would otherwise miss. Then, he suggests the leader communicate urgently the reality of the church’s condition and direction.
Building an eager coalition is the vital third phase. The leader cannot affect change alone, but a coalition of other leaders who sense the problem and its urgency can more effectively motivate the church to move forward. Dr. Rainer outlines five important qualities needed in the members of the coalition: chemistry, position, influence, expertise, and leadership.
The fourth phase is to become a voice for vision and hope. “A healthy church has a hopeful and visionary pastor.” (p. 67) In this chapter Dr. Rainer encourages the leader to communicate a positive and hopeful vision for the church. A guiding vision is the goal for which the church aims, and the strategic vision is the specific plan for a specific time.
Then the leader should expect opposition and prepare to deal with people issues lovingly, but quickly. In this chapter, Dr. Rainer shares the percentages of people who ordinarily are ready for change as opposed to the majority who are either waiting to see which way the church goes before adopting change or those who are resistant to change of any kind.
In what is a major theme in all of Dr. Rainer’s writing and teaching, the sixth phase involves the necessary process of moving the church from an inward to an outward focus. He suggests leaders help churches incrementally move through changes in the mindset of the leader as well as the budgetary priorities of the church.
The seventh phase is another prominent theme in Dr. Rainer’s teaching, picking “low-hanging” fruit. By low-hanging fruit, Dr. Rainer suggests looking for early, easily achievable wins that help engender confidence and build momentum.
The last stage is to implement and consolidate the change. Dr. Rainer challenges the leader to never let urgency wane or complacency set it, but to constantly communicate the need to always move forward. He reminds the leader that change is not complete until the changes are not longer spoken of as changes but as “the norm.”
Who Moved My Pulpit is an encouraging and helpful book for any pastor or church leader who finds himself leading a church that must change or face death. Each chapter includes real-life stories that help the reader place the information in a usable context. Dr. Rainer includes with each phase the guidance and advice leaders need to move their churches through the eight phases.
I highly recommend the book to all church leaders, and especially to those leaders who feel overwhelmed and unprepared to lead the church to higher ground.
Tom Rainer is president and CEO of Lifeway Christian resources. For a number of years, he has researched the Church and provided the Church with important data and insight. Part of his valuable experience is as a pastor. He is one of us, church leaders; not a know-it-all outsider.
In this easy-to-read book, you will find great information. It may help you to avoid common pitfalls in leading change. Motivating, insightful and practical is how I would describe it. I would highly recommend it.