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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Who Moved My Pulpit?" (Thom S. Rainer)

TITLE: Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church
AUTHOR: Thom S. Rainer
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016, (150 pages).

It started with a plea for help via email. A reader of the author's popular blog asks for an A to Z plan for leading change. The result is this book which is about leading change in the Church. Written for the pastor and leaders of the Church, it begins with the story of Derek who literally removed the pulpit in order to instill change in his style and method of preaching. It created an uproar in the Church, which lobbed off years off what the Church could have achieved with other things. Reasons for the poor change process include the over-dependence on human strength; inadequate assessment of unintended consequences; lack of communications; underestimating people issues; and not modeling positive leadership. Why is it so difficult to change? Simple: People, especially with one or more of the following people.

  • The Deniers will dismiss any need for change.
  • The Entitled will see the Church as a means to their ends and will rebel against anything that threaten that.
  • The Blamers are all too ready to push the responsibility on the pastor.
  • The Critics drain the pastor and leaders with their callous comments and side-reporting.
  • The Confused are just not sure what is more important and prefer not to change unless absolutely necessary.
Rainer then puts forth an 8-stage template for leading change. 
  1. Stop and Pray: We avoid becoming dependent on human wisdom and fallible strength
  2. Communicate a Sense of Urgency: Don't give excuses for a Church in decline. Communicate realities as lovingly and as urgently as possible.
  3. Build an Eager Coalition: Choose people who are influential, good chemistry, position, expertise, and leadership.
  4. Become a Voice and Vision of Hope: Be regular readers of the Bible, people of hope, and willingness to help.
  5. Deal with People Issues: Learn about the seven principles of loving people.
  6. Move Focus from Inward to Outward: From leadership to budget matters, work on incremental changes and to celebrate small successes.
  7. Pick Low-Hanging Fruit: Clarity, Affirmation, Appreciation, and Building of momentum.
  8. Implement and Consolidate Change: Over-communicate, be transparent, and learning to deal with difficult people, with success, and with complacency.

Thom Rainer has done it again. Knowing that leaders in churches tend to be busy people, he comes up with a book that is not only short and sweet, it is packed with pointers and easy to understand strategies to implement change. The diagnostic and study questions alone are worth the price of the book. Rainer is President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources and has authored or co-authored more than 20 books. Many of his writings are based on experiences and interactions with churches and Christian organizations struggling with real life change scenarios.

It has been said that change is the only constant. Those who fail to change will suffer the consequences of becoming irrelevant. While many in theory will claim to support change, the implementation of change is another matter altogether. For change is that one thing that is easier said than done. The focus of this book is to enable churches to do the needed changes in a more effective manner. Rainer has a gift of writing when implementation in mind. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate his books. With clear goals and easy to understand sequences, he summarizes a lot for the benefit of readers. While this may mean over-simplification of some areas, it is sufficient for the general reader to know what he is getting at. We do not need the full details of each church scenario in order to appreciate the idea behind the change needed. What is more important is for each leader or Church pastor to do their own analysis and situational checks of their parish and organizational culture. Change is necessary simply because time does not stand still. The culture around us will change. People change. Everything changes. We do not change for the sake of changing. We change for the sake of the gospel. I am reminded of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians where he writes:

"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 Cor 9:22)

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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