Home > Uncategorized > Why churches don’t change…

Why churches don’t change…

It’s a hairy old joke – “How many (insert name of your denomination/fellowship here) does it take to change a light bulb?  NONE, (insert name of your denomination/fellowship here) don’t change!”  It is  humor that hits too close to the bone for a lot of ministry leaders.

But why?  Our church catches some heat for changing things up – and that’s ok, resistance builds strength.  But I often wonder why a church would not change, or would be virulently resistant to changing anything?

It’s a cliché, but living things change… If we see a developmentally challenged person, trapped in a younger age emotionally and intellectually than their body is chronologically – we think that’s a tragic, pitiable situation.

Yet some churches will wear their “unchangedness” proudly, a badge of honor, not really understanding that their lack of development is a tragedy.

So I began to reflect on some reasons why churches do not change.  Some of what follows comes from my own experience, and some from the experiences of others.  I admit to some bias in favor of change for change’s sake, and that some of these thoughts are not fully formed – your mileage may vary…

  • Fear – perhaps the most obvious, feeling that change will be bad, or make people mad, or not work out.
  • Indifference – not seeing any need to change
  • Values – the “payoff” for staying the same is perceived to be higher than benefit of changing.
  • Discomfort – change is disruptive, requires new things of us, challenges our skills.  Growing into that requires us to go through a period of adjustment.  And we don’t like that.
  • Arrogance – if you’re already doing everything right, why change?

I’d be interested in your thoughts, or any other reasons you think churches refuse to change.

Next time – how to begin the change process.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Joh McArthur
    April 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Don’t forget TRADITION. There is a fear that if we change we will dishonor the memory of those who went before

    • fiercegrace
      April 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      The King Daddy of them all, J Mc!

  2. Michelle Reed
    April 7, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Some people see it as “selling out” to the world. The way I see it, we are in the world and if we want to reach the world we better keep up. That’s why churches are dying out.

    • fiercegrace
      April 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      You’re right Michelle – if we want to world to hear what we have to say, we’d better be speaking their language.

      • April 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm

        I do not know what is meant by the statement “we’d better be speaking their language”. Does this mean we, as a church, should use language that may be considered “foul” if it is what the people are speaking, or using modern terminology?

  3. April 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    When we start to address our fears I think that the other things fall like dominoes. The greatest fear is the fear of being “left out.” That is not the case. Granted change changes things. But the 12 did not stay in one place. They moved as first Jesus led them and then as the Holy Spirit directed them. Good post!

    • fiercegrace
      April 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Great point – when we deal with fear, most of our issues go away! Thanks for your input, Jim.

  4. April 7, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Control – I might lose my place or control if things change.

    New People – Sometimes too many new people coming in at one time scares people, because they know things must change to sustain the growth.

    Dumb – Some people are dumb!

    • fiercegrace
      April 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

      Pastor Randy,

      You are right on with the control issue – change challenges the powers that be…

      And I have personally heard people complain about “all these new people” – as if growth is a bad thing.

  5. April 7, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Identity. When you’ve (mistakenly) confused the methods you’ve used for your identity as a church, change seems to threaten what you (mistakenly) think is your core identity.

    Related to this is when a person or organization has married their ideas/programs. A rejection of an established idea/program then is taken as a rejection of the worth of the organization as a whole (same happens with individuals…seen it many a time in brainstorming sessions and meetings).

    • fiercegrace
      April 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      Great point James! I see this in people who connect the message and the methods – then when methods are changed, they (mistakenly) believe the message is threatened.

  6. Bill
    April 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    One reason can be people have not really submitted to Jesus so He is unifying and growing and developing them as one.

    Also, if you are a pastor who is growing in God’s love, you will be getting into more and more very personal and deep relationships with more and more people who will be special friends and Jesus Family for you, in this love. And this increasing number of people are going to each have different sorts of more or less serious personal problems and trials that you will need to be strong and creative enough to share in with them. Plus, a number of these so very special people will *die* before you do! So, you need to grow in real love, *God’s* love which has you ready to bear all these problems and deaths, in a good way so you don’t become a basket case, every time something hard happens. And you be maturely ready to nurture others who are not doing so well because they did not get ready in God’s love; you can be there for all such people, and preach to prepare people so they *are* ready.

    But maybe part of why ones don’t want to change and have new members is because they are not developing in *ready* love that has them able to so personally *adopt* people and their problems and deaths. The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption”, Paul shares in Romans 8:15. God bless you, too (c:

    • fiercegrace
      April 8, 2010 at 8:09 am

      Interesting thoughts, Bill. Especially the last paragraph – I once heard Ben Merold say, “There is no such thing as a friendly, evangelistic, small church…” I would add “loving” to that list as well. I wonder how a church can call themselves “loving” when they haven’t won a single person to the Lord in years.

      Thanks for your input.

  7. fiercegrace
    April 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    B.L. James,

    “We’d better be speaking their language” means we better be knowledgeable of the culture we’re communicating in. In missiology, it’s called “contextualization” – and it means communicating using words, examples, stories, references, etc., that people can relate to and identify with.

    For example, my children have no idea what a “broken record” is. So if I tell them something repeats like a broken record, I have not communicated with them.

  8. centralityofthegospel
    June 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

    First of all.. by nature we are all descenders. Therefore, we will restist change as we seek to maximize comfort. However, change needs to be at the heart of the Christian walk.

    The Gospel can and does change us individually. Corporately, once again a vision of the Gospel that is the same on the pulpit, in leadership, and in the people serving in the back in the kitchen should be on a forward moving spiritual journey.

    I like the “Book How People Change” by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp has a diagram where it shows “the same Gospel” vision in all the Church how it can and does change a church and individuals. Good reading

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