Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
Jeremiah 13:23, NIV
In the cover article entitled “Change or Die” for Fast Company magazine, May 2005 edition, Alan Deutschman posed the question, “If you were told today that you must make significant changes in your lifestyle or face imminent death, could you make the necessary changes? Yes, you say? Try again. Yes? You’re probably deluding yourself. Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?”1
Deutschman reported that in 2005, at IBM’s Global Outlook Conference, a panel of experts was enlisted to study the American healthcare crisis. Healthcare at that time was consuming an astounding 15 percent of our Gross National Product at 1.8 trillion dollars a year. As the dream team of experts took the stage, everyone held their breath in anticipation of a breakthrough. What was the answer from their exhaustive research?
Ray Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, told the audience, “A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and are by and large behavioral.”
Edward Miller, dean of the medical school and CEO at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, continued the report: “If you look at people after coronary artery bypass, ninety percent of them have not changed their lifestyle. That’s been studied over and over again. Even though they know they have a very bad disease and they know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can’t.”
In other words, most of us are sick because we refuse to change our basic behavior to get well. When faced with the choice to change or die, nine out of ten of us refuse to change. In fact, the panel discovered that CEOs, supposedly the primary change agents for their companies, are often as resistant to change as anyone and as prone to backsliding. Do you think that might also be true for church leaders?
What set apart the 10 percent of heart patients who embraced change from the 90 percent who rejected it? The answer gives us some important insights into motivating change. Deutschman cited John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor who studied dozens of organizations in the midst of upheaval: “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people . . . Behavioral change happens most effectively by speaking to people’s feelings. In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.”
The ability to manage change will always depend on the quality of your relationships. Remember, Christianity is foremost a relationship with God through Christ, not a religion. So resolve to build relationships ever deeper as the context for your leadership. Then, in the context of relationship, influence the emotions of worshipers to embrace change by:
- Asking powerful questions: We can move worshipers emotionally by asking them leading questions. Good questions first help them identify the emotional issues blocking their objectivity. Next, questions can lead them to discover missional solutions they can embrace. Finally, your questions should move them toward personal commitment to spiritual growth. Transition your relational methodology from providing answers to asking questions that motivate change.
- Using the storying method: Storying blazes a trail through our emotions to our intellect. Bible storying connects our heart with God by speaking to our feelings. That’s why Jesus taught the crowds in parables.
- Sharing powerful missional stories: Real life stories are an effective way to inspire change. Present the problems first and then tell the success stories of those finding missional solutions to problems in your community.
Leaders today must find new ways to reach people’s hearts to affect life-change. Leadership specialists are helping us see that true leaders first sell the problem before they sell the solution. Present the problems in ways that move us emotionally and challenge our hearts.
Changed hearts lead to changed people. Changed people can change churches and our world.
What specific ways can YOU apply these principles to your leadership? — Mark Powers
Deutschman, “Change or Die,” Fast Company, page unknown.