Agents of change in a resistant culture BY GARY NELSON
Iknow things need to change, but they should wait until I die.” That’s what my 92-year- old mother says to me, with a smile. I have seen the same attitude, sadly, in Christian organizations. There are always some people willing to allow
an organization or church to die
rather than change. Entire organizations will resist change with the
The challenge of the 21st century
for the Church, Christian organizations and their leaders is to change
before they die.
Living in the age of the
My wife Carla and I visited the
former headquarters of Kodak in
Rochester, N.Y., one summer. It
was a fascinating immersion in the
story of a corporation, its leadership and resistance to change.
Once the giant of the photography
industry, the building is now an
empty shell. Some would say it was
their inability to anticipate the
seismic shifts taking place in soci-
ety and adjust quickly to the innov-
ations of digital imaging.
Kodak actually was at the front
end of digital imaging, but refused
to anticipate its possibilities. They
became insignificant and irrelevant
in just a few decades.
Leadership is one of the issues at
the core of this problem.
My views on leadership have
been shaped from pastoral leadership that took me from Canada to
California and back again, from
serving on a staff ministry team to
serving as a lead pastor. I also
founded and directed a postgraduate ministry formation program
that sought to develop leadership
for the changing urban environment in North America and around
After 12 years in a pastoral role
that called for innovation and renewal of a downtown congregation, I moved into a leadership role
focused on revitalizing my denomination’s mission organization.
Over the last seven years I have
served at Tyndale University College
& Seminary situated in Toronto,
one of the most multicultural cities
in the world.
Faster than ever
Shifts are taking place faster than
ever. Author Joshua Cooper Ramo
of Kissinger Associates calls these
times “the age of the unthinkable.”
He points out that nations no long-
er dominate in the ways they used
to. “New actors” emerge seemingly
from nowhere, shaking the world’s
balance and safety. A small band of
terrorists abducts 200 girls from a
school in Nigeria. World powers
posture and even devise well-inten-
tioned but meaningless Internet
statements, but fail to make any dent
in launching a rescue. This and so
many other examples flaunt the
impotence of former methodologies
developed in much simpler times.
These vast shifts are impacting
churches and Christian institutions,
often at the same time as we are still
adjusting to the previous shifts.
The danger for institutions such
as the one I serve, or churches
seeking to engage the community
with a missional agenda, is that the
HOW TO LEAD WELL
WHEN LEADING IS HARD