Posted: December 21, 2015 by Rob Voyle
"Don't call me to be your pastor if you don't want to change."
Or to put it into a positive spin.
"Only call me to be your pastor if you want to change."
I hear similar statements from clergy, and especially clergy at interim training
where a big focus is on the nature of change, we are here to help you change. I
have spent a good deal of my work teaching the dynamics of sustainable change, a
big part of which is to make it safe for people to engage in change.
I have called myself an agent of change and can think of myself and others as
agents of change but I have come to see that as a mistake. Epiphany came early
for me this season even during advent.
I was talking about change with a friend and colleague, Pam Mott. She is very
gifted in walking with people through difficult changes, but I realized that is
not why I would recommend her to a congregation. There is only one reason to
call her: because she will lead them deeper into the presence of God and weave
them together as the people of God.
We are not called to be agents of change we are called to be agents of God.
We are not here to make it safe for people to change but safe for people to
encounter the loving God.
Because ever since the Garden and the Fall our human instinct when confronted
with the presence of God is to be afraid. In the Scriptures theophanies
typically begin with the words: "Do not be afraid."
And that's where we meet the heart of Christmas. As my good mate Ted Blakely
says "In Jesus people get to be in the presence of God and not be ashamed or
The Christmas angel's message was peace to the world. We can be in the presence
of God and be at peace and in love.
Many of our congregations need more than a few changes they need radical
transformation. Our history tells us that every revival and dramatic change in
the spiritual life, whether it be the birth of Christianity, or monastic
traditions, or the reformation, or the transformations in our own lives begin
with a fresh awareness of the nature of God.
So if you want to bring change to your congregation start making it safe for
people to enter more deeply into the presence of God. In the presence of God,
change will take care of itself. In the absence of God, change is a living
And when a congregation asks you why they should call you as their pastor tell
them: "Because I will lead you deeper into the presence and love of God." And if
they don't want to do that, you probably won't want to be there.
I wish you a very blessed Christmas and pray that we all may know it is now safe
to enter into the presence of God.
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute
The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.
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