Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

Index of Articles
reprinted from the June 2001 edition of Essentials  
  Response to Peter Corney's

October 2000 Aquila Press
Box A287, Sydney South, 1235 - $ 8.75 ea

Review by Kevin Pedersen

Kevin Pedersen leads the parish of Upwey in Melbourne
  Peter Corney has once again been pleased to share with us from his vast pastoral experience - this time on the subject of Change and the Church.  
  Peter explains his purpose in writing in this way: The aim of this resource is to help leaders negotiate the change process positively and constructively. This practical little book has been "designed so that it can be used as a series of (small group) studies or discussions for local church leaders want to initiate change."  
  Change and the Church' is more of a 'how to' manual than an analysis of the challenges that lie before us. For Churches beginning to think through some of the issues associated with change, Peter has produced an introductory video to accompany his book. This will be especially useful for those who are used to thinking of the church as a place of refuge and stability from the turmoil created by the constant change in our society. (Available direct from ICCL 03 9817 4513 or  
  People are usually fearful of change. They feel as though they are being asked to give up something they have grown used to and to embrace an unknown. When change is mentioned, our emotions are engaged!  
  Yet change is inevitable. What can we do to make peoples' experience of change as positive as possible? Surely the most helpful thing we can do is to empower them to begin to direct it, putting the reins back in their hands as much as we possibly can.  
  A friend recently told me of his Parish celebrating their 75th Anniversary. This was attended with the usual array of photographs and stories from the past - people were quick to notice "how much the place had changed". This is change in its best light. We should seize on these moments to celebrate it and to encourage our churches that planning for change gives us the ability to have a say in the direction it takes.  
  In this book, Peter gives us an overview of the whole process of change. This enables us to respond to something that may have initially looked daunting by breaking it up into bite-sized pieces.  
  This is the real beauty of Peter's book. It seeks to empower the reader to initiate, rather than merely respond to, change.  
  Change is a leadership issue. A positive experience of change encourages people to invest their confidence in us. People have to trust you before they will let you lead them. The price for mismanaged change is high, it can take a long time to make up the ground that was lost and becomes a powerful disincentive for taking the initiative next time.  
  Hugh McKay spoke at a recent gathering of Anglican Clergy in the Melbourne Diocese. He reduced the task of leadership to two basic elements.  

1. Explaining us to ourselves.

  We are looking for someone to tell us what is going on, for someone who will tell us our own story.  

2. Giving us a vision of what we might become.

  We are looking for someone to tell us how things could be different.  
  The process of change will be greatly facilitated by a clear description of the issue that confronts us. If we can agree on that, the chances are greater that we will be able to agree on a response. Communication, consultation and listening are the oil that allow the wheels of change to turn with the minimum of annoying grinding noises!  
  Peter also reminds us that change must be a basic expectation for those who set out to follow Jesus. "It sometimes comes as a surprise to us to be reminded that the gospel is about change, radical change. To follow Christ requires a complete change of direction in our life - repentance."  
  The Gospels are full of invitations to enter into the renewal of a personal relationship with Jesus and to keep on being renewed by him. One very practical tip for those embracing change in the church is therefore, to pray. "Soak the whole process in prayer... pray specifically and regularly about the change issues". This is a timely reminder for those of us who are so eager to 'get on with it' that we forget that it is God's work and should therefore be God directed.  
  Also salutary is the distinction Peter draws between 'Culture' and 'Core beliefs'. Sometimes it is hard to tell where people are coming from as they react to the changes that are going on around them. Peter provides a chart of examples to help us think through our own reactions and commitments so that we can more helpfully deal with the reactions of others.  
  Peter's book is a challenge to us to think through the issues associated with any particular change we are contemplating, before going ahead. For those of us who are impetuous by nature it is a useful 'check'. For those who are more cautious, it serves as an encouragement - you can do it!  
  As you would expect there are lots of helpful practical tips packed into these 58 pages - things to do and pit falls to avoid. One very helpful section entitled "A meeting process" outlines the most helpful way of running a public meeting on an issue of change. Peter has such a depth of experience in these matters, you are bound to have your eyes opened to new ways of walking through the change process, just by reading it.  

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