Navigating The Winds Of Change


How Can Your Church Manage Cultural Change Without Compromising Eternal Truths?

Many churches are currently grappling with this question, and this important book by Lynn Anderson is full of answers.

The winds of change are blowing, and they will not be ignored. Churches that learn how to successfully manage the changes these winds bring will sail smoothly into the 21st century. Congregations that close their ...

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Navigating the Winds of Change

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How Can Your Church Manage Cultural Change Without Compromising Eternal Truths?

Many churches are currently grappling with this question, and this important book by Lynn Anderson is full of answers.

The winds of change are blowing, and they will not be ignored. Churches that learn how to successfully manage the changes these winds bring will sail smoothly into the 21st century. Congregations that close their eyes to the reality of change will be swept off course or into extinction.

In this book, Anderson--a well-known author, minister and leader--presents a wealth of practical, effective strategies for managing change in the church. He is the creative force behind the annual "Church That Connects" seminar that has helped hundreds of church leaders manage positive change in their congregations; and now he gives these vital strategies directly to you.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781878990310
  • Publisher: Howard Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 0.66 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Anderson has been in the ministry for over thirty-five years and currently serves as president of Hope Network, a ministry dedicated to coaching, mentoring, and equipping spiritual leaders for the twenty-first century. He received his doctorate from Abilene Christian University in 1990.

Anderson's lifelong career of ministry has involved speaking nationwide to thousands of audiences and authoring eight books — including The Shepherd's Song; Navigating the Winds of Change; Heaven Came Down; They Smell like Sheep, Volume 1; and If I Really Believe, Why Do I Have These Doubts?

He and his wife, Carolyn, live in Dallas. They are the parents of four grown children and the grandparents of eight wonderful grandchildren.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Shattered dreams

Sometimes the winds of change not only whip your hat off, they can blow your dreams away as well. None of us can live well without dreams, because dreams fuel our vitality. All of my life I have been a compulsive dreamer. Can’t keep from it. I think it’s because I am part of the human family. Even poems about dreaming enchant us. Remember this song of a dreamer:

Man is a dreamer ever,

He glimpses the hills afar,

And dreams of the things out yonder,

Where all his tomorrows are.

And back of the sound of the hammer,

And back of the hissing steam,

And back of the wheels that clamor,

Is ever a daring dream.

—Author unknown

Birth of dreams

In other words, every big thing we humans have done began between some dreamer’s ears. Henry Ford dreamed a sputtering, rattling dream and put the world on wheels. Edison dreamed, and night disappeared. Columbus dreamed, and a new world came into view.

Einstein, while daydreaming on a hill one summer day, imagined riding sunbeams to the far extremities of the universe. Upon finding himself returned, “illogically,” to the surface of the sun, he realized that the universe must indeed be curved. This was the beginning of his theory of relativity.

Beethoven stumbled through the woods stone deaf to sounds outside him but with his head full of musical dreams, and he put a song in the heart of humanity. Man is a dreamer—ever!

Broken dreams

Yet, dark shadows lurk behind our brightest dreams! Another poet hinted broadly that dreams don’t always come true.

We are all of us dreamers of dreams,

On visions our childhood is fed;

And the heart of the child is unhaunted, it seems,

By the ghosts of dreams that are dead.

Only children dream blissfully unaware that some dreams get totally shattered. Life has not yet left them with broken dreams. But sooner or later . . . So the poet moves on:

From childhood to youth’s but a span

And the years of our life are soon sped;

But the youth is no longer a youth, but a man,

When the first of his dreams is dead.

When did you last mourn the death of a dream?

In 1901 a strange sale took place in Washington, D. C. The government auctioned off 100,000 old patents that had never made it to production. The crowd repeatedly roared with laughter at the bizarre contraptions inventors had dreamed up. One was the “automatic bed bug buster”: two blocks of wood, with leather hand-holders—one for the right hand, one for the left. Simply place the bug between the blocks and “bust ‘im.” Didn’t sell! Another device was intended to cure snoring. Some inventive hand had simply unraveled a trumpet and attached it to a head harness. The sleeper could strap the mouthpiece to the lips with the big end of the trumpet to the ear. When his amplified snore thundered in his ear, he woke himself. My wife, Carolyn, has been looking for one for me!

An observer of this event said that his laughter died when it dawned on him that he was not listening to 100,000 jokes, but witnessing 100,000 broken dreams. People had invested lifetimes into some of those contraptions. But the inventors had died with broken dreams!

When I drive across the plains and spot one of those lonely, abandoned old houses on the horizon, the collapsing fence corralling a yard of tumbleweed, windows boarded up or gaping empty, I often feel a tug at my heartstrings over the wreckage of someone’s broken dreams.

Maybe just now you have looked away from this page and, with a lump in your throat, recalled a broken dream: failed health, a promotion that never came, a shattered romance, a marriage gone sour, a business gone belly-up, a child who went wrong. Most of us will face broken dreams now and again.

After fifty-seven years of living, nearly forty of them in ministry, I know plenty of shattered dreams firsthand. In fact, I think that somewhere along the way, at least for a while, my own Church of Christ fellowship, like many others, lost its dreams.

Dying dreams

A brief look at the struggle for growth in Churches of Christ provides insight not only for my fellowship, but for many others as well. In 1865 The Baltimore American, one of the leading newspapers in the country in those days, said the Churches of Christ were “the fastest growing denomination in America, beginning only about forty years ago, but numbering now, in the United States alone, over six hundred thousand communicants.”

Just think. From 1815-1865, zero to six hundred thousand in only forty years! In 1865, we were a church on the cutting edge of the culture. But not so today!

Somewhere between the 1860s and the 1950s, we began dreaming big dreams. As recently as the 1960s we believed the trend was continuing. We were told that from 1865 to 1960 solid growth continued. We said we were still the fastest growing religious group in the country. My college buddies and I dreamed of “taking the world.” Our flagship congregation of that day, the Madison Church of Christ in Nashville, was growing explosively! The Herald of Truth (a Church of Christ radio outreach ministry) broadcasts blanketed the globe. Campus ministries flourished. Our foreign missionaries topped six hundred. The media were beginning to notice us. It was the dawning of a new age, and we were part of a movement that would change the planet! Oh, how we dreamed!

Then, somewhere around 1965, as was the trend in many denominations, our growth statistics flattened until 1970, when they dived into a freefall toward oblivion. Many of our nose-counters and number-crunchers predicted that, if those trends continued, Churches of Christ could well disappear early in the twenty-first century. Although figures compiled by Mac Lynn of David Lipscomb University show a net gain of some 3 percent between 1980 and 1990, there is little cause for celebration. First, those statistics included the fast-growing Boston-based group now known as the International Churches of Christ, not really a part of our fellowship, and this skewed the figures considerably. Second, during that period, baby boomers who had left began bringing their babies back to church. But George Barna’s research shows they left again in the late 1980s. Thirdly, the population grew by 10 percent, and we have fallen far below those percentages. So at best our growth statistics have only flat-lined. We are scarcely on the road to real recovery.

In some states, we ended the decade smaller by scores of thousands. Throughout the last decade, as I have visited churches, lectureships, and conferences across the continent, almost everywhere I go, tired voices tell me stories of mega efforts yielding meager growth. Our dreams were shattered! Speaking of Churches of Christ, in 1991 Flavil Yeakley (a researcher at Harding University who periodically does a nose count among Churches of Christ) said, “I don’t know of any of our older, larger mainline churches that are growing by evangelism.”

Yes, some congregations are growing, but very few by reaching unchurched people. Rather, some are “swelling” by consolidating the fallout from failing, dying churches and collecting bodies at the front edge of demographic shifts. As for reaching the unchurched world, most churches are not getting bigger, but smaller. If that were not sad enough, large numbers of our children are leaving the Church of Christ movement or even abandoning the faith altogether. Many other Christian fellowships appear to have suffered similar declines.

Not all is bleak, however. David A. Roozen and C. Kirk Hadaway, in research hot off the press found that some long established churches are now growing—and part of the growth is coming through evangelism. John Ellas, of the Center for Church Growth, has recently discovered good news among Churches of Christ that parallel the findings of Roozen and Hadaway. Some Churches of Christ, fifteen years old and older, are now growing, and a significant part of that growth appears to result from evangelistic activity. However, these churches are (1) updating their evangelistic strategies and (2) viewing evangelism as a process involving the whole congregational system, not merely as an independent “branch” activity of the congregation. This gives me hope. Older churches can change. Established churches can grow. But, at best, we have a long way to go.

A lot of our preachers have lost their dream, too. Some have even thrown in the towel! At a conference in the mid 1980s, I spotted an old friend leaning against the wall, alone, though in a crowded room, staring at the floor, his eyes as vacant as last year’s bird’s nest. When I asked what was wrong, it seemed as though he took five minutes to drag his eyes up from the floor to mine. Then he spoke for a lot of us, “Lynn, I’ve lost my dream. What do you do without dreams?” He was only one of hundreds who represent a lost generation of ministers in the Churches of Christ. I find precious few of my mid-fifties peers who are still in the ministry. Dreams died. Many burned out or gave up. But as William Willomon says, “Burnout in ministry is not usually from overwork, but from under-meaning.” Christian leaders can live with the work, the flack, and the frustration; but we can’t live without dreams.

He may live on by compact and plan

When the fine bloom of living is shed,

But God pity the little that’s left of a man

When the last of his dreams is dead.

Empty churches

A few summers ago, I sat one afternoon on the balcony of a Swiss chalet in the company of several American and European businessmen, eavesdropping on their shop talk. A British fellow piqued my curiosity when he said he decorated the interiors of bars and restaurants in Canada and the United States with the guts of old churches from Europe.

I said, “You’re kidding me!”

“Why, no,” he boasted, “One bar in Abilene, Texas, has two churches in it!” (I could have told him about some other bars where the churches seemed to have strong representation, but thought the better of it.)

“Really,” I marveled, “Have you been doing this for some time?”

“Oh, about ten or twelve years, now.”

“Aw c’mon, how many have you done?” (I was thinking maybe one a year.)

“Oh, some months as many as eleven, some less.”

Now I’m not quick with numbers, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that he had trashed a lot of churches. I was stunned! “Where in the world do you find all those empty churches?”

“Oh, my friend,” the young Englishman beamed, “This man John Wesley has been dead for over a century, but he is making me a millionaire. He traveled all over the British Isles. He got off his horse at nearly every crossroads and preached. By the time he was in the saddle again, they were building a chapel in his tracks. They built ‘em big and they furnished ‘em well all over the UK.” He went on: “That was then. But now their great, great-grandchildren, the young folks in Great Britain, aren’t interested in that sort of thing anymore. Those old chapels stand empty ‘cept for memories. So the descendants build these little chapels on the corner of the property to house memorabilia. To pay upkeep on the chapels, they sell the guts of the old buildings to me, put the shell to the wrecking ball and the land to the realtor.”

He rambled on, but my addled thoughts spun off into another world. By bedtime I still couldn’t shake the picture of all those empty churches. I lay awake wondering how long before all those buildings from our boom years, back when growth surged and dreams flourished, would gradually grow quiet, stand empty, and then fall to the wrecking crew. My dreams were dying. What do you do, when the last of your dreams is dead? Oh, what do you do?

Let him show a brave face if he can;

Let him woo fame and fortune instead;

But there’s little to do but to bury a man

When the last of his dreams is dead.

—From “To Dream Again”

The winds of change whipped our dreams away. Will they whip us away, too? Will they tumble us out of sight across the plains of the future?

Did you shift in your chair and say, “Lynn, I thought you were a messenger of hope; you sound more like a prophet of gloom and doom?” Well, now we are ready to talk hope. Listen to the winds whisper from the past.

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Table of Contents


Prologue Facing the Chill Winds of Change
Section One: Why Change?


Shattered Dreams


What Went Wrong?


Why Change?
Section Two: Is Change Possible?


You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Section Three: What Must Never Change
5 Form Follows Function: Theological Foundations
6 Life Spans: Respecting the Past
Section Four: What Must Surely Change
7 A Church That Connects
8 Right-Branded Christians in a Left-Branded Church
9 Music That Makes Sense
Section Five: The Art of Change Management
10 Minimizing Chaos
11 Getting Change Into Your System
12 Transition or Just Change?
13 Changing Perceptions
14 Conversation: Windows Into Perceptions
Section Six: Results of Change
15 To Dream Again


A God of Surprises

Appendix A

Resources on Change Agency

Appendix B

Resources on Worship

Appendix C

Resources on the Church

Appendix D

Resources on Music


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