EPISODE #83 – FIRST STEPS — AND OVERCOMING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
One more great installment on the Change Equation for building congregational momentum. In this episode Bob and Jimbo discuss how practical first steps are a vital part in moving the congregation forward. They discuss developing easy wins and how to build sequential momentum.
Holy Discontent + Vision + First Steps + Leadership > Resistance to Change
FIRST STEPS: A set of clear actionable items that will begin to lead the congregation toward fulfilling that vision.
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[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at it again on the replant bootcamp. So excited to be here with you. Baba had to move into the JBA office instead of the garage, because cows were taken over my whole neighborhood.
Bob Bickford: cows like, Oh, don’t you have Gators down there. You have cows too.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, so true story. The original name of Jacksonville, Florida is Cal furred cow, F O R D because it’s the part of the river where, where people would Ford. The cattle through the river, but so there are a lot of cattle or around the outskirts. So Jacksonville is a major metropolitan city surrounded by cow farms.
That’s like the essential understanding of what Jacksonville is and golf courses. We have just an insane amount of golf courses, like 1200 golf courses in Jacksonville. And that’s not an exaggeration. I think that’s the actual number or something like that. No, there’s a counselor, not in my neighborhood, but I saw the [00:01:00] most Jacksonville, Florida Duvall news report I’ve ever seen in my life, this past week that there’s a neighborhood that made the news because somehow these rogue cows have taken over this entire subdivision and nobody knows what to do.
Bob Bickford: I think you sent me the clip. And one of the odd things to me was that nobody knew who owned the cows, right. Whose they were. It didn’t have those ear tags, like in Missouri, if you stroll up on a cow, it’s going to have a brand or it’s going to have an ear tag that has a number on it that traces it somewhere.
So apparently these are just like stray cows that aren’t tagged or chipped or branded or anything like that. So their Gator bait actually.
JimBo Stewart: That’s the only thing could have made it more Jacksonville, Florida is if, while filming the story, a Gator came out and attacked a cow
that would’ve made it.
Bob Bickford: here’s my thought about the cows. If they’re still around Jimbo, I’d take that 4runner of yours and I’d take [00:02:00] a gun. I’d go shoot a cow, load it up on the 4runner and take it to a processor. And then you have like two sides of beef and you guys are good for a long time. You’ve got kids they’re growing
JimBo Stewart: I’ve always said I’ve never been real big into hunting. Like some guys are because I’m not big into deer meat. I like it. Okay. But I’ve just always thought, man, it’s a lot of work for me that I don’t really prefer, but if cow hunting were a thing, I mean, I might could get into that.
Bob Bickford: yeah, there you go. I heard it on the bootcamp, Cal hunting. Hey, when we do our replant bootcamp, bootcamp, maybe we should include a Cal hot.
JimBo Stewart: I love it. I love it. I think we should definitely do that. Okay. Yeah, Well, good. Well, I am here at the JBA office. We’ve relocated and I’m excited to be in here with you as we nailed down a couple of episodes continuing in the change equation. this is such an important conversation because. So much of the difficulty of church revitalization is overcoming resistance to change.
Right? And there are a lot of reasons that [00:03:00] churches resist change, in canoeing the mountains, the author points out that people don’t actually resist change. They’re not scared of change. They’re scared of loss. and as things change, they, there is a sense of loss and grief that comes with that.
And there’s some other writings on that, but some of the reasons I think people resist change is, they’re not fully aware of the actual real condition of what’s going on in the church. Right. They in their mind, everything is fine. it’s it’s not really that big of a deal. It’s, no big concern.
And so they have, they lack real knowledge of the condition, or they just prefer the security of things, not changing because they fear loss. they prefer just, you know, I don’t want everything to change. Cause I feel very secure here. I feel secure. What’s going on. They have worship preferences.
They’re not willing to let go of and those matter, and this is kind of a harsh way to say it, but just one of the things that, cuffed and points out a lot is that it’s really idolatry in their hearts. And they’ve got to recognize, they’ve tried to find their comfort and their centerdness and their purpose and some sort of preference rather than [00:04:00] Jesus.
And we’ve got to fall more in love with Jesus than we do. Our preferences. There’s been maybe decades, usually of deficient discipleship or non-existent discipleship. And so we create consumer mentalities that lead to, well, it won’t be what I want anymore. Well, discipleship helps us understand that it doesn’t, it’s not as significant what you want as much as, the process that Jesus has you going through.
And then a lot of that I think will lead to another reason is frequent pastoral turnover. sometimes we’ll end up with churches that I think really because of a lot of those things, and it’s so hard for the pastor to lead change, that they, stay through their honeymoon. and then they go to yet another honeymoon.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, they get divorced from the church because they started changing some things. The church is like, Hey, we didn’t want that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And so eventually it gets real difficult. This is why we always say we preach, pray, love, and stay. and that kind of five to seven year window of a, of a minimum and, making sure you’re doing that. And so, if you haven’t listened [00:05:00] to the other episodes where we’ve gone through parts of the equation, I would encourage you to go back and listen to the part about Holy discontent and about vision, kind of reset that equation for us, Bob, and talk to us about what is our next step.
What is our, our next piece in the equation for today?
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So the equation is what overcomes a resistance to change. And so on the greater than side of the equation, we see that Holy discontent plus vision plus first steps plus leadership will combine along with the work of God to overcome the resistance, to change. And so there’s not just one thing that helps the church move forward and change.
It’s gotta be multiple things. And so as we. Link all of those together. If you take some of those out, you’re going to have activity, but you might not have lasting to change and you might not have the ability to overcome the resistance to change. And so the idea is if you link some of [00:06:00] these together, if you pray, if you see the work of God, that it’s possible that these things could combine to help you overcome a congregation’s resistance to change and its desire to stay the same.
JimBo Stewart: Okay. So once we have come to a point of Holy discontent, that things have got to change and we’ve worked together with leadership, prayer for Lee, pursuing the word of God to get some clarity on vision. what, uh, what are those first steps that, that next piece of the equation? What does that look like?
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So first steps in terms of definition, as it’s part of this equation is this it’s a set of clear, actionable items that will begin to lead the congregation towards fulfilling that vision. So you you’ve established the vision, what God wants you to do. And then. Great. Right. You have the vision casting meetings.
You have the small groups, you have, you put it on the wall, you send it out in the Sunday school, you know, letters, you put it on the church’s website. [00:07:00] And most of the time churches can go through a visioning process and it’s posted in the wall, that’s posted on the wall, but it ain’t happening in the all right.
And so really you’ve got to make vision a reality. So first steps is what are you doing to actually see that vision? Move from something you say you want to do to something you actually end up doing. And so it can be really easy for a church to develop a vision, but then it can be really difficult to implement that vision.
And this is where things start to get really Rocky because you start changing things, right. You start moving forward. And so it’s a letting go and a moving forward, but it’s really key in this point, you, you need to set some early wins. You need to start with some easy things that will lead you towards, accomplishing the vision that God’s called you to accomplish.
And then you need to have sustained action over a period of time. That’s going to lead you forward in that particular direction. So you fulfill the mission, the [00:08:00] mission that God’s given you, the mission and vision God’s given you.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And I think this is where, so we’ve talked some through change leadership processes before. And one of the pieces we’ve talked about is the importance of kind of some of those easy wins. Some of that low-hanging fruit in the beginning. some of those first steps don’t need to be massive, huge things, you know, because it.
As human beings, we, we give up pretty quickly. You know, if you think about, I would think about this or that you look through scripture, right? And you see the Israelites as they’re leaving slavery. And it does not take long for them after, after. Magnanimous miracles, right? I mean, so after the 10 plagues and they get up against the sea, the red sea and all already, already there going, you know what, why don’t you bring us out here to die? Just take us back. And it’s [00:09:00] like every step of the way, this is what they do to Moses, right? Every, no matter how great the miracle, no matter how amazing these things that happen, they just very quickly, you know, w you should have just left us in Egypt. You should’ve just. It just left us there and then you see it with the disciples, right?
The disciples continually Jesus does these unbelievable miracles and, and over and over, they just continually question and doubt. And I mean, one of the most encouraging verses and the Bible to me is in, towards the end of Matthew 28, right as it’s setting up the great commission there, you know, Jesus in resurrected form as ascended about to ascend into heaven.
He’s in resurrected form, standing with the disciples on a mountain. And there’s this phrase in some of them doubted
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: part of me is going, is skeptical. I’m going at my first thought when I first noticed that phrase in Matthew 28 is I thought. How, how in the world are you standing there with the [00:10:00] resurrected Lord and savior and you’re going, ah, I don’t know.
Bob Bickford: Well, man, it’s so true. And you painted such a great picture of the reality of, we, go on. Yes, we ignore yesterday’s provision from God in the light of today’s challenge. Right. And it is so easy for us to go that’s too hard, right. Or we can’t do that. Or, you know, this is impossible. And in forgetting what God has done.
And I used to serve for a brief time with a guy who grew up in Texas. He was a church planter and, just a really incredible evangelist and, just learned a lot from him. And one thing he said to me is he always called me, bud, not Bob, but bud. He called everybody. But I think he even called girls, bud.
Right? He just said, Hey bud, here’s what I know. If Jesus saved you there, ain’t nothing. God can’t do. Right. And that’s like, that’s a baseline. So if we’re talking about first steps, one of the [00:11:00] things you mentioned is, in our churches that are in decline and struggling in near death. There’s been a deficient discipleship, and I want to categorize this.
Discipleship is not reading the Bible for information. Discipleship is reading the word of God and letting it transform you. And so churches have a deficient discipleship and forget that God has saved them. And that with Christ, he will give them all good things. And then they will hold on to things that are nice things and they’re okay.
Things, but they’re not. God things. And so I think when we talk about first steps, one of the first steps can be, it should be. And we, we often ignore this in the world of church replanting and revitalization. We talk about changing the bylaws and getting strategies, going and changing the music and heaven knows the music sometimes needs to change because it can be really bad.
Right. But. You can have great impactful [00:12:00] worship. You can find the guy with skinny jeans and worship leader hair who can sing the old hymns in a new jazzy version, but the people’s hearts aren’t softened to the gospel. And if they aren’t warm to the gospel, and if they’re not surrendering their preferences and their life to the Lordship of Christ, it don’t matter what you do.
And so a first step, one of the very first, most important first steps is to really prepare the congregation spiritually. Otherwise you’ve got a church that’s done, that’s updates, guest services. It’s painted it’s building that has diffused essential oils and got me old people smell out of the church, you know, whatever needs to happen there, but they really have, they’ve just done a lot of things in terms of activity.
That really won’t help them move forward. And the real work in the church is a spiritual work. And I think we forget that too easily, sometimes.
JimBo Stewart: So, so hold on, hold on, press, press the brakes. Let me get some
clarity for you here. So you’re telling me this first steps episode, we’re not going to provide like specific, [00:13:00] clear, actionable, next steps that every single dying and declining church could take to guarantee church revitalization.
Bob Bickford: Yes. I’m telling you that Y Y I detect a little bit of sarcasm in you Jimbo right now.
JimBo Stewart: I feel like we could sell that. I feel like if we had a plan, if we had a plan that was foolproof.
Bob Bickford: Look, every stinking day on Facebook. I get some notification from somebody who’s got a plan and I can buy it for $19 or $2,900. There’s a range there. And this, let me say this. If those plans worked to bring back at shirts to health and vitality, then we, every single church would be. Vital and healthy.
Right? So it’s a spiritual work that leads to works. Right. And so that’s the whole thing with our salvation. Right. We are saved to do good works. It’s word grace by faith. We’re saved. In Christ Jesus. [00:14:00] And then the next verse in Ephesians, Ephesians two 10 says that, that we are saved to do good works that God’s prepared for us in advance.
And so that’s the, that’s the thing we got to struggle here is we gotta understand the guy hospital and we got a warm to the gospel and we got to understand what are the good works that the Lord has for us. And those are each uniquely individual for a person as they are a congregation. And I think the challenge for us sometimes.
Is to try to apply the good works that somebody wrote in a book that worked at one church, but they’re not our good works, right. That God’s designed for our unique congregation. So I think chemo, keys, parts of this there’s first steps are prepared. The congregation spiritually, whatever that looks like.
Well, you got to know where the congregation is deficient. And then from that, once you. Help the congregation through prayer, through preaching the gospel through discipling relationships, through addressing idols and all those sorts of things that prepares a congregation to move forward in that jumble that takes a long time.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it makes me think of one of my [00:15:00] favorites. So this is not a Christian quote, but it’s probably my favorite leadership quote ever. culture eats strategy for breakfast. Right. And, But the point that Peter Drucker’s making in a business sense is you can have all the strategy in the world on paper. But if the culture of your organization is not such that it would lead to the desired outcome, then you won’t get there no matter how good your strategy is.
So you take that idea and really all he’s done is observed something out of the world. The way that God has designed the world to work and in our congregations, as we’re leading in churches, if we can have the best crafted vision statement, we can have the best strategy on paper. We can take a strategy from somebody else and.
And place it in and no matter how good that strategy is, if the culture of the church is still very self-focused and not Christ focused and not mission focused, very [00:16:00] consumer driven and program dependent rather than discipleship driven. Then your strategy’s not going to get you anywhere. no matter how good you preaching is no matter how well designed your stages, no matter how cool your worship set is no matter how great your website and your graphic designs are and your social media, all of those things.
I was talking with a guy who. helps do some stuff like this for, churches. He, contracts with one 80 digital, our sponsor, and he was telling me about a church that asked him to come video promo for them. And they told him, only video, the young people don’t don’t don’t video, any of the older people here and make it look like where this really young, cool hip church.
And he was like, No, It literally would be false advertisement. Right? Like we, we can’t, we can’t do that. and so I deeply appreciate what you’re saying about how that, that first step has to be centered on transformation through the word of God. [00:17:00] it has to be centered on that idea. And so we’re not going to be able to in this podcast episode or any podcast episode ever in the future, give you the concrete next step, we’re going to have to speak in kind of Concepts, and, you’re going to have to pray through and see what that is, but the goal of your first steps have got to be helping you center onto the transformation of the word and, you know, a resource that just came to my mind that we can put a link to, that one of those state conventions in Texas put together a, a launch.
Series of church revitalization for, for preaching and, and how you can, they, they give you a few sermons that help you center on the word, the priority of the word. And, they have some video commentary, some good things like that are helpful, that I’m not saying that’s the answer, but I’m saying that may help get your mind thinking and praying through how do I help?
What are those first steps? One, there needs to be some easy wins. We need to see some success of some kinds, celebrate some things. [00:18:00] and we got to center everything. It really does need to be centered on discipleship and on transformation through the word of God.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. You know, we’ve been looking at Nehemiah as kind of our guide in terms of this, this conversation, as we talk about. You know, leading change. And he was trying to rebuild a city that had been in disrepair and the people were just kind of okay with it. Right. And his heart was broken by it. And so we, we looked at his Holy discontent, we looked at his vision and then here’s the, the passage that, really reminds me of the first steps that he took.
And he says to the King, he says, if it pleases the King, let letters be given to me to the governors of the province and beyond the river. They may let me pass through until I come to Judah and the letter to ASAP the keeper of the King’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the Gates of the fortress of the temple and for the wall of the city and for the house that I shall occupy.
And then he says this, and then the King granted me what I asked and here’s the key for the [00:19:00] good hand of my God was upon me. Here’s the key, right? Let’s not, let’s not forget this. The reason the Amelia was a success. It was not just because he was a good leader and a good strategy guy. Most of the books that you read on the AMI, the leadership books that you hear, or the per the preachers will preach a sermon on it.
It tends to focus on the strategy. And I don’t think the guys that preach on this passage necessarily hope that you only think about the strategy. This phrase for the good hand of my God was upon me is so key here. Right. And we have great leaders and good pastors. And they can do a lot of things in their own strength, but they’ll never accomplish what they need to accomplish in order to see God help the church overcome its resistance to change unless the Lord moves.
Right. So I just want to ask to really kind of help our guys understand that, that we are dependent upon a move and a work of God. not. Only our leadership ability, not only our strategy. And so in terms of thinking through like a preaching series, like you just mentioned Jimbo [00:20:00] or a discipleship strategy or path, all those sorts of things, I would say read wide and far, think about all the things that could potentially help you move that church forward.
And as you’re evaluating those resources and praying through them only choose the ones that will help you move forward in the right next step, but always understand that your faith is not in the resource or the strategy or the preaching series or all those things. Those are simply tools. Your faith is in the work of God to help revitalize the church.
JimBo Stewart: At its best church revitalization is realigning the people in the church, the programs of the church, the systems of the church, back to the missions and mandates of the church that God has given us through his word. That’s really what we’re trying to do here. and we, that has to be how we define success.
Success has to, has to be defined off of the biblical mandates and mission of what God has called us to [00:21:00] do. And when we know that that’s the goal. So the way that we create next steps, a lot of times, at least I do. So I think through the goal, where am I trying to get to. Right. W what is the end destination?
What does that look like? And then work backwards from there, and what is, what is that going to require? And then how do I get the things that that’s going to require? And if we’re the goal is a church that looks like and behaves like, and has the culture of the mission mandates that God has given to his bride in the word of God, that requires mature believers that are on mission and making disciples.
that is a significant requirement. It literally cannot be done without that. your first steps have to be working towards that end. And so you’ve got to think, and realistically in the next 90 days, what can we do that helps us do that? I do think you can think through some facilities things, and you can think through some, some systems [00:22:00] things, and you can think through guest services and you can think through clean up the bathroom.
And then, and I think those are things that can be helpful, but I think the temptation Bob is. Those things are easy to see when they’re done. They’re easier to make a plan for. And because I can make a plan, I can paint this wall. I can remove this carpet. I can fix that toilet. I can do those things. And then I feel like I’ve accomplished something in the mission and reality.
All you’ve done is gotten rid of something that maybe was in the way. But you haven’t done anything that actually helped you accomplish the mission. and so I’m not saying that those things aren’t important. I think we should think through those things just recognize their place in the process.
that’s not the end goal. Uh, and it’s actually, it’s not actually nowhere, even near the end goal. but mature disciples who are on mission and making disciples has to be our aim.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. I think as, as a concluding word, I think I would say this, you got to deal with all those distractions, but you gotta devote yourself to [00:23:00] discipleship and you do those things, devote yourself to discipleship. And I think you’ll see the church move forward in a healthy. And a profound way, with the power of God, unleased through the people as they’re surrendering their lives to Jesus.
JimBo Stewart: Man that’s some gold. You dropped some gold. You are the golden replant guru. Okay, Look, we’ve got some great episodes coming up. We’re going to jump into leadership next week, come back to us to see kind of the end of the change equation, a Holy discontent vision, first steps. And then next week we’ll be talking about leadership and this is how we overcome a resistance to change.
We’d love to hear from you. We have some other really exciting episodes coming up. we’d love to eventually have you on an episode, let us know what questions you have, what are some challenges you’re facing? How can we help you make mature believers who make disciples, who are on mission? How can we join you in that process and resource you to do that?