The church of the 21st century will of necessity be courageous in living in the tension between change and conventionality. A sense of courage will require the willingness to risk and the willingness to embrace the new. It will also need to find healthy ways to embrace the inevitable changes that will be encountered. How do we know this? We can look over our shoulders and see how our elders faced the challenge of their time. Despite living in a climate of chaos, the first-century church of Jerusalem found a sense of mission that
guided them through the rough moments when the stress of change created conflict among them.
The church of today is immersed in one of the greatest times of reformation of the modern
era. The old wineskin of the past has proven itself inadequate for the new wine of the needs of the future. Processing the changes necessary to reach a new generation will require that the church adapt itself to the culture and climate of change. Church leaders must choose to either be guardians of the past and its false security or learn to live in the new world of change. Church leaders will need to embrace the need for change and navigate the chaos of conflict if they are to lead a dynamic church to do the work of God.
Ed Rowell offers these thoughts for leaders facing momentous change:
Forget consensus and expect polarity. Waiting around for everyone to get on board is usually a subconscious mechanism for avoiding the change altogether. True consensus is rare in any group, especially in a local church.
I can’t change an organization without changing myself. Any significant change will demand more of me than I have to offer right now. If the vision I’m casting is really of God, it exceeds all my natural gifts, abilities, insights, and even character.
I either shape change or am shaped by it. Nothing stays the same. We live in a dynamic world created by a dynamic God. We can be dynamic believers in a dynamic church if we are willing to follow the first-century church model.
Change creates change. One of the many benefits of a long-term ministry is the ability to create an environment where change is the rule, not the exception. Certainly it is possible to lead too far, too fast. But as one success builds on another, credibility escalates, and
the process and result of change loses its ability to inspire fear.
A change agent always lives in two worlds. We must simultaneously be where our church is and where it is going.
People need to release the old before they can embrace the new. Because leaders tend to see the future much more clearly, we tend to release the old more easily. We often tend to underestimate the emotional attachment people have to buildings, traditions, and
methodologies. The church must utilize its pastoral care skills in leading the church through change.
The courageous church of the first-century faced a dilemma of spirit among their members and found a way to meet the need through Christianity sensitivity and a healthy decision-making model that utilized the resources of the church to meet the need. As a result, “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly” (Acts 6:7).
 “Six Insights in Leading the Church Through Changes,” Ed Rowell, teaching pastor and discipleship team leader at The People’s Church, Franklin, Tennessee