The Greatest Challenge in the Church Today

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When God wanted to change something in the world, what was the first thing He did?

Q. What is one of the largest challenges to effectively leading change in the church?

A. This is a no-brainer. There’s not even a close second.

Changing myself is by far the largest challenge I face! It’s the largest challenge most leaders face.

The person God calls to lead has the greatest ability to effectively move people through change or keep people from changing. As the old saying goes, everything rises and falls on leadership.

Of course, we leaders and pastors love to take credit when what we’re leading is “rising.” But we tend to blame other people or the circumstances when what we’re leading is “falling.” However, as leaders and pastors, we need to honestly and humbly own our part in both.

Here’s an important discovery I’ve made through the years: We can be called and gifted by God to be leading where we are, while at the same time failing to be the leader God desires us to be. 

Personal Change Required.

I think this can result from two specific failures. The first is a failure of character.

Sadly, many who have been called and gifted by God to lead have failed in their leadership because of a compromise of character. King Saul in the Old Testament is a great example. Sadly, we’ve seen this kind of failure too often in the lives of pastors and leaders in our world.

The second is a failure to change. Stagnating environments often stem from stagnating leaders.

As our world, culture, communities, circumstances, organizations and people change, we have a tendency to keep leading in the same way we’ve always led. This never works in a changing environment. What used to be positive, effective leadership becomes negative and ineffective.

One of the realities we must understand is that leading change demands personally changing. When God wanted to change something in the world, what was the first thing He did?

He changed the person He was calling to lead. This was true of Moses (Ex. 3), Isaiah (Isa. 6) and Paul (Acts 9).

Brad Powell Brad Powell is the senior pastor of NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Mich., a 2011 Outreach 100 church (No. 47 Largest). He is the author of Change Your Church for Good (Nelson) and consults with church leaders to help them lead their churches through transition.

More from Brad Powell or visit Brad at

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  • John Daly

    Major awesome truth right here, total double bump this with a hearty amen!

  • Patrick Johnson

    This is powerful and convicting content. It’s easy to pose as a leader. Great practical ideas to go deeper.

  • daniel

    one big challenge we have is dependance on charisma, no ethos…

  • Karen

    Great article. Thank You.

  • Debbie P.

    This was a great article. We must never forget that Christ is the head of the church and the body. We are in for a tumultuous spiritual war ahead. STAY IN THE WORD. The scripture says that many will fall away during these troubling times. Now is the time to be working on your armor. Quiet time in prayer is essential to our growth. We must make prayer our number one focus each and every day, and that includes praying for one another. Be ever ready to withstand the fiery darts. We are a family, and we will stand together as a family. Thank you for this article.

  • Apam Chilhang

    Great Challenge article for us

  • Marie Hunter Atwood

    I agree that change is needed, but we need to get back to preaching Christ and Him crucified, rather than the things that support our own particular doctrinal issues.

  • Peter Dohnt

    Thanks Brad – all good points however only one necessary one.

    Romans 12 talks about the renewing of our minds – just preached on this as a part of knowing the will of God – it is not a personal discipline that we “do” – it is something to which we actively submit.

    It is a fair, though not entirely accurate, assumption that if someone is in recognised pastoral ministry to a church that they have made a submissive commitment to Christ as Saviour and Lord.

    There are two parts to the oxy-moron of actively submitting – the first is that there is someone to submit to. This cannot be ourselves, obviously, as there is no submission then – only self implied discipline that leads to practices and habits rather than fruit of the character of Christ.

    The second is the “active” IE deliberate over-ruling of our own motivation “driven by whatever mis-placed perspective”. Be honest – we cannot renew our minds – we thought what was already in there was fine until Christ, through The Spirit gave us perspective that contradicts our own opinion.

    Ephesians 5:25-27
    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
    26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

    We need to actively pursue submission to Christ and His purifying work in our lives – this way – by washing with water (a type of the Holy Spirit) through the word (a name of Jesus Christ) – that is relationship with God we will become renewed non-conformists (to the world).

    Change alone can be a mask, a show, a manipulation – but a life driven by the active involvement of the Spirit of Christ in the believer will produce fruit which will inevitably bring change (like it or not).

    In this area we have the responsibility to teach two things – relationship with Christ that produces fruit in the believer by the actions of “The Word” and “The Spirit” and to follow on with the responsibility of every maturing believer in the ministry of reconciliation – the ministry that we share with Christ.

    Please understand Brad – I am not against the disciplines suggested or even the issues of leadership (although I’m not so sure the church in general has this anywhere near right) – I am however thoroughly convinced that these are not the means to produce change – they are in fact the fruitful results of a change already rendered in the believer.

  • Ben

    Well Brad how are you to day I hope things are good for you. I believe I am hearing the same song over and over again follow me as i follow Christ. question, why do I have to follow man when I can follow Jesus? were the apostles in one accord with one an other, no they were not, because they are different from one an other, yet the apostles had one thing that we today have not, they were Jews. and in the face of Jesus,

    so if the apostles did not get along with one an other how much different are we than them. We all have different back ground with different degrees of understanding. This is the will of God the only one who can changes us is the comforter who created us in His image, no good work of man will get any one in the kingdom Of God. Ben


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