Thoughts on Leading Change that Will Last

As John Lennon sang, “you know we all wanna change the world”. We can’t do it alone, so we must inspire others.

A few weeks ago, I was at a summit where Bill Hybels offered some insight on leading change. He drew an example of how leaders must focus on enlarging people’s hearts for the world around them versus placing another burden on people’s shoulders. This requires casting a vision that moves people from the heart, makes them see why they can’t remain in the same place, and compels them to run with vision.

As I remembered Hybel’s example, the image he drew of a stick figure with burdens lined up on its shoulders brought to mind the compartmentalized mindset that can be prevalent in churches. It can show up as program-based ministries that are worthy, yet independent from one another with separate, and sometimes competing, missions: women’s ministry, men’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth, mercy ministry, and missions. When someone carries too many personal and ministry burdens, they can become weighed down and forget where they are going and why. Burnout can occur.

In contrast, we can help to enlarge the hearts of those we lead when everything lines up to one mission: to make disciples – followers of Jesus. Followers of Jesus who love their families and communities. Followers of Jesus who impact culture. Followers of Jesus who bring life and joy into dark places. Followers of Jesus who are real about their struggles and compassionate towards others. Followers of Jesus who lead others to faith in Him. Since our mission comes from the very heart and intention of God, we can trust Him to empower us.

Then when we communicate our vision for our communities and cities, we can paint a thriving, compelling picture of the difference we will make when we do so. If we’re in it primarily for financial or personal gain, our ability to rally others towards lasting change will be weak, insincere, or will wane over time. The bottom line is that, to the degree that someone catches a vision in a heart-gripping, transformational, life-surrendering way, they will live it.

Hybels called these “second conversions” that can happen while reading God’s Word, hearing an inspiring testimony, or seeing a microcosm of what could happen in your community or city. When God wrecks your heart over something, it becomes core to you. Several of these experiences come to mind in my own life. Here’s one.

During an outreach in a region of Soviet-built, Lego-like high-rise buildings in Ukraine, three hundred young people stood in an auditorium to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. The day before, our team befriended groups of students in the region. The director of a school liked us, so he announced our meeting to his students. We preached the Gospel with conviction and were blown away by the students’ spiritual hunger and readiness to respond the Gospel. Everyone hung out after the meeting in the joyful afterglow, but within days a powerful person in the region shut us down. The only place willing to rent a room to us was in a remote area without heat during sub-zero winter temperatures. With heavy hearts, we entrusted the precious young people to God and walked away.

Yet I knew that if God could move in such a mighty way among young people there, he could do it throughout the nation. He could do it throughout Europe. The vision remains strong in me to this day.

After those second conversions shape us, we can gain momentum when we engage others in the process of vision formation as we seek God together for guidance and wisdom. We can motivate others who have common interests, allow them to contribute to growth, have a voice, and, thus, feel valued.

A leader can help people break out of a my thing mentality into an our thing mentality when they aim at a God-sized vision, which makes it a God thing.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Nehemiah, and Moses come to mind.

According to church consultant, Aubrey Malphurs, “Saying that your vision is to make disciples is not a vision. This is your mission, and leaves your church without a vivid picture of how the future will be different if you do in fact make disciples. Make sure your vision is dripping with clear descriptions of the missional impact you and your church will have in the community and world in the days ahead.”

What will our cities look like if we make disciples? What will our campuses look like? Is our vision bigger than ourselves and will it take generations to accomplish? Does it push us to rely on God? When it does, we can see the benefit for God’s glory and the good of mankind, and move forward together to make it so.

What will the future look like if we don’t do any of this?

“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart.”      (Psalm 119:32)

“The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.”      John Ortberg

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