I recently read a popular motivational book Our Iceberg Is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. It is a secular book on managing change, but the eight-step process it advocates for directing change has implications for the church.
According to the book web site, these steps are:
SET THE STAGE
1. Create a Sense of Urgency-Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.
2. Pull Together the Guiding Team-Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change-one with leadership skills, bias for action, credibility, communications ability, authority and analytical skills.
DECIDE WHAT TO DO
3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy-Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-in-Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.
5. Empower Others to Act-Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.
6. Produce Short-Term Wins-Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.
7. Don’t Let Up-Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with instituting change after change until the vision becomes a reality.
MAKE IT STICK
8. Create a New Culture-Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become a part of the very culture of the group.
Now none of this is “new”-it is simply the latest in a series of motivational books that sell because they repeat basic truths that society has often lost sight of, and they are readily accessible to the average reader.
I am not taking issue with processes outlined in this book, but I saw something else in the fable of a colony of penguins suddenly made aware that their iceberg is melting. The premise is that most of the penguins assume that the status quo that their colony and way of life are impervious to major climate and environmental changes that could destroy them and their iceberg.
In reality, penguins are migratory-they instinctively move from place to place. The fable only works if penguins cease to be penguins. By instinct they are semi-nomadic.
It seems to me that one of the great challenges facing the church in a post-modern world where cultural shifts occur at seismic levels and warp speed is that, in the name of ministering to the culture, we forget who we are. A Christian is first and foremost a Christ-follower. Our spiritual identity is found in loving God and neighbor.
Penguins who fail to migrate and church members who don’t reflect the living presence of Christ daily are fundamentally flawed. No amount of “change management” can resolve that. First we must rediscover who we are and Whose we are.