Why Are Churches So Afraid of Change? / Miguel Lebron Episode 176
Change of position will change your perspective — Miguel Lebron
In this episode of the "Why God Why" Podcast, Peter Englert interviews Miguel Lebron on the question, "Why are churches so afraid to change?"
Miguel serves as the Lead Pastor of Grace Hope Fellowship in Rochester, NY. He also hosts the Strategy Rewind podcast and is the author of the Faith and Leadership Blog.
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Check out the transcript below:
Welcome to the Why God Why podcast. My name is Peter Englert. I am the cohost of this show. We are part of the Lumivoz Network. We exist to respond to the questions that you don't feel comfortable asking in church. I have a new and great friend here today.
His name is Miguel LeBron. He's going to be responding to the question, "Why are church is so afraid to change?" I'm also here with my illustrious amazing producer, Nathan Yoder. Hey, we're just going to jump right in. The question is, "Why are churches so afraid of change?" Miguel, welcome.
Yeah. Well, thank you for having me part of the podcast. Shout out to Nate, wherever he is and thank you so much again for allowing me to be part of your platform.
Sure. Well, so our question today is why are churches so afraid of change? Before we jump into that question, tell us a little bit about yourself and just your story. Fill us in.
Sure, sure. So my name is Miguel LeBron. Born here in Rochester, New York. I met my wife here, had our kids here. We have three daughters. We own a home here and it's my spiritual relationship with the Lord, my path in Christianity began when I was about 14, 15 years old. My mother and my father divorced when I was two.
So he was in and out of addiction and in and out of my life. When I was about 14, 15 years old, I met an amazing pastor who not only was a spiritual mentor, but really became a father figure. He's the man who showed me how to pray, how to read the Bible, how to evangelize, how to tie a tie. He really, really instructed me so much. It's the teachings and the lessons that he provided and many other mentors that have really guided me on till today and have allowed me to be in the position of pastoral position.
What do you currently do? What does the week look like? Because I ask you when you sleep.
Yeah. Well, secularly, I work for a company. The company is called Pay Quicker. Pay Quicker is a technology company. We've developed a technology to help individuals who gain earnings through commissions, multi-level services and others. That's what I do there. What I do there is onboarding essentially CRM.
I also am the coach for Miguel LeBron Coaching, LLC. So I coach individuals who have a goal that they want to accomplish, but maybe don't have a strategy. I help them implement that strategy. I also am the host of the podcast, Strategy Rewind. Sometimes I've blogged. To be honest, I haven't been doing it so much lately. In March, my wife and I started pastoring a church. Those are the things I do at the moment.
Well, today our question is, "Why are church so afraid of change?" And just even from your introduction and sharing what you're doing and hinting that you're planting the church, it seems like you have a lot of experience around this question. Let's kind of start here. You and I, we had lunch at Chipotle. We're sitting, we're chatting.
Shout-out to Chipotle. Maybe they want to sponsor this show.
We are here.
Nate, look into that. Can you?
No, you're right. You're right. I said, "Hey, Miguel, I just want to interview you." And you said, "This is a question why are churches so afraid to change, why that question?"
Why that question? As I mentioned, I accepted the Lord when I was 15 years old. And I was so impacted in that service that I went to and I was so moved by the youth that were involved, their involvement and the way that they allowed the Lord to use them impacted me and the message itself.
I remember that the young man who came up to where I was sitting, he said, "Miguel God has brought you here for a reason." I was like, "Yep. This is my moment." I accepted the Lord. And ever since then, I've been in the path of just trying to grow in the Lord. Some of that have been part of combating ideas or fears of other individuals, because the truth is that believers are filled with many fears. One of which is that God is always watching you.
When we talk about change, oftentimes there is a negative connotation to it. People believe, well, change is bad. And it's like, no change is necessary because even I had to come to the Lord and he even caused me to be willing to change and allow his change to happen in my life. In this question of why are churches afraid of change, it's multifaceted into number one, the term church can be the individual. You and I are the church.
But yet at the same time, you and I are part of an individual church. You go to Browncroft. I go to Grace Hope Fellowship, others, different churches. And so in this term, I'm saying the local church oftentimes is afraid of change. The individual may be ready for change, but that local church may not be ready for change. And so the question now becomes, why is the local church, the church that I attend to, are they afraid of change? And if so, why?
I've never heard it articulated like that. I just want to stop for a second. We have a lot of people that are de-churched and unchurched that listen to this podcast or their friends that are sharing. What you just articulated basically was Jesus was like all about change. Like become more like me and things like that.
But then you articulated that with the church, like they're so afraid of change. It's almost as if you're saying on the individual level change become more like Jesus, but at the church level, it's, "No, we're in a good place." It's almost as if you're saying there's some cognitive dissonance.
Yeah. I think there is a disconnect because if we preach the Gospel, then we're essentially saying to people, "Hey change, because if you don't change well, according to the scripture, there's only two paths, heaven or hell. Hey, if you're going the wrong path, if you're on the highway to hell, so to speak, you may want to change your route."
The individual that accepts Christ understands that, like you and I understood, "Oh, I've got to change my life. I've got to make that change. Period, point blank." But then you plug into a church, a local church and oftentimes what happens is that you see that, well, they're afraid to move forward. They're afraid to innovate. They're afraid to move with the curve, so to speak, the idea of change to me when I talk about the local churches it starts from and I'm a pastor, so it starts from the top.
Rick Warren talks a lot about the church is going to take someone's energy, someone's attitude. He's either going to be the attitude of the mission and the vision, or it's going to be the attitude of the pastor. If it's the attitude of the pastor, well, the pastor feels great, the church is great. But if the pastor feels low, well, the church is low.
But if it's the attitude of the mission and the vision, well then change is consistently happening because growth is consistently happening. And so I do think there is a disconnect, where we understand that Christ wants us to change but yet the organization sometimes gets at a stalemate where like, "We're not going to change because of tradition, because of opinion, because of fear, X, Y, Z."
When did this question first come to your forefront? How old were you? What did it look like? When was the first time you were like, "Geez, why are churches so afraid to change?"
I was an associate pastor for nearly 10 years. When I served as an associate pastor, I was entrusted with that position, but I wasn't given a manual. It was, "Hey, Miguel, you're essentially already doing the tasks of an associate pastor. So we're going to put you as an associate pastor."
I said, "Sure. Okay, no problem." I took on that role. One of the things that I had difficulty with at the very beginning was understanding the responsibility and the "power" I had. I'll give you an example. Early on as an associate pastor, we were remodeling the church and the senior pastor came up to me and said, "Miguel, I have to go out, get some other materials with other men. I want you to be in charge of the men that are working right now in this part and I want you to make sure that they follow these directions."
He leaves a few minute later, there's a debate on, "Hey, should we do it this way? Should we do it that way?" And I said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. I've already been given directive. I want you to know that this is the route." And they're like, "No, no, no. You don't know what you're talking about." I'm like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute." And there was the first moment where I had to kind of be like, "I'm the associate pastor. I do know what I'm talking about."
That moment, it was settled. But through the years, more specifically in meetings, I would see where there was this debate, where it was, "Okay. Here's a good idea. Is it good? Or is it not, are we going to do it or not?"
And there was no discussion of, "Wait a minute, let's break this idea down. Let's push it deeper. Does it apply? Does it not apply?" And so many times for me, I was in meetings where at the end, I was like, "This is not going anywhere. We've got to change this format." Or the way we did discipleship and/or the way we did worship and/or the way we did organizational things.
I remember one time, my wife who served as the treasurer for a number of years, and then as a secretary for another number of years, I remember one time I was like, "I don't like the way the office looks." And she was like, "Well, this is just the office." Because we were a mid-sized church. So we didn't have a lot of room. It was the office of the pastor's office is also the secretary's office, is so also the treasurer office. And then it also became a storage room and it became a janitor room. And I was like, "This is horrible."
And so we went in one day, my wife and I, we just cleaned out the whole office. When everybody came back to church, they looked at me like, "Well, this looks different." Like, "Yes, it's organized." Those are small details, but those were the parts where it kind of made me feel like, "Man, what else do we need to change? And what else are we fearful of changing with organizational style, with worship style, with even just a color on the wall? How far does this fear of change go?"
As the years progressed and as I moved into further along that position as associate pastor, I was more willing to push back and push back and push back and push back. Sometimes, it got me in hot waters, but I was just willing to ask the question, "What if we go left instead of going right? Or what if we go right? What if we dab? What if we move instead of going with just the norm, so to speak?"
This is going to be a different conversation, because this is two pastors talking about an issue that comes up a lot. But one of my ultimate fears and concerns with churches is we assume that our spiritual growth history is what someone else's spiritual growth future is going to be.
Yeah, that's good.
You talked about some super practical stuff, which I'm sure that some of our listeners are like, "Holy cow, the reason I don't go to church is because there's this huge debate about painting the wall." But as a pastor, what I see is... I'll take this for an example. I might get some flack for this, but I have people that valued Sunday school. When Sunday school started, like it was super radical. I think it was like the 1800s, early 1900s. Who knows? Someone will correct me on that, but it was super radical.
It's don't just come to church, your kids have something, you have something. We've made this shift to small groups, which are 10 to 12 people meeting in homes, reading and praying and doing life together, outside the four walls of the church.
You have people that come to you and say like, "Hey, we need to do Sunday school because this was really helpful for me." There's a part of me that wants to like really affirm and say, "Yes, God. Use that. But you can't just carbon copy that and do that for today." I think that's kind of some of the changes that you're talking about is, hey, Jesus unchanging, the same yesterday and today and forever, gospel unchanging, the same yesterday and today and forever.
But they're just like us spiritually, even if you're not a Christian, I want to become more patient. I want to become more like Jesus, I want to be gracious, I want to forgive people that requires change. So churches have to do that. Am I getting that right?
Yeah, definitely. I think one of the biggest things or one of the biggest fears with change is not what's ahead, but what we're leaving behind. Oftentimes, we kind of make a balance where we say, "Man, but I have this, I have that. I have this, I have that." And then it's the unknown. Okay. Well, if I leave this behind, is something better going to be up ahead? I think oftentimes that fear is a fear that we've all felt personally. On a personal note, I just went through a promotion. I shared with you off air. I just went through a promotion in my job. And even though I've been with this organization, with this company for such a long time and it feels great to be acknowledged, to be promoted, et cetera, there's still that fear of, "Oh my goodness, I'm stepping onto a part that I don't know."
But I said this recently to one of, one of the close friends of mine where I said, we have to be willing to reinvent ourself at the very minimum every 10 years. The idea that I am the same, who I am right now and that in the next 10 years, I'm going to be the same person, man.
Peter, if you and I see each other in the next 10 years and you're like, "Miguel, where are you?" And I list off the same things, wow! As a friend, just smack me in the face, bro. Just do it because there should be no way that in the next 10 years, I'm in the same place. There should be no way. Yet we see churches where it's like, "No, this has worked for 10 years so let's keep doing it." Well, when do we ever evolve? When do we take the next step? When do we actually see, wait a minute, the community isn't the same. The people that surround the church, the people that are coming to church, the conversation on the table isn't the same. When did the church make that next step and say, "Okay, we have to change as well."
Well, and even what I'm hearing you say is there's a tension of we change because that's a way to honor the past. If you're in this episode and you're wondering, "What about churches?" This is just super practical one on one, you have me thinking about in World War II, the Germans in Egypt shot the noses of the Sphinx.
If you Google the Sphinx, they don't have noses because Germans were taking target practice. In some ways, for those of us that are leading change, whether you're in the marketplace, whether you're at church, whether you have this idea, you shoot yourself in the foot by not honoring the past.
In some ways, you honor the past by growing. I think that with churches, with... You and I believe this. It's the greatest message. It's the greatest meaning of life is to follow Jesus. If you go in there and kind of dismember the past without seeing the good in it and honoring it, you're not going to make any way forward for change.
One of the things as a pastor that I've done is that I continue to talk about our core vision. In Grace Hope Fellowship, we have a core vision. And I continue to bring that vision forward, which is commission, which is community, which is compassionate. That's just one of the parts of it but I bring that forward in the message. I bring that forward in the meetings that we do in the dialogues. I think oftentimes some churches, either A, don't have a well defined mission statement or B, they just say, "Well, the Bible is our mission statement." It's like, no, because Peter had a group. Paul had a group, Apollos had a group. Everyone was aiming at one thing, which was preaching the gospel.
But to be truthfully honest, we can't reach everyone everywhere. Thank goodness that there is a place such as this podcast. I'll give you another example here. Recently, there was a church that I heard had an organizational change. It changed leaderships. I wasn't too sure, but we had family friends that go to that church. I reached out to one of them.
My wife did actually, she reached out to one of them and the person said, "Yes, there has been a change." And because of that, we're actually not attending that church anymore. My wife said, "Hey, listen. As a family friend and as someone who's concerned, if you don't have a home church, please consider visiting Grace Hope Fellowship. If you don't have a home church," she said, "I don't, I'll consider it."
Great. But there was another person that I knew who was also going to that church. So I reached out to them. I said, "Hey, I heard that your church went through some organizational changes. How are you doing?" And she confirmed, "Yes. They went through some changes, but I'm actually not there anymore." I was like, "Well, you're not there anymore. Where are you? What are you doing?" And this is what she said. She said, "I'm actually going to Browncroft."
Okay. So when she says that, I said, "Well, that's great. I know Pastor Peter. Peter and me are friends. I know him." She was like, "Yep. He's a great guy." I was like, "Fantastic. Keep going there. Keep doing that." Yet, oftentimes those type of conversations is like, "Well, what are you doing over there? Come with me."
That attitude needs to change. But I think that attitude exists because we failed in defining a well mission. What is my mission? Because if part of my community or part of my vision is community, well then part of that community is you even though you're part of Browncroft. It doesn't matter if the objective here is to get to heaven, to get to Christ. And he said that in my father's house, there's many mansions. Then we should have the objective that everybody needs to go to heaven. How do we do this?
With a personal change, but also the church itself needs to have an attitude change to be able to say, "Okay, she's going to Browncroft. Great. I'll check it in a couple of months and make sure she's still going to Browncroft because if she's not, I'm going to reach out to Pastor Peter, he's going to reach out to her or, or something's got to happen. But her life and her spiritual life matters." I think some of those conversations don't happen. But I also, it's all going back to that idea of, do we have a well-defined organizational vision? Because as we all know, it's not all spirituality. We're not floating in air. I think one of the anchors needs to be, do we have a defined vision? And if so, that should guide us even in the process of change.
I'll get personal, because it's a question too. I grew up, loved my home church and there was a pastoral transition and one of the internal candidates didn't get the job. At that point, the church split and it was painful. I guess even as I reflect on it now, it's been 20-some odd years, I think since it happened. I just noticed that the church that was planted and split off of that, the son's now the new pastor of that church who... It's been a joy to watch him grow. The church split. It was painful. I think everybody involved probably would've said, "We could've handled this differently."
First of all, I just want to say to our listeners, churches are full of people who are imperfect, therefore the church is imperfect.
But the second thing is, I guess if you were sitting down with someone and you brought up two individuals, at what point do you say, "Hey, I know all these changes are happening, but I really think you should commit to your local church." Versus, "Hey, it sounds like you're at an impasse. Maybe it's time to look for a different church." How would you help someone navigate all of that?
Yeah. Peter, that's a good question. I'll answer it this way. When I was 14, 15 years old and I accepted the Lord, I was going to a church, a very good church, very good pastors, very good youth group. It was the church where I had accepted the Lord. I felt comfortable there. However, as time passed on, I realized something that it didn't matter how many services I attended. It didn't matter how much of me I gave, how much I even put on display with reference to my passion or my desire, my gifting, my talents. They already had a system and they already had a way on selecting leadership and I had already hit the glass ceiling so to speak.
When I saw that, I said, "Wait a minute. I know that there's something more in me to give." But I also knew that I wasn't going to be able to give it there. I had a conversation with... There was three of us that we had accepted the Lord relatively the same time, so our journey was different, but relatively the same. I spoke to them and I said, "Listen, this is the way I feel. I feel like this may not be the place for me long term." But I did not act on it.
Instead, what happened was now let me just back up a little bit. When I accepted the Lord, it actually was in Puerto Rico because I had moved to Puerto Rico and my mother purchased a home there, so we lived there and that's where I accepted the Lord. So when that moment of feeling that I may leave this church happened, there was a storm that struck Puerto Rico. It was in that moment where, well, churches where it's closed, like everything was flooded.
There was a storm happening, but as life would have it, in order for you to get to the church, you would have to pass through my house, like through the town where I lived at. When everything settled from the storm, a couple of weeks later, possibly I saw the pastor's car pass by. And the pastor's car passed by and the pastor's car passed by. But no one ever called me, no one ever texted me. That talks to the point that you made earlier, which is there are imperfect people in the church period.
I remember my mother. My mother, she went up to the pastor one day and said, "Listen, my son has been coming to the church. How come you don't stop by? Like the storm passed by?" And the pastor was like, "I'm sorry, I'll try to do it."
My mother was like, "No, don't worry about it. I'm going to make sure my son finds a place." And so lo and behold, I ended up meeting the pastor who I spoke about earlier, who ended up being a real father figure for me. When I made that shift from one location to another, when I made that move from one location to another, it was night and day. It was like when you feel thirsty and parched and you're like, "Man, I just need something." And you finally get that sip of water. It's like, "Whew, I'm brand new! I'm ready to go to the next gear." That's how it felt just going there.
I remember that I just started clicking for me spiritually, mentally, emotionally. And so, I began to talk to those individuals whom I had accepted the Lord with. I said, how is your walk going in that local church? They would say, "Well, they're considering leadership this year." "Okay." A few months pass by, "Hey, I know you were considering leadership. How would that go?" "No, they didn't consider me." "Okay." A few months went by, "They're considering this." "Okay. Did they consider you?" "No." And I said, "This is why I didn't want to stay there." I pointed that out to him like, "I was there, but this is why I left." Now on the other side of that, what was I doing in this new church? Well, I was working with the youth, working in evangelism, I was going to jails, I was going to school. Like I was doing so much.
I was like, "You guys have the ability to do this here more." And so I found myself in that position of saying, "Consider making a change." I always tell individuals this, there is no way that the Lord would take you to a place to die. If there comes a point where you feel like, "I'm disconnected." The first thing you should ask yourself is why am I disconnected? Again, is it because there isn't a clear vision? Is it because there isn't a clear mission?
Because if there isn't then me as a member, how am I going to get plugged in if I don't even know, what is our aim? Are we a missionary church? Are we an evangelism church? What are we doing here? Where are we going? That lack of identity makes people feel a particular way. So I would always say hey first, why do I feel this way? Number two. Talk to the people around you and number three, if that fails, then begin to consider other avenues.
Where I would say, "Look for other avenues," is again, after you've covered your bases, did I talk to the leadership? Did I say, "Hey, what is the mission statement? How can I be a part of that? How can I make that a reality?" As opposed to just saying, "I'm out of here, I'm done." Wait a minute, really reconsider. Because let's just apply this to everyday life. No one just quits their job. Normally, no one just picks up and says, "You know what, guys? I don't like it here. I'm leaving." Unless you've reached the end of your limits, but then is like, "Why didn't you talk to HR? Why didn't you talk to your managers? Why didn't you talk to somebody?" So I think that applies also in the church.
Well, so there's two quick things that I think you're articulating, which is really powerful. So number one, I think you've articulated the angst of younger leaders and I've felt this. I don't have an answer for this. I just want to be honest where like... So sometimes I feel like with millennials and Gen Z, people question their faithfulness and consistency.
And then when they're faithful and consistent, the message back to them is, "Well, you're not old enough yet." I think what you're articulating even in your story is there wasn't like a clear path for the church to really embrace and use your gifts. And I think that's where the younger generation's frustrated.
You either throw me at something that I really don't believe in or I'm faithful and consistent. And there's really no good reason why you're not helping me move forward other than they're not 40 yet or something like that. But the second thing that I love what you're saying and I think this is why you do professional coaching, the church that you attend, the job that you're a part of, any group that you're a part of, you've missed the mark if you've left and they don't know why.
Yeah. I almost said fail. I think that's too strong of word, but if people don't know why you're leaving, when you leave, that's something I think that you'll regret and look in the mirror later.
I would only add a second thing to them. Yes, if you're going to leave, as you mentioned, if you're going to leave, let it be known, communicate. But I would also add this. If you leave and there was no impact that you had while you were there, that scares the mess out of me. Right. It should be that when I leave, it should be felt like, "Man, Miguel left and his greatness went with him."
Because otherwise, what did I do there? Like what impact did I have there? I remember several years ago, I was working retail many years ago. There was an individual. I was retraining everybody. I was as an assistant store manager. I had to retrain everybody. One individual who had been there for so many years said, "You're going to retrain me? I've been here longer than you."
I'm like, "I understand, but this is my position. I only asked that you respect me enough to allow me to retrain you. Let's just over through some stuff. All right, we'll finish this. We'll go on with our day."
No, no. I've been here for this many years and I can't believe this. Everybody knows my name. Everybody knows my faith. I was like, "All right. Listen, I'm just letting you know, this is my position. This is what I have to do." Ultimately, she calmed down. She's said, "Go ahead and train me." We went through the material and at the end, she was like, "I'm not doing none of that."
I'm like, "Okay, that's your choice. My job is to train you. You don't want to do it, don't do it. But if you don't do it, I want you to know what the next step will be. The next step is that you may be written up, talked to and of course we know where that leads." "Oh, you're going to fire me!" She went off. "You're going to fire me!"
And this is the part that I really want you to take away. She said, "If you fire me, this place will go down." And I was like, "I don't think this place will end because of you, because it didn't start with you." As a believer, I should understand, the church did not start with me and it ain't going to end with me.
But at the very least, if I'm moving from one local church to another, man, it should be felt that, "Miguel moved." I had a pastor friend of mine who said that he was leaving. The church was relocating to another community. And as they were moving, one of the neighbors asked him, "Hey, what's going on here?" And they said, "Well, the church is moving." And the neighbor said, "There was a church here?"
Well, what you're articulating, which is so, so powerful is because we're so afraid of conflict because we don't slow ourselves down. Even what you're saying too is like in the Bible, so there's this story of these two church leaders, Paul and Barnabas and they have a sharp disagreement and they end up kind of going different paths.
Paul ends up taking Silas, Barnabas ends up taking John, Mark. We actually don't talk about those differences in positive lights. Because even in this broken world where it's healthy, there might be times that you've done everything you can, the church has done everything you can and it's basically saying, "We love each other. We care, but we're going on two different paths." And it's almost as if one of the reasons we're afraid of change is we're afraid to actually have the necessary conversations.
Yeah. And it's that fear. It's that fear to say goodbye. In so many movies, you see the scene where one individual saying goodbye to the other and it may be because they're adults and they have a romantic relationship or a platonic relationship, or they're just friends or kids, whatever it is and you always see somebody running behind the car or behind the train, on their little bike or something, "Don't leave me!"
It's the fear of saying goodbye. For some reason, that same fear exists in the church. Granted, it exists in all of us. But it's the idea of saying goodbye. But if we don't say goodbye, then we can't say, "Hello." If I don't let go of what I have in my hands, then I can't take the newness that God wants to give us.
Recently, I spoke to the local church and I said if the Bible talks about going from glory to glory, think about this, Christ could have just said, "Okay, you're glorified. Done deal. That's it. You accept me, you're glorified." Instead, he saves us, he justifies us, we go through a process of sanctification and eventually when we reach heaven, we'll be glorified.
Fantastic. Well, why didn't you just glorify me now Jesus? Why didn't you? No, because there is a process. I think oftentimes we don't want to be part of the process. The process of change requires dialogue, requires people getting bothered, requires people having different opinion. And it may even require people saying, "Well, you know what? If you're going to change the colors of the wall, then I'm leaving." Well, if that's your reason for leaving, I would ask, why did you come here in the first place? Because it wasn't the walls that attracted you. It was Jesus.
Are we departing from Jesus? No. Then color of the walls didn't save you. It's the color of his blood that saved you.
You're bringing up a good point, which leads me to this tough question. If you go into any community, Pastors know of people that... You can call it the seven year itch where it's after seven or 10 years, you change churches. It's usually like the same pattern. It's they start off really well, love the church and then by the seventh year, they're like, "I can't believe you did this." And they go... At what point do I start looking at myself and say, "Maybe I'm the problem in all of this?"
Right away. Right away, right away. Listen, I served as an associate pastor for almost 10 years. Maybe for the last four years, my wife and I would have the conversation every year, is it time for us to go pastor.
When I would ask that question, I would say, "Okay. Are we ready mentally? Are we ready emotionally? Are we ready spiritually? Are we ready economically? Is our house all ready? Is the church that we're about to leave ready?"
At the last year of asking that question, we went through yes on everything. But I'll be honest, the last one that I was not sure of was is the church ready for us to leave? That was the one that took months, literally months for me to just be like, "The church didn't start with me, it ain't going to end with me." Even though my departure should be felt, it should be, because I've invested time and I left it all... In parentheses here, to me and the great debate of who is the GOAT in basketball is Kobe, period. That's it.
Hot take. We'll come back to that.
Okay. Now, of course, those people who are heavily spiritual and listening are saying, "Wait a minute. What has this got to do with the church?" Give me two seconds, I'll come back to it. The reason to me that Kobe is the GOAT is because he left it all in the game. This is the guy who literally dislocated a finger, goes to the sideline, tells the medical coach, "Put it back in so I could go back in."
He breaks any bone and he just keeps moving and he keeps throwing himself on the floor, going for all the rebounds. He is just giving it all. So at the last game, you know this man didn't steal from no one. He left it all in the game. End that parenthesis, we'll go back to it later.
In the church, in the local church that I attend, managed to be that I left it all. That when I say, "Hey guys, I'm leaving." It should be like, "Oh man, we're so happy. God is moving you to another place. We're so happy that God is moving you forward, but dang it you're leaving. I can't believe you're leaving. I'm happy for you. Don't get me wrong, but oh my goodness!"
It should be that feeling. The last thing to me and my checklist before leaving was is the church going to be okay? I had to get to a point of saying the church wasn't founded on Miguel. The church was founded on the belief that Christ is king, period. It should be okay without me. Once I crossed that bridge, I was ready to go. At least mentally, emotionally, I was ready to go. If you're feeling, "Man, I don't know if I want to keep coming to this church."
Instead of saying, "It's because of the windows. It's because of the walls. It's because of the pastor. It's because of this, it's because of that." First look at yourself. And this is why I think it's so important that us, as pastors, as leaders really talk about the mission and the vision. Because if I say as a member, "Man, I'm getting ready to leave this church." Okay. Well, two seconds before you leave, let's go through the core values. The core values is community, commission, commitment, compassion, communion.
Where am I falling off on these? Because if I'm not meeting any of these in this church, what makes you think that in another local church, you're going to meet the vision there? Because it should be that within that vision, I'm growing so much that God would have to promote me, that God would have to... Or somehow expand dramatically in the only way that God can. When I say dramatically, I mean in the only way that God can. But it shouldn't be that I should leave because, because they changed X, Y, Z.
That was so powerful and I'm thinking about our listeners that are in the fringes of church and they're talking about, "Man, this is hard work and this is messy." There's some relational like components to this.
I'm married to my wife and we're very different and it's not like... It's not like there was a discussion of, "I'm not going to marry Robin because she's imperfect and it's going to be messy." There are a lot of people that go into marriage thinking that this is going to be... We get along so well and... I'm not trying to like dissuade people from marriage, but because church is semi-voluntary, like you choose to go, I think that people, they miss out on the other side of commitment.
I've been at Browncroft for eight years. There's conversations that I'm having now that I never thought I would have. A lot of that is my growth of can you sit long enough and listen to something that you really, really struggle with? Can you also be strong enough to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said?
I think I've had two position titles. At first, I was a belong director. I think it's a great title. I just felt like there was this pressure to make everybody belong and I can't make everybody belong. Now, I'm the adult ministries director. And even just during COVID, ministry has shifted and changed, in some ways the in-person ministry has gotten simpler, not easier, but simpler and the digital ministry, we're still trying to figure it out. This is part of it.
I think even what you're saying is to our listeners and even to yourself as another church leader, we're co-church leaders here is are you giving God long enough the process to change you? Because if you leave and you don't ask what your contribution is, you've missed out on a huge growth opportunity.
Yeah. Yeah. I love the point that you bring, which is in reference to perspective. The thing about perspective is perspective is determined based upon your position. This goes back to the point I made earlier, where for 10 years, I'm in the same place. Bro, you're talking about no change in position, no change in perspective. It should not be that way. It should be that I, as an individual, am growing, am evolving. Thus the individuals around me would also be growing and evolving because as I grow, my circle should change a little.
It should morph. Either the people will change and evolve or they're just not going to be part of my circle. I know that maybe sounds a little difficult, but I truly believe that your network will affect your net worth. This doesn't necessarily mean monetarily, although it could affect monetarily, it just means, "Where am I going to? What am I trying to accomplish?"
My brother's daughter had a birthday recently and she turned nine years old. No, she turned 10. She turned 10 years old. I asked her the question. I said, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" She's 10 years old. And I said, "Where do you see yourself?" She says, "I don't know. I'm only 10." I'm like, "But I want you to think about, imagine it, where would you be?" And so she said, I'm going to be at home and I'm going to take mommy's job. I was like, "Okay. What is your mom going to do?" She was like, "I don't know. She'll figure it out."
But this idea of where will you be in 10 years, individuals don't ask it to themselves and churches don't ask it to themselves. And that is an issue because as time passes, as you mentioned, our position will change and our perspective should change along with it, which may be like, "Okay. At first, I really wanted white walls but as time has gone by, I see blue means trust, means confident, means tranquility. Yeah, let's go with blue. Maybe 10 years ago I wasn't okay with that. But now, not so bad."
I kind of want to help our listeners because they might be on the last string with the church. Number one, sometimes I feel like churches do things, that it just check the box to do them. We have ministries, we have groups that meet, we have programs and it's just check the box.
Well, of course we do that, go back to... Of course, we have Sunday school. I want to be careful as I say this. With spirituality with church, it's really hard to evaluate based on metrics. That becomes really hard to have a goal, because it's not like I can say to Miguel, "Miguel, you went to Sunday school and I just talked with your wife and last year at this time you were six on the love scale. Now, you're a nine on the love scale."
The other thing that's hard about that too, is you can read your Bible and pray every day. But some people that read their Bible and pray every day are either the same person or also more self righteous. But I say that in the sense of just because we're checking the box, doesn't mean that we're meeting a goal. I think even to give people language, to start having those difficult conversations, if you had 10 people from the church and you said, "What are the three top issues in our community?" Okay. We agree on these three. How are we addressing that as a church?
Yeah. One of the things I've practiced as a senior pastor, one of the things I've practiced is that I've addressed each individual and I've asked him, "Tell me three things you need from me and tell me three things you expect from me."
That is the reaction I get when I ask that to people. And of course, they're like, "I don't know Pastor. I don't know." I'm like, "No, no, no. We don't have to rush, but I need an answer before this conversation ends. Tell me what are the three things you need from me? And what do you expect from me?"
Most often, most often the answer has been just a safe place where I can grow, along those lines, right. Safe place where I can grow and that I can feel like I'm growing. Of course, everyone has different language for that. But I think the responsibility of change falls in the hands of leaders. Oftentimes, one of the things I've learned is that oftentimes, we fall into this position of leader show as opposed to leadership.
What I mean by that is that we begin to think, "Well, as a leader, I have to be serious. I have to be present. I can't miss a day. I can't let them see me cry. I can't let them see my knees buckle." What happens is that we begin to be able to show the truth is that leadership isn't easy. It's not intended to be easy. You're leading the ship. You're saying, "We turn right." So we turn right. "We turn left." So we turn left.
Is there people that contribute to that conversation? Yes. But as the one who is in leadership, I think one of the things we have to do is begin to have those hard conversations and say, "You know what? I'm not feeling up to it right now. You know what? I'm not feeling good? You know what? I'm not feeling great. I feel this way." And that is the issue that I think oftentimes makes it so that the pastor's on a pulpit, I'm sitting in the pew and there's a great, great chasm between he and I. It's like, it shouldn't be that way.
Well, and I think the biggest struggle for leaders like yourself and I, any pastor is the longer you work at the church, the more intentional you have to be to connect with people's everyday lives. I think attention that I kind of go through right now, why is it so hard for churches to change, is there are a lot of churches that feel like if we have more stuff on the calendar, we're successful.
Right. Going back to what you were saying, which is that check box, right?
Are we meeting all those things? And it's like, well, you maybe meeting it, but as you mentioned, people may be, "All right, we have Bible study seven days a week, nine days a week." All right, great. But are we addressing the issues that make the individual think, "Am I growing, where am I going to be in the next 10 years? Where am I going to be in the next month? I have all these things happening in my personal life. Is all this being addressed?"
In that question of what is the fear of changing, why is it that church's fear changing? And I think one of the biggest reasons is because one, we really don't want to say goodbye. We don't want to say goodbye. Number two, I think it's a procrastination issue. We don't realize that change is necessary because growth invites change.
Of course, change of position will change your perspective. One of the things is that when your perspective change and here's a tough part, with leadership and leader show, when your perspective change, you sometimes have to go back and say, "You know what, guys? I'm sorry. I thought I had it figured out."
Sometimes if you're involved in the leader show, well then I can't say I'm sorry, because that means I'm not perfect. That means I didn't get it. That means I wasn't directing the right way. No, you know what it means? It means you're human and that we all grow. Instead of using it as a moment of weakness, use it as a moment of lesson of saying, "Hey guys, guess what? I thought this way, I realized it was a perspective change."
Now, what we're talking about is not the Gospel. Hebrews tell tells us that Christ doesn't change. He is the same forever and always. Christ doesn't change because he's perfect. He don't got to change, but I've got to change. I need change. And the local church also needs to figure out, okay, how do we continue to change? You think about an invention, like the microwave. When was the last time you thought about a microwave, Pete?
Yesterday as I pressed the button on.
There you go. That's right. That's right.
But if you think about the invention of the microwave, when the microwave comes out, there was this big boom. Everybody wanted the microwave. Everybody needed to have it. It was the latest thing. Now, as the microwave was settling in and everything was kind of calming down because everybody had a microwave, that then did a shift and they said, "Okay, now we need black microwaves, purple microwaves, yellow microwaves, white microwaves." They began to shift.
But the idea isn't that I would be ahead of the curve. But the idea is not also that I be behind the curve. It would be that I would be in the cusps. If I'm ahead of the curve, then it may be that my resources or technology have not reached my idea. Somebody probably said, "Hey, I realize sales are going down for microwaves. Why don't we put a TV in there?"
That's great. But we don't have the technology and we don't know how to do it. "All right, great. I guess I'm too ahead of the curve." No, you're just missing the mark. Of course, there was somebody who said, "Leave it alone! Everyone's still going to love it." No, you're behind the curve. How we would be in the cusp is to understand where are we going? Understand that behind that boom, there's going to be that curve. Things are going to normalize so to speak, but that would every uptick there is another curve, there's another curve. That requires conversation.
You're right, there's no way for me to, as a pastor, maybe gauge, I wonder how's the spiritual growth of Johnny going, unless of course I have conversation. If I have that conversation of Johnny, "How are we today?" And then followup.
Because one of the things I've seen in my years in the ministry and my years in the gospel is that oftentimes leaders don't follow up. I understand that maybe today Samantha feels lonely. Maybe today she feels like, "Man, I'm going to leave this church because there isn't enough kids programs or I just don't like the direction where they're going."
Okay. If I sit down with her, "Hey, how are you feeling? Or I feel this way, that and the other. Okay. Well, let's come up with a plan." That doesn't mean we're going to change the entire thing just to make one person happy. But that also means I'm not going to disqualify what she feels because she is part of the group. But how can I have that conversation and say, "Okay. How can we incorporate you maybe to understand why we're doing what we're doing?"
Those are the conversations that people just procrastinate on. Why am I going to talk about my emotions if God is ahead of me? Well, yeah. But we are dealing with human people. I would say that those conversations play a major factor as to why churches are afraid of moving forward.
One of the reasons I love preaching because this huge principle that we're talking about is there are certain things in Christianity that are timeless and there are certain things that are changing. I'm just going to take a passage. Let's say I preached on the fruit of the spirit 10 years ago: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, Galatians 5:22-23.
Those fruits of the spirit aren't changing. They're a revealer of who God is. But how I would've preached that in 2012 is different than how I preached it in 2022. In 2012, social media was just coming up. There was the office. I probably would've talked to it maybe more workplace, maybe... In 2022, if I'm preaching about the fruits of the Spirit, I'm talking and I'm trying to relate this timeless truth to people that feel the political polarization, people that have walked through COVID people that have huge disagreements on stuff.
I think that even in this question, that's the power of Christianity. That's the power of Jesus at work, is there's no Greek or Hebrew word for social media in the Bible, but there are ton of passages that are applicable to it of how we engage it.
Even going as basic as, "Whatever you, do it in moderation." And so I think what we're doing with this question, why our church is so afraid of change, we're all afraid of change. I'm forgetting the rest of the guy's name, but Ron Heifetz writes the book, Adaptive Leadership. Leadership is making a change at a rate that people can handle. Whether you're a parent, whether you're married, whether you're at RA at a dorm, whether you're a pastor, change is hard. And I think we have to just, what I'm gaining from this conversation is we have to understand the complexity of that and recognize that while also with grace and truth walking into some of these tough conversations.
Yeah. The truth is we would love a simple answer. As we draw near to the conclusion of this episode, if you are listening and you're saying, "All right, neither Peter, no, Miguel have given me a direct answer." That's because there are variables. The variables are that the community that I lead at Grace Hope Fellowship is different, distinct from the community you lead at Browncroft and yet we're United by the blood of Christ.
And it is that diversity that may have forced us to say, okay, the conversation at Grace Hope needs to be a little different and tailored to do a little different where you are. That's okay. And so when we ask that question of hey, why are churches afraid of fear? Well, if you're a leader listening to this, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself, "Man, have I put my personal fear of change on the church that I lead on? On the people that I lead?"
Because if I personally am afraid of change, odds are whenever I see it, it's going to be a red flag. I'm going to be like, "No, no, no." Avoid that! Avoid that! Avoid that! It's like a movie where a father tells a daughter, "Never be afraid of fear." Or, "Always be afraid of fear." It's the idea like, "No, no, no! Change is bad. Fear is bad. Fear can help you run away."
And the truth is that if I feel that way in my personal life, as a leader, while I may be a fantastic leader, it would be easy for me to push that onto others. Even if the opportunity of change is actually for growth. How do I affect my community is massive because Christ on the cross and this has just become one of my favorite passages because Christ on the cross looks out abroad the audience, everyone who is facing and he sees his mother crying and he sees his disciple and he says, "Mother, there is your son." "Son, there is your mother."
Meaning that even in his pain, his one focus was community. How often we've put our pain as leaders above the community or not even as a leader as just a church member. I don't like it. I'm leaving. Okay. Am I putting my pain above my community? If I'm a father, my leave not only affects me, it affects my three daughters.
Often, it's like, "No, no. No! But he said this about me or blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." You fill in the blank however you wish, wherever you are in your spiritual journey. But the truth is that if I just leave, well then what am I really changing? Am I avoiding change? Am I avoiding wanting to give into growth? Because again, if I am running away from change and it's possible that I'm running away from growth and I would really, really hate that 10 years from now, when we revisit this conversation, that it would be like, "Well, I'm in the same place that I was 10 years ago."
Whoa. This conversation went by way too fast. I can't wait to do Chipotle again.
Yeah, let's do it. Chipotle if you're listening...
We're ready for you.
We're ready for you.
We end every episode with the same question. That question is, what does Jesus have to say about why are churches so afraid of change? I get to answer and then you clean up any heresy or mess. Does that sound good?
I've loved this conversation. I've loved the direction of it for a couple different reasons. But I keep coming back to the verse in 1 John, "Perfect love casts out all fear." We kind of say that. And I think people even who haven't read the Bible might have heard that idea. But John was probably the last Apostle who spent time with Jesus that was alive. That whole book 1 John, if you read that in the Bible, it's one of the most accessible.
He talks about the way that people know you follow Jesus is by loving one another. We don't love one another, when we don't understand the needs, when we don't help people grow. I think what Jesus would say is the church, whether that's individuals or members, love changes you. You can take any example from literature.
I'm thinking of [inaudible 00:56:13], the main character there just this character changes because a priest says, "You can steal my silver." And, "You forgot some over here." There's these pictures of redemption and grace and that changes us. I just think as I'm leaning on this, why are churches so afraid to change, whether you are someone that's de-churched or unchurched, whether you are new to church, whether you've been at church a long time, what changes you is to live in this messy community to experience and offer the love of Christ. Unfortunately, there's no other way to do that unless it gets messy. That requires changes you, the individual. But that also requires change as a church, as a whole.
I'm leaving with this, perfect love cast out all fear. Because God does want to change us. He changes us through relationships, through a rootedness in a church.
Yeah. When we look at the Old Testament, we know that the old Testament is full of laws. But one of the things that we see is that in the book of Exodus, in the 10 commandments, the people are told to love their neighbors. But there, he is talking about the immediate neighbor. People within the Jewish community. Because of course, if you don't serve God, which was the first commandment, have no other God. So if you have another guy, then I can't associate myself with you because you may contaminate me is the idea.
But so when he reaches to okay, love your neighbor as you love yourself." Well, I have to love another individual who serves the same God as me, the same way I love myself. Great. When Jesus arrive and he says, "Hey, love your neighbor." He's not talking in that same content. He's saying love even those who don't look like you, walk like you, talk like you, smell like you, breathe like you. He says, "Just love them, man."
He takes it a step further and he says, "Hey, and don't forget to love your enemy as well. That person that doesn't like you, that person that makes it challenging. That person that makes it difficult." Here is the caveat, those are the people you may find at church.
As you said, it is that perfect love. My perfect love? Oh no, no, no. Not my perfect love. I'm talking about the perfect love of Christ, that perfect love. If I allow that to flow in my life as a believer, not only does it impact those who are believers, but it also impact those who aren't believer. It was like the jail man said in the book of Acts, he said, "What do I have to do to be saved?" He said, "Believe in the Lord and you and your house will be saved."
Well, how is it that my faith saves my house? Well, because that perfect love that's in me just flourishes to everyone around us. If you're a leader, I would say, move in that perfect love. Be willing to have those difficult conversations in love. If you're a member and you're saying, "Well, I'm not a leader." Look around, you may be a leader to your nephew, to your cousin, to your neighbor, to the people that you invited to church. And it's those people that are looking at you and saying, "Wait a minute, because if Jimmy leaves, I might leave too."
Jimmy, if you're listening, I hope you don't leave only because of something so small, but rather that when you do decide to walk out those doors, that it would be because of a promotion that everyone can celebrate the greatness that God has put in you.
Miguel, where can people find you?
Well, you can find me right here right now. Listen, you can find me on my website, miguellebron.com, there I have free podcast, free articles that deal with leadership, faith, and strategy. Of course, Strategy Rewind podcast available everywhere on all platforms, online and beyond. And on Facebook as well, but the most simplest way you can find me is there. Miguellebron.com has all the links you need.
I can't close this episode without saying this, Michael Jordan's the GOAT. We'll talk more later. As always, you can find us at whygodwhypodcast.com. The best way to get in touch with us is click this subscribe button. You get this episode and every other episode, thank you so very much. Have a great day.