True change in an organization or in one’s life does not come by merely changing programs and practices; it requires a change in core values and priorities. Core values cannot be changed by wishing them so or changing programs; it requires the establishment of a new identity through time, trauma, or some other life changing event.
For years, pastors and church leaders in main line denominations have watched their numbers decline while newer movements with contemporary music and a less formal ministry style are growing rapidly. So they change their music and the style of worship and find that they are still not growing, plus they have alienated some who liked the older music and the previous style. It is not about programs, music, and ministry style. It is about changing the value system. Values systems are at the core of what we do.
On a routine flight from San Diego to Oakland, my value system was turned upside down by a simple two square foot package stowed in the overhead compartment. We had reached cruising altitude and flying directly over Los Angeles International Airport, when the captain came over the public address system and announced that we had to return to San Diego because they suspected a bomb had been placed in an overhead compartment on our plane. After landing back at Lindbergh Field in San Diego, we taxied to the far point away from the terminal where we were met by an armored vehicle with San Diego Police Department Bomb Squad emblazoned across the side. Two men in full body armor boarded through the tail ramp carrying a large steel crate. Removing a package from the overhead a few rows behind me, they put it in the crate and left the plane. Our plane taxied back to the runway and we proceeded on to our destination. The captain was unable to get any more information from the ground regarding the incident, and I never saw anything on television, but my core values were changed forever.
Up to that point in my life my core values were success in life and my career. Suddenly my meeting in Oakland became unimportant. After checking in to my hotel, I spent the rest of the afternoon on my knees re-evaluating my values, my life and my future. As the sun set that evening, I had a new identity. As a Christian I had earlier turned my life over to the Lord, but now it was different. I now understood that this life was merely transitory and my spiritual life was now paramount.
Changing programs, music, and ministry styles result in merely superficial changes which do not last and often cause friction and conflict. Changing value systems results in true and lasting change, but is the most difficult to accomplish. It requires a new way of thinking, a new sense of what is important. That is why new church plants are easier to accomplish than changing the value systems of an established church. New churches start off with a new set of values.
Leaders of existing organizations can change their core values by casting a new vision, a new identity and a better future. The change of values will only come over a period of time as the vision and identity become a fact. The people must see regular progress in the organization becoming, and the vision becomes a reality.