Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This time of year is typically a boom for gym membership. Thousands of people pumped full of good intentions and extra pounds from the holidays join a gym with visions of weight loss and body tone dancing in their heads. With gusto they shout “On treadmill, on elliptical, on stair stepper, on ab crunch, on cycle class, on aerobics, on diet…melt away, melt away, melt away pounds!” In the majority of cases New Year’s good intentions (resolutions) quickly are overcome by lack of results, time demands, and rationalizations (even the doctors don’t agree on the best weight). Needless to say, as the year goes on, gyms become less full.

Why does this annual cycle happen? In many cases it is a simple matter of a “binge” mentality. People “binge” on exercise, Spartan diets and behavior so diverse than what they are familiar. This “binge” response to a long-held lifestyle is not sustainable. Often, one of two things can happen: 1) Results are not immediate. This lack of real time reinforcement de-motivates the individual so they revert back to the previous lifestyle; 2) Results are immediate. The individual quickly reaches their pre-determine goal. Mission accomplished! They revert back to the previous lifestyle and are soon back where they were prior to the “binge.”

What is needed is “behavior” adjustment, not “binge” activity. The people who determine to make adjustments to their behavior that can be sustained over the course of their life will be the people who see real results. People who make the choice to be “fit for life” will be the people who have a lifestyle that reflects their choice.

Churches can get involved in “binge” activity. They are spiritually stuffed, evangelistically exhausted and discipleship depleted. This has resulted in them having an unhealthy church with a low corporate self-esteem. They seldom venture out into their community as they are ashamed of their appearance. They know this. They need to do something. So what do they do? They “binge!” It is typically on a program (diet & exercise) that did miracles for another church. They get all excited. They buy in fully (get the gym membership). They have visions of church growth and health dancing in their head. But…as with an individual who is unwilling to make the necessary behavior adjustments, the church soon reverts back to their previous corporate lifestyle.

Churches need to make the choice to be “fit for life.” This will demand behavior adjustment, not binge activity. There is a four-fold cycle that churches must engage in to transition into fitness: 1) Dissatisfaction results in 2) Motivation; motivation results in 3) Choices; and the choices manifest themselves in 4) Changes. At any point of the cycle the transition can be derailed.

Dissatisfaction is a one word definition for motivation. If a church is satisfied with itself, if the leadership is content with how it is impacting the community, if the church is complacent with business as usual than nothing will change. Satisfaction is the enemy of change. I had a friend say to me one time, “I am fat. I have always been fat and will always be fat, so I might as well enjoy it.” If this is the attitude of the church nothing will be altered. However, if there is a genuine dissatisfaction transition can happen.

Dissatisfied churches have motivation. They have gotten to a point where they realize something has to give. Change needs to occur. What they have been doing is no longer providing the Kingdom results they desire. Motivation moves a church from sensing change may be good to a desperate realization change must happen. This deep seeded motivation will result in the church making the necessary choices that will manifest themselves in desired change.

What might drive dissatisfaction in a church? Gene Wood in his book, “Leading Turnaround Churches” suggests three factors: 1) Extreme and continued member dissatisfaction; 2) Low corporate morale; 3) Declining or negative bottom lines (e.g. salvations, baptisms, worship attendance).

What is your dissatisfaction factor? New week in the Wave we will explore the choices and changes of the transition cycle.

1 comment:

Laurie J. said...

hmmmm... good food for thought here! thanks, Phil! :-)