Carey Nieuwhof is a bit of an anomaly, there aren’t very many Canadian bloggers that gain popularity South of the border. It’s probably because he’s approaching sensitive topics in a manner that is clear, concise, and with concrete ideas for solutions.
His most recent post on incrementalism piqued my interest since I’ve included the problem in one of my chapters in a book I’m writing.
I wish to contend, however, that Carey didn’t push deep enough. There’s a simple and more profound reason why incrementalism continues to be the problem when structuring change management in churches: it saves jobs.
There are many reasons why incrementalism is the primary method used to usher in change. At the top of the list: it’s the easiest venture. Rather than radical paradigm change, we are very careful not to upset status quo in our churches. If we can achieve change painlessly we’ll opt for that route.
Only problem? It doesn’t really work.
Incrementalism has contributed to the collapse of Christianity in the West.
We know incrementalism isn’t saving us because the entire ship is sinking. I would argue, we are in an age where radical paradigm shifts are necessary, particularly around the foundation of mission.
The church is largely incapable of speaking a Gospel language in a way that a post-Christian culture can understand. And the sad part is? Most churches don’t really care.
Here’s the tough love.
Incrementalism remains because leaders lack the risk and fortitude to alter comfortable church paradigms for the sake of the Gospel.
I know MANY stories where lead pastors have grand visions for the Gospel but know in their heart they could never usher in the change in their churches because it would cost them their jobs. When you have a generation of leaders with no transferable skills and mortgages, you simply do not have the impetus for profound change in a dying institution.
The reason incrementalism is here to stay is a simple case of pragmatics.
We’re caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand we understand, as leaders, that the maintenance of our church sub-cultures is necessary to keep congregations resilient. However, it is the placation of Christian consumerism that costs us our ability to initiate radical change.
And so we do just enough to keep the ship afloat and stay average at best. Our tension is the Gospel is anything but average.