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Can There Be Change Without Pain?

Change and the Church is a hot topic these days. With issues like homosexuality, gay marriage, science and evolution, education, and social justice, voices cry out every side that the Church must change and that the Church must not change. The millennial generation, a fully established Internet presence with loud opinions, continues to go back-and-forth with the institutional Church (or at least mainstream evangelicalism) over how much change is needed, and why.

But Ed Stetzer tackles the idea of change without focusing on whether or not the Church should change its stance over this-or-that-issue. He instead reminds us that change is inevitable, always the catalyst for growth, and a very painful thing. In “Can There be Change Without Pain?” he answers in the first line, “No.”

Stetzer describes a small church of elderly parishioners who invited him to come reach out to the younger people in their area in order to grow the church, only to realize what a topsy-turvey process change can be.

“People hurt for their preferences when there's change. But part of the role of pastors and church leaders is to help people hurt for the right things. When people don't get things their way, it hurts them. That shouldn't surprise you. But, instead, leaders have to help them hurt for the things that break the heart of God.

Change can come, but it will come by the way of pain.”

Stezter also notes that,

“People never change until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.”

According to's Daniel Darling in “Healing Generational Divides,” the issues over which the Church faces disagreements and change need to be met with accountability, relationship, humility, generosity, an understanding of church history, and unity.

James Emery White also rests in the assumption that growth and change are inevitable, stating,

God wants churches to grow. Healthy churches, their veins coursing with the power of the Holy Spirit, are meant to grow!  Maybe not all at the same pace, or amount, or regimen, but grow they will.

Which leads to a simple question:  you don’t have to ask yourself how to grow your church.  You have to ask yourself what is keeping your church from growing.”

So, what do you think? Is the heart of the matter that we need to reconcile ourselves to the pain that comes with growth? Or can some change only “represent a disaster for [the] church?”

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for

Publication date: August 7, 2013