Competent but ineffective?

March 12, 2007 at 7:54 am 1 comment

Perhaps the greatest impediment to any North American church making real change is competence.  The church and church leaders are perhaps the most competent people you will find anywhere, but they are some of the most resistant to change, as well.

When we feel competent in some field of endevor we do not like to change, for fear we will no longer be competent, so we keep on doing well what we do well even when what we do well doesn’t really work well.

Just think of the risks that come with stepping out of your competence.  You might fail. Others might no longer look at you as the effective person you were when you functioned out of your competence.  We may be replaced by someone who is competent in the area of change. We might feel insecure and out of our area of comfort.

Change is always a temporary or permanent threat to the things we know we can do, so the competent generally avoid change, choosing to remain competent while also remaining ineffective.

Seth Godin wrote a terrific article for Yahoo! on change which I paraphrase here: (archived on When competent people are assured that they can and will be competent in an unknown area, if they are trained or given opportunity to understand the dynamics, they actually can be quite effective, since competent people are generally bright and talented, just fearful about the risks that come with change. It is a shame to waste competent people simply because they are afraid.

There are at least two things that are important about this subject for the church.  First the church must enfranchise the young.  The emergent church generation thrives on change and are not at all threatened with working in areas where they have no competence.  They believe they can and will figure it out and they do and they are.

Unfortunately the church is the ultimate in making you pay your dues before you can come to the leadership table.  Again, why do you think we call them elders? (March 9th post)  Young people are great change agents and need to be allowed to lead.

Secondly, if the bleak future for the church, that I spoke of a few days ago is to be turned into a bright one, it will happen only if competent people put aside their fear of change and embrace the reality that the Spirit is constantly doing a new thing and that change is not only essential, it is the only way to fulfill the Great Commission.

Henri Nouwen wrote: You are a Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in… so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come.

There is always criticism that comes when one calls the church to leave the familiar and safe, but isn’t that exactly what Jesus did?


Entry filed under: Church, Culture, Thoughts.

Moving on (by Linda) A restoration story: Part 1

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mimi  |  March 13, 2007 at 7:58 am

    I wonder if I am sometimes more willing to make changes at work – in the things I do and how I do them, knowing I’ll become more competent and “look better” – rather than to make changes in who I am – especially in regard to how I relate to God and people.

    I get it mixed up when I think that what I DO defines who I am, rather than who I AM defining what I do.

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