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Welcoming Resistance: A Path to Faithful Ministry

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Resistance can actually create an opportunity for healthy change.

The certainty of change in our culture, coupled with an almost universal resistance to change in many congregations, produces the context for this highly practical and insightful approach to pastoral leadership. Chris Hobgood does a favor for every pastor and other church leader who desires to lead a congregation through change in a healthy and productive fashion.

The very title, Welcoming Resistance, will probably create a lump in the throat of many pastors and other church leaders—or, at the very least, a quizzical glance. Hobgood takes the approach that “resistance is good.”

His central thesis states that resistance could be a sign of vital, high-quality and faithful life in a congregation, a concept he develops throughout the book.

Hobgood calls for a style of pastoral leadership built around understanding a congregation as a system. This system should be enriched and energized by a healthy recognition of and reaction to change and resistance. Resistance in one unit of a system, the author warns, can generate stress in the entire system.

Change and resistance are natural consequences for congregations. Resistance is not bad when it inspires meaningful dialogue with those involved. A healthy encounter with resistance can produce a dynamic learning experience, which can move the church to succeed in its mission.

Listen and learn from the persons expressing concern. Careful listening creates positive communication that can move the system toward change. Efforts to squelch resistance can lead to negative feelings, which may destroy the congregation. Even worse, totally ignoring resistance may lead to the defection of members and loss of their ideas and support.

The second chapter asks two very important questions in assessing resistance. First, what kind of energy does the resistance generate? Second, what are the interests it seeks to assert? The energy may be emotional or rational. The interest may be self or congregation.

The author outlines seven steps intervention leaders can use in guiding a church from maintenance to transforming ministry. Only when a church experiences stability can it truly be challenged to move forward. He also points out that resistance increases as change intensifies.

The middle part of the book examines eight congregations of various size, denomination and setting which have succeeded in using resistance to move toward fulfilling their mission and valuing every member. The case studies give careful attention to the value of pastoral care, visionary leadership and valuing the organizational systems approach to problem solving. The diversity of the case studies presents contextual examples of healthy change.

This book is valuable for clergy and laity alike. Anyone who serves congregations will profit from the work of this talented and experienced pastor, consultant and denominational executive.

Jim Royston is executive director/treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.