Discontinuous Change & Perpetual Revival

Mental Models of the Church. In the old paradigm, change occurred incrementally. The church shared the values held by the predominant culture.…
“In the mission field paradigm, change is rapid and discontinuous. the gap between the value held by the church and those held by the community is clear.
[Excerpted from Leading Congregational Change by James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, Jim Herrington San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000, p. 115, some emphases added]

Peter Drucker, the dean of American management, calls Rick “the inventor of perpetual revival” and Saddleback’s mega-church model “the most significant sociological phenomena of the second half of this century.”

The quotation at the top is an example of the newest model of “continuous improvement” called “discontinuous change.” A more complete understanding of change and how it operates in the church world can be found at www.crossroad.to in a series of excerpts from the book quoted above. This concept is relevant to what Herescope has been examining all week because in the acknowledgements, the authors state:

We thank Rick Warren… for the opportunity to reach and refine our understanding of congregational transformation as part of Saddleback Valley Church’s Purpose-Driven Church Conference. We are also grateful to Bob Buford, Carol Childress… and others at Leadership Network for the many ways in which they have stimulated and facilitated our word.” [emphasis in excerpt]

This concept from the business world is being brought into evangelical Christianity via the Leadership Network and Rick Warren. “Continuous improvement” means continually CHANGING. It is a concept normally associated with Total Quality Management, but it is more than just an industrial management concept. It also has to do with changing people, ideas, and organizations. In this psycho-social context, it is applied to the Church.

Are you feeling the effects of “discontinuous change” in the Church yet? You might be! Church “change leaders” (self-identified as such) have been trained to use the techniques of “continuous improvement” to manipulate change in churches. In fact, the goal is to transform Christianity as a whole.

But what is “discontinuous change”? It is a new hybrid of “continuous improvement,” only far worse. And it is already poised on the cutting edge of the neoevangelical world. In a recently published book The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (J-B Leadership Network Series) by Eddie Gibbs, Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, it states that discontinuous change is the new norm:


“At a meeting with a dozen executive staff members of a denomination, we heard one, reflecting on the dynamics of the congregation, say that she felt every time she turned around things changed. The executive responsible for resourcing Christian education spoke up: ‘The very nature of change has changed, but I can’t quite get my mind around this discontinuous-change idea. How is it different from continuous change?’ After a while, another executive looked at his associates around the table and said, ‘The reality is that discontinuous change has become the new continuous change, and we were never trained to deal with this kind of world!’ Everyone nodded in agreement. It’s a new kind of world!…

Continuous change develops out of what has gone before and therefore can be expected, anticipated, and managed.… This kind of change involves such things as improvement on what is already taking place and whether the change can be managed with existing skills and expertise.

Discontinuous change is disruptive and unanticipated; it creates situations that challenge our assumptions. The skills we have learned aren’t helpful in this kind of change.…

Discontinuous change is dominant in periods of history that transform a culture forever, tipping it over into something new.” (pp. 6-7) [bold added]

The unnerving thing about reading about this in the Christian world is wondering how this applies to the concept of “creative destruction” discussed in yesterday’s post. In order to create a condition chaotic enough to breed “discontinuous change” are these “change leaders” being trained in “creative destruction” methods?

Given that Peter Drucker dubbed Rick Warren “the inventor of perpetual revival,” one has to wonder if the new definition of revival will become “discontinuous change.” A ghastly thought!

The Truth:

“Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” (Jeremiah 8:5)