Jeff Iorg said he remembers a moment when his pastor presented a new vision for the church and told the congregation they were going to need to invest a lot of funds in remodeling their facility to accomplish it.
Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, said he also remembers his first thought — “There goes my vacation fund.” Iorg opened the first session of the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference Nov. 14 at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham with a message about leading healthy change much like what he experienced in his church in San Francisco years ago.
Iorg went on to share how he changed his tune about his church’s new vision.
“Our pastor led me through a disciple-making process,” he said.
Iorg heard messages during the services that helped him process and accommodate the change. He heard testimonies from other members, read materials provided, went through a weekly Bible study and read through daily devotionals along with the rest of the congregation.
“After six weeks of that, I came on Giving Sunday excited to give even more than I had planned to give because I had grown in my discipleship, in my commitment to my church and in my understanding of God’s ability to provide,” Iorg said. “I was ready to give and to be a part of the activity of God in that moment because I had been discipled through the process.”
Preaching from Matthew 9:16–17, Iorg shared Jesus’ words about putting wine in new wineskins and said sometimes a patch won’t do — sometimes it’s time for a real change. When that happens, it’s an opportunity for a pastor to disciple his congregation, as Iorg’s own pastor did, he said.
“When we introduce major change and people respond to it in all kinds of different ways, they’re spiritually growing, and we thrive in that environment because it gives us the opportunity to show pastoral care to people and use it as a disciple-making moment,” Iorg said.
He himself has led ministries through a number of major changes now. Over the years, helped relocate a church, planted a church and led Gateway Seminary through a move to a new campus 400 miles away.
Before the seminary’s move, they had been “patching” with incremental changes for years, he said. They had a plan to keep doing that until one day it was clear they needed a bigger change.
“I know what it’s like to come to the hard reality that a patch won’t do anymore. I’m imploring you, ministry leaders — have the courage to stand up and lead if a new garment is needed,” Iorg said.
‘Until we get it done’
Real change requires new structures too, and that often asks pastors to be willing to stay a while to see the change through and make sure everything works as it should, he said. Sometimes pastors aren’t willing to commit to that, but it’s worth it, Iorg said.
“Leading major change in ministry is not for the fainthearted, the quick to leave or those looking for a greener pasture,” Iorg said. “It’s for those who say, ‘Here’s where I’m going to stand until we get it done.’”
To view more photos of Jeff Iorg’s address, click here.
To view photos of the 2022 Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference, click here.