Needed economic adjustments can be painful. President Jimmy Carter inherited a poor economy. Annual inflation (as measured by the CPI) was 5.2 percent when he took office and was 11.8 percent when he left.
President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 on the promises of reducing the growth of government spending, reducing taxes, reducing the regulatory burden and reducing the money supply (with the help of Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Federal reserve).
The policies threw the economy into a severe recession that lasted from July 1981 to November 1982. But the groundwork had been laid for a sound economy for the rest of his presidency and future presidencies. Inflation went from 11.8 percent when he took office to 4.7 percent in 1989 when he left. The adjustment was painful, but it was needed.
President Bill Clinton also inherited a poor economy. He was elected on the promises of eliminating the budget deficit, lowering interest rates, promoting trade through the reduction of tariffs, and investing in education and research. Although he faced significant opposition from many in his own party, he followed through with his promises (with the help of chairman Alan Greenspan). The U.S. experienced a period of economic growth and was the last time we have seen a federal budget surplus.
Corporate, national and global debt are currently at worrisome and unsustainable levels. Policy-makers need to make painful adjustments to put corporations and the economy on a more sustainable basis. Some would argue that it is already too late. But well-reasoned policies will at least mitigate adverse outcomes. Either policy-makers or economic forces will make the adjustments. Delay increases the severity of the adjustment.
Adjustments in our churches can also be painful. Attendees will often resist change. The need for the adjustment will probably not be realized by everyone. Tradition, egos, convenience, social alliances, friends and even family may be involved. But adjustments that align with the Bible and are inspired by the Holy Spirit are necessary. While it may be painful for some, obedience to the Spirit is essential. Long-term fruit can be expected.
The following guidelines and principles should help with a God-ordained and directed adjustment.
1. Make sure the idea is inspired and in agreement with the Bible and your vision. Spend time in prayer and fasting to receive assurance of the Holy Spirit.
2. Do all that you can to promote unity with your leadership team. Seek their counsel early and often. Describe the pros and cons of the proposal and how it will help alleviate issues or take advantage of opportunities. If they come up with better alternatives, be willing to adapt your proposal if directed by the Spirit.
3. When communicating with your congregation, explain your vision. Do not assume that everyone is familiar with it. Demonstrate your passion for your vision. Talk about the good that has happened and the fruit produced because of it. Express appreciation to all who have contributed.
4. Describe the adjustment being made and the reasons for it. Specifically, tell the problems it will solve or the opportunities that will now be available. Link the changes to your vision. Relate how it came about: prayer, vision, suggestion and so forth. Answer questions. If appropriate, give time for them to think about it and to ask leadership further questions.
5. Be compassionate. Mention that all may not be agreement, but leadership has decided (unless your church requires a vote) to do this because ...
6. Ask for their support.
7. Implement the adjustments with love and excellence.
Adjustments and changes are usually painful to some. Too often, God-directed changes are delayed because of the effort required or pain involved. As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we do not serve men or shrink from painful situations. Let us obey our King in love, compassion and the power of the Spirit.
Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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