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Change…1 Inch at a Time


There was a pastor that had worked at a small rural church for many years. During his time there, he had requested from the congregation numerous times the possibility of moving the piano from one side of the platform to the other. Each time his request was met with great resistance. The overwhelming response was always NO! After he retired he came back to visit the church 5 years later and he noticed that the piano was on the opposite side of the platform. Perplexed on how the congregation ever gave permission to move the piano he asked the current pastor “How did you ever get their permission to move the piano?? I tried for years and they always resisted!” The pastor replied: “I never asked, I just moved it one inch everyday until it ended up on the other side of the platform!”

Sometimes change, even if it means something better is coming, can be very difficult.

I highlighted several times in my copy of the book this phrase found on page 216:

Development can only occur with people who are willing to change. If people do not believe that they are responsible to take actions to effect positive changes in their lives, it is very difficult to make progress with them.”

I think the same can be said about any situation in life. If you are not willing to put the work in, you probably won’t see positive change.

While I wholeheartedly agree with this quote, I would like to share some random thoughts that I hope will add to this discussion.

We must recognize the resistance, and extend grace!

Listen, I don’t like change, so why should I think that others wouldn’t have the same conflict?? Just because a person seems very resistant to change does not mean they won’t get there. We can’t just give up and call them lazy and move on. We must realize that change brings uncertainty and unknowns and for a lot of people that is really scary!

As hard as it is to accept, people often prefer to remain mired in misery than to head toward an unknown. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

So, as believers let’s extend patience and grace recognizing that change isn’t easy for any of us!

Maybe they need help dreaming of positive change??

Sometimes people in poverty lack the ability to dream. They can’t really envision life any different than it is now. Maybe if we help them see their potential and the positive shifts that could come they will be open to making some changes.

I remember hearing at a conference one time about a ministry in the inner city that spent time taking kids to see positive life possibilities. They would take them to tech schools and show them the types of work and skills they could acquire and how it could change their future. They took them to a practice field where they watched professional athletes practice and showed them what hard work could bring. While they may not become professional athletes just the dream of achieving something more than their inner city reality was enough for some of them to pursue positive change.

If life has only been one way, why should we expect a person to have the motivation to make it different? Without a vision for a better future it can be tough to embrace significant life change choices.

Start where people are, not where we want them to be.

Sometimes we place such high expectations on people to make a complete overhaul of life. Sure that is our hope for them… that they would heal their marriage, fix their anger issues, quit drinking, get a job and join the church all within a month but rarely does that happen. If we place such high expectations on a person, and they see it, then they will probably resist changing at all out of fear of failing.

We can help them see a better future but begin right where they are at. Take one small step at a time. Deal with one issue at a time. Take care of the crisis issues first and deal with the other issues as healthiness comes.

I remember hearing my friend Danny who was homeless and addicted, say getting him off the street, sober and into a safe place was the first step. Dealing with his joblessness, hygiene, divorce and tobacco addiction all came, but later. He simply would not have been capable of making all the changes he needed at one time.

It is important to meet people right where they are, muck, mire and all.

Walk with them through habit changes

Sometimes people just need a friend. If a person knows that someone else is willing to help them through their struggles then they may be more open to changes. It is never fun to walk the road of change alone, especially if it is unknown and difficult. Change is going to require new habits and practices and having someone there to “cheer” you on is helpful.

We don’t think our way into being new people; we act our way there.

In other words we can tell the poor all the changes they need to make but until we take the time to walk with them in the journey they most likely won’t change. People don’t like to be told what to do, but if they are shown with grace and love they might just be willing to change.

Change is far more than just teaching people new ideas, it must include action, practice and lifestyle choices. As Christians let’s show them the dignity they deserve by being willing to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Some people may never decide to change, but for some it will just take lots of time and encouragement. May we recognize the difficulty and extend grace, friendship and encouragement one inch at a time.

About John

John Warden, our Director of Mission Initiatives, provides oversight and training for the TCT - Local program. John has had the opportunity to work with Christians around the world in elements of worldview, poverty, outreach and wholistic ministry. Join us in this initiative to reach and love the world around us for God’s glory.

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