This is a great article by Michael Warden on “Why Programs Don’t Produce Lasting Change.”
“If I…do not have love, I gain nothing.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3
The leadership culture of the Church in the West is enamored with programs. We love to package the things we’ve learned ~ be they strategies, techniques, processes, or curricula ~ and scale them to multiply our impact and to help more people.
The motive is noble. And if we were merely in the knowledge-sharing business, then creating a program or curriculum to increase our impact would make perfect sense.
But we’re not in the knowledge business. At least, not primarily.
We’re in the transformation business.
We’re in the business of changing lives.
In this business of transforming lives, things like strategies, techniques, processes, curricula ~ they all have their place. For anyone experiencing authentic life transformation, there are definitely skills that need to be learned, new ways of being and doing that better serve the new person they have now become.
But programs don’t change people. They don’t produce that transformation. They can’t. They can’t because they lack the one and only thing in the universe that can authentically transform a person into who they were meant to be.
See, here is the secret to inspiring deep, authentic, personal transformation in another human soul:
It does not come through giving them knowledge or skill sets or even training them in disciplined practices (though these things are all very good). It comes through love and the courage born of love.
Love is the transforming agent of the universe. Love is the “Deeper Magic” that C.S. Lewis pointed to in The Chronicles of Narnia, the magic that changes not merely behavior, but the core identity of a man or woman (Romans 5: 6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19). With enough love brought to bear, anything is possible.
But without love unleashed, without love applied, nothing really changes. Not really. Not in the deep places where our most honest thoughts lie.
The work of transformation, of changing lives, is life-on-life. Heart on heart. It always has been. There’s no getting around it. It’s slower than we’d like it to be. AND it’s the way God designed His Kingdom to advance.
So it all works out like this: A brilliant curriculum or a masterful strategy placed in the hands of a leader who does not know how to love will produce little change and may even do harm. But in the hands of a soul who is willing to love and loves well, even the [worst] curriculum can’t prevent true life change from spreading through them.
Many leaders I know (including me) have spent so much time developing programs and discussing strategies and so little time investing in hearts so they become great lovers of others…life, on life, on life.