Leaders of congregations want to foster change but how is rarely obvious. Some pursue top-down approaches while others think bottom-up. Either approach assumes some control by the leader, but effective leadership of change needs more than control; it requires influencing the ongoing change that is naturally occurring. In the organizational literature this matter is understood in terms of systems and more specifically complex adaptive systems or self-organizing systems. This literature has important insights for church leaders when viewed in tandem with biblical principles.
These concepts are presented here within the story of a mid-career pastor who is frustrated by his complacent congregation and is seeking a new way forward. Information on complex adaptive systems is presented in the context of the story of his interactions with a church consultant, a seminary professor, some published materials and an ongoing seminar conducted by the consultant. The pastor's engaging issue is whether change in a church is best pursued top-down or bottom-up. Within this context, self-organizing change becomes the central focus of the book and eventually is distinguished from both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. The focus is understanding the connection between such change and biblical principles.