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Is Change Necessary? Then Burn Your Boats!

Is Change Necessary? Then Burn Your Boats!

Several of my posts have suggested that change in your church’s corporate worship may be necessary for your church to thrive and reach the community around you. My friend and counterpart from the Kansas-Nebraska Convention,David Manner, illustrates a radical step churches may need to take when change is needed–burn the boats. Read on:

The legend is told that when Alexander the Great and his men arrived on the shores of Persia they encountered an enemy that drastically outnumbered them. Since it was clear that the odds were against them and the future was uncertain, his men pleaded with Alexander to retreat to the boats and the safety of their homeland to regroup and get more men.

Alexander was so certain that their course of action was the correct one that he ordered his men to burn their boats.

As their only means of retreat went up in flames Alexander turned to his men and said, “We go home in Persian ships, or we die.”

If your congregation has determined that initiating change is necessary for you to retain those people you already have and gain those you don’t have yet…then conversely, failing to initiate change when change is necessary will kill your congregation. The death is usually a slow one…but still terminal.

Conviction and collaboration are the unifying factors that inspire leaders and congregants to refuse to retreat, go all in, and burn their boats even when the implementation of needed change is often frightening and the end result is rarely certain.

Earnie Larson is credited with saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes, and if I keep doing what I’ve always done, I’ll keep getting what I’ve always got, and will keep feeling what I always felt.”

About The Author

David Manner

Dr. David W. Manner serves as the Executive Director for Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for twenty years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Oklahoma Baptist University; a Master of Church Music degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.


  1. sandyc

    I was the worship director at our small church (30-40 members) that was just 1 year old, when it was decided we would merge with a church that was going under. They only had a few members left at the time of the merger. One was the piano player and the other was the choir director. They liked the traditional and I liked a mix with the contemporary being the lead. It was decided that the music directing would be “shared”. Our first mistake. Their needs to be ONE person in charge. Needless to say it was a struggle from day one. If we had “burned our bridges” instead of trying to please everyone I believe the church would have continued to grow. The last service I went to there might have been 12-15 people attendance. The Praise and Drama team was down from 8-10 to 4 and they sang 2 songs with no spirit or joy.

  2. jim

    Amazing post and timely. Our church has had a leadership issue for years; and as you said, it’s having a slow death. It became evident last month when the entire worship team was affected by a lack of leadership. When we become men-pleasers instead of making the Lord our focus of faith, love, and obedience he will remove the lampstand.


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