In his seminal work Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky talks in part about overcoming objections to becoming active to create change.  The book is all about becoming a community organizer to create social or political change in general, such as union organizing or fighting City Hall.  It is a “must read” for fledgling politicians on how to build a grass-roots effort to back their cause or candidacy.

Note:  Rules for Radicals is at times quite vulgar in word use.  It was not written for use in churches, and while there is much to learn from the book, the reader must be ready to skip over some of the worst 4-letter words available.

Alinsky says one of the biggest obstacles to effective organizing is individual and group rationalization for what they do or do not do.  It is a reaction by many to a perceived accusation by the organizer, wondering why they haven’t taken action to correct so obvious an offense to their personhood.  They will often times be embarrassed they haven’t taken action themselves before and will justify their inaction by rationalizing why it could not have been done before.

The job of the organizer is to discover and uncover these rationalizations, to call them out and challenge their validity.  Usually they exist as vague notions without solid reasoning, like a thin hoar frost that disappears as soon as the sun shines the first warming rays.

As pastoral leader seeking to change your congregation, you must likewise look for the rationalizations of why your people are not acting like the people of God.  It might start with abandoning your own rationalizations of why you can’t grow, in favor of a missional mindset that says you  can do “all things” by the power of “Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than you could have thought or imagined.”

Then challenge the people to look to what could occur, instead of why it hasn’t happened yet.


Alinsky, Saul.  Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (NY: Random House/Vintage Books, 1971, reprint 1989), pp108-112