052 – How do you know it ain’t broke? [Podcast]

If what you believed were not true, wouldn't you want to know?

photo credit: canva.com


Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode (52), I shared some thoughts on a well-known idiom (at least in the southern U.S.) – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”



This phrase, according to Wikipedia, was popularized in 1977 by Bert Lance, Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter. The idea is that, if something is sufficient, don’t mess with it.  Similar ideas are expressed in the phrases “leave well enough alone,” and “don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”  We might also say that “don’t rock the boat” is pretty close.

I have to admit, that I am a recovering over-user of that phrase.  It is really easy, in the local church, to leave things as they are if there seems to be any momentum at all.  It is also much safer for the leader to “leave well enough alone” if the issue is one with which church members (particularly influential ones) have an emotional investment.

Sometimes the phrase is right.  Change for the sake of change or for “shaking things up” is neither strategic nor effective.  Sometimes it really ain’t broke!

Key Question:  How do you know it ain’t broke?

Maybe a better question: What does broke look like?

Final question: If it really were broke, wouldn’t you want to know it?


It might be broke if:

  1. The only reason we can think of for doing this is because we have always done it this way and we don’t know another way.
  2. It is taking more and more resources to achieve the same results.
  3. We are more worried about what people will think if we change it than we are about what God will think if we don’t.
  4. We know it is not working, but we are concerned that we will have wasted the resources we have already invested in it. (Sunk cost bias/fallacy)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)

5. We have to spiritualize the ineffectiveness of a particular ministry in order to maintain it.


So, what are the options if it is broke?

  1. Refresh it.  It may only need some minor tweaks and a fresh coat of paint.
  2. Re-purpose it.  It may have good bones, but it needs significant overhaul.
  3. Rest it. Maybe it should be put aside for a time and see if it is really essential or if it is even missed.
  4. Remove it.  “If the horse is dead, it’s time to dismount.”  Give it a dignified funeral and focus on what’s next.



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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

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