Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

Inspiring Change: Creating More Space for Grace in Organisations, by Rick James. Reviewed by Rob Hay

Inspiring Change: Creating More Space for Grace in Organisations, by Rick James.

Digni, 2012, 150 pages, ISBN 978-82-93052-00-5. Free of charge: email

Reviewed by Rob Hay

inspiring-changeRick James is not nearly as well known in UK as he should be! That is partly because UK Christian organisations have been slow to see the need for investment in their own development and partly because the Swedes ‘pinched him’ (he has worked with the Swedish Mission Council – a partner in the publication of the book – for many years). Having read his earlier and briefer publication, Creating the Space for Grace, I was really keen to see what he could say in a ‘proper book’. I was not disappointed.

Managing change is a big issue for a leader of any organisation, for leaders in Christian organisations there has been the added dilemma of combining a change process with a faith journey for the organisation and its people. As a former Organisation Development (OD) consultant and still as a leader, I have struggled with this myself. For the last few years as an educator I faced a dearth of resources for my students in this area. That is, until now! Rick James’ book hits right at the crux of that issue and opens in the introduction with a quote from a Christian NGO leader, “I have worked in OD for more than 20 years, but I have never once made the connection between my faith and organisational change.”

He opens with the telling lines, “We need to integrate faith in OD if we are to experience deep change in churches and Christian organisations. The Christian faith has a lot to say about change – how it happens and who makes it happen. Yet so often we carry out our visioning exercises, strategic planning, evaluations and change management processes as if God was not there. We leave faith out. At best we are functionally agnostic, if not indeed atheistic” (p9).

This said, he sets out a biblical and theological approach to OD that is professionally sound and yet spiritually aware. The chapter structure is:

1. Ensuring Commitment where he tests our motives and brings God into the picture.

2. Gaining Understanding. Correct diagnosis by the consultant with the organisation is vital but difficult – he offers ideas and wisdom.

3. Creating Space for Transformation. Drawing on his booklet ‘Creating Space for Grace’ he integrates repentance, death and burial (of organisations, structures and rituals), grace, healing, prayer and bible study into the change process.

4. Planning for Change. The closest chapter to a secular book but still recognising the challenges Christian organisations offer, with many having an aversion to planning or even an ‘to trust is divine to plan is demonic’ dichotomy.

5. Making it happen – Implementing change. This highlights the people issues in change implementation but helpfully also goes on to highlight the cost to the leader in leading change with useful tools and ideas to check, tackle and resource this under-recognised area.

6. The Facilitator – Self as instrument of change. Perhaps the most searching of the chapters, it highlights the demands practically but perhaps most clearly, spiritually on the facilitator.

App. 1 Towards a biblical theology to change. A useful and well developed resource for all sorts of settings.

Spiritual OD however will not appeal to all. As Rick makes clear, the demands on the OD consultant of a spiritual OD process is demanding – demanding of a life that is in good order, able to act with integrity, give of yourself and act beyond your own insecurities. His ‘Consultancy Quality Standards’ (p123) speak as much to spiritual leadership as they do to organisational functioning. His blend of responsibility for what an OD consultant can do and humility when they do achieve some of the aims is a healthy but hard to enact balance.

My criticisms of the book are minimal and minor. The feel of the book as a hard cover and the layout are classic of a book developed in a different culture and a non-English context: whilst not diminishing its value, they risk putting some off by its unfamiliarity. Also, given its global relevance, it would be helpful to have an ebook version. But, as Digni have decided to offer it FREELY (previous RRP £15.99) it’s a wonderful gift!

Organisational change is about ‘inviting God’s presence and power to breathe life and transform organisational situations and relationships. It’s about raising expectations that God’s Holy Spirit will come and inspire change…Integrating faith in OD is all about creating ‘space for grace’. OD should never be the same again for Christian leaders and organisations!

Rob Hay is Principal of Redcliffe College, Gloucester.

This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 21 in September 2012

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