Church revitalization will necessarily involve change. But according to research, in whatever branch of human activity (and the church is no exception), fear of change stems primarily from what is known as “loss aversion”.

This is explained in great detail in the international bestseller written by Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow in which he demonstrates that “losses loom larger than gains”. It is thought that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. People are more willing to fight to avoid a loss than to make a gain. Here is a typical example quoted in the book.

You are offered a gamble on the toss of a coin. If the coin shows tails, you lose $100. If the coin shows heads, you win $150. Would you accept it?

Experimental data shows that nearly everyone would refuse. The fear of losing is more intense than the hope of gaining.

In a church, people are used to doing things in a certain way

and often fear new ideas even if they seem positive. A change in worship style, the introduction of home groups, the use of technology, such things might well be considered to be necessary improvements, but may nevertheless be opposed or resisted. The anxiety at the thought of losing something on the way to change is very powerful.

I believe the only answer is the Gospel. In the last edition of Revitalisation News (January 2021) I argued that the Gospel was the answer when a church becomes centred on its own needs : when it comes to deciding on priorities, Paul favours those who do not yet know the gospel.,"not seeking my own advantage but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10.32-33).

And I believe that the centrality of the Gospel is also the way to combat loss aversion :

 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.   More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.   (Philippians 3.7-8)

When church members see what is really important, I believe that can minimize the feeling of loss aversion. New ways of doing things can help us know Jesus better. Let’s make sure that we put the Gospel at the centre of our church life!