EVALUATION & In addition to measurable objectives – you need iconic “doorposts”

by Alan Danielson, SmallGroups.com, Christianity Today, 2/13/02

… Doorposts

Objectives represent the “front end” of spiritual development. Doorposts, on the other hand, represent the hindsight of spiritual development. They are the points we refer back to in order to tell others, and remind ourselves, how God has changed us.

The term “doorposts” comes from the Hebrew word mezuzah. In Deuteronomy 6:9 God commanded Israel to attach his commands to the doorposts of their homes. The point of hanging the commands on the doorposts was to remind God’s people of what he had done for them and what he expected of them. In today’s busy world, we need reminders like this more than ever.

A doorpost is different from an objective because an objective has a definitive end. A few years ago I reached a milestone when I finished a marathon. By training for the marathon I lost a lot of weight and was in the best shape of my life. The marathon was an objective: an achievable goal. Once it was achieved, I was done.

A mezuzah or doorpost is not something that is achievable; rather, it is something that reminds us of a previous achievement. Like a literal doorpost in your home, this figurative doorpost is something you encounter every day that regularly reminds you of what was while simultaneously inspiring you with what could be.

Right now the certificate stating that I finished the marathon and a photo of my thinner self are tucked away in a drawer. They aren’t doing me much good there. But if I were to frame the certificate and photo and hang it in my office, they would serve as a powerful and motivating doorpost. An even better motivator would be getting an identical empty frame and hanging it next to the first one. The first frame would remind me of what was, while the second would remind me of what can be.

What if our lives were full of spiritual doorposts? How might the people you lead be different if they were surrounded by reminders of previous spiritual growth achievements while simultaneously being inspired to go even further? Here are some principles that will help you create effective doorposts for your spiritual growth goals…

Spiritual growth doorposts should be emotional. By this I mean that doorposts should evoke an emotional response. When people complete Financial Peace University at our church, we put their chopped up credit cards in jars that we display in the lobby. When they see the jars, they are emotionally reminded of how good it felt to cut up the cards. Additionally, they are continually reminded that they don’t ever want to go back to the world of financial bondage.

Spiritual growth doorposts should be inspiring. This is slightly different than the previous principle in that doorposts should inspire those who have not yet completed the spiritual growth objectives. When people who haven’t gone through Family ID see the handprints in our building and read the short explanation hanging next to the canvases, they are inspired to go through Family ID themselves.

Spiritual growth doorposts should tell stories. We’ll occasionally feature a video in church about a person or family who has reached a spiritual growth objective. This video serves as a doorpost because it is visible, it evokes emotion, and it inspires. Most importantly, though, the video tells a story. Human beings process and assimilate information best through stories. In this sense, the entire Bible is one big doorpost. It tells stories of faith, triumph, failure, hope, growth, and love. These stories motivate us to grow in our faith. Whatever doorposts you decide to implement in your church, be sure to tell stories about them…

Measure the Right Things

Keep track of your objectives, but more importantly, measure your doorposts. The more doorposts you have on display, the more people will be inspired to grow.

Read more at … http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2012/measuring-spiritual-growth.html?paging=off

STATISTICS & John Wesley was not interested in exaggerating statistics—he called them “puffe d statistics”

by Elizabeth Saltzman, MDIV student, Wesley Seminary at IWU, 12/13/17.

John Wesley was not interested in exaggerating statistics or in making them bigger than they actually are—he called them “puffed statistics” (Whitesel & Hunter, 2000, p. 203). In a writing called the Journal, dated 1748, Wesley stated that it was vital to state the truth regarding these statistics; “we, of all men, should be punctual in what we say, that none of our words may fall to the ground” (Whitesel & Hunter, p. 203). If a church is not forthcoming regarding statistics, it is not possible to make any necessary changes, or challenges to its programs or ministry.

Whitesel, R. & Hunter, K. 2000. A house divided: Bridging the generation gaps in your church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

CHURCH PLANTING & 5 Ways Too Much Money Can Rot Your Church Plant

Commentary by Professor B. Having been a church planter myself, as well as having coached many, many plants over the past 25+ years, I have seen that reliance upon external funding and external contexts often rob a church plant of its contextual intelligence. Read this article by Jared Siebert in MissioAlliance 5/9/16, for a good reminder.

The Big Problem with Barna’s Study on Church Startups and Money

A recent Barna Group study has revealed something many of us have known for years – our funding models for church planting are deeply entrenched in Christendom. Well, that’s not exactly true.

The research simply revealed that the current financial picture for church planters is not good. It was the Barna Group’s call to action about the funding problems that reveals our entrenchment in Christendom…

framing it like this…

“We see in this data a call to action to denominations and planting networks to provide greater financial support to startup leaders—especially those in urban neighborhoods…If we believe in the work they are doing, we must commit more financial resources to their success…

5 Ways Too Much Money Can Rot Your Church Plant

Planters and denominational folk, please pay attention.

Excessive external funding can kill a church’s feel for context.

Church plant structures and expectations need to be tied to context. Intimately. The best kind of church planting is committing long term to a specific location among a specific people group. We’re at our best when we tie our fate to people and place. It worked for Jesus and it will work for His church. Your life, your practices, and even your finances all need to be shaped by context. This is fundamental to incarnating the gospel.

Too much external funding interferes with this process. Tuning your communal lives to your context takes feel. It takes tension. To do it right your church will need to live somewhere between what the people want and what the people can afford…

Excessive external funding can make us miss important discipleship opportunities.

…It could be that the real reason your church plant is underfunded is because your people are slaves to materialism and are racking up huge amounts of consumer debt.

Stewardship is a discipleship issue. Perhaps one of the largest discipleship issues of our time. Then again it may also have something to do with the financial carrying capacity of your context. What if your financial expectations are simply out of context? If you’re too quick to chalk this up to “times are tough,” avoid popping the hood, and instead call for reinforcements you’ll never know the truth…

Excessive external funding robs your church of its survival instincts.

The will to survive properly resides within the plant itself. Denominational coffers should never house your church’s survival instincts. Instead, the will to survive should come from a deep collective sense of God’s calling, love for each other, and your deep burden for the needs of your context. Your survival instincts have to be built together piece by piece over time. Too much outside financial support messes with this process. It can also make people outside your church the owners of your church. Not good…

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/the-big-problem-with-barnas-study-on-church-startups-and-money/

CHRISTMAS & Urban legends: No room at the inn

by David Croteau, excerpted fromUrban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions(B&A Academic).

Was there an urgency upon approaching or entering Bethlehem? Luke 2:6 says, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (emphasis added), not “as they were approaching.” He doesn’t mention whether they were there for five minutes or five weeks, but it could allow for both.

Luke does not portray that her time for giving birth came as she was approaching the city, so there was no reason for panic or urgency. There is no evidence that the baby was pressing as they arrived.

But if they got to Bethlehem and Mary was fine, why couldn’t Joseph find adequate housing? Zechariah and Elizabeth were nearby, they were in a hospitable culture, and he was from the line of David. Why did he put his pregnant wife into a stable filled with animals?

The HCSB says they “laid Him in a feeding trough” (Luke 2:7). When you read “feeding trough,” images of a stable probably come to mind. However, there are three options for the location of the feeding trough.

First, feeding troughs were placed outside homes in a stable. This is the traditional understanding: wealthy homes in first-century Israel would have a stable. Countering the traditional view are two other options. Understanding how houses were typically constructed will help comprehend the other options.

A first-century house in Israel would have a large family room where the family would eat, cook, sleep, and do general living. At the end of the room there would be some steps down to a lower level, going down only a couple of feet.

That lower level would be the “animal room” of the house. There was no wall separating the rooms, just one room with two parts: the family room and the animal room. They would construct it so it slanted slightly toward the animal area for easy cleaning because the exterior door would be in the animal area.

On the raised surface in the family room would be a feeding trough for the larger animals carved out of the floor. The larger animals in the animal area, like a cow or a donkey, could walk over and eat out of this trough.

The smaller animals, like sheep, would have a smaller manger that would be carved out of the floor in the animal room, or the family might have a wooden trough that could be brought inside.

First century Jewish home New Testament Christmas

Scripture offers no explicit description of this design, but archeological evidence and implicit evidence from Scripture suggest that this was the general design of houses. Animals are mentioned being inside houses in a few biblical stories…

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2015/12/04/christmas-urban-legends-no-room-at-the-inn/

Or buy the book at Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions(B&A Academic)

MULTIETHNIC & “It’s… impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first”

“(Bob) Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

‘Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,’ he said. ‘We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change’.”

From “Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it” by Emily Snell, United Methodist Interpreter Magazine (n.d.), retrieved from http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

MULTIETHNIC & Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it #UMCIntrepreterMagazine

“Three congregations share learnings”
By Emily Snell

“If heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the church?”

The work of Mark DeYmaz inspired the Rev. In-Yong Lee to challenge her congregants to think about this question.

Lee is pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her church has been striving to become a more multiethnic congregation.

In the early stages of its renewed emphasis on diversity, Lee said Cokesbury hosted small groups, which intentionally met outside of the church building, to discuss The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer (Mosaix) by DeYmaz, who is a pastor, author and leader on multiethnic ministry.

This was important in “challenging our preconceived notions about race and pushing us to the higher level of cross-cultural competence,” Lee said.

Change consultants often cite Garfield Memorial United Methodist Church in Cleveland as an example of a successful multicultural body. The Rev. Chip Freed said the church views its multiethnicity as “a faithful commitment to the great commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, not just some nations.

“We’re really serious about reaching non-church people. Non-church people live in diverse environments. It’s only church people who live in segregated environments.”

For Freed, the church’s multiethnic identity is about “presenting a credible witness to the gospel.”

“If we want to be relevant, if we want to connect with a growing new generation of people, we need to commit to this, or people will write us off as irrelevant,” he said.

In 2011, the Rev. DeAndre Johnson began serving as pastor of music and worship at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston — another congregation focused on reaching diverse people.

As Westbury saw its neighborhood demographics change, Johnson said, the congregation began asking, “How do we let our multicultural identity shape everything about us?”

The church envisioned being “a church for all people with more than enough love to go around.”

“We are committed to maintaining and living out what it means to come from different places but have a common vision and life together,” Johnson said.

The church’s first core value is “multicultural inclusivity.”

Ministry for reconciliation

The Rev. Bob Whitesel, author, professor and national church change consultant, said multiethnic ministry is about reconciliation.

“We are given the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is more than just reconciliation to God. That’s the most important, but it also means reconciliation of people from different cultures,” he said.

In his latest book, re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press), written with DeYmaz, Whitesel said multicultural identity is a crucial aspect of the church’s mission on earth.

“We’re never going to reconcile people unless we get the established church today to embrace this, to embrace a church of living color,” he said.

Moving toward multiculturalism, Cokesbury decided that listening sessions would allow groups within the church to learn.

“We’ve realized, not only in different ethnic groups but across the economic divide, there are so many classes and groups that are divided from one another,” Lee said. “They all act out of preconceived notions, assumptions, prejudices. So we are intentionally breaking those barriers between us by reaching out and listening to one another.”

Cheryl LaTanya Walker, director of African-American ministries at Discipleship Ministries, said her goal is to “demystify” differences and break down “assumptions based on race or class.”

“We can worship together, be vital together if we break down the assumptions on what we see with the physical eye but look to God’s spirit,” she said. “We will see that we are more the same than we are different.”

To that end, Walker suggests that historically black churches begin by “doing pulpit exchanges” with congregations that seem different.

“Take your congregation, confirmation class and other ministry groups to churches that have different worship styles and persons who are outside of the African descent family,” she said. “Tour the facilities. Observe what is on their bulletin boards. Listen to the announcements. What are they doing in the community? Listen and observe what they are doing that may be the same or different.”

Start with leadership

At Garfield Memorial, “empowering diverse leaders was a very important strategy,” Freed said. “We don’t want the people on stage to be all one race. We try to represent diversity from top to bottom in our staff.”

Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

“Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,” he said. “We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change.”

Walker observes, “Bishops are assigning black pastors to historically Anglo churches that were in downtown with a specific mission of moving that pretty much Anglo congregation with some black members, to a more diverse, more multiethnic congregation,” she said.

Renovate worship, outreach

Westbury shifted from a “traditional, middle class, Anglo worship service” to something “in the language and style of peoples worldwide.”

“We started singing in languages other than English — some represented in our congregation and some not,” Johnson said. “We did this to nurture this sense of multicultural inclusivity within us and to challenge us to go further.”

Another key for all of the churches was a renewed vision for ministry in the community.

Walker pushes congregations to be creative in their outreach.

“What mission things are you doing for the neighborhood?” she asks. “What is your piece to get them in the congregation? Once they’re in the congregation, you begin the disciple process and inviting them to be involved.”

That involvement is not limited to Bible study or even to something in the church building, she adds.

“Particularly for our young folks, they are the ‘do’ generation. Sitting in a service for two to three hours doesn’t make a lot of sense to them, unless they see some output from doing that,” she said, “but they will go volunteer.”

In July, Garfield Memorial hosted “freedom week,” similar to vacation Bible school, at its South Euclid campus.

“It’s focused around teaching some of the Civil Rights movement,” Freed said. “As part of that, we have police officers come in and talk to the youth. They played a whiffle ball game.”

Partner with schools

Cokesbury and other churches are working to “do even more for the school” in their neighborhood. “Every time we meet and talk, we sense that it is not we who are doing this, but God is guiding us,” Lee said.

Garfield Memorial hosts an annual back-to-school event to assist low-income families by providing health screenings, haircuts, backpacks and supplies. “We’re trying to meet a need,” Freed said. “We’re bringing joy to the city. We want to make Cleveland a better place.”

Westbury also created the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM), a ministry at a nearby apartment complex, which houses many refugee families.

The ministry has led the congregation to be “tremendously blessed” as people from all over the world join in Westbury’s worship services.

“Many of these dear friends of ours have also become part of our worship life,” Johnson said, adding that they “faithfully participate” in worship despite some language struggles. “You can watch them begin to feel comfortable in the space and to take ownership of their own place here.”

“A person who doesn’t know the love of Christ, they’re our VIPs,” Freed said. The mentality is, “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll set aside my personal preferences to reach those who are unchurched. When you do that, diversity will walk through your door.”

As churches embrace new cultures, Whitesel said, it’s important to create short-term wins. “Demonstrate to the congregation that this is going to work, that this is a worthwhile way to go.”

Humility, courage, vulnerability

DeYmaz emphasizes that, if a congregation tries to grow into a multiethnic church, “there is a 100 percent chance to offend each other.”

“Humility is the only way to approach one another,” Lee said. “We will offend the others without meaning to, because we don’t know them well, but we will be willing to approach each other. If offense happens, (we apologize), and mutually we will learn better together.”

Moving toward diversity requires pastors to take risks — and not worry about themselves.

“When you venture out to something new, there is a big possibility of failure,” Lee said. “Only when you are ready for failure can you do something.

“Those of us, when we are trying to grow in diversity, we need patience, persistence and perseverance. It’ll turn out to be a blessing to your local church, to your community and to yourself, so do some-thing!”

Emily Snell is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes frequently for Interpreter and other publications.

Read more at … http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/move-to-multiethnicity-is-not-easy-but-worth-it

SOCIAL JUSTICE & Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice #GoodBook #Introduction #ChurchHistory

(From the publisher: Univ. of No. Carolina Press)

In this compelling history of progressive evangelicalism, Brantley Gasaway examines a dynamic though often overlooked movement within American Christianity today. Gasaway focuses on left-leaning groups, such as Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action, that emerged in the early 1970s, prior to the rise of the more visible Religious Right. He identifies the distinctive “public theology”–a set of biblical interpretations regarding the responsibility of Christians to promote social justice–that has animated progressive evangelicals’ activism and bound together their unusual combination of political positions.

The book analyzes how prominent leaders, including Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo, responded to key political and social issues over the past four decades. Progressive evangelicals combated racial inequalities, endorsed feminism, promoted economic justice, and denounced American nationalism and militarism. At the same time, most leaders opposed abortion and refused to affirm homosexual behavior, even as they defended gay civil rights. Gasaway demonstrates that, while progressive evangelicals have been caught in the crossfire of partisan conflicts and public debates over the role of religion in politics, they have offered a significant alternative to both the Religious Right and the political left.

Read more at … https://www.uncpress.org/book/9781469617725/progressive-evangelicals-and-the-pursuit-of-social-justice/