DEMOGRAPHICS & In booming Austin, Texas, churches struggle to keep pace with the city’s growth.

by Eileen Flynn, Faith and Leadership Magazine, 3/19/19.

At a time when many churches in the United States are struggling, some even dying, a counternarrative is playing out in booming Austin, one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Though not all of Austin’s congregations are thriving, some area churches are clearly being squeezed by the region’s population explosion over the last decade. And while packed pews are a cause for celebration, the rapid growth presents challenges, and perhaps even a few lessons — lessons about hospitality, welcome and community in an era of increasing isolation.

full sanctuary
A band leads contemporary worship in the fellowship hall at Covenant Presbyterian. 


The Austin metro area, a five-county region, has grown from 846,000 in 1990 to more than 2 million today. Since 2010, the area has absorbed more than 150 new people a day, counting births, according to a recent report. The city demographer predicts that Austin proper will likely hit the million mark by 2020. Newcomers gravitate to the area for tech jobs, the much-touted Austin lifestyle, and, for those coming from California and East Coast cities, more-affordable housing.

The boom has created big-city hassles: traffic jams and parking problems, a rising median home price, and seemingly endless construction. It’s also led to feelings of isolation and disconnection among residents, who seek community in the midst of massive change.

What are the causes of disconnection and isolation in your community? How can your church address them?

To accommodate the growth, church leaders have added more worship services and programs. They’ve expanded or built new sanctuaries. Some have gone multisite — often digitally streaming sermons from a main location to satellite campuses in the suburbs. They have planted churches like The Well that meet in school cafeterias. And they have created more small groups so members don’t feel overwhelmed.

Matter of arithmetic?

Church growth in Austin may be a simple matter of arithmetic, said Mark Chaves, a Duke University sociologist who studies religion. Population growth has always been an important driver of church growth; more people moving to an area means more people attending its churches. Indeed, some churches in other rapidly growing areas, such as Dallas and Nashville, have also experienced explosive growth.

Although church attendance is declining nationally, it’s impossible to say for sure whether anything exceptional is happening in Austin, barring a study of per capita attendance in the area, Chaves said.

“Whether there’s a higher percentage of Austin population attending church now than before — I suspect not,” he said.

Still, Austin’s rapid urbanization and transience seem to have stirred a longing for a spiritual family, church leaders say. As the city becomes more crowded, new transplants and longtime residents alike can feel lonely and unmoored. And that’s driving up attendance in some congregations.

At Covenant, a Presbyterian (U.S.A) congregation founded in the early 1960s, the four Sunday services draw more than 1,000 people every week, up from about 700 in 2013. The church recently paid off its 60,000-square-foot fellowship and education building. Annual giving is at an all-time high.

“We’re jumping right now,” said the Rev. Thomas Daniel, who has served as senior pastor since 2014. “I love it. This is what you want to be a part of.”

Read more at …

Speaking Hashtags: #StMarksTX

CRITICISM & Tim Tebow Has Many Haters. He Just Shared How He Handles Them In 2 Brilliant Sentences

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 2/22/19.

Some fault Tebow for not materializing a robust NFL career after a brilliant college football run (capped by winning the Heisman trophy in 2007). Others doubt his ability to make it in professional baseball (the New York Mets signed him n 2016 and he’s been working his way up their farm system).

Still others are rubbed the wrong way by Tebow being very open and frequent in talking about his faith or in his habit of displaying unswerving optimism.

In a recent press interview detailed by InspireMore, Tebow, in typical upbeat and reflective fashion, shared this dual-sentence snippet of wisdom, which has gone viral:

“You’re always going to have critics and naysayers and people that are going to tell you that you won’t, that you can’t, that you shouldn’t. Most of those people are the people that didn’t, that wouldn’t, that couldn’t.”

Criticism is a fact of life. And we’re not wired to handle it well. In fact, psychology professor Roy Baumeister says it takes our brain experiencing five positive events to make up for the psychological effect of just one negative event.

… As I shared in Find the Fire, there are many ways you can reframe the way you view criticism. Here are four more powerful methods.

1. Know that anything worth doing attracts admiration and criticism.

Would you rather be judged or ignored? 

… In fact, one of life’s great imbalances is the fact that what others risk by criticizing is minuscule compared to what you risk by putting yourself out there (internet trolls I’m looking at you). But don’t let that stop you. Don’t ever let that stop you.

2. Seek improvement, not approval.

…When you adopt this philosophy, you’re drawn to criticism as a cradle of insight instead of steering away from it as a source of rejection…

3. Decide who gets to criticize you.

Not all criticizers are created equal, and some shouldn’t even get a seat at the table. Set criteria for those who make the cut, and mentally dismiss the rest (they’ll thus be too busy pounding sand to criticize you anymore).

Mentors are a particularly good choice for those on the short list…

4. Stay focused on the conclusion, not the criticism.

When you keep what you’re trying to accomplish in front of you at all times, you’ll speed through the sidebar of criticism. Renowned racecar driver Mario Andretti once shared his number one secret to his success in the sport: “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.” 

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Catholic evangelism? Yes, and why it matters for you.

(Guest post by Jason Tucker & Jesse Skiffington of

So I confess… I had no idea that Catholic revitalization/renewal was a thing.  Then I was introduced to Rob McDowell of Divine Renovation. I quickly discovered that not only is it a thing, but it is a huge and growing thing that is changing parishes all over the world.

Here’s something else… Divine Renovation’s strategies will help ANY church to experience revitalization.  Don’t get me wrong, it takes commitment and hard work, but the theology and methodology are strong and transferable.

Oh yeah, and Rob was a Wesleyan Pastor who joined a Catholic church’s staff.  Sound crazy right?  Well, check out today’s episode and decide for yourself.

Or, listen direct on your device at:

Apple Podcasts

Google Play



Hope this helps you lead change without losing your roots!

Jason & Jesse

SERVANT LEADERSHIP & Presidential Historian Says Forming a Guiding Coalition & Having Empathy Make For Great Leadership.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When undertaking change the second step is to form a guiding coalition which includes people who are not in favor of the change. This guiding coalition will therefore be able to craft a plan that is amicable to both those pushing for change and those who are part of the status quo. This strategy (from Harvard professor John Kotter), is supported in a new book by noted presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Studying presidential history, she found the best presidential leaders had people who disagreed with them on their Cabinets, which gave the president a fuller perspective.

Doris Kearns Goodwin: Empathy Makes For Great Leadership

by John Baldoni, Forbes Magazine, 3/15/19.

In discussing her new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin has said that empathy is one of, if the not the best, attribute for leaders. Goodwin, a noted presidential historian, defines empathy as an ability to understand another’s point of view. That definition is correct as far as it goes, but when you dive more deeply empathy as defined by the psychological community is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another.

…When a leader can see beyond his own point of view, she demonstrates a more rounded worldview. Such leaders know that their opinion is not the only opinion. Empathetic leaders seek out alternate views. They push their staffs not to respond in the affirmative, but to be open to debate on critical issues.

So how can a leader demonstrate empathy?

Think of yourself as part of the community, not THE entire community. The leaders Kearns profiles were self-absorbed. They understood that people opposed them. None more than Abraham Lincoln. Not only did he govern when the nation was split, but he also peopled his Cabinet with individuals who opposed him. Why? Because he knew he needed their perspective as well as their ideas to help him restore the Union.

Read more at …

TRENDS & 6 in 10 US churches are declining or plateaued per #LifeWayResearch

Read more from LifeWay Research here …

TEMPTATION & how to remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about #JayMorgan #AppalachianPrayerCenter

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reverend Jay Morgan shadowed me for year in my consulting practice to become a Missional Coach. He now heads up the Appalachian Prayer Center and is writing a great historical analysis/application from the widespread influence of the Welsh revivals. Read the insights he applies from them for today.

“The Message of the Welsh Revival Part 2: If in doubt, remove it.” by Jay Morgan, Appalachian Prayer Center, 3/15/19.

This post is the second in a four part series exploring the message that fueled the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.  During this short period of time, revival swept through nearly every town on the Island of Wales and over 100,000 people came to faith in Christ.

A young preacher, Evan Roberts, stressed the following four tenets to his companions.  As they began to personally do these, God used this group to help spread revival all over Wales.  There is much to be learned from these tenets as we prepare for revival today.

  • Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ

  • Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

  • Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

  • Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the last post we focused on confessing all known sin to God.  Today let’s focus on the second tenet:

Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

This is a step beyond confessing known sin.  This is a decision to step as far away from sin as you can.  

Many people defend their “right” to do something as a Christian. They try to get to the edge of sin without falling in.  This is a dangerous way to live, yet many think they can “flirt” around with sin and not get into trouble.

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Proverbs 6:27

Jesus taught us to be pray that we would not be “lead” into temptation.  The behavior itself might not be sin, but will it lead you into a tempting, sinful situation?  If so, get rid of it.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  Matthew 6:13


Paul taught us that there are things that we may we feel have a right to do, but are not beneficial to us.  Some of these things can actually sabotage you and your mission in the world.

 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Ask your self the following three questions:

  • Will this behavior lead me to sin?

  • Will this behavior lead a weaker Christian to sin if they copy me?

  • Will this behavior limit or harm my ability to influence people for Jesus?

If so, remove it!

This can include:

  • Relationships that pull you back to your old life

  • A “border-line” sinful book, song or TV program that makes you vulnerable to sin.

  • Videos you watch on your phone.  

  • Conversations you have.  

  • Certain places you drive by.  

  • Certain clothing.  

  • Unnecessary debt for things you don’t need that will overwork you and pull you away from God’s purposes.

  • Flirty conversations.  

  • Using alcohol or other drugs.  

  • Health Damaging habits.

The list goes on.

Read more at …

CHANGE & Dobson’s comparative analysis of the process models of Kotter, Lewin & Ulrich.

by Barbara Dobson, Caribbean Wesleyan College.

Section of Chapter 2 of her book– “Transformational and Strategic Leadership: Its Impact on the Capacity for Organizational Effectiveness”

Processes Involved in Effecting Organizational Change

The process of effecting organizational change over thecenturies has undergone major shifts that impacted greatly on the organization. Models after models have been developed, each playing its part, as leaders try to find what might be considered a suitable model. Organizations can employ different models as they examine the process of change.

Change process models. Several different models show how to approach change. According to Gilley, Godek and Gilley, “[E]arly models of change advocated a three-step process that involved first diagnosing and preparing the organization for change, secondly engaging in the change, and thirdly anchoring new ways into the culture” (4). In reviewing the literature, I discovered that the change models themselves have seen an evolutionary shift as theorists build on each other’s work due to the movement occurring in the leadership arena. 

The shift that has taken place in organizational leadership has seen more involvement of employees and other stakeholders in decision making. To accommodate this shift therefore, theorists (Kotter, Leading Change59-67) have included more dimensions within the process of leading change that allows for a wider involvement of other persons within the organization instead of top management only. 

Illustratively, an examination of K. Lewin’s change model reveals a disparity with the terminology used to describe each step in the process, even though the actions are the same in other models. Additionally, Lewin’s model does not reflect the shift that has taken place, and understandably so, because during the birth of this model, the shift had not yet occurred. Lewin’s three stages consist of Unfreezing, Movement, and Refreezing. The actions within the unfreezing stage are a conditioning of individuals and organizations for change, an assessment of the readiness for change, and an establishing of ownership (Kotter and Ulrich’s first stage). The momentum during this time is dependent on the leaders and how aligned they are to introduce change and plan to execute that change. In the movement stage, individuals engage in change initiatives (Kotter and Ulrich’s second stage) and in the refreezing stage, individuals’ daily routine now reflects the change, new behaviors are crystallized and have become the norm of the organization (Kotter and Ulrich’s third stage). 

Kotter suggests eight stages in the process of effecting organizational change, these include “establishing a sense of urgency, creating the guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering employees to broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing more change, anchoring new approaches in the culture” (Leading Change366).D. Ulrich suggests seven stages outlined as follows: “lead change, create a shared need, shape a vision, mobilize commitment, change systems and structures, monitor progress and making change last”(Gilley, Ann, Marisha Godek and Jerry W. Gilley 5).Table 2.1 is a conceptual, comparison table of the three models discussed.


Table 2.1. Comparison of Change Model

Source: Gilley, Ann, Marisha Godek and Jerry W. Gilley (5). 

A review of the Ulrich and J. P. Kotter processes of change reveals some measure of difference. This difference is translated in the sense that Kotter’s model provides an understanding of the how to of Ulrich’s model. For example, Ulrich’s first step suggests that leaders of change lead change. Kotter’s first stage went a bit further by stating how to lead this change, establishing a sense of urgency. Interestingly, all the succeeding steps follow the same trend. 

An evaluation of these models will not yield a comparative model in the sense of which is the best one of the three to use. However, they do lend themselves to a better understanding of the change process. I believe that an integration of those steps allows the church as an organization to produce a culture inclined for change within the organization, and thus creates a fertile soil for the implementation of strategic leadership. The LUK’s integrative Change Model is an integration of Lewin’s, Ulrich’s, and Kotter’s change models. The integrative approach describes a model that will adequately lead the change necessary within the church. The diagram represents the different actions that develop a culture of change within the organization. The different colors indicate the varying steps within the process, with each step connecting to the other, and the arrows show the progression to follow. The model also suggests that the change process continues and commitment must be garnered until all the steps are duly followed (see Figure 2.1).

Figure 2.1. LUK’s integrative change model. (Actions that develop a culture of change)

Kotter foresees a challenge for leaders pertaining to leading the change necessary for effectiveness, he purports: 

[T]he primary purpose of the first six phases of the transformation process is to build up sufficient momentum to blast through the dysfunctional “granite walls found in so many organizations; to ignore these steps is to put all efforts made at risk.” (Leading Change 1967)

As a result, stages seven and eight are even more critical, and will be the determining factor in whether or not a cultural change has happened. He further states, “Culture changes only after you have successfully altered people’s actions, after the new behavior produces some group benefit for a period of time, and after people see the connection between the new actions and the performance improvement” (2368-69), all of which occur during the seventh and eighth stages.

Organizations that are as old as the church can be a challenge for change, especially where persons perceive that the suggested movement will impact the traditions of the church. In churches where traditions are like granite walls, leaders of change will need to tread gingerly and judiciously assess what can change. Scriptures indicate the implications of “sewing old garments unto new ones” (Matthew 9:16) or “putting new wine in old wine skins” (Matthew 9:17). This consideration necessitates a shattering of the old culture before trying to introduce the new, especially where the former is one that is not congruent with the change that needs to takes place. 

The church as an organization embraces two types of traditions. One is human-made tradition, that is, those rules, principles, and unwritten codes laid down by founders of the organization that have become its core culture. These are to be examined and changed. Second are biblical traditions embedded in what is known as the apostolic tradition. These traditions are very critical to the formation of core values of the church. I believe these traditions should not be compromised as they define the difference between the church and secular organizations.

The examination—with a view to shatter those human-made traditions—becomes necessary for change to happen. Chand posits that the church “must re-dream the dream to discover a new and compelling vision for its existence” (emphasis mine; 2368). If the church is not willing to be open to the idea of transformation, then the ability to re-dream will be greatly hindered, if not impossible. The result is a lapse into a maintenance mode of leadership. During the re-dreaming process, the organization will realize its greatest potential and the need for change in order to adapt to the new and compelling vision developed during this process. The leader as change agent needs to find a way to communicate this change….