SPIRITUAL TRAMSFORMATION & Christians more intentional, but less likly to share the message of the Good News since 1993.

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/1

… According to a new study from Barna, compared to 25 years ago, Christians today say they try to be more intentional about sharing their faith, but fewer say evangelism is the responsibility of every believer.

In 1993, 9 in 10 Christians (89 percent) who had shared their faith said every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith. Today, only two-thirds (64 percent) of Christians who had a conversation about faith agree—a 25-point drop.

When asked about how they share their faith, modern Christians are more likely to stick to a set formula or certain strategy than were Christians in the early ’90s. More than 4 in 10 Christians in 2018 (44 percent) say they use the same basic approach each time they have an evangelistic conversation, compared with 33 percent in 1993.

The most common approaches today are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70 percent) and sharing their faith through their lifestyle (65 percent).

Those methods were common a quarter of a century ago as well, with 74 percent saying they ask questions and 77 percent saying they share with their lifestyle rather than their words.

The most common method in 1993, however, has since fallen out of favor. Almost 8 in 10 of Christians who had a conversation about faith (78 percent) said then they spoke about the benefits of accepting Jesus. Today, only 50 percent do that.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/05/16/christians-more-intentional-less-evangelistic-since-1993/

INGROWN & 4 traps of ingrown churches & how to avoid them. @BiblicalLeadership magazine article by @BobWhitesel

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.The result of this inward focus is that churches stop reaching non-churchgoers because they are less frequently meeting the needs of those outside of their fellowship. 

Most non-churchgoers will avoid an ingrown church all together because it does not appear to be sensitive to their needs. Even newly launched and emerging churches are not immune to becoming ingrown. The close fellowship created in new church plants, multiple-site churches, cell-churches, art churches, café churches, and house churches often subtly redirect the leaders’ attention inward and away from their mission field. 

Ask yourself, “How much of my volunteer time at church do I spend on meeting the needs of the congregation rather than meeting the needs of those who don’t go to church?” If you do not see a balance, then the church you attend may be ingrown. 

Good churches have this problem too

Ingrown churches actually arise for a good reason. A church’s fellowship often is so attractive, compelling, and beneficial, that before long most of a congregation’s attention becomes directed toward these benefits. Donald McGavran in Understanding Church Growth summed up these positive/negative attributes by saying a good church will create “redemption and lift.”By this he meant that once a person is redeemed (restored back to a relationship with God), the person’s fellowship with other Christians will lift him or her away from previous friends who are non-churchgoers. The cure, according to McGavran, is to realize that this lift is good (it raises your life to a new level of loving Christ) but also bad (it separates you from non-churchgoers who need Christ’s love too). McGavran argued that balance is needed in meeting the needs of those inside the church and those outside of it, and so does this post. 

Good reasons that trap churches into ingrown behavior

Let’s look at four common church characteristics characteristics that when left unattended can unintentionally redirect a church into a closed, inward focus:

History Trap—A church with a long history. 

A church that is focused internally will eventually lose sight of its original mis- sion and gravitate toward being an organization consumed with helping itself. Years and years of internal focus will result in a church that knows little else. Leaders raised in an internally focused church will think that the volunteer’s role is to serve the existing congregation, perhaps to the point of burnout. Time erases the memory of the earliest days of a church conceived to meet the needs of non-churchgoers. 

The Organizational Trap—A sizable congregation that must be managed. 

Have you ever noticed that when new churches are started, they often have an outward focus? This may be because a newly planted church is often keenly aware that without reaching out to others, the new church will die. However, I have noticed that once a new church is about eighteen months old, it starts becoming so consumed its organizational needs, that it spends most of its time internally focused. Thus, any church with a history over eighteen months long will usually be internally focused. 

The Experience Trap—A church with a talented and long-serving team of volunteers.

 When a church has a cadre of talented and gifted leaders, these volunteers are often asked to stay too long in their positions. They thus become regarded as experts by others and newcomers. The result is that leadership unintention- ally becomes a closed clique, which newcomers with innovative ideas will often feel too intimidated to penetrate. 

The Infirmity Trap—A church with a ministry to hurting people.

Hurting people are often seeking to have their hurts healed by the soothing balm of Christian community. A church that is offering this is doing something good, because to help hurting people is what Christ calls his church to do (James 1:27). And a ministry to hurting people must be conducted with confidentially and intimacy. 

An unintentional result of such confidentiality is that these churches can become closed communities too. Subsequently, churches often thwart their mission to reach out to the hurting and instead gravitate toward a closed fellowship where outsiders find it increasingly harder to get in and get the help they need. 

There is a difference between an internally focused church and one that is balanced with equal emphasis upon internal and external needs. Check all that apply to your church. The column with the most checks may indicate whether your church is growing in, growing out, or is equally balanced (the goal of an uncommon church).

Is your church ingrown?

Check all that apply to your church:

More curated ideas from professor, award-winning writer and consultant Bob Whitesel DMin PhD at ChurchHealth.wiki, WesleyTours.com, MissionalCoaches.com & ChurchHealth.expert

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health,by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012).

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-traps-of-ingrown-churches/

 

FAILURE & 2 life-changing lessons John Wesley learned from it. Article by @Bob Whitesel in #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

Turning trials into triumphs created a degree of fame for the Wesleys. John, who had become a teaching fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford, came to the attention of James Oglethorpe, whose efforts for prison reform prompted the Oxford prison ministry of the Wesleys and their friends.

Now Oglethorpe had a bigger vision. He was a founder of the colony of Georgia, covering roughly the northern half of the modern-day state of Georgia. It was there Oglethorpe envisioned a haven for people who had been imprisoned in debtors’ prisons. In this vast colony, there was no official Church of England or designated pastor. In 1735 John Wesley became Oglethorpe’s choice to pastor the first church in the colony.

To Wesley, this was an opportunity to experience Christ more deeply by preaching to others in the unpretentious, natural environs of the New World.1 Little did he realize this experience would bring one of his greatest trials.

This church launch was well organized. Financial support was secured in advance and a meetinghouse in Savannah was designed. As they embarked from Gravesend, England, John felt everything was in order. Yet, in hindsight, John would recall his life was not in order spiritually.

Accompanying them on the voyage were German Christians called Moravians, after the region from which they came. They believed humility coupled with quiet reflection upon Scriptures and Christ was helpful in strengthening faith. John had the opportunity to observe their method firsthand when the ship encountered several unusually destructive storms. As one relentless storm dismasted the ship, hardened sailors abandoned their posts and cried out to God for mercy.

John, too, had a fear of death, which had developed prior to his Oxford years when he attended Charterhouse School in London. A hospital was housed in the same building as the school, and young John daily watched individuals die, some in comfort, others in fear.

As the ship appeared to be sinking with all hands doomed, the Moravians showed not fear but trust. They sang and praised God with a confidence and calm that moved John to declare it as one of most glorious things he had ever seen.2

At the same time, John’s reaction to the ship’s peril showed him he was no different from the fainthearted sailors. He too was “unwilling to die,” shaking with fright and crying out to God to save him.3 This was not the example he wanted to show to those who traveled with him. Nonetheless, that was his experience at this stage of his life.4

The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience.

Exiled to Babylon as a young man of twenty, Ezekiel, like Wesley, had been trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest. But in Babylon, Ezekiel found himself in a new land with a new role. When Ezekiel was thirty, about the same age as Wesley when he went to Georgia, God revealed His power to the prophet in a vision (Ezekiel 1:4—3:15). That vision made Ezekiel realize the inevitability of judgment upon each person for their sins. Later, God showed Ezekiel another vision, indicating that though His people felt as good as dead, God could recreate them as living, healthy people.

He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 37:4–6)

John Wesley must have felt the same way. Though he had had early success in ministry, when the threat of death came near he found himself empty, discouraged, and unprepared.

This might have been how Ezekiel felt looking upon the disheartened Israelites who had been deported into Babylonian captivity. Yet just as God gave Ezekiel a vision of a revived nation, John would soon be revived too. In hindsight, John would describe these times of discouragement as the product of his fair-weather faith, stating:

I went to America to convert the Indians, but O! Who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near, but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled.5

From these stories emerge at least two lessons.

1. Early success can lead to overconfidence. 

Some people encounter early successes they are never able to replicate. It’s important not to live in the past or on past glory. The lesson for John, and for every enthusiast, is God may give you early triumphs only for them to be followed by trials. But as God reminded Ezekiel, God can again bring about triumphs in our ministries and in our souls if we allow our faith to mature.

During Wesley’s life, he wrestled several more times with fair-weather faith. Though he felt like his life and career had dried up, he discovered fair-weather faith could be reinvigorated by God.

2. Fear of death can test our readiness to be judged for our life. 

The Scriptures abound with reminders death is not the end but a gateway to eternal life (Psalm 39:1–7; John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

From the stories of John Wesley and Ezekiel, take the lesson that a fair-weather faith must be replaced by “a mind calmed by the love of God.”6

Consider what God’s Word says about this:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me. (Psalm 23:4)

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Consider these questions

Have you found yourself thinking back to past successes, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities? Recall a time when you had a spiritual breakthrough. How did it make you feel? What lessons did you learn?

Now picture in your mind a future success that could make you feel the same way. In the future, use this rule of thumb: for each minute you spend thinking about past successes, spend two minutes dreaming about what God can do.

Ask yourself, “When have I been near death, and how did I feel about the prospect of standing before God?” Were you timid? Were you fearful? Were you happy? Wesley would write years later to a friend, “Do you sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus? Do you never shrink at death? Do you steadily desire to depart and to be with Christ?”7

Excerpted fromEnthusiast!: Finding a Faith That Fills,by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2018). 

1. John Wesley, “Letter to Dr. Burton,” October 10, 1735, The Letters of John Wesley,The Wesley Center Online, http:// wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/ wesleys-letters-1735/.

2. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 18, eds. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988), 143.

3. Ibid., 140.

4. Ibid., 169. John experienced other terrifying storms on the voyage, as well as in America, all resulting in the fright that led him to ask himself, “How is it that thou hadst no faith?”

5. John Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 29.

6. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley,vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 22.

7. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 499.

Photo source: istock

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/2-lessons-learned-from-failure/?utm_source=BLC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EMNA&utm_content=2018-04-19

 

CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH & A review by Jim Herbert,

York, PA, 5/8/18.

“Cure for the Common Church” is a practical guide to help churches confront their unhealthy ways. Again, I like the way it was written. The book was not written in linear way, rather a mosaic approach that allows you to read and study based on the need. One chapter of each of the four sections talks about the problem and the second chapter of each section deals with the solutions. I will highlight several points under the four areas (Grow Out, Grow Small, Grow Learners and Grow New).

Grow Out

• The gravitational pull for every church is to grow inward. The book lays out four traps that causes this to happen.

• It is interesting to think about how we got here! I believe this problem is timeless. It happens naturally because it’s human nature. We like our worlds small and controllable. So, it takes a lot of leadership to balance the community between outward and inward.

• Balancing volunteer hours between inward and outward focus is a great way to measure. It’s a practical way of knowing how the church is trending.

Grow Small

• The other tension that churches deal with is combatting the attractional element of church. We all know that there has to be an attraction, but we spend an awful amount of time looking at ourselves in the “church mirror” and not trusting the attractional element of God’s presence.

• I love the approach of focusing on people not things, leaders not programs. Setting a structure and continually focusing on a fluid process of engaging people in smaller settings is a lot of work. But, if we can get our best people involved and engaged in this area we may find a greater health in our churches.

• Studying history may give us answers for today and going forward. The book mentioned the Wesleyan movement and how John Wesley effectively developed a discipleship process that grounded people in their faith. I’m sure a dominant reason for its success was the people that helped lead it. A good curriculum was helpful, but the ones leading it was the key…I’m sure.

• Using the UP, IN, OUT approach is excellent. I love Breen’s approach to discipleship. Missionalizing groups is an excellent approach to outreach since it keeps it in the hands of the people and not programized.

Grow Learners

• The “disciple” thing has often been the bugaboo for churches. Understanding what a disciple is and what a disciple does has kept us at a standstill for decades if not centuries! Sure, we have had periods where we have figured it out, and yes there have been great leaders who have been able to drill down to its core. But for most of my

lifetime this issue has alluded us (me).

• I appreciate the way the book has used the word “learn” as an acronym to frame the discussion. Again, the key is in the environment and not as much the content. In the

past we have focused so much on content and missed the element of community.

• The other thing I see is how the book resourced the three primary verbs used in the Great Commission. The words “Go, Baptizing and Teaching” bring focus to the discipleship activity. We then can frame our discipleship process around those three primary actions.

• I do believe healthy communities are reproducible. The attraction lies in the relationships not as much in the content.

Grow New

• The whole “grow new” message is emphasized by focusing on the intention. Therefore, it’s important to define what it means to be “new”. Often time the “newness” approach is centered around an outward approach. This is not sustainable. Newness through transformation is a completely different approach. This approach deals with the heart first, then works its way outward.

• I really liked how the book focused on the pivot point of spiritual transformation. It is the balance between the outward and inward focuses.

• Regarding spiritual transformation, having a solid grasp of the transformation process is critical. The Gospel message and journey is not as linear as we want to make it. Walking with people through their transformation is very important, people know when it’s a bait and switch. Looking for people to change so they can come to our church is selfish and self-absorbed. If we value the transformational process, we will be able to rejoice when the change actually happens. They may not attend our church long term but would’ve had the chance to be involved in seeing someone’s life transformed.

Conclusion

There is much more to unpack, but not enough time. I would highly recommend this book for church leadership teams. It’s practical and informative.

HIP-HOP & An interview w/ Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters: The church should embrace hip-hop

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I am addressing a group of African and African-American pastors/bishops at their national conference. One of the topics is the influence of hip-hop and how African immigrants and African-Americans disagree on its use. Here’s a helpful interview with an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who leads one of the healthiest congregations in Texas

Article by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, May 30, 2017

I really believe that hip-hop serves as a vital theological conversation partner for our present-day work. Hip-hop is without peer in terms of its cultural influence.

It is a global phenomenon, and there is an entire canon, an entire text, that the church has yet to explore. It really speaks to me like the narratives in Old Testament history that speak of communities under oppression facing marginalization and trying to identify where God is at work to liberate them in the midst of their struggle.

So when I hear Tupac, I hear St. Paul, and I also hear St. Augustine, as they struggle with issues of soteriology.

Q: Some church leaders may think of hip-hop as a way to connect to youth. But it sounds like you are talking about something deeper than that.

We can no longer talk about hip-hop solely as a youth movement, because hip-hop as a cultural artifact is now coming up on its 44th anniversary, from August of 1973(link is external). Some of the founders of the hip-hop movement themselves are approaching mid-60s or early 70s.

So we’re really talking about something that is far deeper than just young people in high school.

We’re talking about how generations interact with the world. It has articulated their hopes and dreams as well as their pain and despair.

In many ways, the church in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the westernmost portions, is dying. But I still believe that there are persons who long for community. They long for deeper faith and spirituality.

I think we have to shift our way, our mode, of connecting with individuals.

I think, biblically, of the apostle Paul in Acts when he goes to Athens and goes to the [Areopagus], and in that space, speaking to Stoics and Epicureans, he speaks to the unknown God. And as he begins to preach in that space, he does not draw his authority from the Torah.

He draws his authority from Athenian poetry, and he uses their conceptions of God as a means of presenting the Christ to them.

I believe we have the same opportunity in terms of engaging hip-hop, using that as a cultural artifact to bridge the gap between the culture and the church.

So we can provide a greater conception of who God is and of who God has called us to be.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/michael-w-waters-church-should-embrace-hip-hop?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

SERVANT LEADERSHIP & Sinek’s concept of the “circle of safety” for employees from his book and TED Talk “Leaders Eat Last.”

Introduction by Michael Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 7/12/17; In Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, he talks about the concept of the “circle of safety.” The world is filled with danger, things that are trying to frustrate our lives, reduce our success, or reduce our opportunity for success. The only variables, says Sinek in this TED Talk, are the conditions inside the organization, and that’s where leadership matters, because it’s the leader who sets the tone to make sure there’s trust and cooperation, and that employees’ needs are being met.

 

 

CAREER TRANSITIONS & Why Would People Consider Quitting Their Jobs, Exactly? Gallup Research Sums Up the Entire Reason in 1 Sentence.

Commentary by Dr  Whitesel: While preparing a new Doctor of Ministry course for Fuller Theological Seminary on interim/transitional pastoral ministry, I am researching why pastors leave churches. The article below throws light on this from the Gallup organization and suggests ways to retain talented leaders. Read the article and then find more insights at this accompanying article: CAREER TRANSITIONS & Why Do Employees Quit Their Managers? Here’s the No. 1 Reason in a Short Sentence.

“Why Would People Consider Quitting Their Jobs, Exactly? Gallup Research Sums Up the Entire Reason in 1 Sentence“ by Michael Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 5/14/18.

In 2017, Gallup released the third iteration of their infamous workplace report, the State of the American Workplace.

Using data collected from more than 195,600 U.S. employees in 2015 and 2016, Gallup asked employees to indicate how important certain job attributes are when considering whether to jump ship and take another gig with a different organization.

The top factor in the minds of most employees across the country? Gallup summarizes it in one sentence: The ability to do what they do best.

When they don’t get to experience this regularly, they exit early. It seems like common sense. Shouldn’t every employer or manager allow for valued workers to feel this way about their work every day? Common sense, yes; common practice, no…

The “why” behind the need to ‘do what they do best.’

Sixty percent of employees — male and female of all generations — say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them. How do you bring that into fruition?

Employees do their best in roles that enable them to showcase and integrate their biggest strengths: talent (the natural capacity for excellence); skills (what they can do); and knowledge (what they know).

And companies are leaving money on the table by not recognizing these strengths beyond a job description, and how it all translates to high performance.

People love to use their unique talents, skills, and knowledge. But most conventional managers don’t know what those things truly are.

The best leaders will leverage close relationships with employees by finding out what their strengths are, and bringing out the best in their employees.

In fact, when managers help employees develop through their strengths and natural talents, they are more than twice as likely to engage their team members.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/why-would-people-consider-quitting-their-jobs-exactly-gallup-research-sums-up-entire-reason-in-1-sentence.html

Soeaking hashtags: FullerDMin