BOOK REVIEW & “The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Church’s Guests to Return” for @biblicalleader magazine (plus find a companion book that will create better need-based guest services)

Aug. 27, 2020 | by Bob Whitesel

Book Review - The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Church’s Guests to Return

I am a professional church shopper. That’s right, as part of my job coaching church leaders, I must analyze the fruit of their leadership. And toward that end, I conduct for every client at least three (and sometimes up to eight) secret church visits to analyze Sunday services.

During these visits I bring with me missional coaches in training. We enter the church at multiple entrances and pose as different types of visitors. Then together we write a report for the client on everything we experienced, from the parking lot, to the worship service until the time the visitors leave the church.

The early part of this experience is sometimes called “guest services” or “hospitality ministry.” And every church leader knows this is a critical area.

But here’s a shocker! Almost all church leaders think their church hospitality is much better than it actually is. In fact, I have found the greatest divergence between intention and reality is in the area of hospitality. Even churches that laud their hospitality are often hit-or-miss, if not slipshod, in the execution. I wish this were not the case. But more than any other recurring pattern that works against church health and growth, hospitality is usually the most disappointing for the visitors.

Therefore, I picked up with interest The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Church’s Guests to Return by Jason Young, director of guest experience at Northpoint Ministries (a megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia), and Jonathan Malm who coaches churches on guest services. Their book comes highly recommended, with an endorsement by Andy Stanley. And so, I looked forward to jumping into the topic.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. Each chapter deals with an important element of hospitality. I found the following chapters the most helpful.

Chapter 1 deals with the importance of showing love and acceptance to the guest, rather than just going through the motions of a program approach. The lesson here is to help people feel loved and accepted, rather than being pushed through an assimilation program. This was a good way to start the book, and very helpful.

Chapter 4 emphasized the importance of the guest services volunteers being “fully present” rather than distracted by the Sunday morning fellowship or services. This was helpful. Too often I’ve seen hospitality people overly enamored with their job or enthusiastically fellowshipping with other guest services people, so that they often ignore the visitor. This chapter discusses discipling the guest services volunteer in their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional maturity. The result is that they will serve more holistically and with maturity. This to me was the best chapter in the book.

The chapter on “Preparing for recovery” was a surprisingly helpful chapter. It reminds people that when executing programs things will go wrong. It encourages the guest services volunteer to prepare for mishaps. It reminds them of the importance of spiritual peace and overcoming problems, especially when the person wrestling with the problems may be the first person a seeker meets when they visit a church.

There were also a few chapters that had good potential, but for me missed the mark a bit.

Chapter 3 was titled, “Know the guest.” I thought this was going to be about knowing the needs of the guest. Instead it deals mainly with knowing the guests’ reactions and adjusting the program based on the reactions of the guests. Yet, research has shown that guests usually visit a church because of a spiritual/physical need or a question.

Dr. Flavil Yeakley, in his groundbreaking research at the University of Illinois, found that some of the major events that drive people to a church are: death in the family, marital/family problems or financial problems. Therefore, it may be more helpful to place the emphasis upon getting to know the needs of guests and being able to explain to them how Christ presents the answer. Thus, hospitality services should “know the guest” and their needs even more so than their reaction to a program.

The chapter “Think scene by scene” emphasizes that everything communicates. So this chapter focuses on perfecting the assimilation system through attention to detail. I’ve observed many churches try to perfect their assimilation process. However, without the budget of a megachurch, the small to large church often fails in perfecting its execution.

I had also hoped the chapter “Reach for significance” would deal with helping the guest discover their significant place in the body of Christ. Instead it dealt primarily with helping the guest services volunteer become significantly skilled at their duties.

Though a few chapters seemed overly focused on the volunteer instead of the guest, this book has many ideas that are relevant for any church that wishes to train its volunteers and help them connect with guests.

However, there is another book that might make a good companion to this one. It is written by the pastor of guest services at a sister church, The Summit Church. Danny Franks’ book is titled People are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel (Zondervan 2018). In this book, Franks emphasizes that guest services must have an overarching foundation and mission to understand the needs of those they’re reaching out to.

Putting guests’ needs first has become important to me in my understanding of hospitality ministry. This is because when I coach church leaders, I interview hospitality team members and I also interview newcomers. As I mentioned above, I often find the greatest dichotomy in their responses. The hospitality team usually feels that they are executing the program with excellence and effectiveness. But focus groups of recent guests usually feel that there is a lack of sympathy and connectedness with the needs of the visitor. However together, the two books cited make a comprehensive roadmap for any sized congregation to improve its hospitality ministries by balancing its ministry to its volunteers and to its mission field.

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/book-review-the-come-back-effect-how-hospitality-can-compel-your-churchs-guests-to-return/

BUILDINGS & A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag buff.ly/2UTWevK

A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read more here … buff.ly/2UTWevK

BIBLE & Top 5 verses searched for during this time of uncertainty. #AaronEarls #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/24/20.

…Last Sunday, March 15, was tied for the highest usage day in YouVersion’s history (tied with Easter last year).

The top five verses shared that day all had some relation to how people approach the current situation.

  1. Hebrews 13:16 — Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
  2. Psalm 91 — The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. (v. 1)
  3. 2 Chronicles 7:14 — [A]nd my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
  4. 2 Timothy 1:7 — For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
  5. Philippians 4:6-7 — Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/23/several-bible-verses-jump-in-online-searches-during-coronavirus-outbreak/

BORN-AGAIN & Across segments of Christianity—not just evangelical Protestants—Americans are heeding the scriptural call that “you must be born again” (John 3:7).

by Ryan Burge, Christianity Today, 1/22/29.

…. In the last 14 years, the share of born-again Americans has risen to 41 percent, and much higher (54%) among people of color. Since 2010, at least half of people of color say that they have had a “turning point in their life” when they committed themselves to Christ.

Slideshow

Some might assume the continued rise of born-again Christians reflects the steady portion of evangelical Protestants in America, while mainline Protestants, who are less likely to call themselves born again, have undergone more rapid decline. But actually, across all Christian traditions—even mainline denominations and Catholics—born-again identity is trending up.

BIAS & The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: UNC professor Dr. Keith Payne has written an important book for understanding how racial bias is splitting Americans. To understand how the Church can bridge this divide and bring people together, church leaders must first take a look at this well researched book. Here are some excerpt from an article the author wrote about this important topic.

The Truth about Anti-White Discrimination

by Keith Payne, Scientific American Magazine, 6/17/19. Dr. Payne is a Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill. He is author of The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.

…News stories are full of statistical evidence for disparities between black and whites, such as the fact that the average black family earns about half as much as the average white family, or that the unemployment rate for blacks is twice that for whites, or that the wealth of the average white family is ten times the wealth of the average black family. But this kind of evidence is like a political Rorschach test that looks very different to liberals and conservatives. What looks to liberals like evidence of discrimination looks to conservatives like evidence of racial disparities in hard work and responsible behavior.  

The only kind of evidence that can hope to bridge this divide comes from experiments which directly measure discrimination — and these experiments have been done.

…Consider an experiment by sociologist Devah Pager, who sent pairs of experimenters—one black and one white—to apply for 340 job ads in New York City. She gave them resumes doctored to have identical qualifications. She gave them scripts so that the applicants said the same things when handing in their applications. She even dressed them alike. She found that black applicants got half the call backs that white applicants got with the same qualifications.

This study inspired experiments in lots of areas of life. One study, for example, responded to more than 14,000 online apartment rental adds but varied whether the name attached to the email implied a white applicant (e.g., Allison Bauer) or a black applicant (e.g., Ebony Washington). The black applicants were twenty-six percent less likely to be told that the apartment was available.

These kinds of experiments are not ambiguous like statistics on disparities are. There were no differences in merit. Race was the cause. Real employers and landlords discriminated against blacks and in favor of whites, by a large margin.

The key is to keep repeating the facts and their basis in reason and science, until they become part of the background that any conversation takes for granted. It is frustratingly slow work. But to even get started, we need to move the conversation about discrimination beyond evidence of disparities, and focus on the experiments and the stubborn facts they deliver.

Read more at … https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-anti-white-discrimination/

BARNABAS FRIEND & “Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I increasingly appreciate the encouraging friends in my life, who I call “Barnabas Friends.” In my coaching work I’ve found that church leaders thrive on (and need) regular encouragement. Here is today’s encouraging quote.

“…I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG

http://bible.com/97/2co.12.7-10.msg

BELIEF & When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?

by Pew Research, 4/25/18.

Previous Pew Research Center studies have shown that the share of Americans who believe in God with absolute certainty has declined in recent years, while the share saying they have doubts about God’s existence – or that they do not believe in God at all – has grown.

These trends raise a series of questions: When respondents say they don’t believe in God, what are they rejecting? Are they rejecting belief in any higher power or spiritual force in the universe? Or are they rejecting only a traditional Christian idea of God – perhaps recalling images of a bearded man in the sky? Conversely, when respondents say they dobelieve in God, what do they believe in – God as described in the Bible, or some other spiritual force or supreme being?

A new Pew Research Center survey of more than 4,700 U.S. adults finds that one-third of Americans say they do not believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A slim majority of Americans (56%) say they believe in God “as described in the Bible.” And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

In the U.S., belief in a deity is common even among the religiously unaffiliated – a group composed of those who identify themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” and sometimes referred to, collectively, as religious “nones.” Indeed, nearly three-quarters of religious “nones” (72%) believe in a higher power of some kind, even if not in God as described in the Bible.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/

BELIEF & Less than half of Americans say religion can answer today’s problems. #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 1/23/19.

As Americans grow accustomed to turning to Google for help, God no longer seems as relevant.

For the first time since Gallup began asking in 1957, less than half of Americans(46 percent) say religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. A growing number—up to 39 percent—see religion as largely old-fashioned and out of date.

Gallup religion answer today's questions old fashioned

Unsurprisingly, the more one attends church, the more likely they are to believe religion does have the answers.

Eight in 10 weekly church attenders (81 percent) say religion can answer today’s problems. More than half of nearly weekly and monthly attendees (58 percent) agree.

But 27 percent of those who attend less often see religion as having the answers, while 58 percent say it is old-fashioned and out of date.

Fewer than 1 in 10 religiously unaffiliated Americans (9 percent) believe religion has answers for today. Seventy-three percent see it as largely out of date.

“The public is now more closely divided than ever before in its views of religion as the answer to what ails society,” said Gallup’s report.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/01/10/losing-our-religion-less-than-half-of-americans-say-religion-can-answer-todays-problems/

BIBLE & 5 facts on how Americans view the Bible and other religious texts #PewResearch

by  , Pew Research Fact Tank, 4/14/17.

… Here are five key facts about Americans and their holy texts.

About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study

Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While about four-in-ten Christians (39%) say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God.

In 2014, about four-in-ten Christians (42%) said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity.

Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) know the Bible teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A similar share know that Moses was the biblical figure who led the Exodus from Egypt, and 63% could identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, according to our 2010 religious knowledge survey. But fewer than half of adults (45%) could name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and only four-in-ten (39%) identified Job as the biblical figure known for remaining obedient to God despite extraordinary suffering.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5-facts-on-how-americans-view-the-bible-and-other-religious-texts/

BELIEF & When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean? #PewResearch

Pew Research, 4/25/18

Previous Pew Research Center studies have shown that the share of Americans who believe in God with absolute certainty has declined in recent years, while the share saying they have doubts about God’s existence – or that they do not believe in God at all – has grown.

These trends raise a series of questions: When respondents say they don’t believe in God, what are they rejecting? Are they rejecting belief in any higher power or spiritual force in the universe? Or are they rejecting only a traditional Christian idea of God – perhaps recalling images of a bearded man in the sky? Conversely, when respondents say they dobelieve in God, what do they believe in – God as described in the Bible, or some other spiritual force or supreme being?

A new Pew Research Center survey of more than 4,700 U.S. adults finds that one-third of Americans say they do not believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A slim majority of Americans (56%) say they believe in God “as described in the Bible.” And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

In the U.S., belief in a deity is common even among the religiously unaffiliated – a group composed of those who identify themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” and sometimes referred to, collectively, as religious “nones.” Indeed, nearly three-quarters of religious “nones” (72%) believe in a higher power of some kind, even if not in God as described in the Bible.

The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding. But it is clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives. By contrast, people who say they believe in a “higher power or spiritual force” – but not in God as described in the Bible – are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs.

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/

BULLIES & The Danger of “Induction” (& Contrasting it with “Deduction”)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: There is a an important difference between deduction and induction, and the two are often confused. Watch the video below where Sherlock Holmes makes many small observations to reach a bigger conclusion. This is induction and as Holmes demonstrates, should only be utilized by someone with expertise in induction. See the second video regarding what can happen with bullies use induction.

Also remember that deduction means to take a large concept and logically deduce specifics from it. Induction is the other way around, which takes many small factors and tries to create a large picture. Induction, which the Monty Python sketch below demonstrates, can lead to a witchhunt.

BRITISH METHODISTS & How they open doors to stay relevant. #FreshExpressions #SideDoorEvangelism #WesleyChapel

by Linda Bloom, UMNS, Feb. 20, 2018

Bermondsey Central Hall no longer has its grand 2,000-seat sanctuary… Bermondsey is not a Methodist tourist mecca like Wesley’s Chapel, built by Methodism’s founder John Wesley as his London base, or Methodist Central Hall Westminster, across from Westminster Abbey.

But their congregations are all growing, filled with Methodists who have come to London from many other countries, mostly from Africa. And all three are trying to respond to the communities around them, to be relevant — both spiritually and socially — in today’s London.

Such growth is not the norm for many other congregations in the Methodist Church in Britain. A report released during the 2017 British Methodist Conference last June showed that membership had dropped significantly below 200,000 — to 188,000.

The silver lining to this cloud: churches reach an estimated half a million people weekly through cafés, youth clubs and alternative forms of church…

“At the heart of this report, there is a challenge,” the Rev. Gareth J Powell, secretary of the conference, said after the Statistics for Mission report was received. “…that we must take seriously our responsibility for being an evangelistic community of love which leads people to Christ.”

…What does it really take to grow the British Methodist Church?

The Rev. Martyn Atkins, former top executive of the British Methodist Conference and current superintendent minister at Westminster, said the church’s experiment over the past 14 years with what it is called “Fresh Expressions,” has demonstrated that making new disciples is just plain hard work.

Successful ministries take longer and cost more than expected “and whatever you think you’re going to do, you’ve got to do it twice as zealously or twice as creatively to get what you thought was the answer you were going to get,” added Atkins, who is chairperson of the Fresh Expressions board.

Winnie Baffoe is one of the Fresh Expressions pioneer workers employed by the church who is encouraged to think out of the box. She describes her position as “a holy risk.”

She has created “Mummies Republic” at the South London Mission, teaming up with government and social agencies to address the mental health issues and physical and social needs of vulnerable mothers with children aged 5 and under.

“My thing has always been to create a fresh expression of church so that I feel Jesus is walking in the neighborhood,” she declared…

For the Rev. Jennifer Smith, who became the superintendent minister of Wesley’s Chapel last September, the concept of taking Jesus outside the church building is crucial.

“When we are working so hard to keep the doors open…it can be easy to forget that we too can walk out,” she noted. “We do need to move beyond what I would call an attractive model of mission — you come to my house where I can host you and welcome you. Actually, that’s not how Jesus worked.”

Read more at … http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/british-methodists-open-doors-to-stay-relevant?

BLACK HISTORY & 5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans #PewResearch #BlackHistoryMonth

by David Masci, Pew Research, 2/7/18.

Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.

For Black History Month, here are five facts about the religious lives of African Americans.

1 Roughly eight-in-ten (79%) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches, according to the study. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%).

2 The first predominantly black denominations in the U.S. were founded in the late 18th century, some by free black people. Today, the largest historically black church in the U.S. is the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. Other large historically black churches include the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and two other Baptist churches – the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

3 African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. For instance, three-quarters of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with smaller shares of whites (49%) and Hispanics (59%); African Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly. Black Americans (83%) are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61%) and Latinos (59%).

4 The share of African Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased in recent years, mirroring national trends. In 2007, when the first Religious Landscape Study was conducted, only 12% of black Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated — that is, atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” By the time the 2014 Landscape Study was conducted, that number had grown to 18%. As with the general population, younger African American adults are more likely than older African Americans to be unaffiliated. Three-in-ten (29%) African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are unaffiliated compared with only 7% of black adults 65 and older who say this.

5 Older African Americans are more likely than younger black adults to be associated with historically black Protestant churches. While 63% of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) say they identify with historically black denominations, only 41% of black Millennials say the same. (When the survey was conducted in 2014, Millennials included those born between 1981 and 1996.)

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/

BLACK BONHOEFFER & How the Black Church in America helped convert Bonhoeffer from his racist roots

Commentary by Prof. B:  The following is an powerful excerpt from Reggie Williams’ powerful book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus (Baylor Univ. Press., 2014). I hosted Dr. Williams when he visited IWU and was still conducting research on Bonheoffer.  He found prior to the time Bonhoeffer spent in NYC among the Black community, that he considered himself a theologian … but in hindsight not converted (in a similar fashion as did John Wesley).

The following excerpts (quoted at the bottom of the first page and top of the second) show how villainous Nazi ideology had crept into Bonhoeffer’s thinking prior to his experiences in African American churches. Soon after, Bonhoeffer would be converted in a Harlem, African American church. The African American community impacted this theologian so deeply (my students are encouraged to read the book to understand more) that Bonhoeffer became a brilliant and sensitive theologian who gave us among others, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . To better understand how Christians can reconcile in a polarized world, read Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus and then Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . You will find the call to reconciliation is difficult, but a cost Bonhoeffer reminds us that maturing Christians are prepared to bear.

Black Bonheoffer 1

Black Bonheoffer 2.jpg

Black Bonheoffer 3.jpgRead more at … Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

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How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53

BUDGETING & My Video Introduction to Church Finances, Accounting & Budgeting

The area of church finances and accounting is woefully neglected in many of the churches I encounter. This video introduces learning activities that can be utilized by  my clients, colleagues and students to analyze their current financial practices … and improve them.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

BRAIN EXERCISES & Don’t Lose Your Brain at Work – The Role of Recurrent Novelty at Work in Cognitive and Brain Aging

by Jan Oltmanns, Ben Godde, Axel H. Winneke, Götz Richter, Claudia Niemann, Claudia Voelcker-Rehage, Klaus Schömann and Ursula M. Staudinger, Frontiers in Psychology Journal, 2/26/17.

Abstract

Cognitive and brain aging is strongly influenced by everyday settings such as work demands. Long-term exposure to low job complexity, for instance, has detrimental effects on cognitive functioning and regional gray matter (GM) volume. Brain and cognition, however, are also characterized by plasticity. We postulate that the experience of novelty (at work) is one important trigger of plasticity. We investigated the cumulative effect of recurrent exposure to work-task changes (WTC) at low levels of job complexity on GM volume and cognitive functioning of middle-aged production workers across a time window of 17 years. In a case-control study, we found that amount of WTC was associated with better processing speed and working memory as well as with more GM volume in brain regions that have been associated with learning and that show pronounced age-related decline. Recurrent novelty at work may serve as an ‘in vivo’ intervention that helps counteracting debilitating long-term effects of low job complexity.

Read more at … http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00117/full#B71

BLENDED WORSHIP & How to Employ the Compartmental Option … by Rebecca W.

by Rebecca Whitesel, 11/22/16.

Recently, a worship leader friend of mine received an anonymous note from a church person Sunday: “How about a hymn!”

He said they’d done two that morning…

Here’s a thought on churches who insist on having people of differing worship preferences present in the same service:

Offer two sets of music at different times during the service. Maybe start with traditional music before the message rather than “blending” so the older folks feel like they’ve been to church as they remember it. Ask ones who like modern music to pray during the traditional music.

After the sermon, enter into a contemporary expression of praise and worship. Traditionalists can either stay and pray during this or quietly leave.

For more examples and planning ideas on the “compartmental option” for worship see these posts:

 

BIAS & Guarding your Eyes: The Impacts of Unconscious Bias in Multiethnic Churches

by Oneya Fennell Okuwobi, The Journal of the Academy for Intercultural Church Research, 10/27/16.

On September 19, 2016, millions watched a video showing that Terrence Crutcher was tased and then shot after his car stalled on the highway. He lay bleeding on the ground unattended and later died. Although much uproar resulted from this video, watching black men die is nothing new. On April 23, 1899, two thousand people watched as Sam Hose was brutally mutilated and burned at the stake. We view our modern spectacle of death through dash-cams and cell phone videos rather than at celebratory gatherings, but there is continuity between the two phenomena. Posted in the interest of transparency, videos of police-involved shootings show intimate views of last breaths that will have devastating impacts for modern race relations. As we watch these men die, we dehumanize them and deepen our unconscious biases.  In the context of multiethnic churches, these biases result in reification of racial hierarchies that threaten unity within the body.

To understand the possible consequences of these images of death, it is important to recognize that race is not an objective reality, but rather a created one. Race is used to organize social life in the United States by ranking various groups (Omi & Winnant, 1994). In this process, meaning and status are assigned to physical differences (e.g., skin color), not by natural distinctions but by specific action. For example, legal proceedings were used to determine now taken for granted definitions of race. Berkley law professor Ian Haney Lopez’s White by Law (1996) recounts suits brought by Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and Syrian immigrants attempting to prove in court that they were white and therefore eligible for US citizenship prior to 1940. Various court cases were also used to assign blackness to those with any African ancestry, solidifying what is popularly known as the “one drop rule,” even as other countries developed more nuanced views of black and white.

The formation of racial differences can take forms much more gruesome than court proceedings. In the case of public post bellum lynchings, Fordham University sociologist Mattias Smångs (2016) has shown that these executions were critical “race making” events. These not uncommon occurrences were used to cement racial divisions at a time when freedoms granted after the Civil War could have threatened white superiority in society. The sentiment around lynching affirmed separation of whites and blacks into “us and them,” both politically through the strengthening of the southern Democratic party and legally through the advent of Jim Crow.

So what do lynchings a century ago have to do with our current state of race relations? Race was not created once and for all during slavery or during the time of legal segregation. Race has to be recreated in order for divisions and hierarchies that cast some as less than to continue generation after generation. Public displays of violence have effectively led to racial divisions in the past; the ways in which police-involved shootings of black men are portrayed today are recreating race via unconscious bias.

Unconscious biases are deeply held attitudes that affect decision making without an individual’s awareness (Banaji and Greenwald, 1994). These biases can be positive or negative. Importantly they have no relationship with the conscious attitudes or prejudices an individual holds. A person can consciously desire to treat all people equally, while in actuality treating persons differently by race, class, or gender due to implicit stereotypes.

A common bias is viewing Black men through the lens of criminality. University of Florida law professor Katheryn Russell-Brown (1999) coined the expression criminalblackman to express how myth meshed deviance and blackness into one. Even if you are too PC to actually cross the street at night when being approached by a black man, you probably consider it; this myth is to blame. This myth also makes boys carrying toys- like Tamir Rice and Tyre King- subject to the consequences of grown men. From the time of slavery, black men have been depicted as dangerous to justify violence against them (Alexander 2010). Each time a new video of a police-involved shooting is released, this process continues. If one is already stereotyped as a criminal, simply viewing him in an interaction with the police confirms that bias. Whether accused of a small offense such as selling loose cigarettes [Eric Garner] or a non-offense such as having car trouble [Corey Jones], the dead instantly bears the burden of culpability. This association recreates race by depicting black men as especially, and justifiably, policed.

Beyond the prejudices triggered through images of police interaction, further damage is done by the predictable response post shooting. News outlets and social media posts examine videos, criminal records, and eyewitness accounts, citing this evidence as police action is vilified or justified. The act of analyzing and arguing about the violent death of another image bearer dehumanizes the dead. A recent video has reimagined some images of police shootings with white victims instead of black to jarring effect. To the extent that it is acceptable to view a black victim and not a white one, race is recreated by making the death of one less tragic than the other. As our biases make black men less than human, it is small wonder that Blacks are nearly twice as likely to be killed by police when compared to Whites. Stereotypes of criminality and the process of dehumanization combine through the voyeuristic viewing of shooting videos, recreating racial hierarchies and maintaining a dangerous environment for black men.

Leaders and attenders of multiethnic churches need to be especially watchful of the impacts of bias within their churches. Multiethnic churches tend to handle race by subordinating racial identities to broader identity in Christ (Edwards, Christerson, and Emerson 2013). This enables churches to keep unity, but allows racial attitudes and inequalities already present in society to seep into church operations. Unexamined attitudes are not innocuous, on the contrary, unconscious bias actually has more predudicial effects on the behavior of those who view themselves as valuing all people equally than those who realize that they hold prejudices. (Gaertner, 1973). Not surprisingly, it is difficult to develop deep, reciprocal relationships where unconscious bias creates a barrier (Greenwald, Banaji, and Nosek 2015) To the extent that multiethnic churches are not discussing race, or the dangers of bias, these items remain beneath the surface, hindering the objective of unity…

Read more at … http://intercultural.church/index.php/2016/10/27/guarding-your-eyes-the-impacts-of-unconscious-bias-in-multiethnic-churches/

References:Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 1 edition. New York: The New Press.

Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. 1994. “Implicit stereotyping and prejudice.” In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Olson (Eds.), The psychology of prejudice: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 7, pp. 55-76). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Dovidio, John F., Tamar Saguy, and Nurit Shnabel. 2009. “Cooperation and Conflict within Groups: Bridging Intragroup and Intergroup Processes.” Journal of Social Issues 65(2):429–49.

Edwards, Korie L., Brad Christerson, and Michael O. Emerson. 2013. “Race, Religious Organizations, and Integration.” Annual Review of Sociology 39.

Gaertner, S. L. 1973. “Helping behavior and racial discrimination among liberals and conservatives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25: 335–341.

Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., & Nosek, B. A. 2015. “Statistically small effects of the Implicit Association Test can have societally large effects.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(4): 553-561.

López, Ian Haney. 2006. White by Law 10th Anniversary Edition: The Legal Construction of Race. Revised and Updated: 10th Anniversary ed. edition. New York: NYU Press.

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 2014. Racial Formation in the United States. 3rd edition. New York: Routledge.

Russell-Brown, Katheryn. 1999. The Color of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions. New York: NYU Press.

Smångs, Mattias. 2016. “Doing Violence, Making Race: Southern Lynching and White Racial Group Formation.” American Journal of Sociology 121(5):1329–74.

 

The Academy for Intercultural Church Research, a network of researchers dedicated to analyzing and researching multicultural churches such as multiethnic churches, multi-generational churches, churches reaching out to multiple socioeconomic levels, etc. Below is their home page. Be sure to bookmark it and  check out their journal which features the latest research on congregations that are transitioning into healthy multicultural churches.

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