THEOLOGY & A Biblical Theology of Change & Changing by Bob Whitesel PhD, excerpted from the book, “Preparing for Change Reaction.”

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Below are links to what I believe is a holistic and biblically faithful theology of change. These theological suppositions emerged from my Ph.D. work at Fuller Theological Seminary, 2005-2007.


God is Unchanging In Four Areas

Change Reaction 4: If God doesn’t change, why should we?” Congregations are leery of church change … because they know God is unchanging in His character.

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging

One of the most widely accepted Biblical understandings is that God does not change.  There are many passages that attest to this (some are listed in the Questions for Group Study at the end of this chapter).  But, let us focus on the three most popular.  However, first we must tackle an unusual, yet increasingly important word: immutable.

Immutable – What Does It Mean?

There is an curious, yet common word that describes God’s unchangeable character: immutable.  The term, widely used in theological circles, comes from combining two ancient words.  The Latin word, mutabilis carries the meaning of “changeable.”  When the Latin prefix im- is added, it negates the word that follows and elicits the meaning “not-changeable” or immutable.  Millard Erickson offers a concise definition.

“Divine immutability … by this is meant that although everything else in the universe appears to undergo change, God does not.  He is the unchanging eternal one.”

We shall see shortly that this definition may be lacking in precision.  However, it is interesting to note that computer programmers use the terms mutable and immutable as well.  In computer programming an immutable object is an object that cannot be modified once it is created.  And, a mutable object is one that can be modified once it is fashioned.  

Subsequently, because of an increasing use by software programmers and a continued use in theological circles, immutable is an increasingly helpful term for describing things that do not change.

3 Biblical Passages Stating That God Does Not Change… 

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging


When God Changes

Change Reaction 5: “What does the Bible says about change?”

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes

8-Types of Biblical Change

Theologians have pointed out that there are several types of change in the Bible.  I have codified them into a list of eight.  Let us describe each, and add a brief commentary.

  1. Change due to decline or deterioration.  This is the change we referred to in Chapter 3 as change in permanence or life.  In the previous chapter we saw that God does not change in His duration or eternalness.  However, humans do undergo this type of change, for as the writer of Psalm 102:3 says, his “days vanish like smoke.”
  2. Change in location, i.e. the movement from one place to another.  Millard Erickson comments, “Since God presumably is not … spatially located, the sense of change as movement from one place to another does not apply.”
  3. Changes in quality.  When the Old Testament Temple replaced the make-shift Tabernacle for Jewish worship, Exodus 25, 36 and 2 Chronicles 3 and 4 describe an enhancement in quality.  In a similar manner quality can lessen, for example when the Temple was rebuilt after its destruction by the Babylonians (see Haggai).  But, changes in quality do not apply to God, for the Scriptures depict God as being all-powerful (Genesis 18:14, Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26) and thus having more power would be impossible.
  4. Change due to growth or improvement.  The Bible states that God is all good (Exodus 34:6, 1 Chronicles 16:34) and thus improvement would be impossible.
  5. Change of knowledge means gaining knowledge that one that did possess before.  Again, because God is all knowing (1 Samuel 2:3, 1 Chronicles 28:9, John 16:30) additional or better knowledge is impossible.
  6. Change in beliefs “involves coming to hold different beliefs of attitudes.”  We saw in Chapter 3 that God is unchangeable in the essential nature of whom He is (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) and that God’s will is unchangeable (James 1:18).  Thus God does not come to hold different beliefs nor attitudes.
  7. Relational change “involves not change in the thing itself, but in the relationship to another object or person.”  This is an interesting thought.  As we shall see shortly, the Biblical record tells us God does relate to us in different ways, depending upon our reactions to Him.  Note, God is not changing, but the relationship between Him and us does change.  Thus, this type of change is found in the Bible.
  8. Change by taking different action than previously.  We see many times in the Bible where God takes a different action than He did previously.  For example, when humans ask forgiveness, turn from their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior, God takes different action (salvation, John 6:23, 10:9) than He had previously warned (damnation, Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8).

Looking at the varying types of change found in the Bible, it becomes clear that in most of these areas God does not change.  Now, let’s look at each of these 8-types of change and see how they relate to God’s unchangeableness in permanence, nature, will and character. 

God and the 8-Types of Biblical Change

Because God is unchangeable in His permanence and lifeGod Does Not Experience Type-1 Change: Change Due to Deterioration,

God is unchangeable in His permanence and life, was a conclusion we discovered in our previous chapter.  We noted that this indicates that God does not change in His or eternalness.  He does not “wear out like a garment” (Psalm 102:26), and though our “days vanish like smoke … your (God’s) years will never end” (Psalm 102:3, 27). 

Therefore, Type-1 Change does not apply to God, for He does not decline nor deteriorate. 

Congregations know that some church change has been good…especially when it increases a church’s effectiveness at sharing the Good News.

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes


Unchanging Character … Changing Methods: The Pattern of Parenting

Change Reaction 6: Let’s not talk about change, I need a break.” Leaders are tired of administrative unproductiveness and disorder … and want a break from volunteering.  After all, isn’t church more than administration?

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.

God’s Pattern of Parenting

The bible is rife with the pattern of parenting as reflected in God’s relationship to His offspring.  Let us look at a few examples of God’s parenting principles and see what lessons they can engender for church leaders who are tackling church change.

God as Mother?

Though often overlooked, at times the Scriptures describe God as having the best attributes of both father and mother.  And since the attributes of a mother are often the most overlooked, let’s begin our inquiry with several motherly attributes of God. 

God has an enduring motherly relationship.  Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

God comforts, as a mother comforts a child.  Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

God yearns like a woman in childbirth, God yearns for the growth and maturity of His people.  Isaiah 42:14-15 says, “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.”  Also, James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

To protect and nurture resistant offspring.  In Matthew 23:37 Jesus uses the imagery of a mother hen and her chicks, avowing, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

God as Father

Here Scriptures abound.  The following are just a few examples.  Many more scriptures will be discussed in the following section, “God as Parent.”

God loves us as a father loves his children.  1 John 3:1
 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!”

God is “Abba, Father.”  One of the most remarkable New Testament passages is Romans 8:15:  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Another is Galatians 4:6 “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’.”  See also how Jesus uses the expression “abba” when referring to His heavenly in Mark 14:36.  The term abba is a Aramaic expression of endearment and familiarity customarily used by a very young child.  As such, it is usually the first word from a child’s mouth.  While some translate this “daddy,” this may still be too formal.  A better term might be “dada,” an expression connoting dependence, endearment, commencement and closeness.  This intimate, reliant and cherished term gives new insight to how God longs for us to return to Him and recapture that early father-child connection and love.

God must discipline us at times, as a loving father.  Solomon warns in Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”  Also, Hebrews 12: 9-10 states, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

Alister McGrath has said, “to speak of God as father is to say that the role of the father in ancient Israel allows us insights into the nature of God.”  Thus, from the above we can catch a glimpse into God’s loving, preserving, just and devoted nature.

God as Father and Mother

Sometimes God appears in the role of both parents.  For example, in Psalm 27:10 we see, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” 

In Moses’ song of adoration (Deuteronomy 32) he characterizes God’s love toward His children as that of a paternal eagle, hovering over its young and protecting them.  The tasks outlined, hovering over the young, catching them and carrying them describes female eagle attributes, but at times can also describe male eagles.  Thus, both roles can be inferred.  The full passage reads, “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.  Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions” Deuteronomy 32:10-11.

And in Deuteronomy 32:18 both maternal and paternal roles of God are described in the same sentence: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” 

Sallie McFaque gives a helpful summation of God as father and mother stating “God as mother does not mean that God is mother (or father).  We imagine God as both mother and father, but we realize how inadequate these and any other metaphors are to express the creative love of God …. Nevertheless, we speak of this love in language that is familiar and dear to us, the language of mother and fathers who give us life, from whose bodies we come, and upon whose care we depend.”

And thus God’s parental love is so deep, it is almost unfathomable in magnitude, scale and reach.  There is little surprise that both motherhood and fatherhood expressions are needed to describe such love.  Ephesians 3:17-19 puts it this way, “. . . And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Yet, fatherhood certainly occurs with more frequency in Biblical passages.  This may be due to the patriarchal culture of ancient times.  However, that in such highly patriarchal times the writers of the Scriptures would not flinch at describing God’s motherly attributes, indicates that God has no opposition to using the best attributes of fatherhood … and motherhood to describe His character.

And, fatherhood and motherhood can be defined in various ways depending upon the relationship.  For example, fatherhood can describe the establishing a household, the headship of that household, and of the provision, care and feeding of that household.  As we saw above, motherhood can describe birthing, nurturing, cherishing, etc.

However, to keep this present study from becoming too lengthy, let us look at how the fatherhood and motherhood of God relates to parenting.  And, in the process let us see if this doesn’t offer some strategic guidelines for dealing with change in churches.

God as Parent …

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.

#OD723

ARTICLES & Index of articles by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD published by Biblical Leadership Magazine.

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Going to church in virtual reality

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 4.04.42 PM.pngHere are some examples, ideas and cautions.
  Bob Whitesel

Understanding graffiti leadership

Millennials making a mark on the church and the culture.
  Bob Whitesel


Creating a balanced vision for your church

Here are principles for expanding church vision and meeting congregational, local and global needs.
  Bob Whitesel


4 attitudes to cultivate in a small group

Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.
  Bob Whitesel


4 biblical ways a leader can respond to difficult circumstances

One of the most vexing questions for a Christian leader is how to respond when a godly colleague or employee experiences bad things they didn’t appear to deserve.
  Bob Whitesel


How small groups help a church survive

Sometimes the bond of a small group helps the church persevere through conflict.
  Bob Whitesel


7 principles for launching multiple worship venues, campuses and times

Offering more can better connect various people to your community, but adding a new worship encounter also has its caveats.
  Bob Whitesel


What is “Wild Church” and where is it going?

A look inside more organic churches.
  Bob Whitesel


Key principles for understanding multi-cultural churches

To help our churches grow in the most ways possible, it helps to understand how we can journey toward reconciliation.
  Bob Whitesel


5 principles for making your church a haven

Here are five principles to focus your church on reflecting God’s love and reaching those who are hurting and longing for security.
  Bob Whitesel


5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence

The church is on a mission, and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons learned from failure

Do you ever think about the past, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities?
  Bob Whitesel


Helping others navigate the evangelism journey

To describe evangelism as a journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process, requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons from a Christian leadership enthusiast

What fills and fuels your Christian leadership? How do you keep your faith among the skeptics?
  Bob Whitesel


Understanding God’s role for a Millennial leader

Here are three attitudes of Millennial leaders about God’s role in their work.
  Bob Whitesel


3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead

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.
  Bob Whitesel


7 tips for introducing new ideas

Most attempts to introduce a new idea will not start the church on a new life-cycle, but rather split it into two smaller groups of which neither will survive.
  Bob Whitesel


Why churches need blue-ocean strategies

Being strategic has to do with your audience. What is your strategy and who does it involve?
  Bob Whitesel


Your leadership style under pressure

I’ve become convinced that leaders have a fallback behavior on which they rely when they are uncertain, conflicted and/or under pressure.
  Bob Whitesel


Nurturing millennial leadership attitudes

How does leadership look different today? Here are three attitudes and how they could benefit your ministry.
  Bob Whitesel


3 perils of modern leadership

Leadership is an interdependent mixture of intuition, experience, and inspiration. When it comes to modern leadership, here are some obstacles that get in the way.
  Bob Whitesel


Exploring the newness people crave

People usually sense a need for change immediately prior to the point of spiritual transformation. If God intends spiritual reconnection to be a reaction to crises, then how do we help people in the midst of crisis?
  Bob Whitesel


Why I don’t have a problem with segregated worship services, if reconciliation takes place at 11:30

It has been said that “10:30 on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.” I don’t have a problem with that if 11:30 is the most integrated time.
  Bob Whitesel


Spiritual transformation is pivotal in ministry balance

Transformation is not an optional prescription for the church, but pivotal upon which God intends the other ministry aspects to be built and balanced.
  Bob Whitesel


Fostering unity and diversity through learning

Creating an uncommon church that has both unity and diversity is a rarity. However, developing learners may be the key that takes your church in that direction.
  Bob Whitesel


Agenda questions to nurture leaders

Let’s look at some agenda questions that can stimulate spiritual discussion and learning.
  Bob Whitesel


Linking learners to the church community

Churches often mistake going, baptizing, and teaching (the hows) for the goal of making active, ongoing learners. So, with this in mind, let’s look at the hows of making active, ongoing learners.
  Bob Whitesel


What is the goal of the church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal. This is not a scientific poll because these churches need to grow and they realize this (or they wouldn’t be hiring a church growth consultant). But their answers may mirror yours.
  Bob Whitesel


Locate your focus in small groups

Since large gatherings can create excitement and attention, they often overshadow the key discipleship venue of small groups. To combat this, leaders must ensure that the church’s emphasis upon small groups is highlighted noticeably in official statements.
  Bob Whitesel


What is this talk about missional?

These are missional patterns that almost any church would want to embrace. But many people first react negatively toward the missional term because it is new and they do not fully know its meaning.
  Bob Whitesel


The cure for groups is S.M.A.L.L.

When it comes to groups, the cure is spelled: S.M.A.L.L., and the first step is surveying the types of groups you already have.
  Bob Whitesel


How to avoid a church split when introducing a new idea

For 20-plus years I have studied how to successfully employ intervention events. Here are my top seven tips for successfully doing so.
  Bob Whitesel


Why small groups work

The pages of history show ways small groups have been used. Learn how and why small groups promote both discipleship and church growth.
  Bob Whitesel


3 tactics to help you tackle ministry

To maintain a healthy balance between an inward and outward church focus is to tackle ministry needs.
  Bob Whitesel


3 unmet needs that could guide your ministry

Here is the way needs of spiritual seekers are best understood.
  Bob Whitesel


Discover how core competencies will empower your mission and vision

Why do so many lay leaders roll their eyes when a new pastor wants to re-edit the mission and vision statement?
  Bob Whitesel


4 traps of ingrown churches

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.
  Bob Whitesel


 

 

SERMON & Jesus Commissioned You to Reach This 1 Important Goal …

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/15/19.

What is the Goal of a Church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal…. Look at their responses:

Our primary goal is to survive as a church 38 %
Our primary goal is to provide a warm and caring fellowship. 22 %
Our primary goal is to win souls to Christ. 21 %
Our primary goal is to influence community morals for the better. 11 %
None of the above 8 %

…Yet, a cure for the common church is much bigger, for it is a church-wide refocus back to Jesus’ goal for his church

Jesus’ Goal for the Church

The right answer for Figure 5.1 is actually “none of the above” and comes from Jesus’ own words[I] … To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)

Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB, commissioning verbs are underlined)

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

“I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service…

Christians, too, are called to put their lives on the line in Jesus’ great commissioning. Here is what others have said about this passage (Figure 5.3):

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 5.3 Comments on Great Comm copy.jpg

The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission

Because this Great Commission is so important, it is not surprising that each word, each phrase that Jesus uttered in Matthew 28:19-20 seems to have been chosen carefully to convey his message. Jesus undoubtedly knew that believers down through history would return to this passage as they contemplated the goal of their spiritual community.

…Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three…

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 5.4 Four Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

Finding the main verb

In the English, the four verbs seem equal. But, when Jesus spoke these words, he pronounced one verb with a special spelling, thereby indicating that this verb was the main verb or “goal” of the passage. Which verb was Jesus pointing to as the goal of his Great Commission? You must wait a few paragraphs to find out.

3 verbs tell “how” – only 1 verb tells us “the goal”

Three … verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]

So, which three verbs are participles (telling us “how”) and which one verb is the main verb (telling us the “goal”)? The spelling of the Greek verbs indicates the following:[vi]

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 1-2 Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 3-4 Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

Therefore, the uncommon church’s goal must not the “going,” the “baptizing” or even the “teaching.” These are the “hows.” In the words Jesus chose he made clear that for the uncommon church he was founding, it was “making disciples” that was the goal.

What Do Disciples look like?

Picturing a Disciple

…Begin with the Greek word matheteusate, which means “a learner, a pupil or an apprentice.”[i] It carries the image of a trainee or a student still in school more than it depicts an expert. Christ is commanding his followers not to produce experts, but rather to foster a community of authentic learners. Following Jesus should feel like you are enrolled in his school of learning. Therefore, a church is not a cadre of experts, but a collage of fellow learners.

Theologians have sought to convey the rich and multifaceted meaning of the verb: “make disciples” in several ways.

Donald McGavran[ii] said …… “It means enroll in my (Jesus’) school…”

Eddie Gibbs[iii] stated ………… “It is learning, not simply through being given information, but in learning how to use it. Discipleship is an apprenticeship rather than an academic way of learning. It is learning by doing.”

James Engel[iv] summarized…“In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age.”

An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple

From a closer look at the words Jesus used, we see that the goal of every church is to help people become “a community of active, ongoing learners.”[v] It is not just to baptize or to teach as we are going out (though all of these are “hows” of the disciple making process). The goal, toward which a church should focus its attention and its resources is to produce people that are actively learning about their heavenly Father.

Still, this goal includes binding up their wounds, meeting their needs before they even know who Christ is, standing up for their justice and righting their wrongs. But all of these worthy actions if they become the goal, will make your mission misdirected. God’s goal, the purpose he has for every church, is to reconnect his wayward offspring to himself (the essence of the missio Dei). And, the church’s goal (Figure 5.6) is to foster this reunification by helping people become learners about a loving, seeking Father.

The Goal of the Church Defined

While the common church has mistaken many “hows” for the “goal,” Figure 5.6 is the goal against which the uncommon church will be measured. In our commissioning, Jesus has handed us a different measuring stick.

Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church

The goal of a church is …

To make active, ongoing learners.

(i.e. learning about a heavenly Father who loves them, sacrificed his Son for them and who wants to reunite and empower them.)

Jesus wants the uncommon church to focus upon reuniting his wayward offspring with him by making active, ongoing learners about his great love, sacrifice and future for them. And so, be careful not to make some of the following common missteps.

  • Teaching without learning: If a church is teaching many people, but few are actively learning over a long period of time, the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
  • Having learned once, but not learning now: If a person has learned once, perhaps in the past at school or as a child but is not learning now, then the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
  • Baptizing without ongoing learning: And, if the church is baptizing many souls, but there is little ongoing education about what it means to follow Christ, then that church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”

Excerpted from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health, chapter “How to Grow Learners.” Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 5 WHY LEARNers

Footnotes:

[i] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 486-487.

[ii] Donald McGavran, Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1988), p. 17.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Body Building Exercises for the Local Church (London: Falcon Press, 1979), p. 74.

[iv] James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979), 66.

[v] The “ongoing” emphasis in making disciples is created by both the preface of Matthew 28:18-20 (whereby Jesus declares his command is a result of non-temporal authority, v. 18) and by the aorist tense of make disciples, which can convey the sense of an action that should commence at once.

[i]I am not saying that winning souls to Christ is not important and central to God’s mission, for it is. As I have stated in the first chapters of this book (and in every one of my previous nine books) reuniting wayward offspring to their heavenly Father so they can receive salvation from their sin, gain new purpose and enter eternal life is the mission of God (i.e. missio Dei) in which we are called to participate (Matt. 28:19-20). However, the point I am making here is that “winning souls” is a supernatural connection that though we can help facilitate, is something only God can accomplish (see for instance Acts 2:47 where Luke writes, “The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved”). Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, gives his church not the task of soul-saving (he reserves that right for himself), but rather gives the church the task of “making learners about him.” If a church is making learners about God, then he can supernaturally connect with them through their growing knowledge of his love and bring them into a reconciled relationship with himself. Thus, in this chapter I will show that “making learners of Christ” is the task for which the church should aim, and when we connect people with their loving Father this way, he can add “daily to the community those who were being saved.”

[ii] David Bosch has rightly pointed out that you cannot fully understand the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 without an understanding of Matthew’s gospel as a whole. The reader who wants a fuller appreciation for the power and influence of the Great Commission in context should see David J. Bosch’s chapter “Matthew: Mission as Disciples-Making” in Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 20th ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), pp. 56-83.

[iii] Hudson Taylor quoted by Stan Toler, Practical Guide to Solo Ministry: How Your Church Can Thrive When You Lead Alone (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008), p. 136; C. T. Studd quoted by David l. Marshall, To Timbuktu and Beyond: A Missionary Memoir (New York: Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 87; William Carey quoted by A. Scott Moreau, Gary B. McGee and Gary R. Corwin in Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 201; and C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis (New York: HarperOne, 2002), p. 96.

[iv] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 274-275. A good way to think of this is that the participles (go, baptizing, teaching) tell “how” making disciples is done. Thus, to the question, “How do you make disciples?” one could answer “by going (means) and baptizing (manner) and teaching” (manner).

[v] The relationship between the three participles and the imperative “make disciples” has been described by Robert Culver as “the words translated ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’ are participles. While these participles are immensely important the imperative ‘make disciples’ is of superlative importance.” “What is the Church’s Commission,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, July 1968), p. 244.

[vi] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 280 states “a greater emphasis is placed on the action of the main verb than on the participle. That is, the participle is something of a prerequisite before the action of the main verb can occur” (italics Wallace). In other words, the “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching” are prerequisites that must occur before the action of the main verb (“making disciples”) can take place.

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention #Kingswood2018 #sermon

ARTICLES & Links to 37 published articles in Biblical Leadership Magazine by @BobWhitesel

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Click here for a list or click on titles below. 

 

Going to church in virtual reality

Here are some examples, ideas and cautions.
  Bob Whitesel


Understanding graffiti leadership

Millennials making a mark on the church and the culture.
  Bob Whitesel


Creating a balanced vision for your church

Here are principles for expanding church vision and meeting congregational, local and global needs.
  Bob Whitesel


4 attitudes to cultivate in a small group

Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.
  Bob Whitesel


4 biblical ways a leader can respond to difficult circumstances

One of the most vexing questions for a Christian leader is how to respond when a godly colleague or employee experiences bad things they didn’t appear to deserve.
  Bob Whitesel


How small groups help a church survive

Sometimes the bond of a small group helps the church persevere through conflict.
  Bob Whitesel


7 principles for launching multiple worship venues, campuses and times

Offering more can better connect various people to your community, but adding a new worship encounter also has its caveats.
  Bob Whitesel


What is “Wild Church” and where is it going?

A look inside more organic churches.
  Bob Whitesel


Key principles for understanding multi-cultural churches

To help our churches grow in the most ways possible, it helps to understand how we can journey toward reconciliation.
  Bob Whitesel


5 principles for making your church a haven

Here are five principles to focus your church on reflecting God’s love and reaching those who are hurting and longing for security.
  Bob Whitesel


5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence

The church is on a mission, and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons learned from failure

Do you ever think about the past, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities?
  Bob Whitesel


Helping others navigate the evangelism journey

To describe evangelism as a journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process, requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons from a Christian leadership enthusiast

What fills and fuels your Christian leadership? How do you keep your faith among the skeptics?
  Bob Whitesel


Understanding God’s role for a Millennial leader

Here are three attitudes of Millennial leaders about God’s role in their work.
  Bob Whitesel


3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead

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.
  Bob Whitesel


7 tips for introducing new ideas

Most attempts to introduce a new idea will not start the church on a new life-cycle, but rather split it into two smaller groups of which neither will survive.
  Bob Whitesel


Why churches need blue-ocean strategies

Being strategic has to do with your audience. What is your strategy and who does it involve?
  Bob Whitesel


Your leadership style under pressure

I’ve become convinced that leaders have a fallback behavior on which they rely when they are uncertain, conflicted and/or under pressure.
  Bob Whitesel


Nurturing millennial leadership attitudes

How does leadership look different today? Here are three attitudes and how they could benefit your ministry.
  Bob Whitesel


3 perils of modern leadership

Leadership is an interdependent mixture of intuition, experience, and inspiration. When it comes to modern leadership, here are some obstacles that get in the way.
  Bob Whitesel


Exploring the newness people crave

People usually sense a need for change immediately prior to the point of spiritual transformation. If God intends spiritual reconnection to be a reaction to crises, then how do we help people in the midst of crisis?
  Bob Whitesel


Why I don’t have a problem with segregated worship services, if reconciliation takes place at 11:30

It has been said that “10:30 on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.” I don’t have a problem with that if 11:30 is the most integrated time.
  Bob Whitesel


Spiritual transformation is pivotal in ministry balance

Transformation is not an optional prescription for the church, but pivotal upon which God intends the other ministry aspects to be built and balanced.
  Bob Whitesel


Fostering unity and diversity through learning

Creating an uncommon church that has both unity and diversity is a rarity. However, developing learners may be the key that takes your church in that direction.
  Bob Whitesel


Agenda questions to nurture leaders

Let’s look at some agenda questions that can stimulate spiritual discussion and learning.
  Bob Whitesel


Linking learners to the church community

Churches often mistake going, baptizing, and teaching (the hows) for the goal of making active, ongoing learners. So, with this in mind, let’s look at the hows of making active, ongoing learners.
  Bob Whitesel


What is the goal of the church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal. This is not a scientific poll because these churches need to grow and they realize this (or they wouldn’t be hiring a church growth consultant). But their answers may mirror yours.
  Bob Whitesel


Locate your focus in small groups

Since large gatherings can create excitement and attention, they often overshadow the key discipleship venue of small groups. To combat this, leaders must ensure that the church’s emphasis upon small groups is highlighted noticeably in official statements.
  Bob Whitesel


What is this talk about missional?

These are missional patterns that almost any church would want to embrace. But many people first react negatively toward the missional term because it is new and they do not fully know its meaning.
  Bob Whitesel


The cure for groups is S.M.A.L.L.

When it comes to groups, the cure is spelled: S.M.A.L.L., and the first step is surveying the types of groups you already have.
  Bob Whitesel


How to avoid a church split when introducing a new idea

For 20-plus years I have studied how to successfully employ intervention events. Here are my top seven tips for successfully doing so.
  Bob Whitesel


Why small groups work

The pages of history show ways small groups have been used. Learn how and why small groups promote both discipleship and church growth.
  Bob Whitesel


3 tactics to help you tackle ministry

To maintain a healthy balance between an inward and outward church focus is to tackle ministry needs.
  Bob Whitesel


3 unmet needs that could guide your ministry

Here is the way needs of spiritual seekers are best understood.
  Bob Whitesel


Discover how core competencies will empower your mission and vision

Why do so many lay leaders roll their eyes when a new pastor wants to re-edit the mission and vision statement?
  Bob Whitesel


4 traps of ingrown churches

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.
  Bob Whitesel


 

 

Eight (8) Research Proven, Field-tested Steps to Change a Church (seminar presentation w/ handouts)

8Steps4Change.church LOGO.pngby Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 6/21/15. (adapted and annotated by the author from his book with Mark DeYmaz, reMix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color, Abingdon Press, 2017).

So, what steps are required to transition a church?  Just 8 really.

John Kotter is a renowned and respected change coach who perfected eight steps for organizational change that have been applied successfully to thousands of organizational transitions.1  Harvard Business Review said, “Perhaps nobody understands the anatomy of organizational change better than retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.”2

NOTE:  Here is a link Kotter’s seminal 1995 article and #InfoGraphic on change and the best overview of this Harvard professor’s change methods.

I have consulted or mentored hundreds of church transitions. And, I have found Kotter’s eight stages to be reliable, valid and important steps for a healthy church transition to living color.

Here are the key phases for implementing the principles and procedures of a church revitalization.

figure-whitesel-kotters-8-steps-for-church

8 Steps to Transforming Your Church 3

1. “Establishing a Sense of Urgency.”

  • It is important to begin with a period of time where you acquaint the congregants with the need and Biblical mandate for transitioning to a church living color.  Because of the urgent situation, many church leaders will be tempted to ignore this step and launch headlong into transition.  Yet, in my consulting work I have found that this step is critical.  Pray, study, research and dialogue on the importance of a church transition first.
  • Share the urgency is multiple venues.  Don’t just use sermons, but let this be the topic of Bible studies, discussion groups, prayer groups, small groups and Sunday School classes.

““Son of man, I’ve made you a watchman for the family of Israel. Whenever you hear me say something, warn them for me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You are going to die,’ and you don’t sound the alarm warning them that it’s a matter of life or death, they will die and it will be your fault. I’ll hold you responsible. But if you warn the wicked and they keep right on sinning anyway, they’ll most certainly die for their sin, but you won’t die. You’ll have saved your life.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-19‬ ‭MSG‬‬ https://www.bible.com/bible/97/ezk.3.17-19.msg

  • Remember, urgency is a key.  Congregants must understand that we are today at the point where changes in communities across North America requires churches to stand up for Biblical principles of growth and change.

2. “Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition.”

  • The second step which you must successfully navigate is the development of an influential and guiding coalition.  Even though you might think you know the situation the best, due to history, education or background: a church is a communal organization and leadership works best when there is a communal leadership.  Find those that resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation.
  • Look for “persons of peace.”  When Jesus told his disciples to spread out and take their message to the byways and villages of the Israel, he suggested they rely upon persons of “peace” they might encounter (Luke 10:6).  The Greek word for peace is derived from the word “to join” and it literally means a person who helps people from divergent viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result.4 So, enlist people who are “peacemakers” who have demonstrated they can bring warring and opposing parties together.
  • Listen to the naysayers, even though they may not be part of your guiding coalition, your coalition should hear them out.  This is a step that if overlooked will usually splinter the congregation. This is because research has shown that unless you go to the naysayers and listen to them, they will feel left out of the consultative process and eventually fight the change.5  So go to those who will most affected or displaced and listen to them.  Hearing them out has been shown to create new networks of dialogue that can prevent polarization.  But, you must go to them early in the vision creating process. And, because they have a long history and historical friendships in the church, they will not leave (even if you want them to). This video illustrates how getting someone who is attached to your (spiritual) family to leave is not easy to do.

https://youtu.be/0pKymngWgJw

3. “Creating a Vision.”

  • People must see the future before they can work toward it.  The goal is to have an easy to read, clear vision statement in no more than a paragraph.
  • Get all of the members of your guiding coalition to help you draft, refine and edit your vision. NOTE: vision & mission are often confused, but very different. At this link I explain how to differentiate them: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/change-why-it-wont-happen-unless-you-understand-the-important-difference-between-mission-vision/
  • Many times church leaders rely solely on a written statement of vision. While this is helpful (if drawn up with input from your guiding coalition, see above) you must create a vision with the following “communication elements” too.

NOTE:  A vision should be a “visual representation” of what the church will look like in 5 years.  USE:  (a.) A small group to create, (b) a short statement to communicate.  Here is an article on “The Art of Crafting a 15-word Strategy Statement” from Harvard Business Review  Good vision statements and Poor Vision Statements (compared) which states there are …”two requirements:

  • Focus: What you want to offer to the target customer and what you don’t;
  • Difference: Why your value proposition is divergent from competitive alternatives.”

4. “Communicating the Vision.”

  • Use all communication vehicles available to you: written, vocal, electronic, narrative, arts, mixed-media, etc.
  • Experience it first-hand by taking your leaders and congregants to places where turnaround ministry is being done. In these locales congregants can see first hand, ask questions and experience the heart of a ministry that is being revitalized. Vision can be communicated best by picturing something rather than just writing out a paragraph of technical terms.
  • stone-stack-sign-1500x430Use stories to help people picture change.  Scott Wilcher while studying change found that successful change is more than twice as likely to occur if you attach a story to depict the change.6  In the Bible you can find dozens of Biblical stories that depict change.  Attach these stories to the vision to make the vision “come to life in a story” (after all that is what Jesus did with his compelling use of parables).

NOTE:  Read more of 12Stone’s story here.  CLICK here for a HANDOUT >>> HANDOUT Whitesel – Metaphor (popular) copy about how metaphor increases change from 30% success rate to 85% success rate.

SLIDE Metaphor 85% = 30% Change based on Wilcher

5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.”

  • Delegate your power to others.  Too many times passionate church leaders are tempted to go it alone. One pastor said, “Jesus had to do it alone.”  And atonement and redemption were definitely things that only the Son of God could accomplish. But remember, he rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his ministry (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9, 10).  You too must delegate to those you have mentored.
  • Create accountability.  Because the Good News (Matt. 28:19-20) is so essential, it requires that evaluation and accountability be central too.  Have regular checkup discussions with clear objectives.
  • Remember, because change can be polarizing, oversight and accountability for progress are essential.

6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.”

NOTE:  This is probably the most overlooked step.

  • This is the key step most overlooked.  Kotter discovered, and we have confirmed in our church consulting, that short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision.
  • Short-term wins are projects, programs and processes that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet).  But they demonstrate the validity of the transition in a quick, temporary way.  Thus, they pave the way for long-term wins.
  • Many short-term wins will convince reticent constituents of long-term legitimacy of the new direction.
  • Use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to investigate and launch new directions in ministries.  Then as task forces prove their effectiveness they can be transitioned into more permanent committees.

7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.”

  • As noted above, wins even in the short-term can give the leadership coalition the social capital to make structural changes.
  • Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t got enough buy-in from hesitant members and/or most of the congregation.
  • Only after your short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies.

NOTE:  There is a “continuum” or “progress toward” better models for a multicultural (or multiethnic) church.  All are found in The Healthy Church (Wesleyan Publishing House).  Here are three from good … better … and best: 5 Models of Miltiethnic Churches

8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.”

  • As your ministry moves in the exciting direction of revitalized ministry, encourage an organizational structure that promotes this in the future.
  • Institutionalizing principles of church transformation will allow you to reach out to new people and cultures as they develop in your community.
  • Finally for long-term health and viability, the revitalized church of must acquire a personality and reputation as a church of consistency in theology but change in Godly methodology.

You can download the article here >> WHITESEL ARTICLE 8 Steps to Changing a Church

Below is the slide I use in my presentations >>

figure-whitesel-kotters-8-steps-for-church

ENDNOTES:

1 John Kotter, Leading Change, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

2  Editor’s note to John Kotter, ibid. Harvard Business Review.

3  John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

4 James Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1515.

5 Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Scott Wilcher, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership to Transform your Workplace, Ph.D. dissertation (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013).

VIDEO of Scott Wilchert explaining the role of metaphor/story in communicating change:

Scott Wilchert, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013), video at this link.

ADDITIONAL FOOTNOTES for PowerPoint slides:

F. J. Barrett and D.L. Cooperrider, Generative metaphor intervention: A new approach for working with systems divided by conflict and caught in defensive perception, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 1990) Vol. 26, pp. 219-239

Julia Balogun and Veronica Hope Hailey, Exploring Strategic Change, 3rd Edition (New York: Pierson Publishing, 2008).

G. Bushe and A. Kassam,  When is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? A Meta-Case Analysis, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 2005) Vol. 41, pp. 161-18.

Sohail Inayatullah, “From Organizational to Institutional Change,” On the Horizon (London: Emerald Publishing, 2005), Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 46-53.

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolOfTheology 8Steps4Change.church 8Steps4Change.com

 

 

VISION & This Christmas … give your “vision statement” 3 elements that make it whole: how to meet congregational, local & global needs simultaneously

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/17/18.
In my article published last week in Biblical Leadership Magazine, I’ve found that helpful vision statements must include 3 phrases …
  1. helping non-churchgoers,
  2. emphasizing conversion
  3. and organizing disciple-making.
Many mission statements focus on one aspect of the Good News, rather than all three.
Learn below how to create a “comprehensive” vision statement that won’t leave out any of the Good News.  And find more in a practical and holistic theology of evangelism in my hardcover book Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (published by Wesleyan Publishing House) which was Outreach Magazine Runner-up for Resource of the Year.  It is available on sale at these links:

And read more of the book from which this article is excerpted, titled: The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart available below:

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 10.21.10 AM.png

But the needs of those who are outside of the congregation pale in comparison with those with the church. One writer starkly reminded us that, “when a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the words that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”

To help visualize this three-fold heart for congregational needs, local need and global needs, the church can be pictured as a three-chambered heart in Figure 7.4.

Figure 7.4 Picturing the Conglocal Heart of a Congregation

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In Figure 7.4 congregational needs create a foundation, depicted in the lower section of the heart. Such placement is not to suggest primacy, but only to remind us that a foundation of health can better help a congregation minister to others locally and globally.

Conglocal Balance In Your Financial Expenditures

  A key element of balanced conglocal ministry is balancing your fiscal expenditures in each category. In one client church the pastor stood up and boldly proclaimed that the church was now giving 20% of its income to local (10%) and global (10%) ministry. While this is a step in the right direction, the church’s lavish marble atrium reminded visitors that 80% of this congregation’s income was still spent upon itself.

If churches are to foster authentic reconciliation between haves and have-nots as well as across physical chiasms, then churches must start balancing their spending. The conglocal model provides a visual cue to churches of a church’s three-fold fiscal obligations. In a church with a growing conglocal heart you will find an increasing balance in expenditures toward meeting the needs of not just congregants, but also the local and global communities.

Conglocal Balance In Your Church Life

More than balancing need-meeting in financial expenditures, it is important to balance your fellowship congregationally, locally and globally. Most churches spend a great deal of their time getting to know the needs of those within the congregation. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it can often be out of balance. A congregation must also regularly share life and interaction with those who don’t attend their church as well as those who don’t live nearby.  

Research shows that face-to-face encounters help people from different cultures and socio-economic levels accept and support one another. Such face-to-face encounters with local and global people who don’t attend your church is an important tactic to maintain a conglocal balance. Still, some readers may say that they work 40+ hours a week with non-churchgoers and shouldn’t this be sufficient? But regrettably, in most of those workplace interactions there is very little sharing of spiritual values. Plus, in many workplaces discussing spiritual beliefs is discouraged. Thus, the conglocal church intentionally creates opportunities for local and global non-churchgoers to graciously discuss their faith journeys.

For example, one church cancelled its Sunday morning service, telling its congregants to go into the community to “find a need and fill it.” The pastor’s intention was to get the congregants out into the community seeking the understand and meet the needs of non-churchgoers. That Sunday hundreds of congregants spread out across the city to meet needs in Jesus’ name. 

While sharing this story at a seminar, I noticed the assembled Wesleyan pastors looked uncomfortable. The General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon was actually seated behind me as I spoke (which if you didn’t know Dr. Lyon, could be a disquieting prospect). At the end my seminar she took the podium and addressed my puzzlement over the reaction of the pastors. “I know why some of you were uncomfortable with the idea of canceling church and going out to serve the community,” Dr. Lyon began. “I know it is because if you did, you couldn’t count those people in your monthly attendance totals. Now, I don’t know if I have authority to do this. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you send your people out to serve non-churchgoers on a Sunday, then you can count every person they touch has having been in Jesus’ presence that day.” Kindhearted smiles swept across the seminar participants, as they recognized that this general superintendent would not let customs stand in the way of reaching out to those in need.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/creating-a-balanced-vision-for-your-church/

CHURCH CHANGE SECRETS & Number 5: Listen to the naysayers, even though they may not be part of your guiding coalition, your coalition should hear them out.  This is a step that if overlooked, will usually splinter the congregation. – Bob Whitesel DMin PhD in his book: re:MIX – Transitioning your church to living color, Abingdon Press, 2017)