SMALLER GROUPS & 4 Attitudes to Cultivate in a Small Group by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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

1. Trust and candidness 

Patrick Lencioni, a well-known author on business management and leadership, was right. Before any team can thrive, it must at its core be bound together by trust. He defines trust in a specific way, saying, “Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.” In other words, Heart Attitude #1 means I trust that I can be vulnerable, open and exposed with the group regarding my fears, hopes and failures.

Regrettably, such vulnerability and trust do not characterize all groups, such as groups that are focused on tasks or administration. But, what if it did? What if most of a church’s small groups could transition into heart-to-heart groups. What if administrative boards, such as trustees who meet together regularly and iron out difficult problems, could begin to develop a trust where “there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group?”

2. Accountability to one another and the mission 

Another important component that Lencioni emphasizes is “the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.”

However, the Christian has another accountability that is even greater than team accountability. The Christian is held accountable by God for their participation in the mission of God (the missio Dei), i.e., to participate in the loving heavenly Father’s quest to reconnect with His wayward offspring. Therefore, this attitude stresses an accountability not only to one another, but also for increasing our accountability to God’s mission of reconciling humanity to himself.

3. Discussion with conflict resolution

While chitchat is unbridled in many small group settings, it has been my observation that conflict resolution is not. Lencioni bemoans that most people avoid conflict, and “the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”

He has also observed that healthy small groups encourage open and freewheel discussion with give-and-take, disagreement without disparagement and challenge with compromise.

Scripture, along with John Wesley, reminds us that such interpersonal conflict is part of life:

Proverbs 27:17 observes, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (MSG).

And, John Wesley said about this passage that a non-churchgoer can be sharpened by “the company or conversion of a friend.”

Scriptures also remind us that unresolved conflict among Christians is not healthy, nor God’s intent. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”

And the psalmist portrays unity with wonderful poetic imagery:

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life” (Psalm 133:1-3 MSG).

Amid such depictions and exhortations, unity in the church is still not common and will require the ability to openly discuss and resolve conflict.

4.  Results

If heart-to-heart groups don’t have clearly defined results or outcomes, then the group may drift aimlessly until it degenerates into self-seeking and cliquishness. Lencioni calls this the “ultimate dysfunction of a team.” The reader will be all too familiar with church groups that have deteriorated into self-serving rumor mills and self-preservation societies that are unwelcoming to outsiders. The key to heart-healthy small groups is to define the specific objectives of each group and then to measure it until it has attained them.

Thus, the final key to helping groups transition into heart-to-heart groups is to ensure that each and every group creates specific objectives and then at least yearly checks to see if they attained them.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/

 

SMALL GROUPS & How Small Groups Help Any Church Survive by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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“You can tell we hate to leave,” began Margaret. “It’s just that this sanctuary is such a comfortable place.”

“It wasn’t always like this,” interjected Mark. “Dark, dank … smelly. The sanctuary had the smell of death about it.”

As I looked around I marveled at how different the sanctuary of Armstrong Chapel Church looked today. Dark red padded pews, newly restored stained-glass windows, and polished woodwork. To this generation, most in their 70s, the beauty and care of the sanctuary represented a desire to honor God. And while younger generations might disagree, who was I to say that God was not honored by their loving care of their house of worship?

“Come this way,” beckoned Gerry. “Some still like to go out the back, but I prefer the side doors into the fellowship hall.  It reminds me what God can do through a small Sunday school class.” As I passed through the double doors, I was greeted by a large and bright atrium with a glass roof. Here were milling about over 700 people, some lounging on comfortable sofas and others chatting cheerfully on lounge chairs scattered across the room. Still others laughed across café tables while sipping coffee from the church’s café.

“The two other services got out a bit earlier than us today,” continued Gerry. “But that is okay. There is still plenty of time to fellowship. Get a cup of coffee and I’ll find my daughter and grandkids.  I want you to meet them.” And with that Gerry disappeared into the a crowd of laughter, merriment and smiles.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” came Margaret’s voice from behind. “To think, we were a church barely alive. Just over 15 of us in a Sunday school class and most of us serving on church committees too. Only about 30 total in church on Sundays.”

“This is a testimony to your church,” I began.

“Not quite,” interrupted Margaret. “It was the bonds of that Sunday School class that lead to this growth. We banded together and worked hard through the series of pastors the district sent us. We relied on each other in that Sunday School, and slowly the church began to grow. It has been 11 years and now we have three sanctuaries, almost all full.

“But, I still prefer our old sanctuary,” added Gerry, returning with two grandkids in tow. “We kept the old sanctuary just the way it was. But I’m glad we offer other worship options too. They connect with a lot of different ages.”

“How did you come up with your strategy: books, programs or what other churches used?” I asked.

“Partly,” came Margaret’s reply. “Our growth plan really came out of the environment of our Sunday School. It was a weekly place for us leaders to fellowship, dream, pray and plan. I can honestly say that our weekly Sunday school meetings were the place where we supported each other to grow this church. Oops, its almost time for Sunday school. Couldn’t miss it, for I still need it.”

More than a small group: A leadership laboratory

The story above illustrates how a group can bond so remarkably and deeply that they can survive deadly attacks upon a church’s heart. But not all small groups attain this inter-reliance and perseverance.

I learned from members of that Sunday school class, that their small group had bonded after many tough years where a succession of inexperienced pastors had almost killed the congregation. “Our Sunday school was the place we worked out what to do next,” remembered Margaret. “And it was the place where we sought God, insight from His word and advice from one another,” added Gerry.

For them, this was not just a Sunday School class but also a place for them to mull over the week’s challenges, seek biblical insights and learn from one another. In many ways, this Sunday school was their leadership laboratory.

This was a remarkable type of small group and one which more churches would benefit from utilizing.

Small groups customarily include less than 20 people, meet on a semi-regular basis and have participants who:

• Recognize their group as a sub-group within a larger organization.

• Have an informal or formal structure, such as a regular meeting time or place, a schedule, etc.

• Share a sense of inter-reliance and mutual dependence

• Communicate more intimately than they would in a larger group.

• Dream, plan and innovate in a supportive environment.

• Influence one another and stick together.

• Feel that their most intimate needs can be met through the group’s help.

What is a heart-to-heart group?

A “heart-to-heart group” is a good way to describe groups that meet some or most of the above seven criteria. Participants are sharing at a deep emotional and heart level. And, this intimacy and inter-reliance makes them the idea venue for spiritual questioning, maturity and creativity.

As we saw in the story, heart-to-heart groups play an important role in helping people stay connected to a church and plan for its future even when the church is undergoing conflict, challenges and discord. Here are some of the benefits of small groups:

Benefits of heart-to-heart groups

1. It was in small intimate group settings that Jesus:

  • Answered His disciples’ questions about theology, history and the future (Matthew 24:1-3).
  • Modeled for them healing and how to pray for those in need (Matthew 10:5-10).
  • Rebuked the disciples’ willful attitudes and ideas (Luke 16:13).

2. Researchers have found that in healthy churches:

  • 77 percent of church attendees say their small group participation is very important for them (Stetzer and Rainer).
  • 64 percent say new members are immediately taught about the importance of small groups (Stetzer and Rainer).
  • “A member is almost guaranteed to leave the church or become inactive in the church if he or she does not get involved in an ongoing small group” (Rainer).

3. Secular researchers have found that in healthy organizations:

  • “The small group is the unit of transformation” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
  • “(Small groups) will remain the basic unit of both performance and change because of their proven capacity to accomplish what other units cannot” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
  • “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (M. Mead).

Because small groups are so effective in helping people support one another and develop closer relationships, they have been a reoccurring theme in church history. In actuality, any small group of people that meets together on a semi-regular basis is a candidate for becoming a heart-to-heart group— Bible groups, prayer groups, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, worship teams, sports teams, administrative committees, etc. Consider how you may implement these types of group in the settings where you lead.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-small-groups-help-a-church-survive/

 

CHANGE & The Kind of Leader You Need If You Want to Bring About Change by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/19/20.

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To answer the question of why our leaders are not good at bringing about change, we discover the reason is because the tactical leaders—those key go-betweens among the strategic and relational leaders—are missing.

While both strategic and relational leaders are still needed, neither have the requisite skills of analysis, step-by-step planning, number-crunching and detail management to bring a change to fruition. This is the contribution of the tactical leaders. Thus, typically in our churches we have the following three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders

They see the need and the future. They have a limited idea of how to get there, but they have been exposed to various models to accomplish change. However, strategic leaders do not typically have the patience to analyze, fine-tune, crunch-the-numbers, tweak, perfect, evaluate and adjust a strategy.

Subsequently, strategic leaders often try to just apply (e.g., franchise) a strategy that has worked elsewhere. The strategic leader may purchase step-by-step manuals for relational leaders. And while this is a good starting place, because tactical leaders who can adjust the methodology for the church’s own unique scenario are not involved, the canned strategy is often abandoned with people saying, “That doesn’t work here.”

Again, the problem is not the strategic leaders or the relational leaders. They are both doing their jobs. The problem is created because an important linking and planning element of leaders is missing: the tactical leaders and their organizational skills.

Tactical leaders

They then become our crucial and missing link in effective change. If they are missing, change strategies are not adapted to the local context and the process is unorganized.

Relational leaders

In military jargon these are the “boots on the ground,” meaning the frontline workers who must adjust the tactics they are given. They are relational teams of workers, who derive much of their satisfaction from both their teammates and their visible accomplishments.

Relational leaders may also volunteer to be tactical leaders because relationships are so important to them they do not want to see the strategic leader in a quandary. They may say something like “Pastor, I know you are in a spot here. So I’ll help you out.”

If a relational leader says this, interview that person. Then, if this relational leaders does not have the analytical, diagnostic and methodical skills to create and manage an elaborate plan, graciously decline their offer. To thrust relational leaders into tactical positions will frustrate them. Eventually, due to their gracious and relational nature, they will quietly fade away from their failed tactical task.

Change is difficult because tactical leaders are missing

Why then does change so often fail in congregations? It has been my observation that it is because strategic leaders (often pastors) try to orchestrate the tactical process. Often if a strategic leader in the role of a pastor or a department head tries to move the church forward with some change, the congregants will become frustrated because of a lack of precision in the plan. The plan to them will appear too nebulous and imprecise.

At the same time the strategic leader will expect the relationally oriented leaders to create a plan. And though the relational leaders are the key to the success of the process, their emphasis upon relationships usually trumps their interest in the administrative details, budgeting, volunteer recruitment and evaluation that is required.

The answer is that change needs the critical link between strategic leader and relational leaders—tactical leadership. Therefore, to succeed with change, it is important that the pastor develop those tactical leaders who can map-out the change processes.

This is the seventh article in a series of articles on 3-STRand Leadership. Check out the sixth, “Don’t make future plans without a tactical leader” by Bob Whitesel. Click here for footnotes.

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007).

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BALANCE & How to Balance Ministry & Personal Life by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine. #JohnWesley #EnthusiastBook

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feelings for Sophy, she made clear her intention was to remain single. However, she was engaged to a reportedly mean and violent man. When John asked Sophy about this, she replied, “I am every way unhappy. I won’t have Tommy, for he is a bad man. And I can have none else.” Facing such a marital and spiritual predicament, Sophy asked John to tutor her in spirituality. An affectionate relationship began to take shape.

John fell in love with Sophy, writing in his journal how he was charmed by “her words, her eyes, her air, her every motion and gesture.” But such emotions seemed to draw him away from his singular fixation on ministry. He felt his affection for Sophy was dividing his attention for ministry, and, in addition, she was betrothed to another. Thus began John’s struggle. John sketched out reasons not to marry Sophy: (a) she was already engaged, (b) he was absorbed in a demanding ministry to Native Americans, and (c) she had declared her desire never to marry but to serve Christ alone. John’s methodological mind devised rules, resolutions, and reasons that built a wall between him and the woman he loved. 

John told Sophy that he had decided not to make any decision until he had established a ministry to the Native Americans. Her response was cool, to say the least. Shortly after, she ended the tutoring. Then Sophy informed John that she had consented to a marriage proposal from a ham-fisted and irreligious Mr. Williamson, “unless you [John] have anything to object.” John wrote in his journal, “to see her no more, that thought was as the piercings of a sword.” But he felt he must choose ministry over marriage. 

Since his first encounter with Sophy, when she nursed him back to health, John sensed that her spirituality and tenderness were part of the support he needed to pursue ministry in the New World. Yet by seeing these two relationships as competitive rather than complementary, Wesley made a ministry error common among young leaders. Focusing solely on the needs of others precluded him from seeing his need for a supportive soul mate. 

Lesson One 

Ministry and family are not competitive forces but complementary ones.

John’s task was so daunting that he rarely took time away from his work, which created strain and ill health, and led to poor choices. The first lesson from his experience is that God provides friends and spouses as a support network for ministry. Just as God would revive the dry bones of Israel, God had provided support to John, he just didn’t utilize it.  Trying to do ministry without the assistance of others, regardless how important the ministry may be, will lead to impaired results.

Lesson Two 

Methodology can become a cage if not tempered by a sensitive heart.

When John found himself thinking of Sophy too often, he set up rules, resolutions, and lists of reasons not to take a wife. His heart was divided, and it destroyed his sense of peace, which eventually affected his judgment. But God promises to create in us new hearts, able to balance laws and love. To the Israelites, infatuated with their rules, God stated, “I will give them a single heart, and I will put a new spirit in them. I will remove the stony hearts from their bodies and give them hearts of flesh, so that they may follow my regulations and carefully observe my case laws” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Application

For personal devotion, read the questions and meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Whom do you look to as a support for your ministry? Name them, and write down the last time you were with them. Did you seek their prayers, encouragement, and a listening ear? After his vision of the dry bones, God reminded Ezekiel that God would unite a nation that hitherto had been estranged (see Ezekiel 37:15–22).

Draw up a plan for regular times of prayer, Bible study, and encouragement with a support network. Create one from scratch if you must. Add to this plan an ongoing schedule to ensure that you do not neglect those that support you.

Ask yourself, “Do I depend on rules and regulations to keep me focused? What part does my love of God and the love I receive from others play in this? Do these requirements I put upon myself sometimes steal my time away from accountability by family and friends?” 

Accountability requires more than good methods; it must include people too. What part of your support network is also your accountability network? Again, write down a schedule for being in contact with your accountability network to ensure that you are held accountable.

Excerpted with permission from Enthusiast! Finding a Faith That Fills, ©BobWhitesel, Wesleyan Publishing House, 2018, pp. 63-67.

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