LEADERSHIP & How Church Change Drove a Family Away by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 10/16/19.D4383A9A-4C69-47B2-B7F6-054A5DC30650.jpeg

It just happened one Sunday in 1962. My dad stopped going to church. Mother and I still attended, at least for the next year or so. But soon, our entire family no longer frequented the church my parents had attended since they were married.

Dad had been the head usher for the second of three Sunday services in this church of 1,500 attendees. In that role, he had organized 16-20 men each Sunday to receive the offering and help congregants find seats. Planning was minimal. Dad was supervised by Bill, the church’s Usher Supervisor who recruited, selected, trained and mentored ushers. Bill was an engineer for Delco-Remy, where he led an entire department in the burgeoning lighting division.

However, my father’s duties as head usher for the second service were more straightforward. Dad had to ensure that each usher had enough bulletins, that ushers were at all entrances, and on occasion he had to conscript ushers from the audience if someone was missing. This was his close-knit fellowship, and he often remarked that not since his World War II days had he enjoyed such camaraderie.

Dad also prayed over the offering. And because his prayer never changed, I can recall it to this day; Gerald was a relational leader who liked consistency, uniformity and reliability. Because he exemplified these traits, he had been head usher of the second service for four years.

Why would a man of such consistency and reliability suddenly disconnect himself from his church?

As a child I never understood, nor inquired. But, once grown I had occasion to ask my dad about his departure. Gerald’s disappearance was due to an honor. The faithful discharge of his duties as a head usher, had brought him to the attention of the church leaders. When Bill, the Usher Supervisor quit, Gerald was the natural choice to replace him. After all, my dad was head usher for the largest of three services. He was faithful. Dad was honored, but also wary. None-the-less after some gentle prodding by the church leaders he was “rewarded” with a promotion to Usher Supervisor.

In this new capacity, Dad was now thrust into a leadership role that required oversight of 60 plus men. His duties now included scheduling and organizing ongoing usher training, recruitment and oversight as well as replacing ineffective ushers. Dad had enjoyed his duties as head usher of one service, but now his responsibilities doubled if not tripled. While his previous duties had been largely relational, now his tasks were increasingly organizational. Dad missed the interpersonal nature of his previous duties, and now saw himself increasingly isolated from the fellowship and camaraderie he had previously relished.

Additionally, the usher ministry suffered. Dad found it difficult to schedule pertinent and timely training, and he never felt comfortable with the recruitment and dismissal process. He was a man everyone liked, and he found it hard not to utilize a willing usher candidate, simply because of lack of skill, decorum or call.

The church leaders noticed this decline in the usher’s ministry. And, they subtly tried to work with Gerald. They tried to develop him into a director, who could oversee 60 plus men, and three different worship services. In the end, this was not Dad’s gifting or calling. He had been a successful sergeant during World War II, and he had successfully led a small team of men. But when it came to the oversight, tactical planning, recruitment and paperwork necessary to administer a burgeoning ministry, Dad did not enjoy it, nor did he feel he was called to do it.

The church leaders did not want to see Gerald quit, but the atmosphere of pressure and disappointment became too much. Without an avenue for retreat, one day Gerald simply called the church office and resigned. Dad was a gracious and loving man. But, the feelings that he had let down his church and lost his camaraderie were too much. Dad couldn’t bear to see the looks of the other usher who he felt he had failed as their leader, and thus returning to church was too uncomfortable to bear. He simply faded away, and soon our family did as well.

In adulthood, I began investigating leadership styles and in hindsight always wondered what happened to my Dad’s volunteerism. He had been so content and fulfilled as a sergeant in the military. But at church, his involvement had led to disappointment and failure. As I researched leadership abilities, I found that the military had an insightful understanding of leadership sectors, that might benefit the church. And, it has to do with three military leadership categories: strategic leaders, tactical leaders and relational leaders.[i]

[i] Within military leadership theories there are many nuanced categories. However, to keep the present discussion from becoming too unwieldy, we will focus on the three broad categories of strategic leadership, tactical leadership and operational (i.e. relational) leadership. For a good overview of the historical importance and tensions of the top levels of military leadership see, Mark A. Stoler, Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II (Chapel Hill, No. Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000).

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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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-church-change-drove-a-family-away/

MOSIAC CHURCHES & How Millennial leadership grows mosaic churches by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 3/20/19.

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Millennial leadership recognizes the need for cultural sensitivity, awareness and autonomy.  Though there is a healthy respect for different traditions, there is also a concern that the body of Christ not be splintered into smaller and less holistic factions. Millennial leaders see two types of church planting and increasingly utilize internal instead of external church plants.

External church plants

When modern leaders think of church planting, they usually think about launching a new and autonomous congregation to reach a new culture. However, many millennial leaders have seen their parents’ churches use a “church planting excuse” to push out a different culture. Whether it be a generational culture or an ethnic culture, these ”forced plants” often don’t survive. The millennial leader often wonders, why can’t the church just get along and stay together as a spiritual network?

Internal church plants (or network churches)

This is an increasingly popular strategy that plants new sub-congregations, but keeps them part of one inclusive and multicultural congregation. Called “network churches,” these can be multiple-site and multiple-venue churches, and as such, they are examples of internal church planting.

Advantages of internal church plants

Sharing finances: In the business world this is called an “economy of scale,” which means that a network of sub-congregations will have more financial resources together than if each were independent organizations. For example, if emergency funds are needed by one sub-congregation, the network can provide those funds more readily and smoothly because they are all part of one organizational system.

Sharing facilities: Internal church plants that employ a multi-site approach foster a sharing of facilities, technology and physical resources. This can help fulfill John M. Perkins’ goal of “redistribution.”

Sharing staff:  Network churches benefit from sharing support staff, allowing sub-congregations to avoid duplicating their workforces.

Culture sharing:  This is a strategic advantage. More cultural sharing will take place if multiple ethnicities are meeting in the same building and sharing the same budget, etc. than will take place if an emerging culture is forced to move down the street to an independent church plant.

Disadvantages of internalchurch plants 

They can become divisive:This is often cited as a main concern.  But, if they exit the church, it is divided anyway.  Division can be addressed by having different preachers at different venues/times share the same message and by holding regular unity events.

Marginalized cultures:Often the largest cultures will try, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, to dominate the smaller culture.  Yet, this should not deter a congregation from practicing a ministry that reconciles different cultures in the same church.

One way to address this is to require proportional representation on decision-making committees.

If these caveats can be addressed, the end result is the mosaic church, where the glue of being one united organization unites different cultural expressions. A true image of a “mosaic” is created, where different colors and shades create a unified picture when viewed from a distance, but up close reveals a collage of different cultures working in unity and harmony.

This Millennial “graffiti” leadership is full of colorful layering and icons that when combined produce a new multifaceted, yet integrated image. This is the church.

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

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-millennial-leadership-grows-mosaic-churches/

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)

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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)

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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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 3.34.28 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 3.34.28 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 10.39.18 AM.png

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)

CHANGE & Why it won’t happen unless you understand the important difference between “mission” & “vision.”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

… Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22] Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission: A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry. Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring John Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future(New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,”MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN #CLIOrlando2018

WORSHIP & How the Hebrew Word Tells Us Worship is Not “Neighbor-directed” … but “God-directed”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

Healthy Church Cover sm(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius(Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

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

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

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

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

Good churches have this problem too

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

Good reasons that trap churches into ingrown behavior

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

History Trap—A church with a long history. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is your church ingrown?

Check all that apply to your church:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience.

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

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

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

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

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

From these stories emerge at least two lessons.

1. Early success can lead to overconfidence. 

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

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

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

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

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

Consider what God’s Word says about this:

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

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

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

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

Consider these questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Ibid., 140.

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

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

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

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

Photo source: istock

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

 

UNITY & 5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence in your city

There are many ways to describe the church: a fellowship, a congregation and a community. But, I’ve noticed a refreshing alternative among those who lead young churches. They often find the terms fellowship, community, etc. as too associated with a complex organizational structure. Instead, they often use a word borrowed from the developing world: tribe.

At a church called “The Tribe of Los Angeles,” a young attendee described it this way, “Tribe tells people we are doing something different at church. It means we are close, like a family. And, it also says we are in this together in this, (that) we are small but mobile, that we have a closely held, common task. It’s just like a tribe in the developing world that must work together to survive.”  

I find something refreshing in terms that sum up for younger people a family-like dependence. Now, I am not recommending that churches adopt such terminology to be voguish or appear relevant. But I find that using the term on occasion reminds us all that the church is on a mission and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.

The power of unity

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed that all believers, throughout all time, would demonstrate a supernatural unity. And, He stressed that this unity would amaze the world:

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us….
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me. (MSG)

Such a passionate desire from the Son of God cannot easily be dismissed. But this was more than just a longing. Jesus emphasized a purpose in this unity when He stated, “Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them” (v. 23, MSG). Let’s look at a few practical ways that a church can give evidence that God is working through it.

1. Unity supports God’s mission

God’s mission (sometimes called the missio Dei) is that He wants to reunite with His wayward offspring. Jesus made it clear that only through His sacrifice was this reconciliation possible (John 14:6-7, Romans 3:23-24, 5:8, 6:23). And through the Church supports this mission in many ways, there are at least three important ways church unity contributes to reconnecting people with their heavenly Father.

2. Unity influence the community.

Jesus wanted His church to be so loving, forgiving and united that the secular world would take notice. He desired the evidence of this amazement to not be theatrics, but to “give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent me and loved them” (John 17:23 MSG).  And so, when a church is uncommonly united, this contrasts with the disunity found in most worldly organizations. It reminds the watching world that something supernatural is at work in our churches, and it models to the world the undivided nature of God.

3. Unity can impact cross-denominational influence.

I’ve noticed that church leaders often influence other congregations by packaging innovative programs and selling them as growth inducers to other congregations.  But, too often these are only tactical programs, that may work only for a short time. Churches who latch onto such tactical programs often adopt tactical names, such as Seeker-friendly Churches, Cell Churches, Missional Churches, Body-life Churches or Samaritan Churches. But, as seen in Jesus’ prayer, it might be more fitting for networks of churches to be known for their unity more than their innovations.  Congregations that are united can model important attributes of forgiveness, harmony and agreement that the secular world finds hard to muster.

4. Unity influences a congregation.

A united congregation provides an environment where congregants can spend more time and energy focusing on the needs of those outside of the organization, rather than scrutinizing the differences of those within. I have often observed churches so focused on their internal squabbles that they miss (and usually repel) visitors and seekers who God is sending their way. But when churches become more united, they recycle more time and energy into the dire problems of those not yet reunited with their heavenly Father.

5. Unity influences non-churchgoers.

The secular realm can be a bastion of antagonism, rancor and factions. Little wonder that weary souls worn down by this often search for an environment where divisiveness is minimal. Many hope to find in Christ’s Church this harbor. If they instead encounter false-compassion and hypocritical jockeying for influence, they can easily conclude that the church is hypocritical: promising solace but offering rancor. As Paul noted, a united, loving and forgiving church means “no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd” (Ephesians 4:17 MSG).

The church should strive, with God’s help, to be increasingly united. The goal is not perfectunity, but more unity. Two colleagues of mine label this “dissonant harmony.” By this, they mean that a church can never attain perfect harmony, but it can attain a degree of harmony (though not perfect) that is increasingly harmonious but acknowledges some dissonance and dissension.

Christ’s prayer is not that churches fabricate mindless slaves to corporate vision. Rather Jesus emphasized that Church unity was to be a earthly reflection of the miraculous oneness amid diversity of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so, striving to be more unified has benefits and caveats that still make the effort worth it.

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

Photo source: istock 

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-ways-church-unity-creates-a-powerful-influence/

ENTHUSIAST.life & Churchgoing versus conversion?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 2018.

Waypoint 11 – Churchgoing versus Conversion

In the fall of 1740, parishes in the English countryside were emptying as people moved to the cities to find work in newly built factories. Farmworkers left an uncertain economic life for the promise of financial stability, even though factories were known for inhumane working conditions and squalor. Cities teemed with disadvantaged strangers from the countryside. This was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

City dwellers, feeling more sophisticated than their country cousins, treated these economic immigrants with disdain, suspicion, and exclusion. Wesley saw the church as God’s instrument to reconcile this cultural hostility, though his message gained little headway. 

All this changed after his Aldersgate experience. He started to preach that poor and rich alike would instantly change their outlook when they realized they were God’s children and not His servants. For a servant, loving people who are different from oneself is a duty. But loving those who are different is a personality trait of the sons and daughters of God.1

The idea that such a change of heart might happen quickly came from Wesley’s theological colleague Peter Bohler,2 as well as Wesley’s reading of Jonathan Edwards’s descriptions of conversions in New England. 

John measured his own experience with the guidelines given by Paul, and added a commentary. Paul wrote, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17 kjv). John commented: “First, his judgments are new: his judgment of himself, of happiness, of holiness. . . . Secondly, his designs are new. . . . Thirdly, his desires are new. . . . Fourthly, his conversation is new. . . . Fifthly, his actions are new.”3 And later he stated, “Love of the world is changed into love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all humankind.”4

Outlooks, intentions, desires, conversations, and actions had changed and would continue to develop in both John and Charles. They were not continually happy, nor free from worry,5 but the faith of a child signaled a new trajectory.6

Wesley entered English pulpits with the message that churchgoers must be converted from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son or daughter. Since poor and rich alike dutifully went to church and struggled to obey God’s commandments, both groups resonated with the idea that He wants a relationship rather than just cold, religious duty.

Not all resonated with John Wesley’s teachings. Some were threatened. Churchgoers, pastors, and even bishops, who had long preached service to God out of duty and obligation, were offended by Wesley’s message that the rabble of the city should think of themselves as God’s children. John used his own life as an example, pointing out that he had been an Oxford lecturer, even a renowned church planter, but still had not been converted from the faith of a servant to something better. He invited his hearers, parish priests, and bishops, to be converted to the faith of a child. 

Not surprisingly, some pastors who opened their pulpits to Wesley were not overjoyed. They felt that Wesley insinuated that they might not be converted. Furthermore, some congregants didn’t like to hear that their years of service and church attendance didn’t alone please God.

Lesson

Enthusiasts move beyond religious observance to embrace a parent-child relationship with God.

The Bible reminds us that serving God is not about obligations such as laws and rules, but rather is an opportunity to have a personal relationship and journey with God.

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)

Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. (v. 6)

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. (v. 9)

An instantaneous change and a new beginning brought about by accepting our father-child relationship with God was at the heart of Wesley’s message. Is it at the heart of your faith?

Application

[Special block or other formatting.] For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Are you going through the motions of being a Christian because of fear, guilt, or even expectations? Or do you have the liberating and empowering sensation of serving God because He loves you like a daughter or son?

In the following list, circle all the statements that represent your true feelings. 

Faith of a Servant

I fear going to hell.

I serve God because of duty.

I serve God because people expect me to do so.

Faith of a Son or Daughter

I look forward to meeting God in heaven.

I serve God because of my relationship with Him.

I serve God because He daily empowers me to do so.

Ask God to show you the faith of a child rather than the faith of a servant. Read seven Scriptures that depict our relationship with God. Start with those below, then add at least three more.

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:26)

Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. (Gal. 4:6–7)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us. Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. (1 John 3:1–2)

Finally, ask God to transform your faith today to that of a son or daughter. Did you feel something happen inside of you? If you didn’t yet, keep praying and seeking God. And when it happens, tell someone!

Speaking hashtag: #Kingswood2018

ENTHUSIAST.life & How to find the faith of a son or daughter.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 2018.

DAY 9

The Faith of a Son or Daughter

Stormy relationships and more storms at sea reminded John Wesley he was not prepared to die. The ministry that began with such promise had ended in disgrace, a lawsuit, and broken relationships. Describing his feelings about the mission’s promise and its failure, he realized that though he had gone to the colonies to convert native Americans, he too was in need of a spiritual change. He knew he needed a spiritual change because “when no danger was near” he could believe, but when facing death his spirit was troubled.” 1 He lamented that could not say, like the apostle Paul; “To die is gain” (Phil. 1:21 NIV). 

Have you ever felt the same way—that squandered opportunities and the shame of sin make you fearful of meeting God? Wesley’s experience points us toward the spiritual change God wants to make in you. 

Once John arrived back in England, Peter Bohler, a Moravian, cautioned him that good works and methods were no substitute for a faith that saves a person not only from eternal punishment but also from undue worry and debased passions in this life. John would later recall that, in Georgia, he had had the faith of a “servant,” seeking to please God because of obligation and duty, but that he later came to experience the faith of a “son,” seeking to please God because of their father-son relationship.2

After returning from Georgia, Charles Wesley became gravely ill and was attended by a godly woman. Impressed by her faith, Charles asked, “Then are you willing to die?” The matron replied, “I am, and would be glad to die in a moment.” After she left, Charles said he felt “a strange palpitation of heart” and declared, “I believe, I believe.”3

Though we are sometimes weak in faith and lack assurance, God promises that He can grow a “new heart” within us, as Ezekiel reminded the similarly downtrodden Israelites: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one” (Ezek. 36:25–26).

A few days later, John attended evensong, an early evening service of prayers and psalms, at stately Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. The choir sang Purcell’s profoundly stirring anthem “Out of the Deep Have I Called,” in which Wesley saw his own “godly yearning, mingled with heartfelt anguish.”4

After evensong Wesley ambled down the adjacent Aldersgate Street toward a Moravian Bible study. He arrived to find the group reading Martin Luther’s Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, in which Luther reminds readers that living out faith fosters a newness and an assurance. When the following passage from the book was read, John’s life was forever changed: “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1:12–13. It kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and brings with it the Holy Spirit.”5 

In Wesley’s own words here is what happened next: “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”6 

Lesson

Assurance of one’s relationship with God overcomes fair-weather faith.

From that moment of conversion, a new assurance took hold of Wesley’s life. No longer was he focused upon a successful career or cultivating relationships with friends and family. Instead with faith like that of a son, characterized by assurance of salvation, grew so that he would be ready to stand before God’s throne at any moment and be welcomed with the words, “Well done! You are a good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23). Formerly John’s career as a churchman and a theologian had focused on his efforts to serve God with strict rules and precise theology. But after his Aldersgate experience, John saw that his relationship with God as a son of a heavenly Father meant that rules and theology serve the relationship, rather than the other way around.

The lesson for today is that assurance of salvation moves us beyond a fair-weather faith that is dependent upon circumstance. Instead, assurance grows in us the faith of a daughter or son, reminding us that we possess our heavenly Father’s genetics. We represent Him not because we are His servants but because we are His family, doing so with the graciousness, forgiveness, and joyfulness He exemplifies. 

Application

[Special block or other formatting.] For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Ask yourself, “Do I have a fair-weather faith, confident in my Christianity only when everything is going well? Do I attend to spiritual matters (like Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship) only when times are good? Do I find it difficult to have peace and calmness when facing temptation or death?”

Then ask, “Is my relationship to God more like that of a servant or of a daughter or son? Do I follow God as a servant might, because of obligation and duty? Or do I seek to follow and please God because of a relationship—because I am His child?”

Can you say, “I am ready to stand before God’s judgment this very hour,” or, “I have the assurance that if I were to die this instant, I would hear God say ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant’”? 

Read these verses about assurance. Then write down three things you have learned. 

God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. (Eph. 1:4–6)

All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Rom. 8:14–15)

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:26–27)

Finally, speak out a short prayer to God, describing your assurance as His enthusiastic child. 

Speaking hashtag: #Kingswood2018