CHURCH PLANTING & These #Post-Pandemic Churches are done with buildings. Here’s why.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Almost 15 years ago when analyzing healthy planted churches, I found that most planted churches preferred to lease or rent their space rather than build buildings. This freed them up for flexibility and to put their financial resources into meeting the needs of others. I’ve been a big advocate of this since the award-winning book of mine was published by Abingdon Press: Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations.

Here’s another article that confirms the continued importance of growing the post-pandemic church by utilizing non-facility-based community. After all, churches are people, not a facility.

by Mya Jaradat, 7/18/21, Deseret News.

…Being online means being unencumbered by financial concerns that come with maintaining a facility, he said, noting that the congregation is free to focus on values — like social justice and spiritual formation — rather than the bottom line. It’s also allowed the group to attract worshippers who wouldn’t be able to attend in person, including people from California, London and Australia, the Rev. Whang said.

“A church is a network of relationships,” he said. “It’s the people,” not where they meet.

… However, now that it’s safe for many Americans to return to in-person worship, some religion experts are questioning why virtual church enthusiasts want to remain online. Online worship can be gratifying, but, both spiritually and sociologically, it often leaves something to be desired, said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a physician and neuroscientist who studies religious experiences.

“From what we know in general about how the brain works there is a kind of resonance that occurs when we’re with other people,” said Newberg, a pioneer in neurotheology. “The brain is designed to be social.”

… The power of in-person church

Newberg pointed to the power of sacred architecture to illustrate his point. “If you walk into the Vatican — I don’t care what religion (you are) — when you walk into the Vatican, it’s hard not to feel something because of its grandeur,” he said.

Even smaller houses of worship create a sense of awe, he added, noting that vaulted ceilings contribute to a feeling of “spacelessness” in the brain — a sensation that might help us feel a little less connected to our earthly concerns and more connected to the people around us and God.

Seeing the Vatican through a screen, Newberg added, doesn’t pack the same neurological punch, in part because other sensory cues, like smell, are missing. Online worship, no matter how well it’s done, likely can’t affect us as deeply as in-person church does, he said.

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist and the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, said that while researchers still don’t know exactly what accounts for the potency of in-person, group worship — “the research is a little behind there,” he said — it probably activates circuitry in the brain’s reward pathway. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine are likely involved, he said. 

Research has also shown that being with a group — particularly when that group is engaged in some sort of activity that makes a positive contribution to society, like volunteering — leads to physiological changes that create a feeling of warmth. The metaphorical warmth that stems from being with others “has a physiological basis,” Koenig said. 

Prior to COVID-19, almost all in-person services incorporated some element of touch, as well, which also creates a sense of well-being, he added. 

“As a psychiatrist, even though we’ve got COVID-19, I always touch (my patients) when they leave the room. That physical touch is critical,” Koenig said. 

In general, face-to-face interactions and group activities, including worship, create “collective effervescence,” wrote Adam Grant recently in The New York Times, using a coin termed by the famed French sociologist Émile Durkheim. Take the collective out — or put it behind a screen — and the experience is flattened. 

However, Newberg noted that religious believers who live in isolation, like some monks and nuns, certainly do have religious experiences. So while the in-person, group aspect of worship is important, it’s not essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a religious experience. 

Similarly, Teresa Berger, a professor of liturgical studies and Catholic theology at Yale Divinity School, said just because someone comes to an in-person worship service doesn’t mean they’re mentally engaged. 

“Some of them, quite honestly, in their minds are going to be elsewhere,” she said. 

Theologically speaking, Berger added, “The decisive element is a community gathered — and I don’t mean gathered only physically but gathered in a multitude of ways, some of them could be digitally mediated — around seeking to encounter a divine presence.”

Read more at … https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/7/18/22575707/are-churches-done-with-buildings-online-virtual-worship-congregations-covid-19-pandemic

CONGREGATIONAL OLD AGE & This has become the chief killer of churches in #post-pandemic America! My article published by @BiblicalLeadership Magazine

https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-geriatrophy-has-become-the-chief-killer-of-churches-in-post-pandemic-america/

CHURCH GUESTS 101 & Don’t Say That – Say This! Revitalize a church with the words you speak. Here is a list of things not to say when you want to connect with your visitors.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/27/21.

Learn more about the changes needed in your hospitality ministries in the course, Church Guests 101 part of ChurchLeadership.university on uDemy.

When leading a church it is very easy to miscommunicate your intentions. It usually happens because you’re concerned about pressing organizational needs as well as the needs of the believers you shepherd. Subsequently, we often use phrases that appear to prioritize the needs of the saints over the needs of the non-churchgoer.

I’m going to show you how this happens in your greetings, your announcements and even your church vision statements … and what you should say instead.  

Jesus’ message of compassion for the not-yet-believer.

Jesus emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with him. The “parable of the sheep” (Matthew 18:10-14) where the shepherd leaves the 99 to retrieve the one lost lamb, visualizes this. And in his actions, Jesus demonstrated a deep concern for the wellbeing of not-yet-believers (Mark 1:33-34, Luke 5:1-11). Mark records a poignant image of this when the crowds followed Jesus and his disciples to the seashore. Jesus saw their desperate needs and Mark noted: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:32-34).

Your message for the not-yet-believer.

Many times those first messages a visitor receives will inadvertently push them away, rather than draw them in. This is because when welcoming church visitors, leaders use phrases often tainted by the concerns of the congregation. Church leaders are worried about church finances, not having enough volunteers or reaching a new culture of people. And, this comes out accidentally, but clearly in your welcome. The result is often an unintended pushback by church guests.

I don’t believe that most churches are intentionally putting the church family’s needs over the needs of non-churchgoers. It’s only that we spend so much time every week deliberating on the church’s internal needs that this colors the things we say. And though we intend to reach out to newcomers and help them experience a new life and growth in Christ, we often share those concerns in a way that communicates the organization is more important than the people who need Christ.

What is the most important type of church growth?

Donald McGavran, the Fuller Theological Seminary professor credited with founding the study of church growth, said there were three types of church growth – but only one was desirable. 

Biological growth:  This is a church that grows because families within the church are expanding. 

Transfer growth: These are people who are moving into the area and transferring their attendance or membership. In my research I believe this may be the largest contributor to church growth in America. Often we find growing churches in growing suburbs. The growth is often fueled by transfer growth, not by new believers. McGavran said that this type of growth means, “The increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.” Transfer growth grows one church at the expense of other churches.

Conversion growth: The third type of growth is what McGavran calls conversion growth. This is a church that is growing because people are being spiritually transformed from their former lives and embarking upon a new Christ-centered journey. McGavran stated, “The third kind is conversion growth, in which those outside the church come to rest their faith intelligently on Jesus Christ and are baptized and added to the Lord in his church. This is the only kind of growth by which the good news of salvation can spread to all segments of American society and to earth’s remotest bounds.”

3 categories of crises that push people to want to change their lives.

Researchers (using the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Scale) have found that people who are interested in changing their lives are usually motivated by a combination of three categories of crises. 

Concern about death and the afterlife. The first crises that drive people to seek to change their lives is a concern about death and dying or a loved one’s death. They have questions about eternity and heaven. They wonder if their loved one went to heaven and who will help them with their grieving. Churches can meet these needs in part by preaching/teaching on the afterlife and offering grief share ministries.

Family or marital difficulties. A second area that drives people to want to change their lives is marital or family difficulties including marriage problems, child-rearing difficulties, divorce, adultery, etc.. Many times they feel inadequate or a failure due to such difficulties. They come to the church seeking to change their life and to be a more adept and competent person. Little wonder that child-rearing classes, marriage enrichment seminars and divorce care have been helpful (and popular) programs in our churches. 

Concern about illness: The third category that pushes people to change their lives is illness they are experiencing or someone they know is experiencing.  They have questions about healing, helping others and improving their outlook on life.  Need-meeting congregations have embraced prayer ministries, counseling programs and support groups for those who are suffering.

Because these three major categories cause people to want to change their lives, we must welcome guests and greet them in a way that shows we know they have needs and we are here to meet them.

THE LIST: Don’t Say That – Say This!

To help understand how to communicate your true intentions (of meeting the needs of others) I have created a list I call: “Don’t Say That – Say This!” Consider each statement and then notice how one better communicates your true intentions.

Don’t Say That: “I’m glad you are here” or “We are glad you are here.”

Say This: “How can I help you?” “How can we help you?”

Why: When you say, “I’m glad you are here,” it is usually a true statement. You are glad that they are present. You see their potential to encounter Christ and become a committed part of the faith community. But what they hear is a statement focused upon you and the believers, it’s not about helping them, but it’s about us being happy. Remember, people often come to a church because they have needs and crises in their lives. And healthy church growth comes from people’s lives being transformed for the better through the community of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Don’t Say That: “We want to tell you about the church.”

Say This: “We want to know how we can help you.”

Why: The purpose is not to tell them about the church, but for them to tell us about their needs. Though it is helpful to offer information on the history and theological perspective of the church, guests are usually not ready to learn about this unless they are engaged in transfer growth. Most guests want to let you know why they came to church and what they’re looking for.

Don’t Say That: “I love being in the house of God.”

Say This: “God is here and he wants to connect with you (or help you, or fulfill your life).

Why:  As Christians who are growing in our faith journey, we often talk about our growing enthusiasm as we know God better. But for people who are just beginning their journey of discovery about God’s love, we may seem too far ahead of them to lead them forward and be a relevant leader. Though you love being in God’s house, re-phrase that statement in the context of God‘s presence being there and that he wants to connect with them.

Don’t Say That: “We have a gift for you.”

Say This: “We would like to know how we can help you. So please visit one of our guest services booths so we can help.”

Why: Even though you want to show your gratitude, an appreciation gift can inadvertently create a sense of this-for-that at best, and manipulation at worst. In the leadership world we call this transactional leadership. You give something in order to get something. A person gives 40 hours or more a week at their job and they get a salary. If a better job comes along, they might leave because their motivation is based upon a transaction: giving their time in order to get money. Can you see how a gift might be perceived as a lure to sign a card or visit a booth can feel transactional? One former student of mine offered a $100 gift card to be drawn from the names of newcomers who visited each month. I know him and his generosity is exceptional (they have a region-wide food pantry in their smallish church). But the message he was sending was not helpful to the newcomers. Instead tell them you want to know about their needs and see if we can help meet them.

Don’t Say That: “I don’t know.”

Say This: “Let me find out.”

Why: Many people have heard about the art of hospitality practiced by the Walt Disney organization. Part of their Disney hospitality is to never say, “I don’t know,” and instead to respond along the lines of, “Let me find out for you,” or “That is a good question. I will find out.” This takes the emphasis off of the lack of knowledge of the hospitality person. And instead it puts the emphasis upon the hospitality person’s desire to help the newcomer find an answer to the problem.

Don’t Say That: Our mission statement is Belong – Begin – Become

Say This: Our mission statement is Begin – Become – Belong

Why: “Belong – Begin – Become” is focused on how the organization sees the newcomers journey. The organization expects a commitment, to which the organization will respond with tools and community for the newcomer to become a new person. But look at this from the newcomer’s perspective. They want to know more about you first. Unless they are transfer growth, they are not ready to “belong” in their initial step. Rather, starting this mission statement with “begin” reminds new travelers that there is a process in getting to know one another, experiencing the community of faith and encountering Christ. One of my former professors, John Wimber, described this relationship as dating. When a person first learns about the Good News, your relationship with them is similar to dating. There is no commitment, but you’re getting to know one another. The next stage of the relationship is engagement, and that’s where a new believer begins to give of themselves and the church responds by giving back even more. Finally, marriage serves as Wimber’s metaphor for when a person is ready to make a commitment to both Christ and the church. So, check your mission statement. Even run it by people who are not churchgoers. Look closely and you may find that its focus is on inspiring churchgoers rather than informing those who are just beginning their journey with Christ

Don’t Say That: “You’re welcome.”

Say This: “I am happy I was able to help.”

Why: Of course if you’ve helped people at your church they will be appreciative. They will usually say, “Thank you.” And the most common reply is to say, “You’re welcome.” But that has become so overused that it’s almost like adding a period to a sentence, rather than opening up to converse further. Instead it’s better to say, “I am happy I was able to help you.” That lets them know that you derive your happiness in part because of your ability to help them. Though it may be focused on your happiness, that happiness is based upon your ability to help others.

Don’t Say That: “Come back soon (or next Sunday).”

Say This: “This week, think about ways we can help you.”

Why: As we’ve seen above we want to leave the message, and especially with our parting words, that we are here to help.

Now, make your own list!

This list is not mechanical phraseology to be memorized or anemically repeated. Instead this list is designed to remind leaders how our intentions can be miscommunicated due to the words we use.

Rather than memorize this, do these three things.

1. Re-read the list often and add more phrases to it. Create an ever-expanding list of things you don’t want to say and things you should be saying to better communicate your heart. And, you can join together as a ministry team and create a ministry team list. At your meetings add an agenda item to add to your list and ask people for their suggestions.

2. Re-write and edit the short paragraphs that explain each of your list items. Help someone who is reading your list for the first time to understand why one phrase is preferable over the other.

3. Resist shaming or criticizing others who say the wrong thing. Everyone goes through cycles where their own pressing needs cloud what they want to say. After years of doing this I still catch myself saying things because it’s customary or because my own needs are driving my attention. Have grace in the way you encourage one another. Don’t criticize or tease those who speak out of their needs rather than the needs of others. Rather, use this exercise and your expanding list as a reminder about how to keep the needs of others first.

CHURCH REVITALIZATION & Why it is needed more than ever! Researchers discover more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate. Pre-pandemic 75-150 churches close per week!

I have helped 100s of churches turnaround. And I’ve written & taught DMin courses in three seminaries on “How to Turnaround a Church.”

If your church wants to preserve its legacy and grow … then contact me today at http://www.Leadership.Church

“Study: More churches closing than opening” by Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service, 5/22/21.

A new study from Lifeway Research suggests more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate.

The study, which analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, found that 4,500 churches closed in 2019, while about 3,000 new congregations were started. The 34 Protestant denominations account for about 60% of U.S.-based Protestant denominations.

“Even before the pandemic, the pace of opening new congregations was not even providing enough replacements for those that closed their doors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

The study also pointed to the hastening of church closures. In 2014, it found, there were 3,700 church closures, compared with 4,500 in 2019.

…That study, published in April, estimated that in the decade ending in 2020, 3,850 to 7,700 houses of worship closed per year in the United States, or 75 to 150 congregations per week. It also projected those numbers will double or triple in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/26/study-more-churches-closing-than-opening/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Study%3A%20More%20churches%20closing%20than%20opening&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

CHURCH HISTORY & Why Were the Pharisees the ‘Bad Guys’ in the New Testament?

by David Roos, 5/27/21.

We spoke with Bruce Chilton, a religion professor at Bard College and co-editor of “In Quest of the Historical Pharisees,” to better understand what the Pharisees really believed and why they clashed with the early Christians.

Who Were the Pharisees — and the Sadducees?

During the first century C.E., when Jesus lived, the Pharisees emerged as a religious movement within Judaism, not a separate sect. The Temple still stood in Jerusalem and it was the center of Jewish life. One of the greatest concerns of Temple rites was purity — that both the people who entered the Temple and the animals sacrificed there, were “pure” enough to satisfy God. The Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible starting with Genesis) contains written commandments that explain the proper way to conduct Temple sacrifices, but the Pharisees claimed they had additional divine instructions that had been passed down through centuries of oral tradition.

“The Pharisees believed that they had a special reserve of knowledge for determining purity,” says Chilton. “They taught that their oral tradition went all the way back to Moses at Sinai, so not only was there a written Torah, which anyone could have access to, but there was also an oral Torah which was inside the Pharisaic movement.”

What was distinctive about the oral tradition of the Pharisees was that it expanded the question of purity to life outside of the Temple. Even if a Jewish person lived far away from Jerusalem (in Galilee, for example) and wasn’t planning to make a pilgrimage to the Temple, they could conduct their lives in such a way as to be pure enough to enter the Temple.

“In that sense, the Pharisees became a movement for the purity of the Jewish people,” says Chilton.

The Pharisees were not, however, the powerful elite of first-century Judaism. Those were the Sadducees, the priestly class that controlled Temple worship and held the most political influence with the Roman Empire, which ruled over Palestine. The Sadducees rejected the oral tradition in favor of the written law (Torah).

The Pharisees were a working-class movement concerned with establishing a clear and consistent Jewish identity in everyday life. Interestingly, it was the Pharisees who believed in an afterlife and resurrection of the dead, both of which were rejected by the Sadducees as they were not mentioned in the Torah. Pharisees also believed a messiah would come who would bring peace to the world, though most of them did not think that messiah was Jesus.

Jesus Had Friends (and Followers) Who Were Pharisees

The Pharisees are portrayed as a monolithic block in the New Testament, but Chilton says that while all Pharisees were concerned with purity, there was fierce debate among the Pharisees about how best to achieve it. There were certainly Pharisees who believed that purity was obtained from the outside in, and who taught that ritual baths (mikvahs) and the ritual purification of cups and cooking implements was the only way to achieve purity.

In Matthew 23, Jesus lambastes the pharisaic practice of purifying the outside of cups and dishes while “inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

“Because Jesus himself was engaged in the issue of purity — but wasn’t a Pharisee — his conflict with some Pharisees of his time was inevitable,” says Chilton. “If you accuse somebody as impure, you’re not saying purity doesn’t matter; you’re saying the opposite — there’s a better way to achieve it.”

But Chilton says there were other Pharisees who would have agreed with Jesus, that the true work of purification starts with a pure heart and faith in God. If you read the New Testament closely, in fact, you’ll see that Jesus won sympathetic supporters and even followers from the ranks of the supposedly hated Pharisees. Nicodemus, who visited Jesus at night to ask him questions, and then provided money and spices to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial after the crucifixion, was a Pharisee (see John 3). And in Luke 13:31, a Pharisee comes to warn Jesus that Herod wanted him killed…

The Meeting That Doomed the Pharisees

In Acts 15, there is a meeting or “council” in Jerusalem attended by Paul, Peter, James, Barnabas and other apostles and followers of Jesus. The agenda of the meeting was to settle an important question among the early church: did non-Jewish men need to be circumcised in order to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit? The Pharisees in attendance were the first to chime in. In Acts 15:5, it says: “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.'”

Notice that it says the Pharisees were among the “believers,” further proof some Pharisees, too, were early followers of Jesus. But here’s where things go south. The apostles are in stark disagreement with the Pharisees and say that everyone, circumcised or uncircumcised, can have their hearts purified through faith in Christ. Peter, acknowledging the physical pain and danger of circumcising an adult, rebukes the Pharisees in verses 10 and 11:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

“By the time you get to this meeting in 46 C.E., now the Pharisees are on the other side of this extraordinarily consequential decision,” says Chilton.

Read more at … https://people.howstuffworks.com/pharisees.htm

CONFLICT & How to have difficult conversations at work. Plus, how I coach leaders in the art of socially skilled conflict resolution.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When coaching church leaders I often find that it’s not the conflict, but the way it’s handled, that polarizes leaders and leads to more conflict. A primary tool is what I call “other-based conflict resolution.” This means thinking of the other’s needs and not your own needs when resolving conflict. This can include: choosing a place that’s more comfortable for the other, a time that’s more comfortable for the other and putting your concerns in the language of the other. For more ideas read this article.

BY TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC, Fast Company Magazine, 4/14/21.

…As always, the ideal level of transparency can be found at the center of a continuum that ranges from no filter cruel honesty/confrontation to totally fake conflict avoidance/ingratiation. In fact, people do appreciate candid feedback, especially if they understand you have told them what they need to (but didn’t want to) hear.

…With that, here are some tips to consider:

CREATE, OR AT LEAST FIND THE RIGHT CONTEXT

Humans are emotional creatures, and even for the most phlegmatic and cool-headed person, some moments will be happier than others. If you are going to have a difficult conversation with someone and tell them something they don’t want to hear, you should start by creating the right context. Prepare them in advance, so they are not taken by surprise. Ensure that they are not going through a hard time already. For example, a Friday may be better than a Monday, during a pandemic is probably worse than a non-pandemic period, etc. Being aware of their personal circumstances is key.

CHOOSE A FORMAT THAT WORKS FOR THEM, NOT JUST FOR YOU

Have you ever been dumped via email or text? It is cruel and cold, but very convenient for the person who delivers the message. Most of us prefer impersonal, technologically mediated channels to convey unpleasant news, but they tend to make things worse. First, you will look like a chicken. Second, you will increase the probability of misinterpretations and miscommunication. Third, you will not be able to show or pick up any empathy. 

An in-person message, or the closest we can get to these days (video call), may work best, even if it is not your preferred option. That said, if the other person is highly introverted, reserved, and private, they may appreciate a heads-up via email or text, with the option to discuss in-person or via video later. Try to adapt to them, know their style, and make an effort to adjust to it.

REMEMBER THAT YOU COULD BE WRONG

Most disagreements are clarified once a discussion takes place. This is both humbling and encouraging because it provides the biggest incentive for bringing up difficult topics and having challenging conversations with others. If something bothers you about someone, or you think they need to hear something, then bringing it up is the only way to address the issue. 

Most importantly, it is a great opportunity to understand the person better and get a sense of whether you may have been wrong. If you disagree, then being aware of your disagreements is quite helpful, especially if you can find a way of living with your differences, and turns these differences into an actual strength. As Churchill said, “If two people agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90624750/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-at-work?

CHURCH PLANTING & prioritizing church planting over personal evangelism is what has led to decline in the Southern Baptist Church according to leading SBC seminary president and author. Today we need a re-emphasis of personal evangelism in the church planter and the planted church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I first met Dr. Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theo. Seminary, when a conference I help lead (called the Great Commission Research Network) was meeting at their facility. I was humbled and honored when Dr. Kelly, then President of the seminary, began serving tables to the men and women assembled for our annual banquet. Not only a humble and gregarious man, he is also known for his insights and understanding of church growth. Here are his comments on why the Southern Baptist Church has lost 2.3 million adherents in the past 15 years.

I agree with Dr. Kelly that church planting is important. But I have noticed many denominations and networks focus training their leaders in church planting procedures – but not equipping their leaders with ways to empower attendees to personally share their faith.

Dr. Kelley‘s observation is that because of this you get more churches, but not more Christians, is well taken and something I’ve seen in practice.

My hope is this article, and my work coaching churches and denominations, will lead to a needed re-emphasis of personal evangelism in the church planted and the planter church.

by Bob Smietana, 5/21/21. Religion News Service.

… Kelley, of the Conservative Baptist Network, sees the decline as an organizational failure. The (Souther Baptist Church) denomination’s North American Mission Board, he said, moved away from personal evangelism in the 1980s to a focus on church planting. That has led to more churches but not more baptisms and Southern Baptists.

Churches have also dropped the ball on keeping and inspiring church members, he said, a practice known as “discipling.” From the 1920s to the 1970s, he said, Southern Baptists had a range of programs to help people grow in their faith and learn to live according to Christian teaching. Those programs, he said, have largely run out of steam and disappeared.

Chuck Kelley, the former president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader in the Conservative Baptist Network. Video screengrab

Chuck Kelley. Video screengrab

“You combine that failure of discipleship with less and less attention to evangelism and a culture that is less and less hospitable to the Christian faith and guess what?” he said. “You have declining churches.”

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/21/russell-moore-is-leaving-southern-baptist-leadership-the-denominations-troubles-remain/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Russell%20Moore%20leaves%20Southern%20Baptist%20leadership%2C%20but%20denomination’s%20troubles%20remain&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

CONFLICT RESOLUTION & “Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. The author of this post has been shadowing me to become a missional coach. He is an experienced pastor having served in megachurches such as D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Church in Ft. Lauderdale as well as Vineyard and Presbytetian churches. Now in his late 70s, Tom is still learning, sharing and serving (and inspiring me).

Leadership Thought: So You Think You Are A Good Listener! by Tom Crenshaw, 5/6/21 (quoting John Maxwell).

… This past year I read a book by John Maxwell called the Leaders Greatest Return. It was one of the most rewarding leadership books I have read in many years, and I would like to provide a few insights from his chapter on becoming better listeners.

“The average person suffers from 3 delusions: (1) that he is a good driver, (2) that he has a good sense of humor, and (3) and that he is a good listener. Most people, however, including many leaders, are terrible listeners; they actually think talking is more important than listening,” writes Steven Sample, author of The Contrarians Guide to Leadership.

“What most people want is to be listen to, respected and understood, and if this happens, they will be more motivated to listen to you and see your point of view (p 54).

“Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply. Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is being said. After all, meanings are not in words, but in people. (Listening) is more than hearing words. It demands you find meaning and understanding in what is being said …..…… People are far more likely to listen to us if we first listened to them” (pp. 55-56).

Listening is the best way to learn. Television host Larry King says “I remind myself every morning that nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening…… When we fail to listen, we turn off much of our learning potential” (p.56) …….”What others have to say to you is more important than what you have to say to them” (p. 57)

Listening engenders trust and connection. “Billy Graham said a suffering person does not need a lecture, he needs a listener………By listening you gain the trust of the people you work with” (p. 57). David Augsberger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable…… “Listening draws people to you, which works much better than trying to push your leadership on them” (p. 58).

“You will never get the best out of people if you do not know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think and how they want to contribute. You only learn these things by listening. When you listen to people. it makes them feel like they are at the very heart of things, like partners, and not employees. They trust you because you care about them” (p. 59).

And in conclusion I might personally add to what our brother James has to say in his charter text on listening. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). I know these words are so easy to say but yet so difficult to live, that is, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to take full control of our tongue.

Let our prayer be, “Lord Jesus, help me this day to open my heart to your Spirit and allow me to be more interested in hearing what others have to say than what I wish to say.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom

COACHING & This is how I do it differently. My practice is not “top down” – but driven by lay people, staff & their concerns. Together we find solutions. #BetterTogether #ConsultingLife

Check out www.Leadership.church for more insights into how consulting can be done differently.

CULTURES & How the #ATL (Atlanta International Airport) teaches you about the differences between dissonant, selective and consonant cultural adapters. Which one are you? Watch this 1 min. video & find out. #GaryMcIntosh #ChiefMcIntosh #SpiritualWaypointsBook #CureForTheCommonChurchBook www.Leadership.church

Watch the video and find out what kind of adapter you may be.

CHRISTMAS & Jimmy Stewart’s story behind the most iconic, unscripted scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George Bailey prays

by Rachel Scott, CNN, 12/19/20.

It’s George Bailey’s crucial moment. Disheveled and desperate, he offers up a Hail-Mary prayer to a God he’s not sure is listening…

Actor Jimmy Stewarts’ emotion is palpable in this scene, one that acclaimed actress Carol Burnett called one of the finest pieces of acting ever on the screen. What may have escaped audiences watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” over 70 years after its making, is that the tears running down Stewart’s face are real, the actor later shared.

Stewart had just returned home from serving as a flight leader in World War II and this 1946 film was his first movie since witnessing the horrors of war. With this postwar mentality, Stewart and director Frank Capra take a film titled “It’s a Wonderful Life” and antithetically crescendo into a failed suicide attempt.

…”It’s a Wonderful Life” addresses real and resonant issues of self-worth and failure. Fresh from the war, Stewart is grappling with these trials himself, as he shapes the deeply relatable character of George Bailey. Without Stewart’s real acquaintance with darkness, the holiday classic’s redefining perspective on life wouldn’t be able to shine so unforgettably bright.

… After serving in the Army Air Corps, Stewart had been absent from Hollywood for five years when he was offered the role in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He was initially hesitant to do the film, according to biographer Robert Matzen, but it was his only offer except for a film featuring his war service.

“‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was a result of Jim’s war experiences because it unlocked this depth of soul in Jimmy … He had to learn to act again and that’s what you’re seeing on screen. It’s like lightning that just got captured in a bottle,” biographer Robert Matzen told CNN.

This is seen in one of the film’s most iconic, unscripted scenes, when George Bailey finds himself at the end of his rope: “I’m not a praying man but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way.”

George Bailey wasn’t scripted to cry, but Jimmy Stewart did.

“As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing,” Stewart said in an interview in 1987.

Read more at … https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/19/entertainment/its-a-wonderful-jimmy-stewart-world-war-ii-service/

CULTURAL HISTORIES & How “hush harbors” carved out black sacred spaces where God could be worshipped in the majesty (and safety) of His creation.

“The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions” by the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, 3/1/19.

Today, I serve as the second female pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in its 147-year history, a history that began in the secrecy of a hush harbor and continues amid changing times.

But what was the hush harbor? Who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What was worship like in these sacred spaces?

And what is the message of the hush harbor for us today?

What was the Hush Harbor?

The hush harbor, also known as a brush harbor or a bush arbor, was “a secluded informal structure, often built with tree branches, set in places away from masters so that slaves could meet to worship in private,” according to Paul Harvey’s “Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity.” During the Antebellum period, and subsequent to the Great Awakenings, Christianity grew rapidly in America. This growth included a number of African Americans who assumed the Christianity of their masters and shaped it into what author Albert J. Raboteau and others call the “Invisible Institution.” This institution, which was characterized in large part by the hush harbor, enabled slaves to worship in spirit and in truth in thickly forested areas which were hidden from their masters, wrote Raboteau. In parallel to the invisible institution of worship, there was a visible one.

To this end, Harvey explains there were actually three ways in which African-American worship took shape during this period: Firstly, in segregated biracial churches where white ministers preached. Secondly, in African-American churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1816. And thirdly, in hidden hush harbors where slaves were free to combine both African and Christian worship practices.

It was in the hush harbor, buried deep within the untended woods on the plantation that slaves remembered the forests of their homeland. As Noel Leo Erskine wrote in “Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery,” it was there that they escaped the confining worship of segregated chapels and were able to practice African rituals and to rest in knowing that the spirits of their ancestors followed them—even into slavery:

“It was primarily through religious rituals and the carving out of black sacred spaces that enslaved persons were able to affirm self and create a world over against the world proffered by the master for their families.”

The hush harbor would eventually serve as not only a place for worship, but also as a place where unrelated slaves would become a sustaining family of faith.

Hush Harbor worshippers

Leaders within the slave community announced hush harbor gatherings or “meetin’s” with the use of coded language or songs, which traveled from one slave to another until the appointed time of the gathering.

Singer and preacher Melody Bennett Gayle explains that on the day of the meeting, slaves would work all day in the hot sun, gather at night in the hush harbor to worship until the sun came back up, and then return to the fields in the morning renewed to begin work again. These worshippers risked being severely beaten, sold off from their families and even killed if they were caught; however, the risk was worth it because of the liberating power of the unfettered Gospel that was preached in the woods.

To this end, former slave Lucretia Alexander explained that in the white church, the preacher would tell slaves to obey their masters and they had to sing softly. Further, per Raboteau’s “African American Religion,” escaped slave Henry Atkins lamented that “white clergymen don’t preach the whole Gospel there.” It was in the hush harbor that slaves could hear stories of the children of Israel and their exodus from the slavery of Egypt and envision their own freedom in this world and the world to come.

Read more at … https://advocatesc.org/2019/03/the-message-of-the-hush-harbor-history-and-theology-of-african-descent-traditions/

CHURCH PLANTING & Fuller Theo. Seminary launches the world’s first global directory of church planting organizations, searchable by theology, location & methodology.

(Fuller Theo. Seminary Alumni Newsletter) The Fuller Church Planting Initiative is proud to announce the launch of PlanterMatch, the world’s first global directory of church planting organizations, on October 1, 2020 at 9:00 am PDT.

For networks, denominations and other church planting organizations, listing on the site is completely free and extremely easy. Just complete a brief questionnaire to provide basic information about the organization.

Planters will be able to use the PlanterMatch site to filter the myriad of organizations by location, theology, and methodology to find the ones that best suit their needs and circumstances, expediting the process of establishing ministry partnerships.

There are already close to a hundred church planting organizations from a wide array of traditions, working in all four corners of the globe, listed on PlanterMatch. Our prayer is that the directory will continue to grow and prove to be beneficial to church planting efforts all around the world.

Read more at …https://plantermatch.org/

COMMUNICATION & This Ridiculously Simple Change to How You Say ‘Thank You’ Will Make It Much More Effective

UC Berkeley’s Emiliana Simon-Thomas says “Gratitude 1-2-3” has big benefits for both you and those you thank.

BY MINDA ZETLIN, CO-AUTHOR, THE GEEK GAP, Inc. Magazine, 10/7/20.

…When most of us say thank you, we should be much more specific. That advice comes from Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. That’s why she recommends what she calls “Gratitude 1-2-3,” a way of thanking people that takes just a little extra time and effort, but can provide huge benefits to both you and them.

Here’s how it works.

1. Be specific about what you’re saying thank you for.

… “Instead of just saying, ‘Hey thanks, Dave, that was great,’ I can say, ‘Dave, thank you for inviting me to be on the show with you.'” That puts you and the person you’re thanking into what she calls a “shared mental space,” both of you considering the nice thing that the other person did.

2. Acknowledge the effort involved.

Make it clear that you’re aware of the effort others have made to help you out…

3. Describe how it benefits you.

This is an important step, because it’s the only part of Gratitude 1-2-3 that the other person won’t already know.

I first read about Gratitude 1-2-3 in a post Feldman wrote for Psychology Today.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/gratitude-1-2-3-grateful-saying-thank-you-emiliana-simon-thomas.html

CHURCH HISTORY & Lessons/Warnings From the Church Growth of Willow Creek Community Church. #ScotMcKnight

by Scot McKnight, Christianity Today, 10/4/20.

…In the middle of this story about the 20th Century evangelicalism will be Willow Creek Community Church [WCCC] and its innovative seeker-friendly church services. At the heart of Willow Creek’s innovation was Bill Hybels. That story will be told in its fullness, which means readers of that day will hear of a Saul-like crisis. …

Seeker Friendly Services

WCCC created a world-wide interest in “seeker-friendly services,” a type of church service easy on ”unchurched Harry and Sally.” What Hybels and his innovative, courageous team of leaders formed was a style of worship that was friendly to the unchurched as well as to the formerly churched.

Relevancy to contemporary concerns – from politics to marriage to family to finances to moral challenges – would be the door to evangelism, while it would also, ironically, turn the platformed speakers into authentic humans with real struggles and pains and depressions and doubt. Authenticity has always been cultivated by WCCC as an image. When most churches were still traditional in all ways – sermons, job descriptions, architecture, a cross behind the pulpit, choirs in robes – WCCC courageously found other ways: sermons were more casual, job descriptions creative, architecture that looked like a movie theater with theater seating, no cross, no baptismal, no choirs in robes. Instead, we found platform singers that were physically shaped and dressed like rock stars. Instead of preaching through books of the Bible, which was the custom of many evangelical churches and the heart of seminary-trained preaching classes, Hybels went after crowd-attracting hot topics.

The audience was no longer sinners or saints but seekers, people wondering about God. So what was attractive and inoffensive to the seeker, instead of the churchgoer, determined the content of the talks from the platform.

One of the most courageous elements of early WCCC was an egalitarian approach to male-female relations and of the affirmation of women preachers, teachers, and elders. Nancy Beach’s well-known and much-loved sermons at Willow are but one example of the support of women in ministry. The decision to hold up women as preachers influenced churches throughout the world, but was just as much – if not more – a step in the direction of relevancy. It made a statement at the right time in American history: women’s equality in the church corresponded to the Equal Rights Amendment.

This must be said: since Nancy Beach resigned WCCC has chosen not to hire a woman teaching pastor. The new leaders at WCCC now seem to this observer uncommitted to women teaching pastors. What was once a courageous conviction has become a bygone era at WCCC.

Church after church and preacher after preacher followed Willow’s attractional model and began teaching about hot topics. Pastors stopped dressing the part – no clerical collars, no suit-and-tie – and the physically attractive became the future images of the megachurch. Heads and bodies became godlike as Willow began to project images onto stadium-sized screens. Speakers were taught how to look into the camera so they would appear to be looking at the doubting, skeptical seeker sitting in the nosebleeds.

Everything was designed to be culturally relevant and as inoffensive as the gospel can be (and still be called the gospel). Bill Hybel’s easy-to-understand gospel was the Bridge Illustration gospel. Humans in one place, God in another, a huge chasm between, with the cross bridging the gap, and with faith and coming forward as the means of getting unchurched Harry and Sally across and on to God’s team.

Thousands and thousands of believers today are believers because of Willow’s influence on being more seeker-friendly and -sensitive.

The seeker-friendly model, tied as it was into the church growth movement as well as the attractional model of church, has had its day. Many have learned to talk gospel and talk church and talk God in ways that are sensitive to those who did not grow up in churches. For this we can all be grateful.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/october/legacy-of-willow-creek-1.html

CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE & 55% of Black churchgoers say they “are aware of what race they are about every day.” White churchgoers, only 17%. #AmericanReligiousDataArchives #ARDA

by David Briggs, ARDA, 7/29/20.

There is a cavernous gap in attitudes on race in America.

Within the church, for example, more than four in five black Protestants said their race was very important to their sense of who they are; 55 percent said they are aware of what race they are about every day.

In contrast, less than a quarter of overwhelmingly white mainline Protestants attached the same importance to their racial identity; just 17 percent think about their race daily.

This lack of sensitivity to race – and the racial structures that impact the lives of people of color – present special challenges for racially diverse congregations.

A good deal of ethnographic research has indicated people of color pay “the lion’s share” of the personal costs associated with attending multiracial churches, Edwards and Kim noted.

These costs include feeling isolated, not having their religious and cultural preferences met and having only symbolic influence in their congregations.

The recent research involved 121 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with head clergy of multiracial churches as part of the religious diversity project, a nationwide study led by Edwards of leadership in multiracial religious organizations in the United States.

… The findings were not surprising to M. Garlinda Burton, a black woman who is resource development manager at and a former interim head of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

“Racial justice has gone to the bottom of the list of priorities” for many predominantly white denominations, Burton said.

That is reflected within the church, she said, in ways from discounting the voices of people of color on either side of major issues confronting the denomination to many people considering the appointment of a pastor of color as a punishment to a congregation.

In many ways, even if left unsaid, “There is a sense among white people that white is better.”

Read more at … http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/in-multiracial-churches-pastors-of-color-hitting-the-same-white-wall/

CHURCH HISTORY & Statistics for each of the largest denominations. #ARDA #AssociationOfReligiousDataArchives

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: If you are coaching churches (or just connecting with leaders of a different denomination) it’s helpful to have one place where you can get reliable statistics on their number of churches, their growth or decline, etc. The American Religious Data Archives (ARDA) is the place scholars go for that data. Here is a link to their webpage which includes up-to-date statistical data on all of the major Christian denominations: http://www.thearda.com/landing/index.asp

DENOMINATIONAL WEB PAGES

The ARDA has integrated all of its information about each of the largest denominations and religious groups in the United States into one webpage.

African Methodist Episcopal Church

American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Assemblies of God

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Christian Churches and Churches of Christ

Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Church of the Nazarene

Churches of Christ

Episcopal Church

Evangelical Free Church of America

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)

National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church in America

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Roman Catholic Church

Seventh-day Adventist Church

Southern Baptist Convention

United Church of Christ

United Methodist Church

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & How an understanding that God is a loving Father (not an angry tyrant) led to Jonathan Edwards’ conversion. #ARDA #WesleyToo

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Those who have read my devotional on the life of John, Charles and Susanna Wesley (www.Enthusiast.life) know that a key to their conversions was when they came to the understanding that God was a “loving father” not as a angry master. The same understanding transformed the famed American preacher Jonathan Edwards as pointed out in this article by the ARDA (Association of Religious Data Archives).

… While still at Yale, Edwards had a conversion experience and became convinced of the opposite, that God’s sovereignty “very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.” Edwards had become convinced of the Calvinist view of God and humanity. Human beings were fallen, totally depraved, and deserving of an eternity of punishment in hell. God graciously plucked some, the elect, from that fiery fate. Edwards’s view of God transformed from that of a capricious, uncaring tyrant into a loving, gracious father.

Edwards inherited his grandfather’s church at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1729 and the young minister quickly became involved in a series of local revivals in New England during the 1730s. He believed that many New England Puritans were Christian in name only, that they had been infected by an “Arminian” theology that privileged free, human choice over God’s sovereignty. Rationalists, whom Edwards classed as “Arminians,” proposed a theology derived from reason and nature. They also argued that individuals were fundamentally moral beings with the ability to choose their faith, a belief that cut against the traditional Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. 

By 1738, when celebrity English evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour in the American colonies, those local revivals had grown into the mass religious movement that would later become known as the First Great Awakening. Whitefield, Edwards, and other preachers like Gilbert Tennent criticized American churches for their cold theological rationalism while proclaiming a revivified Calvinist gospel. It was in this environment that Edwards preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” while filling the pulpit in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. Edwards wanted to convince the parishioners that their religious faith was dead, that they were sinners, and thus they faced the righteous judgment of God should they not repent and turn from their false religious security.

Read more at … http://www.thearda.com/timeline/events/event_232.asp

Coaching (more than ever) during this season of change & finished writing my #14thBook “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” available in paperback & Kindle on Amazon. Pictured at a mega-client church

Click below to get the book

Amazon Links

Kindle

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F5L7S1T/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_DSDlFbA5FTSM5

Paperback

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08FK8VMWS/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

CHANGE & “2 Don’ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church.” New article by @BobWhitesel published by Church Revitalizer Magazine. Leadership.church www.8steps4change.church

Download the article free here >> ARTICLE ©Whitesel, 2 don’ts & 1 do to change a resistant church, Church Revitalizer Magazine.  More information available at … http://www.8steps4change.churchIMG_5274.jpegIMG_5275.jpegRead more at … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_july_aug_2020_85876561314d9e

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ARTICLE ©Whitesel 2 don’ts & 1 do to change a resistant church, Church Revitalizer Magazine July-Aug 2020 

2 Don’ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/24/20

Most of my clients in the past 30 years have been congregations that don’t want to change. Small churches, rural churches, urban churches or mega-churches, they all have the same thing in common: the leadership wants to bring about change, but the congregation doesn’t. The solution is understanding two don’ts and one do. 

DON’T force change.  

Change proponents usually force change arguing that is necessary for the survival of the church. They also suggest that if people don’t want change, they should go elsewhere. But researchers(1) have found that status quo members won’t usually leave a church. The status quo just quietly wait for the change proponents to make a misstep and then they reappear to cry foul. Because the church is the status quo’s social environment (e.g. extended family), they can’t go elsewhere.  Therefore successful change involves getting the status quo members involved in the change. See how below.

DON’T quit in protest. 

Change leaders often leave a church with metaphorical protest, citing Matt. 10:14: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (NIV).  But theologians such as R. V. G. Tasker remind us this verse is about Jesus sending out the 12 on a short-term mission which requires “such haste that they must not linger at any house which will not receive them.” (2) Today’s long-term and evolving relationship between pastor and congregants, usually requires working through change rather than quitting in protest.

DO these 8 steps.

So how does successful organizational change occur? There are actually eight steps first formulated by Harvard management scholar John Kotter. (3) I adapted them to church change while completing my Ph.D. research in church change at Fuller Theological Seminary. In fact, these eight steps are a key element of the D.Min. course I  wrote and have taught at Fuller Theological Seminary titled: “Leading Turnaround Churches.”

Here are the steps summarized from my book: “re:Mix – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color,” Abingdon Press (2017) with Mark DeYmaz. Learn more details of each step at:  ww.8steps4change.church

1. “Establish a Sense of Urgency.” Begin with a period of time acquainting the congregants with the need and biblical mandate for change. 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. But don’t make plans yet. Your task is to increase awareness of the urgency for change. How that change plays out is in the next steps, which for success require input from many church factions. Scripture; Ezekiel 3:17-19.

2. “Form a Powerful 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 consensus. Find those who resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation. These may be “persons of peace” (Luke 10:6). The Greek word here for peace is derived from the word “to join.” It literally means a person who helps people from different viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result. (4) Scripture: Luke 10:6

3. “Create a Communal Vision.” The step 2 guiding coalition creates the vision, thereby taking into consideration concerns and insights from various segments of the church. This guiding coalition helps you draft, refine and edit the 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 that is crafted by persons of peace from varying church segments. Scriptures: Proverbs 15:22, 29:18.

4. “Communicating the Vision.” Take your guiding coalition as well as congregational members to places where turnaround ministry is being done and let them experience it firsthand. Also use stories to help people picture change. Atlanta mega-congregation, 12Stone(c) Church, found that the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4) inspired their attendees to trust God for “many bold crossings” in their faith journeys. Scripture: use a story that illustrates your church’s spiritual waypoints.

5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.” It is important to delegate your power to others (or burn out). Too often 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, Jesus rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his power. Scripture: Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9. 

6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.” Probably the most overlooked step, short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision. Short-term wins are projects and programs that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet). But they demonstrate the validity of the new direction in a quick way. So, use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to launch new projects in ministry.  Scripture: Luke 10:17-20.

7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.” Short-term wins will give the guiding coalition the social capital to make long-term structural changes. Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t enough buy-in from hesitant members. Only after short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies. Scripture: Matthew 8:1-22.

8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.” Finally, it is time to adopt a church personality that reflects these changes.  Now your church vision statement might be changed. Now your church’s personality in the community might change. Your logo and byline might change. Don’t be tempted to do these first (most leaders do and fail because of it). The church’s new personality is the last thing to jell and it comes organically from the church’s new direction. I remind clients that “Vision won’t bring about change, change will bring about vision.”

Footnotes: 

(1) 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).

(2) R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel of St. Matthew, Tyndales new Testament Commentaries, 1961, p. 103.

(3) 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),

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