HAVEN & 5 Principles for Making Your Church a Haven by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine. #HealthyChurchBook from @WPHbooks

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 5/29/19.

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Jesus called His Church to come out from among the restless divisiveness of Jerusalem and be an avenue for God’s remarkable love for neighbor and God. The very words the biblical authors used for God’s love in the Old Testament (chesed) and in the New Testament (agape) described God’s steadfast, committed and pursuant love. This uncommonly potent and persistent love was the love the Church was to reflect.

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

1. Not condemnation, but aid.

Shunning and shaming is a tactic that rarely works when people are suffering. Chiding people with statements such as, “You are wrong. You are sinning!” is usually not productive. In fact, Jesus emphasized that conviction of sin is not the church’s job, stating:

If I don’t go away, the Companionwon’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

When he comes:

  • He will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore.
  • He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned” (John 16:8-9, italics added for emphasis).

Jesus’ repeated use of the emphatic “He will show the world…” reminded His hearers that despite the tendency of religious people to condemn and shame, conviction was the duty of the Holy Spirit.

However, the human role is to pray and rehabilitate, not persecute. The Church’s task is thus to provide aid with candor and honesty. Such a church becomes not so much an abode of recluse saints, as a community of caregivers.

2. Unfiltered agape love.

To help those ravaged by violence and abuse, the church must be a front of unrelentless and unfiltered love by reflecting the agapelove of the heavenly Father. Cambodian refugee Somaly Mam movingly writes, “I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen, and yes, love can make change.”

Unfiltered love does not mean turning a blind eye or disregarding sin.  Rather unfiltered love means that it is truthful love that is not filtered by contempt, by disapproval, by scorn and/or by oddity. Unfiltered love emerges when caregivers realize that but for the mercy of God they could be in the same predicament and in need of the same consolation.

Also, everyone in a safe-haven church seeks her or his role in caregiving. Everyone seeks to do one’s part in fostering an environment of love and health, where the ill-treated and injured can recover.

3. Take the ill-treated into our daily life (i.e., home).

A helpful scripture that sums up theimportance of a haven is Romans 15:7. Paul, addressing the divided world illustrated in the story that began this chapter, states, “So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.”

The word the Common English Bible (CEB) translates “welcome” is translated in other versions as “accept” (i.e., NIV). Still, the Greek word carries the welcoming idea better than the latter, indicating “the idea is to take something or someone to oneself, illustrated by inviting someone into your home.”

Therefore, this scripture might be paraphrased as the following.

“In the same way that Christ also welcomed you,” the church “for God’s glory should take the stranger into our life in all the ways that would mirror taking them into our personal residence” (Romans 15:7 paraphrased).

This would mean meeting their daily physical needs and their emotional needs. Today, when so many people have suffered violence striding brazenly and victoriously through their world, it is critical that the Church sees her task as not an intermediary (pointing those in need to others) but as primary caregiver (meeting others’ needs directly).

4. Compassion and assistance for the ill-treated.

As we create safe-havens taking more and more needy people into our faith community, all Christians must grow in their ability to render effective assistance. Our human inclination is to be self-seeking and to pull back from others’ needs. And so, putting first and then meeting the needs of others becomes difficult.

However, to overcome this limitation it is helpful to recall that humans are created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Christians thus should reflect His image in their actions.  But, how do we live out God’s image? It becomes easier if we follow theologian Anthony Hoekema’s suggestion that the image of God is best viewed as a verb rather than a noun.

Hoekema states, “We should think of the image of God… not as a noun but as a verb: we no longer image God as we should; we are not being enabled by the Spirit to imageGod more and more adequately; someday we shall image God perfectly.” So, the Church’s task is to imageor modelGod more clearly, through daily welcoming and attending to those ravaged by a heartless world.

5. Standing up for those ill-treated.

Being created in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) also means that all people, regardless of how they feel about their heavenly Creator, are nonetheless created in His image. This requires the Church to hold accountable any person who tramples that image, for such action offends God and should also offend the church.  Oscar A. Romero stated:

As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face,  as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images….whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.

Safe-haven churches are thus not only settings for healing, but also for advocacy.  They remain connected to the downtrodden and disheartened; standing up for their rights as well as giving them a pathway back to health.

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

Photo source: istock 

Read more of the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-principles-for-making-your-church-a-haven/

DANGER & Toilets and air fresheners hurt more people than sharks. #ILoveSurfing

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As an avid surfer, people often ask me if I’m worried about a shark attack. I tell them no, I put my trust in God first. And secondly, even among people who go to the beach the chance of being killed by shark is 1 in 11.5 million. Here are National Geographic’s even more remarkable statistics about some more dangerous household encounters.

by Meg Gleason, National Geograohic, 11/22/11.

…Who knew toilets and air fresheners could be so dangerous? Well, at least statistically speaking it appears sharks seem to pose less of a threat than many things we encounter every day.

  • In 1996, toilets injured 43,000 Americans. Sharks injured 13…
  • 1n 1996, buckets and pails injured almost 11,000 Americans.  Sharks injured 13.
  • In 1996, room fresheners injured 2,600 Americans.  Sharks injured 13.
  • The U.S. averages 19 shark attacks a year.  Lightning kills about 41 people a year in coastal states alone.
  • Since 1959, Florida has had nine shark attack fatalities.  Lightning fatalities = 459…
  • For every human killed by a shark, humans kill two million sharks.
  • Anyone who has swum in New Smyrna Beach, Florida (shark capital of the world) has likely been within 10 feet of a shark.
  • Some sharks can live for a year without eating, surviving on the oil stored in their livers.

Read more at … https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2011/11/22/nat-geo-wild-what-are-the-odds-some-surprising-shark-attack-stats/

HUMOR & Some of the greatest April Fools’ pranks of all time

by Todd Leopold, CNN, 4/1/18.

Pasta grows on trees

On April 1, 1957, the BBC TV show “Panorama” ran a segment about the Swiss spaghetti harvest enjoying a “bumper year” thanks to mild weather and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil. Many credulous Britons were taken in, and why not? The story was on television — then a relatively new invention — and Auntie Beeb would never lie, would it? 
The story was ranked the No. 1 April Fools’ hoax of all time by the Museum of Hoaxeswebsite — a fine source for all things foolish. 

Big Ben goes digital

(Getty)
The Brits are masters of April Fools’ gags, and in 1980, the BBC’s overseas service said the iconic clock tower was getting an update. Thejoke did not go over well, and the BBC apologized. That hasn’t stopped it from popping up again in the digital era, however

The Taco Liberty Bell

On April 1, 1996 a full page ad appeared in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and USA Today) announcing that the fast food chain Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell. The full text of the ad read:
Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell
In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.

In a separate press release, Taco Bell explained that the Liberty Bell would divide its time between Philadelphia and the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine. It compared the purchase to the adoption of highways by corporations. Taco Bell argued that it was simply “going one step further by purchasing one of the country’s greatest historic treasures.” The company boasted, “Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell. Now we’ve got the crown jewel of bells.”

 

The Sun’s 50p poo piece.
The Sun’s 50p poo piece. Photograph: oanslow1/The Sun

The Sun, meanwhile, claimed there would be a Royal Mint collection of coin designs based on emojis, including a poo emoji 50p, while the Daily Star reckons we’ll now be able to get beer on the NHS. Apparently “Guinness is good for you” after all.

 

Daily Mail’s April Fool cat flap.
Daily Mail’s April Fool cat flap. Photograph: DAILY MAIL

The Daily Mail had news that Larry the Downing Street cat was getting its own catflap in the famous door to No 10.

Google

Pick of the tech jokes this year is Google Tulip. With an extremely detailed technical spec and glossy promotional video, this development allows you to talk to your tulips, and discover just what it is they are thinking about. Spoiler alert: sunshine, soil and water.

 

And Cambridgeshire police are introducing the drug sniffer bunny.

Special Constabulary (@CambsCopsSC)

After 6 weeks training meet the forces new drugs sniffer rabbit Benni be sure to say hello if you see us on patrol#SSThomas pic.twitter.com/eiHv95y9Ul

April 1, 2019

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2019/apr/01/april-fools-day-2019-the-best-jokes-and-pranks-in-one-place

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(Image credit: Ali Kameri / EyeEm / Getty Images) 

Okay, there are going to be people out there who want this to be real. With elaborate dog birthday parties (including requested gifts) already being a thing, there are bound to be disappointed dog event planners who were hoping that Wayfair’s dog wedding registry launch was legit. Dubbed “Groom’d,” the placeholder site suggests that dog couples will love putting together a list of items they want for their new joint lives—including décor—because, of course.

 

From the press release: “We’re delighted to introduce the next generation wedding registry with a platform created just for dogs looking to take their puppy love to the next level.”

 

Forget candles—scented wallpaper is the new fragrance trend we wish we could have at home. A “beta tester” used to rub citrus on her walls, but Spoonflower’s Orange Blossom saves her from the “pulpy mess.” We wouldn’t be mad at lining our walls with the Aloe Eucalyptus and Summer Rose scents, either.

 

Read more at … https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/april-fools-pranks-2019-268192

 

 

HUBRIS & Why it is the enemy of good leadership. #HarvardBusinessReview #DeathByPlanningBook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: One of my books for Abingdon Press is called Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How not to kill a growing congregation. I looked at churches that were growing and the mistakes they made that usually stopped that growth. One of the mistakes was allowing “hubris” to subtly affect the leader. This article in Harvard Business Review cites research that confirms this hypotheses.

Ego Is the Enemy of Good Leadership

by Rasmus Hougaard & Jacqueline Carter , Harvard Business Review, 11/6/18.

… As we rise in the ranks, we acquire more power. And with that, people are more likely to want to please us by listening more attentively, agreeing more, and laughing at our jokes. All of these tickle the ego. And when the ego is tickled, it grows. David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary and a neurologist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, call this the “hubris syndrome,” which they define as a “disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years.”

… Our ego is like a target we carry with us. And like any target, the bigger it is, the more vulnerable it is to being hit. In this way, an inflated ego makes it easier for others to take advantage of us. Because our ego craves positive attention, it can make us susceptible to manipulation. It makes us predictable. When people know this, they can play to our ego. When we’re a victim of our own need to be seen as great, we end up being led into making decisions that may be detrimental to ourselves, our people, and our organization.

An inflated ego also corrupts our behavior. When we believe we’re the sole architects of our success, we tend to be ruder, more selfish, and more likely to interrupt others. This is especially true in the face of setbacks and criticism. In this way, an inflated ego prevents us from learning from our mistakes and creates a defensive wall that makes it difficult to appreciate the rich lessons we glean from failure.

Finally, an inflated ego narrows our vision. The ego always looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe. Basically, a big ego makes us have a strong confirmation bias. Because of this, we lose perspective and end up in a leadership bubble where we only see and hear what we want to. As a result, we lose touch with the people we lead, the culture we are a part of, and ultimately our clients and stakeholders.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/11/ego-is-the-enemy-of-good-leadership

Hell & Researchers say the fear of hell exerts a restraining effect on suicide.

by David Briggs, American Religion Data Archive, Christianity Today, 2/3/19.

“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html

HELL & Who Worries About Hell the Most? #BaylorUniv. researchers find belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs.

by David Briggs, American Religion Data Archive, Christianity Today, 2/3/19.

“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession

Can belief in hell be considered a pathological fear?

Consider the stakes for many believers. With the prospect of an eternity of torture and other forms of suffering, one might say a crippling fear of hell would be warranted.

With those questions in mind, a team of researchers from Baylor University developed a series of measures on “hell anxiety” and tested them in what they say is the first systematic examination of the psychological consequences of belief in hell.

What they found was that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses, and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation.

The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included:

  • The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety.
  • Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism.
  • Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety.

That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved.

The study found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell, and those with a sense outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety.

Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs, researchers concluded.

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html

HEALTH & Fat, happy? The comforts of practicing a religion #PewResearch

by Yonat Shimron  Religion News Service, 2/1/19.

…In a large meta-analysis of 35 countries, Pew researchers found that religiously active people around the world report a range of desirable health and social outcomes. They vote and volunteer more. They also smoke and drink less than the nonreligious or those who rarely attend.

The study, “Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health,” builds on a growing mountain of literature linking religion and health. That literature has mostly found that religions seem to contribute to overall health, though there are obvious exceptions.

Perhaps most notably, religious participation does not appear to encourage weight loss or regular exercise.

In 19 of the 35 countries, actively religious people are as likely as any other to be fat. They are also less likely to  exercise…

Religious people, he said, “are encouraged to eat. And the kinds of meals people eat in church fellowship groups are high-calorie ribs and fried chicken.”

In most countries, highly religious people are not more likely to rate themselves as being in very good overall health. The U.S. is among the exceptions. Thirty-two percent of Americans who are active in their religious congregations say they are in very good health, compared with 27 percent of their religiously inactive counterparts and 25 percent of nonreligious people.

The association between religion and happiness, however, is clear-cut: In every country studied, people who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier than those who attend infrequently or not at all.

GOOD NEWS & Bush funeral was a moment for our secular culture to recognize the degree to which, in the face of death, the Christian church has something meaningful to say.

I was grateful, however, that the service did not become a hodgepodge of interdenominational representatives divvying up the tasks, an effort at inclusiveness that has the effect of turning the liturgy into a kind of Model United Nations at prayer

By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 11/7/18.

The funeral of President George H.W. Bush was a moment for our secular culture to recognize the degree to which, in the face of death, the Christian church has something meaningful to say, some comfort to bring, some hope to proclaim...

I was grateful, however, that the service did not become a hodgepodge of interdenominational representatives divvying up the tasks, an effort at inclusiveness that has the effect of turning the liturgy into a kind of Model United Nations at prayer: All of the parts reserved for the clergy were led by the clergy of the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, the rector at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, preached a very excellent sermon. He included references to the readings, intertwined with personal remembrances of the man they had gathered to bury. Most importantly, he proclaimed the essential Christian belief in the salvific passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

https://youtu.be/PK3LqD-bpE0

Read more at … https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/distinctly-catholic/bush-funeral-blended-symbols-church-and-state-seemed-non-communal

HALLOWEEN CAVEAT: How CS Lewis and Harry Potter view evil differently.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Popularity of “evil characters” (e.g. “anti-heroes“) in movies, books, media, etc. coincides with the increasing popularity of Halloween. In such instances, popular entertainment often frames evil as some thing or some being “outside of yourself.”  You must react to this evil outside of yourself and you must defeat it (e.g. Harry Potter saga, fright houses, horror movies, etc.).

Yet, the scriptures portray evil as more often something within ourselves.  It is an “inner danger” which will be overcome only if we act rightly.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The Message (MSG)

9-10 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.”

we are born with.

Galatians 5:17-18 The Message (MSG)

16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

CS Lewis got this. Note this comparison between Lewis’ view (which I view as a more biblically valid view) and the outlook in Harry Potter books:

Harry Potter books … If you compare them with the Narnia books of CS Lewis it is very notable that the Potter books are much more dangerous for the heroes. Lewis is far more concerned with inner danger. His heroes know they will be victorious if they only act rightly…  –Andrew Brown, The Church of England should learn from Harry Potter this Halloween, The London Guardian, 10/31/18.

HIP-HOP & An interview w/ Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters: The church should embrace hip-hop

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I am addressing a group of African and African-American pastors/bishops at their national conference. One of the topics is the influence of hip-hop and how African immigrants and African-Americans disagree on its use. Here’s a helpful interview with an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who leads one of the healthiest congregations in Texas

Article by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, May 30, 2017

I really believe that hip-hop serves as a vital theological conversation partner for our present-day work. Hip-hop is without peer in terms of its cultural influence.

It is a global phenomenon, and there is an entire canon, an entire text, that the church has yet to explore. It really speaks to me like the narratives in Old Testament history that speak of communities under oppression facing marginalization and trying to identify where God is at work to liberate them in the midst of their struggle.

So when I hear Tupac, I hear St. Paul, and I also hear St. Augustine, as they struggle with issues of soteriology.

Q: Some church leaders may think of hip-hop as a way to connect to youth. But it sounds like you are talking about something deeper than that.

We can no longer talk about hip-hop solely as a youth movement, because hip-hop as a cultural artifact is now coming up on its 44th anniversary, from August of 1973(link is external). Some of the founders of the hip-hop movement themselves are approaching mid-60s or early 70s.

So we’re really talking about something that is far deeper than just young people in high school.

We’re talking about how generations interact with the world. It has articulated their hopes and dreams as well as their pain and despair.

In many ways, the church in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the westernmost portions, is dying. But I still believe that there are persons who long for community. They long for deeper faith and spirituality.

I think we have to shift our way, our mode, of connecting with individuals.

I think, biblically, of the apostle Paul in Acts when he goes to Athens and goes to the [Areopagus], and in that space, speaking to Stoics and Epicureans, he speaks to the unknown God. And as he begins to preach in that space, he does not draw his authority from the Torah.

He draws his authority from Athenian poetry, and he uses their conceptions of God as a means of presenting the Christ to them.

I believe we have the same opportunity in terms of engaging hip-hop, using that as a cultural artifact to bridge the gap between the culture and the church.

So we can provide a greater conception of who God is and of who God has called us to be.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/michael-w-waters-church-should-embrace-hip-hop?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

HISTORY & A Brief Historical Analysis/Definition of the Church Growth Movement by #EdStetzer

What’s the Deal with the Church Growth Movement? (part one)

by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, Christianity Today, 10/1/12.

Today, I begin a blog series that takes a closer look at the Church Growth Movement. Our approach to church today has been shaped by this movement whether we are conscious of it or not. Good and bad have evolved from the early days. By taking a closer look at the movement I hope we can learn and become more focused on lostness issues in America. So where were the thoughts and dreams of the early voices in the Church Growth Movement?

Now, church growth (as attendance) is not the same as Church Growth (as a movement). Most people would be in favor of growing a church, but Church Growth has become controversial (see the Google search on the movement to see how many links are to critiques).

So, what is Church Growth (when using capital letters). The American Society of Church Growth (now the Great Commission Research Network) defines it as:

Church growth is that discipline which investigates the nature, function, and health of Christian churches, as they relate to the effective implementation of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples (Mt. 28:19-20). It is a spiritual conviction, yet it is practical, combining the eternal principles of God’s Word with the practical insights of social and behavioral sciences.

Over the next few weeks, I want to talk a look at the movement, starting with the person widely seen as the founder of the movement.

Donald McGavran, was a missiologist and third generation missionary born in India. He is universally considered the father of the Church Growth Movement. He was, interestingly, a missiologist and that was related to his emphasis.

As a missiolgist, when he suggested the need to transition our strategy from “people” to “peoples” in his work Bridges of God in 1954, it impacted his views (and the Church Growth Movement) in big ways. His study of groups (or peoples) on how they respond, undergirded the movement’s emphasis on statistics, sociology, analysis, and more.

Let me say that I am a fan of Donald McGavran. We may learn more by understanding what McGavran was not saying, particularly from the beginning. For example, McGavran took on the most popular, long standing approach to international missions and evangelism. He declared the “mission station approach,” that had existed for over 150 years, was ineffective for reaching the masses. He determined that by measurement– he analyzed and came to statistical conclusions that undergirded his missiological decisions that led to the Church Growth Movement.

For background, the mission station approach encouraged new converts to leave their tribe and isolate themselves. They took advantage of Western churches, hospitals, and schools (goods and services) established on international mission fields. He did not deny the positive outcomes through this approach but called for a “new pattern” when it comes to results (peoples being converted to Christ):

A new pattern is at hand, which, while new, is as old as the Church itself. It is a God-designed pattern by which not ones but thousands will acknowledge Christ as Lord, and grow into full discipleship as people after people, clan after clan, tribe after tribe and community after community are claimed for and nurtured in the Christian faith.(Bridges of God 331,332)

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/october/whats-deal-with-church-growth-movement-part-one.html

HIRING & Rural Pastors’ Myers-Briggs Correlated w/ Church Size/Health

Commentary by Prof. B: There are many research-based and valid ways to look at pastoral suitability.  Martin Butler has looked at various leadership traits and behaviors in his exhaustive research.  Kenton F. Hinton D.Min. offers a somewhat different and interesting correlation between the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and whether a pastor can grow a church. The following is gleaned from his presentation to the 2017 annual meeting of the Great Commission Research Network held Oct. 19, 2017 at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY.

Caution: These findings were part of a DMin project by Hinton and based upon a sample of 28 rural churches led by Anglo pastors.  Though the results mirror other research (notably Finke and Stark), the reader must be careful to apply this cautiously outside of the sample context. One of my colleagues at the presentation stated, “This proves what works in Johnson County in Southern Baptist Churches” (ET).

Here are some of the takeaways.

ESFJ pastors

  • mostly grew a church.
  • top spiritual gifts (ranked): faith, prophesy, pastor, encouragement
  • strongest skill set: preaching

ESFJ pastors

  • mostly plateaued a church.
  • top spiritual gifts (ranked): pastor, giving, encouagement, faith
  • strongest skill set: pastoral care

E/ISTJ pastors

  • mostly declined a church.
  • top spiritual gifts (ranked): teaching, wisdom, knowledge, pastor, giving
  • strongest skill set: teaching

(Hinton didn’t expand on other MBTI categories)

#GCRN

 

 

 

HIRING & 12 Qualities Research Discovered Makes Pastors More Effective #Butler&Herman

Commentary by Prof. B: The following is an introduction (with at the end an opportunity to download the complete article) to Butler and Herman’s seminal research on  behaviors and traits that lead to ministerial effectiveness. I have summarized the results for churches in an article I penned based upon Butler and Herman’s research here: LEADERSHIP TRAITS & Research Offers Alternative List of the 12 Qualities of Effective Leaders. Here is the introduction to the original Butler and Herman research.

Finding Effective Pastors

Introduction by D. Martin Butler, Ph.D.

My doctoral dissertation was written on the topic of ministerial effectiveness. Although the research is now more than a decade old, it still reflects the core values of a post-modern world. Many of the eleven competencies reflect post-modern ideals such as servanthood, shepherding, visioning, multi-talking, etc. The instruments used in the study have continued to be utilized in various leadership situations and continue to show validity for predicting leadership effectiveness. Most notable, the religious instrument used was based upon work done by the Association of Theological Schools. As recently as 2002-2004 the conceptual framework of the Profiles of Ministry was re-visited and the characteristics expected of ministers reflected in that instrument were overwhelmingly endorsed by laity and clergy alike. It is impossible to know if a study made of Nazarene pastors today would yield exactly the same eleven competencies spelled out below, but neither has evidence surfaced from any research that renders the results invalid for the 21st century Church.

I won’t bore you with asking that you read then entire dissertation, but the following is a copyrighted article I co-authored with my research advisor. It was printed in a journal entitled Nonprofit Management and Leadership. I include it below for your educational benefit, but remind you that it is copyrighted by the journal and should not be reproduced.

What you will read below is a summary of my research. The bottom line is that I discovered key laypersons in Nazarene churches were looking for certain leadership competencies in their pastors. Those eleven competencies become the focal point of the remainder of the course. The article is a bit “dry” because it was written for a scholarly publication, but I hope you catch the essence of my research.

Abstract

Ministers of local congregations are in positions somewhat similar to the chief executives of other local nonprofit organizations, except that ministers are also expected to respond to the specifically religious needs of their congregants. In this research we assess how especially effective ministers in one denomination differ from less effective ministers in both general leadership skills and specifically religious leadership skills.

The especially effective ministers were identified by applying three selection methods, resulting in an unusually careful selection of a sample of especially effective leaders. The results show that the especially effective are more skillful managers, problem solvers, planners, delegaters, change agents, shepherds, inspirers, multi-taskers, students, servants and demonstrate themselves to be persons of integrity…

Read more in the article, Effective Ministerial Leadership,

If you are a Wesley Seminary student, Off Campus Library Services can provide this to you free of charge.

HOMOGENEOUS & John Perkins on the Need for Heterogeneity

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I’m at the Exponential Conference teaching a course to seminary students about missional multiplication. One of the topics we are discussing is how churches think they can grow faster by being mono-cultural (i.e. homogeneous). When in reality they may grow faster with homogeneity, they better fulfill the missio Dei (and probably last probably longer if they’re heterogeneous).

Take a look at Mark DeYmaz’s explanation of the difference between homogeneous and heterogeneous churches at the link below. DeYmaz also explains why Donald McGavran warned that churches should be heterogeneous and not homogeneous: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/hup-mark-deymaz-on-why-mcgavran-recommended-heterogeneous-churches/

Then take a look at this video by John Perkins who powerfully emphasizes the same thing:

Retrieved from https://exponential.org/dr-john-perkins/

HUMOR & Super Bowl Commercials That Have Captured The Spirit Of The Culture

1984 The Rise of Customer-friendly Technology

2006 Incompetency at Work

2012 A Hunger for Nostalgia

2012 Living in a Dangerous World

2014 Living in a Mosiac World

2015 Men Can Care Too

Read more at … http://www.forbes.com/sites/marymeehan/2017/01/16/watch-past-super-bowl-commercials-that-have-captured-the-spirit-of-the-culture/#6110a8782302

HIRING & Here Are My Comments on What Research Says Are 11 Questions You Be Asking Candidates

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Hiring a new employee is a momentous decision that I have helped many churches and university committees tackle.  Here is a list of 10 questions I try to ask with a commentary on each.  The 10 questions are based upon the hiring questions from James Kerr’s article in Inc. Magazine (bulleted points by James Kerr, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16).  My thoughts are in red.

Here are 10 questions that should be used to assess the quality of the leaders in the place and to help in the selection of those to come.

By James Kerr, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

(Comments in red by Bob Whitesel PhD).

1. The leader works to understand their industry and contribute to its evolution through their company’s work? You want leaders that are sincerely interested at the work at hand and those can become movers and shakers within their industries.

It is important she/he be a “mover and shaker” in the future of their field.

2. The leader communicates the firm’s vision and strategies and helps their team to better understand how they contribute to the achievement of Company goals? You want leaders that understand, buy-into and can communicate the firm’s strategies to their people.

A good communicator.

3. The leader demonstrates executive presence and is comfortable working at all levels of an organization? You want leaders that have the poise and confidence to be effective in all circumstances.

Who understands and is well read on the views of today’s younger generations.

4. The leader is an exceptional trust-builder? You want leaders of high integrity that you can be counted on.

This is a key.  It should be someone of whom the committee senses they can trust to do the right thing for the team (not just for the organization).

5. The leader inspires followership and can build a strong team around them? You want leaders that people want to work for and with.

Who understands different types of leaders and can build a team with what she/he is given.

6. The leader is a thought leader that can introduce new ways of “thinking” and “doing”? You want leaders that are always pushing to be better.

Who is an ‘organic intellectual’ (Antonio Gramsci) who makes difficult ideas easy to understand, e.g. may have written easy-to-read books on difficult subjects.

7. The leader is an outstanding communicator, skilled at both listening and messaging? You want leaders that can communicate effectively, so that there is no doubt about what is important.

Does she/he listen? Or do they run headlong with their own projects.

8. The leader routinely provides feedback and coaching to their team? You want leaders that are always working to make their team better.

Are they a conflict-avoider? Do they welcome criticism?

9. The leader rewards outstanding performance and knows how to reward the “right” people? You want leaders that recognizes talent and rewards people based on results, and, not on effort or out of favoritism.

Will they ask staff to do things without compensation, because the staff will do so? Instead, will they help move an organization where staff and volunteers do not feel taken advantage of.

10. The leader can demystify complex concepts and teach them to their teams? You want leaders that can teach people how to be the best that they can be.

Someone who brings out the best in the team they are given.

Original bulleted points retrieved from … http://www.inc.com/james-kerr/top-10-leadership-assessment-questions.html

HIRING & Top 10 Leadership Assessment Questions You Should be Asking a Potential Hire

Here are 10 questions that should be used to assess the quality of the leaders in the place and to help in the selection of those to come.

By James Kerr Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

1. The leader works to understand their industry and contribute to its evolution through their company’s work? You want leaders that are sincerely interested at the work at hand and those can become movers and shakers within their industries.

2. The leader communicates the firm’s vision and strategies and helps their team to better understand how they contribute to the achievement of Company goals? You want leaders that understand, buy-into and can communicate the firm’s strategies to their people.

3. The leader demonstrates executive presence and is comfortable working at all levels of an organization? You want leaders that have the poise and confidence to be effective in all circumstances.

4. The leader is an exceptional trust-builder? You want leaders of high integrity that you can be counted on.

5. The leader inspires followership and can build a strong team around them? You want leaders that people want to work for and with.

6. The leader is a thought leader that can introduce new ways of “thinking” and “doing”? You want leaders that are always pushing to be better.

7. The leader is an outstanding communicator, skilled at both listening and messaging? You want leaders that can communicate effectively, so that there is no doubt about what is important.

8. The leader routinely provides feedback and coaching to their team? You want leaders that are always working to make their team better.

9. The leader rewards outstanding performance and knows how to reward the “right” people? You want leaders that recognizes talent and rewards people based on results, and, not on effort or out of favoritism.

10. The leader can demystify complex concepts and teach them to their teams? You want leaders that can teach people how to be the best that they can be.

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/james-kerr/top-10-leadership-assessment-questions.html

HIERARCHIES & Why It Increases the Risk of Calamitous Decisions

by Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, 12/11.

… the typical management hierarchy increases the risk of large, calamitous decisions.

  • As decisions get bigger, the ranks of those able to challenge the decision maker get smaller.
    • Hubris, myopia, and naïveté can lead to bad judgment at any level,
    • but the danger is greatest when the decision maker’s power is, for all purposes, uncontestable.
  • Give someone monarchlike authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screwup.

A related problem is that the most powerful managers are the ones furthest from frontline realities. All too often, decisions made on an Olympian peak prove to be unworkable on the ground.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2011/12/first-lets-fire-all-the-managers

HOLE IN THE GOSPEL & Fewer Americans Believe Churches Solve Social Problems

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have pointed out in the book “Cure for the Common Church” that Jesus often met people’s physical needs before he told them that he could solve their spiritual needs. Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs, confirmed this as the most effective approach.

Thus, churches today that are leading people to Christ do so by first meeting physical needs to demonstrate our compassion, care and good news of salvation.

Here is an important article that reminds us that most people do not see us in this, but they should! To understand the dilemma read this article. To you understand the “cure” read “Cure for the Common Church” chapters 1 and 2.

Fewer Americans Believe Churches Solve Social Problems
by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Facts & Trends, 7/28/16.

America may be facing problems, but a growing number of people say churches are of no help in solving them.

Four out of 10 (39 percent) say churches or other houses of worship offer “not much” or “nothing” toward solving society’s problems. That’s up from 23 percent in 2008, according to a new survey from Pew Research.

Six in 10 (58 percent) say churches and other houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving social problems. That’s down from 75 percent in 2008 and the lowest number since Pew began asking the question in 2001.

PF_2016.07.13_religionpolitics-02-02.png

White evangelicals (70 percent) are most confident of the church’s positive role in society. Nones (38 percent) are far more skeptical.

But both groups have lost confidence in the role of churches in society.

In 2008, 86 percent of evangelicals and 56 percent of nones said houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving society’s problems. Both groups saw a decline of at least 15 percentage points in the latest poll.

The decline cut across religious and political lines.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/07/28/fewer-americans-believe-churches-solve-social-problems/#.V5nqofT3aJI

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

CONFLICT & Research Finds 2 Tools that Promote Intellectual Humilty & Resolve Conflict

by David Briggs, Huffington Post, 6/1/16.

Humility. Intellectual humility in particular.

New research projects are finding the more pastors are perceived to be intellectually humble, the more likely they are to be forgiven by people who took offense at something they said or did.

This was especially the case in one study for perceived transgressions in the area of religious beliefs, values or convictions, core areas of religious identity that have the potential to tear asunder congregations.

All congregations are going to go through “relational wear and tear,” and the tension can be particularly high when strongly held religious beliefs are threatened, researchers said.

But humble clergy who model openness and mutual respect may provide the “social oil” that keeps the congregation from overheating and breaking under the strain, new research indicates.

Listening to others

…Humility involves being other-oriented and having an accurate view of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Intellectual humility includes being open to new ideas and being able to regulate arrogance. Thus, intellectually humble individuals are able to present their own ideas “in a nonoffensive manner and receive contrary ideas without taking offense,” said researchers reporting on studies of intellectual humility and religious leadership. The team, led by researchers from Georgia State University, found intellectual humility was associated with higher levels of trust, openness and agreeableness.

“…The more victims perceived the religious leader to have intellectual humility, the more they reported being able to forgive him or her,” reported the study’s researchers, led by Joshua Hook of the University of North Texas.

Modelling Respect

It is the unusual congregation that can avoid internal tensions for too long.

More than six in 10 congregations reported some kind of conflict in the past five years, according to the 2015 Faith Communities Today study.

…More than a quarter of all congregations experienced a conflict in the last two years that led some people to leave the congregation, according to the 2006-2007 National Congregations Study. Nine percent of congregations experienced a conflict that led to the departure of a clergyperson or other religious leader.

Findings from the studies on religious leaders are consistent with a developing body of research that indicate perceived humility can help repair social bonds. In one study, college students who had been hurt in a romantic relationship within the last two months were more likely to forgive an offender they perceived as being humble…

Read more at … http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/saving-grace-the-leadersh_b_10209548.html?utm_hp_ref=religion&ir=Religion