Commentary by Dr. Whitesel (6/15/18): I enjoyed Fuller Seminary PhD theology student Trey Clark’s presentation on how art, aesthetics, imagination and story were combined as early Dominicans shared the Good News in the new world. It was given to the AETE (Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education), an academic community which I serve as president emeritus.
Below are some takeaways:
The Dominicans sensed they lived in the end times, which motivated and energized their efforts. As Trey researched further, I asked him to look into if there is a correlation between a theological eschatology and a motivation/energy invested into evangelism.
Interesting fact: the Dominicans sometimes took a year to communally create the sermons to create relevance and apologetic impact.
Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.The result of this inward focus is that churches stop reaching non-churchgoers because they are less frequently meeting the needs of those outside of their fellowship.
Most non-churchgoers will avoid an ingrown church all together because it does not appear to be sensitive to their needs. Even newly launched and emerging churches are not immune to becoming ingrown. The close fellowship created in new church plants, multiple-site churches, cell-churches, art churches, café churches, and house churches often subtly redirect the leaders’ attention inward and away from their mission field.
Ask yourself, “How much of my volunteer time at church do I spend on meeting the needs of the congregation rather than meeting the needs of those who don’t go to church?” If you do not see a balance, then the church you attend may be ingrown.
Good churches have this problem too
Ingrown churches actually arise for a good reason. A church’s fellowship often is so attractive, compelling, and beneficial, that before long most of a congregation’s attention becomes directed toward these benefits. Donald McGavran in Understanding Church Growth summed up these positive/negative attributes by saying a good church will create “redemption and lift.”By this he meant that once a person is redeemed (restored back to a relationship with God), the person’s fellowship with other Christians will lift him or her away from previous friends who are non-churchgoers. The cure, according to McGavran, is to realize that this lift is good (it raises your life to a new level of loving Christ) but also bad (it separates you from non-churchgoers who need Christ’s love too). McGavran argued that balance is needed in meeting the needs of those inside the church and those outside of it, and so does this post.
Good reasons that trap churches into ingrown behavior
Let’s look at four common church characteristics characteristics that when left unattended can unintentionally redirect a church into a closed, inward focus:
History Trap—A church with a long history.
A church that is focused internally will eventually lose sight of its original mis- sion and gravitate toward being an organization consumed with helping itself. Years and years of internal focus will result in a church that knows little else. Leaders raised in an internally focused church will think that the volunteer’s role is to serve the existing congregation, perhaps to the point of burnout. Time erases the memory of the earliest days of a church conceived to meet the needs of non-churchgoers.
The Organizational Trap—A sizable congregation that must be managed.
Have you ever noticed that when new churches are started, they often have an outward focus? This may be because a newly planted church is often keenly aware that without reaching out to others, the new church will die. However, I have noticed that once a new church is about eighteen months old, it starts becoming so consumed its organizational needs, that it spends most of its time internally focused. Thus, any church with a history over eighteen months long will usually be internally focused.
The Experience Trap—A church with a talented and long-serving team of volunteers.
When a church has a cadre of talented and gifted leaders, these volunteers are often asked to stay too long in their positions. They thus become regarded as experts by others and newcomers. The result is that leadership unintention- ally becomes a closed clique, which newcomers with innovative ideas will often feel too intimidated to penetrate.
The Infirmity Trap—A church with a ministry to hurting people.
Hurting people are often seeking to have their hurts healed by the soothing balm of Christian community. A church that is offering this is doing something good, because to help hurting people is what Christ calls his church to do (James 1:27). And a ministry to hurting people must be conducted with confidentially and intimacy.
An unintentional result of such confidentiality is that these churches can become closed communities too. Subsequently, churches often thwart their mission to reach out to the hurting and instead gravitate toward a closed fellowship where outsiders find it increasingly harder to get in and get the help they need.
There is a difference between an internally focused church and one that is balanced with equal emphasis upon internal and external needs. Check all that apply to your church. The column with the most checks may indicate whether your church is growing in, growing out, or is equally balanced (the goal of an uncommon church).
Is your church ingrown?
Check all that apply to your church:
More curated ideas from professor, award-winning writer and consultant Bob Whitesel DMin PhD at ChurchHealth.wiki, WesleyTours.com, MissionalCoaches.com & ChurchHealth.expert
This video offers a look inside the beliefs and attitudes of Muslims in America; it features data from Pew Research Center’s 2017 survey, as well as the personal stories of Muslims from across the United States.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: (Sir) Ken Robinson’s TED talk is not only the most watched TED talk of all time and a wonderful model of good communication, but it is also shows how to tap into the creativity and innovation of unlikely people. It also shows how to nurture an organizational environment where innovation flourishes. If you are tackling a church turnaround, a church plant or any other type of innovative ministry, watch this video from time to time.
Commentary by Prof. B.: As an early adopter (13.5%) I sometimes grow impatient with the slowness brought to the diffusion of innovation by the slow pace of the early majority and late majority. As Sinek has pointed out, you cannot have a movement until you have attained 15-18% market penetration (the so-called “tipping point”) between the early adopters (me) and my colleagues/students (early majority). Here is Simon Sinek graphing this relationship in a short 10-minute TEDx talk.
“We Are the Light of the (Cyber) World: Let’s Act Like It” by Haley Bodine, Christianity Today, 1/10/18.
… internet troll is a person who intentionally posts inflammatory, divisive, or otherwise upsetting messages and comments online with the goal of inciting quarrels and provoking emotional response. A cyberbully is an individual who attacks another person or people group directly, using shame, threats, and intimidation.
According to a recent study conducted by YouGov, 28% of Americans admitted to online “trolling” activity. The same survey showed that 23% of American adults have maliciously argued an opinion with a stranger, and 12% admitted to making deliberately controversial statements.
Most of us have witnessed this type of behavior. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and even more (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, sexual harassment, or stalking.
This is a major behavioral problem, especially when 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian. If we profess Christ as King, we have a high calling to demonstrate character fitting for children of the Living God. We are to live as a sent people everywhere we are, including the cyber realm. Antagonistic, divisive, abusive, attacking, or otherwise harmful and destructive words have no place in the online lives of anyone who says they are a follower of Jesus…
Here are four things to ask yourself before posting anything online:
Will my words be useful for building others up (Eph. 4:29)? The power of life and death are contained in the tongue (Prov. 18:21)…
Is my post truthful? …
Will my words reflect the character of Jesus? Before posting anything, we should run our words through the filter of the fruits of the spirit. Do our words come from a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We will never regret choosing to withhold words that do not pass this litmus test.
Do my words honor the image of God imprinted on the people who will read them?Contentious online arguments and dissension will probably never cause someone to change their view on a hot topic issue. When we post our thoughts online, we must keep people as the priority, not our positions…