NARRATIVE & How to Create a Powerful Narrative for Your Company- Combine experience with enthusiasm to tell your story.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: attaching a story to your mission can help people see how spiritual goals are attained through prayer, progress and God’s leading. Churches like 12Stone Church in Atlanta have effectively employed Old Testament stories to describe their missional journey. Check out this Inc. Magazine article for ideas how to craft a missional story.

By Frank Wazeter, Inc. Magazine, 6/6/22.

… In my early 20’s I was fortunate enough to be in charge of a small company. We didn’t implement any best practices because we didn’t know any better. It was run on sheer enthusiasm, power of vision and daring to dream in an idyllic version of how things could be. Keeping the entire company focused on the pursuit of idealism had a surprising result.

… As time went on, I gained battle-hardened experience through recessions, booms and struggles. By the time I started my own company, I knew how to profit from vision, but something along the way had gotten lost. Boldness was replaced by measured risk assessment and experience-driven insight.

Experience gives you the ability to seamlessly overcome obstacles and challenges, but it also makes you act more conservatively or become skeptical on what can and cannot work. Conservatism comes because we simply don’t want to experience painful learning curves all over again.

…What you must do is rekindle that purpose in order to capture its power. To do that you’ve got to be in the habit of constantly reminding yourself of what it was that made you start the company to begin with. Write out a bold manifesto for your vision of the future and go back to it every single day.

… When you operate your company from a bold manifesto, an interesting thing happens. People begin to get attracted to you in a way that’s simply more endearing and long lasting than focusing on the mechanical benefits of what it is you do or the mundane daily details of operating.

Your hiring gets better because you attract like minded people. Your marketing gets better because you operate from a place of passion. You attract better and longer lasting repeat customers because they’re bought into your vision and feel like they’re just as much a part of it.

What happens is you and your business become a part of a narrative. A part of a story, rather than simply another business out there.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/frank-wazeter/how-to-create-a-powerful-narrative-for-your-company.html

NONES & When they attend, they generally attend large churches according to @AzusaPacificUniversity professor Dave Dunaetz #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #GCRN

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This can be a curse and a blessing. A blessing in that larger churches should know they have nones in attendance and that they should research their physical and spiritual needs. But it can be a curse in that nones can disappear and be beyond strategic notice in a larger context. More ministry to the nones needs to be strategized with this research in mind.

Read more articles by Dave Dunaetz in the Great Commission Research Journal at https://www.greatcommissionresearch.com

NONES & @WheatonCollege prof. @Reimaginer #RickRichardson’s research finds 39% of unchurched millennials see themselves “attending chruch sometime regularly in the future.” #Exponential #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #GCRN

Figure 3:10. Unchurched millennials response to “How likely are you to attend church regularly sometime in the future.:

For more info check out the Great Commission Research Network research and publications at https://www.greatcommissionresearch.com

NEEDS OF GUESTS & #SundayChurchHacks: Before and/or after worship services set up tables in your gathering spaces with signage inviting attendees to meet others with similar hobbies & interests. Guests will find people like themselves.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I heard about a church that offered tables in their foyer with signs above each with the names of various hobbies. The tables had titles above them such as: gardening, fishing, traveling, etc. including many actives popular in the local community. The result was that people didn’t shuffle out of the church with comfortable smiles and nods to others. Instead, those who felt passionately about an interest found others with whom then could share that interest and begin building a relationship.

Create opportunities for guests to not just learn about the church through pamphlets and bulletins, because it is even more important to help guests start deeper relationships which will lead to friendship, interdependence and discipleship.

#SundayChurchHacks, Bob Whitesel DMin PhD

#SundayChurchHacks

NEED-MEETING CHURCHES & Do Churches Contribute to Their Communities? Barna’s research says “yes!” Here is a list of ways researchers found churches benefit their communities.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When non-churchgoers think about the contributions of a church to a community, they mostly think about ministry to the pour. But the research organization founded by George Barna, found that churches contribute in many more ways to the wellbeing of people and their communities. Read this article (and check out the accompanying chart) to see how.

Research Releases in Leaders & Pastors•July 13, 2011,

How Churches Can Contribute?
Despite their positive feelings toward churches, many adults are unclear as to how churches could best serve their communities. One-fifth of adults (21%) did not venture a single response as to how churches could contribute positively to their communities. Among the unchurched, defined as those who have not attended a church in the last six months, fully one-third are not certain how congregations could be beneficial. [Note: the survey question asked, Many churches and faith leaders want to contribute positively to the common good of their community. What does your community need, if anything, that you feel churches could provide?]

Addressing poverty and helping the poor was the most common top-of-mind response Americans offered as to how churches can positively influence their communities (29%). This includes helping the needy, poor and disabled, distributing food and clothing, and assisting the homeless.

Americans also expect that churches would contribute positively by engaging in common ministry activities, such as teaching the Bible and giving spiritual direction (12%); serving youth, families and the elderly (13%); and cultivating biblical values in individuals and communities (14%). What kind of biblical values do people expect churches to espouse? Respondents not only said churches should teach and instill morals and values, but also believe they should cultivate a sense of belonging, show compassion and love toward others, and bring unity to the community.

Also, one in ten Americans (10%) believe that churches should assist those in recovery, providing counseling, support groups, and other forms of guidance and assistance to help lives get back on track.

One out of 14 adults (7%) said that churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational ways—such as helping the unemployed get jobs, giving financial assistance, providing financial counseling, and offering literacy classes.

Small percentages of adults mentioned that churches should be inclusive and accepting of everyone (3%) or that they should be engaged politically (1%) as a means of contributing to their communities.

… David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, offered four observations about the research findings:

1) Churches are perceived to be an important element of a community, even among the unchurched. This positive view is partly due to the fact that most unchurched adults are de-churched, or former churchgoers. So, although they may be wary of personal involvement, they have an understanding of the service and assistance that churches can provide to their communities.

2) Indifference toward churches is a key feature of skeptics’ opinions.Even among the most non-religious adults—atheists and agnostics—the majority simply express neutral perspectives about the role of congregations. Only 14% of this segment is negative toward churches. Despite the aggressive posture of leading skeptics, most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches. Their response is better characterized as benign indifference.

3) Churches are not thought of as contributing to civic enhancement, beyond poverty assistance. Most people do not connect the role of faith communities to civic affairs, particularly local efforts like assisting city government, serving public education, doing community clean-up, or engaging in foster care and adoption, and so on. There are opportunities for faith leaders to provide more intentional, tangible, and much-needed efforts to assist local government, particularly as many services have been diminished by the economy.

4) Introducing people to a transformed life in Christ is rarely perceived to be an act of community service. There seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ. Ministry-related goals – such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation – are infrequently viewed as a primary way to serve the community. Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs. Yet, this seems to miss an important biblical pattern: you change communities by transforming lives.

Read more at … https://www.barna.com/research/do-churches-contribute-to-their-communities/

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Almost half of U.S. congregations participate in some kind of food distribution program … and even small efforts by local congregations make an outsized difference for people who are experiencing food-insecurity.

by , The Conversation Magazine, 10/28/21.

Almost half of U.S. congregations participate in some kind of food distribution program. While the government’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program was helping nearly 42 million Americans purchase groceries in mid-2021, those benefits often don’t cover the full food costs of people facing economic hardship. And not everyone who needs food is eligible for those benefits.

Food banks, food pantries, meal programs and similar initiatives run by churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based institutions are among the charitable organizations seeking to fill this gap.

As a social scientist who studies the economic impact of community-based organizations, I have seen even small efforts by local congregations make an outsized difference for people who are experiencing food insecurity – meaning they can’t get enough nutritious food to eat.

Building on my research with Karen Flórezand Kathryn Derose, I have tracked the important role congregations play in getting food to the people who need it. I analyzed data collected through the National Congregations Study – a nationally representative survey of congregations.

… This data indicates that in 2018, 48% of U.S. congregations either had their own food-distribution program or supported efforts run by another organization, such as a food bank or food pantry. That’s over 150,000 congregations.

Unlike government programs, these faith-based efforts generally provide help immediately to anyone who shows up, with no questions asked. For example, the Laboratory Church in Indianapolis runs a mobile food pantry. Like most congregation-based food programs, it requires “no qualifications” or extensive paperwork to receive food.

Read more at … https://theconversation.com/nearly-half-of-all-churches-and-other-faith-institutions-help-people-get-enough-to-eat-170074?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Nearly%20half%20of%20all%20churches%20and%20other%20faith%20institutions%20help%20people%20get%20enough%20to%20eat&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Almost half of U.S. congregations participate in some kind of food distribution program … and even small efforts by local congregations make an outsized difference for people who are experiencing food-insecurity.

by , The Conversation Magazine, 10/28/21.

Almost half of U.S. congregations participate in some kind of food distribution program. While the government’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program was helping nearly 42 million Americans purchase groceries in mid-2021, those benefits often don’t cover the full food costs of people facing economic hardship. And not everyone who needs food is eligible for those benefits.

Food banks, food pantries, meal programs and similar initiatives run by churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based institutions are among the charitable organizations seeking to fill this gap.

As a social scientist who studies the economic impact of community-based organizations, I have seen even small efforts by local congregations make an outsized difference for people who are experiencing food insecurity – meaning they can’t get enough nutritious food to eat.

Building on my research with Karen Flórezand Kathryn Derose, I have tracked the important role congregations play in getting food to the people who need it. I analyzed data collected through the National Congregations Study – a nationally representative survey of congregations.

… This data indicates that in 2018, 48% of U.S. congregations either had their own food-distribution program or supported efforts run by another organization, such as a food bank or food pantry. That’s over 150,000 congregations.

Unlike government programs, these faith-based efforts generally provide help immediately to anyone who shows up, with no questions asked. For example, the Laboratory Church in Indianapolis runs a mobile food pantry. Like most congregation-based food programs, it requires “no qualifications” or extensive paperwork to receive food.

Read more at … https://theconversation.com/nearly-half-of-all-churches-and-other-faith-institutions-help-people-get-enough-to-eat-170074?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Nearly%20half%20of%20all%20churches%20and%20other%20faith%20institutions%20help%20people%20get%20enough%20to%20eat&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

NEED-MEETING & A video intro to a “4-stage Need-based Outreach Strategy”

Commentary by Prof. B: I’ve created this video to not only introduce colleagues and clients to the efficacy of a “4-Stage Outreach Strategy,” but also to give my online students a sense of an introduction I would give in a live classroom. The viewer will find a concise intro to why most outreach efforts fail … because they are not holistically incorporating all “4-stages” of an outreach strategy. Plus, my LEAD-600 students will find this a helpful introduction to their classroom assignments on need-based outreach.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

You can find more on this in videos and excerpts from my books/articles at the below links (or by just searching for the words “need-based” or “need-meeting” on ChurchHealth.wiki):

NEED-MEETING CHURCH & Researchers find almost 75% of the population suffer one or more of these crises each year.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel, 9/21/21. A colleague of mind, Flavil Yeakley, found that crises often lead a person to making a commitment to Christ and accepting Him as their savior.

But, how many people go through these crises every year? Almost 3 out of 4 people (almost 74%) according to the Findings from the Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5:

B. Faith in Times of Stress
By Renae Wilkinson

“We asked survey respondents about events in their lives in order to gain some insight into how troubled times affect the stress and resilience of Americans. Over a third of our respondents experi- enced the death of a loved one in the past 12 months (Figure 47 (next page)). The next most preva-lent stressful event (13%) was the experience that one ‘failed at something important’ last year. Few people had a crisis of faith and even fewer respondents got a divorce last year.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-09-21-at-10.45.06-am.png

“Interestingly, while many Americans experienced the death of a loved one last year, many did not find this is extremely stressful (Figure 48). Perhaps the death was expected or even welcome depending on the health and age of the loved one. While divorce was rarer, it ranked as the most stressful of events for Americans who experienced it.”

Download the entire report here: https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pd

#GPPCseminar

#COG-Anderson

NEIGHBORING & 3 ways to reach non-religious people in your community.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have been recommending the concept of “neighboring” as a way to connect with those you live among in a loving, helpful manner. Here are examples drawn from a young couple who planted a church and which grew based upon the principles of neighboring.

by Ben and Lynley Mandrell, LifeWay, 10/12/20.

…According to recent findings by LifeWay Research, 94% of today’s churchgoers grew up with a connection to the church. Let that sink in: Almost everyone listening to your sermons grew up going to church. We’re not reaching very far.

…This means only 6% of churchgoing adults say they didn’t attend church as a child.Why aren’t we talking more about them—and the scores of other unchurched who are yet to be reached?

Having said this, equal attention should be given to the fact that our non-religious friends aren’t showing up at our churches. The pastor is preaching to the choir most Sundays. 

…Unless something changes, the majority of Americans will grow up away from the church with little chance the church will reach them.

here are three strategies we, along with our church in Denver, Colorado, employed to reach people who are skeptical of Jesus and His followers.

1. REACH THEM AS KIDS.

There’s a reason C.S. Lewis wrote children’s novels: He believed story was the best way to impart truth into the heart. But he also saw the fertile, soft soil of a child’s soul.

…Kids invite their friends to fun activities. Whenever we planned a block party or outdoor movie, we encouraged families to involve their kids in engaging their peers.

There would be no awkward, surprising gospel presentation at the end of the night. The purpose of the event was to provide free fun and to build friendships.

…The only announcement would be a soft invitation to a next-level event (a marriage class, a women’s gathering, or a men’s outing).

…Bottom line: Create a series of fun events for kids and challenge the children in your church to invite their friends. You might be surprised who shows up.

2. BUILD A CULTURE OF NEIGHBORING.

In our church, we often said, “Invite people into your life, not to a location.” Of course, the end-goal was to see lives transformed by the gospel. But we recognized the journey for most non-religious people was gradual.

Putting evangelism on the calendar in hard-to-reach places is highly ineffective. Utilizing mission teams that arrive with a passion for confrontational evangelism is pressurized for the evangelist.

A far better strategy for reaching today’s non-religious crowd is to bake what we call “neighboring” into the DNA of the church. 

Our church staff meetings often began by the two of us sharing a story of an intentional relationship we were building with new, non-believing friends. We couldn’t control outcomes, but we could control effort.

We celebrated purposeful relationships and prayed as a staff for specific people we longed to see in our weekend services.

In the COVID-19 world we now live in, there’s never been a better time to push your church toward a neighboring mentality. 

Challenge everyone in your congregation to draw a map of their street and begin filling in the names of the people who live in each house. Push them to pray for those families and individuals by name.

As Christians take on the mindset of living like a missionary on their street, they’ll start to enjoy evangelism rather than being intimidated by it. When evangelism is everyone’s job in the local church, the number of lives touched by the gospel will multiply.

3. PREACH AS IF HALF THE ROOM IS BRAND NEW TO THE BIBLE.

But from the moment our unchurched friends started showing up on Sundays, the sole aim of my preaching was to make the metanarrative of Scripture crystal clear to the first-timer. Every sermon mattered, and the words and tone I used were critical. 

As a preacher begins to show increased sensitivity to the spiritual explorer, church members gain increasing confidence in bringing their non-religious friends to a service.

…A few principles I (Ben) followed:

  • Say, “If you’re new to the Bible” at least three times in every sermon. Any time you introduce a term that sounds “churchy,” stop and recognize that some might stumble over the terminology. When Paul uses the word sanctified, stop and say, “If you’re new to the Bible, you may wonder what in the world that word means. Let me explain.”
  • Provide more context than you’re inclined to do. If you’re preaching from Nehemiah, it’s not enough to simply teach the story that Nehemiah felt burdened about a broken wall. You must show the connection to the larger story and provide the background necessary to grasp its importance.
  • Speak about people as if they’re in the room. A non-religious person will be uncomfortable with that form of strawman preaching that mocks other worldviews. Apologetics is important to preaching in any context, but be sure to amplify the beauty of the Christian worldview—not tear down others. Making fun of or vilifying people from other faiths or speaking about them in uncharitable ways won’t help you gain ground with skeptics.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/10/12/3-ways-to-reach-non-religious-people-in-your-community/

NEED-MEETING & How to design outreach that is founded upon meeting the needs of those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, “Waypoint 16: No Awareness of a Supreme Being” Waypoint 15: Awareness of a Supreme Being, No knowledge of the Good News” and “Waypoint 14: Initial Awareness of the Good News” in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Spiritual Waypoints [cropped top 1:3 65kb]

Waypoint 15

Action 15:1: Research Needs

… How can a church gather first-hand information on the needs of its community?  Let us look at three actions that can produce primary research.

Action A: Live Among Them.  To ascertain community needs it helps to live among them, eating where they eat and shopping where they shop.  In fact, one of 10 major factors in halting church growth is when leaders become distanced from their constituency.   If this occurs church leaders will be only guessing at community needs.

Action B: Meet With Them in Group Settings.  Informal gatherings, focus groups and Town Hall meetings are ways to connect with community residents. Often when people are interviewed one-on-one, they hold back their feelings.  Research into group dynamics tells us that people will often expound more deeply … and expressively in groups.  If the purpose is to ascertain needs, then understanding can be enhanced by group intensity.  However, churches must be very careful to only solicit input and not to politic for the church’s viewpoint.  To do the later will result in immediate distancing and suspicion.  Guidelines for hosting effective focus groups are described in a previous book.

Action C: Don’t Clone Another Church’s Ministry.  Unless necessary, don’t merely reduplicate ministry that other churches are utilizing.  To do so will rob you of a locally developed and contextualized ministry.  However, if your church is too small it can partner to expand its ministry.  Look for other churches that are reaching out at adjacent waypoints and partner with them.  Success often depends upon doctrinal and historical factors.  But, if the needs of a community can be met by collaborating with another ministry, then pursue this option.

Action 15:2: Design Your Ministry from the Bottom Up

As a consultant with church clients of all sizes, I have found that the most helpful ministries are those that emerge from a collaborative effort between church leaders and needy residents.  There are two elements for designing a contextualized ministry.

Action A: Inclusion.  Include non-church goers in the planning and design of your ministry.  <any will reject this offer because they are not yet ready to volunteer, even advice. But those who are emerging out of lower need stages may be entering the Belongingness and Love level.  They will want thus to contribute, and at least give their thoughts.  Yet, a natural inclination of Christian leaders is to reject such offers, feeling that the emerging person needs more time to grow or to gain more secondary knowledge (e.g. book knowledge, theological knowledge or doctrinal knowledge).  But, once a traveler has had their physiological needs and safely needs met, they must be allowed to contribute, even minimally, to the ministry of a faith community.  Churches can help wayfarers by inviting them to participate in the ministry planning process, and this invitation must be extended much earlier and more earnestly that most churches realize.

Action B: Allocate Sufficient Money.  As noted in the first two chapters, churches customarily err on the side of either the Cultural Mandate (social action) or the Evangelistic Mandate. It was also shown that God’s intention for His church is a more holistic approach where a church ministers at many waypoints, rather than just in a narrow range.  Narrow ministry becomes entrenched because churches tend to budget based upon history, rather than forecasts.  A church that understands it should reach out at early waypoints will also understand that it must allocate sufficient funds to do so.  Churches must evaluate what percentages of its budgets are going to support the Evangelistic Mandate and the Cultural Mandate.  And, a plan can be brought about to create a balance, where roughly 50 percent of a church’s budget goes to support the Cultural Mandate and 50 percent goes to support the Evangelistic Mandate.  Regardless of intentions, these mandates will never be brought into parity until finances are allocated with equivalence.

Action 15:3: Connect Your Ministry to the Community.

For a community established to communicate good news, communication is one the weakest skills in most churches. Many congregations design fantastic ministries only to have them marginally attended because residents do not know they are available.  The following are three basic actions for successfully telling the community about ministries that can meet their needs.

Action A: Have a Trial-run. A church should initiate a trial-run with little initial fanfare. This will give the church an opportunity to try out the ministry without being deluged by community needs. To communicate that you are hosting a test-run, use word-of-mouth communication.

  Action B: Use Indigenous Communication Channels.  Church leaders often do not understand how community residents communicate.  In one church’s community, fliers in self-serve laundromats communicated better than online advertising (few needy residents had regular or easy access to the Internet).  Each community has developed different communication channels.  If a church invites residents to participate in the planning process, then residents can share the veiled yet influential ways that news travels in their community.

Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.  The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago.  Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led.  Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar.  “You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment.  “Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.”  Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later.  Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households.  “You go, I won’t,” Dan stated.  “I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.”  Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.”  On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds.  He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience.  Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited.  A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs.  On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner.  And, he was right.  In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better.  Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.

Action 15:4: Evaluate the Results

Donald McGavran called the church’s aversion to analysis the “universal fog” that blinds the church to her mission and effectiveness.  And, McGavran preferred the term “effective evangelism” as the best way to describe what we should be measuring.  The term “effective evangelism” has much to commend it.  Evangelism, as we noted in Chapter 1, means “Good News” or a heralding of “unexpected joy.” Thus, if we are embarking as fellow travelers and guides on this journey of Good News, shouldn’t we want to travel that route more effectively?  And if so, how do we measure progress?

Some mistakenly perceive that counting attendance is the best way to evaluate effectiveness. Yet, there are four types of church growth mentioned in the Bible, and growth in attendance is cited as God’s task (and not the job of the church).  In two previous books I have looked at measuring these in detail, but let’s briefly examine four types of church growth and a Church Growth Metric that can measure each.

The Context: Acts 2:42-47.  Here we find Luke’s description of the church’s growth that followed Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.  Luke describes four types of growth.

Growth A: Growth in Maturity.  In verse 42 Luke notes that the followers were growing in a passion for the apostle’s teaching, fellowship and prayer.  Our first metric is to ascertain if, as a result of our need-based ministry, wayfarers are increasing in their participation in Bible study, fellowship and/or the practice of prayer.  One way to measure this is to measure if people are becoming increasingly involved in study groups, fellowship networks (i.e. informal small groups) and/or joining with others for prayer.  If these numbers are calculated as a percentage of overall attendance, growth in maturity may be estimated.

Growth B: Growth in Unity.  Verses 44-45 describe how the church grew in unity and trust.  This is much harder to measure, for it requires subjective evaluation. But, if people open up, much like Doug did about “do-gooders” then these and similar actions can indicate that ministry is creating deeper and more honest levels of communication.  Unity often results from deepening levels of communication.

Growth C: Growth in Favor in the Community.  Luke emphases that the church was increasingly “enjoying the favor of all the people.”  Here is a metric often overlooked, which asks: is the community increasingly appreciative of the ministry the church is offering?  Asking community residents for regular feedback is a way to accomplish this.  One church crafted an online survey and gave away coupons for free coffee at a coffee shop for those that completed the survey. This survey was not designed to augment the church database, but was used only to ascertain if community residents felt the church was doing-good better.  Another church regularly polled socially sensitive community residents such as school principals, public leaders, community organizers, business-people, etc. about how effective the church was in meeting community needs.  The results were that these churches could gauge effective ministry by observing changes in community appreciation.

Growth D: Growth in More Christians.  Luke concludes this paragraph about early church growth by reminding his readers that “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Luke was pointing out that because it was a supernatural intersection, it was God’s task to bring people to and through the experience of salvation.  But in the preceding verses Luke emphasized that it was the church’s role to grow people in the other three types of church growth: maturity, unity and favor in the community.

Church Growth Metrics remind us that we are engaged in a task that is not about large cadres of attendees, but about the inner growth of God’s creation into 1) a deepening relationship with Him, 2) more unity among His children, and 3) in such a way that a watching world rejoices…

Action 14:2: The Good News That God Cares

A church also must understand and articulate a theology regarding God’s concern for His creation, if its congregants are going to help people move beyond Waypoint 14.  Yet, a theology of creation must be a holistic theology and include not just God’s creative activity but also humankind’s woeful response. For in response to God’s gracious creation of a paradise on earth, humans chose a selfish route disobeying God’s directives and forfeiting paradise.  Thought there are many elements to a theology of creation, let us look at five points that bear upon our current conversation.

Point 1:  Injustice, poverty, etc. are the result of human activity, God does not desire it for his creation.  When Adam and Eve forfeited the paradise of Eden, they embarked upon a journey of selfish arrogance. The Scriptures tell us their journey led to self-centeredness, injustice and greed (Genesis 3-5). Ron Sider reminds us that this disappoints God, stating “the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that God is at work in history casting down the rich and exalting the poor because frequently the rich are wealthy precisely because then have oppressed the poor or have neglected to aid the needy.”

Point 2:  This injustice was not always so.  God provided Adam and Eve an Eden of goodness and wholeness in every aspect of their life.  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann pointed out that the Hebrew word shalom comes closest to describing this “wholeness in every are of life, where God, creature, and creation enjoy harmonious relationships.”  God had warned that disobeying him would result in a  loss of this life of shalom (Genesis 2:15-17).  But, Adam and Eve picked selfish choices putting to an end this world of  balance, bless … shalom (Genesis 3).

Point 3:  Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for God’s creation.  Yet early on in the Genesis story, before the fall of humankind from the era of shalom, God had given humankind a task, to take care of the garden and to be a steward of it (Genesis 1:26-30).  This requires Christians, to be good stewards of God’s earth and life upon it.

Point 4:  Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for the needy, oppressed and disfranchised.  Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”  Judah was punished in part because of her mistreatment of the poor, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? (Isaiah 10:1-3).  King David said, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12).    And, Howard Snyder reminds us that “God especially has compassion on the poor, and his acts in history confirm this.”

Point 5: God requires his people to sacrifice for this task.  Adam and Eve were put in charge of caring and cultivating the garden (Genesis 1:26-30), and this required sacrificing their own will to taste the forbidden fruit.  From this beginning, serving a loving, creative God required self-sacrifice.  At this sacrifice, Adam and Eve failed.  In doing so they condemned their children and their children’s children to laborious toil, hostility, repression and ultimately death (Genesis 3:16-24). Still God’s desire is that His children serve and sacrifice for others.  Jesus stated, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors…. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).   This sacrifice for others is exemplified in the sacrificial actions of Godly men and women in the Bible, ultimately culminating in the sacrifice of Jesus for humankind’s disobedience.

When a congregation grasps the five points above, wayfarers will understand that evil, oppression and the like are not God’s doing, but human doing.  And wayfarers such as James can see that God wants Christians to help the oppressed, disenfranchised and neglected.  The church must help travelers at Waypoint 14 see the Good News is that “…the sinfulness of the social order offends thoughtful Christians everywhere.”

Read more by downloading the chapter here (but remember, if you enjoy the input please purchase a copy to support the publisher and the author): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 16, 15, 14

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Rick Warren on how understanding hurts led a skeptic named Ravi Zacharias to become “a passionate defender of the faith.”

by Rick Warren, Saddleback Lake Forest Campus Update, 5/21/20.

… This week, Saddleback Lake Forest lost a dear friend who many of you will remember speaking at our campus through the years: Ravi Zacharias. Ravi was a vocal skeptic turned passionate defender of the faith, when he found Jesus following a particularly difficult season of his life. He once said,

“You’ll never get to a person’s soul until you understand their hurts.”

… Saddleback Lake Forest has always been about being a big church that feels small – by getting to know everyone who calls our campus home, understanding the hurts that every one of us carries, and providing places to process those wounds in a Christlike way.

This week, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of those safe and healing spaces that are available to you, whether you’re struggling with mental illness, job loss; or hurts, habits, or hang-ups you could use a faith community to help overcome.  We also wanted to invite you to be a part of our first ever socially distant baptism celebration next Tuesday night, as we celebrate the hope and freedom that Jesus offers each of us in a visible and soul-stirring way.

Read more at … https://saddleback.com/visit/locations/lake-forest

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Researcher says … “The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?”

by Jamie Manson, NCR Online, 10/19/19.

.., Kaya Oakes, the Oct. 15 event’s opening panelist and author of the 2015 book The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between. 

“The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?” said Oakes.

…Oakes has been intentional about not using the term “nones,” preferring instead to call them the “religiously unaffiliated.”

“It’s a negation,” said Oakes, that is not reflective of their spiritual longings.

A second panelist, Tara Isabella Burton, also questioned whether the term “nones” should be used at all.

The author of the forthcoming book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Burton says that the nones nomenclature is “profoundly incorrect.”

According to her research, “About 72% of the self-identified religiously unaffiliated say they believe in a higher power of some sort and about 20% say they believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”

“There is an enormous number of people,” Burton said, “who see themselves as spiritual persons, who have a spiritual hunger.”

Read more at … https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/grace-margins/us-nones-increase-we-must-start-asking-different-questions

NEED-MEETING & Benjamin Franklin Says This Is the Noblest Question in the World (It’s Only 7 Words)

by Melanie Curtin, Inc. Magazine, 4/11/18.

In Benjamin Franklin’s words:

“The noblest question in the world is, ‘What good may I do in it?'”

But he is perhaps best known for his role as a politician and statesman in the early days of the United States of America. And it was in large part through that work that he came up with what he called the “noblest question in the world.”

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/according-to-benjamin-franklin-this-7-word-question-is-noblest-in-world.html

NEED-MEETING & Benjamin Franklin Says This Is the Noblest Question in the World (It’s Only 7 Words)

by Melanie Curtin, Inc. Magazine, 4/11/18.

In Benjamin Franklin’s words:

“The noblest question in the world is, ‘What good may I do in it?'”

But he is perhaps best known for his role as a politician and statesman in the early days of the United States of America. And it was in large part through that work that he came up with what he called the “noblest question in the world.”

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/according-to-benjamin-franklin-this-7-word-question-is-noblest-in-world.html

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & RE-FRESH YOUR CHURCH’s OUTREACH seminar… teaming w/ former director World Methodist Evangelism Institute of Candler School of Theology.

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Strategizing recently in #Atlanta w/ friend & former director of #WorldMethodistEvangelismInstitute at #CandlerSchoolOfTheology. DM 4 more on our

RE-fresh Your Church’s Outreach” Seminar: 

  • Session 1- Starting Need-based Evangelism in a Local Church (@BobWhitesel)
  • Session 2-Refreshing Your Personal Witness (Dr. Worrell)

For more info on your new combined seminar email: bob@ChurchHealth.net