Check out the book here … https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Organic-Church-Learning-Congregations/dp/0687331161/ref=nodl_
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Here is research by Hartford Seminary’s “Resources for Congregational Leaders” and is developed from their “Resources for Congregational Leaders.”
Ways Congregations Can Improve Their Virtual Presence to Members During This Time of Crisis
by Sarah Brown, Faith Communities Today, 3/18/20.
Our FACT 2015 study showed that 31% of congregations use online giving and if the congregation uses it at all, giving is increased by an average $114 per person! If online giving is emphasized by the congregation a lot, per capita giving increases by an average of $300 person!
by Bob Smietana, Religion News Service, 1/28/21.
…Using data from the General Social Survey, Rubia Valente, assistant professor at Baruch College, and Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn of Rutgers University isolated two aspects of religion: individual religiosity, with a focus on prayer and belief in God, versus social religiosity, measured by attendance at services or membership in a religious group.
They found higher levels of belief predicted less trust, while higher levels of belonging predicted more trust. They also found that those who belong to religious groups or attend services have a lower level of misanthropy, or dislike of other people.
“People that are socially religious — what we classify as belonging — they’re more likely to like people and have a lower misanthropy level,” said Valente.
Valente said the study’s findings reminded her of some of the messages she heard in church while growing up in Brazil, especially about putting your trust in God and not in other people.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I recently completed a historically accurate￼ introduction to John, Susanna and Charles Wesley in the format of a devotional. While working on it my friend Ed Stetzer asked me if Wesley ministered to the poor because he wanted to get a hearing for the good news, or because helping the poor was morally good.
I responded to Ed that the Wesleys ministry to the poor began many years before their conversions and before they began to emphasize the importance of conversion. From their lives of giving most of their money to the poor, ministering to prisoners and even paying out of their own pockets for the schooling of the prisoners children,￼ it can be observed that the Wesleys ministered to the poor because it was the morally right thing to do n
Read below this helpful article which explains why those who seek to follow Christ will help the poor, not out of a manipulating interest in their conversion but because it’s the right thing to do.
Yet that also means … sharing with everyone about eternity is also the morally right thing to do.￼￼￼￼
Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization
by York Moore, Christianity Today, 1/16/21. Evangelism is a moral good and a key expression of our faith…
Evangelism is the highest expression of moral goodness. That is not to say that there aren’t other moral goods. Remember a moral good stands on its own as ontologically good. We do not serve the homeless in order to proselytize. This practice is exactly what has desecrated Christian evangelism. No, we serve the homeless because it is an end in itself, a moral good that cannot be diminished by doing it by itself and for itself. Having said this, however, evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all. One can cloth the naked, feed the hungry, free the slave but eventually, these same people who are made in the image of God, without being converted will all suffer a much worse fate than cold, hunger, enslavement and the like-they will suffer eternal separation from God in a place of suffering. This is at least the conviction of Bible-believing Christians, so we evangelize, in part, because it is an expression of moral goodness based on the concern for the eternal state of people.
“…evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all.”
Unfortunately, even among Christians, eschatological categories like wrath, hell, damnation, and eternal separation from God are rarely talked about-even from our best platforms and pulpits. This reality does not negate their ontological standing-these categories are real and the real consequences behind door #3. Again, the great news is what’s behind these doors is not unknown to the host, God Himself. They are also not unknown to the Christian who is tasked with the moral good of proselytizing or evangelism.
We are tasked with this out of the love of God who wants to give all people all of the blessings behind all of the doors of life and also to save us from each and every pain, heartache, and ultimately, eternal hell and damnation. It is a moral good and requisite expression of faith to help those around us make the right and good decisions about God, life and the afterlife. As we help them, we are asking them to risk what they have in hopes of something even better, to make a deal, knowing what they will win in exchange is eternally better than what they now possess.
Here is how I have explained in one of my books the difference between an attractional strategy and an incarnational one.
INCARNATIONAL vs. ATTRACTIONAL & What Is the Difference?
7Systems.church explains the “systems” behind each practices.
5 Practices for Fruitful Congregations in a Post-Attractional Era
by Robert Schnase in Leading Ideas, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, October 17, 2018.
(Attraction is Not Enough)
… Most congregations, consciously or unconsciously, operate with attractional assumptions. They imagine that a person, couple, or family becomes aware of their church, perhaps through:
- the invitation of a friend,
- an advertisement on a billboard,
- or by driving past the sanctuary.
- Churches then hope that what the new persons hear or see will draw them toward the congregation.
…Attractional models worked in the past
- when the culture expected people to attend worship
- and people wanted to be members of churches.
- What happens when people no longer trust institutions in general or the church in particular?
(Incarnational [Whitesel] Outreach is Needed)
…Today, fruitful congregations have discovered that while attractional models are helpful and necessary to fulfill the mission of Christ, they simply are not enough… (it requires) a different posture toward our neighbors, a more deliberate outward focus, and a willingness to carry Christ’s love to where people already live and work and play, rather than hoping for people to come to us.
1. Radical hospitality
Radical hospitality is not merely focused on getting people to come to church. Rather, it focuses with greater intentionality about how we carry hospitality with us into our neighborhoods, work life, and affinity networks. What good is Christian hospitality if it’s something we only practice for an hour on Sunday morning while failing to form relationships with people who live next door?
2. Passionate worship
Passionate worship extends beyond improving what happens on Sunday morning in the sanctuary. Worship becomes mobile, portable, on the move, going where people live, and work, and play.
3. Intentional faith development
Intentional faith development includes more focus on experiential learning, mentoring, spiritual formation, and forming relationships in addition to traditional content-based education in Bible studies and Sunday school classes.
4. Risk-taking mission and service
Risk-taking mission and service explores relationships more deeply and offers examples of shifting from doing ministry for to less patronizing, more relational models of doing ministry with those who suffer hardship or injustice.
5. Extravagant generosity
Extravagant generosity involves helping people learn to love generosity as a way of life not just a way of supporting the church.
This shift of energy, focus, and imagination is life-giving. When the church leaves the building to offer ministries that matter, we view ourselves as part of Christ’s mission in a whole new way, as sent into a mission field uniquely prepared by God that uses the talents, gifts, and relationships God has given us.
by Vladislav Tchakarov, The Collector, December 27, 2019.
…Although the ancient Egyptian script does looks complicated, it is actually quite clear and simple. There were three main groups of signs that include logograms, phonograms, and definitive signs. Logograms were used to depict morphemes while phonograms were used to depict sounds. Definitive signs were used to aid the two other groups and make them clearer.
The Ancient Egyptian script consisted of only consonants which is the case with all ancient scripts from the Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic periods of Egypt. Undoubtedly, they used vowels in spoken language for pronunciation. Nevertheless, they did not include any in their writing system which made it extremely difficult for archeologists and historians to pronounce the hieroglyphs. This lead to the creation of a reading protocol which was used artificially to interpret the words. This explains why most people think that Egyptians used vowels in their script.
The ancient Egyptian writing system consisted of about 700 characters. Hieroglyphics were mainly used for religious as well as solemn purposes. They continued to be used in Egypt until about 400 AD, after which they were replaced by Coptic, another form of written language.
At first, there were 24 letters that were borrowed from the Greek writing system. Later on, they added six more that represented specific Egyptian sounds. Today, these two scripts have long been forgotten and the official language in Egypt is Arabic.
The Rosetta stone
Scientists and archeologists had little success in the interpretation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta stone was discovered in 1799 on accident by soldiers in Napoleon’s army.
The Rosetta stone is a fragment of a large black basalt stone engraving found near the city of Rosetta in the Nile Delta. The same text is engraved on the stone in two languages but in three ancient scripts – Egyptian hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. This was because, at that time, these were the three scripts that Egyptians used.
Both the demotic script and the ancient Greek language were well known to 19th-century Egyptologists who worked on deciphering the stone. As the text in the vernacular and the Greek language coincided, the significance of the Egyptian characters became clear.
The discovery and translation of this text are very important because it helps to interpret many other early written sources of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Rosetta Stone Text Decryption
All three texts refer to a decree adopted by the Memphis council of priests. It confirmed the royal cult of Ptolemy V of Egypt, one year after his coronation. The text on the Rosetta stone begins with a great appraisal for the achievements and dominions of Ptolemy V.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Looking into this Pew research it is clear to me that while faithful parishioners will be back in-person once the pandemic is over, it is “the seekers” who are more likely to seek online worship. Therefore in the future a healthy church that reaches out to unchurched people must have a robust online ministry. This is why I call it the eReformation.
“Will the coronavirus permanently convert in-person worshippers to online streamers? They don’t think so” by Alan Cooperman, Pew Research, 8/17/20.
… most U.S. adults overall say that when the pandemic is over, they expect to go back to attending religious services in person as often as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.How we did this
To be sure, a substantial share of Americans (43%) say they didn’t attend religious services in person before the pandemic struck and they don’t plan to start going to a church or other house of worship when it’s all over. But 42% of U.S. adults say they plan to resume going to religious services about as often as they did before the outbreak, while 10% say they will go more often than they used to, and just 5% anticipate going less often.
Book review by Sam Chan, Christianity Today, 6/29/20.
… Pippert, of course, is best known for her classic book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life. First published in 1979, Out of the Saltshaker was written to equip believers for evangelism in a culture that was drifting in post-Christian directions. Four decades later, those forces have only accelerated, but Pippert hasn’t lost any confidence that the gospel message can break through walls of hostility and indifference, even in the context of everyday conversations. As the subtitle of Stay Salt puts it, “The World Has Changed: Our Message Must Not.”
A Multi-Pronged Approach
There are three sections in Stay Salt. In the first, Pippert looks at what she calls the means of evangelism—in other words, you and me, the “evangelists.” None of us feels adequate when confronted with the juggernaut of hostile Western secularism. But Pippert reassures us that this is precisely how God works our circumstances. God uses us not despite but because of our smallness, weaknesses, and inadequacies. We are supposed to depend upon God for the courage and strength to evangelize.
In the second section, Pippert takes us through the message of evangelism—the gospel. Here we might roll our eyes. Don’t we already know this stuff? But Pippert got me excited about the gospel with the fresh language she uses. She skillfully presents the gospel as both a rebuttal to the accepted doctrines of secularism and a positive message our friends will want to hear.
In the final section, Pippert outlines the method of evangelism. This might seem like another occasion for eye-rolling. Surely not another formulaic technique! But Pippert instead motivates us to love our friends and to “proclaim” the message through questions and conversations rather than a pre-rehearsed monologue.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/12/19.
By Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D, 5/23/19.
Al & Pam Goracke are pictured with Rebecca and me in front of their church yesterday. It is a Thursday afternoon and behind us you can see people lining up two hours early for the food pantry at the Hope Church.
Al and Pam lead a Wesleyan church in Blaine, Minnesota that is ministering to over 2000 hungry people each week with a congregation of only 400.
Ministering to the needs of the community is how many churches today are finding they can best reach out and begin sharing the good news with people in a increasingly skeptical environment. “When these people go to the hospital they consider me their pastor. They ask me to visit,” said Al Goracke. “They attend our Thursday food pantry, and though they may not attend our worship services, they consider us their church family. It’s our way of beginning a relationship with them.”
“A lot of churches don’t like to have a food pantry, because so many people coming through their building tears up the carpeting. So we ripped up the carpeting,” said Al.
“And here we are a church that runs almost 400 in attendance, but we’re meeting the needs of thousands of lives each week.”
“But people often ask me, ‘Where do you get the volunteers to run it?’ At first we asked our congregants to do it. And they did. But over the years the people in the community who have been served by this come to appreciate it so much, that many volunteer. And they come to consider our church family, their family.”
Al is one of my students and a friend. To learn more about how they are building bridges to people in need, check out their website at https://everybodyneedshope.org/
And, if your church would like to launch such a ministry, Al can explain how even a small church can begin a ministry that will touch thousands of lives every week.
by John C. Richards, 5/12/17.
In today’s culture, claims of exclusivity are met with the resistance of a tired toddler pushing back a plate of broccoli. This is especially true of religious claims. Religious pluralism is more palatable for Western society and this worldview rules the day.
Pluralism posits that there is more than one valid religion and that no single religion has a monopoly on truth. It asserts that there are many paths up the same mountain. Ultimately, so the claim goes, we’ll all meet at the top in our respective spiritual journeys.
When it comes to religion, the word exclusive is synonymous with bigot. Even worse, Christians who communicate the exclusivity of their faith are castigated and dismissed.
When a religion claims to have the market cornered on divine inspiration, its disconcerting. Our culture is more comfortable with the blind men and the elephant analogy—where each religion represents a blind man touching a different part of an elephant, never having the whole picture. This analogy positions those who take the pluralist position as having the full view of the “elephant.” Ironically, this position leads to its own truth claims. In fact, the pluralism perspective finds itself steeped in the same intolerance and exclusivity that it despises and rejects. We know the truth…and it is found in a little bit of every religion. Embrace it. Live it.
Sharing the Exclusive Jesus
Anyone who thinks differently is closed-minded. And Christianity finds itself in the dead center of religious critics’ bullseyes. Why so much antagonism toward the Christian faith? It may stem from the words of Christ. Perhaps the nine most disorientating words in Scripture are found in Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus makes a no-doubt statement about His position and role in God’s redemptive story. “I’m the only shot you’ve got,” he is essentially saying. We like choices, but when it comes to our redemption, Jesus doesn’t give us any. The gospel is an exclusive message in an inclusive world. And we’re called to share that exclusive Jesus with others. Truth and exclusivity are not mutually exclusive. As Walter Martin notes in his seminal work The Kingdom of Cults, “Truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false.”
How might Christians best communicate this exclusivity in our religiously pluralistic context?
First, we must embrace the scandal of the gospel. The gospel is scandalous. There’s no getting around it. In fact, Paul talks about this scandal in his letter to the Corinthian church. He uses the Greek word that we derive the English word scandal from in writing to the Corinthian church. He writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [Greek scandalize] to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
Every Christian must embrace this truth to effectively witness to others. The gospel will offend. There’s no need to apologize about that or deviate from sharing the gospel in its entirety.
Because of the scandalous nature of the gospel, some of our faith conversations with others won’t go so well. And that’s okay. Or role in the process is the plant and water gospel seeds, trusting God with the results (see 1 Corinthians 3:6).
Second, we must serve the gospel on a full platter. Truth is always best served with a side of grace. Our culture grants exclusivity where it sees value. Apologetics—a systematic defense of one’s faith—isn’t about winning an argument; it’s about winning hearts. If that’s the case, then asserting Jesus’ exclusivity might begin at the head, but it should always end at the heart. Our goal should always be to look for winsome ways to share the scandalizing truth of the gospel with a broken and hurting world.
Start with listening. The old axiom is true. There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Listen carefully to people’s reasons for rejecting the Christian faith. Listen attentively—without formulating your response in your head as they speak. Only then will you respond with the grace necessary to share the gospel effectively.
The Beauty of Jesus’ Exclusivity
Ultimately, our role in sharing the gospel is showing the beauty of Jesus’ exclusivity…
by Matthew Haag, New York Times, 4/18/18.
Mr. Jeffress, who leads one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, suggested in a 2010 interview with the Trinity Broadcasting Network that some churches might shy away from saying “anything that’s going to offend people” to try to grow their congregations. He made it clear he was going to preach what he believes the Bible says.
He added: “Judaism — you can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”
In the past decade, Mr. Jeffress has assumed a prominent role in conservative politics, appearing frequently on Fox News and urging in sermons and on television to elect a Christian as president. Non-Christian religions are sending their followers to hell, he preached in a September 2008 sermon.
“Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” Mr. Jeffress said. “Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.”
by Thom Rainer, ThomRainer.com, 3/11/19.
Research is from Vanderbloemen, Pushpay, and Jay Kranda. All of the 176 churches participating in the study have an online church, so we are hearing from those who are presently very active in this ministry…
Some of the key findings of this study? Here are nine insights:
by Terina Allen, Forbes Magazine, 10/1/18.
… A victim mindset is formed over time and determined by the aggregate of what we regularly think, how we speak, where we focus our attention and the language we choose to use. Avoid allowing your mind to obsess over all the wrong that may have been done to you and channel that energy into more effectively overcoming obstacles and removing barriers.
Just as you can find many people who have had it better than you, if you look objectively, you will also find many people who have had it worse than you. While your feelings and thinking about the wrongdoing may be valid, dwelling on it too much will surely prevent you from realizing your potential. You can spend so much time lamenting the horrible things in your past that it prevents you from taking the steps you need to create a better future and advance your career.
Before you advance your life and career, you will need to change your mindset. Here are some things that can help you do that.
- Surround yourself with uplifting and supportive people who will offer a listening ear. Turn to these friends from time to time for your pity party (we all need these sometime) but then allow them to nudge you through it so you don’t get stuck.
- Intentionally choose to use more positive and forward-thinking language in your communications.
- Adopt a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. Those with a growth mindset tend to better prepare for and respond to change. They also tend to be better equipped to overcome challenges and persevere through them.
- Read inspirational material and resist the temptation to wallow in regret. Regret can cause you to inadvertently become trapped in a cycle of negative thinking and speaking that holds you back.
- Utilize any employment assistance programs or services your organization may offer, or reach out for professional advice and counseling as necessary – especially if you just can’t move beyond the negative thinking or forces in your life.
by Chris Martin, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 1/25/16.
The latest U.S. religious landscape study published by Pew confirms much of what has been reported about millennials in recent years. But the study also sheds new light on this “spiritual, but not religious” generation and can help churches understand how to reach them.
According to the study, millennials have not completely abandoned spiritual beliefs or practices. Millennials maintain a sense of spiritual peace and interest in the universe beyond what is simply seen on earth.
One of the most interesting data points regarding millennials from this latest Pew survey is the large portion of who feel a sense of spiritual peace and well being, while being less affiliated with religion than any other generation. Most young adults also feel a sense of wonder about the universe.
This should lead pastors and church leaders to ask, “How does this affect how I reach out to unbelieving millennials in my community?” Here are three things to keep in mind when attempting to engage young adults.
1. Engage the sense of wonder.
… As Christians, we can engage the wonder of millennials and point to the source of that phenomenon: the Creator God of the Bible. Use this wonderment and point people to the starting point and the upholder of it all.
2. Probe for the source of “spiritual peace.”
Why do such a large portion of people who claim no certainty in the existence of God say they are at peace spiritually? Perhaps they are at peace because they do not think God exists. Regardless, one of the ways churches can engage with unbelieving millennials in their community is by recognizing these young people are likely content with where they stand spiritually.
Christians should talk with them, ask questions, and identify the source of this “spiritual peace,” then figure out in what ways it may fall short in comparison to the gospel.
3. Provide a better way.
Finally, when we engage the sense of wonderment and spiritual peace among millennials, we must work to provide a better way—the only Way, the gospel of Jesus.
The research shows these young people are not hard-and-fast naturalists who only believe in what they can see in front of their face. They ponder the spiritual. They wonder about the universe. Engage these feelings and point them to their ultimate fulfillment…
“I’m not particularly attracted to a religion where someone approaches me in the parking lot of a grocery store with a tract in hand, telling me I’m going to hell, without ever once considering the possibility that I might need help carrying my groceries.”
Commentary by Professor B: This was a short fable shared with me by a former student. It illustrates succinctly why we should utilize a need-based approach to outreach. Larry wrote:
Prof. Whitesel, I’m doing a response for Bible as Christian Scripture and recalled a quote from a friend of my son’s some years that reminded me of your book, Cure for the Common Church, and in particular, your prescription for growing O.U.T.
The response touched on how we want to world to see us, as a source of judgement or a source of the Good News. The quote I recalled from my son’s friend: “I’m not particularly attracted to a religion where someone approaches me in the parking lot of a grocery store with a tract in hand, telling me I’m going to hell, without ever once considering the possibility that I might need help carrying my groceries.”
Thought you might enjoy that. Larry
This is another video introduction I have recorded for my colleagues, students and clients regarding how to reach out to people who feel like they are not part of a group. Called “out-group members” these are often people in our churches and on our boards that are estranged from the group. Thus, they see themselves as “outside” of the group and not fully accepted by most members of the group. The responsible and effective leader will reach out to these individuals, rather than exclude them. For an introduction to strategies that will help you connect with out-group members, watch this video. (This video will be especially helpful mini-lecture if you are a student in one of my courses.)
©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.
For more on out-group members, see this additional video I recorded: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/committee-leadership-my-introduction-to-leading-out-group-members/
keywords: LEAD 600 out group out-group video intro introduction
Commentary by Prof. B: Oikos evangelism is loosely defined as how the Good News (Gr. εὐαγγέλιον or euaggelion) often passes through households (Gr. οἶκος or oikos). An advocate of this approach is Dr. Charles Arn Ed. D. of WesleySeminary.com
Below are resources from Dr. Arn (10/22/16):
A church practicing oikos evangelism: http://highdesertchurch.com
A pastor practicing oikos evangelism: http://highdesertchurch.com/about-hdc/staff/member/1325302/
Training for oikos evangelism: http://highdesertchurch.com/resources/oikos-workshop/
Article on oikos evangelism: http://www.sermoncentral.com/Articles/Article_PrintFriendly.asp?ArticleID=728
(personal email to the curator from Charles Arn, 10/22/16)