SPIRITUAL TRAMSFORMATION & Christians more intentional, but less likly to share the message of the Good News since 1993.

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/1

… According to a new study from Barna, compared to 25 years ago, Christians today say they try to be more intentional about sharing their faith, but fewer say evangelism is the responsibility of every believer.

In 1993, 9 in 10 Christians (89 percent) who had shared their faith said every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith. Today, only two-thirds (64 percent) of Christians who had a conversation about faith agree—a 25-point drop.

When asked about how they share their faith, modern Christians are more likely to stick to a set formula or certain strategy than were Christians in the early ’90s. More than 4 in 10 Christians in 2018 (44 percent) say they use the same basic approach each time they have an evangelistic conversation, compared with 33 percent in 1993.

The most common approaches today are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70 percent) and sharing their faith through their lifestyle (65 percent).

Those methods were common a quarter of a century ago as well, with 74 percent saying they ask questions and 77 percent saying they share with their lifestyle rather than their words.

The most common method in 1993, however, has since fallen out of favor. Almost 8 in 10 of Christians who had a conversation about faith (78 percent) said then they spoke about the benefits of accepting Jesus. Today, only 50 percent do that.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/05/16/christians-more-intentional-less-evangelistic-since-1993/

SERVANT LEADERSHIP & Sinek’s concept of the “circle of safety” for employees from his book and TED Talk “Leaders Eat Last.”

Introduction by Michael Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 7/12/17; In Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, he talks about the concept of the “circle of safety.” The world is filled with danger, things that are trying to frustrate our lives, reduce our success, or reduce our opportunity for success. The only variables, says Sinek in this TED Talk, are the conditions inside the organization, and that’s where leadership matters, because it’s the leader who sets the tone to make sure there’s trust and cooperation, and that employees’ needs are being met.

 

 

SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS & How to help others navigate some of the most important stages of faith #WaypointsBook

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Awareness of the Fundamentals of the Good News

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 13

Spiritual Curiosity.  Wayfarers at this point are usually inquisitive, curious, perplexed and frustrated by all things spiritual.  They have been drawn to investigate further their initial experience with the Good News at Waypoint 14.  But  they may bring with them the skepticism about religion that is rising in North America.

And, at Waypoint 15 some travelers have not yet grasped the differences between varying religious viewpoints.  They may be drawn to investigate the occult, mysticism and other religions.  Once spiritual curiosity has been stirred, they often launch full bore into multiple religious directions.  Though natural, their openness to varying viewpoints challenges Christians. 

  The church sometimes overreacts, humiliates and/or banishes such inquisitiveness.  Instead we must see them as normal explorers on a spiritual journey, and expect their curiosity.  Churches can best help travels by encouraging discussion, inquisitiveness, disagreement and even prying.  And thus the church must not be defensive, closed or inauthentic, for in doing so it can belie that it has the truth the traveler seeks.

Frustrated By Language.  Another sign a traveler is at Waypoint 15 is that they can be confounded by the language of Christian culture.  Christians frequently employ terminology that is not broadly understood.  Terminology such as “sanctification,” “the Kingdom of God,” and “the blood of Christ” can express grand concepts in concise terms.  But to those newly introduced to the journey, these terms may be too much, too soon.  The result is that travelers may feel that the ardor of the journey, coupled with learning a new language, is too much to bear.  In addition, not knowing the terminology may make the traveler feel ignorant, in the dark, naïve and possibly excluded.

Churches must undertake the task of adapting their terminology to the metaphors of the hearer, without sacrificing content.  Action 13.2 will describe how to create metaphors that are equivalent to images in the traveler’s world. Finding and utilizing such equivalent metaphors is a challenging task.  But it is part of every missionary’s work, and in North America’s cultural mosaic it must be the work of every church.

Travelers Are Accepted … But Not Accepted Enough. Travelers at W13 often feel they are being courted by Christians, but when they try to volunteer the church often tells them they are not yet ready.  This is the frustration that Kimball observed and sought to address.  Some churches feel that God’s intention is to only utilize Christians to serve the community.  While this should be true in distribution of the sacraments and certain religious ministries (c.f. Acts 6:1-3, 14:23, 1  Timothy 5:17), the Scriptures are replete with examples of those who traveled with a faith community and even assisted it prior to partaking in that community’s faith (c.f. Joshua 2, Ruth 1, Matthew 2, 9).

A popular Christian musician once told me he only employed Christians in every aspect of his musical recordings.  This might be an appropriate strategy if Christians were being excluded because of their beliefs and his action was designed to bring parity.  But to me it seemed that many non-Christian musicians missed an opportunity to work alongside and learn from this gifted Christian artist.  Kimball is focused on ensuring this does not happen at the church he pastors. 

Actions That Help W13 Travelers

Action 13.1: We Journey With Them, And They With Us

At Vintage Faith Church wayfarers are encouraged to participate in administrative tasks.  Most churches reserve administrative involvement for those who have experienced new birth.  Yet, such involvement can be an important learning opportunity for three reasons. 

  1. It helps people at W13 recognize they have God-given gifts.
  2. It helps people at W13 to understand that a community of faith is there to support them in their service to others. 
  3. It helps people at W13 see participation in the community is not reserved for only a privileged group.  This keeps a church from developing elitism.  

It is also best if their volunteer opportunities are directed toward serving those outside of the church, rather than serving the church.   This is because a person at W13 may have only recently departed a realm of inequalities, injustices, deprivations and oppression.  Therefore, to them the organizational needs of the church will pale in comparison.  They can easily, and rightly, be offended when we ask them to clean up the church, arrange chairs in the sanctuary or paint a nursery.  Though these organizational tasks are necessary to support outreach, to the wayfarer these connections can be too obscure.  Instead, it is important to let the wayfarer become involved in volunteer actions that help people at waypoints the volunteer has recently experienced.  The needs of others are fresh in their mind, as is the difference they’ve experienced by moving forward on their journey.  

Still, two caveats must be considered.  

  1. First as Kimball noted, some activities require a level of spiritual maturity, sensitivity and/or organizational history that the volunteer at Waypoint 13 may lack.  Therefore, it becomes important for leaders to tactfully guide the person into appropriate volunteer opportunities.   
  2. Secondly, many wayfarers do not want to volunteer.  Many may be reeling from disappointments, resentments, oppression, etc. and thus only desire our assistance, not our recruitment. 

At Waypoint 13 it therefore becomes essential for the Christian to move slowly with fellow travelers, never manipulating or forcing them.  The Holy Spirit is the one that draws a person on this journey (John 16:8-9) and thus the faith community must ensure that we assist, but not replace the Holy Spirit.

Action 13.2: Translate the Good News

At the same time that the traveler is growing in a knowledge of the Good News, the Christian is often bombarding the traveler with a specialized language.  Earlier in this chapter we saw how travelers can become frustrated with a Christian’s cryptic language.

To underscore such communication break down, a Christian troubadour named Larry Norman created an imaginary dialogue between a Christian and a person at Waypoint 13.  “Have you been saved?” began the Christian.  The traveler replied, “I fell out of a canoe at camp once, and the lifeguard rescued me.”  “No, I mean have you been born again?” continued the Christian.  “I don’t believe in reincarnation,” came the traveler’s answer.  “Have you been washed in the blood,” replied the Christian in growing exacerbation.  “Ugh!  I don’t think I would want to,” came the wayfarer’s astonished response.  After which the flustered Christian blurted out, “I’m trying to tell you the Good News!”  “What’s that?” came the traveler’s hopeful reply.  “You’re going to hell,” retorted the Christian, and the conversation ended.

This narrative illustrates how Christian musicians have grappled with translating their message to a non-church culture.  Though we do not want to change our message or its content, Christians helping those at W13 must translate the Good News.  Missionaries and Bible-translators spend years honing their skills in translating truth without sacrificing content. But regrettably, most Christian leaders in North America rarely try. With the growing mosaic of cultures and sub-cultures in North America, coupled with a large unchurched population that is unfamiliar with Christian terminology, churches must begin to learn from missionaries and translators the important skills of translating the Good News.  The following are four basic steps for translation.

Step 1: Decide what are the essential principles that must be translated.  For a person at Waypoint 13, headed toward Waypoint 12 (grasp of the implications of the Good News), this means explaining that the Good News holds promises as well as requirements.  Jesus reminded his hearers of these requirements, but also reminded them that they are not odious nor overwhelming, stating “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Initial principles that should be broached at Waypoint 13 include, but are not limited to, God’s unconditional love, (John 3:16, etc.), that wrongdoings destroy lives and separate us from God (Romans 3:23, etc.), how Jesus bore the penalty for our wrongdoings (Romans 5:8, John 14:6, etc.), in order that we might have a better life here and ultimately eternal life (John 17:3, 1 John 5:13, etc.).

  Step 2: Put the basics of the Good News into the language of the hearer.  This step is best accomplished by a team.  And, it is good to have non-church goers involved, so that through dialogue, questioning and discussion an up-to-date translation is created.  While non-church goers should not have veto power, their involvement helps ensure that the translation is relevant and accurate.  In addition, the Christian must be careful not to be offended or affronted by another culture’s terminology.  Anthropologist Eugene Nida recalls how the tribal people of Papa New Guinea had never seen a lamb, and thus the phrase “Look, the lamb of God” (John 1:29) was confusing.  Yet, in their tribal culture they raised and valued pigs in similar fashion to the way ancient Israelites prized sheep.  The missionaries therefore translated John the Baptist’s declaration “Look, the Lamb of God” as “Look the Pig of God.”  To many Christians this is distasteful, for most Christians are sensitive to the Jewish repulsion to unclean animals such as pigs.  However, Papa New Guineans have no knowledge of such aversion, and because they value their swine so greatly, Jesus was to them the cherished, sacrificial “Pig of God.” 

Step 3:  Keep modifying and improving your terms. Translation is an ongoing process because the meaning of words can change, as well as our understanding of them.  Thus, translated terms must be updated and modified in an ongoing fashion, from Waypoint 13 forward. The Christian must gather regularly with others to discuss and improve the translation of the basics of the Good News.  Too often, churches ignore the need for updating their terminology, becoming mired in language from earlier and outdated renditions.  A result is that wayfarers often view the church’s terminology as outdated, obsolete and often incoherent.

Step 4: Sift out the bad and keep the good.  Each culture has elements that run counter to the Good News of Christ.  Yet, at the same time each culture has elements that are consistent with Christ’s Good News.  For example, postmodernism emphasizes that people should not just talk about changing the world, but actually be engaged in changing it.  Karl Marx famously intoned “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”  The result has been that postmodern influenced young people exhibit a growing concern for changing the plight of the poor.  This is also a major element in Jesus’ Good News, for example when He proclaimed in the Nazareth synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Thus, this postmodern passion for helping the needy should be lauded.

  But, there are also elements of a culture that can run counter to the Good News.  For example, premarital or extramarital affairs can be viewed by postmodern culture as a natural and recurrent part of life.  But, this runs counter to the Biblical injunction against pre- and extra-martial sex.  The Message paraphrase crafts a good translation of this Biblical injunction, “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex” (Hebrews 13:4).  Thus, when translating the Good News, a translator must be careful to not deemphasize  nor obscure God’s commands and expectations. 

When elements of a culture run counter to the Good News, and others are in agreement with it, what should be done? Eddie Gibbs has provided a helpful metaphor in the image of cultural “sifting.” Sifting separates out unwanted elements from wanted elements, most notably in cooking where a mesh strainer such as a colander will sift out impurities. The task of explaining the Good News to wayfarers at Waypoint 13, also carries the requirement that we sift between elements of a culture that go against Christ’s news and those that do not.  To not fully explain God’s expectations is to misinform and ill prepare the traveler.  Some Christians avoid the task of doing this, perhaps because championing God’s requirements is awkward in comparison to lauding His rewards.  But both must be undertaken.  A leader who is not ready to sift elements of a culture and tactfully explain what can be retained and what must be abandoned, is not ready to travel forward with the wayfarer.

Personal Relevance of the Good News

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 12

The Personal Trekker.  At this point the journey becomes terribly personal for the traveler. The trekker begins to realize that the Good News has ramifications for them personally.  For Lauren it was the recognition that God was a personal God, and had sent His own offspring into Lauren’s world to rescue her from herself. The implications of this for Lauren’s personal journey fostered a huge impact.

The Traveler Caught Between Two Opposites. At this waypoint the traveler will often experience diametrically opposed forces between Christianity and their former worldview. While the Christian may wonder why this bothers them so, to the traveler they are crossing over an all-encompassing threshold. The traveler is comparing and contrasting their former worldview with an emerging Christian perspective. They will need time to make comparisons, assessments and conclusions.

Actions That Help W12 Travelers

Action 12.1: Understand a Post-Christian Worldview

 The very word post-Christian requires some definition.  The term post-Christian indicates in part that today we live in an age where Christianity is not the dominant belief system, nor the religious culture.  The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) indicates that the majority of North Americas consider themselves religious, but do not necessarily embrace a Christian belief.   Researchers of American Church History note that at one time much of North America embraced a Christian worldview, though there were various permutations and factions.  Yet, the dominance of the Christian worldview has dissipated, and it can now be said that North America is in a post-Christian era.  Darrell  Guder states, “rather than occupying a central and influential place, North American Christian churches are increasingly marginalized, so much so that in our urban areas they represent a minority movement.  It is by now a truism to speak of North America as mission field.”

There have been numerous attempts to describe this post-Christian milieu.  However, for succinctness let me tender six basic (but not exhaustive) characteristics of a post-Christian milieu.

  1. God, if He exists at all, is just an impersonal moral force.
  2. The Bible is nothing other than a book written by humans.
  3. Humankind basically has the capacity within itself to improve morally and make the right choices.
  4. Happiness consists of unlimited acquisition of material, knowledge, experience, etc.
  5. There is no objective basis for right and wrong.
  6. If a person lives a “good life,” then eternal destiny is probable.

Each of these distinctives must be understood and addressed by the Christian who travels along with others Waypoint 12.  Therefore, Action 12.2 will address the importance of dialogue and companionship.  And, Action 12.3 will discuss how each of the above distinctives can be addressed.

Action 12.2: Discuss the Post-Christian & Biblical Worldview.

  The metaphor of a journey reminds us that a trekker will encounter fellow travelers, guides and hosts along their way.  Yet, the church has lost her way in creating dialogue with travelers who embrace a post-Christian worldview.  Richard Peace regrets the church has lost this art of companionship, and thus he suggests the church must renew her efforts to assist, engage and travel with wayfarers with divergent points of view.  Here are three guidelines for reviving the lost art of journey companionship.

Don’t have a goal in mind.  For many Christians the goal of companionship is to lead the traveler to a new birth.  But, as we have seen in the forgoing chapters it is the Holy Spirit’s role to draw wayfarers to this waypoint (John 16: 8, 9).  Thus the church’s role is conversation, not conversion; assistance not damnation.  The church must resist the temptation to be goal orientated, for we know not the length nor the route of the fellow traveler’s journey.  When Peter asked Jesus about the apostle John’s destiny, Jesus reminded Peter that his role was to be faithful and to feed Jesus’ sheep (John 21:156-25).  Destiny is in God’s hands, but accompaniment is in ours.

Respect post-Christian and even anti-Christian worldviews.  For honest and candid discussion to emerge, respect must be the foundation.  If a Christian joins a traveler on the journey and the Christian only lauds their own journey and the primacy of their route, then the traveler will feel the Christian has no respect, nor understanding, for the wayfarer’s personal passage.  

Understand that modern culture is fascinated with spirituality.  Though there is a growing agnosticism and atheism in North America, still almost 3 out of 4 people say they are interested in spiritual things.  Yet, many may have divergent belief systems to Christianity.   Thus to foster authentic dialogue, the Christian must show respect and reverence for different religious beliefs.

Action 12.3: Explain the Relevance of the Biblical Worldview.

The above list of post-Christian beliefs deserves an extended discussion beyond this book.  However, to begin to addressing each, I have below tendered suggestions, ideas and books. These can be the starting place for the leader that wishes to increase his or her knowledge of the relevance of the Good News.

Resources to Answer a Postmodern Worldview

  1. God, if He exists at all, is just an impersonal moral force.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 2, Exodus 15:11, 20:2-6, John 3:16, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:1, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe God Exists” by William Lane Craig in Why I Am a Christian.  Also, How Does Anyone Know God Exists? (Tough Questions) by Gary Poole.
  2. The Bible is nothing other than a book written by humans.
    1. The Good News: 1 John 5:13, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Mark 13:31, Luke 24:44-45, etc.
    2. Books:  “Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable” by Gary R. Habermas, “Why I Believe the Bible is Scientifically Reliable” by Walter Bradley, both in Why I Am a Christian.  “Examining the Record” in The Case for Christ, co-written by Lee Strobel and others.  The Ring of Truth: A Translator’s Testimony by J. B. Phillips.
    3. Research:  Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce has stated that critics of the Bible’s text have uncovered no variants that affect any historical fact or belief on which Christianity is founded.
  3. Humankind basically has the capacity within itself to improve morally and make the right choices.
    1. The Good News: Psalm 51:1-4, 143:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 2:14-16, 3:23, 3:10-18, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 John 5:1-10, etc.
    2. Books:  “Postmodernism: A Declaration of Bankruptcy” by Kathryn Ludwigson,  and “Evangelism in a Postmodern World” by James Emery White, in The Challenge of Postmodernism. 
  4. Happiness consists of unlimited acquisition of material, knowledge, experience, etc.
    1. The Good News: Romans 1:18-32, 2 Peter 2:18-22, Titus 2:11-14, etc.
    2. Books: Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believer and Skeptics Alike by J. B. Phillips, The Hole in the Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life And Just Might Change the World, Randy Alcorn’s Money, Possessions, and Eternity, and The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne.
  5. There really is no objective basis for right and wrong.
    1. The Good News: Jeremiah 6:16-19, John 8:34-44, Romans 2:1-16, Galatians 2:15-16, etc.
    2. Books: God in the Dock; Essays on Theology and Ethics by C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics by Normal L. Geisler, and N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.
  6. If a person lives a “good life,” then eternal destiny is probable.
    1. The Good News: Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:23-25, John 14:6, Romans 5:12-21, etc. 
    2. Books: Why I Am a Christian edited by Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman, Faith on Trial by Pamela Binnings Ewen, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller.

Resources to Support a Biblical Worldview

To aid in this dialogue, the five elements below of a Christian worldview are accompanied by applicable Scriptures, suggestions, ideas and books.

  1. There is one God, Creator, who actually exists in space and time.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 1-2, Exodus 15:11, 20:2-6, Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 45:5, 6, 21-22, Malachi 3:6, etc.
    2. Books:  “Why I Believe the God of the Bible is the One True God” in Why I Am a Christian, Faith on Trial by Pamela Binnings Ewen, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (these books are also useful with the following four elements).
  2. Humankind, because of a willful act of disobedience became severed from a personal relationship with the God who made him and her.  The consequence is that humankind has become imprisoned and most live a self-seeking life with no possibility on their own of restoring this lost communion.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:7-8, Ephesians 2:13-16, Romans 3:23, Romans 3:9-18, Romans 6:23 etc.
    2. Books: Tears of God by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little, and Epic: The Story God is Telling by John Eldridge.
  3. Jesus Christ, a human being who actually lived on earth, is God’s Son who has provided, through His death and resurrection, the only way for humankind to be restored to fellowship with God.
    1. The Good News: Isaiah 53:5, Hebrews 9:22, 11:6, 1 John 1:7-9, John 1:29, 6:47, 14:6, Colossians 1:4, Matthew 1:21, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2: 8-9, 1 Timothy 2:5, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe Jesus Is The Promised Messiah” by Barry R. Leventhal, “Why I Believe Jesus Is the Son of God” by Peter Kreeft, both in Why I Am a Christian.  “Analyzing Jesus” in The Case for Christ, co-written by Lee Strobel and others.  How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul E. Little, Philip Yancy’s The Jesus I Never Knew. 
  4. The Bible is a valid witness to eternal spiritual truth.
    1. The Good News: Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Jude 3, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe the Bible Alone Is the Word of God” by Winfried Corduan in Why I Am a Christian.  Also see F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
  5. Restoration of fellowship between God and humankind requires an acceptance by humans of the free gift God offers, but only on the terms that God has provided.
    1. The Good News: Zechariah 13:9, Matthew 6:33, 7:7-8, Romans 10:9-13, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:38-39, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Have Made Jesus Christ Lord of My Life” by J. P. Moreland in Why I Am a Christian., Brad Kallenberg’s Live to Tell, The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge,  and the classic treatise Peace With God by Billy Graham.
    3. This point will be discussed further in the remainder of this book, especially along the journey between Waypoints 11 and 4.

Positive Attitude Toward LIVING the Good News

Waypoint Characteristics: 

At Waypoint 11, the traveler is growing with an increasingly positive attitude toward the act of accepting Christ and joining His community.  Yet, this is a very fragile and complicated waypoint.  As noted earlier, media and popular culture may have painted a pessimistic picture of the Christian lifestyle.  Therefore, the Christian community must be prepared to patiently, unwaveringly and loving help the traveler gain an authentic picture of a faith community, as well as the person God intended the traveler to be.

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 11

The Lost Traveler.  This is a traveler who has exhausted all other road maps.  Like Mike Franzese, the trekker may be at the end of their options.  It is here the faith community must begin to help the traveler understand the direction and basics of this new route.  Yet, often at this waypoint the church will feel compelled to remind the hiker of the errant paths he or she has taken.  However, one of the lessons of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is that the unwavering older brother should celebrate the return, not reprimand it.

The Returning Traveler.  Other travelers may be returning to the road map of their youth.  Again, it becomes tempting for the faith community to disparage the years the trekker has squandered.  Still, the Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us that the faithful older brother should not only celebrate his own faithfulness, but also celebrate his brother’s recovery.  Jesus concluded this parable by putting the spotlight on the trekker’s return, saying, “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” Luke 15:31-32 (The Message).

Actions That Help W11 Travelers

SWOT is an acronym for a helpful analysis tool.  Though often employed to analyze businesses, it’s holistic nature makes it a good tool for understanding a person’s aspirations, fears, hopes and dreams.  Each of the letters of SWOT stands for an area that must be studied.  And, when a community of faith is helping a traveler at Waypoint 11 gain a positive attitude toward living the Good News, it is critical to look at these four areas. 

Action 11.1: Empower Strengths

“S” in the acronym SWOT stands for strengths.  These are strengths that each person possesses.  Leadership researcher Peter Northouse believes such strengths can be traits, abilities, skills or behaviors.  Traits are inherent and natural qualities with which a leader is endowed.  Abilities are aptitudes developed by experience.  Skills are means and methods for carrying out leadership responsibilities.  And behaviors are what people do with the traits, abilities and skills they have been given.  Though we will discuss their differences more in the next chapter, for this chapter the reader should keep in mind that a person’s giftings include things they are born with (traits), things they learn through experience (abilities and skills), and the behaviors that result.

There is little doubt that everyone possesses strengths in some traits, abilities, skills and behaviors. Yet the Scriptures indicate that a full unleashing of such gifts awaits a new birth experience that originates in God’s Spirit.  Such strengths and gifts testify to the goodness of the divine Giver.  Speaking to the Corinthian church, Paul states: 

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

    wise counsel

   clear understanding

   simple trust

   healing the sick

   miraculous acts

   proclamation

   distinguishing between spirits

   tongues

   interpretation of tongues.

   All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, The Message).

When encountering a wayfarer that has arduously traveled a spiritual journey, churches can easily be put off by the demeanor, appearance, habits and opinions of the traveler at Waypoint 11.  Yet, every person has redeeming strengths, and it is the Christian community’s task to nurture what God has planted.  Helping travelers at Waypoint 11 means helping them uncover their fledging strengths, to see these gifts were given by God, and that they still await His full empowerment.  The following two actions will assist in that process.

Action 11.1A: 

Help the traveler recognize the diversity of God’s gifts.

The Scriptures describe a variety of God-given gifts.  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14, Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe many of the “gifts of the (Holy) Spirit” that God uses to empower people for service and ministry.  Here is a brief, yet annotated list:

  1. Administration: Effective planning and organization (1 Cor. 2:28; Acts 6:1-7).
  2. Discernment: Distinguishing between error and truth (1 Cor. 12:10; Acts 5:1-11).
  3. Encouragement: Ability to comfort, console, encourage and counsel (Rom. 12:8; Hebrews 10:25; Timothy 4:13).
  4. Evangelism: Building relationships that help travelers move toward a personal relationship with Christ (Luke 19:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:5).
  5. Faith: Discerning with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God. (1 Cor. 12:9, Acts 11:22-24, Hebrews 11, Romans 4:18-21)
  6. Giving: Cheerfully giving of resources without remorse (Romans 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7, 9:2-8; Mark 12:41-44).
  7. Hospitality: Creating comfort and assistance for those in need (1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Hebrews 13:1-2).
  8. Intercession: Passionate, extended and effective prayer. (James 5:14-16, 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Colossians 1:9-12, 4:12-13).
  9. Knowledge: To discover, accumulate, analyze and clarify information and ideas which are pertinent to the well being of a Christian community. (1 Cor. 2:14, 12:8, Acts 5:1-11, Colossians 2:2-3).
  10. Leadership: To cast vision, set goals and motivate to cooperatively accomplish God’ purposes (Luke 9:51; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:17).
  11. Mercy: To feel authentic empathy and compassion accompanied by action that reflects Christ’s love and alleviates suffering (Romans 12:8, Matt. 25:34-36; Luke 10:30-37).
  12. Prophecy: Providing guidance to others by explaining and proclaiming  God’s truth (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11-14, Romans 12:6; Acts 21:9-11).
  13. Helps: Investing time and talents in others to increase other’s effectiveness (1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 16:1-2, Acts 9:36).
  14. Service: A tactical gift that identifies steps and processes in tasks that results in ministry to others (2 Tim. 1:16-18, Rom. 12:7, Acts 6:1-7).
  15. Pastor: Long-term personal responsibility for the welfare of spiritual travelers. (Eph. 4:1-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, John 10:1-18, 1 Peter 5:1-3).
  16. Teaching: Communicating relevant information that results in learning (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:7, Acts 18:24-28, 20:20-21).
  17. Wisdom: To have insight into how to apply knowledge (1 Cor. 2:1-13, 12:8. Acts 6:3, 10; James 1:5-6, 2 Peter 3: 15-16).
  18. Missionary: Using spiritual gifts effectively in a non-indigenous culture (1 Cor. 9:19-21, Acts 8:4, 13:2-3, 22:21; Rom. 10:15).
  19. Miracles.  To perform compelling acts that are perceived by observers to have altered the ordinary course of nature (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Acts 9:36-42, 19:11-20, 20:7-12; Rom. 15:18-19, 2 Cor. 12:12).
  20. Healing. To serve as human intermediaries through whom it pleases God to restore health (1 Cor. 12:9, 28; Acts 3:1-10, 5:12-16, 9:32-35, 28:7-10).
  21. Tongues. There are various explanations of this gift.  For instance it can be to speak (a) to God in a language they have never learned and/or (b) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to his people.  Another option is that this can mean an ability to speak a foreign language and convey concept across cultures (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 14:13-19, Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:1-7).
  22. Interpretation: To make known a message of one who speaks in tongues.  And/or it can mean “those who help build bridges across cultural, generational and language divides.” (1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 14:13, 26-28).
  23. Voluntary poverty.  To renounce material comfort and luxury to assist others (1 Cor. 13:1-3, Acts 2:44:45, 4:34-37, 2 Cor. 6:10, 8:9).
  24. Celibacy: To remain single with joy and not suffer undue sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:7-8, Matt. 19:10-12).
  25. Martyrdom. Ability to undergo suffering for the faith even to death, while displaying a victorious attitude that brings glory to God (1 Cor. 13:3).

There is no Biblical reason why some of these gifts are not given in some measure before conversion, awaiting the regenerative experience to unleash them with divine empowerment.  Therefore, the Christian community should look for signs of such pre-empowered giftings in travelers at Waypoint 11, and then move to Action B.

Action 11.1B:  

Explain that new birth will unleash and empower these strengths.

A Christian community can help a traveler grasp that along with new birth will come divine empowerment for good deeds.  And, these good deeds will rise from the traveler’s traits, abilities, skills and behaviors.  People today often suffer from poor self-esteem, yet God’s intention is that each person has gifts to contribute to the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10).  Christian communities should be a place where travelers with such emerging giftings discover that:

  1. Gifts, as listed in Scripture (i.e. above), are from God (Romans 12:5-6, 1 Corinthians 12:18, 1 Peter 4:10).
  2. These gifts were given so that travelers can serve others (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 18).
  3. The full empowerment and release of these gifts occurs following new birth. (1 Peter 4:10).

Action 11.2: Offset Weaknesses .

“W” in SWOT stands for personal weaknesses.  A Christ-like community can help travelers grasp that new birth (W7) and growth in God’s new community (W5-W0) can result in the traveler overcoming personal weaknesses.  The Scriptures promise that:

  • “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” 1 Cor. 6:9-11 (The Message).
  • “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)
  • “Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.” Psalm 34:17 (The Message).
  • “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:29-31.
  • “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Action 11.3: Capitalize on Opportunities.

“O” in SWOT stands for “opportunities” and God’s Good News is that His intentions are to help His offspring make the most of opportunities. Scriptures state: 

  • “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” Hebrews 13:1-4 (The Message).
  • “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’.” Mark 9:35.
  • “Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” James 1:26-27 (The Message).
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
  • “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34.
  • “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Matthew 6:20 (The Message).
  • “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 (The Message).

Action 11.4: Overcome Threats.

“T” in SWOT stands for “threats” and these are things that are beyond a person’s control and which they fear.  Death, illness, estrangement, etc. are but a few of the threats that humans can be anxious about.  Again, here are just a few Scriptures that paint an image of triumph over anxiety and adversity:  

  • Fear of persecution:  “Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever. Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you..” Revelation 2:10 (The Message).
  • Fear of death:  “’Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Cor. 15:55-58. 
  • Fear of hardship:  “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” Romans 8:18 (The Message).
  • Fear of not being successful: “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what.  Who or what can get to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (The Message).

At Waypoint 11 the church must be careful to not overly romanticize nor paint a rosy picture of the future, even with Christ.  The Bible states that challenges lie ahead on our route, but advises: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter 4:12-13).  Thus, the Christian community must realistically and authentically let the traveler know that there will be barriers, detours, and challenges on the road ahead, but that Christ and his community provide aid and strength to continue the journey.

Download the chapters here (but remember, if you enjoy the content please purchase the book to support the publisher and author): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 13, 12, 11

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

 

SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS 16, 15 & 14: How to help people navigate their spiritual journey

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 16: No Awareness of a Supreme Being

Actions That Help W16 Travelers

At Waypoint 16 a Christian must offer assistance to wayfarers via two avenues, intellectual engagement and social modeling.  Let us look at intellectual engagement first.

Action 16.1: Release Your Organic Intellectuals.

 Most faith communities are weak at explaining their belief in God to someone who has rejected the very notion of God’s existence.  However, in such communities of faith there are individuals that are skilled at intellectual analysis and engagement.  They are the ones who gleefully teach Sunday Schools and Bible Studies, for the mental stimulation of the task.  The Bible mentions around two dozen “gifts of the Spirit” (c.f. Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28, Ephesians 4:11) and these people may have the gift of teaching (Romans 12:8, 1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11-14, Acts 18:24-28).  The gift of teaching has been described as an ability “to communication information … in such a way that others learn.”  Yet, the gift of teaching is not the same as entertaining oratory or cheerleading, for the last phrase “that others learn” reminds us that listeners will gain knowledge.  Michael Griffiths states, “traditionally too much Christian teaching is pulpit soliloquy and nobody ever checks up to see where anyone takes notice of whether teaching produces any action.”

In the field of political science such gifted communicators are called “organic intellectuals” for they naturally understand people and are able to help the average person understand difficult concepts.  Antonio Gramsci, the political activist who coined the term organic intellectual, emphasized they were not just academics, but were playwrights, media professionals, novelists and journalists.

C. S. Lewis was an organic intellectual who is best known as an eloquent champion and writer on Christian themes.  Yet, in his memoir Surprised by Joy he tells how he began life as an atheist.  It was through intellectual analysis and mentorship (via Christian fantasy writer George McDonald and friends like J.R.R. Tolkien) that Lewis became a passionate advocate of Christian belief.  His, Mere Christianity has been heralded as “…not the shouting, stomping, sweating, spitting televangelist fare so often parodied; Lewis employs logical arguments that are eloquently expressed”  While some of his writings were directed at mostly Christian audiences (e.g. The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer), Lewis wrote many books for people without an awareness of the supreme being (i.e. God in the Dock and The Pilgrim’s Regress).

And, through Lewis countless young people have been introduced to the rationale for Christ’s sacrifice through the childhood eyes of Lucy, Edmond, Susan and Peter as they witness the savage death and resurrection of the kindly, yet kingly lion named Aslan.  In a similar organic fashion J. R. R. Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy exemplifies to adolescent readers the nobility of sacrifice, obligation, lineage and inter-reliance. 

I knew one such organic intellectual named Linda B.  She has risen to the top of her profession: president and general manager of a large television station.  As such, one magazine named her the “most powerful woman in Minnesota.”  Her gift was communication (after all she was in the media business) and in her church she started a Bible study that grew rapidly due to a sharp intellect and easy to understand style.  However, most of the attendees were Christians.  Now, there is nothing wrong with such gatherings.  But, often we keep our best intellects ministering to Christians and do not release an equal number to engage our mission field.  

If your church has leaders possessing organic gifts of teaching, whereby they can readily and convincingly explain difficult concepts, it is time we send them out to start book studies, readings and discussion groups with people that are, as C. S. Lewis once was, “very angry with God for not existing.”  Libraries often host book studies and are looking for communicators, service organizations have leadership training and seek gifted trainers and poetry readings engage hearers with challenging yet prosaic ideas.  These are all valid venues for a church’s ministry.  But remember, when leaving the confines of cloistered halls, all opinions are welcome and appreciated. Such external venues are not a time to stifle opposing viewpoints, but to welcome them. The organic intellectual welcomes new ideas, and appreciates the skillful and probing mind that fosters them.  This is called fostering an ask-assertive environment, and we shall study it further in the following section.

Action 16.2: The A, B, C & D of Social Modeling

Social modeling is exactly what it asserts, modeling behavior that is inter-relational and social. Here we are speaking about Christians modeling the positive attributes that Christ exhibited.  The very word for Christian means “little Christs” and should remind us that when we use it we are envoys and ambassadors of Christ.  Even detractors such as self-avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens acknowledges the power of social modeling, stating, “the good effects of Christianity are neither to be denied, not lightly esteemed, though candidly I will admit that I think them overrated.”   It is toward ensuring that such modeling is not overrated, but authentically affirmed, that the church must set her sights.

While social modeling can be helpful at all waypoints, it is especially important at Waypoint 16.  At this waypoint a person has no awareness that a supreme being exists and thus social modeling can be the first encounter with Christ-likeness.  To be effective, social modeling has two premises:

 First social modeling must be based on a “mutual relationship.” This means that a two-way personal connection must be established before modeling has any power.  Research has shown when outreach is conducted in an impersonal manner that it can create three to ten times as much negative as positive response.

Secondly, social modeling is only effective if the one modeling is admired, i.e. it is based upon a “positive and mutual relationship.”  The church that is reaching out at this waypoint will realize that it’s people must act in such a way that their lives attest to a belief in a God that is eternal, compassionate, loving … and just.   Therefore, let us look at four things a church can undertake to redemptively exhibit social modeling.

Action A: Truth telling.  This means telling exactly the truth and not embellishing it.  Communities of faith can become cultures of exaggeration and overstatement.  Such amplification often occurs when attendance figures are bantered about, or conversion statistics stated.  An organization can become so infected with exaggeration that budgets will be inflated beyond what is needed, because amplification is expected.  For example, truth telling is waning if a department always has to ask for two new employees to be assured they get one.  The entire organization often mutates into an unhealthy environment of overstatement and hyperbole.  To an outside word that is watching and having financial dealings with the church, it appears that we have no respect nor concern about the retribution of a God who demands truth telling (“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” Matthew 5:37).  The result is that churches say they believe in God, but by fudging on the truth give an impression to a watching world that His requirements and retributions do not really matter.

Action B: Fair dealing.  This is when a church has two sets of standards, dealing with Christians in a more honest and fair manner than they deal with people who are not.  By breaking contracts, not paying bills, finagling for the lowest price, etc. churches may feel they are stretching God’s money at the expense of the un-Godly.  But in actuality Christians are modeling a lack of fair dealing and equality.  People observing this behavior may conclude that because Christians are a reflection of God, then their God must be a deity that does not deal fairly.

Action C: An Ask-assertive Environment.  This is an environment where questions are not only welcomed, but also encouraged.  Churches that are reaching out to people who have little awareness of God will want to demonstrate God’s approachability by being open themselves to questions, and never offended.  In a church this environment may be manifest in questions arising from the floor during a sermon or on the street during the week.  It was C. S. Lewis’ questions that peppered his conversations with friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien that led Lewis to Waypoint 7: new birth.  Yet, in many churches questions, if allowed at all, are organized into tidy little segments after a long lecture.  The lecture format of most church preaching keeps this practice entrenched. Asking questions however is encouraged in an ask-assertive environment.  This is especially important since we model a supreme being who personal engages His creation from the Garden of Eden (where He was walking and conversing with Adam, Genesis 3:8-9) through the New Earth (Revelation 21 where He shall be among his creation again).

Action D: Imagery of Hope.  This final action is exemplified by Richard’s story.  This story captures the image of utilizing organic intellectuals crafting an aesthetically pleasing and emotionally engaging media presentation of the hope and help that God offers a floundering world.  Recall how the first half of Dick’s presentation emphasized the lostness and estrangement of the youth culture.  But, then the second half lauded how God provides hope and meaning.  This tension between despair and hope is reflected in the quote by C. S. Lewis that began this chapter.  Lewis lamented, he was caught in “a whirlwind of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing.  I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.” Lewis was exasperated because the world needed hope and he saw none coming, until portrayed in the writings of fantasy writer George Williams.  Whether the fantasies of Williams or the light and music presentation of Richard Peace, the imagery of hope can be so powerful and so needed, that it will propel a traveler on their journey forward … and God-ward.

Waypoint 15: Awareness of a Supreme Being, no knowledge of the Good News

Action 15:1: Research Needs

The type of research conducted is important, for some research is more helpful than others.  Primary research occurs when information is gathered first-hand.  Secondary research is when someone gleans insights from another’s research.  Secondary research is helpful, but often pales in potency to primary research where a researcher is personally immersed in a local mission field.  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.

Waypoint 14: Initial Awareness of the Good News

Action 14:1: News You Can’t Ignore

Let us look at the last category of travelers first, the traveler whose initial awareness of the Good News results in a neglect of it.  There are two steps for helping someone deal with such a difficult issue. The first is to help the person grasp the seriousness of the subject, and the second is to visualize the future.

Point 1: The Seriousness of the topic.  C. S. Lewis, an organic intellectual, skillfully illuminated grand biblical themes.  Regarding the seriousness of the Good News he stated, “…Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”  What Lewis meant by this, is that if the claims of eternal life (John 14:1-3) are true, and if the parallel claim that only through Christ can eternal life be reached (John 14:6), then Christianity holds the all important key to infinity.

  Point 2: Picture the future.  But, how does a congregation emphasize the importance of the topic.  For most travelers it will not be enough to just logically explain (as Lewis did) that eternal life if a possibility and attainable.  Instead, most people will need a mental picture. Alister McGrath analyzed how the Bible and Christians have looked at heaven and summed up, “The Christian concept of heaven is iconic, rather than intellectual (heaven is) something that makes its appeal to the imagination, rather than the intellect, which calls out to be visualized rather than merely understood … It is much easier to reflect upon an image than an idea.”

This fact was driven home to the American medical community when a study on heart patients found scaring patients into changing their behavior did not work.  On the one hand, when future illness was graphically described only 10 percent of the patients changed their behaviors. On the other hand, 77 percent changed their behavior when they were given a mental picture of a healthy future life (e.g. enjoying life with their family, friends and grandchildren).  In other words, describing the poor health associated with heart disease only motivated one in ten people to change.  But, describing a bright future enjoying children and grandchildren was almost 80 percent effective in helping patients change their lifestyle.  And thus, when sharing the Good News a depiction of a happy future may be more powerful that depicting a fiery doom.  The church should focus on the penalty and punishment of hell, but in today’s world only about 10 percent of the people will change their outlook because of scare tactics.  But, if Christians focus on the bliss of heaven and the wholeness of a Christian life, then perhaps up to 80 percent may change their outlook.  

The Bible is replete with Scriptures that visualize eternal joy.  Jesus underscores the communal and residential nature of heaven when He states, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” John 14:1-3.  Peter knew the Jewish people pictured their “promised inheritance” as Canaan (Numbers 32:19), but Peter suggested they visualize this everlasting inheritance as eternal life, stating “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). And, throughout Scripture it is emphasized that Jesus is the only way to this bliss.  When Thomas asked Jesus to clarify the above statement about “going to prepare a place” (John 14:2b) Jesus decisively and authoritatively responded, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

How then can Point 1 and Point 2 be fostered in our churches? A good place is in what we read and discuss.  Many popular books today are inspirational guides aimed at Christians, and there is nothing wrong with this.  But, when a church wants to engage travelers at Waypoint 14, the church may need to recast its reading lists.  There are many books that give descriptive and positive images of heaven and/or Christian life that could become book studies in our churches and our community.  C. S. Lewis’ books The Chronicles of Narnia (especially the last book), The Great Divorce (especially the sections on heaven) and The Space Trilogy (again, especially the last book) are but of few of his books that paint inspiring pictures of the future.  Lewis’ friend and Christian mentor, J. R. R. Tolkien, painted pictures of an idyllic world where good triumphs over evil, sacrifice leads to nobility, and ultimately humankind and nature conspire to overthrow evil (The Lord of the Rings). John Milton’s classic Paradise Regained illustrates in luminous words the worlds that lie ahead (and in Paradise Lost those luminous realms that lie behind).   Even modern stories such as Trudy Harris’ Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories of Hope and Peace at the End of Life’s Journey, and Piper and Murphy’s 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life can help travelers at Waypoint 14 focus on the promise of the Good News.

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

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 4 waypoints I use to explain salvation & conversion

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/22/18.

As my clients, colleagues and mentees know … I believe every person should be ready to explain the Good News at any time. I’ve created a short version based upon the most popular presentations (such as the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws and the Four Steps to Peace with God). The 4 Waypoint presentation is a work in progress, but here it is:

(intro.) Think of life as a journey, it’s easy to do. You are going from Point A to Point B, etc. These are called “waypoints.” Here are the 4 waypoints God wants you to encounter.

1. God loves you & wants to give you eternal life.

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. But our poor choices have wrecked our relationship with Him and doomed us.

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3. Only Jesus can get us back in a right relationship w/ God.

(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(John 14:6) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

4. Accept His forgiveness & start living a full and eternal life.

(Acts 16:31) Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

(John 10:10) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

For other Good News presentation tools: CLICK HERE.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

SOCIAL MEDIA & How in the words of #Luther it increasingly “curves us inward on ourselves.”

“Social Media and Sin” by A. Trevor Sutton, The Martin Marty Center, University of Chicago Divinity School, 4/4/18.

…Religion may offer an important explanation as to why this social media platform is so problematic both for society and for individual well-being. Human depravity, original sin, and concupiscence are perennial themes, for example, within the discipline of Christian theology. Augustine and Martin Luther are known for describing the human condition as incurvatus in se (“curved inward on oneself”). Rather than living a life that is aligned toward God and others, human sinfulness directs our life inward, toward self-justification, self-gratification, and self-aggrandizement. The notion that sin has warped, twisted, maimed, and ruined human goodness is as ubiquitous in theology as Facebook is in modern life.

The burgeoning field of user experience design (UX), when put in conversation with the theological notion of human depravity, helps to put the problematic nature of social media into sharp relief. A central concern within UX is user-centered design. As the name suggests, user-centered design advocates for designing with end users in mind. That is to say, technology is designed to acknowledge and accommodate the needs and wants of the user, as designers seek to maximize user experience by creating products that are built around the user’s desires. User research is responsible for nearly all the design decisions at Facebook. In fact, there is an entire department at Facebook dedicated to Human Computer Interaction and UX. Teams of people at Facebook are thus dedicated to researching, and finding ways to capitalize on, the individual behaviors, thoughts, and impulses of users.

Donald Norman, a formative figure in user-centered design, has recognized how designers actually aim to facilitate human sinfulness through that which they design. In the foreword to a book by Chris Nodder, Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation, Norman writes: “But why should design be based on evil? Simple: Starting with evil means starting with real human behavior … And good design results from good understanding.” Norman’s point is rather simple: good design understands users, and it must therefore also consider the depravity of users.

This means that, according to user-centered design, human sinfulness ought to be accounted for and perhaps even exploited when creating products for the digital age. According to Nodder, designers must ask themselves the question: “how do we influence behavior through the medium of software?”

Theology recognizes that human hearts are curved inward, inclined to boast, and always looking for opportunities to prove their own self-righteousness. Human-computer interaction, UX, and user-centered design recognize that social media platforms should be designed to meet the wants and needs of real human users. Putting these two concepts in conversation with one another reveals why Facebook can be so dangerous. Facebook’s technology is designed to accommodate, encourage, and exploit human depravity. The “Like” button on Facebook is not there by chance; the “Like” button was created to satisfy our deep longing to be liked by others, lauded for our accomplishments, and acknowledged for our righteousness…

Resources

– Allen, Mike. “Sean Parker unloads on Facebook: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’.” Axios. November 9, 2017.

– Murphy, Mike. “Why Apple’s Tim Cook doesn’t want his nephew to use social networks.” MarketWatch. January 22, 2018.

– Nodder, Chris. Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation. Wiley, 2013.

– Wong, Julia Carrie. “Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart.” The Guardian. December 12, 2017.

Read more at … https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/social-media-and-sin

 

SIGNATURE MINISTRY & A case-study showing why a signature ministry is one of the 7Marks of a healthy church.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

I have categorized “7Marks of healthy churches” from the exhaustive research of the American Congregations 2015 Survey (available at http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf)

The 7Marks are:

  1. Visibility
  2. Reaching a growing culture
  3. Supernatural worship
  4. Signature Ministry
  5. Unique identity in the community
  6. Lack of serious conflict
  7. Involved church attendees

Here is a case-study story that illustrates #4: Signature Ministry.


A Minneapolis congregation finds new life through the ancient practice of keeping Sabbath

by Jeff Stickler, Faith & Leadership, 4/4/18.

Lake Nokomis Presbyterian was dying, and everybody knew it — even if they weren’t quite ready to accept it. When Root realized the congregation wasn’t willing to let go — at least not yet — she knew it was the right place and the right time to suggest something radical.

“The people who had stayed were hardy adventurers,” she said. “They were ready to try new things. And I figured that if we went broke in 18 months instead of 24, what difference would it make?”

What would the circumstances have to be in order for your church or organization to make radical changes?

Strictly speaking, Root’s idea wasn’t new. In fact, it was thousands of years old. In a time when congregations are searching for new and different ways of being church, Root proposed that Lake Nokomis reclaim the ancient practice of Sabbath keeping and place it at the core of their identity as a congregation.

That might mean a day with no shopping trip to the mall. No pulling out a smartphone to check on work emails. No paying bills or balancing the checkbook.

And on some Sundays, under Root’s proposal, it would mean not even going to church.

“People weren’t coming every Sunday, anyway,” Root said…

Lake Nokomis Presbyterian is not on the cusp of becoming a megachurch, by any means, but the attendance trend has been reversed. Since the Sabbath practice was launched, the congregation has gained 18 new members and another dozen or so people who attend regularly. About 90 people are now members of the church; 40 to 70 attend Sunday worship services, and 12 to 25 the Saturday evening services.

Young families have joined the church, and the children’s program is back. “It’s great seeing kids running around the church again,” Root said.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/minneapolis-congregation-finds-new-life-through-ancient-practice-keeping-sabbath?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature


For a detail explanation of each of the 7Marks and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

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