reMIX & People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%.

… What’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Utilizing a simple graphic, such as this one by a client church, helps congregants visually track the ministerial transition process.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 11, 2021.

While designing a course to help pastors and churches successfully navigate pastoral transitions for Fuller Theological Seminary, I became aware of how much church communication must be a priority during pastoral transitions. But often too much or too little information is shared, leading to confusion at best or suspicion at the worst.

This client congregation overcame this problem and communicated its process well through three simple charts.

CHART 1 (behind the word “prayer”) depicts the 5 stage process with a time for each stage. Attendees can quickly see where they are in the process and which steps are still ahead.

CHART 2 depicts how the selection process “narrows” to the selection of a candidate. It is important for attendees to see that the eventual selection has emerged from a significant pool of candidates.

CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed) reminds that the overriding consideration is that this is a spiritual exercise and prayer is how each stakeholder participates.

The above is CHART 1 (without the word “prayer” superimposed)
& CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed)
The above is CHART 2

TRENDS & The primary challenge facing pastors … is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

… The decline of membership in churches, synagogues and mosques cannot be equated with decline in religious curiosity or practice. When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

COMMUNICATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: When you’ve been away (but still watching online) don’t say ‘It is good to be back’ from the stage when you return in person. It makes the online congregation feel second class. Instead say, “It is good to be with you again this week.”

Read about innovative strategies in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

TIME MANAGEMENT & Nehemiah’s reply to needless meetings & heedless critics.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In 30+ years of church consulting excessive meetings and insufficient action is a major misstep that stops churches from moving forward and growing. Too many meetings often drain volunteers and leaders of their enthusiasm, energy and progress.

The Old Testament business leader Nehemiah provides a helpful example of what to do when you are badgered by people who want to slow you down with endless meetings … when action and effort is required. Take this take a look at the way Rick Warren explains this in the following article.

You Don’t Need to Fight Critics by Rick Warren — 04/07/2021

God uniquely created you for an important assignment on Earth that only you can accomplish.

But you will face naysayers along the way. They’ll tell you: “You’re the wrong person. You’ve got the wrong idea. You’re doing it the wrong way.”

Take the Old Testament story of Nehemiah, for example. Nehemiah wasn’t a pastor or a priest. He was a businessman. Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The Israelites had been in exile for 70 years—and then the Babylonians let them go home.

Jerusalem had been destroyed and was defenseless. But Nehemiah got a big idea to change that. “I’ll rebuild my city,” he thought. “And I’ll start by rebuilding the wall to protect it.”

Nehemiah’s story teaches that every opportunity comes with opposition.

For Nehemiah, the opposition was instant. Israel’s enemies didn’t want to see Jerusalem defended. They tried all sorts of things to stop him from rebuilding the wall. They tried ridicule, rumors, and threats. When none of that worked, they tried to slow him down by involving him in bunch of meetings.

Your critics—the naysayers who want to prevent you from doing what the Lord has called you to do—will use the same bag of tricks. They’ll ridicule you, spread rumors about you, and even threaten you to get you to stop doing what God wants you to do.

But instead of listening to them, respond the way that Nehemiah did: “So I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?’ Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply”(Nehemiah 6:3-4 NLT).

You don’t need to fight with naysayers. It’s not worth it. If you try to take on people who have a negative opinion about God’s plans for you, you’ll just waste your time.

Nehemiah didn’t defend his work. You don’t need to defend yourself either. Just let the naysayers’ criticisms go.

One day God’s work through your life will be proven correct. Have enough faith to wait for that day to come.PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

TRENDS & U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time Due to Millennials, Gen. Z., Less Emphasis Upon Membership & Those With “No Religious Preference.” #Gallup

by Jeffrey M Jones, Gallup, 4/29/21.

… Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

Line graph. U.S. church membership was 73% in 1937 when Gallup first measured it. It stayed near 70% through 2000 before beginning to decline, to 61% in 2010 and 47% in 2020.

U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21stcentury.

As many Americans celebrate Easter and Passover this week, Gallup updates a 2019 analysis that examined the decline in church membership over the past 20 years…

Decline in Membership Tied to Increase in Lack of Religious Affiliation

The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.

As would be expected, Americans without a religious preference are highly unlikely to belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, although a small proportion — 4% in the 2018-2020 data — say they do. That figure is down from 10% between 1998 and 2000.

Given the nearly perfect alignment between not having a religious preference and not belonging to a church, the 13-percentage-point increase in no religious affiliation since 1998-2000 appears to account for more than half of the 20-point decline in church membership over the same time.

Most of the rest of the drop can be attributed to a decline in formal church membership among Americans who dohave a religious preference. Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Over the past three years, the average has fallen to 60%.

Line graph. Changes in church membership among Americans who express a religious preference or affiliation. Between 1998 and 2000, 73% of religious Americans were members of a church, synagogue or mosque. That dipped to 70% between 2008 and 2010, and it fell to 60% between 2018 and 2020.

Generational Differences Linked to Change in Church Membership

Church membership is strongly correlated with age, as 66% of traditionalists — U.S. adults born before 1946 — belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of those in Generation X and 36% of millennials. The limited data Gallup has on church membership among the portion of Generation Z that has reached adulthood are so far showing church membership rates similar to those for millennials.

The decline in church membership, then, appears largely tied to population change, with those in older generations who were likely to be church members being replaced in the U.S. adult population with people in younger generations who are less likely to belong. The change has become increasingly apparent in recent decades because millennials and Gen Z are further apart from traditionalists in their church membership rates (about 30 points lower) than baby boomers and Generation X are (eight and 16 points, respectively). Also, each year the younger generations are making up an increasingly larger part of the entire U.S. adult population.

Read more at … https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx?

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & Learn how Steve Jobs was a great leader because he let his subordinates change his mind. #HBR

“Persuading the Unpersuadable” by Adam Grant, Harvard Business Review Magazine (March–April 2021)

…The legend of Steve Jobs is that he transformed our lives with the strength of his convictions. The key to his greatness, the story goes, was his ability to bend the world to his vision. The reality is that much of Apple’s success came from his team’s pushing him to rethink his positions. If Jobs hadn’t surrounded himself with people who knew how to change his mind, he might not have changed the world.

For years Jobs insisted he would never make a phone. After his team finally persuaded him to reconsider, he banned outside apps; it took another year to get him to reverse that stance. Within nine months the App Store had a billion downloads, and a decade later the iPhone had generated more than $1 trillion in revenue.

Almost every leader has studied the genius of Jobs, but surprisingly few have studied the genius of those who managed to influence him. As an organizational psychologist, I’ve spent time with a number of people who succeeded in motivating him to think again, and I’ve analyzed the science behind their techniques. The bad news is that plenty of leaders are so sure of themselves that they reject worthy opinions and ideas from others and refuse to abandon their own bad ones. The good news is that it is possible to get even the most overconfident, stubborn, narcissistic, and disagreeable people to open their minds.

… Here are some approaches that can help you encourage a know-it-all to recognize when there’s something to be learned, a stubborn colleague to make a U-turn, a narcissist to show humility, and a disagreeable boss to agree with you.

Ask a Know-It-All to Explain How Things Work

The first barrier to changing someone’s view is arrogance. We’ve all encountered leaders who are overconfident: They don’t know what they don’t know. If you call out their ignorance directly, they may get defensive. A better approach is to let them recognize the gaps in their own understanding…

Let a Stubborn Person Seize the Reins

A second obstacle to changing people’s opinions is stubbornness. Intractable people see consistency and certainty as virtues. Once made up, their minds seem to be set in stone. But their views become more pliable if you hand them a chisel…

A solution to this problem comes from a study of Hollywood screenwriters. Those who pitched fully formed concepts to executives right out of the gate struggled to get their ideas accepted. Successful screenwriters, by contrast, understood that Hollywood executives like to shape stories. Those writers treated the pitch more like a game of catch, tossing an idea over to the suits, who would build on it and throw it back…

Find the Right Way to Praise a Narcissist

A third hurdle in the way of changing minds is narcissism. Narcissistic leaders believe they’re superior and special, and they don’t take kindly to being told they’re wrong. But with careful framing, you can coax them toward acknowledging that they’re flawed and fallible.

It’s often said that bullies and narcissists have low self-esteem. But research paints a different picture: Narcissists actually have high but unstable self-esteem. They crave status and approval and become hostile when their fragile egos are threatened—when they’re insulted, rejected, or shamed. By appealing to their desire to be admired, you can counteract their knee-jerk tendency to reject a difference of opinion as criticism. Indeed, studies in both the United States and China have shown that narcissistic leaders are capable of demonstrating humility: They can believe they’re gifted while acknowledging their imperfections. To nudge them in that direction, affirm your respect for them.

In 1997, not long after returning to Apple as CEO, Jobs was discussing a new suite of technology at the company’s global developer conference. During the audience Q&A, one man harshly criticized the software and Jobs himself. “It’s sad and clear that on several counts you’ve discussed, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. (Ouch.)

You might assume that Jobs went on the attack, got defensive, or maybe even threw the man out of the room. Instead he showed humility: “One of the hardest things when you’re trying to effect change is that people like this gentleman are right in some areas,” he exclaimed, adding: “I readily admit there are many things in life that I don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. So I apologize for that….We’ll find the mistakes; we’ll fix them.” The crowd erupted into applause.

How did the critic elicit such a calm reaction? He kicked his comments off with a compliment: “Mr. Jobs, you’re a bright and influential man.” As the audience laughed, Jobs replied, “Here it comes.”

As this story shows, a dash of acclaim can be a powerful antidote to a narcissist’s insecurity.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2021/03/persuading-the-unpersuadable?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=twitter&tpcc=orgsocial_edit

TRENDS & Among older and younger Americans, men tend to trend more atheist than women. But between the ages of 35 and 45 the genders converge. See the graph.

By , The Conversation, 2/17/21.

Faith in numbers: Behind the gender difference of nonreligious Americans

… According to data from the Nationscape survey, which polled over 6,000 respondents every week for 18 months in the runup to the 2020 election, men are in general more likely than women to describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. The survey, conducted by the independent Democracy Fund in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles, was touted as one of the largest such opinion polls ever conducted.

However, tracking the gender gap by age reveals that at one point the gap between men and women narrows. Between the ages of 30 and 45, men are no more likely to be religiously unaffliated than women of the same age. 

But the gap appears again among older Americans. Over the age of 60, men are 5 to 8 percentage points more likely to express no religious affiliation.

Read more at … https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VjOvW/2/

THEOLOGY & Missional theology must examine our practices to see if they are consistent with the gospel. Thus, it is critical but also constructive: it seeks to make sense of the gospel in each cultural context. #ScotMcKnight

“How Missional Theology De-Stabilizes – Missional theology de-stabilizes what many think is transnormative theology” by Scot McKnight, Christianity Today, 12/22/29.

… One way of doing theology is to frame theology by the Creed. So one takes the Apostles’ Creed or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (the official name for the Nicene Creed) and fills in the lines and blanks with more theological reflection. Thus, Calvin’s Institutes.

Another way of doing theology is to frame theology by Topics. So one lists the major topics in some order: God, Humans, Christ, Sin, Salvation, Ecclesiology, Eschatology. Then one maps each of these topics.

Another way of doing theology is “nothing but Bible, baby, nothing but the Bible.” The Bible is our only Creed kind of people. No one actually does this, so I’ll drop it. Why? Because everyone’s theology is shaped by one’s past, one’s community, one’s previous learnings.

Which is why many are attracted to the newest kid on the block, missional theology. Here are the major ideas of missional theology as theology, as outlined by John Franke in his new book Missional Theology: An Introduction.

The nature of missional theology: an ongoing, second-order, contextual discipline

The first order of theology is the Scripture’s narrative. First order theology is Bible. Second order theology is constructions more or less rooted in Scripture.

But missional theology then is always contextually located. It is local, it is not universal. It is temporal, not eternal.

The aim is to be open to the culture to see how the gospel speaks in that culture. As Paul challenged Peter’s practice of the faith in Galatians 2, so missional theology must examine our practices to see if they are consistent with the gospel. Thus, it is critical but also constructive: it seeks to make sense of the gospel in each cultural context.

The purpose of missional theology: assisting the community of Christ’s followers in their missional vocation to live as the people of God in the particular social-historical context in which they are situated.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/december/how-missional-theology-de-stabilizes.html

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & Research shows tough macho leaders put their teams and followers at risk. Vulnerable leaders who don’t hide their weaknesses make their teams and followers stronger. #FastCompanyMagazine

by AMY EDMONDSON AND TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC, Fast Company Magazine, 10/30/20.

… The big lesson, if you are interested in being a leader, or perhaps in being a better leader, is to move away from the traditional macho behaviors and embrace a more vulnerable leadership style. Paradoxically, tough macho leaders put their teams and followers at risk. Vulnerable leaders who don’t hide their weaknesses make their teams and followers stronger. Ironically, although many refer to the macho-type leader as an “alpha male,” the term is a misnomer. As primatologist Frans de Waal finds, in the wild, “alpha males actually possess leadership traits like generosity, peacekeeping, and empathy.”

A discernible shift from celebrating macho leaders to celebrating vulnerable leaders is underway. In an uncertain, complex, interdependent world where one tiny virus can wreak havoc everywhere, leadership characterized by overconfidence, defensiveness, and rule by fear fails spectacularly. The health results across nations bear this out. We do not claim that these differences are because of female leadership, but rather because of their effectiveness. Any leader, whether of a nation or a corporation, who is more focused on gaining fans and seeking praise than on building others’ capabilities and embracing constructive criticism is at extreme risk when agile responses are needed to cope with novel challenges.

Macho

  • seeks praise
  • craves fans and followers
  • overconfident
  • defensive
  • blames others when things go wrong
  • creates a culture of fear
  • self-deceived

Vulnerable

  • embraces criticism
  • builds others’ capabilities
  • humble
  • curious
  • takes responsibility when things go wrong
  • creates psychological safety
  • self-aware

To adopt a more vulnerable style, we recommend starting with a rational sense of humility about what lies ahead. This triggers a productive sense of curiosity that drives interest in others and in learning more about what they know and need. No leader can succeed over the long-term without that interest, precisely because they will then fail to leverage the capabilities of followers.

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90569983/tough-macho-leadership-is-over-heres-whats-taking-its-place

TRENDS & These countries will have the largest populations – by the end of the century. #WorldEconomicForum

by Iman Ghosh, World Economic Forum, 9/8/20.

  • By 2100, the global population could surpass 11 billion, according to predictions by the UN.
  • Currently China, India and the USA have the three largest populations in the world, but by 2100, this will have changed to India, Nigeria and China, respectively.
populations growth density change 2100 end of century  china india nigeria usa us united states
World population peak.Image: Visual Capitalist

Read more at … https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/the-world-population-in-2100-by-country/

TURNAROUND CHURCH & Don’t fall into these three newbie turnaround traps by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf.

IMG_5150IMG_5151

Subscribe to Church Revitalizer Magazine here … http://renovateconference.org/magazine

Don’t fall for these 3 newbie turnaround traps … Do this instead (and start out strong).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, May/June 2019.

As I prepare to teach my course titled “Turnaround Church” at Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, I thought it would be helpful to describe the most common traps into which inexperienced turnaround leaders fall (and ways to avoid each).

TRAP 1: Being hired to do the work of revitalization. 

Why this trap occurs:  

Hiring your way out of trouble is a standard practice in the for-profit world. However, because their business model operates on a for-profit basis, it allows them to plow profits into hiring their way out of adversity. Nonprofits run mostly on volunteers and small staffs. They have leaner budgets and usually cannot afford a hiring solution.

The lean-staff and “keep it simple” alternative has been immortalized in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 9:1-6 (MSG): 

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

Do this instead: Mentor & delegate. 

This is may be hard for trained church leaders, because they feel they have been hired to be the experts. Thus, they customarily attempt to do most of the work themselves. However, this usually leads to burnout. Instead, church shepherds should model Jesus’ example of giving his disciples responsibilities and then sending them out to minister to others (Luke 9:1-2). 

Mentoring is characterized by a back-and-forth dialogue with the mentee regarding how the processes going. We see such examples in Jesus’ dialogues with his disciples, for instance Matt. 17:18-20 (MSG):

He (Jesus) ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

Delegating is slightly different from mentoring. It means giving others something you could do yourself, but allowing them to learn as they fumble their way through. Jesus, as the omniscient Son of God, knew his disciples would be unable to cast out demons (Luke 17:19). But still he let them try. In His omniscience, Jesus knew an important lesson would be driven home if the disciples first had a chance to flounder and then learn from that experience.

TRAP 2: Giving (and requiring) 110% effort.

Why this trap occurs:  

People usually feel that if they overwork themselves (e.g. give 110%) they will succeed. This manifests when a leader works more hours during the week than for which one is paid. Such leaders may expect volunteers to increase their hours too. A trap occurs when burnout, neglected families and leadership turnover result. Billy Graham stated similar regrets:

“Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.” (billygraham.org)

Do this instead: Adjust everyone’s duties

Remind them that the church is going to need to do different things and that there are two ways to do this. One way is to ask everybody to give extra, e.g. 110%. But, you recognize this only leads to burnout. Remind them you don’t want to see them or yourself burned-out or families neglected.

The second, and more rewarding way, is to ask them to purge from their duties 20% of what they are currently doing. Ask them to use that 20% to become involved in new activities, e.g. involved in a new service or a new community outreach. The principle is that this requires, for the sake of spiritual health, to pull back and reduce their current volunteer efforts by 20% to open up 20% involvement in new activities. 

Exemplify this yourself. Acknowledge that you are unable to continue to do everything the previous pastor did while at the same time reaching out to new generations and cultures. Remind them that you don’t want them, or you, to sacrifice family or spiritual well being. Show them you have too much respect for  your and their spiritual health.  

As you ask them to readjustment their volunteer activities, suggest they write this down and submit their “readjustment” to the person overseeing their work.  

TRAP 3: Promising big changes too soon.

Why this trap occurs:  

Plateaued and dying churches have been dreaming about health for so long, that they often expect it to take place too fast. In addition, models they see of healthy churches are usually many years in the making. My experience and research has let me to believe that healthy church change is slow, but deliberate. In fact, one of the most knowledgeable researchers on organizational change, Harvard University’s John Kotter (Leading Change, Harvard Press), found that “celebrating small-term wins” leads to more change, more quickly.

Do this instead: Plan for & celebrate short-term wins

Meet with the church leaders and discuss what the church should look like in five years. Then ask them to describe what would it should look like in 2.5 years, one year and six months. Map out several goals for the next six months, asking yourselves which are most likely to be attained. Write these six month goals down and begin to create tactics to reach them.

As soon as you reach any of your short-term goals, celebrate! The key is for people to see and celebrate progress. For effective change, people don’t have to see enormous changes, but they do need to see movement.

 

TRANSITION & 51% of incoming pastors said there was no plan in place when they arrived, and 33% said the lack of planning caused problems as they took the helm. Solution: #Apprenticeship Model

by Kenneth Young, Faith & Leadership, Duke Univeristy, 7/7/20.

… Can you imagine working alongside the leader who would eventually turn the controls over to you? What would our churches, nonprofits and other organizations be like if we created such a model?

I see the apprenticeship idea supported by 2019 Barna research,(link is external) which says that planned transitions “tend to produce positive outcomes” — yet reports that 51% of incoming pastors said there was no plan in place when they arrived, and 33% said the lack of planning caused problems as they took the helm.

An apprenticeship model would allow the established leader to shape and mold the new leader, or at least work with that leader before stepping down. Institutions are well served when such a model is put into action.

For example, Bishop Paul S. Morton, the legendary gospel singer and pastor who founded the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, stated publicly how he would transition the fellowship to new leadership — noting that he did not want to die in office — and then worked directly to apprentice now-presiding prelate Bishop Joseph Walker III, ensuring a smooth, successful transition.

Biblically, Moses trained Joshua to lead the Israelites into their next season. Elijah trained Elisha, and Jesus trained the 12 disciples for at least three years to spread the good news around the globe. If we take this model seriously, our churches, nonprofits and institutions will benefit.

Read more at … https://faithandleadership.com/kenneth-young-theres-better-way-manage-pastoral-transitions?

TRENDS & Is the Political Left Becoming More Religious? What sociologists found. #OxfordUniversity #AssociationForTheSociologyOfReligion

Is the Religious Left Resurgent?” by Joseph O Baker, Gerardo Martí, Sociology of Religion, Volume 81, Issue 2, Summer 2020, Pages 131–141, https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/sraa004 Published: 08 April 2020

Abstract:

Journalistic sources seem to suggest that there has been a resurgence of the American Religious Left (i.e., politically liberal Christians who support progressive agendas) in the wake of the strong support from the conservative Christian right in the 2016 presidential election of Donald J. Trump. Using quantitative analysis, we draw on survey data from the General Social Survey, the Public Religion Research Institute, and the National Congregations Study to assess the possibility of a resurgence among the Religious Left. In comparison with a speculated rise, our analysis indicates a notable decline in both the prevalence and engagement of Americans who self-identify as both religious and politically liberal. Not only is the constituency of the Religious Left shrinking, they have also been steadily disengaging from political activity in the last decade. Especially when looking at more recent elections, it has been those among the Secular Left who have been the most politically engaged. We summarize these empirical patterns in relation to the Religious Right and consider the potential for influence among the Religious Left aside from electoral politics. We also briefly consider other possibilities for their political impact and reflect on the inadequacy of the label “Religious Left” for capturing important dynamics. In the end, we urge greater attention to politics among sociologists of religion, providing a set of research questions to consider in light of the upcoming American 2020 national election.

Read more via … https://academic.oup.com/socrel/article-abstract/81/2/131/5818067?redirectedFrom=fulltext

TRENDS & Watch this music video to see fresh expressions of the Church (and be blessed by the singing too).

From the UK, a praise video of the diverse young people choosing to follow Jesus.

TRENDS & Discussing today w/ @ReclaimedLeader lasting effects of the pandemic & the fight for racial justice – and how pastors should be preparing for a new season of ministry & excerpted from my book: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.”

Check out the podcast here … https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rl-137-preparing-for-the-next-season-with-dr-bob-whitesel/id1288307808?i=1000477262340 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F5L7S1T/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_DSDlFbA5FTSM5 

TURNAROUND CHURCH & 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Revitalizing a Church by @BobWhitesel published by @RenovateConf #BestOfYear

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 6/12/18.

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Though the church began to grow again on my first turnaround effort, knowing the following would have made the journey more pleasurable for both myself and the congregation.

I wish I had known #1. Church revitalization will take 2 to 3 times longer than you expect. 

As my first church revitalization effort, I asked and received a one year contract. The church and I felt this would be sufficient time to turn the church into a new direction. But, at the end of one year I had only gained enough social capital for the congregation to start trusting me. It took another year, which the church graciously offered to finance, before the first signs of change emerged. However, when small fruit emerged at the end of the second year it provided a foundation for revitalization to actually emerge in the third year.

Here is a timeline that works in many congregations, yet it’s slower than the church or the shepherd usually desires.

Year 1: Fact gathering and building up the social capital needed for the congregants to trust you.

Year 2: Implementing small change in the organization. Small victories can begin to convince reticent members of the church the validity of the new direction. More on this in “ Things I wish I had known # 2.”

Year 3: Church systems begin to change. Often times church leaders think if they change the system, then the congregants will change. But because the church is an organic institution (1 Cor. 12:12-27) changes in the system must bubble up from changes in people, not from top-down changes dictated from the top. A three year process gave this time to happen.

I wish I had known # 2: the power of small victories.

In year two, initial but small goals were attained. One of our small goals was to see in both the spring and fall a “Newcomers Sunday School class” emerge. We publicized the date for the beginning of the class even when we didn’t yet have any visitors. But once we published the date, suddenly members in the congregation started inviting their friends to church. The newcomers’ class provided a tangible target. Thus, small victories in the second year convinced the congregants we were headed in the right direction.

I wish I had known #3: Don’t speed up too fast just because you have some small victories.

The small victories got the church excited and soon they were ready to launch a worship service oriented towards younger people. At this time I came under a lot of pressure to begin the service immediately before it was thoroughly mapped out, staffed and prepared. Many of the leaders had read books that discussed how a church can grow up to 15% by adding a new service. And because the church had limped along not meeting it’s monthly budget for about 18 months, the pressure of an added revenue stream push the leaders to decide a new service was necessary sooner rather than later. 

I advised and eventually convinced the leaders a slowed down approach was warranted, so that the new service could be better planned and developed. I fact, this new service did not begin until almost 11 months after we began planning it. The slower paced allowed new and younger leaders to be recruited and prepared. The extra planning time seemed excessive to me at first, but in hindsight it was just about right. It allowed the turnaround church to develop indigenous leaders who reached out in a well prepared worship expression.

I wish I had known #4. Don’t expect new people to support the church financially or physically for some time.

The newcomers kept our church at arms length for almost a year or more before they decided to become part of our membership. They seem to thoroughly enjoy the newcomers class, but when membership was mentioned they often stiffened.

In response I used the metaphor of dating. 

The first date: I said when new people visit a church, it’s like being on a date: you aren’t ready to commit to a long relationship but rather want to get to know the other.

The second date: Going to the newcomers class was like a second date: it was a time to get to know about the hopes, aspirations and purposes of one another.

Engagement: After completing the newcomers class I said they may want to pray and consider becoming a member. I encouraged them to consider more carefully their level of involvement, their spiritual gifts and how they would fit in. I also stressed that the engagement could be as long as they needed.

Marriage: Finally I explained that when they agreed to be part of a membership class, this was like marriage. They were not marrying to just a local congregation church but also to the body of Christ as present in His people.

I wish I had known #5. You must spend more time in leadership development than you think.

As the church began to turnaround, there was an influx of people excited about the church’s direction. But this sometimes draws people who did not fit well in their previous church, because they were not mature enough to take on leadership responsibilities. I learned the hard way that sometimes people who come to a revitalized church are often people who need revitalization themselves – because their involvement in another church has not been a healthy one. Therefore I developed leadership courses and a mentor/mentee system so that new leaders could be vetted and trained before they were put into volunteer roles.

I wish I had known #6. There’s more power in spiritual transformation than most people realize.

People began to share testimonies about how their lives were being changed by the Holy Spirit. An emphasis upon salvation began to refocus the church. Older members recalled how in the early days the church, they had also emphasized conversion accompanied by powerful testimonies of change. Older members began to see that a turnaround in spiritual climate mirrored those times in the past when the church had been happy and healthy.

As a result I train turnaround pastors in the importance of understanding a church’s history and to pinpoint when they had been alive in the past. Usually a church had been alive in the past when the church was involved in evangelism and conversion. Reminding a church about this part of their history, made it more palatable for their present… the salvation of individuals. 

7. Last, but not least, is the power of a praying congregation. I set a goal for the prayer ministries to grow at the same rate as the church. If the church grew 10% in six months, we then expected 10% more people involved in prayer ministries. It has always seemed to me a spiritual principle that vibrant prayer life in a church would lead to a vibrant church.

You can subscribe to Church Revitalizer Magazine and access the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_final_3b02554e558e8a

THEOLOGY & Comparing two dominant theological views of racism as sin.

“Evangelical Christians grapple with racism as sin,” by Tom Gjelten, NPR, National Public Radio, 6/7/20.

… For evangelical Christian leaders, however, crafting a response to Floyd’s killing is complicated by their view of sin in individual, not societal, terms and their belief in the need for personal salvation above all. Evangelical theologians have long rejected the idea of a “social gospel,” which holds that the kingdom of God should be pursued by making life better here on earth.

Among African American evangelicals, one theologian who has vigorously challenged such views is Darrell Harrison, an ordained Baptist deacon and co-host of the Just Thinking podcast.

“One way to distinguish the biblical gospel from the ‘social gospel,’ ” Harrison tweeted last week, “is that the social gospel preaches structural transformation that works in society from the outside-in, whereas the biblical gospel preaches spiritual transformation that works in society from the inside-out.”

Racism, in Harrison’s view, is often misunderstood. “Biblically, ethnic prejudice is not an ‘ism,’ ” he argued in response to George Floyd’s killing. “It is hate —period. … You end hatred by repenting and believing the gospel.”

Other evangelicals take a more nuanced view of a Christian obligation to work for social justice.

“The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about,” says Alan Cross, a white Southern Baptist pastor now leading a congregation in northern California. “Somebody who is transformed from their relationship with Christ should have a transformed view of how they see their neighbor or how they perceive issues of life and justice. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”

For Cross, whose book When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus is in part a memoir of his 15 years leading a Southern Baptist congregation in Montgomery, Ala., the opposition of biblical and social gospel is a “false dichotomy.”

“We don’t believe that people are saved by restructuring society,” Cross says. “But if you do know Christ, if you have a relationship with him, you should see the pain of people around you, and you should say, ‘What can I do?’ ”

Read more at … https://whyy.org/npr_story_post/evangelical-christians-grapple-with-racism-as-sin/

TURNAROUND CHURCH & The starting point for church revitalization is not prayer… it is focusing in the needs of others. Here’s why…  

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 3/1/20.8A3F2F62-0056-4157-8F4E-F7A52D034015.jpeg

The first inclination when writing on the starting place for church revitalization will be to focus on prayer. That is most likely (and rightly so) because we want to remind ourselves that we can’t do it without Christ’s help.

I’m not suggesting that prayer is not important for church growth or even that it should be postponed. It is!  But I’m suggesting we first must understand what we’re praying for. 

Therefore, the first question that must be asked before chruch revitalization is, “Whose needs is a revitalization effort intended to meet?” In fact, in church revitalizations there are three needs that often come into play. And after 30 years of consulting chruch revitalizations, I have come to believe if you pick one of them you’ll succeed. But, if you pick one of the others, you will usually experience failure.

Reason 1) Meeting the needs of a church’s congregation.

Often church revitalizations are launched because a church wants to survive. Members remember its illustrious history, the close bonds of friendships that were forged there and the many good things accomplished in their past. And they want to want to preserve these legacies for future generations. I’ve often heard leaders say, “We want to ensure this church lives on by younger generations coming to it.” And while this is laudable, this will be in adequate to successfully revitalize a church. That is because of two reasons. 

Reason A: Younger generations quickly pick up on a church’s desperation to survive. They’ve experienced and rejected churches that are not interested in meeting their needs, but rather interested in preserving the church’s aesthetics and culture, to which the younger generations may not relate.

Reason B: A church’s desire to retain a legacy, even a good legacy, can overshadowed the real purpose of revitalization: to introduce more people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 10:1-16).

Reason 2) The second misguided, but common, starting point for church revitalization is to focus on meeting the needs of the revitalizer.

The revitalizer may feel that they want to start anew with a new type of church. This is similar to what motivates many church planters, i.e. the leader wants to grow an organization that they can form over in the vision they reimagine. They want an organization that they believe will be easier to lead, more like they want and filled with people like them. But this focus will also usually fail. That is because revitalizing a church, like church planting, is a missional effort that usually requires us to be challenged and uncomfortable.  James states, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (2:1-4 MSG).

We must expect and be satisfied with the pressures and pains that come from serving Christ in missional activities. Regrettably some people today don’t look upon leadership as a missionary might. Missionaries know that they are going to sacrifice what is comfortable and familiar, in order to bring the Good News to people in need of it. Missionaries I know are leading threadbare, uncomfortable lives in service. Yet, when it comes to a church revitalization, we often want the most comfortable and potentially successful neighborhood in which to revitalize a church or plant one. Rather we should be looking at those with the greatest needs, putting their needs first and putting ourself last.

Reason 3: Meeting the needs of non-churchgoers.

This is the reason that leads to successful revitalization.  A revitalization effort by its very name focuses on revitalizing an organization. But perhaps instead we call it re-focusing an organization. We all know that it doesn’t take long after a church is planted or even revitalized, that it begins to focus inward and mainly on its own needs. When that happens the church increasingly becomes focused on programming, staffing and churchgoer activities that make its congregational life more comfortable.

But, a church that is revitalized must first become refocused. That happens when the focus is to turn our eyes to the harvest and seeing its need.  My father grew up on a farm. He knew that when the harvest was ripe you stopped everything else you were doing, even going to school, and went into the field until the harvest was complete. Jesus talking to a similar agricultural society, prepared them to endure hardships in mission by utilizing an agricultural metaphor:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12, MSG).

Thus, I’ve found that a church revitalization starts by a profound and persistent refocus on whose needs are you called to meet. Then your prayers can be focused.

Read the original article here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/cr_mag_march_april_2020IMG_3147.jpeg

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