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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TRANSITION & 5 Things Every Leader Should Do Now to Prepare for Transition by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 11/16/19.

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Warren Buffett has a famous rule he calls the Noah Rule: “Predicting the rain doesn’t count, building an ark does.”

Because most leaders in today’s fluid job market will transition to a new position sooner than later, leaders should be preparing for transitions. Currently I am writing a doctoral-level course on “interim and transitional ministry,” and in doing so I have been reminded by multiple authors about the importance of creating a transition plan before you need one. Here are five lessons to consider.

1.  Don’t call it an exit plan, because it should be a transition plan. If the leader looks selfishly at the transition, they will usually see it as a way to exit a situation. But looking at it this way will usually leave the organization in the lurch. Rather leaders should be preparing a transition plan that helps both organization and individual. Jesus had many hard conversations with his disciples about his impending crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22; Mark 8:31). What if Jesus had said, “I have an exit plan.” That would be self-centered and inauthentic of Him.  Rather Jesus spoke of “the new covenant (promise)m written in my blood” (Luke 22:20, Message Bible).  So create a transition plan that takes into consideration the the church, as well as the leader’s, needs.

2. A transition plan allows the leader to find and nurture mentees. As I conduct research on transitions, I find that one of the most damaging aspects of leadership transitions is when the leader has been a hands-on, do it all themselves person. This leaves a huge gap when the leader leaves, that often cannot be filled quickly. As a result the organization often declines during the transition. Again Jesus‘ example of selecting his disciples years before his ascension, reminds us of the time needed for delegation and experimentation to foster a smooth transition (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-34; Luke 5:1-11).

3. Letting others know about your plans will not necessarily push you out sooner, but can actually give you time for a transition. One of the first consultations I conducted 30 years ago was for a pastor who the board was forcing out because he wouldn’t embrace contemporary worship. He explained to me that he was ready to move on to a church that practiced mostly traditional worship, but they were hard to find and he would need 12 to 18 month to find one in his denomination. I encouraged him to meet with the leaders of the church and discuss his heart’s desire in worship style. I told him to explain that he was not against contemporary worship, rather it was not for him. He replied, “That’s not the way it’s done in our denomination. Once you tell them you’re thinking about leaving, they push you out.” 

I reminded him they were already subtly trying to push him out, so it really didn’t matter if he told them. And I reminded him that if he told them now it would be a sign of candor and honesty. “If they appreciate your many years of loyal service,” I replied, as I believe they did, “They will work with you if you demonstrate that you want a transition that is good for the church and is good for your family too.”

He did as I suggested and offered to spend 18 months helping the church make a transition to a new pastor. The church leaders agreed, because they too did not want to be without a pastor without sufficient notice. Today that Pastor is “pastor emeritus” of the congregation. He is invited back to preach several times a year and for all church milestones. “I was skeptical,” he said to me many years later, “But being open and honest resulted in a long-term relationship I am thankful for every day.”

4. A transition plan takes more detailed planning than most people think. A transition plan isn’t just transitioning from one leader to another, but it is also usually a time of transitioning the organization and even sometimes the staff. Therefore the change is not just about a person, but it’s about two more things: a) the people who are friends or work alongside the leader and b) the future personality of the church. 

a) Some churches require that staff members resign when the lead pastor resigns. This can be good in some situations, especially if there is a toxic leadership culture.  But at other times this is a denominational or church tradition. Yet in almost all situations it puts hardships upon the paid staff who must resign. Putting together a transition plan in advance allows these people to prepare as well as look for other positions. When the leader keeps to themselves the information that he or she is going to leave, they often rob the other staff members of the ability to plan for their professional livelihoods. Without planning staff members are often unfairly upended and their families bear the pain. Church leaders who say they want to build a family church, must consider the families of those who will leave or be forced to leave when the leader transitions.

b) Also when a church’s personality needs to change, it will take some time to figure out what this new personality will be. Set up meetings with key stakeholders in the church to discuss and compromise on where the church is headed. We see this at the Council of Jerusalem, when James brought together all parties to discuss and foster a compromise that would allow the Great Commission to expand while respecting differences in cultures (Acts 15).

5. Finally making a transition plan in advance allows you to modify your transition plan as the leader and the church’s circumstances change. Planning a transition and giving it time to develop allows the church time to plan for the transition and figure out what it wants to be. And, the leader might find that the type of position she or he or she desired has now changed. As Proverbs 16:1 (Message Bible) says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word.”

In 30 years of consulting I have observed that time and planning allow for prayer, dialogue, experimentation and the Holy Spirit to guide a transition that does not thwart a church’s health or growth, but enhances it.

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-things-every-leader-should-do-now-to-prepare-for-transition/

THEOLOGY & Is COVID-19 God’s Judgment? Helpful Insights by @KenSchenck @HoughtonCollege @WesleySeminary

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: About this time last year at two of my client churches, the lectionary required that I speak on the Book of Job. Subsequently, I preached a sermon titled, “Why bad things happen to good people.” My friend and colleague, Dr. Ken Schenck, delves into this topic deeper, but clearly, in his post today. For an introduction to the differences between God’s permissive will and God‘s directive will, take a look at his article.

by Ken Schenck, The Common Denominator, 3/22/20.

…Here is a good illustration of growing precision within the pages of the Old Testament. “God has no grandchildren”–our eternal fate is a matter of our individual relationship to God, not that of our parents. It goes the other way as well–our eternal judgment is not a matter of our parents either.

There are still consequences to sin in this life, of course. If a mother takes drugs while pregnant, God may not intervene to protect the unborn child from the consequences. The child of an alcoholic parent may still have to deal with the psychological consequences of growing up in that environment.

The book of Job brings out the complexity of the situation. Job suffers even though he has not sinned. He never finds out why in the pages of the book. God comes to him at the end and basically tells him that understanding the situation is above his pay grade. Here is the final answer to the problem of suffering. God is in control. God is good and knows what is happening. We will never fully understand. We must simply have faith that “the judge of all the earth will do what is right” (Gen. 18:25).

Of course we know that Satan has made a wager with God from Job 1-2. Job never finds this out. In my Wesleyan theology, this is a good example of the fact that much of the suffering that happens in the world is a matter of God’s permissive will rather than his directive will. That is to say, God does not directly order everything that happens.

God is sovereign. Nothing happens without God’s permission. God is in control. God signs off on everything. But God gives some degree of freedom to the creation. God gives some degree of freedom to humanity and to the natural order. God knows what will happen, but he does not dictate everything that will happen.

There is of course a competing view, the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” There is the Calvinist view that God specifically directs everything that happens. In my view, this makes God the author of evil. It makes the statement that God is love meaningless.

… In all this I remember that death is not so powerful in the face of Christ. Death has no victory over us! In my own journey with the problem of evil and suffering, a key conclusion has been that I give too much credit to death and suffering, as if they are a big deal.

God is a big deal. I am only a big deal because God loves me. My death is only a big deal because I am one of the sparrows God watches over.

So I will take precautions. I will be vigilant. I will heed the advice of experts. I will pray for my leaders. I will pray for others.

But in the end, “The LORD is with me. I will not be afraid what a mortal [or a virus] might do to me.”

Read Dr. Schenck’s three more points at … https://kenschenck.blogspot.com/2020/03/is-covid-19-gods-judgment.html?m=1

TEAMS WORKING REMOTELY & 11 Techniques for Connecting with your Remote Team

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’ve had great responses from an online leadership university I’ve created called ChurchLeadership.university. To create a sense of community there are certain tips I’ve learned after 20 years of online and onsite teaching. I’ll delve into those on another occasion. But here are 11 tips for creating unity when utilizing online teams.

by Lee Colan, Inc. Magazine, 3/11/20.

… Here are 11 techniques to help you team feel more connected…

1. Create a regular schedule and stick with it. Avoid the temptation to have impromptu meetings with those who are under your same roof.

2. Incorporate rituals into your virtual meetings like quickly sharing High’s/Low’s since your last meeting to get warmed up and create a window into your team’s world.

3. Ask for input from those who are remote first, then canvass the in-person team members to avoid falling into the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome.

4. Send all documents in advance so everyone is (literally) on the same page.

Electronic Meeting Tools

5. Use various tools to engage the remote employee in the conversations.  Google Hangouts, Skype,  GoToMeeting and other on-line collaboration tools allow your team remain intellectually and visually connected.

6. Consider having everyone attend electronically if your team is only partially remote to level the playing field.

Face-to-Face Time

7. Periodically bring your entire team together. This also creates a fun team ritual (e.g., a quarterly or annual meeting).

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/lee-colan/11-techniques-for-connecting-with-your-remote-team_1.html

TRENDS & Barna’s “State of the Church 2020″ lists “Pastors’ Concerns for the Christian Church in the U.S.” = “watered down Gospel teachings,” secularization, discipleship & “addressing complex social issues with biblical integrity.”

“What’s on pastors’ minds? It’s not religious liberty” by , Religion News Service, 2/10/20.

…According to the (Barna “State of the Church 2020″) report, three-quarters (72%) of Protestant pastors identify the impact of “watered down gospel teachings” on Christianity in the U.S. as a major concern. That’s especially true for pastors in non-mainline denominations (78%). Mainline pastors (59%) are less concerned.

About two-thirds (66%) of pastors say a major concern for Christianity is “culture’s shift to a secular age,” followed by 63% who identified “poor discipleship models” as a major concern and 58% who named “addressing complex social issues with biblical integrity,” the survey says.

In their own churches, most pastors reported that the major concerns they face are “reaching a younger audience” (51%) and “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” (50%), according to the report.

What doesn’t worry pastors very much: religious liberty — the stuff of Supreme Court cases, executive orders, campaign promises and a recent task force and summit. Only 23% of Protestant pastors identify it as a major concern or issue facing the Christian church today in the U.S., and 32% said it was not a concern or issue at all, according to Barna Group data.

Other issues low on pastors’ list of major concerns include keeping up with technology and digital trends (7%), online churches and other challenges to the traditional church model (11%), “celebrity pastors pulling people away from the local church” (19%), the declining influence pastors have in their communities (20%) and the role of women in the church (23%).

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/02/10/whats-the-state-of-the-church-barna-group-launches-project-to-survey-local-national-church/

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP & 12 Phrases Transformational Leaders Use To Get Amazing Results.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I designed and launched a doctor of ministry degree in “transformational leadership,” because transformational leadership is becoming the most precise and effective way to describe a Christian leader who believes in sanctification. The transformational leader allows her or himself to be changed, as they change the organization and encourage change in others. Here’s a helpful overview of the mindset of a transformational leader.

By Terina Allen, Forbes Magazine, 1/4/20.

Here are 12 simple phrases that transformational leaders use to get amazing results by connecting more deeply with employees. 

1. I need your help.

Many so-called leaders view asking for help as some sort of weakness. This is flawed thinking, and they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, asking for help is one of the greatest things you can do to show leadership strength…

2. May I help you? – or – How can I help you?

Be intentional about asking these questions. Leaders and supervisors shouldn’t assume that staff will just up and come to you when and if they need help. You need to make it clear that you really want to help and that you don’t view others as weaker or less competent for seeking out help in the first place…

3. I understand that… – or – I understand you…

When you engage in a conversation with one or more people and follow up with a phrase like “I understand that [fill in the blank with points of the conversation that you understood],” you are demonstrating that you indeed heard and received the message…

4. I respect you for… – or – I respect the way…

Most, if not all of us, want to be respected. And though you can do these very specific things to garner more respect from your colleagues, it’s critically important that you also demonstrate respect for them as well. Transformational leaders understand that showing respect requires more than lip service, but sometimes the words actually help too…

5. I trust that you can… – or – I trust that you will…

If you are a micromanager, force yourself to use this phrase at least once a week…

Employees want to use their talents and make contributions to goal accomplishments, and in order to do so, they need space to be creative, to think of options and to make the plays that will lead to the desired results. Tell your team members what the goals are. Share an outline of what the end should look like and then get out of the way and let them shine! Your staff will come to see that you actually do trust them, and they will become more invested and engaged in the process.

6. You are right. – or – I was wrong.

Leaders don’t always have the answers. Encourage your team to have respectful debate with you and with one another. Teams are formed when members feel comfortable with conflict and safe to disagree with one another and with the boss. Show your strength and courage as a leader by being willing to admit that someone else was right on something or that you were wrong. Allow some of your vulnerability to come through; it builds relationships.

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/terinaallen/2020/01/04/12-phrases-transformational-leaders-use-to-get-amazing-results/#370344e77817

TRENDS & 6 Pop Culture Examples That Show Faith Isn’t Taboo Anymore.

by Paul Jankowski, Forbes Magazine, 1/2/19.

..,I’ve been studying the role faith plays in marketing to the New Heartland for over a decade. As one of the three core values this cohort, which makes up 60% of the country, prioritizes in their decision-making process, it’s important to explore its relevance in today’s society. 

…Get to a place where you understand the role faith plays.

Lately, entertainment and faith have been intersecting in ways that reflect a New Heartland state of mind. 

Faith and its connection to pop culture is gaining ground with both New Heartland and non-New Heartland personalities leading the way. 

… Here are 6 examples from 2019 of pop culture heavyweights leaning into faith, not away from it…

2. Eric Church Faces Monsters with Prayer 

2019 was the year of embracing faith in country music. Some notable songs featuring faith include Matt Stell’s “Prayed For You,” Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country” and Little Big Town’s“The Daughters,” fans were introduced to “Monsters” by Eric Church at the end of the summer. Church sings about the power of prayer when faced with difficult times. Since his first EP, “Sinners Like Me,” Church has danced with faith in his lyrics to much success. 

3. Chance the Rapper Gets Inspiration from Above 

Since Chance the Rapper declared himself as a Christian rapper in 2018, he has lived out the lifestyle very publicly. He uses Jesus’ name on network TV, volunteers for Kids of the Kingdom in his hometown of Chicago, and shares his message of faith through his music. His 2018 single, “Blessings,” opens with the line “I’m gon’ praise Him, praise Him ’til I’m gone. When the praises go up, the blessings come down.” 

  • 4. Dolly Parton Takes Traditional Values to a Non-Traditional Genre

    Swedish DJs Galantis and Dutch singer Mr. Probz approached Parton with a proposal to sing on their EDM remake of John Hiatt’s 80s hit, “Faith.” Many of her country songs have been re purposed as party mixes, but this is the first time she collaborated on a venture of this type outside of her bluegrass roots. Her collaborations following 18 years away from the stage are predominantly faith-focused. In addition to “Faith,” Parton joined forces with For King and Country earlier in 2019 on their song “God Only Knows.” 

    Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauljankowski/2020/01/02/6-pop-culture-examples-that-show-faith-isnt-taboo-anymore-brands-take-note/#2566ca465f27