CHRISTIAN & New book looks at the many varied ways the label has been applied in the last 150 years.

“What Does It Mean to Be Christian in America?” by Eric Miller, Washington Univeristy is St. Louis, 6/19/18

…In his new book, Christian: The Politics of a Word in America, historian Matthew Bowman documents a few of the many forms that Christianity has assumed over the past 150 years. Beginning just after the Civil War and working forward to the rise of Donald Trump, Bowman demonstrates how the faith has been claimed and counter-claimed by a wide variety of American actors, lending itself to a fascinating array of campaigns and causes, and always revising itself along the way.

Bowman is associate professor of history at Henderson State University. His previous books include The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith and The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism. Eric C. Miller spoke with Bowman about the project over the phone. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

R&P: What is a Christian in America?

MB: I argue that there is no single definition of that word. Instead, Christianity can be understood as an essentially contested concept—an abstract notion like justice or art that is by its very nature disputed because there is no single authority to render a definitive judgment.

Throughout American history, Christianity has been endlessly disputed and, by virtue of that disputation, has injected a great deal of dynamism into American politics and society. Paradoxically, by lending itself to so much appropriation and contestation, it has helped inspire religious, social, and political pluralism in the United States—which is not the way Americans are accustomed to thinking about the role of Christianity in their society.

R&P: What is Christian republicanism?

MB: Christian republicanism refers to one way in which Americans have defined what Christianity is and what implications it has for American politics and society. It derives from American Protestantism and associates Christianity with two essential elements.

The first of these elements is individual liberty. Protestants have long stressed individual autonomy and the importance of an individual encounter with God and Jesus Christ for salvation. In the American context particularly, that notion has influenced Americans’ political emphasis on autonomy and personal liberty.

It’s tempered, though, by the second element, which is the emphasis on virtue. This is owed in part to the traditional Protestant understanding of what it means to be a Christian, but it’s also derived from the early American admiration for classical societies like the Greeks and the Romans. The Roman writers that the American founders were reading emphasized that a self-governing society requires a virtuous citizenry. Christianity provided an effective means for promoting civic virtue because of its particularly Protestant emphasis on character and moral behavior.

This way of thinking about Christianity has been common—though not uncontested—throughout American history. It has taken different forms at different times in different places and been spoken of in a variety of different ways, but the presumed relationship between Christianity and American democratic government has been widely present since the founding.

R&P: The Christian republicanism that you document is very white and very Western—it arises in Europe and culminates in the triumph of “Western Civilization.” How have African American Christians responded to this standard Christian story?

MB: At points, many African Americans have seized upon Christian republican ideology, asserted their faith in it, and then used it to attack white Americans’ complicity in and complacency with slavery, segregation, and racism. These African Americans have argued that, for Americans to live up to the ideals of Christian republicanism—including liberty, autonomy, and virtue—slavery and racism and injustice must be rejected.

Read more at …http://religionandpolitics.org/2018/06/19/what-does-it-mean-to-be-christian-in-america/

ETHICS & The ethical character of a church leader: What is “ethical character” and how should a turnaround leader use it?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/26/18.

What exactly makes a decision ethical? 

It is best to think of ethical decisions as those that honor the “the spirit behind the law.” 

Definition: “Ethics” means operating in the “spirit behind the law” and not just the letter of the law.  Example:  Something can be lawful (a loophole for instance) but not ethical and thus does not honor the “spirit” behind the law. 

The “character” of an ethical leader requires a 3-pronged approach, as popularized by former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and ethics professor Alexander Hill (“Just Business: Christian Ethics for the Marketplace [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997].)

Ethical leaders have a “character that embraces” three principles…

1. Right actions

2. Just actions 

3. Acting in love

Let’s briefly explore each.

RIGHT ACTIONS are actions in harmony with God’s Word, sometimes described as “holiness” or Biblical godliness. Here are two examples:

a. Being physically and emotionally separate from impure or or ungodly principles, practices and actions. Peter reminds us that as Christians we are to “be Holy without blemish” 2 Peter 3:11-12. EXAMPLE: the ethical leader spends time in Bible study, theology and history to be able to distinguish between actions that go against Christ and His Word.

b. Right actions are rooted in humbly serving others as exemplified in the servant leadership of Jesus. EXAMPLE: “If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 1 John 2: 4-6.

JUST ACTIONS characterize leaders who practice equal procedures, fair reward for merit, and protection of rights.

a. Equal procedures mean that regardless of where the person is in the company hierarchy or their cultural background, they are treated equally. EXAMPLE: The apostle Paul living in a highly bigoted and hierarchical culture said that in Christ said that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” Galatians 3:28. Ponder for a second how revolutionary this was in Paul’s day. Embracing equal procedures means treating people the same regardless of gender, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic culture.

b. Fair reward means that a person is paid fairly based upon their performance (merit) when balanced with what the congregation can afford. EXAMPLE: Exorbitant salaries for church leaders cannot be justified by saying that: “We’ve always paid this much for that position.” Sometimes in church turnarounds, the pastoral salary was set at a time when the chruch could afford a larger salary. Fair reward means negotiating salaries that are equally fair to the organization and the individual. 

c. Probably the most important aspect is to protect the inalienable rights that God has bestowed upon his creation, including bodily safety, freedom from harassment.

ACTING IN LOVE is what sets apart the character of a Christian, because it means our ethical framework demonstrates supernatural love. Here are two areas where Christians often fail in their ethical behavior.

a. Shouldering others pain: This means when one person in the organization suffers, we all suffer and therefore everyone does something to address their pain. Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-45 that in reaction to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” EXAMPLE: When a church is undertaking a turnaround, one of the most powerful examples occurs when leaders give up something to help others. A notable secular example occurred when Malden Mills, a textile factory was destroyed by fire. Their CEO refused to lay off his workers. Instead he paid the worker’s salaries out of his own pocket. He told the news media that the workers were, “part of the enterprise, not a cost center to be cut. They’ve been with me for a long time.  We’ve been good to each other, and there’s a deep realization of that.” (Manuel G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases, 5th ed. [Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Publishers, 2003], p. 122-124, 491-92.)

b. Taking action on others behalf: This means working and coaching others to help them improve rather than firing them to find someone else. EXAMPLE: In many churches in need of revitalization, there is often an unhealthy and historical “Burn and Churn” style of leadership. “Burn and Churn” means that leaders “burnout” the volunteers/staff and then  leaders recruit more volunteers/staff to replace them, creating an endless “churning” cycle of: recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-recruitment-leavings-etc. However, “taking actions on others behalf” means noticing when people are struggling and coaching them to improve, rather than dismissing them. By taking more time to mentor volunteers/staff rather than firing them, builds upon the strengths of the volunteers’ experience, the volunteers network of friends and the volunteer’s feelings of self worth.

Below is an example case study. Can you spot what could have been done differently utilizing “right actions, just actions and acting in love?”

Sarah doesn’t know very much about her new job as the Director of Discipleship. The previous director suddenly left because of burn out. And though he had no more prior experience than Sarah, the church paid him more because he was a man and was perceived to be the sole provider for his family.

A little more than year into the job Sarah felt she was starting to understand her responsibilities. For most of that year Sarah was on the verge of burning out because she felt the mission of the church was so important that she often worked 60 to 70 hour weeks taking time away from her two young children. 

Her boss the administrative pastor came in to her office and explained to her that she wasn’t developing into what the church needed. Sarah felt blindsided, because the administrator had not worked with her to help her learn her job or improve on doing it better.

The end result was that in this church turnaround situation Sarah was fired with little consideration for her financial and emotional fallout. In the 18 months she had developed many friends among the staff and they empathized with Sarah, perceiving the leaders’ actions to have had failed to exemplify Christlike actions. The end result was that the church went into further decline. Instead of a turnaround church … the lack of ethical character in the leader resulted in at downward church.

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ethical Character of Planter (Church Revitalizer) and here: https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/2018_april_may_cr_magazine_final_adb6f267542cdb

MULTI-CULTURAL CHURCH MODELS & #FullerSeminary PhD theology students use @BobWhitesel ‘s Multi-cultural Church models from #TheHealthyChurchBook by @WPHbooks

I was honored to learn today that Fuller PhD students are using charts/figures from my The Healthy Church book.

Below is the ‘grid” and analysis of a “BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – HEALTHY CHURCH Multicultural Models” from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, (2013, pp. 55-79).

Download the charts depicting the “Five Types of Multi-cultural Churches” here: BOOK EXCERPT MULTICULTURAL MODELS from Whitesel’s Healthy Church 

The Multicultural Alliance Church

This church is an alliance of several culturally different sub-congregations. Daniel Sanchez describes it as one church “comprised of several congregations in which the autonomy of each congregation is preserved and the resources of the congregations are combined to present a strong evangelistic ministry.”[12] The different cultures thus form an alliance by joining together as one religious organization in which they equally:

  • Share leadership duties (i.e. leadership boards are integrated),
  • Share assets (it is only one nonprofit 501c3 organization)
  • Offer separate worship expressions (to connect with more cultures)
  • Offer blended worship expressions (to create unity).

Offering multiple worship options allows the Multicultural Alliance Church to reach out and connect with several different cultures simultaneously.[13] And a regular blending of traditions in a unity service creates unity amid this diversity.[14] A weekly format of a multicultural alliance church with five sub-congregations could look like this:

 

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PREACHING & #YorkMoore on how he links Biblical and modern metaphors to better communicate the Good News in preaching.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/13/18.

I’m attending an academic gathering that is looking at how the Good News can be shared in a way that unites today’s divided world. Today’s speaker is InterVarsity evangelist R. York Moore.

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When constructing a sermon on spiritual transformation, York uses the following steps:

  1.  He chooses a scriptural story that models the Biblical principle he is seeking to communicate.
  2. He finds a modern metaphor that can exemplify the Biblical principle.
    1.  Shine your light = firefly
    2. Call to faith means (John 5) become the light of God = lightsticks
    3. Individuality = marbles are distributed to audience who bring them and put them into a too-small jar. The spilling forth reminds them of how much greater their impact is as a community rather than an individual.
  3. He introduces “aspirational value” by picturing in a story how embracing the Biblical principle makes life better.

For more see his website: http://tellthestory.net

And, for ideas regarding how to create metaphors that foster prayer, see examples from Vintage Faith Church (pastored by Dan Kimball) here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/prayer-creative-ideas-that-foster-spaces-for-prayer-at-vintage-faith-church-santa-cruz-calif/

KINGSWOOD UNIV. & Enjoying wrapping up a week teaching a cohort of promising graduate scholars (pic).

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NEED-MEETING & Research discovers what stresses people most in each state.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Jesus’ example of sharing the Good News often began by helping people with their physical needs in addition to helping them with their even more critical spiritual needs. (See George Ladd’s excellent theological treatise of this in his book “The Kingdom of God”  as well as John Wimber’s practical example of how to apply it in his book, “Power Evangelism.”) Below is recent research that can familiarize you with the general needs that impact different geographic areas of the United States.

“2018’s Most & Least Stressed States” by Adam McCann, Wallethub.com, 4/3/18.

American stress levels have been rising for many demographics since their low point in 2016. Common stressors include the future of America and money, along with uncertainty about health care. But not all demographics are affected in the same way. For example, women’s stress levels rose in the past year while men’s actually dropped.

But certain states have contributed more than others to elevating — or decreasing — stress levels in the U.S. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 38 key indicators of stress to determine the places to avoid and achieve a more relaxing life. Our data set ranges from average hours worked per week to personal bankruptcy rate to share of adults getting adequate sleep. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and our full methodology.

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Find your state on this interactive map.

Read more at … https://wallethub.com/edu/most-stressful-states/32218/

MISSIONAL COACHES & Enjoyed hanging out w/ #MissionalCoach grad @KenDePeal #NorthviewChurchIndy