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/

COMMUNICATION & Researchers find it’s getting harder to talk about God #NewYorkTimes

by Jonathan Merritt, New York Times, 10/21/18.

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people now say they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

… More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation once a week.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined 49 percent.

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversation does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

Read more in the Dallas News reprint of the New York Times article here … https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/10/21/getting-harder-talk-god

CHANGE & Why it won’t happen unless you understand the important difference between “mission” & “vision.”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

… Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22] Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission: A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry. Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring John Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future(New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,”MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN #CLIOrlando2018

MILLENNIALS & Barna research finds they view Christians as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%) … and insensitive to others (70%). My “ORGANIC” ideas to address this!

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I wrote a book titled “ORGANIX: Signs of leadership in a changing church (Abingdon Press) in which I showed what churches can do to serve the needs of the non-churchgoer in a way that will offset the way they increasingly view the church as critical, judgemental and insensitive.  I pointed out that most people held similar opinions before the Wesleyan revivals broke out and i describes what churches can do to recapture Wesley’s organic methods

To find out what your church can do to help people that are increasingly skeptical … read this article and then take a look at the 8-strategies in my book “ORGANIX: Signs of leadership in a changing church (Abingdon Press).

“What Millennials Want When They Visit Church” by Cornerstone Knowledge Network and Barna GroupBarna Research, 3/4/15.

…substantial majorities of Millennials who don’t go to church say they see Christians as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), anti-homosexual (91%) and insensitive to others (70%).

millennials at church

During a national, multi-phase research program among Millennials, conducted in partnership with Cornerstone Knowledge Network, participants were asked to rate how well each statement in a series describes the Christian community in America. Fewer than half of Millennials agree that the statement “The people at church are tolerant of those with different beliefs” describes the church (a lot + somewhat = 46%). About the same proportion say “The church seems too much like an exclusive club” is an accurate description (44%). Taken together, a significant number of young adults perceive a lack of relational generosity within the U.S. Christian community. Perhaps more concerning are the two-thirds of Millennials who believe that American churchgoers are a lot or somewhat hypocritical (66%). To a generation that prides itself on the ability to smell a fake at ten paces, hypocrisy is a worrisome indictment.

These negative perceptions are not limited to word descriptions. One phase of the Barna/CKN research program included visual polling, and when asked to select the image that best represents “present-day Christianity,” Millennials show the same basic pattern.

millennials at church

A majority—from all faith backgrounds, including Christianity—chose one of the two negative images. More than one-third chose the pointing finger (37%), and another one in six chose the bullhorn-wielding protestor (16%). In total, 52% of respondents view present-day Christianity as aggressive and critical.

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/

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently (& Natasha Sistrunk Robinson’s Analysis of What Every Church Can Learn)

Commentary by Dr  Whitesel: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a colleague in the Mosiax network whom I once tried to recruit for Wesley Seminary. I was privileged to endorse her book because it offers great help to the Church regarding how to disciple younger generations. Here she gives an overview into what every church can learn from the immersive manner in which the Black church conducts spiritual formation. I have long been a fan and student of the Black church realizing our too long separated judicatories have left the Church universal not only more fragmented, but also less wise.

Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017.

…Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual

This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.

This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.

In short, the Black church tradition and African American culture in which I was groomed intentionally offers discipleship and mentorship within the context of groups or communities, instead of focusing on one-on-one mentoring or discipleship models.

Several of these articles are consistent when reporting that millennials value relationships and authentic conversation. Because communal relationships are already a high value for communities of color, this is an area where Christian leaders from the majority group can learn from leaders of color.

This survey of the Black church and their discipleship model reveals that discipleship can indeed take place within the context of groups. More specially, discipling and mentoring within groups offers a layered approach to discipleship that includes:

  • Bible reading and study,
  • Cultivation of spiritual disciplines like scripture memorization,
  • Positive peer pressure, peer-to-peer mentoring, and accountability,
  • A holistic Christian ethic that includes the pursuit of biblical justice, and
  • Grooming and training mentees for leadership.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/millennials-leaving-church-cares/

POST-CHRISTIAN & A working definition by The Barna Group

It may come as no surprise that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have all been dropping for decades. By consequence, the role of religion in public life has been slowly diminishing, and the church no longer functions with the cultural authority it held in times past. These are unique days for the church in America as it learns what it means to flourish in a new “Post-Christian” era.

Barna has developed a metric to measure the changing religious landscape of American culture. We call this the “post-Christian” metric. To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week.

These kinds of questions—compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census—get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation) and to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief and unbelief in America…

Post-Christian Metrics

To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors . “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
  • Not Born Again

The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017,” The Barna Group, 7/11/17. Read more at … https://www.barna.com/research/post-christian-cities-america-2017/