CRISES & Which churches will survive; And which may fail in a pandemic (& what every church can do) published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine, by @BobWhitesel

In my latest article for @BiblicalLeader Magazine I discuss how you can keep your church from declining during a pandemic. Check out the article below and see their website for the full article.

March 26, 2020 | by Bob Whitesel

Now that banning gatherings is becoming commonplace, the faith community will be temporarily forced to morph into something new (or maybe something old, read on). 

During this time and afterward some churches will thrive, but others may struggle. Having coached churches for 30 years, trained hundreds of church leaders and earned two doctorates in the field, here is my forecast with survival options for those churches at risk.

Churches that will suffer the most: 

Churches with aging buildings and no savings

During the 20th century having an impressive building was a way to make a church’s presence known. Many churches borrowed their way into debt to restore, renovate and expand older facilities. When downturns in attendance occur (and they always do) such churches may not have the flexibility made available by sizable savings. 

They are vulnerable because they do not have contingency plans for an attendance downturn. If a roof needs repair, a boiler replaced, etc. a church may find itself no longer inhabitable after a quarantine. 

Impressive facades, of course, weren’t the way the church became known in the New Testament. Paul reminded the church that they should not be known for their physical attire, but instead he encouraged them to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NIV).

Survival options: Look for ways to cut overhead by selling, leasing or giving away facilities that drain budgets. Research the correct amount of savings a church like yours should have and create a savings plan. Also, begin to build your church’s reputation upon compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are the best avenues to make a church visible in a community. 

Churches that have overbuilt

A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation. Even a megachurch (a church of over 1000 attendees) may still have hundreds, if not thousands of attendees. But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings.

This problem arose in part because of a popular 20th century adage (not supported by research) that, “If you build it, they will come.” And so, the size of the expansion was customarily based on the size of the congregation at the time of building.

For example, a church in the 1990s may have been running 400 people in an early service and 600 people in a second service with a facility that seated 800. An architect might suggest combining the two services (not a good idea, because it decreases options in times and styles) and combine into one service in a new 1,600 seat sanctuary. “After all,” the church leaders reasoned, “400 plus 600 equals 1,000. And, a new sanctuary of 1,600 would give us room to grow.” But, when the service times and styles were merged in a large cavernous sanctuary, the church began to run only 700 people. A lack of options in times and styles started the church on a downward trajectory.

Survival options: Look at ways to right-size sanctuaries. Converting part of the sanctuary into classrooms, welcome centers and prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. And look for ways to monetize facilities. 

My co-author Mark DeYmaz in his book, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes & Offerings Are No Longer Enough and What You Can Do About It, outlines dozens of ways churches can lease out portions of their facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc. to increase income from aging buildings. 

Multisite churches, who own their own sites

A trend in the 20th century was for growing churches to purchase older church buildings, theaters and community buildings in which to hold satellite worship services. Many times denominations did this to encourage growing churches to take on the expenses of a closed church. But, because of the reasons cited above (e.g. the cost of maintaining the facilities) when combined with attendance drops, liabilities were rapidly created.

Survival options: Lease or rent sites for offsite services. And look for opportunities to sell, lease or give away facilities you own. This promotes longterm flexibility when demographics, styles and finances change. 

Churches that rely on the onsite Sunday morning offering

With the proliferation of online giving tools, most churches have embraced online giving. However, some have not and this creates hurdles for supporters. Even churches that have misgivings about online tithing, offerings and pledges will rethink their strategy when the church is dispersed.

Survival options: Create and promote an online giving option. Many denominations have a preferred online giving tool to use. Then educate your congregation about why disciplined giving and online avenues can help a church to thrive.

Churches that put on a Sunday spectacle.

Some churches spend an inordinate amount of time and money on the lighting, sound, musicians, broadcasting and staff associated with putting on an elaborate Sunday morning experience. 

These Sunday morning expenditures will now be seen as optional, as churches are forced to focus more on smaller groups as a way for people to be connected and discipled. And, congregants may discover that smaller groups which are flexible and meet in neighborhoods are more enjoyable and convenient.

Survival options. Many of today’s young pastors have created youthful churches that are moving away from Sunday performance and toward more organic expressions of church. I provide a look at 12 categories of organic churches in my book, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations. Most of these emerging congregations prefer less staging, softer music, audience participation and smaller auditoriums (capacity around 200).

Churches that will survive:

House churches, pub churches, café churches and online churches. 

These entrepreneurial smaller churches are often dismissed by leaders of more established congregations. Typically they meet in rented or free facilities. Their low overhead allows them as small churches to more easily survive fiscal cycles brought on by a quarantine. 

Churches that have spent their money on staff, rather than spent their money on facilities. 

The trend in the 20th century was to expand facilities and stretch staff. This created overworked leaders. Then, when emergencies arose small staffs were not able to handle the extra workload. But if a church spends its money creating a team of experienced and talented staff, these entrepreneurs can create innovative online options.

Churches with bi- or co-vocational leaders.

My colleague, Dr. Jay Moon, describes bi-vocational pastors as those who work two jobs until the church can support them. He describes co-vocational pastors as those who work two jobs, never expecting the church to support them full time. 

In other words, the latter have a clear calling to leadership in the marketplace and to leadership in the church. Because the co-vocational pastor does not envision a time where she or he will be in full-time employment of the church, they may be able to make longterm decisions without personal financial needs clouding their judgment. 

Still, both can be an advantage during times when churches are unable to physically meet. A bi- or co-vocational pastor will become less of a drain on the church finances. And a pastor who is involved in marketplace leadership will better keep her or his pulse on needs in the community.

Churches that are young, having been recently planted by a mother church. 

Planting a church is an arduous endeavor that requires creativity and entrepreneurship. It takes tenacity, good theology and a balance between ministry and family. The very balance needed in a good church planter can help him or her maintain equilibrium during attendance swings brought on by viral quarantines. And, did I mention that many church planters are bi- or co-vocational? That’s another strength.

Good news—most churches will survive. 

My 30 years coaching leaders has led me to believe that God empowers his people to survive and thrive in difficult times. The Bible is overflowing with people that God empowered to overcome adversity. Church history further attests to this. 

Christians have a grit whereby they come together and work for the long-term existence of the community of faith. It may mean that the facilities, staffing and priorities may change during and after a quarantine, but the Holy Spirit and God‘s will for his church will not change.

A Scripture reminder is Paul’s admonishment that “We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us” (Colossians 1:10-14, MSG).

What every church can do to increase survivability

I’ve expand upon these ideas in an earlier article titled: 4 things leaders should do if a virus prevents your church from meeting

Focus on making learners, as Jesus commissioned us in Matthew 28:18-20. Your goal should be to help congregants “learn” during this time, not necessarily congregate.

Focus on small groups as the primary venue for discipleship. Research indicates that most people stick with a church when they are involved in a small group which meets regularly for Bible study, prayer and service. The Methodist movement was founded and grew because of such small groups. And Jesus exemplified this when he chose 12 learners who he apprenticed to become his 12 apostles. 

Focus on prayer and serving the needs of others. During a difficult time Christ does not want us to make foolish decisions about our health. But he does want us to think of others as more important than ourselves. This means considering ways we can help others during this period and therefore let Christ’s light shine through us. Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG) sums this up fittingly: 

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

To read the article in @BiblicalLeader Magazine see this link https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/which-churches-will-survive-and-which-may-fail-in-a-pandemic/

TRENDS & 7 Church Leadership Trends for the 2020s by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader & @OutreachMag

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  1. Autocratic leadership will continue to be replaced by transformational leadership. Autocratic leadership occurs when a more knowledgeable “elder leader” tells or directs others what to do. Better described as “paternal leadership,” it is less attractive to millennials who have experienced leadership decisions through collaboration and over electronic mediums. Transformational leadership however occurs when a leader publicly demonstrates that he or she wants to improve and transform their own leadership style while helping people become transform their lives too. We see this latter aspect in Jesus’ leadership, when he didn’t castigate or excommunicate the leaders he was developing when they failed in their leadership (for example, Simon Peter’s fails are recorded over a dozen times, Matt 15:16, Mark 10:13, Luke 22:24, Matthew 17:24, etc.)
  2. Leaders will encourage several organizational visions built around one mission. A mission is a church’s biblically based “reason for being” according to Barna, McIntosh, and Whitesel/Hunter. Also according to these authors a vision is a specific, envisioned, future outcome. But since churches are becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-congregational, trying to focus on just one version won’t get enough buy-in from most congregants. Today what I label “micro-visions” create short-term wins, because they are quicker to attain and can be quickly embraced by different church subcultures. This does not mean a large number of visions. The average church today is only 75 attendees and might have just a couple of visions suitable for its size. A mega-church of several thousand, however, might have 6 to 8 visions representing different congregational cultures. For example, traditional members might envision a choir, Sunday school classes and reaching out to a senior living center nearby. The church’s millennials might have a vision for interactive sermons, online small groups and reaching out to homeless people in their communities. Churches are realizing that they are increasingly multicultural organizations and so to work together they must embrace one biblical mission with several different visions.
  3. Leaders will willingly live on less. Millennials are skeptical of leaders who proverbially “feather their own nests” with monies from the congregation. Younger generations have seen leaders become disconnected, for example when baby boomer leaders lived a much higher lifestyle than the congregants they served. Millennials are determined to change this. For example, millennial church planters are increasingly bi-vocational and many full-time millennial pastors are choosing to become bi-vocational to better connect with non-churchgoers. Living slightly under the median income of the congregation one serves (rather than slightly above it) will increasingly become the new norm.
  4. Leadership will be learned through artificial intelligence, virtual reality, online courses and even gaming. Online learning continues to be a disruptor that is making specific leadership topics available to leaders that need them quickly. Online certification programs such as ChurchLeadership.university, InterimPastor.university, etc. are making high-quality education in specific topics, available at a small fee to many people around the world.
  5. Leaders will increasingly spend more of their time with non-churchgoers and the needy, balancing their time between them and Christians. Fuller professor Donald McGavran warned of “redemption and lift,” meaning the longer a person is a Christian the more they are lifted out of the daily world of the non-churchgoer and thus increasingly insensitive to the needs of non-churchgoers. John Wesley, living 300 years earlier, recognized this too and required all leadership groups to serve the needy on a regular basis. Tomorrow’s leaders recognize that staying connected to the needs of those that don’t yet have a personal relationship with Christ is equally as important as spending time with Christians. Jesus spent time with those who needed him but did not yet believe in him, even to the chagrin of his family (Mark 3:20-34).
  6. Leaders will increasingly be about leading non-churchgoers further along their spiritual journey, not just about leading Christians. In the next decade, Christian leadership will be less and less about leading a church, but increasingly about leading non-churchgoers toward better lives and potentially a relationship with Christ. In the past, being a good church leader was mainly about helping Christians develop their skills. But emerging leaders are recognizing that leadership is equally about helping nonbelievers move closer to Christ on their belief journey. My friend and Fuller professor Richard Peace tells about witnessing to a young atheist, who afterword said that he was no longer an atheist, but now agnostic. At first Richard was discouraged, hoping to see this young man have a conversionary experience. But then Richard realized he had helped this young seeker move one step closer to understanding who Jesus is and having a personal relationship with him. Richard began to pray for that young man, having seen a movement in that man’s spiritual journey towards the ultimate experience of transformation.
  7. Respected leaders won’t be leaders of big congregations, but leaders who are growing and changing. Over the years I’ve seen a great deal of distrust develop regarding leaders of large churches, some of it earned but most of it an occupational hazzard. A natural distancing occurs in leadership (remember McGavran’s warning of “redemption and lift”) that brings about suspicion and skepticism in some of those that want to be led. Subsequently, followers in the next decade increasingly want to know that their leaders are continually learning and changing for the better. They want to watch leaders repent, adjust and rely on the Holy Spirit to improve, called sanctification (Mark 11:12-25, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 3:12, etc.). The next decade’s leader will not seen as on a pedestal, but upon a journey of self discovery with the Holy Spirit at her or his guide.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/7-church-leadership-trends-for-the-2020s/

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ONLINE CHURCH & 4 things leaders should do immediately if a virus prevents your church from meeting.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/12/19.

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Stream your services online.

Streaming is becoming more popular, but too often it is treated like an afterthought.The current pandemic means this cannot be the case anymore. Streaming can be easily accomplished via Facebook streaming, YouTube Live streaming or streaming services such as SermonCast.And you can post them as videos to video hosting sites such as Vimeo or YouTube.

But, don’t limit the streaming to just the sermon. It is also important to allow those watching to enter into worship. It is called a “worship service” because worship literally means drawing people into a “close, face-to-face connection with God.” Therefore, when streaming becomes an alternate to church services, it must not just carry the message (sermon) but also seek to foster a worship experience in which people can feel God is present and moving.Therefore, include prayer in your online services too. Your primary focus should not be to encourage people to stay home (though illness or legality may dictate they do), but to encourage people who stay home to experience God’s presence.

Don’t forget funding.

Oversized churches may have oversized budgets. And thus, when services are not convened a lack of income can impact a church significantly. Online giving tools have been a helpful option. In the nonprofit sector online giving has increased 15-20% each year. It seems logical that giving may increase when people can do it easily through texting or giving online.

Because many new tools have emerged for online giving, be sure to compare the cost (they vary widely). Also check with your denomination, since many offer an official tool for online giving. An online giving portal allows people to continue to support the church even though their presence isn’t possible.

Also explain to congregants how many of the church’s expenses continue.Salaries, some facility costs and benevolence spending are just a few of the expenses that will continue. Helping the congregation understand the nature and size of ongoing expenses will remind them why consistent giving is needed to support a faith community in its efforts to do good.

Expand congregant support through online alternatives to small groups.

Though smaller groups of 10-25 may still be permitted to meet, wise church leaders will increasingly emphasize that Sunday school classes, small groups, prayer groups, etc., can have online alternatives. This will address any hesitancy attendees may have about catching a viral infection.And online small groups allow people who self-quarantine to still receive support during this time.Just like streaming and giving, be sure to compare the many online tools that make online small groups productive and meaningful.

Many people may still resist online groups because they feel face-to-face fellowship is more effective. I once was one of those people. But, having taught classes both onsite and online for 24 years for a large university, I’ve found that online small groups can sometimes be as deep and robust as face-to-face groups. There are many reasons for this including not judging by appearance, allowing reticent people to speak up, choosing one’s words carefully rather than blurting them out, etc. Yet regardless of the reason, online fellowship reminds a congregation that a church is a community that communicates two ways, and not just an audience.

Use it as a teaching opportunity about the Great Commission.

Jesus commissioned us in Matthew 28:16-20 to “go and make disciples.”The term “make disciples” can be misleading today, because when people hear “disciples” they immediately think of a title, like “the 12 disciples.” But in the original Greek, the words “make disciples” was a verb that meant: “to make active, ongoing learners.”Donald McGavran said, “It means enroll in my (Jesus’) school…” And Fuller Seminary professor Eddie Gibbs stated, “(it) is an apprenticeship rather than an academic way of learning. It is learning by doing.”

If nurturing others to become “active, ongoing learners” is the Great Commission’s goal, then we must seriously consider online leaning environments which are increasingly being confirmed to be excellent learning platforms. By utilizing discussion forums, downloadable resources, online Bible studies and other tools you can develop more robust learning avenues for your church.

Use this as an opportunity to remind congregants that while technology changes, God’s Word does not. Recount how the printing press democratized the reading of the Word amid protests over the feared loss of hand-written Bibles. And today, there are those who prefer an ink-and-paper Bible (I am one of them) to an electronic version. But such changes in technology present opportunities for church leaders to discuss that though methods may change, “our God’s Word stands firm and forever” (Isa. 40:8, MSG).

Read the original article at …

https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-things-leaders-should-do-immediately-if-a-virus-prevents-your-church-from-meeting/

MULTICULTURAL & Why today’s leader must understand “ethnic consciousness.” Article published in Biblical Leadership Magazine by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD

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Read more here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-todays-leaders-must-understand-ethnic-consciousness/

THEOLOGY & A Biblical Theology of Change & Changing by Bob Whitesel PhD, excerpted from the book, “Preparing for Change Reaction.”

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Below are links to what I believe is a holistic and biblically faithful theology of change. These theological suppositions emerged from my Ph.D. work at Fuller Theological Seminary, 2005-2007.


God is Unchanging In Four Areas

Change Reaction 4: If God doesn’t change, why should we?” Congregations are leery of church change … because they know God is unchanging in His character.

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging

One of the most widely accepted Biblical understandings is that God does not change.  There are many passages that attest to this (some are listed in the Questions for Group Study at the end of this chapter).  But, let us focus on the three most popular.  However, first we must tackle an unusual, yet increasingly important word: immutable.

Immutable – What Does It Mean?

There is an curious, yet common word that describes God’s unchangeable character: immutable.  The term, widely used in theological circles, comes from combining two ancient words.  The Latin word, mutabilis carries the meaning of “changeable.”  When the Latin prefix im- is added, it negates the word that follows and elicits the meaning “not-changeable” or immutable.  Millard Erickson offers a concise definition.

“Divine immutability … by this is meant that although everything else in the universe appears to undergo change, God does not.  He is the unchanging eternal one.”

We shall see shortly that this definition may be lacking in precision.  However, it is interesting to note that computer programmers use the terms mutable and immutable as well.  In computer programming an immutable object is an object that cannot be modified once it is created.  And, a mutable object is one that can be modified once it is fashioned.  

Subsequently, because of an increasing use by software programmers and a continued use in theological circles, immutable is an increasingly helpful term for describing things that do not change.

3 Biblical Passages Stating That God Does Not Change… 

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 4 Unchanging


When God Changes

Change Reaction 5: “What does the Bible says about change?”

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes

8-Types of Biblical Change

Theologians have pointed out that there are several types of change in the Bible.  I have codified them into a list of eight.  Let us describe each, and add a brief commentary.

  1. Change due to decline or deterioration.  This is the change we referred to in Chapter 3 as change in permanence or life.  In the previous chapter we saw that God does not change in His duration or eternalness.  However, humans do undergo this type of change, for as the writer of Psalm 102:3 says, his “days vanish like smoke.”
  2. Change in location, i.e. the movement from one place to another.  Millard Erickson comments, “Since God presumably is not … spatially located, the sense of change as movement from one place to another does not apply.”
  3. Changes in quality.  When the Old Testament Temple replaced the make-shift Tabernacle for Jewish worship, Exodus 25, 36 and 2 Chronicles 3 and 4 describe an enhancement in quality.  In a similar manner quality can lessen, for example when the Temple was rebuilt after its destruction by the Babylonians (see Haggai).  But, changes in quality do not apply to God, for the Scriptures depict God as being all-powerful (Genesis 18:14, Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26) and thus having more power would be impossible.
  4. Change due to growth or improvement.  The Bible states that God is all good (Exodus 34:6, 1 Chronicles 16:34) and thus improvement would be impossible.
  5. Change of knowledge means gaining knowledge that one that did possess before.  Again, because God is all knowing (1 Samuel 2:3, 1 Chronicles 28:9, John 16:30) additional or better knowledge is impossible.
  6. Change in beliefs “involves coming to hold different beliefs of attitudes.”  We saw in Chapter 3 that God is unchangeable in the essential nature of whom He is (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) and that God’s will is unchangeable (James 1:18).  Thus God does not come to hold different beliefs nor attitudes.
  7. Relational change “involves not change in the thing itself, but in the relationship to another object or person.”  This is an interesting thought.  As we shall see shortly, the Biblical record tells us God does relate to us in different ways, depending upon our reactions to Him.  Note, God is not changing, but the relationship between Him and us does change.  Thus, this type of change is found in the Bible.
  8. Change by taking different action than previously.  We see many times in the Bible where God takes a different action than He did previously.  For example, when humans ask forgiveness, turn from their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior, God takes different action (salvation, John 6:23, 10:9) than He had previously warned (damnation, Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8).

Looking at the varying types of change found in the Bible, it becomes clear that in most of these areas God does not change.  Now, let’s look at each of these 8-types of change and see how they relate to God’s unchangeableness in permanence, nature, will and character. 

God and the 8-Types of Biblical Change

Because God is unchangeable in His permanence and lifeGod Does Not Experience Type-1 Change: Change Due to Deterioration,

God is unchangeable in His permanence and life, was a conclusion we discovered in our previous chapter.  We noted that this indicates that God does not change in His or eternalness.  He does not “wear out like a garment” (Psalm 102:26), and though our “days vanish like smoke … your (God’s) years will never end” (Psalm 102:3, 27). 

Therefore, Type-1 Change does not apply to God, for He does not decline nor deteriorate. 

Congregations know that some church change has been good…especially when it increases a church’s effectiveness at sharing the Good News.

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 5 When God Changes


Unchanging Character … Changing Methods: The Pattern of Parenting

Change Reaction 6: Let’s not talk about change, I need a break.” Leaders are tired of administrative unproductiveness and disorder … and want a break from volunteering.  After all, isn’t church more than administration?

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.

God’s Pattern of Parenting

The bible is rife with the pattern of parenting as reflected in God’s relationship to His offspring.  Let us look at a few examples of God’s parenting principles and see what lessons they can engender for church leaders who are tackling church change.

God as Mother?

Though often overlooked, at times the Scriptures describe God as having the best attributes of both father and mother.  And since the attributes of a mother are often the most overlooked, let’s begin our inquiry with several motherly attributes of God. 

God has an enduring motherly relationship.  Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

God comforts, as a mother comforts a child.  Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

God yearns like a woman in childbirth, God yearns for the growth and maturity of His people.  Isaiah 42:14-15 says, “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.”  Also, James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

To protect and nurture resistant offspring.  In Matthew 23:37 Jesus uses the imagery of a mother hen and her chicks, avowing, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

God as Father

Here Scriptures abound.  The following are just a few examples.  Many more scriptures will be discussed in the following section, “God as Parent.”

God loves us as a father loves his children.  1 John 3:1
 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!”

God is “Abba, Father.”  One of the most remarkable New Testament passages is Romans 8:15:  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Another is Galatians 4:6 “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’.”  See also how Jesus uses the expression “abba” when referring to His heavenly in Mark 14:36.  The term abba is a Aramaic expression of endearment and familiarity customarily used by a very young child.  As such, it is usually the first word from a child’s mouth.  While some translate this “daddy,” this may still be too formal.  A better term might be “dada,” an expression connoting dependence, endearment, commencement and closeness.  This intimate, reliant and cherished term gives new insight to how God longs for us to return to Him and recapture that early father-child connection and love.

God must discipline us at times, as a loving father.  Solomon warns in Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”  Also, Hebrews 12: 9-10 states, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

Alister McGrath has said, “to speak of God as father is to say that the role of the father in ancient Israel allows us insights into the nature of God.”  Thus, from the above we can catch a glimpse into God’s loving, preserving, just and devoted nature.

God as Father and Mother

Sometimes God appears in the role of both parents.  For example, in Psalm 27:10 we see, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” 

In Moses’ song of adoration (Deuteronomy 32) he characterizes God’s love toward His children as that of a paternal eagle, hovering over its young and protecting them.  The tasks outlined, hovering over the young, catching them and carrying them describes female eagle attributes, but at times can also describe male eagles.  Thus, both roles can be inferred.  The full passage reads, “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.  Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions” Deuteronomy 32:10-11.

And in Deuteronomy 32:18 both maternal and paternal roles of God are described in the same sentence: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” 

Sallie McFaque gives a helpful summation of God as father and mother stating “God as mother does not mean that God is mother (or father).  We imagine God as both mother and father, but we realize how inadequate these and any other metaphors are to express the creative love of God …. Nevertheless, we speak of this love in language that is familiar and dear to us, the language of mother and fathers who give us life, from whose bodies we come, and upon whose care we depend.”

And thus God’s parental love is so deep, it is almost unfathomable in magnitude, scale and reach.  There is little surprise that both motherhood and fatherhood expressions are needed to describe such love.  Ephesians 3:17-19 puts it this way, “. . . And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Yet, fatherhood certainly occurs with more frequency in Biblical passages.  This may be due to the patriarchal culture of ancient times.  However, that in such highly patriarchal times the writers of the Scriptures would not flinch at describing God’s motherly attributes, indicates that God has no opposition to using the best attributes of fatherhood … and motherhood to describe His character.

And, fatherhood and motherhood can be defined in various ways depending upon the relationship.  For example, fatherhood can describe the establishing a household, the headship of that household, and of the provision, care and feeding of that household.  As we saw above, motherhood can describe birthing, nurturing, cherishing, etc.

However, to keep this present study from becoming too lengthy, let us look at how the fatherhood and motherhood of God relates to parenting.  And, in the process let us see if this doesn’t offer some strategic guidelines for dealing with change in churches.

God as Parent …

Read more by downloading the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 6 Unchanging Character Changing Methods.

#OD723

EVENTS & How A Church Can Serve Their Community, Rather Than Just Entertain It (examples from July 4th)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., July 8, 2019.

(Read it below or download the article here: https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/serve-your-community-rather-than-entertain-it/ )

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download the article here: https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/serve-your-community-rather-than-entertain-it/ )

ARTICLES & Index of articles by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD published by Biblical Leadership Magazine.

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Going to church in virtual reality

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 4.04.42 PM.pngHere are some examples, ideas and cautions.
  Bob Whitesel

Understanding graffiti leadership

Millennials making a mark on the church and the culture.
  Bob Whitesel


Creating a balanced vision for your church

Here are principles for expanding church vision and meeting congregational, local and global needs.
  Bob Whitesel


4 attitudes to cultivate in a small group

Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.
  Bob Whitesel


4 biblical ways a leader can respond to difficult circumstances

One of the most vexing questions for a Christian leader is how to respond when a godly colleague or employee experiences bad things they didn’t appear to deserve.
  Bob Whitesel


How small groups help a church survive

Sometimes the bond of a small group helps the church persevere through conflict.
  Bob Whitesel


7 principles for launching multiple worship venues, campuses and times

Offering more can better connect various people to your community, but adding a new worship encounter also has its caveats.
  Bob Whitesel


What is “Wild Church” and where is it going?

A look inside more organic churches.
  Bob Whitesel


Key principles for understanding multi-cultural churches

To help our churches grow in the most ways possible, it helps to understand how we can journey toward reconciliation.
  Bob Whitesel


5 principles for making your church a haven

Here are five principles to focus your church on reflecting God’s love and reaching those who are hurting and longing for security.
  Bob Whitesel


5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence

The church is on a mission, and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons learned from failure

Do you ever think about the past, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities?
  Bob Whitesel


Helping others navigate the evangelism journey

To describe evangelism as a journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process, requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.
  Bob Whitesel


2 lessons from a Christian leadership enthusiast

What fills and fuels your Christian leadership? How do you keep your faith among the skeptics?
  Bob Whitesel


Understanding God’s role for a Millennial leader

Here are three attitudes of Millennial leaders about God’s role in their work.
  Bob Whitesel


3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead

How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.
  Bob Whitesel


7 tips for introducing new ideas

Most attempts to introduce a new idea will not start the church on a new life-cycle, but rather split it into two smaller groups of which neither will survive.
  Bob Whitesel


Why churches need blue-ocean strategies

Being strategic has to do with your audience. What is your strategy and who does it involve?
  Bob Whitesel


Your leadership style under pressure

I’ve become convinced that leaders have a fallback behavior on which they rely when they are uncertain, conflicted and/or under pressure.
  Bob Whitesel


Nurturing millennial leadership attitudes

How does leadership look different today? Here are three attitudes and how they could benefit your ministry.
  Bob Whitesel


3 perils of modern leadership

Leadership is an interdependent mixture of intuition, experience, and inspiration. When it comes to modern leadership, here are some obstacles that get in the way.
  Bob Whitesel


Exploring the newness people crave

People usually sense a need for change immediately prior to the point of spiritual transformation. If God intends spiritual reconnection to be a reaction to crises, then how do we help people in the midst of crisis?
  Bob Whitesel


Why I don’t have a problem with segregated worship services, if reconciliation takes place at 11:30

It has been said that “10:30 on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.” I don’t have a problem with that if 11:30 is the most integrated time.
  Bob Whitesel


Spiritual transformation is pivotal in ministry balance

Transformation is not an optional prescription for the church, but pivotal upon which God intends the other ministry aspects to be built and balanced.
  Bob Whitesel


Fostering unity and diversity through learning

Creating an uncommon church that has both unity and diversity is a rarity. However, developing learners may be the key that takes your church in that direction.
  Bob Whitesel


Agenda questions to nurture leaders

Let’s look at some agenda questions that can stimulate spiritual discussion and learning.
  Bob Whitesel


Linking learners to the church community

Churches often mistake going, baptizing, and teaching (the hows) for the goal of making active, ongoing learners. So, with this in mind, let’s look at the hows of making active, ongoing learners.
  Bob Whitesel


What is the goal of the church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal. This is not a scientific poll because these churches need to grow and they realize this (or they wouldn’t be hiring a church growth consultant). But their answers may mirror yours.
  Bob Whitesel


Locate your focus in small groups

Since large gatherings can create excitement and attention, they often overshadow the key discipleship venue of small groups. To combat this, leaders must ensure that the church’s emphasis upon small groups is highlighted noticeably in official statements.
  Bob Whitesel


What is this talk about missional?

These are missional patterns that almost any church would want to embrace. But many people first react negatively toward the missional term because it is new and they do not fully know its meaning.
  Bob Whitesel


The cure for groups is S.M.A.L.L.

When it comes to groups, the cure is spelled: S.M.A.L.L., and the first step is surveying the types of groups you already have.
  Bob Whitesel


How to avoid a church split when introducing a new idea

For 20-plus years I have studied how to successfully employ intervention events. Here are my top seven tips for successfully doing so.
  Bob Whitesel


Why small groups work

The pages of history show ways small groups have been used. Learn how and why small groups promote both discipleship and church growth.
  Bob Whitesel


3 tactics to help you tackle ministry

To maintain a healthy balance between an inward and outward church focus is to tackle ministry needs.
  Bob Whitesel


3 unmet needs that could guide your ministry

Here is the way needs of spiritual seekers are best understood.
  Bob Whitesel


Discover how core competencies will empower your mission and vision

Why do so many lay leaders roll their eyes when a new pastor wants to re-edit the mission and vision statement?
  Bob Whitesel


4 traps of ingrown churches

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.
  Bob Whitesel