by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and Kent R. Hunter D.Min. & Ph.D.
The 3 Steps of the Restart Model
Some denominations have a program in place designed to resurrect an aging congregation. Sometimes called the “restart model” or the “regeneration process,” this procedure allows a church to dissolve the present entity and form a new congregation with help from nearby congregations of the same polity. Components of this program usually include the following:
The restart model is a viable alternative to closure and has been employed extensively by the American Baptist Church. While unable to preserve the traditions or history of the aging church, this approach does preserve a denominational presence in the community.
However, the advice below must be considered when considering the restart or regeneration model.
1. The church leadership must be ready to relinquish control of the new organization to a steering committee comprised of people outside the local congregation.
2. Church members must understand that their spiritual sustenance will come from a small group setting for at least six months during the transition phase.
This model is frequently successful in planting a new and oftentimes younger congregation in the same community as the aging church.
However, older members of the former congregation usually do not make it through the transition due to two important reasons.
First, aging members are accustomed to sharing intimacy and closeness through Sunday School classes which often are their smaller groups. Home Bible studies, while more popular among Boomers, do not provide an attractive alternative to aging members who traditionally have enjoyed small group intimacy through the Sunday School format.
Secondly, the restart model works best when the existing leadership is fragmented or non-existent. The restart strategy then provides needed leadership to fill the void. However, if an existing and long-lived leadership is already in place, and in most aging churches this is the case, the restart model often prunes a majority of these steadfast saints from the process. Long-standing leaders will feel they are no longer wanted or needed, and resistance to forward progress often spreads informally among the aging congregation.
Though the restart model is effective in establishing a younger church in the community context, it usually fails in preserving a Builder sub-congregation.
The cure for the ingrown church is to keep a church focused both inward and outward. In fact, history indicates that churches that stay connected to outsiders often do a better job at inward ministry too. For example, an Anglican pastor named John Wesley was so ashamed and alarmed at the depravity of the people outside of his church, that he took his sermons outside the church walls and began ministries to better serve their spiritual and physical needs.[i] Balancing this emphasis upon people inside and outside the church required a rigorous structure his critics mockingly called: “Wesley’s Methods.” Soon his followers were know as “Methodists,” a term which endures to today and should remind us that we need a clear method if we are going to avoid focusing only on people inside the church. After 20+ years of consulting, I believe this method here lies in three organic remedies. These cures, if taken together, can foster a healthy balance between inward and outward focus.
RX 1 FOR THE COMMON CHURCH = GROW O.U.T.
In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the remedies spell out the name of the cure.
CURxE O: Observe whom you are equipped to reach
CURxE U: Understand the needs of those you are equipped to reach.
CURxE T: Tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry programs.
CURxE O = OBSERVE WHOM YOU ARE CALLED TO REACH
TWO COMMON OPTIONS
The main reason most churches become common is because they forget (and sometimes just don’t know) to whom God has equipped them to reach out and minister.[ii] They know they aren’t supposed to be ingrown, but exactly who should they be growing out to serve? Usually, there are two options that can be discovered by asking two questions:
Has God equipped your church to minister to peoplein a geographic community?
If you answered yes, you might be a “Geographic Church.”
Geo- means “of an area.” This is a church whose ministry has been directed toward people in a geographic area (often those who live nearby).
These churches meet the needs of people in one or more geographic communities.
Examples: a neighborhood church, a village church, a rural church, a church in a housing development, a downtown church, etc. (For more examples see Figure 2.1.)
Has God equipped your church to minister to people like us?
If you answered yes, you might be a “Demographic Church.”
Demo- means “of a people.” This is a church whose ministry has been directed toward a people group (e.g. those who share common characteristics).
These churches meet the needs of one or more sections of the population that share common characteristics, such as age, ethnicity, socio-economics, common interests, etc.[iii]
Examples: generational churches, ethnic churches, aging traditional churches, blue-collar churches, middle-class churches, Café Churches, college churches, etc. (For more examples see Figure 2.2.)
Your road to uncommon church life begins with understanding if you are a church equipped to meet the needs of a specific “geographic” area, or if you are equipped to minister to one or more “demographic” sections of the population. Both geographic churches and demographic churches are legitimate and both are needed. And, the process begins by observing your surroundings, your history and how God has moved in your church’s history.[iv]
Are You a Geographic Church?
Some churches are primarily equipped by God to reach a geographic area such as a neighborhood, a borough, a small town, a rural area, a township, a neighborhood, a school district, a suburb, an urban district, etc. Geographic churches often have a long history of ministering in a specific area. And, if the culture of the geographic area changes, because the geographic church is called to that locale, the geographic church will stay put but change with that culture.
This is not always easy, nor quick. In Appendix 2.A you can find the story of Kentwood Community Church, a Michigan congregation that has successfully changed ethnicity and grown while remaining in the same (changing) geographic area.
Today many churches are forced by their location and/or history to be geographic churches. Figure 2.1 lists some more common examples of “Geographic Churches:”
Churches located in small towns and/or rural districts with very little outside traffic may have no other option than to become geographic churches meeting the needs of those people living nearby.Churches that are elsewhere off the beaten path.
Churches constrained by natural features
Churches located in wilderness areas, valleys, etc. with very little outside traffic. Churches located in back road areas.Churches located on river deltas, islands or peninsulas.
Churches constrained by traffic patterns
Suburban churches may be geographic churches if they are in an area of a suburb not traveled by many people from outside of the area. Suburban churches can be geographic churches if their buildings are hidden in a housing development or subdivision.
Churches constrained by owned assets
Churches that own their own facilities (and market or geographic conditions make selling and moving impractical)Churches that own significant or valuable acreage (and market or geographic conditions make selling and moving impractical)
Churches constrained by image
Churches that are located in a neighborhood with its own identity (e.g. blue-collar, artist, urban, young professional, college student, etc.)A old, established downtown church that cannot move to the suburbs because there are other denominational churches already there.A church residing in one of the inner city’s labyrinth of neighborhoods, may be limited by that neighborhood’s identity.
Special Attributes of Geographic Churches
Geographic churches will stay put and change as the cultures around it change. If the cultural makeup of a community changes, a geographic church will change to reflect those changes. Rather than moving out of an area if the culture changes (like a demographic church might do), the geographic church is a chameleon, staying put and changing its appearances to reflect its changing environment.
Geographic churches can reach out to several cultures at the same time. A geographic church in an urban area might be comprised of a Mexican congregation, an Asian congregation and a young professionals congregation.
Geographic churches may be the majority of churches today. From Figure 2.1 we can see that most churches today may be geographically limited, and thus are best able to reach out to their geographic communities. But now let’s look at another increasingly popular option, Demographic Churches.
Today people can drive a great distance to attend a church they like. As a result more and more churches are drawing people from several sections of the population rather than just ministering to those in the geographic area nearby.
Demographic groups are sections of the population that talk alike, behave alike and in which members can tell who is in their group and who is not.[vii] Thus, though the names and designations are always evolving, Figure 2.2highlights some examples of Demographic Churches.
Senior adult (b. 1945 & before) churches[x] also called Silent Generation or Builder Generation churches[xi]Boomer (b. 1946-1964) churchesGeneration X (b. 1965-1983) churchesGeneration Y (b. 1984-2002) churches, etc.
Latin American churchesHispanic American churchesAfrican American churchesAsian American churchesNative American churchesCaucasian churches,[xiv] etc.
Affinity churches(focused around a common interest)
Cowboy ChurchesNASCAR churchesMotorcycle churchesEmerging-Postmodern ChurchesCafé ChurchesArt Churches, College Churches, etc.[xv]
Special Attributes of Demographic Churches
Demographic churches (like geographic churches) can reach out to several cultures at the same time. A demographic church could be comprised of a Latino/Latina congregation, an Asian congregation, an aging retiree congregation and an Emerging-Postmodern congregation.
Demogrpahic churches will change locations, following a people group as they leave to live in new locales. If the demographic group they are reaching moves out of the area, a demographic church moves along with the culture. For example, a Boomer church may move from an urban area to the suburbs as its congregants move to those suburbs. And, an Asian church I know moved to a nearby town when most of its Asian members moved to that town.
Can Churches be Geographic and Demographic? Yes!
Many churches are reaching nearby geographic areas, as well as several far-flung demographics. In fact, this may be one of the healthiest ways for a church to grow, because the church maintains a strong local ministry while reaching out to more and more far flung people groups. Such congregations create a wonderful region-wide ministry coupled with a strong local foundation.
St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England is a good example of a demographic church that has a robust ministry to its local geographic area too. England’s largest Anglican Church (where most churchgoers are under the age of 35) calls itself “a church of churches” with worship services at different locations around town for varying people groups (e.g. a young professionals church, a student church, a church for internationals, and different churches in different neighborhoods). It also has a robust local ministry in the geographic area of its first church, called the “Mother Church.” This Mother Church was the original Anglican congregation that gave rise to “a church of (six) churches” around town.[xvi]
Still, for many small churches being both a geographic church and a demographic church may not be an option. Because the average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[xvii] most of these churches do not have the numbers to be both a geographic and a demographic church. Thus, the common church in North America must first determine if it is called to stay put and reach out to its geographic area or if it is go move, following a people group it has been reaching. Figure 2.3 will be the key to determining this.
Which Church Are You?
Use Figure 2.3 to begin to investigate what type of church God may have equipped you to be. Neither the geographic approach or the demographic approach is better than the other. They are simply two basic ways that God equips his church to reach out. And, each approach has pros and cons (see Figure 2.4).
The starting place is to look at your history, your situation and under what circumstances God moves in your midst. To begin this process, check the boxes in the columns of Figure 2.3 that most represent your church and its vision.
Figure 2.3 Are you a Geographic or a Cultural Church?
You have a burden to reach a geographicarea for Christ. Needs in a geographic area (e.g. a neighborhood, etc.) dictate your ministry.
You have a burden to reach one or more people groups for Christ. The needs of certain people groups (which may be spread across a region) dictate your ministry.
Your pastor feels called to your geographic community. Your pastor has stayed (or is planning to stay) for a long time in the church’s geographical area.
Your pastor feels called to a certain people (ethnic, generational, etc., see Figure 2.2). Your pastor is open to moving out of the area if most of the church’s attendees live or are moving out of the area.
Most of the church staff live in the church’s geographical area. Most of the staff have long histories in the church’s geographical area.
Most of the church staff does not live in the church’s geographical area. Most of the church staff does not have a long history in the church’s geographical area.
Your church owns permanent facilities in the area In the past five years you have built new facilities in the area. In the past five years you have renovated or updated facilities.
You change facilities as need arises, leasing or renting church facilities rather than owning them. You have multiple auditoriums or venues to accommodate different worship styles.
Your location is hemmed in by geographic features that sometimes thwart visitors from finding you, such as:A valley, hill or riverA small town surrounded by farmlandA neighborhood with its own identity.
Your churchgoers are aging. Your churchgoers are moving away from the area, to an area where there are churches similar to yours which they may attend.
Your church is in a small town. Your church is in a neighborhood that has a specific identity. You church is in an urban area of a city.
Your church is in a middle-class suburban church. Your church is a church with attendees primarily under the age of 35. Your church is known for blending several people groups together.[xix]
Your church name reflects the geographic area you are called to reach, such as:Smithville ChurchPine Lake ChurchFirst (i.e. downtown) Church Harris Avenue Church, etc. Your church name has not been changed in a long time.
Your church name reflects the language of a people group, such as:Overcomers’ ChurchFamily Worship CenterCommunity Church[xx]A Greek or Latin name (e.g. The Crux- Latin for cross; or Missio Dei). Your church name has been changed in the last decade.
Your church experienced a period of growth between 1950 and 1970.
Your church experienced a period of growth since 1970.
(total checked in this column)
(total checked in this column)
(If you have equal checks in both columns you may be geographic and demographic church)[xxi]
When you tally up the columns in Figure 2.3, you will begin to see a congregational trajectory. But remember, there are strengths and weaknesses to each approach. Write in the box in Figure 2.4 which culture or geographic area you are called to reach:
Figure 2.4 Who’s needs are you called to meet? (Circle one)
Who’s needs are you called to meet?
A geographic area
(describe it here)
(describe it/them here)
Remember these pros and cons:
Pros of geographic church:Builds a strong connection with an area.Can more readily bring about racial and cultural reconciliation within a changing area.[xxii]Does not need to move facilities as often.Can invest in local facilities enjoying ownership privileges.Cons of geographic church:Encounters change more often because geographic areas regularly experience cultural transitions.Staff and leaders usually do not stay for a long time, rather transitioning in an out as the culture changes.
Pros of cultural church:Builds a strong communication connection with sections of the population that share common characteristics.Provides relevant ministry.Can move with a people group, leasing or renting facilities in lieu of purchasing or building them.Encounters change less often.Staff can remain a long time.Cons of cultural church:Can become culturally prejudiced.Can become separatist (i.e. siloed) unless it grows into a church where different people groups partner in the same church.[xxiii]
Figure 2.4 should give you a general indication of the direction of your church’s recent ministry.[xxiv] Before you move ahead to the next remedy, it is important to reflect back upon what kind of church God has equipped you to be.
[i] Wesley urged discipleship via small groups which he called “class meetings” to help non-churchgoers grasp the basics of Christianity. These “class meetings” were a type of discipleship group, which we shall discuss in greater detail in the next chapter.
[ii] A depiction of God equipping a church to best reach a specific geographic area or demographic is an unpleasant image for those who wish all churches to be all things to all people. But, even in New Testament times we see congregations emerging with specific calls, such as Antioch’s emphasis upon missionary training, Corinth’s impact upon the Roman intelligentsia, and Jerusalem’s influence upon the structures and doctrine of the fledgling church. While churches should not limit themselves as to what God can do, it is helpful for churches (just like people, c.f. Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) to ascertain how God has gifted them and to whom they may best be able to minister.
[iii] “demographic,” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011).
[iv] This is not to say that all churches are called to a geographic area or to a demographic. Some churches are mixtures. Yet, observing how God has equipped and empowered your church is the first step toward ascertaining whose needs you are called to meet.
[v] When using the term constrained I am not saying that God cannot call and equip a church to overcome a restricted geographic area and reach an entire region. There are many examples of such congregations (see Bob Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations, [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008].) However in my consulting practice I have observed that God often calls churches to a geographic locale and does so in part by geographically delimiting their sphere of impact. Because many churches are not aware of a call to a locale, they often stumble ahead trying to minister to a demographic that has left the area, and subsequently refuse to adapt and minister to the changing demographic in their neighborhood.
[vi] See Appendix 2.B for an explanation of John Perkins’ “3 Rs.” These three lessons from this pioneer in civil rights and Christian community development can ensure that cultural churches do not become mono- demographic enclaves. It is the conclusion of my case study research and this book that a healthy church is not a mono- demographic church but a congregation partnering across cultural boundaries to produce a reconciliation between cultures that modern society so desperately needs.
[vii] The phrase “talk alike, behave alike and can tell who is in their group and who is not,” is expanded by Paul Hiebert in more detail as a matrix of behaviors, ideas and products (Cultural Anthropology [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976). P. 25.
[viii] These demographic examples are not meant to be exhaustive nor definitive, because demographic designations are still evolving (for more on this see Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 50-62).
[ix] For characteristics of generational churches see lists and charts in Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007), pp. 52-65.
[x] Today, probably the most widespread church demographic are those who prefer “traditional worship” (and all of its various permutations), Hispanic Churches (and all of their wonderfully diverse Hispanic cultures), African American Churches (with their many vibrant variations) and youthful churches (orientated toward attendees under 35 years of age).
[xi] This generation has been labeled the “silent generation” to emphasize their stoic nature in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in their seminal book Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1954-2069 (New York: Quill, 1992). Tom Brokaw popularized them as the “Greatest Generation” in his book, The Greatest Generation (New York: Random House, 2004). They have also been called the “Builder Generation” for their propensity to honor God with their handicraft as exemplified in their church buildings (Gary McIntosh, One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in Your Church [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002] and Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000).
[xii] For more on socio-economic levels see David Jaffee, Levels of Socio-economic Development Theory (New York: Praeger 1998), and Organization Theory (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001).
[xiii] Defining ethnicity can be challenging, with terminology and designations constantly evolving. I have employed here (only as an example) ethnic designations used by the US Census Bureau.
[xiv] Historically, many of the churches in America began as churches reaching out to specific demographics. For example Norwegian Lutheran Churches were started in the small towns of Wisconsin and Minnesota to offer culturally relevant worship for non-churchgoing immigrants in their native language and music. But these immigrant churches also displayed many of the characteristics of geographic area churches because in those days most demographic groups were located in specific geographic communities. This fact is sometimes hard for congregants with long histories in a church to understand, for they may want to retain their cultural and geographic focus long after their culture has moved to another part of town.
[xv] For examples of affinity churches see Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 56-58 and Bob Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 1 Emerging Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006).
[xvi] See my case-study of “St. Thomas’ Church Sheffield, England” in the following three sources: Inside the Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), pp. 1-12; “A Process Model for Church Change as Reflected in St. Thomas’ Anglican Church, Sheffield England,” The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, CA: Biola University, Winter 2010). pp. 265-280 and “The Perfect Cluster: For Young Adults, St. Tom’s Sheffield Creates Extended Families, and Everyone Knows Where They Fit” Outreach Magazine (Vista, CA: May/June 2005). See also http://www.stthomascrookes.org
[xviii] It is important to note that “demographic churches” can be comprised of more than one demographic. For instance, a demographic church can have a Boomer subcongregation, a Generation-X subcongregation, a Hispanic subcongregation and an Asian subcongregation. Called subcongregations because they are sub-sections of the church, their cultural heritage is honored by allowing their worship/teaching/etc. to be culturally distinct, while at the same time working together to manage one organization. Thus, worship/teaching/etc. can be culturally distinct in the sub-congregational model, but the responsibility for management and assets is shared. Thus, unity is created in leading a church, not in worship at that church (for worship by the definition of the very term means encounter with God see Bob Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church [(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011], pp. 130-131.) Thus worship’s focus is God, not the creation of unity. There are plenty of opportunities in the sub-congregational model for unity to be created in management and ministry cooperation. One young emerging leader put it this way, “you can’t create unity in a worship service, the chairs are facing the wrong way.” He made a good point.
[xix] See footnote 17 for an explanation of two types of multi-ethnic churches.
[xx] Even though the term “Community Church” would seem to designate a geographic church, the author has found that when the appellation “community” is added to a church name it usually designates a Boomer church (i.e. a demographic church) rather than a geographical-orientated congregation. For example, one of my client congregations named “Community Church of the Nazarene” (comprised primarily of Boomers) broke away from Taylor Avenue Church of the Nazarene (at the time comprised mostly of the Builder Generation). Despite the inclusive name, Community Church of the Nazarene became a church that primarily attracted Boomers from across the region, while Taylor Avenue Church of the Nazarene continued to primarily attract the Builder Generation from the neighborhood in which it was located. Happily, both the neighborhood and church are today growing into a vibrant Hispanic community.
[xxi] There actually may be two prevalent types of multi-ethnic churches.
Multi-ethnic subcongregational churches. These churches are comprised of a partnership of sub-congregations that are all part of one legal non-profit organization. This would be analogous to a local church that was comprised of Asian, Hispanic, African American and Anglo congregations with different staffs and different worship encounters that are equal partners in the same nonprofit organization. Their various worship encounters resembles a multi-site or multi-venue church and their evangelistic prowess is a result of their ability to connect multiple demographic concurrently (for more examples see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 68-70). While it has been my observation that evangelistic proficiency is increased in “multi-ethnic sub-congregational churches,” unless there are at least quarterly “unity events” a silo effect (see footnote 19) can occur. However, this model’s evangelistic proficiency probably trumps the following model’s multi-ethnic harmony.
Multi-ethnic homogenous churches. There are many multi-ethnic churches which are in essence one worshipping congregation attended by multiple cultures. It can be argued that these latter congregations are really not multicultural churches, as much as they are a homogenous congregation made up of people from different cultures who like a blended demographic format (see Tetsunao Yamamori “How to Reach a New Culture in Your Community” op. cit.). While some of my friends would disagree with this conclusion (see Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, Ethnic Blends: Mixing Diversity into Your Local Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010]) it is important to note that churches where multiple cultures rub shoulders and learn to get along are needed today, and both Yamamori’s and DeYmaz’s models are relevant.
[xxiii] The “silo effect” has been described by Patrick Lencioni as “the barriers that exist between departments within an organization, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another.” Silos emerge in the demographic church when a church evolves in demographicly-centric silos with little contact or unity experiences for other subcongregations. For more on the silo effect and how to overcome it, see Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (Hoboken, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2006), p. 175
[xxiv] Remember, simply because you are called to a culture, does not mean you should ignore other cultures or neighborhoods. But, this focus will determine who you will canvas to ascertain their needs in Cure U: Understand the Needs of Those You Are Called to Reach.
I have been taken aback by how two crises happened at the same time. First there was the pandemic. Then on top of that was the call for racial justice and healing. However, I noticed that usually researchers/writers wrote on one topic or the other. But I thought, they are inextricably connected. Leaders are talking about reopening their churches with new safety protocols. But we should also be talking about reopening our churches with new intercultural protocols too.
But what we’re not doing is addressing sufficiently yet the racial divide in North America. If we are going to reopen with a changed church, let’s change more than the cleanliness. Let’s begin to clean our hearts and souls from racial division.
In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). He describes this ministry of reconciliation as between God and humans AND between humans and one other. You see, Paul was reaching out to the Gentiles. And they were the persecutors of the Jews. The Jews had a lot of qualms about reaching out to the Gentiles. These were their oppressors. These were their enemies, the occupiers of the Jewish homeland who abused and killed innocent people because of racial hatred. And Paul is reaching out to them and seeing Christ change them! That is the background behind Paul’s description of our ministry of reconciliation. He sees the Church as bringing divergent groups together while also bringing we who are estranged from God, back to God.
Look at how Paul describes it in the contemporary language of The Message Bible:
Don’t fall for these 3 newbie turnaround traps … Do this instead (and start out strong).
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, May/June 2019.
As I prepare to teach my course titled “Turnaround Church” at Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, I thought it would be helpful to describe the most common traps into which inexperienced turnaround leaders fall (and ways to avoid each).
TRAP 1: Being hired to do the work of revitalization.
Why this trap occurs:
Hiring your way out of trouble is a standard practice in the for-profit world. However, because their business model operates on a for-profit basis, it allows them to plow profits into hiring their way out of adversity. Nonprofits run mostly on volunteers and small staffs. They have leaner budgets and usually cannot afford a hiring solution.
The lean-staff and “keep it simple” alternative has been immortalized in Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 9:1-6 (MSG):
Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”
Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.
Do this instead: Mentor & delegate.
This is may be hard for trained church leaders, because they feel they have been hired to be the experts. Thus, they customarily attempt to do most of the work themselves. However, this usually leads to burnout. Instead, church shepherds should model Jesus’ example of giving his disciples responsibilities and then sending them out to minister to others (Luke 9:1-2).
Mentoring is characterized by a back-and-forth dialogue with the mentee regarding how the processes going. We see such examples in Jesus’ dialogues with his disciples, for instance Matt. 17:18-20 (MSG):
He (Jesus) ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”
Delegating is slightly different from mentoring. It means giving others something you could do yourself, but allowing them to learn as they fumble their way through. Jesus, as the omniscient Son of God, knew his disciples would be unable to cast out demons (Luke 17:19). But still he let them try. In His omniscience, Jesus knew an important lesson would be driven home if the disciples first had a chance to flounder and then learn from that experience.
TRAP 2: Giving (and requiring) 110% effort.
Why this trap occurs:
People usually feel that if they overwork themselves (e.g. give 110%) they will succeed. This manifests when a leader works more hours during the week than for which one is paid. Such leaders may expect volunteers to increase their hours too. A trap occurs when burnout, neglected families and leadership turnover result. Billy Graham stated similar regrets:
“Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.” (billygraham.org)
Do this instead: Adjust everyone’s duties
Remind them that the church is going to need to do different things and that there are two ways to do this. One way is to ask everybody to give extra, e.g. 110%. But, you recognize this only leads to burnout. Remind them you don’t want to see them or yourself burned-out or families neglected.
The second, and more rewarding way, is to ask them to purge from their duties 20% of what they are currently doing. Ask them to use that 20% to become involved in new activities, e.g. involved in a new service or a new community outreach. The principle is that this requires, for the sake of spiritual health, to pull back and reduce their current volunteer efforts by 20% to open up 20% involvement in new activities.
Exemplify this yourself. Acknowledge that you are unable to continue to do everything the previous pastor did while at the same time reaching out to new generations and cultures. Remind them that you don’t want them, or you, to sacrifice family or spiritual well being. Show them you have too much respect foryour and their spiritual health.
As you ask them to readjustment their volunteer activities, suggest they write this down and submit their “readjustment” to the person overseeing their work.
TRAP 3: Promising big changes too soon.
Why this trap occurs:
Plateaued and dying churches have been dreaming about health for so long, that they often expect it to take place too fast. In addition, models they see of healthy churches are usually many years in the making. My experience and research has let me to believe that healthy church change is slow, but deliberate. In fact, one of the most knowledgeable researchers on organizational change, Harvard University’s John Kotter (Leading Change, Harvard Press), found that “celebrating small-term wins” leads to more change, more quickly.
Do this instead: Plan for & celebrate short-term wins
Meet with the church leaders and discuss what the church should look like in five years. Then ask them to describe what would it should look like in 2.5 years, one year and six months. Map out several goals for the next six months, asking yourselves which are most likely to be attained. Write these six month goals down and begin to create tactics to reach them.
As soon as you reach any of your short-term goals, celebrate! The key is for people to see and celebrate progress. For effective change, people don’t have to see enormous changes, but they do need to see movement.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 10/16/19.
It just happened one Sunday in 1962. My dad stopped going to church. Mother and I still attended, at least for the next year or so. But soon, our entire family no longer frequented the church my parents had attended since they were married.
Dad had been the head usher for the second of three Sunday services in this church of 1,500 attendees. In that role, he had organized 16-20 men each Sunday to receive the offering and help congregants find seats. Planning was minimal. Dad was supervised by Bill, the church’s Usher Supervisor who recruited, selected, trained and mentored ushers. Bill was an engineer for Delco-Remy, where he led an entire department in the burgeoning lighting division.
However, my father’s duties as head usher for the second service were more straightforward. Dad had to ensure that each usher had enough bulletins, that ushers were at all entrances, and on occasion he had to conscript ushers from the audience if someone was missing. This was his close-knit fellowship, and he often remarked that not since his World War II days had he enjoyed such camaraderie.
Dad also prayed over the offering. And because his prayer never changed, I can recall it to this day; Gerald was a relational leader who liked consistency, uniformity and reliability. Because he exemplified these traits, he had been head usher of the second service for four years.
Why would a man of such consistency and reliability suddenly disconnect himself from his church?
As a child I never understood, nor inquired. But, once grown I had occasion to ask my dad about his departure. Gerald’s disappearance was due to an honor. The faithful discharge of his duties as a head usher, had brought him to the attention of the church leaders. When Bill, the Usher Supervisor quit, Gerald was the natural choice to replace him. After all, my dad was head usher for the largest of three services. He was faithful. Dad was honored, but also wary. None-the-less after some gentle prodding by the church leaders he was “rewarded” with a promotion to Usher Supervisor.
In this new capacity, Dad was now thrust into a leadership role that required oversight of 60 plus men. His duties now included scheduling and organizing ongoing usher training, recruitment and oversight as well as replacing ineffective ushers. Dad had enjoyed his duties as head usher of one service, but now his responsibilities doubled if not tripled. While his previous duties had been largely relational, now his tasks were increasingly organizational. Dad missed the interpersonal nature of his previous duties, and now saw himself increasingly isolated from the fellowship and camaraderie he had previously relished.
Additionally, the usher ministry suffered. Dad found it difficult to schedule pertinent and timely training, and he never felt comfortable with the recruitment and dismissal process. He was a man everyone liked, and he found it hard not to utilize a willing usher candidate, simply because of lack of skill, decorum or call.
The church leaders noticed this decline in the usher’s ministry. And, they subtly tried to work with Gerald. They tried to develop him into a director, who could oversee 60 plus men, and three different worship services. In the end, this was not Dad’s gifting or calling. He had been a successful sergeant during World War II, and he had successfully led a small team of men. But when it came to the oversight, tactical planning, recruitment and paperwork necessary to administer a burgeoning ministry, Dad did not enjoy it, nor did he feel he was called to do it.
The church leaders did not want to see Gerald quit, but the atmosphere of pressure and disappointment became too much. Without an avenue for retreat, one day Gerald simply called the church office and resigned. Dad was a gracious and loving man. But, the feelings that he had let down his church and lost his camaraderie were too much. Dad couldn’t bear to see the looks of the other usher who he felt he had failed as their leader, and thus returning to church was too uncomfortable to bear. He simply faded away, and soon our family did as well.
In adulthood, I began investigating leadership styles and in hindsight always wondered what happened to my Dad’s volunteerism. He had been so content and fulfilled as a sergeant in the military. But at church, his involvement had led to disappointment and failure. As I researched leadership abilities, I found that the military had an insightful understanding of leadership sectors, that might benefit the church. And, it has to do with three military leadership categories: strategic leaders, tactical leaders and relational leaders.[i]
[i] Within military leadership theories there are many nuanced categories. However, to keep the present discussion from becoming too unwieldy, we will focus on the three broad categories of strategic leadership, tactical leadership and operational (i.e. relational) leadership. For a good overview of the historical importance and tensions of the top levels of military leadership see, Mark A. Stoler, Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II (Chapel Hill, No. Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 2/21/19.
One of the most influential art forms in American history first appeared in its current form on public walls in the late 1960s.
Graffiti is an improvised, colorful and risky art that is layered on public buildings, bridges, railway cars and subways. A product of urban artists who often eschew training, it is a fitting metaphor for another characteristic of millennial leadership.
While modern leadership often disciplines itself to keep colors and lines in their place, millennial leaders create a leadership collage of colors, symbols and statements. (Paradoxically, the style known as “modern art,” including the works of Matisse, Picasso and others, shunned the orderliness of previous periods of art and acted as a precursor to millennial thinking. This demonstrates the broad strokes and limitations underscored by the term “modern.”)
Some of the attributes of graffiti artists are:
Led by spirit and passion
Breaking human convention for the sake of improvement
Creating a collage of colors, styles, messages and meanings that make the world take notice
Different artists add their style to others’ art
Personal symbols and icons retain individuality.
And, graffiti often contains reoccurring elements, including:
Name or epithet
A philosophy line
Synergy created by blending multiple shapes, styles and colors
Graffiti reminds us of the improvisational, risky and outward-focused collage of Millennial leadership. This is not for the faint-hearted, nor the small-minded.
Graffiti leadership embraces risk
In response to these modern perils, the Millennial leader seeks a more elastic and organic approach. While the modern leader tries to create stability and minimize risk, the millennial leader recognizes that chaos is a byproduct of the human condition (Romans 3:23, 5:12). According to organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch, the millennial leader “embraces complexity and uncertainty and their contradictory demands.”
When researcher Lois Barrett and her colleagues studied churches that were effectively reaching young non-churchgoers they found that a reoccurring pattern was “taking risks as a contrast community.” This is a church that is learning to take risk for the sake of the gospel. It understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death and resurrection of its Lord. It is raising questions, often threatening ones, about the church’s cultural captivity and it is grappling with the ethical and structural implications of its missional vocation.
A moving example of risk-taking comes from the story of John Perkins, a black man who left Mississippi after his brother was shot by a policeman. After an encounter with Christ he retuned to Mississippi to work with children during the turbulent civic rights struggles of the 1950s. Eventually, Perkins founded a Christian ministry that included student tutoring, co-ops to share food, child care, nutrition programs, medical facilities and Bible studies. This was risky behavior in 1950s Mississippi.
The millennial leader understands such risk because as Lewis Drummond observes, “In postmodern terms, we might say that Jesus came to bring equal access and opportunity to this in substandard living condition, to give voice and identity to those other than the dominant elite and to alleviate the ravages of capitalistic imperialism and colonialist economic aggression.”
Lois Barrett concluded, “These congregations seem to be living by a set of rules different from that of dominant culture. Their priorities are different. They act against ‘common sense.’ They are trying to conform to Jesus Christ rather than to the surrounding society.”
Such risk-taking for the sake of the missio Dei is akin to the risks a graffiti artist takes for one’s craft.
In the military, relational leaders are the men and women who lead skilled teams on critical assignments. They have an immediate, urgent and vital task to perform. They may not see where their efforts fit into the bigger picture, but they are the masters of relational leadership. They lead an intentional and personal effort to build a team of interdependent soldiers. While the key to strategic leadership is forecasting and theorizing, and the contribution of tacticians is precision and allocation, the skill of the relational leader is his or her connection with their team and the ability to think creatively, improvise, adapt and be successful.
These are the skilled craftsmen that build a house and give it the working components. They are often knowledgeable in a certain predefined field such as electrical, heating/cooling, framing, etc., because of the complexity of the task. And, they like to see the immediate results of their hands. One relational leader told me, “I like to see immediate results from what I am doing. I do not have the patience to wait for an outcome. That is why I am a painter. I like to see the results right now from what I am doing.”
In contrast, the strategic leader may wait years to witness the culmination of a project, and thus may leap to a new idea before the first has come to fruition. The tactical leader is also patient in waiting for the project to be completed, but the tactical leader finds it rewarding to see that progress is being made and the end goal is getting nearer. However, for relational leaders, seeing immediate results in even small steps is one of the most rewarding parts of the process.
In the Church
My dad was a sergeant in the military, and initially a relational leader who led his small team of second service ushers successfully for four years. Like many relational leaders in our churches, Dad enjoyed getting the job done. I often remember how fulfilled and satisfied he was after church, where he had faithfully discharged his duties with his team.
In the change process
During the change process these are the church leaders who get things done. They often see things from the viewpoint of their task. If they are an usher, then as my dad, ushering seemed like the most important job in the church. Still my dad, like many relational leaders today, knew that the church was an organic organism of many functions and ministries (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:11-13). But Dad so enjoyed the task at hand, that at least for him and his giftings this was the most important job imaginable. As a result, he discharged his duties with speediness, precision, care and results.
Relational leaders have the knowledge, skill, relational abilities and dedication to get a job done. Once the parameters are defined and they see how their task fits into the bigger picture (they are helped in this by the tactical leader), the relational leader can accomplish almost anything. Anthropologist Margaret Mead observed, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” [xxvii]. And, thus the contribution of the relational leader is critical to the change process.
Relational leaders often love their job so much that they do not see themselves “moving out” of this role in the foreseeable future [xxviii].
But, if the relational leader does not have the go-between of a tactical leader, the strategic leader’s vision may be too imprecise to motivate the relational leader. Thus, we see once again while all three types of leadership are needed, it is the glue the go-between tactical leader provides that helps the relational leader move the strategic leader’s vision forward.
… How can a church gather first-hand information on the needs of its community?Let us look at three actions that can produce primary research.
Action A: Live Among Them.To ascertain community needs it helps to live among them, eating where they eat and shopping where they shop.In fact, one of 10 major factors in halting church growth is when leaders become distanced from their constituency. If this occurs church leaders will be only guessing at community needs.
Action B: Meet With Them in Group Settings.Informal gatherings, focus groups and Town Hall meetings are ways to connect with community residents. Often when people are interviewed one-on-one, they hold back their feelings.Research into group dynamics tells us that people will often expound more deeply … and expressively in groups.If the purpose is to ascertain needs, then understanding can be enhanced by group intensity.However, churches must be very careful to only solicit input and not to politic for the church’s viewpoint.To do the later will result in immediate distancing and suspicion.Guidelines for hosting effective focus groups are described in a previous book.
Action C: Don’t Clone Another Church’s Ministry.Unless necessary, don’t merely reduplicate ministry that other churches are utilizing.To do so will rob you of a locally developed and contextualized ministry.However, if your church is too small it can partner to expand its ministry.Look for other churches that are reaching out at adjacent waypoints and partner with them.Success often depends upon doctrinal and historical factors.But, if the needs of a community can be met by collaborating with another ministry, then pursue this option.
Action 15:2: Design Your Ministry from the Bottom Up
As a consultant with church clients of all sizes, I have found that the most helpful ministries are those that emerge from a collaborative effort between church leaders and needy residents.There are two elements for designing a contextualized ministry.
Action A: Inclusion.Include non-church goers in the planning and design of your ministry.<any will reject this offer because they are not yet ready to volunteer, even advice. But those who are emerging out of lower need stages may be entering the Belongingness and Love level.They will want thus to contribute, and at least give their thoughts.Yet, a natural inclination of Christian leaders is to reject such offers, feeling that the emerging person needs more time to grow or to gain more secondary knowledge (e.g. book knowledge, theological knowledge or doctrinal knowledge).But, once a traveler has had their physiological needs and safely needs met, they must be allowed to contribute, even minimally, to the ministry of a faith community.Churches can help wayfarers by inviting them to participate in the ministry planning process, and this invitation must be extended much earlier and more earnestly that most churches realize.
Action B: Allocate Sufficient Money.As noted in the first two chapters, churches customarily err on the side of either the Cultural Mandate (social action) or the Evangelistic Mandate. It was also shown that God’s intention for His church is a more holistic approach where a church ministers at many waypoints, rather than just in a narrow range.Narrow ministry becomes entrenched because churches tend to budget based upon history, rather than forecasts.A church that understands it should reach out at early waypoints will also understand that it must allocate sufficient funds to do so.Churches must evaluate what percentages of its budgets are going to support the Evangelistic Mandate and the Cultural Mandate.And, a plan can be brought about to create a balance, where roughly 50 percent of a church’s budget goes to support the Cultural Mandate and 50 percent goes to support the Evangelistic Mandate.Regardless of intentions, these mandates will never be brought into parity until finances are allocated with equivalence.
Action 15:3: Connect Your Ministry to the Community.
For a community established to communicate good news, communication is one the weakest skills in most churches. Many congregations design fantastic ministries only to have them marginally attended because residents do not know they are available.The following are three basic actions for successfully telling the community about ministries that can meet their needs.
Action A: Have a Trial-run. A church should initiate a trial-run with little initial fanfare. This will give the church an opportunity to try out the ministry without being deluged by community needs. To communicate that you are hosting a test-run, use word-of-mouth communication.
Action B: Use Indigenous Communication Channels.Church leaders often do not understand how community residents communicate.In one church’s community, fliers in self-serve laundromats communicated better than online advertising (few needy residents had regular or easy access to the Internet).Each community has developed different communication channels.If a church invites residents to participate in the planning process, then residents can share the veiled yet influential ways that news travels in their community.
Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago.Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led.Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar.“You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment.“Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.”Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later.Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households.“You go, I won’t,” Dan stated.“I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.”Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.”On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds.He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience.Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited.A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs.On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner.And, he was right.In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better.Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.
Action 15:4: Evaluate the Results
Donald McGavran called the church’s aversion to analysis the “universal fog” that blinds the church to her mission and effectiveness.And, McGavran preferred the term “effective evangelism” as the best way to describe what we should be measuring.The term “effective evangelism” has much to commend it.Evangelism, as we noted in Chapter 1, means “Good News” or a heralding of “unexpected joy.” Thus, if we are embarking as fellow travelers and guides on this journey of Good News, shouldn’t we want to travel that route more effectively?And if so, how do we measure progress?
Some mistakenly perceive that counting attendance is the best way to evaluate effectiveness. Yet, there are four types of church growth mentioned in the Bible, and growth in attendance is cited as God’s task (and not the job of the church).In two previous books I have looked at measuring these in detail, but let’s briefly examine four types of church growth and a Church Growth Metric that can measure each.
The Context: Acts 2:42-47.Here we find Luke’s description of the church’s growth that followed Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.Luke describes four types of growth.
Growth A: Growth in Maturity.In verse 42 Luke notes that the followers were growing in a passion for the apostle’s teaching, fellowship and prayer.Our first metric is to ascertain if, as a result of our need-based ministry, wayfarers are increasing in their participation in Bible study, fellowship and/or the practice of prayer.One way to measure this is to measure if people are becoming increasingly involved in study groups, fellowship networks (i.e. informal small groups) and/or joining with others for prayer.If these numbers are calculated as a percentage of overall attendance, growth in maturity may be estimated.
Growth B: Growth in Unity.Verses 44-45 describe how the church grew in unity and trust.This is much harder to measure, for it requires subjective evaluation. But, if people open up, much like Doug did about “do-gooders” then these and similar actions can indicate that ministry is creating deeper and more honest levels of communication.Unity often results from deepening levels of communication.
Growth C: Growth in Favor in the Community.Luke emphases that the church was increasingly “enjoying the favor of all the people.”Here is a metric often overlooked, which asks: is the community increasingly appreciative of the ministry the church is offering?Asking community residents for regular feedback is a way to accomplish this.One church crafted an online survey and gave away coupons for free coffee at a coffee shop for those that completed the survey. This survey was not designed to augment the church database, but was used only to ascertain if community residents felt the church was doing-good better.Another church regularly polled socially sensitive community residents such as school principals, public leaders, community organizers, business-people, etc. about how effective the church was in meeting community needs.The results were that these churches could gauge effective ministry by observing changes in community appreciation.
Growth D: Growth in More Christians.Luke concludes this paragraph about early church growth by reminding his readers that “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Luke was pointing out that because it was a supernatural intersection, it was God’s task to bring people to and through the experience of salvation.But in the preceding verses Luke emphasized that it was the church’s role to grow people in the other three types of church growth: maturity, unity and favor in the community.
Church Growth Metrics remind us that we are engaged in a task that is not about large cadres of attendees, but about the inner growth of God’s creation into 1) a deepening relationship with Him, 2) more unity among His children, and 3) in such a way that a watching world rejoices…
Action 14:2: The Good News That God Cares
A church also must understand and articulate a theology regarding God’s concern for His creation, if its congregants are going to help people move beyond Waypoint 14.Yet, a theology of creation must be a holistic theology and include not just God’s creative activity but also humankind’s woeful response. For in response to God’s gracious creation of a paradise on earth, humans chose a selfish route disobeying God’s directives and forfeiting paradise.Thought there are many elements to a theology of creation, let us look at five points that bear upon our current conversation.
Point 1:Injustice, poverty, etc. are the result of human activity, God does not desire it for his creation.When Adam and Eve forfeited the paradise of Eden, they embarked upon a journey of selfish arrogance. The Scriptures tell us their journey led to self-centeredness, injustice and greed (Genesis 3-5). Ron Sider reminds us that this disappoints God, stating “the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that God is at work in history casting down the rich and exalting the poor because frequently the rich are wealthy precisely because then have oppressed the poor or have neglected to aid the needy.”
Point 2:This injustice was not always so.God provided Adam and Eve an Eden of goodness and wholeness in every aspect of their life.Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann pointed out that the Hebrew word shalom comes closest to describing this “wholeness in every are of life, where God, creature, and creation enjoy harmonious relationships.”God had warned that disobeying him would result in aloss of this life of shalom (Genesis 2:15-17).But, Adam and Eve picked selfish choices putting to an end this world ofbalance, bless … shalom (Genesis 3).
Point 3:Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for God’s creation.Yet early on in the Genesis story, before the fall of humankind from the era of shalom, God had given humankind a task, to take care of the garden and to be a steward of it (Genesis 1:26-30).This requires Christians, to be good stewards of God’s earth and life upon it.
Point 4:Humankind was put in charge of caring (i.e. stewardship) for the needy, oppressed and disfranchised.Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”Judah was punished in part because of her mistreatment of the poor, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? (Isaiah 10:1-3).King David said, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12).And, Howard Snyder reminds us that “God especially has compassion on the poor, and his acts in history confirm this.”
Point 5: God requires his people to sacrifice for this task.Adam and Eve were put in charge of caring and cultivating the garden (Genesis 1:26-30), and this required sacrificing their own will to taste the forbidden fruit.From this beginning, serving a loving, creative God required self-sacrifice.At this sacrifice, Adam and Eve failed.In doing so they condemned their children and their children’s children to laborious toil, hostility, repression and ultimately death (Genesis 3:16-24). Still God’s desire is that His children serve and sacrifice for others.Jesus stated, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors…. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14). This sacrifice for others is exemplified in the sacrificial actions of Godly men and women in the Bible, ultimately culminating in the sacrifice of Jesus for humankind’s disobedience.
When a congregation grasps the five points above, wayfarers will understand that evil, oppression and the like are not God’s doing, but human doing.And wayfarers such as James can see that God wants Christians to help the oppressed, disenfranchised and neglected.The church must help travelers at Waypoint 14 see the Good News is that “…the sinfulness of the social order offends thoughtful Christians everywhere.”
By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/14/18.
In an attempt to describe organizations involved both locally and globally, a new term was championed by British sociologist Rolland Robertson: glocalwhich combines glo-bal with lo-cal. A host of Christian books have followed suit, using glocal as a descriptor for a congregation that is engaged in local and global ministry.
Therefore, a term more inclusive than glocal is needed. A term is required which reminds us that meeting the needs of non-churchgoers locally and globally also requires sustaining and assisting the health of a congregation of believers. A conglocal church is a congregation that has a balanced three-fold heart for foreign missions, for local missions and for congregants.
The designation conglocal reminds a congregation that it must balance its ministry to those inside the congregation, those nearby who are outside of it and those far away as well. In my consulting work, I have noticed that too many churches today spend the majority of their time looking after and meeting the needs of those within the congregation. This arises because the needs of those inside the congregation are heard the loudest and most frequent, due to social proximity.
However, the needs of those who are outside of the congregation pale in comparison with those with the church. One writer starkly reminded us that, “When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”
Conglocalbalance in your financial expenditures
A key element of balanced conglocal ministry is balancing your fiscal expenditures in each category. In one client church, the pastor stood up and boldly proclaimed that the church was now giving 20 percent of its income to local (10 percent) and global (10 percent) ministry. While this is a step in the right direction, the church’s lavish marble atrium reminded visitors that 80 percent of this congregation’s income was still spent upon itself.
If churches are to foster authentic reconciliation between haves and have-nots as well as across physical chasms, then churches must start balancing their spending. The conglocal model provides a visual cue to churches of a church’s three-fold fiscal obligations. In a church with a growing conglocal heart you will find an increasing balance in expenditures toward meeting the needs of not just congregants, but also the local and global communities.
Conglocalbalance in your church life
More than balancing need-meeting in financial expenditures, it is important to balance your fellowship congregationally, locally and globally. Most churches spend a great deal of their time getting to know the needs of those within the congregation. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it can often be out of balance. A congregation must also regularly share life and interaction with those who don’t attend their church as well as those who don’t live nearby.
Research shows that face-to-face encounters help people from different cultures and socio-economic levels accept and support one another. Such face-to-face encounters with local and global people who don’t attend your church is an important tactic to maintain a conglocal balance.
Still, some readers may say that they work 40-plus hours per week with non-churchgoers and shouldn’t this be sufficient? Regrettably, in most of those workplace interactions, there is little sharing of spiritual values. Plus, in many workplaces discussing spiritual beliefs is discouraged. Thus, the conglocal church intentionally creates opportunities for local and global non-churchgoers to graciously discuss their faith journeys.
For example, one church cancelled its Sunday morning service, telling its congregants to go into the community to “find a need and fill it.” The pastor’s intention was to get the congregants out into the community seeking to understand and meet the needs of non-churchgoers. That Sunday hundreds of congregants spread out across the city to meet needs in Jesus’ name.
While sharing this story at a seminar, I noticed the assembled Wesleyan pastors looked uncomfortable. The General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon was actually seated behind me as I spoke (which if you didn’t know Dr. Lyon, could be a disquieting prospect).
At the end of my seminar, she took the podium and addressed my puzzlement over the reaction of the pastors. “I know why some of you were uncomfortable with the idea of canceling church and going out to serve the community,” Dr. Lyon began. “I know it is because if you did, you couldn’t count those people in your monthly attendance totals. Now, I don’t know if I have the authority to do this. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you send your people out to serve non-churchgoers on a Sunday, then you can count every person they touch has having been in Jesus’ presence that day.”
Kindhearted smiles swept across the seminar participants, as they recognized that this general superintendent would not let tradition stand in the way of reaching out to those in need.
How will your church find a conglocal vision? Meeting congregational needs will create a foundation of health so the church community can reach others locally and globally. This creates a large and balanced vision for the church—a conglocal vision.
By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.
Keep these in mind when leading a small group to promote trust and maturity.
1. Trust and candidness
Patrick Lencioni, a well-known author on business management and leadership, was right. Before any team can thrive, it must at its core be bound together by trust. He defines trust in a specific way, saying, “Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.” In other words, Heart Attitude #1 means I trust that I can be vulnerable, open and exposed with the group regarding my fears, hopes and failures.
Regrettably, such vulnerability and trust do not characterize all groups, such as groups that are focused on tasks or administration. But, what if it did? What if most of a church’s small groups could transition into heart-to-heart groups. What if administrative boards, such as trustees who meet together regularly and iron out difficult problems, could begin to develop a trust where “there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group?”
2. Accountability to one another and the mission
Another important component that Lencioni emphasizes is “the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.”
However, the Christian has another accountability that is even greater than team accountability. The Christian is held accountable by God for their participation in the mission of God (the missio Dei), i.e., to participate in the loving heavenly Father’s quest to reconnect with His wayward offspring. Therefore, this attitude stresses an accountability not only to one another, but also for increasing our accountability to God’s mission of reconciling humanity to himself.
3. Discussion with conflict resolution
While chitchat is unbridled in many small group settings, it has been my observation that conflict resolution is not. Lencioni bemoans that most people avoid conflict, and “the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”
He has also observed that healthy small groups encourage open and freewheel discussion with give-and-take, disagreement without disparagement and challenge with compromise.
Scripture, along with John Wesley, reminds us that such interpersonal conflict is part of life:
Proverbs 27:17 observes, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (MSG).
And, John Wesley said about this passage that a non-churchgoer can be sharpened by “the company or conversion of a friend.”
Scriptures also remind us that unresolved conflict among Christians is not healthy, nor God’s intent. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2-3, “Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.”
And the psalmist portrays unity with wonderful poetic imagery:
“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life” (Psalm 133:1-3 MSG).
Amid such depictions and exhortations, unity in the church is still not common and will require the ability to openly discuss and resolve conflict.
If heart-to-heart groups don’t have clearly defined results or outcomes, then the group may drift aimlessly until it degenerates into self-seeking and cliquishness. Lencioni calls this the “ultimate dysfunction of a team.” The reader will be all too familiar with church groups that have deteriorated into self-serving rumor mills and self-preservation societies that are unwelcoming to outsiders. The key to heart-healthy small groups is to define the specific objectives of each group and then to measure it until it has attained them.
Thus, the final key to helping groups transition into heart-to-heart groups is to ensure that each and every group creates specific objectives and then at least yearly checks to see if they attained them.
By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.
“You can tell we hate to leave,” began Margaret. “It’s just that this sanctuary is such a comfortable place.”
“It wasn’t always like this,” interjected Mark. “Dark, dank … smelly. The sanctuary had the smell of death about it.”
As I looked around I marveled at how different the sanctuary of Armstrong Chapel Church looked today. Dark red padded pews, newly restored stained-glass windows, and polished woodwork. To this generation, most in their 70s, the beauty and care of the sanctuary represented a desire to honor God. And while younger generations might disagree, who was I to say that God was not honored by their loving care of their house of worship?
“Come this way,” beckoned Gerry. “Some still like to go out the back, but I prefer the side doors into the fellowship hall. It reminds me what God can do through a small Sunday school class.” As I passed through the double doors, I was greeted by a large and bright atrium with a glass roof. Here were milling about over 700 people, some lounging on comfortable sofas and others chatting cheerfully on lounge chairs scattered across the room. Still others laughed across café tables while sipping coffee from the church’s café.
“The two other services got out a bit earlier than us today,” continued Gerry. “But that is okay. There is still plenty of time to fellowship. Get a cup of coffee and I’ll find my daughter and grandkids. I want you to meet them.” And with that Gerry disappeared into the a crowd of laughter, merriment and smiles.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” came Margaret’s voice from behind. “To think, we were a church barely alive. Just over 15 of us in a Sunday school class and most of us serving on church committees too. Only about 30 total in church on Sundays.”
“This is a testimony to your church,” I began.
“Not quite,” interrupted Margaret. “It was the bonds of that Sunday School class that lead to this growth. We banded together and worked hard through the series of pastors the district sent us. We relied on each other in that Sunday School, and slowly the church began to grow. It has been 11 years and now we have three sanctuaries, almost all full.
“But, I still prefer our old sanctuary,” added Gerry, returning with two grandkids in tow. “We kept the old sanctuary just the way it was. But I’m glad we offer other worship options too. They connect with a lot of different ages.”
“How did you come up with your strategy: books, programs or what other churches used?” I asked.
“Partly,” came Margaret’s reply. “Our growth plan really came out of the environment of our Sunday School. It was a weekly place for us leaders to fellowship, dream, pray and plan. I can honestly say that our weekly Sunday school meetings were the place where we supported each other to grow this church. Oops, its almost time for Sunday school. Couldn’t miss it, for I still need it.”
More than a small group: A leadership laboratory
The story above illustrates how a group can bond so remarkably and deeply that they can survive deadly attacks upon a church’s heart. But not all small groups attain this inter-reliance and perseverance.
I learned from members of that Sunday school class, that their small group had bonded after many tough years where a succession of inexperienced pastors had almost killed the congregation. “Our Sunday school was the place we worked out what to do next,” remembered Margaret. “And it was the place where we sought God, insight from His word and advice from one another,” added Gerry.
For them, this was not just a Sunday School class but also a place for them to mull over the week’s challenges, seek biblical insights and learn from one another. In many ways, this Sunday school was their leadership laboratory.
This was a remarkable type of small group and one which more churches would benefit from utilizing.
Small groups customarily include less than 20 people, meet on a semi-regular basis and have participants who:
• Recognize their group as a sub-group within a larger organization.
• Have an informal or formal structure, such as a regular meeting time or place, a schedule, etc.
• Share a sense of inter-reliance and mutual dependence
• Communicate more intimately than they would in a larger group.
• Dream, plan and innovate in a supportive environment.
• Influence one another and stick together.
• Feel that their most intimate needs can be met through the group’s help.
What is a heart-to-heart group?
A “heart-to-heart group” is a good way to describe groups that meet some or most of the above seven criteria. Participants are sharing at a deep emotional and heart level. And, this intimacy and inter-reliance makes them the idea venue for spiritual questioning, maturity and creativity.
As we saw in the story, heart-to-heart groups play an important role in helping people stay connected to a church and plan for its future even when the church is undergoing conflict, challenges and discord. Here are some of the benefits of small groups:
Benefits of heart-to-heart groups
1. It was in small intimate group settings that Jesus:
Answered His disciples’ questions about theology, history and the future (Matthew 24:1-3).
Modeled for them healing and how to pray for those in need (Matthew 10:5-10).
Rebuked the disciples’ willful attitudes and ideas (Luke 16:13).
2. Researchers have found that in healthy churches:
77 percent of church attendees say their small group participation is very important for them (Stetzer and Rainer).
64 percent say new members are immediately taught about the importance of small groups (Stetzer and Rainer).
“A member is almost guaranteed to leave the church or become inactive in the church if he or she does not get involved in an ongoing small group” (Rainer).
3. Secular researchers have found that in healthy organizations:
“The small group is the unit of transformation” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
“(Small groups) will remain the basic unit of both performance and change because of their proven capacity to accomplish what other units cannot” (P. Block Katzenbach and Smith).
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” (M. Mead).
Because small groups are so effective in helping people support one another and develop closer relationships, they have been a reoccurring theme in church history. In actuality, any small group of people that meets together on a semi-regular basis is a candidate for becoming a heart-to-heart group— Bible groups, prayer groups, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, worship teams, sports teams, administrative committees, etc. Consider how you may implement these types of group in the settings where you lead.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 5/29/19.
Jesus called His Church to come out from among the restless divisiveness of Jerusalem and be an avenue for God’s remarkable love for neighbor and God. The very words the biblical authors used for God’s love in the Old Testament (chesed) and in the New Testament (agape) described God’s steadfast, committed and pursuant love. This uncommonly potent and persistent love was the love the Church was to reflect.
Here are five principles to focus your church on reflecting God’s love and reaching those who are hurting and longing for security.
1. Not condemnation, but aid.
Shunning and shaming is a tactic that rarely works when people are suffering. Chiding people with statements such as, “You are wrong. You are sinning!” is usually not productive. In fact, Jesus emphasized that conviction of sin is not the church’s job, stating:
If I don’t go away, the Companionwon’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
When he comes:
He will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me.
He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore.
He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned” (John 16:8-9, italics added for emphasis).
Jesus’ repeated use of the emphatic “He will show the world…” reminded His hearers that despite the tendency of religious people to condemn and shame, conviction was the duty of the Holy Spirit.
However, the human role is to pray and rehabilitate, not persecute. The Church’s task is thus to provide aid with candor and honesty. Such a church becomes not so much an abode of recluse saints, as a community of caregivers.
2. Unfiltered agape love.
To help those ravaged by violence and abuse, the church must be a front of unrelentless and unfiltered love by reflecting the agapelove of the heavenly Father. Cambodian refugee Somaly Mam movingly writes, “I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen, and yes, love can make change.”
Unfiltered love does not mean turning a blind eye or disregarding sin. Rather unfiltered love means that it is truthful love that is not filtered by contempt, by disapproval, by scorn and/or by oddity. Unfiltered love emerges when caregivers realize that but for the mercy of God they could be in the same predicament and in need of the same consolation.
Also, everyone in a safe-haven church seeks her or his role in caregiving. Everyone seeks to do one’s part in fostering an environment of love and health, where the ill-treated and injured can recover.
3. Take the ill-treated into our daily life (i.e., home).
A helpful scripture that sums up theimportance of a haven is Romans 15:7. Paul, addressing the divided world illustrated in the story that began this chapter, states, “So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory.”
The word the Common English Bible (CEB) translates “welcome” is translated in other versions as “accept” (i.e., NIV). Still, the Greek word carries the welcoming idea better than the latter, indicating “the idea is to take something or someone to oneself, illustrated by inviting someone into your home.”
Therefore, this scripture might be paraphrased as the following.
“In the same way that Christ also welcomed you,” the church “for God’s glory should take the stranger into our life in all the ways that would mirror taking them into our personal residence” (Romans 15:7 paraphrased).
This would mean meeting their daily physical needs and their emotional needs. Today, when so many people have suffered violence striding brazenly and victoriously through their world, it is critical that the Church sees her task as not an intermediary (pointing those in need to others) but as primary caregiver (meeting others’ needs directly).
4. Compassion and assistance for the ill-treated.
As we create safe-havens taking more and more needy people into our faith community, all Christians must grow in their ability to render effective assistance. Our human inclination is to be self-seeking and to pull back from others’ needs. And so, putting first and then meeting the needs of others becomes difficult.
However, to overcome this limitation it is helpful to recall that humans are created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Christians thus should reflect His image in their actions. But, how do we live out God’s image? It becomes easier if we follow theologian Anthony Hoekema’s suggestion that the image of God is best viewed as a verb rather than a noun.
Hoekema states, “We should think of the image of God… not as a noun but as a verb: we no longer image God as we should; we are not being enabled by the Spirit to imageGod more and more adequately; someday we shall image God perfectly.” So, the Church’s task is to imageor modelGod more clearly, through daily welcoming and attending to those ravaged by a heartless world.
5. Standing up for those ill-treated.
Being created in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) also means that all people, regardless of how they feel about their heavenly Creator, are nonetheless created in His image. This requires the Church to hold accountable any person who tramples that image, for such action offends God and should also offend the church. Oscar A. Romero stated:
As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images….whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.
Safe-haven churches are thus not only settings for healing, but also for advocacy. They remain connected to the downtrodden and disheartened; standing up for their rights as well as giving them a pathway back to health.
I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal…. Look at their responses:
Our primary goal is to survive as a church
Our primary goal is to provide a warm and caring fellowship.
Our primary goal is to win souls to Christ.
Our primary goal is to influence community morals for the better.
None of the above
…Yet, a cure for the common church is much bigger, for it is a church-wide refocus back to Jesus’ goal for his church
Jesus’ Goal for the Church
The right answer for Figure 5.1 is actually “none of the above” and comes from Jesus’ own words[I] … To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)
Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB, commissioning verbs are underlined)
Jesus came near and spoke to them,
“I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service…
Christians, too, are called to put their lives on the line in Jesus’ great commissioning. Here is what others have said about this passage (Figure 5.3):
The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission
Because this Great Commission is so important, it is not surprising that each word, each phrase that Jesus uttered in Matthew 28:19-20 seems to have been chosen carefully to convey his message. Jesus undoubtedly knew that believers down through history would return to this passage as they contemplated the goal of their spiritual community.
…Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three…
Finding the main verb
In the English, the four verbs seem equal. But, when Jesus spoke these words, he pronounced one verb with a special spelling, thereby indicating that this verb was the main verb or “goal” of the passage. Which verb was Jesus pointing to as the goal of his Great Commission? You must wait a few paragraphs to find out.
3 verbs tell “how” – only 1 verb tells us “the goal”
Three … verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]
So, which three verbs are participles (telling us “how”) and which one verb is the main verb (telling us the “goal”)? The spelling of the Greek verbs indicates the following:[vi]
Therefore, the uncommon church’s goal must not the “going,” the “baptizing” or even the “teaching.” These are the “hows.” In the words Jesus chose he made clear that for the uncommon church he was founding, it was “making disciples” that was the goal.
What Do Disciples look like?
Picturing a Disciple
…Begin with the Greek word matheteusate, which means “a learner, a pupil or an apprentice.”[i] It carries the image of a trainee or a student still in school more than it depicts an expert. Christ is commanding his followers not to produce experts, but rather to foster a community of authentic learners. Following Jesus should feel like you are enrolled in his school of learning. Therefore, a church is not a cadre of experts, but a collage of fellow learners.
Theologians have sought to convey the rich and multifaceted meaning of the verb: “make disciples” in several ways.
Donald McGavran[ii] said …… “It means enroll in my (Jesus’) school…”
Eddie Gibbs[iii] stated ………… “It is learning, not simply through being given information, but in learning how to use it. Discipleship is an apprenticeship rather than an academic way of learning. It is learning by doing.”
James Engel[iv] summarized…“In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age.”
An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple
From a closer look at the words Jesus used, we see that the goal of every church is to help people become “a community of active, ongoing learners.”[v] It is not just to baptize or to teach as we are going out (though all of these are “hows” of the disciple making process). The goal, toward which a church should focus its attention and its resources is to produce people that are actively learning about their heavenly Father.
Still, this goal includes binding up their wounds, meeting their needs before they even know who Christ is, standing up for their justice and righting their wrongs. But all of these worthy actions if they become the goal, will make your mission misdirected. God’s goal, the purpose he has for every church, is to reconnect his wayward offspring to himself (the essence of the missio Dei). And, the church’s goal (Figure 5.6) is to foster this reunification by helping people become learners about a loving, seeking Father.
The Goal of the Church Defined
While the common church has mistaken many “hows” for the “goal,” Figure 5.6 is the goal against which the uncommon church will be measured. In our commissioning, Jesus has handed us a different measuring stick.
Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church
The goal of a church is …
To make active, ongoing learners.
(i.e. learning about a heavenly Father who loves them, sacrificed his Son for them and who wants to reunite and empower them.)
Jesus wants the uncommon church to focus upon reuniting his wayward offspring with him by making active, ongoing learners about his great love, sacrifice and future for them. And so, be careful not to make some of the following common missteps.
Teaching without learning: If a church is teaching many people, but few are actively learning over a long period of time, the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
Having learned once, but not learning now: If a person has learned once, perhaps in the past at school or as a child but is not learning now, then the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
Baptizing without ongoing learning: And, if the church is baptizing many souls, but there is little ongoing education about what it means to follow Christ, then that church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
[i] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 486-487.
[ii] Donald McGavran, Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1988), p. 17.
[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Body Building Exercises for the Local Church (London: Falcon Press, 1979), p. 74.
[iv] James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979), 66.
[v] The “ongoing” emphasis in making disciples is created by both the preface of Matthew 28:18-20 (whereby Jesus declares his command is a result of non-temporal authority, v. 18) and by the aorist tense of make disciples, which can convey the sense of an action that should commence at once.
[i]I am not saying that winning souls to Christ is not important and central to God’s mission, for it is. As I have stated in the first chapters of this book (and in every one of my previous nine books) reuniting wayward offspring to their heavenly Father so they can receive salvation from their sin, gain new purpose and enter eternal life is the mission of God (i.e. missio Dei) in which we are called to participate (Matt. 28:19-20). However, the point I am making here is that “winning souls” is a supernatural connection that though we can help facilitate, is something only God can accomplish (see for instance Acts 2:47 where Luke writes, “The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved”). Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, gives his church not the task of soul-saving (he reserves that right for himself), but rather gives the church the task of “making learners about him.” If a church is making learners about God, then he can supernaturally connect with them through their growing knowledge of his love and bring them into a reconciled relationship with himself. Thus, in this chapter I will show that “making learners of Christ” is the task for which the church should aim, and when we connect people with their loving Father this way, he can add “daily to the community those who were being saved.”
[ii] David Bosch has rightly pointed out that you cannot fully understand the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 without an understanding of Matthew’s gospel as a whole. The reader who wants a fuller appreciation for the power and influence of the Great Commission in context should see David J. Bosch’s chapter “Matthew: Mission as Disciples-Making” in Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 20th ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), pp. 56-83.
[iii] Hudson Taylor quoted by Stan Toler, Practical Guide to Solo Ministry: How Your Church Can Thrive When You Lead Alone (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008), p. 136; C. T. Studd quoted by David l. Marshall, To Timbuktu and Beyond: A Missionary Memoir (New York: Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 87; William Carey quoted by A. Scott Moreau, Gary B. McGee and Gary R. Corwin in Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 201; and C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis (New York: HarperOne, 2002), p. 96.
[iv] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 274-275. A good way to think of this is that the participles (go, baptizing, teaching) tell “how” making disciples is done. Thus, to the question, “How do you make disciples?” one could answer “by going (means) and baptizing (manner) and teaching” (manner).
[v] The relationship between the three participles and the imperative “make disciples” has been described by Robert Culver as “the words translated ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’ are participles. While these participles are immensely important the imperative ‘make disciples’ is of superlative importance.” “What is the Church’s Commission,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, July 1968), p. 244.
[vi] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 280 states “a greater emphasis is placed on the action of the main verb than on the participle. That is, the participle is something of a prerequisite before the action of the main verb can occur” (italics Wallace). In other words, the “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching” are prerequisites that must occur before the action of the main verb (“making disciples”) can take place.
The modern leader has lived most of life in a realm of “command and control.” Command and control is necessary in crisis situations, such as warfare or firefighting. For Baby Boomers born after World War II, the command and control way of leadership became a popular leadership style in business and the church.
Modern leaders of this generation believe the way to succeed is to control through power, rewards, and punishments. Slow cycles that grew out of an agricultural economy began to affect business principles, where the agricultural approach of “command and control” began to be applied to the business world. Like breaking a horse, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job,” Frederick Taylor famously intoned. Subsequently, modern leaders bristle at the thought of losing control. When wrestling with the freedom found in emerging networks, the modern leader tends to try to exert control through ownership. In the ever democratizing world of electronic communication, control through ownership is increasingly difficult.
Modern leaders attempt to take possession of networks that shape them. In business, this often means controlling access by charging a fee and thus reinforcing a modern notion of ownership. In the church, we may do this by restricting access to those times and places the modern leader deems fitting. Former Silicon Valley executive Rusty Rueff noted, “Movie theatres have long tried to control mobile phone signal in their movie theatres. They say it is because it disturbs people. Really, they don’t want teens text-messaging their friends that the movie is dreadful.” From the days of passing notes in church, to text-messaging a friend far removed from the church sanctuary, church leaders have also tried to limit the location and occasion of electronic communication.
Millennial leaders who have grown up in the expanding world of communication networks, view these networks as public property. And, to restrict access or monopolize them seems tyrannical. Modern leaders may recall similar unfair restrictions. At one time, restaurants and businesses charged a fee to use the restrooms. Charging a fee or otherwise restricting network access should seem just as illogical to leaders today.
Millennial Attitude: Networks should be accessible
Rueff, who serves as an advisor to the president at Purdue University, recently showed a picture of a classroom at that university. Of the almost 100 students assembled, every one was sitting behind a laptop computer. “Think of when this will happen in your church,” Rusty Rueff, the former Silicon Valley executive, said. “What do you do in church? Is there a place for those who want to communicate with laptops? Or would an usher ask them to put their computer away?”
Immediate, Even Critical Feedback. In a millennial world where unfettered networking is routine, millennial church leaders are starting to accommodate instant feedback. Some young churches have an “ask assertive environment” where those who disagree are encouraged to state their differences of opinion, even during the sermon. Millennial congregations such as Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis regularly invite questions or challenges from the audience during the sermon. Even millennial megachurches such as Mars Hill Church in Granville, Michigan, sometimes welcome a congregant on the stage to ask the preacher questions during the sermon (since the audience is too vast for everyone to shout out a query). Leo Safko, author of the Social Media Bible calls this “a fundamental shift in power … no longer does the consumer trust corporate messages … they want to be educated by, hear their news from, and get their product reviews by people they know and trust.”
At recent conferences I keynoted, participants were given a keypad so they could rate the presentation and/or their understanding of the content in real time. Even now increasingly smaller smartphones allow electronic feedback as presentations unfold. Though modern leaders might initially resist such quick and honest feedback in the church, the day is not far off when immediate, even critical feedback will be visually displayed in our churches in much the same manner that words are displayed to a song.
Fact checking and further research. Allowing laptops and smart-phones into churches may at first seem disruptive, but it will enhance understanding as it allows checking of facts and further research on a topic. I remember sitting in college classes, balancing a three-inch (or so it seemed) textbook on one knee, while holding in my left hand a large diagram of the human organs. Amid this balancing act, I tried desperately to write what the professor was stating. Today, multiple items sit neatly on computer desktops where only a flick of a mouse pad is required to separate sources or conduct further research.
The accessible church describes a church that is accessible via as many social networks as possible.
The accessible church creates networks that reach out to those in need. Meeting the needs of the disenfranchised is a priority among millennial leaders. Expanding network access should not be limited to just Christians who attend a church, but to those outside as well. One congregation in Edmonton, Alberta started a church plant in an Internet café. Unexpectedly, the free Internet access they offered met the needs of a large Asian-American community in the neighborhood that did not have computer access. As a result this accessible church in an Internet café created an ongoing network with a growing Asian-American community.
The accessible church fosters instantaneous research and feedback at teaching venues, including during the sermon.Because Christianity is an experience- and knowledge-based faith, access to information can foster a better understanding about God. The accessible church can offer Internet access at teaching times such as during sermons, Sunday school, committee meetings, etc. Many modern leaders bristle at the thought of laptops and Smartphones being used during church, but so did professors several years ago (only to lose the battle). At one time sound systems, video projectors, guitars and even pipe-organs were banned from many churches. Though uncomfortable at first, new ways of communication and exploration will emerge, first among these cutting-edge millennial congregations, and eventually among everyone else. When speaker Stan Toler speaks to younger audiences he often uses instant messaging so attendees can ask their questions via a Smartphone while he is still speaking. He then displays their questions on the screen and answers them during his lecture.
The accessible church provides on-line communities to augment its off-line fellowship. Online communities “felt the connection and affinity they experienced in these groups fully justified their designations as a form of community.” Online communities often enhance off-line friendships. A church offering a 12-step program can create an online group in which participants can dialogue between meetings. Groups, committees, Sunday School classes and small groups can create, share and edit documents via Web-based word processors, such as Google Docs. These online documents allow collaborative work (such as designing a Bible study) prior to face-to-face meetings. Online communities can allow those who have special needs or limited time/resources to still feel like full participants in the community. In the same way that Robert Schuller continued a life-long ministry to drive-in worshippers because a physically-challenged lady’s husband requested it, online communities can engage people who might be challenged in their ability to physically connect with a church.
Leaders having little experience with online communities may wonder about their cohesiveness, value and permanency, but those who have seen them in action know that increasing accessibility to the church community only enhances the faith experience.
by Bob Whitesel, Biblical Leadership Magazine, April 19, 2018.
Turning trials into triumphs created a degree of fame for the Wesleys. John, who had become a teaching fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford, came to the attention of James Oglethorpe, whose efforts for prison reform prompted the Oxford prison ministry of the Wesleys and their friends.
Now Oglethorpe had a bigger vision. He was a founder of the colony of Georgia, covering roughly the northern half of the modern-day state of Georgia. It was there Oglethorpe envisioned a haven for people who had been imprisoned in debtors’ prisons. In this vast colony, there was no official Church of England or designated pastor. In 1735 John Wesley became Oglethorpe’s choice to pastor the first church in the colony.
To Wesley, this was an opportunity to experience Christ more deeply by preaching to others in the unpretentious, natural environs of the New World.1 Little did he realize this experience would bring one of his greatest trials.
This church launch was well organized. Financial support was secured in advance and a meetinghouse in Savannah was designed. As they embarked from Gravesend, England, John felt everything was in order. Yet, in hindsight, John would recall his life was not in order spiritually.
Accompanying them on the voyage were German Christians called Moravians, after the region from which they came. They believed humility coupled with quiet reflection upon Scriptures and Christ was helpful in strengthening faith. John had the opportunity to observe their method firsthand when the ship encountered several unusually destructive storms. As one relentless storm dismasted the ship, hardened sailors abandoned their posts and cried out to God for mercy.
John, too, had a fear of death, which had developed prior to his Oxford years when he attended Charterhouse School in London. A hospital was housed in the same building as the school, and young John daily watched individuals die, some in comfort, others in fear.
As the ship appeared to be sinking with all hands doomed, the Moravians showed not fear but trust. They sang and praised God with a confidence and calm that moved John to declare it as one of most glorious things he had ever seen.2
At the same time, John’s reaction to the ship’s peril showed him he was no different from the fainthearted sailors. He too was “unwilling to die,” shaking with fright and crying out to God to save him.3 This was not the example he wanted to show to those who traveled with him. Nonetheless, that was his experience at this stage of his life.4
The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience.
Exiled to Babylon as a young man of twenty, Ezekiel, like Wesley, had been trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest. But in Babylon, Ezekiel found himself in a new land with a new role. When Ezekiel was thirty, about the same age as Wesley when he went to Georgia, God revealed His power to the prophet in a vision (Ezekiel 1:4—3:15). That vision made Ezekiel realize the inevitability of judgment upon each person for their sins. Later, God showed Ezekiel another vision, indicating that though His people felt as good as dead, God could recreate them as living, healthy people.
He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 37:4–6)
John Wesley must have felt the same way. Though he had had early success in ministry, when the threat of death came near he found himself empty, discouraged, and unprepared.
This might have been how Ezekiel felt looking upon the disheartened Israelites who had been deported into Babylonian captivity. Yet just as God gave Ezekiel a vision of a revived nation, John would soon be revived too. In hindsight, John would describe these times of discouragement as the product of his fair-weather faith, stating:
I went to America to convert the Indians, but O! Who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near, but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled.5
From these stories emerge at least two lessons.
1. Early success can lead to overconfidence.
Some people encounter early successes they are never able to replicate. It’s important not to live in the past or on past glory. The lesson for John, and for every enthusiast, is God may give you early triumphs only for them to be followed by trials. But as God reminded Ezekiel, God can again bring about triumphs in our ministries and in our souls if we allow our faith to mature.
During Wesley’s life, he wrestled several more times with fair-weather faith. Though he felt like his life and career had dried up, he discovered fair-weather faith could be reinvigorated by God.
2. Fear of death can test our readiness to be judged for our life.
From the stories of John Wesley and Ezekiel, take the lesson that a fair-weather faith must be replaced by “a mind calmed by the love of God.”6
Consider what God’s Word says about this:
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me. (Psalm 23:4)
Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Consider these questions
Have you found yourself thinking back to past successes, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities? Recall a time when you had a spiritual breakthrough. How did it make you feel? What lessons did you learn?
Now picture in your mind a future success that could make you feel the same way. In the future, use this rule of thumb: for each minute you spend thinking about past successes, spend two minutes dreaming about what God can do.
Ask yourself, “When have I been near death, and how did I feel about the prospect of standing before God?” Were you timid? Were you fearful? Were you happy? Wesley would write years later to a friend, “Do you sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus? Do you never shrink at death? Do you steadily desire to depart and to be with Christ?”7
A helpful metaphor toward depicting this planned and purposeful process, is that such bridge building can be thought of as a journey. A journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process, requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.
Sociologists James Engle and Wilbert Norton depicted this journey as a processes of deepening communication. They noted that it took place over time with a variety of adaptations, stating “Jesus and His followers … always began with a keen understand of the audience and then adapted the message to the other person without compromising God’s Word. The pattern they followed is as pertinent today as was two thousand years ago”[i]
Richard Peace, professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation at Fuller Seminary, looked carefully at the 12 disciples in the New Testament and concluded that a step-by-step process unfolds through which the disciples eventually have a transforming experience.[ii] Peace calls this “process evangelism,” summing up,
“The Twelve came to faith over time via a series of incidents and encounters with, and experiences of, Jesus. Each such event assisted them to move from their initial assumptions about Jesus to a radically new understanding of who he actually was. In his Gospel, Mark invites his readers to make this same pilgrimage of discovery.”[iii]
Esther de Wall, in The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination notes that the Christian life has always been viewed as a journey, stating,
“Life seen as a journey, an ascent, a pilgrimage, a road, is an idea as old as man himself. One of the earliest titles for Christians at the time of the Acts was “the people of the way’. We see the individual Christian as a pilgrim on earth having here no abiding city; we speak of the Church, particularly since Vatican II, as a pilgrim church. But we cannot think of life as a journey without accepting that is must involve change and growth.”[iv]
Lesslie Newbigin sums this up nicely, saying that “as a human race we are on a journey and we need to know the road. It is not true that all roads lead to the top of the same mountain. There are roads which lead over the precipice. In Christ we have been shown the road … God has given us the route we must follow and the goal to which we must press forward.”[v] Thus, the journey metaphor accommodates the imagery of planned, deliberate and unfolding bridge-building across cultural chasms.
“The Holism of a Journey”
A journey also denotes a flexible progression with varying scenarios, milestones, interruptions and course corrections. The journey metaphor conjures up the image of strenuous assents, downhill traces, varying impediments and careful mapping. Maps, sextants, and modern GPS devices attest to the desire of a traveler to pinpoint where she or he may be on their journey. Thus, the use of the journey metaphor accentuates the importance of understanding place in relation to process. Wilbert Shenk emphasized that the “flaw” with most thinking about outreach is that the “parts rather than the whole” are emphasized.[vi]
The metaphor of a journey can help overcome this flaw, by emphasizing the totality of the journey. In three separate books, Ryan Bolger,[vii] Eddie Gibbs,[viii] and this author[ix] have noted that younger generations seek holistic understandings of evangelism that do not separate the Great Commission (to make disciples of all people) from the Great Commandment (to love one’s neighbor as oneself). Gibbs and Bolger suggest this be viewed as “different sides of the same coin”[x] which is an attractive metaphor because only one substance is involved. But, coin imagery suggests that the coin at some point must be flipped over, and a new emphasis begins. The coin imagery in this author’s mind, unfortunately separates into two phases the inseparable progression of a common and continual journey.
Author Bryan McLaren appropriates the term “story” to describe this process, noting,
If you ask me about the gospel, I’ll tell you as well as I can, the story of Jesus, the story leading up to Jesus, the story of what Jesus said and did, the story of what happened as a result, or what has been happening more recently today even. I’ll invite you to become part of that story, challenging you to change your whole way of thinking (to repent) in light of it, in light of him. Yes, I’ll want you to learn about God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, and about the gift of salvation.”[xi]
This is a more attractive metaphor. But still, a story is static, inflexible and even when modernized … historically captive. It carries none of the dynamic, flexible and indigenous attributes of the varying obstacles, excursions, accompaniments and progressions encountered on a journey. Thus, the imagery of a journey better highlights continuity, commonality and elasticity. And, a journey is often a communal undertaking, and thus the journey metaphor accommodates the idea of accompaniment, companionship and inter-reliance.
“A Journey of Breaking and Refreshing News”
The term evangelism is maligned today, often associated with churches that coerce or force conversion in a self-seeking or exploitive manner. Yet Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourn Magazine, argues that a response to bad religion, should be better religion.[xii] In similar fashion, the argument could be made that our response to bad evangelism should be better evangelism.
Such disparagement was not always the case. The term evangelism originally signified breaking and revitalizing news. Evangelism is an English translation of the Greek work euangelion (Matthew 24:14), which described the “good news” that Christ and His followers personified and preached.[xiii] Customarily an optimistic message brought by a courier, euangelion was a combination of the Greek words “good” (eu) and “messenger” “angel” or “herald” (angelion). For early hearers “to evangelize” or “to bring Good News” carried the connotation of great responsibility, fantastic insights with more news to follow. Alan Richardson says, “for those who thus receive it the gospel is always ‘new’, breaking in freshly upon them and convincing them afresh…”[xiv]
Because evangelism is a process of bringing this refreshing and breaking news, it is logical that not all of that news could be communicated at one hearing. Because the news we bear is both deep and broad, it requires a journey of dialogue. And as with any subject, this news is best understood when the learning starts with the basics and the moves into more complex and complicated themes.
“Is the Joy in the Trekking, Or In the Destination?”
Some readers may wonder if merely heading out on this journey of Good News might be sufficiently rewarding, feeling that the recompense is in the going. Robert Lewis Stevenson once famously intoned, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”[xv] While a trek by itself can be a rewarding experience, the journey of which we speak is comprised, as Doug and I discovered, of life changing renovations and eternal destinations. Such consequence indicates that simply enjoying the journey along an adventuresome route is not sufficient.
John Stott reminds us that there are spiritual triumphs on this journey and their importance dwarfs even the excitement of the trek., writing:
Evangelism relates to people’s eternal destiny, and in brining them Good News of salvation, Christians are doing what nobody else can do. Seldom if ever should we have to choose between satisfying physical huger and spiritual hunger, or between healing bodies and saving souls, since an authentic love for our neighbor will lead us to serve him or her as a whole person. Nevertheless, if we must choose, then we have to say that the supreme and ultimate need of humankind is the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that therefore a person’s eternal, spiritual salvation is of greater importance than his or her temporal and material well being.[xvi]
Howard Snyder, in his book The Community of the King, agrees with Stott, stating that,
Evangelism is the first priority of the Church’s ministry in the world (italics Snyder). This is true for several reason: the clear biblical mandate for evangelism; the centrality and necessity of personal conversion in God’s plan; the reality of judgment; the fact that changed persons are necessary to change society; the fact that the Christian community exists and expands only as evangelism is carried out. The Church that fails to evangelize is both biblically unfaithful and strategically shortsighted.[xvii]
Wagner creates a good summation, stating “When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the words that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”[xviii]
Some rightly fear that prioritizing either one can undermine the other. Concern about this could be a reason for the evangelical church’s nearsightedness. But Snyder reminds us that, “an evangelism that focuses exclusively on souls or on an otherworldly transaction which makes no real difference here and how is unfaithful to the gospel.”[xix] As such, both the trek and it’s destination are important.
[i] James F. Engel and Wilbert Norton, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 35.
[ii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). Peace offers a helpful examination of Mark’s account of the 12 disciples and their conversionary experiences. Peace argues that they were not converted while traveling with Jesus as members of his apostolic band, but that Mark’s Gospel is organized in part to underscore that “were brought step-by-step to the experience of repentance and faith,” 12.
[xi] Brian McLaren, The Method, the Message, and the Ongoing Story,” in Leonard Sweet, ed., The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 214-215. For a critique of McLaren’s perspective see Martin Downes, “Entrapment: The Emerging Church Conversation and the Cultural Captivity of the Gospel,” in Reforming or Conforming: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church, ed.s Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald N. Gleason (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 224-243.
[xii] Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and The Left Doesn’t Get It (New York: HarperOne, 2006), 66.
[xiii] Though familiar to the New Testament hearer this term would be strangely unique because it was rarely used as a verb, i.e. “to evangelize.”
[xiv] Alan Richardson, A Theological Word Book of the Bible, ed. Alan Richardson (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1950), 100.
[xv] Robert Louis Stevenson, Selected Writings, “Travels With A Donkey in Cevennes: An Inland Voyage” (New York: Random House, 1947), 957
[xvi] John Stott, Evangelism and Social Responsibility, 25.
[xvii] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press), 101.
[xviii]Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1981), 52.
Personally I use the term “spiritual transformation” because it is a more precise descriptor for the often over applied term “conversion.” In fact here are just a few of the ways that the word conversion can be applied today:
“Conversion to Christianity… There is an abundance of literature dealing with different types of conversion and the author is indebted to Richard Peace for classifying these varieties (1).
> Secular conversions, where a drug addict might be transformed from drug dependence to a drug-free lifestyle.
> There are manipulative conversions, where coercion is used by a cult (2) or a government (3).
> There is conversion between religious worldviews, for instance the conversion from Sikhism to Hinduism that is taking place in India.
> And, there is conversion from one Christian denomination to another, for instance when popular Catholic priest Rev. Alberto Cutie (nicknamed “Father Oprah”) converted to the US Episcopal denomination.”
The term “spiritual conversion” is thus a more precise term though perhaps not precise enough to always designate conversion to Christ. However in lieu of a more precise term and to not muddy the meaning too greatly, I usually embrace the term “spiritual transformation” or “spiritual transformation in Christ.”
(1) Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 7-11.
(2) For more on manipulative conversion see Flo Conway and Hi Siegelman, Snapping America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978). For an overview of the New Testament milieu of conversion, and varieties of conversion in secular life, see A. D. Nock’s classic historical treatise Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1933).
(3) Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China (New York: Norton, 1961).
This is another video introduction I’ve recorded for my colleagues, students and clients regarding how to prevent group exit. Students may find this video helpful in understanding their homework on the topic.
More notes that can help the learner watching this presentation are available at the link below:
The average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[i]
[i] Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 (Hartford, CT: Program on Public Values, 2009) and Duke University, National Congregations Study, http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/index.html
The method … “gave rise to church denominations such as the
United Methodist Church,
African Methodist Episcopal Church,
African Methodist Episcopal Zion,
Christian Methodist Episcopal,
Christian and Missionary Alliance,
Church of God in Christ,
Church of the Nazarene,
Assemblies of God,
Church of God (both Tennessee and Indiana affiliations),
Church of Christ,
many others and of course, Wesleyans.
Today, 26% of the Protestant Church around the globe can be traced back to these “enthusiasts.”(1) What could God do in the next century if we reclaimed their methods?“(2)
John Wesley was the most influential Christian leader since the Apostle Paul because he carried out the Great Commission in it entirety. When Wesley died, there were 243 Methodist churches in the United States. By the War of 1812, there were 5000 Methodist churches. Wesley not only preached the gospel to lost people, he raised up an army of circuit riding preachers, each one of them planting up to 50 – 100 churches. Within in one generation after the death of John Wesley, his movement, the Methodist Church – became the largest protestant movement in the world. (Elmer L. Towns, Nov. 3, 2014, Co-founder and Vice President, Liberty University, Dean of The Liberty University School of Theology)
So, what is the Method?
(1) Geordan Hammond, Ph.D., F.R.Hist.S., director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre, Manchester, England, email message to author, 2017.
(2) Bob Whitesel, Enthusiast! Finding a Faith that Fills (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2018), p. 17.