MOSIAC CHURCHES & Understanding Graffiti Leadership by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 2/21/19.

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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:

  • Risk-takers
  • Improvisers
  • 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.

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission.

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/understanding-graffiti-leadership/

LEADERSHIP & Why Relational Leaders Are the Glue to Hold a Team Together by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 9/13/19.

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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.

In architecture

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.

Characteristics

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.

This is the fourth article in a series of articles on 3-STRand Leadership. Check out the third, “What is tactical leadership?” by Bob Whitesel. Click here for footnotes.

Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007).

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-relational-leaders-are-the-glue-to-hold-a-team-together/

NEED-MEETING & How to design outreach that is founded upon meeting the needs of those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, “Waypoint 16: No Awareness of a Supreme Being” Waypoint 15: Awareness of a Supreme Being, No knowledge of the Good News” and “Waypoint 14: Initial Awareness of the Good News” in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Spiritual Waypoints [cropped top 1:3 65kb]

Waypoint 15

Action 15:1: Research Needs

… 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 a  loss of this life of shalom (Genesis 2:15-17).  But, Adam and Eve picked selfish choices putting to an end this world of  balance, 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.”

Read more by downloading the chapter here (but remember, if you enjoy the input please purchase a copy to support the publisher and the author): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 16, 15, 14

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

VISION & Creating a Balanced Vision for Your Church by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/14/18.

IMG_2087In 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.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/

 

SMALLER GROUPS & 4 Attitudes to Cultivate in a Small Group by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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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.

4.  Results

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.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

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Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-attitudes-to-cultivate-in-a-small-group/

 

SMALL GROUPS & How Small Groups Help Any Church Survive by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 09/12/18.

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“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.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

Photo source: istock

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-small-groups-help-a-church-survive/

 

HAVEN & 5 Principles for Making Your Church a Haven by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine. #HealthyChurchBook from @WPHbooks

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 5/29/19.

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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.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heartby Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)

Photo source: istock 

Read more of the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-principles-for-making-your-church-a-haven/

SERMON & Jesus Commissioned You to Reach This 1 Important Goal …

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/15/19.

What is the Goal of a Church?

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 38 %
Our primary goal is to provide a warm and caring fellowship. 22 %
Our primary goal is to win souls to Christ. 21 %
Our primary goal is to influence community morals for the better. 11 %
None of the above 8 %

…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.”

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

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):

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 5.3 Comments on Great Comm copy.jpg

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…

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 5.4 Four Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

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]

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 1-2 Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel CURE 3-4 Verbs Great Comm copy.jpg

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.”

Excerpted from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health, chapter “How to Grow Learners.” Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 5 WHY LEARNers

Footnotes:

[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.

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention #Kingswood2018 #sermon

TECHNOLOGY & Why the secret is accessibility, not control. #MinistryMattersMagazine @BobWhitesel #ORGANIXbook #GenZ

Whitesel Ministry Matters page full

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Modern Miscue: Seek to control networks.

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.

Nurturing Accessibility

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.

This article is excerpted and adapted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, Chapter 6, “Networks.” Used by permission and it can also be found in Ministry Matters magazine.

#GCRN2018

FAILURE & 2 life-long lessons John Wesley learned from failure: 1) don’t be overconfident because of early success 2) and don’t be afraid of dying today

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. 

The Scriptures abound with reminders death is not the end but a gateway to eternal life (Psalm 39:1–7; John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

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

Excerpted from Enthusiast!: Finding a Faith That Fills, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2018). 

1. John Wesley, “Letter to Dr. Burton,” October 10, 1735, The Letters of John Wesley,The Wesley Center Online, http:// wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/ wesleys-letters-1735/.

2. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 18, eds. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988), 143.

3. Ibid., 140.

4. Ibid., 169. John experienced other terrifying storms on the voyage, as well as in America, all resulting in the fright that led him to ask himself, “How is it that thou hadst no faith?”

5. John Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 29.

6. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley,vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 22.

7. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 499.

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/2-lessons-learned-from-failure/

CONVERSION & Why for Snyder, Stott, de Wall, McLaren, Newbigin, etc. it is metaphors that best capture the sense of a transformative journey & the word: evangelism

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

“Bridge Building Requires a Plan”

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.

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 10, 9, 8 & 7  and read more in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Abingdon Press, 2010) (Please remember, if you enjoy the free download please consider supporting the author and the publisher who invested in this book by purchasing a copy)

Footnotes:

[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.

[iii] Ibid. 309.

[iv] Esther de Waal, Seeking God, 69.

[v] Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1989), 183.

[vi] Wilbert Shenk, Changing Frontiers of Mission, 28.

[vii] Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic, 2005), 149.

[viii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 22-27.

[ix] Bob Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church, xvi-xvii.

[x] Gibbs and Bolger, Emerging Churches, 149.

[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.

[xix] Snyder, The Community of the King, 102.

(to use on biblicalleadership.com)

CONVERSION & Kinds of conversion w/ a rationale for the term: spiritual transformation

 

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/8/18.

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.”

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 10, 9, 8 & 7  and read more in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Abingdon Press, 2010) (Please remember, if you enjoy the free download please consider supporting the author and the publisher who invested in this book by purchasing a copy)

Footnotes:

(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).

 

GROUP EXIT & My video intro re. how to change a church w/o losing members

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/26/17.

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:

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/change-preventing-group-exit-2/

And, see this link for more material on group exit and how to prevent it:

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=staying+power

keywords: LEAD 600 545 Staying Power group exit Dyke and Starke Go Slow, build consensus and succeed Preparing for Change Reaction

CHURCH SIZE & The average church in American is 75 attendees #Cure4TheCommonChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health (Indianapolis, IN: 2012), p. 14.

CureForCommonChurch

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

METHOD & 3 basics every Christian should know about Wesley’s ministry method

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/12/17.

The Power of the “Method

The method … “gave rise to church denominations such as the

Enthusiast! 3D.jpg

Enthusiast.life

  • United Methodist Church,
  • African Methodist Episcopal Church,
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion,
  • Christian Methodist Episcopal,
  • Christian and Missionary Alliance,
  • Church of God in Christ,
  • Free Methodist,
  • Freewill Baptists,
  • Church of the Nazarene,
  • Assemblies of God,
  • Church of God (both Tennessee and Indiana affiliations),
  • Seventh-day Adventists,
  • Church of Christ,
  • Foursquare Church,
  • Calvary Chapels,
  • Vineyard Churches,
  • Salvation Army,
  • 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?

3 basics of method 1.jpg

3 basics of method 2.jpg

3 basics of method 3.jpg

3 basics of method 4.jpg

(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.

Discover the 30-day devotional guide to the method here: http://www.Enthusiast.life

#6:15 seminar sermon Methodist method Ft. Wayne #TransformationalLeadershipConference

FAILURE & Video of the author of ENTHUSIAST! reading how Wesley overcame early failures

Watch this video of the book’s author reading a chapter (Chapter 6: Lessons from Failure) about how the adult Jacky (now John) learned two lessons:

Lesson 1: Early successes can lead to overconfidence

Lesson 2: Fear of death can test our readiness to be judged for our life.

©️Bob Whitesel used by permission only.

 

 

CASE-STUDY & From Gathered to Scattered, St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield, UK

(The following is excerpted from Bob Whitesel’s chapter, “St. Tom’s: From Gathered to Scattered” in Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibb’s book, Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions [Baker Academic, 2012]).

From Gathered to Scattered: a Dispersed Missional Structure Results in England’s Largest Anglican Congregation

 by Bob Whitesel

Dr. Eddie Gibbs has been involved as a member and board member of St. Thomas Anglican Church (Sheffield, England) for over two decades. As a PhD student under Eddie Gibbs, I studied the rapid change that St. Thomas underwent when the leaders had only five weeks to vacate their church facility due to asbestos. As England’s largest Anglican church with a congregation of 2,000 meeting weekly in Sheffield’s largest indoor arena, simply moving to a bigger locale was not feasible. The rapidity of the move would not allow a new facility to be constructed or converted. The result was that a congregation where 85% of the attendees were under the age of 40 had only a matter of days to inaugurate a strategy, implement change and maintain ministry effectiveness while holding true to their theology and values. The result was that not only did St. Thomas expand its cultural pluralism though a creative dispersed model, but it also created unity amid hybridity. Yet, the seed for this change was planted many years earlier.

COMMENT by Bob Whitesel

I have seen few churches embrace a scattered model without being forced to do so. This may be due to the establishment of fiefdoms that so often characterize ecclessial movements. I and other researchers would welcome examples of churches that are proactively disperseing from a mega-model to a scattered-approach. Bob Whtiesel

From Gathered to Scattered to Gathered: A History[1]

A Yoked Congregation

In 1978 renovations at St. Thomas’ forced it to share facilities with Crookes Baptist Church. In 1982 the two churches became a yoked Anglican and Baptist Congregation designed a Local Ecumenical Project or LEP (Mallon 2003:20).s

In 1983 Robert Warren became Rector of St. Thomas. Two years later John Wimber, leader of the network of Vineyard Churches, conducted a series of renewal meetings at Warren’s request. Soon after, Robert Warren invited a local charismatic community, the Nairn Street Community, to conduct a 9 p.m. alternative worship celebration on Sunday nights (Warren 1989). This became known as the Nine O’clock Service (NOC) which has been called the “birth of a postmodern worshipping community” in the UK (Gibbs and Bolger 2005:82).

Mike Breen’s Leadership.

In October 1993 Warren resigned to work with the Anglican denomination and Paddy Mallon became the Baptist minister of the LEP (Mallon 2003:25-26). Soon after Mike Breen accepted the call to St. Thomas’ and sensed the Lord underscoring the word “Ephesus” in his prayer life. Breen emphasized to the congregation that in Acts 19 Ephesus had several unique characteristics (Mallon 2003:26): it was the principal city of the region, Paul trained local leaders in a rented building, leaders went out from Ephesus to plant churches in neighboring areas, and from there “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20). Breen concluded that, “the church of St. Thomas’ was to function as a resource to its city and region. It was to be a base for church planting and mission and a centre for teaching and training” (Breen 1997:25).

In March 1994 Breen introduced an icon-based training program based of Biblical principles eventually calling it Lifeshapes (Mallon 2003:18, 25). The six icons of the training tool were readily adopted by the expanding base of small “cell” groups. Mallon credits Lifeshapes as “the most fundamental change in this period … an easily transferable method of planned, disciplined and structured membership activity, at a person as well as a corporate level …” (ibid.). Small group participation was also expected. “In the UK it is different,” stated Johanna Saxton, one of the early leaders. “It is not popular to be part of a church in the post-Christian culture of the UK. So if you are going to get involved, you get involved all the way and you attend a small group” (Saxton 2011).

In 1996 the leaders combined three to seven small groups into what they called “clusters” to better manage the burgeoning small group network (Saxton 2011). Clusters gave the small groups an “extended-family” feel providing a social gathering larger than a small group, but still smaller than the church-wide meetings (Mallon 2003:37-43). To the surprise of St. Tom’s leaders, most evangelism now took place through the semi-autonomous environment of the clusters (Hopkins and Breen 2007:38-39). Clusters also become the social action arm of the church. Breen reflected, “If you say you are going to help someone in need, say paint their house; and a small group of 12-16 people plans to do this, you only get 3-4 people showing up. It’s a disaster. But, if you cluster together three to seven small groups to do this, you get a couple dozen showing up. Then you get something done!” (Breen 2007).

An Anglican Mega-church

In September 1998 leaders began to sense that the size of the parish facilities was “restricting growth” (Mallon 2007:1). To alleviate this problem, the congregation held services one Sunday each month in a community center (Mallon 2007:4). Because the venue was more accessible for unchurched people than the parish facility, growth among unchurched attendees increased. The temporary nature of the facility was fostered in part because the facility was only available 35 Sundays a year, it was expensive to rent, and much labor and time was spent in setup and teardown (Mallon 2003:36).

In January 2000 The Roxy nightclub became available for lease, and appeared to overcome the sociological strangulation of the community center. Media attention was fostered because The Roxy had been a bawdy concert venue. In one month 400 people joined the church (Mallon 2003:36-37). “I think what we saw was every time we created space people joined us,” recalled Mallon. “Some of that was transfer growth, but a lot of it was conversionary growth” (Mallon 2007:4).

Three different worship expressions drew three different audiences. Sunday mornings at The Roxy mainly attracted Baby Boomers, while Sunday evenings attracted Generation X. Services also continued at the parish church in Crookes and were attended by approximately 300 people committed to the local Crookes parish (Mallon 2003:36-37). Almost without strategic intent, St. Thomas’ had evolved into multiple sub-congregations (Hunter 1979:63; Whitesel and Hunter 2001:26-27). They designated these sub-congregations “celebrations” after a term used by C. Peter Wagner (1976:101-2).

From Mega-church to Dispersed-church

In January 2001 Mike Breen sensed God saying to him, “What would you do if I took away The Roxy?” (Mallon 2003:38; Breen 2007:1-2). “I was in a bit of a panic about that,” recalled Breen. “Because we had just been surveyed with the rest of the churches in Great Britain…. as being the largest church in Great Britain at that time. So most certainly we were a mega-church. And, it felt like God was giving me the option of really going in the mega-church direction or really embracing this thing he had been developing in us the last few years” (Breen 2007:2).

In December 2001 an attendee who had concerns about the safely of the “torpedo-style heaters” used to heat The Roxy contacted the local authorities requesting a safety inspection (Mallon 2003:39; Calladine 2007:14-15). A subsequent inspection revealed that asbestos rendered The Roxy an immediate health hazard (Calladine 2007:4). “If we were going to do the work on the building that we wanted to, we would have had to put a bubble over the building and put people in space suits” remembered Calladine. “It would have cost around $7 million to renovate…We could’ve come up with 60 thousand, but it’s 60 thousand into a money pit …” (Calladine 2007:4).

“One minute we were in the building and basically several weeks later we were out because we had to close immediately due to the health and safety issues” remembered Woodhead (Woodhead 2007:2). Though this event occurred just before Christmas 2001, the leaders were able to negotiate a five week grace period before they were forced to leave (Mallon 2007:2).[2]

Maconochie recounts the spiritual preparation for this change, stating “We’d been talking about it for nearly a year and so we just said to the guys ‘well the Lord said it was going to happen and it has happened and there you go’.” (Maconochie 2007:2). Woodhead added, “So he’d (Breen) already shared that with the staff team, the senior staff and then the staff team and some of the cluster leaders were aware of this word. But was it going to happen? We don’t know because we’ve got this building and then that was it … it was taken away so they (the leaders) were ready to go” (Woodhead 2007:2).

On January 27, 2002 the last celebration was held in The Roxy with 17 clusters commissioned to begin meeting the following week to replace the two Sunday gatherings at The Roxy (Mallon 2003:39, Calladine 2007:15). The diffusion from two weekly Roxy events to 17 weekly cluster meetings, democratized the process according to Woodhead, for “people had to really begin to sort things out for themselves. They couldn’t depend on the center for everything. So leadership took on much more of a dynamic, much more of a community (that) ‘we’re in this together’ for each cluster. ‘We’ve got to go out and find the venues. And, we’re looking to see what God’s heart is for this particular area.’ So there was a whole different dynamic it seemed to me when guys were reporting back” (Woodhead 2007:1).

Growth as a Dispersed Church

On February 3, 2002 17 clusters, meeting weekly, were planted throughout Sheffield as St. Thomas’ takes on a “dispersed church” mode (Mallon 2007:3). The Bishop gave permission for clusters to meet within the boundaries of other Anglican parishes (Mallon 2007:2-3). That same year, the Diocesan Handbook indicated the average Anglican parish in Sheffield has 25 worshippers (Mallon 2003:36). One year later St. Thomas’ Church had 34-35 clusters (Mallon 2007:4; Breen 2007:2) comprised of 2,500 members with 85 percent under the ages of 40 (Mallon 2003:36):

In one year the church had morphed into a network of 34-35 small churches meeting across Sheffield. Mallon believes this one year period was “the greatest growth we saw as a church. It showed us what we weren’t going to go down the mega-church road, which was an option. And when we had The Roxy, a plan was to make it a large worship complex that would have been glass and chrome and glitter. And now, we were spared all of that” (Mallon 2007:4).

This growth surprised the leaders. Mallon recalls, “Even developing the resources for the clustering for the six months beforehand, we had no idea we would double in size in terms of cluster leaders in the subsequent 12 months that we were in a dispersed mode. It’s a bit like The Acts of the Apostles: the idea of expansion, contraction, consolidation and then you grow again” (Mallon 2007:6).

By 2005 the church was comprised of a network of clusters, which in turn were joined together into seven “celebrations,” including Connect (ministry to young adults), Encompass (ministry to specific neighborhoods), Mother Church (the original church in the Crookes area), Community Church at Crookes (an urban outreach based in Crookes), Expression (outreach to college students led by Johanna Saxton), Radiate (ministry to young professionals in the workplace), and The Forge (inner city ministry). The diversity of celebrations allowed the church to reach out to Sheffield’s diverse population. The dispersed model created a multi-cultural church by emphasizing culturally and aesthetically different celebrations united within one church organization.

A Rhythm From Dispersed to Gathered to the Present

In 2006, sensing that unity was needed among the seven culturally diverse celebrations, the leaders created a Sunday evening “uniting” worship service. Leadership and worship teams from the different celebrations were rotated each week, allowing attendees from other celebrations to hear testimonies, music and preaching from the culturally distinct celebrations.

In 2009 the availability of a large warehouse provided an alternative to the often packed Sunday evening unity gatherings. This space also compelled the leaders to combine celebrations on Sunday morning. Soon, the church no longer had more than seven Sunday morning celebrations but only two: the warehouse celebration (increasingly identified as the “Philadelphia Campus” to which the Baptist leaders and congregants were attracted) and the “Crookes Campus” (e.g. the Mother Church). With this contraction into fewer culturally distinct celebrations, the church may have contracted into what Mallon described as a rhythm where, “it’s a bit like The Acts of the Apostles: the idea of expansion, contraction, consolidation and then you grow again” (Mallon 2007:6).

Recently, the church has functionally returned, if not officially, into two, possibly three congregations: The Anglican St. Thomas Church (at the Mother Church venue) and the Philadelphia Church (at the Philadelphia Warehouse) along with a new experiment called “city:base,” an emerging urban congregation. Though attempts have been made to maintain a degree of unity, for instance with the commissioning of Anglican Vicar Anne MacLaurin as a leader with Baptist Paul Maconochie at The Philadelphia Church, the church is moving back toward 2-3 distinct mega-congregations. The remarkable growth appears to have subsided, perhaps as a result of fewer culturally distinct celebrations, though according to Saxton the ministry to youth continues to flourish (Saxton 2011).

Lessons from the Dispersed Model of Church

Worship in Dispersion

In just five weeks in 2001-2002 St. Thomas morphed from what one leader describes as “going down the mega-church road” (Mallon 2007:4) to an indigenous network of 17 “clusters” which resembled small churches. One year later there were 34-35 of these clusters dispersed throughout Sheffield. The organizational complexity of the move also forced the church to link culturally similar clusters together into what they called “celebrations.” These then created a multi-cultural church with nine different worship expressions.

Lessons to replicate:

Multiple worship expressions exist in the same church, allowing the church to connect with more cultures. By linking together two to eight clusters into “celebrations” the church was able to eventually offer nine culturally distinct styles of worship. This connected the church to more cultures within the Sheffield community.

Unity gatherings emerge as venues for creating unity amid diversity. The Sunday uniting service exposed the burgeoning congregation to its various cultural counterparts.

Lessons to avoid:

Facilities can undercut multiple worship options. When the Philadelphia Warehouse became available, a push to fully utilize this facility steered the church toward fewer worship celebrations. This is not too dissimilar to churches across England and North America who build a bigger facility and then combine multiple worship expressions into fewer options with fewer cultural styles.

The energy created at large worship gatherings can undermine diversity. St. Thomas’ “uniting service” was even more animated than the other celebrations I visited. This could have to do with the pan-cultural feel of this Sunday evening event. However, when the large Philadelphia Warehouse became available this enthusiasm for energy and largeness seems to have resulted in combining celebrations into bigger gatherings. A secondary result was that this consolidation would fill up the warehouse space, but this also resulted in fewer cultural options. Subsequently, the nine distinct cultural celebrations received less attention and eventually two larger gatherings (Sunday mornings at The Philadelphia campus and at the Crookes Mother Church campus) replaced the nine culturally distinct celebrations. Thus, the energy created at the large gatherings seems to have influenced the church to move back into contraction and consolidation.

Spiritual Formation in Dispersion

St. Thomas’ leaders built a foundational structure of small “cell” groups, eventually requiring participation in these groups as a condition of membership. Since the “clusters” were focused more on their extended family feel, the intimacy of small groups became the main teaching and discipling venue of the church. Small group leaders would meet with their “cluster leader” to go over that week’s small group lesson. The cluster leaders had already received this lesson in their weekly meeting with their “celebration” leader. The result was the teaching became a unifying connection among the expanding cell-cluster-celebration network.

Lessons to replicate:

Spiritual formation in small groups creates a flexible, indigenous discipleship environment. A small group leader meeting with people of a similar culture and often in a nearby locale, can adapt the church’s lesson plans for the small group attendees. And, if the message is not getting across or if accountability is needed, a resident small group leader can more quickly and locally meet that need.

Clusters create an extended family community that so many young people miss because their family is far away. According to former Rector Mike Breen clusters “create an extended family feel, like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (Breen 2004).

Lessons to avoid:

Don’t overlook the importance of culturally diverse sub-congregations. When the large Philadelphia warehouse became available, a need to fill the venue replaced a focus upon the cultural diversity of nine celebrations. The church contracted from nine celebrations into two.

Be careful when absorbing outside groups because they may possess a different DNA. The NOC community was embraced by Robert Warren in part because of its similar Charismatic expressions. But, because it was not developed from within, but grafted into St. Thomas it did not have the connectedness for permanence.

Mission in Dispersion

Though it was the diverse “celebrations” that connected the church’s message to varying cultures in Sheffield, it was in the extended family feel of the clusters where commitments to Christ most often took place. Yet, clusters were initially organized to give small groups enough person-power to undertake community service. Mike Breen recalled that when a small group tried to undertake community service, only a few of the dozen or more cell attendees would actually show up. But, when the church leaders clusters two to seven small groups, if only a few from each group showed up, you would still have enough people to get something done (Breen 2011).

Lessons to replicate:

A church with multiple cultural bridges can connect with a larger segment of a community. At St. Thomas the clusters and celebrations had culturally distinct behaviors and ideas.[3] Diverse cultural options connected the church to more segments of the Sheffield population (Saxton 2011).

Clusters provide a suitable mixture of intimacy and anonymity to foster conversion. It came as a surprise to the leaders that many people came to Christ in the cluster environment (Hopkins and Breen 2007:36-37). The cluster’s mix of accountability and anonymity provided the right environment for the new Christian to focus on their commitment and their witness.

Lessons to avoid:

Fewer cross-cultural bridges can result in less connection with the community. In a desire to fill up the new Philadelphia Warehouse the church inadvertently undercut its support of the nine celebrations, eventually reducing them to just two.

Participation in the missio Dei requires diversity within unity. As St. Thomas went down the road toward a mega-church, the church mainly adopted church-wide, one-size-fits-all programs. As Johanna Saxton, an early leader, recalled, “The default position was to do something throughout the whole church. If we did an outreach, the whole church did an outreach. If we did Alpha small groups, the whole church did them and if we did nights of prayer, the whole church did it. But when we lost the Roxy we really had to disperse and this required us to culturally diversity to reach the city in an entirely new and more personal way” (Saxton 2011). Not surprisingly, the greatest periods of growth occurred in the dispersed church mode after The Roxy venue was lost and 17 clusters indigenized mission across the city (Mallon 2007:4).

Leadership in Dispersion

The loss of The Roxy created a dispersed church where “people had to really begin to sort things out for themselves. They couldn’t depend on the centre for everything. So leadership took on a much more of a dynamic, much more of a community (that) ‘we’re in this together’” (Woodhead 2007:1).

Lessons to replicate:

Small groups provide an incubator for emerging leadership. Because small groups are required of all members, at St. Thomas there was an upsurge in the number of small group leaders needed. This shortage not only resulted in greater emphasis upon leadership development but also easier routes into leadership.

A cell-cluster-celebration model creates manageable oversight. Because there are two to seven small groups in a cluster, the cluster leader does not have an unwieldy number of trainees to oversee. Celebration leaders enjoy similar ratios.

A cell-cluster-celebration model creates a leadership relationship based upon history, culture and proximity. Because an effective small group leader could be promoted to a cluster leader (while still remaining within the same cultural celebration), a leader did not need to leave their culture to move up the leadership ladder.

Breen’s Ephesus vision united the congregation through calamity and dispersion. Johanna Saxton recalls, “The story we shared had a huge role in what we did… so even if we were reaching outside of our culture, we had the shared story of being part of a church that was ‘calling a city back to God.’ The shared vocabulary helped too because we all used terms like clusters, celebrations, etc.” (Saxton 2011).

Lessons to avoid:

Leaders can make strategic decisions based on the leader’s needs and not the needs of congregants. When the leaders reduced the number of celebrations from nine to two, this was largely based upon organizational needs to fill the Philadelphia warehouse and not indigenous needs to connect with varying cultures.

Leadership at times can be overly bureaucratic and undermine a church’s health. The early leadership of Robert Warren created some strategic alliances. But, significant growth did not occur until Breen’s strategic, yet consensus-building style of leadership emerged. Breen’s forthright yet not too hasty Ephesus vision, gave the leaders a chance to absorb the significance of the vision, and God time to act on their behalf drawing them out of The Roxy.

The Rhythm of St. Tom’s

From the history and innovations, St. Thomas Church and its partner the Philadelphia Church have emerged as flexible congregations not afraid to be, in the words of Paddy Mallon, “a bit like The Acts of the Apostles: (embracing) the idea of expansion, contraction, consolidation and then you grow again” (Mallon 2007:6). It is unclear if these churches have grown recently (Saxton 2011), but the fact that they embrace an elastic model of church growth indicates they are not outcome-driven, put process-focused. It is their cultural flexibility, wed with a focus upon making disciples in a cell-cluster-celebration structure, that has allowed this unlikely Sheffield church to emerge as one of the United Kingdom’s most innovative congregations.[4]

This story is both very cool and very alien and underlines, for better or worse, the importance of buildings.

I love the dynamics that apparently are possible at the same time — the dynamics of changing such a big church so many times in such a short time frame seems almost unbelievable. I think in the Dutch context this would require dominant and top-down leadership. It also feels like a big church machine, eating up all energy by doing church leaving little for holistic incarnational presence in the neighborhood.

There are some wise lessons and remarks on church services in dispersion or more centrally, very nice! Nico-Dirk Van Loo

COMMENT by Bob Whitesel

Nico-Dirk has tendered a fascinating summataion with the phrase “both very cool and very alien and underlines, for better or worse, the importance of buildingss.” The struggle of large churches to remain missional when facilities and organizational concerns steal energy and focus is probably under studied. The cyclical journey of St. Tom’s towards, at lesast in this author’s mind, a less missional pattern today begs the continuing study of whether mega and missional can be allies. I hope they can, though I am not yet convince of this. I leave it to the next generation of leaders to prove a positive connection. Bob Whitesel

51FiKXrXr9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

References:

Breen, Mike. 1997. The Body Beautiful. West Sussex, England: Monarch Books.

———. 2004. The Passionate Church. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Publishing.

———. 2005. A Passionate Life. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Publishing.

———. 2007. Personal Interview: June 7, 2007.

Calladine, Mal. 2007. Personal Interview: June 6, 2007.

Gibbs, Eddie. 2005. From Crossing Bridges to Building Pontoons: Regaining Lost Ground and Crossing Cultural Frontiers. Paper read at The Annual Meeting of the American Society of Church Growth, November 12, 2005, at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif.

———. 2005. Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Gibbs, Eddie, and Ryan K. Bolger. 2005. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker.

Hiebert P. (1976) Cultural Anthropology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker.

Hopkins, Bob, and Mike Breen. 2007. Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities. Sheffield, England: 3D Ministries.

Hunter, George G. III. 1979. The Contagious Congregation: Frontiers in Evangelism and Church Growth. Abingdon Press.

Maconochie, Paul. 2007. Personal Interview: Sheffield, England, June 14, 2007.

Mallon, Paddy. 2003. Calling A City Back to God: A Sheffield Church, Over 2.000-strong, Most Below 40 Years Old. What Can We Learn? Eastbourne, England: Kingsway Communications Ltd.

———. 2007. Personal Interview: Phoenix, Arizona, June 8, 2007.

Saxton, Johanna. 2011. Personal Interview: Los Angeles, California, June 1, 2011.

Wagner, C. Peter. 1976. Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of a Healthy Church. Glendale: Regal Books.

Warren, Robert. 1989. In the Crucible. Surrey, England: Highland Books.

Whitesel, Bob. 2005. The Perfect Cluster: For Young Adults, St. Tom’s, Sheffield Creates Extended Families, And Everyone Knows Where They Fit. Outreach Magazine, May/June 2005, 112-114.

———. 2006. Inside The Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

———. 2007. Organic Change: 12 Emerging Communities of Missional Theologians. The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth 18:3-16.

Whitesel, Bob, and Kent R. Hunter. 2001. A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Woodhead, Mick. 2007. Personal Communication: Sheffield, England, June 14, 2007.

 

[1] This history was created from personal interviews (Whitesel 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011), personal visits (2006, 2009) as well as books written by leaders of St. Thomas’ (Breen 1997, 2004; Mallon 2003; Hopkins and Breen 2007).

[2] Communicating the venue change to a large congregation flowed through of the cell-cluster-celebration structure. “…The most effective way of communication was … through four phone calls” recalled Calladine (Calladine 2007:4). The Rector would (1) call the Celebration Leaders, who would (2) call the Cluster leaders, who would then call (3) the small group leaders, who would then call (4) the small group attendees

[3] For more on cultures as “integrated system of learned patterns of behavior, ideas and products characteristic of a society” see Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology, 1976:25.

[4] Each year the church hosts a “Visitor’s Week” where attendees from around the world experience firsthand the principles of this innovative congregation.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

LEADERSHIP & 3 Perils of Modern Leadership by @BobWhitesel #ChurchCentral

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, May 11, 2017

Leadership is an interdependent mixture of intuition, experience, and inspiration. And precisely because of this extraordinary fusion a starting place becomes difficult, if not impossible, to assign.

Staying power

As the weekend retreat ended, two influential elders of Clarkston Church3 drew me aside. “We’ve decided to call for Pastor Gordon’s removal,” began Julian. “It’s not that we haven’t tried,” continued Rosa, “but Gordon is single-minded and stubborn. This weekend has been one long sales job. He’s just trying to get us to buy his vision for a new building.” Within a week I received an e-mail announcing that the elders were bringing Gordon before the council for removal. As I thought back to my two years working as a consultant with this church, I marveled how quickly things had changed.

Two years ago, Gordon was fresh out of seminary and following a popular pastor at Clarkston Church named Joan. Joan had turned a dying church of forty attendees into a growing congregation of more than 120 worshipers. Tapped as her successor, Gordon had graduated from seminary after forty years of running an investment program for his denomination. This was his first pastorate, and I remember the passion he brought to his new vocation.

Two years later, the enthusiasm was gone, replaced by a spirit of pessimism and duress. “They wanted me to change things,” recalled Gordon in a phone conversation later that day. “And they gave me free rein. So I took it. They are forgetting that we grew a lot my first year.”

“But last year was different,” I interjected.

“Sure, they’ve got their own unrealistic ideas about how things should be done,” continued Gordon. “They don’t have the training. I do! They saw my way worked the first year. They should have listened to me last year too.”

Rosa, in her mid-seventies, and Julian, in his early thirties, formed an odd partnership aligned against Gordon. “We both feel that Gordon won’t support our ideas to help townspeople,” began Julian. “We’re the poorest area in the county, and Gordon just wants to focus on building a new sanctuary.”

“He’s afraid the new building won’t be built if we use our money to help the needy here in Clarkston,” added Rosa. “He’s forgotten our history as a denomination that looks after the poor.” Later Julian summarized: “Gordon is getting his ideas from what bigger churches are doing in bigger cities and the stuff he learned in seminary. He doesn’t listen to our input. But we’re more familiar with what people need around here because we live here. And he still doesn’t.”

Gordon recently confided, “Look, Bob, I’ve got three years until I can retire with some denominational benefits. No one wants to hire a pastor my age. So help me convince my board to do things my way for just three more years. Then I can retire. The church can hire someone else to beat up, and everyone will be happy.”4 Gordon didn’t have three years. He barely had three months.

Stands for “others”

Among tomorrow’s leaders there is a passion not for themselves or their own accomplishments but for helping those most in need: the underprivileged, disadvantaged, and deprived. To understand this empathy, let us first look at what modern leadership has evolved into, for this will help us understand the millennial reaction. Here are three perils of modern leadership:

Modern peril 1: Others and their allegiance drive the leader. 

In the modern leadership world, numerous books extol leadership as the pinnacle of human ambition.5 And many of these books measure the leader’s success in terms of how many follow her or him.6 Harvard leadership professor Barbara Kellerman said, “The modern leadership industry, now a quarter-century old, is built on the proposition that leaders matter a great deal and followers hardly at all.”7 Another leadership
writer warned, “Many in leadership positions today believe that their leadership should be measured by how many people look to or depend on them.”8 A result has been that modern leaders often measure success by the number of followers who meet the needs of the organization (or meet the needs of the leader).

Subtle clues abound in the church world, such as when the leader’s name is proudly displayed on church signage and in advertisements. Doing this builds a church on a person rather than a community and inadvertently fosters a cult of personality. Another damaging result is that the non-church community can view the leader as the most important person in the congregation. Leaders exacerbate this problem when they use possessive terms: “Mychurch is located on Second Street,” “myboard does this,” or “myyouth pastor does that.” Ownership, self-importance, and dominance are the subtle insinuation, announcing that if you want to be part of this church, you should view yourself as a possession subject to an earthly person rather than to Christ.

Modern peril 2: Others are resources to be managed. 

A type of management arose during the Industrial Revolution that valued workers for their labor, not for their worth. In 1913 Frederick Taylor described this as “scientific management”9 and famously intoned, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job.”10 To legitimize his conclusions, he conducted time and motion studies to show how jobs could be better performed at the workers’ expense. Modern managers embraced this research to prove that by manipulating people, work can be done faster and more efficiently (oftentimes, however, at the expense of the workers’ input, self-worth, and dignity).

The human resource movement rose in reaction,11 where fulfilling a worker’s needs and aspirations was seen as equally important. But this approach came to view humans as little more than just another “resource” to be allocated, deployed, and/or deleted.12 After a century of these trends, modern leadership often became too focused on propping up the organization and/or the leader at the expense of the people it managed or served.13

An autocratic leadership model emerged in many churches that paralleled the business world where all major decisions passed through a central leader.14 Known in the business world as the sole-proprietorship model, this is a mom-and-pop business approach where all-important decisions pass through “pop,” the figurehead leader. In the church this figurehead is usually a professional clergy person. But this creates a bottleneck in the decision-making process, stalling growth for several reasons. First, growth stalls because of the time needed to get a decision approved by a senior leader. Second, volunteers may feel their input is not trusted because the volunteers must “convince” a figurehead, far removed from the work, of the merit of the volunteers’ ideas. Third, the figurehead will often respond by using past experience to criticize the new idea. Leaders become trapped in an experience trap and dismiss the innovations of others.15 Volunteers such as Rosa and Julian often feel they do not measure up to the leader’s expertise. They feel unappreciated, unacknowledged, and eventually a commodity.

Modern peril 3: Others are led by vision. 

“Everyone keeps talking about vision statements. They spend too much time on these things. Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, that’s our mission!” said Leonard Sweet.16

An abundance of books today deal with how to fine-tune a church’s vision.17 Yet very little church growth occurs because of a more accurate vision or mission statement. Rather, I have observed churches preoccupied with scrutinizing the language of their statements. Wrangling over words in our statements preoccupies congregations with the minutia of church language, disregarding the important language of good deeds to a non-church community.

Similarly, when conflict arises (as it will in the church), a leader may be tempted to retreat to her or his vision, using it as a weapon to demote the vision of others. Often, the leader may try to win over others by scheduling a vision retreat, which more aptly might be called a “vision-selling retreat.” Then, if others are not won over, leaders such as Pastor Gordon may focus on Jesus’ warning that “my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit” (John 15:1-2 NIV).18 Usually, this indicates the leader wants certain people (who don’t agree with the leader) to exit the congregation, which in a worst- case scenario can lead to congregants being forced out. This can be exacerbated if the leader has come to see one’s vision as superseding any corporate vision. This malady allows the leader to dismiss others’ foresight for ministry.19 Such a leader develops a type of people blindness.20

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press 2011). For further online notes: See Chapter 1 Complete Notes.

Photo source: istock

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/3-perils-of-modern-leadership/

CURE #2 – HOW DOES A CHURCH GROW S.M.A.L.L.?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the prescriptions spell out the name of the cure. Here the cure is S.M.A.L.L., where each letter represents:

• S: Survey your small groups.
• M: Missionalize all small groups.
• A: Add more small groups.
• L: Lead small groups.
• L: Locate your focus in small groups.

A Comprehensive Definition of Small Groups

There are many ways to define a small group. When you ask most people, they will identify a small group as a home fellowship group like those made popular by the small group movement and exemplified by the body-life churches, vineyard churches, and alpha groups.

But small groups in churches are more than just home-fellowship groups, because any small group of individuals that is meeting semi-regularly and growing in closeness is technically a small group. Therefore, all of the following church groups are types of small groups:

• Sunday school classes;
• classes of any type (Bible, topical, and twelve-step programs);
• standing leadership committees;
• task groups (worship, program, project, ministry, and facility
upkeep); and
• fellowship groups (home groups, Bible studies, lunch groups,
alpha groups, and sports teams).

Therefore, to grow small, let’s begin with figure 4.1, a broad definition that ensures you don’t overlook any of the small groups you have already.

With such a comprehensive definition, you can see that you already have many small groups in your church. The key is to first survey them, and then to apply the remaining cures in this
chapter to help them refocus on a biblical purpose.

Survey All Small Groups

Now that we have a working definition of small groups, the next step is to use this definition to count them. Be careful not to miss any, because if you do, you cannot help them refocus on
their purpose. Figure 4.2 will help you total them. But if you have some small groups that have grown too large (twenty or more people), it may be necessary to divide them into several
small groups. See appendix 4.A for ideas about how to create new small groups.

Figure 4.1: A Comprehensive Definition of a Small Group

Any regular gathering within a
church’s fellowship network, meeting
more than one time a month with
typically less than twenty attendees.3
smaller groups within groups
that have grown too big for intimacy
and accountability.

Now use your definition above with figure 4.2 to count your small groups. Keep these guidelines in mind:

• Count only adult small groups at this time (teenage and above). While children need small groups such as Sunday schools, this
chart will look at how to expand and refocus your adult groups.

• List your small groups under the type of group that best describes them. And even though some groups could fit under
several different types of small groups (for example, an adult Sunday school class could also be a task group), list each small
group only under one type of small group. It is not as important that each group fits into the ideal category as that all groups are listed in figure 4.2 (use additional rows as needed).

Figure 4.2: Survey Your Small Groups

Name of small group

Average size

Adult Sunday Schools and Other Classes
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
(Use additional pages as needed)

Standing Committees
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
(Use additional pages as needed) continued

For More Information Read:

• Appendix 4.A: “Are Some Small Groups Too Big? Don’t Divide, Compartmentalize!”

Are you surprised? Most churches are amazed by how many small groups they already have. But as noted in the story of Eastlake
Church, this is why congregants often resist small group programs. When people are already attending an informal small group, such as a Bible study, Sunday school, committee, or sports team, they will often resist the idea of joining another small group.

Publicly Recognize All Small Groups

After surveying your small groups, publicly acknowledge…

Download the rest of the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Get Small Chpt. 3 &amp; 4

#DWC

 

NEWNESS & Why Conversion is the Pivot Point for Church Balance

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012.

Spiritual Transformation IS a Pivot Point

What is a Pivot Point?

Greek mathematician Archimedes emphasized the unlimited power of a “lever” when he stated: “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth with a lever.”[i] The key to the lever is the pivot point or fulcrum point on which everything balances. Think of a teeter-totter with a balance point in the middle. Figure 7.6 illustrates such a teeter-totter with a triangle in the middle. The place where this triangle touches the teeter-totter board would be the fulcrum point or “pivot point.”

Figure 7.6 A Teeter-Totter with a Pivot Point (triangle)

FIGURE CURE 7.6 Pivot Point p 130.jpg

Transformation as Pivot Point

The pivot point is the place where balance can be created between the two sides of the teeter-totter. And, the transformation of the person via faith and repentance is so critical that it is helpful to picture it as a fulcrum point that holds up and balances the methods of growing O.U.T. and S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers. Figure 7.7 illustrates this balance.

Figure 7.7 N.E.W. as a Pivot Point for the Uncommon Church

FIGURE CURE 7.7 New is Pivot Point p 131

 Spiritual Transformation As a Waypoint

Spiritual transformation is a pivot point because it also lies at a critical waypoint between O.U.T. and S.M.A.L.L./L.E.A.R.N.ers. When a person is outside, not yet reunited in her or his relationship with God, and headed into a small environment of learning, somewhere along this way the person should encounter a transformative and pivotal experience with God.

Transformation is not optional for an uncommon church. Any church that focuses on growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. or L.E.A.R.N. and neglects growing N.E.W. will not fulfill God’s ultimate aim and also be balanced. God’s mission is to reunite and transform his wayward children, and no amount of good deeds through going out (no matter how helpful) will replace his yearning to intimately reconnect to his children.

Balance in the Uncommon Church

And so, the uncommon church does not have a lop-sided ministry toward O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. or L.E.A.R.N., but rather balances all three upon the foundational pivot point of N.E.W. In the next chapter we will learn the three “HOWS” of N.E.W. (signified by the letters N.E.W.).   But before we leave this chapter, go back to Figure 7.7 to visualize that N.E.W. is not an optional prescription, but the pivotal Rx upon which God intends the other prescriptions to be built and balanced. Without a church that embraces newness to balance the other cures, no holistic and uncommon church can ever emerge.

Endnotes:

[i] E.J. Dijksterhuis, trans C. Dikshoorn , Archimedes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 15.

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 130-132.

Also see … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/spiritual-transformation-is-pivotal-in-ministry-balance

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