7Systems.church & An introduction to the 7 church health systems and their ability to measure and increase church health.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Dec. 1, 2018.

In a quest to understand the systems and benchmarks of a healthy church,  …

  1. Over the past 30 years …
  2. I’ve written 13 books,
  3. earned two doctorates from Fuller Theological Seminary,
  4. Coached hundreds of churches,
  5. Co-founded a seminary,
  6. Studied theology & church history (Fuller Theological Seminary) to add a solid Biblical understanding to my practical experience.

As a result I’ve discovered seven systems that must be healthy for the church to grow.

7 systems yellow

1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring Good News (Acts 13:32). 

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message.  Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden. 

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the redemptiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system).  

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

But, there is another important aspect to reconciliation. Paul stated, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know… Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 MSG). Paul continues, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

Healthy churches to do stop at cultural reconciliation (any more than Paul did when reconciling differences between the Greek/Roman and Christian/Jewish cultures). Like Paul, a healthy reconciling system says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

How well does your church reconcile people to one another and to God?

3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)

“Numinous” is a theologian’s term for coming close to God. “Worship” in Hebrew carries the idea of reverence, such as bowing to kiss the king’s feet, that results from a close encounter  (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament). When people use the word “worship” they are describing an environment where they feel face-to-foot with God.

Striving to create a perfect experience, usually only creates an attraction to an event. But seeking to foster a supernatural encounter creates an attraction to God.

4.  People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation.

5.  Involved volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12) i.e. a balance between three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders are visionaries who see future goals, but don’t see as clearly the steps to get there. A biblical example is the apostle John, who sketches the grand scenario of Jesus’ ministry, but leaves out many of the contributing details.

Tactical leaders enjoy watching how analysis and numbers lead up to a goal (Gr. taktike, meaning: to set in order). Found in professions like medicine, accounting, etc. a biblical example would be the physician Luke (Colossians 4:14) who fills in many of the details that lead up to the actions that John describes. Tactical leaders take ideas generated by visionaries and enjoy putting together steps to accomplish them. 

The relational leader leads through deep personal relationships with others. Functioning well in a small group/team environment, they watch out for one another’s spiritual progress. 

Leaders are a mixture of all three, but most have a propensity for one over the others. The strategic leader sees the long-term direction of the church, the tactical leader sees the steps necessary to get there and the relational leader gauges how people are feeling about the direction. A healthy leadership system ensures that major decisions involve input from all three types.

6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)

The healthy church anticipates disunity and utilizes two tools to it from escalating into serious conflict.

a) They slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. 

b) When disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

This ability to build consensus for new ideas before implementation and to discuss differences of opinion before they fester, are two benchmarks behind an effective unity system.

7. Signature ministry (competency system)

A healthy church knows what it does well, and focuses on it. Such a core competency is noticeable in the community where it is viewed as a signature ministry, e.g. children’s ministry, music ministry, missionary churches, a food shelf, grief recovery ministry, divorce recovery ministry, etc. The church is not trying to do many things poorly, but a few things well i.e.:

a) A signature ministry is not something that meets the needs of the congregation or congregants, but rather meets non-churchgoers’ needs (and they are glad the church does so).

b) It is an underlying, church-wide competency that the church does well in many different ministries throughout the organization, hence it is called a “core” competency.  

c) The church is so competent in this area that people outside the church may recognize this in various signature ministries. People are attracted to your church because these are things you are good at and they resonate with that. It also means that new ministries in the church (and the longevity of older ministries) will be evaluated based upon how well they dovetail with this greater church-wide competency.

Discover more at http://www.7systems.church.

  1. Visibility (communication system)
  2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system)
  3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)
  4. People & places are changed (regeneration system)
  5. Involved volunteers (leadership system)
  6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)
  7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

©BobWhitesel 2018

CHURCH HEALTH & 7 Church Illnesses as seen by #ThomRainer

by Thom Rainer, 3/21/18

  1. Attitudinal Angst
  2. Slippage Syndrome
  3. Detail Distraction
  4. Institutional Idolatry
  5. Activity Acclimation
  6. Purposeless Prayer
  7. Detrimental Defensiveness

Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2018/03/seven-potentially-deadly-church-sicknesses-2/

CHANGE & The Difference Between Change and Transformation

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Transformation and change are two different things. Change involves adjusting programs, people and tactics. While transformation involves reinventing the entire organization. Therefore transformation involves guiding an organizational culture into a new and healthier culture. Many leaders fail because they don’t recognize the difference and the different tools (below) required for each.

Change involves, ‘making the business case, building a coalition of leaders, getting early results, engaging stakeholders, executing with discipline’ and monitoring/adjusting results’ (p. 2-3)…

‘Transformation is another animal altogether. Unlike change management, it doesn’t focus on a few discrete, well-defined shifts, but rather on a portfolio of initiatives, which are interdependent or intersecting. More importantly the overall goal of transformation is not just executed to find change but to reinvent the organization and discover a new or revised business model based on a vision for the future. It’s much more unpredictable, iterative, and experimental. It entails much higher risk. And even if successful change management leads to the execution of certain initiatives within a transformation portfolio, the overall transformation could still fail’ (p. 3).

Transformation therefore involves, ‘flexible and dynamic coordination of resources, stronger collaboration across boundaries, and communication in the midst of uncertainty’ (p. 4).

I have made the case in the ‘Strategic Management’ chapter of the Wright and Smith (eds.) book, The Church Leaders’ MBA’ (Ohio Christian Univ. Press, 2009) that transforming churches means:

  1. Getting multiple cultures to work together
  2. In one church
  3. To reach and unite multiple community cultures.

This creates a healthy church with multiple sub-congregations respecting one another and working together for greater impact (steps to this can be found in Whitesel, ‘The Healthy Church,’ Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012).

Thus church transformation brings the Good News to a larger segment of the community – while also reconciling/uniting disparate community cultures.

For more on the important difference between change and transformation read this Harvard Business Review article.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/01/we-still-dont-know-the-difference-between-change-and-transformation

CHURCH HEALTH & 12 Findings from Church Health Surveys

By Chuck Lawless, 9/2/14

More than 15 years ago, Dr. Rainer and I developed a Church Health Survey to assess the condition of local congregations. A 160-question survey that focuses on the six purposes of the church (worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, prayer, and fellowship), the questionnaire reveals a church’s perception of itself.

Over the years, hundreds of churches in North America have completed the survey as they work with my church consulting group. Here are some general conclusions these surveyed churches have told us about themselves.

  1. Even struggling churches view themselves as family…
  2. Many churches admit their unhealthiness. By far, churches that complete our survey perceive themselves as “marginally unhealthy” or “unhealthy…”
  3. Many members do not pray regularly for church staff…
  4. Discipleship and evangelism are the weakest areas in the church…
  5. Churches produce prayer lists, but they do not report answered prayer…
  6. A dedicated few members do most of the work…
  7. Worship is still an issue. The worship wars may have changed, but they are not completely over…
  8. Members seldom recognize space or parking problems…
  9. Communication is a serious issue…
  10. Members say they would do more evangelism if they had more training…
  11. Church folks say they know what they believe, but they are not convinced other members do…
  12. Most church members and congregations do not pray regularly for world missions..,

Read more at … http://thomrainer.com/2014/09/02/12-findings-church-health-surveys/

COACHING & 5 Reasons for Hiring a Consultant/Coach by Thom Rainer

Photo on 2014-02-22 at 17:22.jpg 5 Reasons Churches Benefit From Outside Consultants
Commentary by Prof. B.: I was reminded of this relevant article by Thom Rainer as I trained in my yearly cohort of 6 new missional coaches in Miami (pic):