PRESCRIPTIONS FOR THE CHURCH & Healthy churches must have outward focus, Whitesel tells Presbyterians.

Emily Enders Odom – August 7, 2013

Move over, Dr. Phil. The church doctor is in.                             

Bob Whitesel, the award-winning author and change theory expert, offered a much-needed prescription for today’s ailing churches in his Aug. 3 luncheon address based on his book, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health.

“You’re here because the church is facing a very challenging time in North America,” Whitesel told his audience here at the Healthy Ministry Conference under the Big Tent. “If you look at all of the research, you’ll find that the common church is not usually a vibrant, growing, healthy church. The common church is usually a church struggling with different growth, multi-cultural, and age issues. My burden and my passion has been for almost 40 years now to go and study churches that are making a difference and are growing.”        

In his 11 books, Whitesel outlines the factors he says prevent churches from being a “force for unity and maturity in Christ.” He also addresses the necessary changes to help churches become healthier organizations. By “healthy,” Whitesel means churches where spiritual growth is taking place, not necessarily larger congregations. 

“Many congregations don’t have to grow numerically, but they do need to grow in their maturity, their acceptance and their reconciliation of different ethnicities, cultures and races,” he said. 

Today’s congregations have to work hard to overcome 200 years of history in which churches functioned first and foremost as social clubs, Whitesel said. 

“I as the church don’t want to compete with other social clubs because I believe we offer something spiritual and eternal,” he said.

Even most new church plants cease being effective at winning new people for Christ after 18 months because that’s when the churches “stop focusing on community and start worrying about their own organizational well-being,” Whitesel said. 

The four cures that Whitesel offers to today’s ill churches all involve changing a congregation’s focus from inward — focusing on organizational issues — to outward. In his address, he covered the cures: need-based outreach; “up-in-out” groups; transformational programming; and measuring learning, not attendance. 

In doing his first doctorate, Whitesel analyzed fast-growing churches in America to find out what they were doing alike. “All of them didn’t want to grow, and they grew, because what they wanted to do was meet needs,” he said. 

Such a change in focus will bring a change in vocabulary, among other results. As an example, Whitesel cited how church visitors are most often greeted. “Instead of saying to visitors, ‘We’re glad to have you here,’ say ‘Jesus is here to meet your needs and we’re here to help,’” he said. 

As for “up-in-out groups,” Whitesel advocates that every small group in a church grow “up” (toward God), “in” (by praying for each other), and “out” (by serving the community). He also calls this cure “missionalizing small groups,” in which they become not just groups doing tasks, but actual discipleship groups. 

The third cure he presented to his audience was transformational programming. By this, he means programming that’s designed to make the church the place that changes people. 

“That’s what Jesus desired the church to be,” he said. “It should be a place where people get changed. Today, people go to Dr. Phil. They turn on the TV. We want our churches to be known in the community as the place that helps people change. That’s what we want people to know about being Presbyterian.” 

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, was a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It was composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

Read more at … https://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/8/7/prescriptions-church/

SYSTEM 4 of 7SYSTEMS.church: REGENERATION & People/Places are supernaturally changed for the better.

7.4 systems yellow

This is fourth (4th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

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. (The following is excerpted and adapted from Bob Whitesel’s Cure for the Common Church, chapter 7: “Why New is Needed.”)

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

There is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church.  It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness).  Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

God cares about those in need.
  • “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right  for the needy.” Psalm 140:12
  • You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4
God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness
  • Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)
  • “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness 
  • “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27
  • “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring.  Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated.  Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness.  They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous.  But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions.  The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation.  And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2. 

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation 

The uncommon church
  • Expects miracles to happen
  • Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish
  • Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans
  • Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.  

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right.  God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior).  And, God has made a way for us to be changed.  The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
  • “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
  • “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.  Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.  Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
  • “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God.  Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4  God’s Plan for a Route Back 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
  • “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG). 
  • “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
  • “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
  • “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return.  So, what is involved in returning to him?  The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5.  let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5  How We Take the Route Back to God

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.  This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide.  They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies.  And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too!  He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes.  It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.  The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”

New People (Spiritual Transformation) 

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.  The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore … 

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings) 
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf) 
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

  This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc.  And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized.  Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.  

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing.  When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission.  And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship.  This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves.  This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us.  It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us. 

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge.  Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this.  And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.  

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

You can download the rest of the chapter here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 7 WHY NEW

Want more good ideas about “how” to get a church sharing their faith?  See the many ideas here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 8 HOW NEW.

Finally, if you enjoy the insights, please consider supporting the publisher and author by purchasing a copy here.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & RE-FRESH YOUR CHURCH’s OUTREACH seminar… teaming w/ former director World Methodist Evangelism Institute of Candler School of Theology.

IMG_0300.jpg

Strategizing recently in #Atlanta w/ friend & former director of #WorldMethodistEvangelismInstitute at #CandlerSchoolOfTheology. DM 4 more on our

RE-fresh Your Church’s Outreach” Seminar: 

  • Session 1- Starting Need-based Evangelism in a Local Church (@BobWhitesel)
  • Session 2-Refreshing Your Personal Witness (Dr. Worrell)

For more info on your new combined seminar email: bob@ChurchHealth.net

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & A short video churches can embed online to share the “4 Steps to Peace with God”

Commentary by Prof. B.: Over 25 years of consulting has taught me that churches whose congregants know how to share their conversion story and Biblical Scriptures that accompany it, I’m much more likely to grow. This to me is because, as Donald McGavran and John Wesley both emphasized, that spiritual transformation or “conversion” must be at the center of every congregant’s explanation of the Good News.

I’ve suggested in the book “Cure for the common church” and the book “The healthy church,” that church planning should include that every congregant  understand the basic scriptures regarding spiritual transformation. I’ve also suggested that pastors preach a 5 week series before Easter, during which each of the four weeks before Easter covers a different one of the so-called “Four steps to peace with God” or “Four spiritual laws.”

Also, check out these tools:

Another helpful idea is to embed on the first page of every church website this video the following video.

http://downloads.cbn.com/widgets/stepstopeace.swf

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

 

NEED-MEETING & A video intro to a “4-stage Need-based Outreach Strategy”

Commentary by Prof. B: I’ve created this video to not only introduce colleagues and clients to the efficacy of a “4-Stage Outreach Strategy,” but also to give my online students a sense of an introduction I would give in a live classroom. The viewer will find a concise intro to why most outreach efforts fail … because they are not holistically incorporating all “4-stages” of an outreach strategy. Plus, my LEAD-600 students will find this a helpful introduction to their classroom assignments on need-based outreach.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

You can find more on this in videos and excerpts from my books/articles at the below links (or by just searching for the words “need-based” or “need-meeting” on ChurchHealth.wiki):

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/outreach-2/

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/need-meeting-a-video-introduction-to-lead-545-assignments-on-need-meeting-by-prof-b/

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/need-meeting-examples-of-need-based-church-programs-from-maslows-hierarchy/

https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/need-meeting-how-the-holmes-rahe-scale-gets-small-groups-involved-in-need-meeting/

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 & 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

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

NEWNESS & The Route Back (Principles of God’s Plan of Salvation)

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

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right. God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior). And, God has made a way for us to be changed. The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better ·       “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father ·       “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too! ·       “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God. Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4 God’s Plan for a Route Back

 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):

·       “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG).

·       “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)

 

Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”

·       “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ. ·       “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return. So, what is involved in returning to him? The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5. let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5 How We Take the Route Back to God[i]

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.[ii] This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide. They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies. And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too! He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes. It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.[iii] The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”[iv]

New People (Spiritual Transformation)

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.[v] The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore …

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings)
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf)
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc. And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized. Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing. When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission. And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship. This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves. This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us. It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us.

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge. Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this. And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

[i] This statement is adapted with updated terminology from Richard Peace’s terms in “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 8.

[ii] Metanoia (the Greek word for repentance), 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. 513-514; see also Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, p. 8.

[iii] Pistis (the Greek word for faith), 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. 668-670.

[iv] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFransicso, 2001), p. 140.

[v] Epistrophe (the Greek word for spiritual transformation or conversion), 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), p. 301; and Richard Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion: A Missiological Challenge,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, p. 8.

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 126-130.

NEWNESS & How Renewing Those in Spiritual-need Renews a Church!

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

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

This is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church. It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness). Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

 

God cares about those in need.

·       “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right for the needy.” Psalm 140:12

·       You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4

 

God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness

 

·      Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)

·       “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

 

Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness

·       “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27

·       “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring. Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated. Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness. They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous. But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions. The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation. And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2.

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation

The uncommon church ·       Expects miracles to happen

·       Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish

·       Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans

·       Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 125-126.

NEWNESS & Can Renewing Church Attendees Alone Renew a Church?

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

Churchgoer Newness

Sometimes leaders pick up this book because deep down inside they want to see their church attendees changed. Leaders are often tired of the wrangling, petty grudges, and poor attitudes that many churchgoers exhibit. Thus, they say to themselves, “If I could only change the people in the church and make them new, that would then change the organization.”

Church leaders are often tired of the wrangling, petty grudges, and poor attitudes that many churchgoers exhibit. Thus, they say to themselves, “if I could only change the people in the church and make them new, that would then change the organization.

Changing people’s attitudes is important. But churchgoer newness is not the vital type of newness that God intends to characterize the uncommon church. Another, more never-ending newness is at the heart of God’s purpose for His Church. There is an eternal newness that springs forth when humans receive supernatural power to change their lives for the good and begin afresh.

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), p. 124.

 

NEWNESS & Can Newcomers Alone Renew a Church?

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

Newcomer Newness & Transfer Growth

… congregations hope that improving their hospitality and assimilation of newcomers will create a new church. And, many helpful books can assist a church in better connecting newcomers to a congregation.[i]

But, while connecting newcomers with a community of faith is an important task, it will not create the all-encompassing sense of newness that is needed to revive a common church. Newcomers certainly bring a sense of expectation, innovation and camaraderie. But the fact is that in many churches the newcomers are refugees from other churches, visiting your church in hopes of something they are not getting at their previous congregation. In fact, there is a name for church growth that results from Christians church-shopping: transfer growth.[ii]

While transfer growth is important, for it helps ensure that Christians are getting plugged into a congregation, it does not create the kind of newness that an uncommon church needs. Donald McGavran said, “By transfer growth is meant the increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.”[iii]

For true newness to spread through a congregation, the supernatural newness that God intended is needed. This a sense of newness arises comes from people in spiritual need being spiritually and physically transformed. Such newness pervades a congregation with a hope and a passion that no other newness can match.

[i] Charles Arn, Heartbeat: How to Turn Passion Into Ministry in Your Church (Longwood, FL: Xulon Publishing, 2010); Gary McIntosh, Beyond the First visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), Nelson Sercy and Jennifer Henson, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully –Engaged Members of Your Church (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008).

[ii] See Donald McGavran’s explanation of why transfer growth is misleading for it does not reconnecting people back to God, but only to a new Christian fellowship in Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 72.

[iii] Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 72.

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 123-124.

GREAT COMMISSION & How Its 4 Verbs Tell Us Our Purpose

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

…the primary goal of every church is not to influence the community for the better, provide a warm place of fellowship, sponsor excellent teaching or even to survive. The church of God has a higher, more encompassing call (that, by the way, includes the previous three tasks).[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. In fact, military personnel reading this will no doubt remember their own commissioning into the armed forces. Veterans have told me this was a powerful and moving experience, with one veteran stating, “You weren’t supposed to have tears in your eyes when you were commissioned, but I did. After 9-11 it was clear to me that I was no longer talking about serving my country, I was doing it! I was ready to put my life on the line for my country.”

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

“I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

The 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.

And, in this commission Jesus used four commissioning verbs. 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. In Figure 5.4 let’s look closer at the verbs in his Great Commission and see if we can locate the one that Jesus emphasized as its central aim.

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

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.”

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.

Take away the three helping verbs to find the main verb

Now, you are probably thinking, “What are the other verbs then?” The three other 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?

As a young junior high student, I heard a pastor say we are to “make disciples.” Being an inattentive youth, I never quite grasped a correct image of what this looked like. From my rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, I pictured Jesus’ disciples and figured the church should make more longhaired individuals with beards, robes and sandals. Because the only youthful image I could conjure up were the “hippies” of the era, I wondered in my naïveté, “Was the preacher really telling for us to go out and produce more hippies?” Now this was not what the preacher intended. But the word disciple had become so archaic and tied in my mind to first century images that a modern depiction was needed.

Picturing a Disciple

To picture a disciple we 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.”

In the next chapter we will learn “HOW” to make learners. But, in this chapter we have seen the “WHY” is because nurturing “learners” is the goal of the Great Commission that Christ has given us.

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.

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

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention

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RENEWAL & 4 ways to renew your church #ChurchCentral @BobWhitesel

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., article published by Church Central, 3/1/17.

So what is wrong with wanting to create a new church with vibrancy, life, and energy in hopes that it will grow and survive? Well, there is nothing wrong with this aim. But if the aim to become a new organization is your primary focus, you will never become uncommonly new. Let me explain why. Here are four types of new:

1. Church newness 

Often church leaders think that creating a new church organizational structure will revitalize their church. Sometimes they do this by streamlining their hierarchy, simplifying their programs, firing or hiring staff, or merging a church with another congregation. The hope is that some organizational newness will foster a freshness that can revive the church. But if this is your strategy, you will fail at becoming a uncommon church.

Attempting to restructure the organization will not cultivate the supernatural community that God designed his church to be. New programs, staff, and structures will only survive until the next new thing emerges, and then the church will be antiquated (and common) again. Restructuring the church into something new, while laudable, cannot create a long-term uncommon church. This is because God desires that his church’s newness emerge from people, not structures.

2. Newcomer newness and transfer growth 

Still other congregations hope that improving their hospitality and assimilation of newcomers will create a new church. And, many helpful books can assist a church in better connecting newcomers to a congregation.1

But while connecting newcomers with a community of faith is an important task, it will not create the all-encompassing sense of newness that is needed to revive a common church. Newcomers certainly bring a sense of expectation, innovation, and camaraderie. But the fact is that in many churches the newcomers are refugees from other churches, visiting your church in hopes of something they are not getting at their previous congregation. In fact, there is a name for church growth that results from Christians church-shopping: transfer growth.2

While transfer growth is important since it helps ensure that Christians are getting plugged into a congregation, it does not create the kind of newness that an uncommon church needs. Donald McGavran said, “By transfer growth is meant the increase of certain congregations at the expense of others . . . But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.”3

For true newness to spread through a congregation, the supernatural newness that God intended is needed. This sense of newness arises from people in spiritual need being spiritually and physically transformed. Such newness pervades a congregation with a hope and a passion that no other newness can match.

3. Churchgoer newness 

Sometimes leaders pick up this book because deep down they want to see their church attendees changed. Leaders are often tired of the wrangling, petty grudges, and poor attitudes that many churchgoers exhibit. Thus, they say to themselves, “If I could only change the people in the church and make them new, that would then change the organization.”

Changing people’s attitudes is important. But churchgoer newness is not the vital type of newness that God intends to characterize the uncommon church. Another more never-ending newness is at the heart of God’s purpose for his church. There is an eternal newness that springs forth when humans receive supernatural power to change their lives for the good and begin afresh.

4. Newness for those in spiritual need 

This is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church. It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness). Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and from where supernatural newness comes.

In the previous articles we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring. Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated. Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L., and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness. They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, and be more loving, kind, and generous. But something deep inside of each of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions. The cure— the real, long-term cure—for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation. And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2.

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012). For further online notes: See Chapter 7 Complete Notes.

Church Central published Bob Whitesel’s latest article on four ways to renew a church. Whitesel, professor of missional leadership at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University is a respected researcher, author and speaker. As a Fellow with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, his article describes four things almost any church can do to begin the renewal process. You can find the article on the ChurchCentral.com main page. And, receive more information about Wesley Seminary and Whitesel’s courses on church renewal and growth at Wesley.Indwes.edu

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood #DWC #Kingswood2018

OUTREACH & The 4 Basic Tools (to Cure Church Apathy)

by Bob Whitesel DMin, PhD, January 17, 2017. A colleague asked for a simple process to help a new church reach out.  Here it is:

4 Simple “cures” for church apathy which will help a church reach out:

Cure 1: find a need (among non churchgoers) and fill it.

Cure 2: disciple in interpersonal small groups, rather than the anonymity of large venues.

Cure 3:  your goal should be “making learners” (i.e. disciples or as McGavran said, “enroll in Jesus’ school”).

Cure 4: make conversion the apex of the process.

You can tell I use these simple four aspects with church planting (and growing church) clients.

EVALUATION & A List of Church Growth/Health Measurements (metrics) from My Books

AN OVERVIEW of MEASUREMENT METRICS: In four of my books I have updated and modified a church measurement tool.  You will find a chapter on measurement in each of these books:

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

I explain that church growth involves four types of congregational growth.  It is a seriously incorrect assumption to assume church growth is all about numbers.  It is only 1/4 about numbers and 3/4 about the other types of growth mentioned in Acts 2:42-47.  In the New Testament we find…

> Maturation Growth, i.e. growth in maturity,Acts 2:42-43.
> Growth in Unity: Acts 2:44-46.
> Growth in Favor, i.e. among non-Christians, Acts 2:47a.
> Growth in number of salvations, i.e. which God does according to this verse, Acts 2:47b.

For more see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

CHURCH CURE & A Review of Cure for the Common Church

by Rev. Jeff Lawson, lead pastor, Life Church, Aurora, IN, 3/31/16.

Practical, useful, and downright easy to use. Those are the words that come to mind as I read through Dr Bob Whitesel’s book, Cure for the Common Church. I would highly endorse this book. There is so much that stands out from this resource, but the first thing is my plea that every single pastor should read this and keep a copy on hand as a useful tool to aid his ministry.

CureForCommonChurchThe practical side to this book is the way it is written. Just like you would go to a doctor and describe what ails you and then the doctor gives his prescription as to what will make you well, Whitesel lists numerous issues that most churches deal with that might prohibit their health, and then he prescribes the needed steps necessary to make them well again. I found myself time and time again laughing out loud and saying, boy, now that really makes sense.

There are far too many ‘common’ churches in our world today. Whitesel gives a solid argument that there must be more ‘uncommon’ churches that are willing to go the extra mile so to be healthy and doing all that God has planned for the local church. Whitesel says, “For a church to be uncommon today, it will be necessary for all congregations to go out into their neighborhoods and connect with the needs of non-churchgoing people.” That idea may seem scary to many, but by following the provided prescriptions, everyone is able to use their God-given gifts to increase the Kingdom of God.

The book is divided into multiple sections so that a person could read and easily benefit from everything, or they could zoom right into their own particular issue that they are dealing with so to begin to correct their problems. The area that gave me the biggest boost was in and around the small group area. Whitesel writes, “To become smaller means that a church increasingly focuses on the health of its small, intimate fellowship structures.” I read this and re-read this, and then read it a third time to try to absorb the idea. Whitesel goes on to say, “Growing smaller means ushering a church into a new, central focus on small groups that are not cliquish but reach out to those inside and outside the groups.”

So the immediate question that comes to mind is how? How do you accomplish this? For instance, if a church does not do their small group ministry well, there is an easy to follow guide that helps to make you understand how to, “Grow UP-war, Grow IN-ward, and Grow OUT-ward”. By following this system, the small groups in your church will continue to cultivate healthy relationships within their group, within their local fellowship, as well as within their community. The problem that many small groups make is that they only do one or possibly two well, and then they find themselves out of balance. This is a wonderful plan to ensure that the groups are not only growing, but growing healthy.

One might think, what difference does it make? Why are small groups so important (I know, I once had the same thought), Whitesel quotes Thom Rainer, “New Christians who immediately became active in a small group are five times more likely to remain in the church five years later than those who were active in worship services alone.” That statistic should grab the attention of every senior pastor.

The book concludes with a brilliant plan for the church to be open to all people. The church has a long history of expecting people to clean up their act prior to coming to church. The absurdity of that notion is the same as expecting a sick person to get well before visiting their local doctor. The church is the place to come to receive care. As individuals give their lives to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, then the healthy change begins to happen. An important lesson I learned was that, “People need guidelines, but they also need those guidelines to be explained by a mentor whom they can trust and question.” Being a mentor is not something that can just arbitrarily be done. Careful selection should be made to match an individual.

This book is a tool that I will use with my leadership team. It would be good to have the team dig through it together, gleaning wisdom as to how to keep God’s bride healthy.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY & Review by a Pastor of “Cure for the Common Church”

by Pastor Drew Alan Wilkerson, Lead Pastor, BridgeWater Church, Hamilton, Ohio. February 23, 2016

INTRODUCTION:                                                                                                                                                                  Pg. 11-17

This overview summarizes a book by Dr. Bob Whitesel titled Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing Hosue, 2012). This book is designed for the common sense leader and pastor who realize that the church they attend is in need of church health and revitalization. Sadly, the majority of churches in America are in a state of plateau and decline. Cure for the Common Church is a book that tackles this difficult arena of church change and gives hope for future transformation.

PURPOSE Pg. 17                                                                                                                                                                         The purpose of Cure for the Common Church is found in Dr. Whitesel’s desire to share the best advice for renewal and growth that will impact a local church and its leaders quickly, returning a church back to a path of growth. By using a term indicating a road to physical health, the author prescribes a fourfold “RX” for the church in need of restorative health.

PROCESS & BENEFITS                                                                                                                                                      Pg. 19-160

This book is designed to explain each of the four “cures” necessary for church recovery. First, Dr. Whitesel shares the reasoning behind the cure. Following a brief explanation, the steps for each cure are given in an easy to recall acronym. The four “cures” create a formula for church health and revitalization if followed by the local church in need of renewal. They are as follows:

  1. How does a church grow O.U.T.? = Observe whom you are equipped to reach. Understand the needs of those you are reaching. Tackle needs by refocusing and realigning ministries.
  2. How does a church grow S.M.A.L.L.? = Survey the small groups in the church. Missionalize all small groups. Add small groups. Lead small groups. Locate the church focus in small groups.
  3. How does a church grow L.E.A.R.N.ers? = Link learners publicly. Every small group becomes a learning group. Agreement emerges from learning. Reproduce learners. Needs are met through learning based action.
  4. How does a church grow N.E.W.? = Create a Nonjudgmental atmosphere. Explore the newness people need found only in Jesus. Walk the bridge to transformation and newness with each person.

CONCLUSION:  Pg. 154

Dr. Whitesel clearly defines the need for the “common local church” to become “uncommon” and healthy in order to reach people who can only be transformed by Jesus Christ. This must be the focus.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Retrain local church leaders to focus on transformation and not simply growth by using the four cures: U.T., S.M.A.L.L., L.E.A.R.N., and N.E.W.
  2. Focus on the immediate areas of the local church in question and determine which of the four cures should be addressed immediately. Church members need to form E.A.M. groups to investigate and follow the prescriptions that are right for the church (pg.12, 161).
  3. Learn and implement the “90-Minute Annual Checkup” (p. 160-167). It will be essential to understand how to review and measure the progress and implementation of the 4 cures each year.
  4. Strategically, review the progress of the church to become “new” and “uncommon.” The local church must refocus its vision to fulfill the Great Commission and build bridges of transformation.
  5. BridgeWater Church should focus on educating its members to build new bridges to the non-churched and deliberately emphasize small groups becoming missional centers of church health.

HOLARCHY & Why Wesley Used This Leadership-style That is Popular Again #IncMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: While studying churches that grow in times of crises, I’ve noticed that at these times leaders put authority into their small groups to do most of the ministry work. Such an example is St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, England when as England’s largest megachurch they lost their auditorium with three weeks notice. Read about this in the chapter I contributed to Eddie Gibbs’ festschrift titled “Gospel after Christendom” (Baker Academic, 2012). Basically what St. Thomas did was allow all the small groups to do the social-action ministries and even require them to do so. Therefore, instead of top-down organization of social action programs designed by the executive team of the church, they required each small group to look around it’s community and weekly do something to help non-churchgoers. This democratized the organizations outreach through a leadership-style called “holarchy.” storyality-theory-2014-uws-pg-conference-jt-velikovsky-61-638This is exactly what John Wesley required of the small group meetings: they were each required to go out and serve the needy. This became known as Wesley’s “method” and adherents the “Methodists.” Read this article in Inc. Magazine to become acquainted with “holarchy” and how it is much better than top-down autocratic management when managing today’s post modern young adults.

Read more about “holarchies” at … http://www.inc.com/elle-kaplan/want-to-improve-your-company-let-every-person-on-your-team-be-a-chief.html

And read more about Wesley’s holarchy leadership-style here (including a downloadable section on this from my book Cure for the Common Church …https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/small-groups-3-facets-of-well-rounded-small-groups/

Embedded is a chart (click it to enlarge) that depicts a holarchy and was retrieved from http://image.slidesharecdn.com/storyalitytheory-2014uwspgc-jtvelikovskyv2-140715075956-phpapp02/95/storyality-theory-2014-uws-pg-conference-jt-velikovsky-61-638.jpg?cb=1405411334

SMALL GROUPS & 3 Facets of Well Rounded Small Groups

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Sometimes people wonder about the content and foci of small groups.  While small groups come in all styles, types, environments and characteristics; in my experience they are healthy when then all possess three Biblical commonalities.

And, I have often thought that calling these groups NOW groups might be helpful (and relevant) in remembering these three Biblical commonalities.

N stands for nurture

O for outreach, and

W for worship.

Thus, each small group would have what former-Rector Mike Breen (formerly of St. Tom’s in Sheffield) calls the triangle of small group focus: Up-In-Out.  Here is a helpful website that explains the iconography that Breen uses to help small groups remember this (and other important Biblical concepts):  http://www.disciplingculture.com/lifeshapes-an-insiders-look/

Cure Figure 4.3 Up In OutClick here to download the chapter from my book on “How to Missionalize Your Small Groups,” from the BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Get Small Chpt. 3 & 4, Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012.

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SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Research Shows Crises Lead to a Need for Transformation

By Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 9/30/11.

Excerpted with permission from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (2012) pp. 146-149.CureForCommonChurch

Researchers[i] have long understood that people usually seek change in their life while going through a crisis.[ii] Figure 8.2 shows how different crises create varying degrees of a need to change.[iii] The more severe crises (listed toward the top of the left column) create more motivation to change. Therefore, to help people change, an uncommon congregation will seek to first understand what crises a person is going through and what change she or he needs.[iv]

The middle column of Figure 8.2 offers questions they may be asking and in the right column are suggestions for meeting their needs. But, this scale is not a definite list of need-based miniseries, but rather a guide toward helping Christians find and meet the spiritual newness a person craves.

Figure 8.2 Crises and Need-meeting Ministries

Crisis

that foster a desire for change

(most serve at the top)

Questions

being asked

Need-meeting

ministries

1.     Death of a spouse ·  Did they go to heaven?

·  What will I do now?

·  Grief-recovery group/course

·  Course/study on refocusing life

2.     Divorce ·  How did my behavior contribute? ·  Divorce recovery group/course
3.     Marital separation ·  Can I prevent divorce? ·  Course/group on marriage
4.     Jail term ·  What will others say?

·  Who will help with my behavior?

·  Inclusion route for ex-offenders

·  Addiction recovery groups

5.     Family member death                                                                                                           

(see death of a spoue above)

6.     Personal injury /illness ·  How will I pay my bills?

·  Can God heal me?

·  Who will help me through this?

·  Benevolence program

·  Parish-nurse program

·  Prayer/healing opportunities

7.     Marriage ·  Are we truly compatible?

·  What kind of social environment will keep my marriage strong?

·  Newly married group/course

·  Marriage enrichment groups

·  Marital counseling ministry

8.     Fired from work ·  How can I find a new job?

·  How will I pay the bills?

·  Who will help me w/ new skills?

·  Resume writing course

·  Job-placement counseling

·  Benevolence program

9.     Marital reconciliation (see divorce & separation above)
10.  Retirement ·  What does God has in store for me?

·  Does my life still matter?

·  What should I do with my time?

·  Second-career programs that help retirees enter the ministry.

·  Mentoring programs comprised of seniors.

11.  Change in family member’s health ·  Why does God allow suffering?

·  How can I help a sufferer?

·  Is there a purpose in suffering?

·  Course/group on problem of pain.

·  Course/group on grief recovery.

12.  Pregnancy ·  Who will help raise my child?

·  Is abortion ethical?

·  Support for new mothers

·  Adoption options

13.  Sex difficulties ·  Am I unattractive to my spouse?

(see divorce & separation above)

·  Course/group on self-image

(see divorce & separation above)

14.  Addition to family (see pregnancy above)
15.  Business readjustment ·  Can I support my family?

·  How will I stretch my budget?

·  Job skill training

·  Course/group on finances

16.  Financial status change (see business readjustment above)
17.  Death of close friend (see death of a spouse above)
18.  Number of marital arguments changes (see divorce & separation above)
19.  Mortgage or loan over $75,000 ·  How will I pay for this?

·  Is this good stewardship?

·  Budget planning class/course

·  Financial seminar/course

20.  Foreclosure of mortgage or loan (see $75k + mortgage or loan above)
21.  Change in work responsibilities ·  How do I get along w/ a new boss?

·  How do I take on these new responsibilities?

·  Mentoring by those w/ good business relationships

·  Course/study on ethical decision making

22.  Son or daughter leaving home ·  What will I do with my time?

·  How will my child do?

·  Ministries for empty-nesters

·  Small groups for empty-nesters

23.  Trouble with In-laws See divorce & separation above
24.  Outstanding personal achievement ·  Will this success change me?

·  What are my obligations to God?

·  What platform does this give me?

·  Group/course on servant leadership

·  Christian ethics in business

25.  Spouse starts work ·  How will we raise our kids?

·  Will we still spend time together?

·  2-wage earner Course/group

·  (see divorce & separation above)

Such crises, which send the spiritual traveler seeking change, can overwhelm the traveler and the a navigator, unless both consider that God may have a purpose in the crisis. God often uses such difficulties to get our attention about the importance of renewing our relationship with him. Here is how Paul describes it:

“Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.” 2 Cor. 7:10 (MSG)

Footnotes:

[i] This adaption of the Holmes and Rahe Readjustment Scale with the explanation of how varying crises affect a craving for spiritual transformation is based upon Flavil Yeakley’s Ph.D. research at the University of Illinois (Flavil R. Yeakley, Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Communication [Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1976]). Flavil Yeakley’s dissertation is now available online here > http://www.pureheartvision.org/resources/docs/yeakley/Persuasion%20in%20Religious%20Conversion_Doctors%20of%20Philosophy%20Thesis.pdf

[ii] Usually people are seeking an explanation for the change (such as when a loved one dies) or they are seeking a sense of stability (as when going through a divorce, or a child leaving for college).

[iii] Researchers Holmes and Rahe listed these crisis in their order of severity (with the most severe at the top of their list). See T. H. Holmes and R. H. Rahe, “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research (Waltham, MA: Elsevier, 1967), Vo. 11, pp. 213-218. It is interesting to note that some research on seminary students involved in ministry found that while a score over 300 is considered “critically high,” that the average score for seminarians was 348 (Gary L. Harbaugh and Evan Rogers, “Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary” The Journal of Pastoral Care, [Decatur, GA: 1984], Vol XXXVIII, No. 2, p. 102). This tells us that seminarians also have high levels of stress, that while most may not lead to a new spiritual transformation, many of these stressors may lead to physical transformation such as leaving the ministry, severing personal relationships, or changing churches/denominations. Today’s seminary must be familiar with the consequence of these stressors, and thus seminaries should offer courses, small groups, etc. to help seminarians deal with increased stressors while in seminary.

[iv] Flavil Yeakley discovered that crises as defined in the Holmes-Rahe Scale often send people to religion in search of assistance in meeting these emerging personal problems (Flavil R. Yeakley, Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Communication [Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1976]).

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