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

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

What is the Goal of a Church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal…. Look at their responses:

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

…Yet, a cure for the common church is much bigger, for it is a church-wide refocus back to Jesus’ goal for his church

Jesus’ Goal for the Church

The right answer for Figure 5.1 is actually “none of the above” and comes from Jesus’ own words[I] … To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)

Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB, commissioning verbs are underlined)

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service…

Christians, too, are called to put their lives on the line in Jesus’ great commissioning. Here is what others have said about this passage (Figure 5.3):

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

The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission

Because this Great Commission is so important, it is not surprising that each word, each phrase that Jesus uttered in Matthew 28:19-20 seems to have been chosen carefully to convey his message. Jesus undoubtedly knew that believers down through history would return to this passage as they contemplated the goal of their spiritual community.

…Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three…

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

Finding the main verb

In the English, the four verbs seem equal. But, when Jesus spoke these words, he pronounced one verb with a special spelling, thereby indicating that this verb was the main verb or “goal” of the passage. Which verb was Jesus pointing to as the goal of his Great Commission? You must wait a few paragraphs to find out.

3 verbs tell “how” – only 1 verb tells us “the goal”

Three … verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]

So, which three verbs are participles (telling us “how”) and which one verb is the main verb (telling us the “goal”)? The spelling of the Greek verbs indicates the following:[vi]

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

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

Therefore, the uncommon church’s goal must not the “going,” the “baptizing” or even the “teaching.” These are the “hows.” In the words Jesus chose he made clear that for the uncommon church he was founding, it was “making disciples” that was the goal.

What Do Disciples look like?

Picturing a Disciple

…Begin with the Greek word matheteusate, which means “a learner, a pupil or an apprentice.”[i] It carries the image of a trainee or a student still in school more than it depicts an expert. Christ is commanding his followers not to produce experts, but rather to foster a community of authentic learners. Following Jesus should feel like you are enrolled in his school of learning. Therefore, a church is not a cadre of experts, but a collage of fellow learners.

Theologians have sought to convey the rich and multifaceted meaning of the verb: “make disciples” in several ways.

Donald McGavran[ii] said …… “It means enroll in my (Jesus’) school…”

Eddie Gibbs[iii] stated ………… “It is learning, not simply through being given information, but in learning how to use it. Discipleship is an apprenticeship rather than an academic way of learning. It is learning by doing.”

James Engel[iv] summarized…“In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age.”

An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple

From a closer look at the words Jesus used, we see that the goal of every church is to help people become “a community of active, ongoing learners.”[v] It is not just to baptize or to teach as we are going out (though all of these are “hows” of the disciple making process). The goal, toward which a church should focus its attention and its resources is to produce people that are actively learning about their heavenly Father.

Still, this goal includes binding up their wounds, meeting their needs before they even know who Christ is, standing up for their justice and righting their wrongs. But all of these worthy actions if they become the goal, will make your mission misdirected. God’s goal, the purpose he has for every church, is to reconnect his wayward offspring to himself (the essence of the missio Dei). And, the church’s goal (Figure 5.6) is to foster this reunification by helping people become learners about a loving, seeking Father.

The Goal of the Church Defined

While the common church has mistaken many “hows” for the “goal,” Figure 5.6 is the goal against which the uncommon church will be measured. In our commissioning, Jesus has handed us a different measuring stick.

Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church

The goal of a church is …

To make active, ongoing learners.

(i.e. learning about a heavenly Father who loves them, sacrificed his Son for them and who wants to reunite and empower them.)

Jesus wants the uncommon church to focus upon reuniting his wayward offspring with him by making active, ongoing learners about his great love, sacrifice and future for them. And so, be careful not to make some of the following common missteps.

  • Teaching without learning: If a church is teaching many people, but few are actively learning over a long period of time, the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
  • Having learned once, but not learning now: If a person has learned once, perhaps in the past at school or as a child but is not learning now, then the church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”
  • Baptizing without ongoing learning: And, if the church is baptizing many souls, but there is little ongoing education about what it means to follow Christ, then that church is not “making active, ongoing learners.”

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

Footnotes:

[i] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 486-487.

[ii] Donald McGavran, Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1988), p. 17.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Body Building Exercises for the Local Church (London: Falcon Press, 1979), p. 74.

[iv] James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979), 66.

[v] The “ongoing” emphasis in making disciples is created by both the preface of Matthew 28:18-20 (whereby Jesus declares his command is a result of non-temporal authority, v. 18) and by the aorist tense of make disciples, which can convey the sense of an action that should commence at once.

[i]I am not saying that winning souls to Christ is not important and central to God’s mission, for it is. As I have stated in the first chapters of this book (and in every one of my previous nine books) reuniting wayward offspring to their heavenly Father so they can receive salvation from their sin, gain new purpose and enter eternal life is the mission of God (i.e. missio Dei) in which we are called to participate (Matt. 28:19-20). However, the point I am making here is that “winning souls” is a supernatural connection that though we can help facilitate, is something only God can accomplish (see for instance Acts 2:47 where Luke writes, “The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved”). Jesus, in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, gives his church not the task of soul-saving (he reserves that right for himself), but rather gives the church the task of “making learners about him.” If a church is making learners about God, then he can supernaturally connect with them through their growing knowledge of his love and bring them into a reconciled relationship with himself. Thus, in this chapter I will show that “making learners of Christ” is the task for which the church should aim, and when we connect people with their loving Father this way, he can add “daily to the community those who were being saved.”

[ii] David Bosch has rightly pointed out that you cannot fully understand the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 without an understanding of Matthew’s gospel as a whole. The reader who wants a fuller appreciation for the power and influence of the Great Commission in context should see David J. Bosch’s chapter “Matthew: Mission as Disciples-Making” in Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 20th ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), pp. 56-83.

[iii] Hudson Taylor quoted by Stan Toler, Practical Guide to Solo Ministry: How Your Church Can Thrive When You Lead Alone (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008), p. 136; C. T. Studd quoted by David l. Marshall, To Timbuktu and Beyond: A Missionary Memoir (New York: Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 87; William Carey quoted by A. Scott Moreau, Gary B. McGee and Gary R. Corwin in Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 201; and C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis (New York: HarperOne, 2002), p. 96.

[iv] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 274-275. A good way to think of this is that the participles (go, baptizing, teaching) tell “how” making disciples is done. Thus, to the question, “How do you make disciples?” one could answer “by going (means) and baptizing (manner) and teaching” (manner).

[v] The relationship between the three participles and the imperative “make disciples” has been described by Robert Culver as “the words translated ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’ are participles. While these participles are immensely important the imperative ‘make disciples’ is of superlative importance.” “What is the Church’s Commission,” Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, July 1968), p. 244.

[vi] Daniel B. Wallace, The Basis of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 280 states “a greater emphasis is placed on the action of the main verb than on the participle. That is, the participle is something of a prerequisite before the action of the main verb can occur” (italics Wallace). In other words, the “going,” “baptizing” and “teaching” are prerequisites that must occur before the action of the main verb (“making disciples”) can take place.

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

INGROWN & 4 traps of ingrown churches & how to avoid them. @BiblicalLeadership magazine article by @BobWhitesel

Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church.The result of this inward focus is that churches stop reaching non-churchgoers because they are less frequently meeting the needs of those outside of their fellowship. 

Most non-churchgoers will avoid an ingrown church all together because it does not appear to be sensitive to their needs. Even newly launched and emerging churches are not immune to becoming ingrown. The close fellowship created in new church plants, multiple-site churches, cell-churches, art churches, café churches, and house churches often subtly redirect the leaders’ attention inward and away from their mission field. 

Ask yourself, “How much of my volunteer time at church do I spend on meeting the needs of the congregation rather than meeting the needs of those who don’t go to church?” If you do not see a balance, then the church you attend may be ingrown. 

Good churches have this problem too

Ingrown churches actually arise for a good reason. A church’s fellowship often is so attractive, compelling, and beneficial, that before long most of a congregation’s attention becomes directed toward these benefits. Donald McGavran in Understanding Church Growth summed up these positive/negative attributes by saying a good church will create “redemption and lift.”By this he meant that once a person is redeemed (restored back to a relationship with God), the person’s fellowship with other Christians will lift him or her away from previous friends who are non-churchgoers. The cure, according to McGavran, is to realize that this lift is good (it raises your life to a new level of loving Christ) but also bad (it separates you from non-churchgoers who need Christ’s love too). McGavran argued that balance is needed in meeting the needs of those inside the church and those outside of it, and so does this post. 

Good reasons that trap churches into ingrown behavior

Let’s look at four common church characteristics characteristics that when left unattended can unintentionally redirect a church into a closed, inward focus:

History Trap—A church with a long history. 

A church that is focused internally will eventually lose sight of its original mis- sion and gravitate toward being an organization consumed with helping itself. Years and years of internal focus will result in a church that knows little else. Leaders raised in an internally focused church will think that the volunteer’s role is to serve the existing congregation, perhaps to the point of burnout. Time erases the memory of the earliest days of a church conceived to meet the needs of non-churchgoers. 

The Organizational Trap—A sizable congregation that must be managed. 

Have you ever noticed that when new churches are started, they often have an outward focus? This may be because a newly planted church is often keenly aware that without reaching out to others, the new church will die. However, I have noticed that once a new church is about eighteen months old, it starts becoming so consumed its organizational needs, that it spends most of its time internally focused. Thus, any church with a history over eighteen months long will usually be internally focused. 

The Experience Trap—A church with a talented and long-serving team of volunteers.

 When a church has a cadre of talented and gifted leaders, these volunteers are often asked to stay too long in their positions. They thus become regarded as experts by others and newcomers. The result is that leadership unintention- ally becomes a closed clique, which newcomers with innovative ideas will often feel too intimidated to penetrate. 

The Infirmity Trap—A church with a ministry to hurting people.

Hurting people are often seeking to have their hurts healed by the soothing balm of Christian community. A church that is offering this is doing something good, because to help hurting people is what Christ calls his church to do (James 1:27). And a ministry to hurting people must be conducted with confidentially and intimacy. 

An unintentional result of such confidentiality is that these churches can become closed communities too. Subsequently, churches often thwart their mission to reach out to the hurting and instead gravitate toward a closed fellowship where outsiders find it increasingly harder to get in and get the help they need. 

There is a difference between an internally focused church and one that is balanced with equal emphasis upon internal and external needs. Check all that apply to your church. The column with the most checks may indicate whether your church is growing in, growing out, or is equally balanced (the goal of an uncommon church).

Is your church ingrown?

Check all that apply to your church:

More curated ideas from professor, award-winning writer and consultant Bob Whitesel DMin PhD at ChurchHealth.wiki, WesleyTours.com, MissionalCoaches.com & ChurchHealth.expert

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health,by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012).

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/4-traps-of-ingrown-churches/

 

CURE FOR THE COMMON CHURCH & A review by Jim Herbert,

York, PA, 5/8/18.

“Cure for the Common Church” is a practical guide to help churches confront their unhealthy ways. Again, I like the way it was written. The book was not written in linear way, rather a mosaic approach that allows you to read and study based on the need. One chapter of each of the four sections talks about the problem and the second chapter of each section deals with the solutions. I will highlight several points under the four areas (Grow Out, Grow Small, Grow Learners and Grow New).

Grow Out

• The gravitational pull for every church is to grow inward. The book lays out four traps that causes this to happen.

• It is interesting to think about how we got here! I believe this problem is timeless. It happens naturally because it’s human nature. We like our worlds small and controllable. So, it takes a lot of leadership to balance the community between outward and inward.

• Balancing volunteer hours between inward and outward focus is a great way to measure. It’s a practical way of knowing how the church is trending.

Grow Small

• The other tension that churches deal with is combatting the attractional element of church. We all know that there has to be an attraction, but we spend an awful amount of time looking at ourselves in the “church mirror” and not trusting the attractional element of God’s presence.

• I love the approach of focusing on people not things, leaders not programs. Setting a structure and continually focusing on a fluid process of engaging people in smaller settings is a lot of work. But, if we can get our best people involved and engaged in this area we may find a greater health in our churches.

• Studying history may give us answers for today and going forward. The book mentioned the Wesleyan movement and how John Wesley effectively developed a discipleship process that grounded people in their faith. I’m sure a dominant reason for its success was the people that helped lead it. A good curriculum was helpful, but the ones leading it was the key…I’m sure.

• Using the UP, IN, OUT approach is excellent. I love Breen’s approach to discipleship. Missionalizing groups is an excellent approach to outreach since it keeps it in the hands of the people and not programized.

Grow Learners

• The “disciple” thing has often been the bugaboo for churches. Understanding what a disciple is and what a disciple does has kept us at a standstill for decades if not centuries! Sure, we have had periods where we have figured it out, and yes there have been great leaders who have been able to drill down to its core. But for most of my

lifetime this issue has alluded us (me).

• I appreciate the way the book has used the word “learn” as an acronym to frame the discussion. Again, the key is in the environment and not as much the content. In the

past we have focused so much on content and missed the element of community.

• The other thing I see is how the book resourced the three primary verbs used in the Great Commission. The words “Go, Baptizing and Teaching” bring focus to the discipleship activity. We then can frame our discipleship process around those three primary actions.

• I do believe healthy communities are reproducible. The attraction lies in the relationships not as much in the content.

Grow New

• The whole “grow new” message is emphasized by focusing on the intention. Therefore, it’s important to define what it means to be “new”. Often time the “newness” approach is centered around an outward approach. This is not sustainable. Newness through transformation is a completely different approach. This approach deals with the heart first, then works its way outward.

• I really liked how the book focused on the pivot point of spiritual transformation. It is the balance between the outward and inward focuses.

• Regarding spiritual transformation, having a solid grasp of the transformation process is critical. The Gospel message and journey is not as linear as we want to make it. Walking with people through their transformation is very important, people know when it’s a bait and switch. Looking for people to change so they can come to our church is selfish and self-absorbed. If we value the transformational process, we will be able to rejoice when the change actually happens. They may not attend our church long term but would’ve had the chance to be involved in seeing someone’s life transformed.

Conclusion

There is much more to unpack, but not enough time. I would highly recommend this book for church leadership teams. It’s practical and informative.

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

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

CureForCommonChurch

The average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[i]

[i] Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 (Hartford, CT: Program on Public Values, 2009) and Duke University, National Congregations Study, http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/index.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 3 ways to walk a spiritual bridge to new life w/ someone

by Bob Whitesel, Church Central, April 30, 2017.

Two things are happening to a person in spiritual and physical crisis:

1. At this point they realize that only God, the one who created them, can effectively and enduringly meet their needs.

2. They also feel that their relationship with God is estranged because they have ignored him for so long.

The uncommon church will foster an environment where helping others navigate this bridge is the norm. Therefore, the uncommon church walks this bridge with others, not retracing their own steps again but walking alongside helping, answering questions, and encouraging others as they cross a bridge between natural and supernatural living. A verse that reminds us of the magnitude of the newness and that we represent God in it, can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17–19: “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! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG).

The importance of walking the bridge with them 

And so, as Christ’s representatives we need to tell others how God gave his Son to provide a bridge back to himself. I have found that in many growing churches almost all congregants know how to explain the story of Jesus’ bridge.

Thus, the last key toward helping others navigate the bridge back to a restored friendship with God is to have a congregation that can explain God’s biblical bridge. Sometimes called “the plan of salvation,” these are simple memory devices that the majority of all attendees in the uncommon church must know if we are to fulfill Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that, God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives” (MSG). Here are three of the most common explanations of that bridge:

The Four Spiritual Laws 13

1. God loves you and created you to know him personally (John 3:16; 17:3).

2. Humans are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know him personally or experience His love (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for human sin. Through him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3–6; John 14:6).

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience his love (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8–9; Revelation 3:20).

The Romans Road 14

To aid in memorization, this explanation employs the metaphor of a Roman thoroughfare:

• Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Everyone needs salvation because we have all sinned.)

• Romans 6:23: “The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (The price or consequence of sin is death.)

• Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Jesus Christ died for our sins. He paid the price for our death.)

• Romans10:9: “Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.” (We openly declare that we receive salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.)

• Romans5:1: “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Salvation through Jesus Christ brings us back into a relationship of peace with God.)

Steps to Peace with God15

This explanation uses phrases tool: from John 3:16 as a memory

• For God so loved the world: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  • That he gave his only Son:“While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
  • That whoever believes in him: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
  • Should not perish:“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
  • But have everlasting life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So pick an explanation that works for you. But hold one another accountable to be able to explain at least one route, for 1 Peter 3:15–18 urges:

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (MSG)

13 The “Four Spiritual Laws” was originally conceived by Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright (http://campuscrusade.com/fourlawseng.htm), but the original version seemed to build on people’s more selfcentered desire for attaining God’s plan for their lives. While this is certainly valid, an alternative version is quoted here (compare http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp) because it better emphasizes the missio Dei
(God’s desire to be reunited with his wayward offspring).

14 Additional verses in Romans that provide further insights for each one of these steps (along with ideas for sermons, Bible studies, and teaching tools) to help congregants remember the “Romans Road” can be found at http://www.gotquestions.org/Romans-road-salvation.html, http://theromanroad.org, and http://christianity.about.com/od/conversion/qt/romansroad.htm.

15 “Steps to Peace with God” was developed by the Billy Graham organization. It supports this presentation with an extensive web presence at http://peacewithgod.jesus.net.

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 8 Complete Notes. 

four spiritual laws Romans road steps to peace with God

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018


CURE #3 & Seeking the Right GOAL of the Great Co-Mission.

Excerpted from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health, chapter “How to Grow Learners.”

What is the Goal of a Church?

I often ask my client churches to honestly tell me what they perceive as their church’s primary goal. This is not a scientific poll because these churches need to grow and they realize this (or they wouldn’t be hiring a church growth consultant). But, their answers may mirror yours. Look at their responses in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1 Question to Clients: “What honestly do you perceive as your church’s primary goal?”

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

As you can see from Figure 5.1 the common answer is “our primary goal is to survive as a church.” This desire to survive is laudable and such honesty encouraging. Yet, with survival as a primary goal a church usually won’t continue to exist much longer. This cure for the common church is much bigger, for it is a church-wide refocus back to Jesus’ goal for his church

Jesus’ Goal for the Church

The right answer for Figure 5.1 is actually “none of the above” and comes from Jesus’ own words. That’s right, 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 #Kingswood2018

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NEED MEETING & A Canvass Question to Ascertain Community Needs

Figure 2.5 Canvass Question (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 38)

“Hello. My name is _____(name)_____ and I am from _____(name of church)_____. I am asking people to help us understand what are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

An abbreviated version by the author, 2016:

“Hello. My name is _____(name)_____ and I am from _____(name of church)_____.   What are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

A brief overview of this from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health:

Focus 1: OUT. In Jesus’s ministry we see a ongoing emphasis on reaching out to nonreligious people and people in need (e.g. Luke 6:31-33). But churches quickly become inwardly focused, looking more after their own needs than the needs of those outside their church.

Tool 1 to Focus OUT: ASK. Get your administrative board and staff to go out on a Saturday morning walk through the church neighborhood and areas from which you draw your congregants. Tell them to ask people they meet this simple question: “What could a church like ours do to meet needs of people in this community?” Don’t ask them what you can do to meet their personal needs. That is too personal. Rather ask them to tell you about community needs. Usually they will tell you about their own needs. Then go back to the church and compile a list of needs. Pick out a couple needs that your church is equipped or is beginning to be equipped to address. Then reallocate funds and volunteers to meet those needs. I advise churches to do this twice a year. This keeps leaders listening for needs in the community. One church board member said, “I now work that question subtly into my conversations all year long. I find a lot of interesting needs in this community that way. And it helps me be a better board member because I can help the church focus on meeting needs outside the church.”

Here are some other tactical ideas for ascertaining community needs:

LEVEL 5 & An Overview of @EdStetzer ‘s Steps to a Level 5 Church #Exponential

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/26/16.

The following in an overview of my colleague Ed Stetzer’s keynote at Exponential 16.  He sees the need for churches to visualize moving beyond reproducing to multiplying congregations.  Parallel to Jim Collins’ insights on Level 5 Leadership (which is more collaborative and visionary, see Helen Lee’s interview with Collins), Stetzer sees Level 5 churches as developing out of six practices:

  1. Remind people we evangelize because we were evangelized.
  2. Teach people how normal evangelism should be.
  3. Utilize different approaches.
  4. Celebrate and share the stories of members who have met Christ.
  5. Make sure the leaders are cheerleaders for evangelism.
  6. Teach the gospel well and consistently.

These are churches that attain 50% conversion growth.  More more details see Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im’s book Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem (Nashville: LifeWay, 2016).

I came to the same conclusion in “Cure for the Common Church” seeing the “4th cure” as “N.E.W.” or a “Focus on Conversion” (you can download the chapter here).  In healthy churches the average congregant knows how to share their faith and steps to salvation with their friends and acquaintances.  I suggest healthy churches yearly have a 5-week sermon series on the “Four Spiritual Laws” with a fifth Sunday for a call to commitment.

Below is how I explained this in an article for Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.  Read the entire article here.

Focus 4: NEW. By this I mean cultivating an environment in your church where people’s lives are changed into new lives. There’s an excitement in a church when people expect to be changed there. Today when people need to a changed from an abusive life, addiction, depraved habits and/or self-centeredness they usually go to a psychologist, self-help group or read a self-help book. All of these are helpful tools. But I believe the most helpful and God-ordained tool is the Church. The Church is the place in a community where people should know that you go if you need to be changed. This is because there is supernatural power to change people whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20).

Tool 4 to focus on NEW: Everyone learns a GOSPEL presentation. Every attendee should be equipped with a tool to share the Good News. The Four Spiritual Laws, The Four Steps to Peace with God, The Romans Road or another plan of salvation are the most important tool with which you can equip each congregant. Attendees should be trained in their youth, in their Sunday schools and during a yearly preaching series. Then they will be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, (1 Peter 3:15). A good tool to encourage this is a five-week sermon series every year, where each week focuses on one of The Four Spiritual Laws or The Four Steps to Peace with God. Then on the fifth week extend a call to meet Christ. If a yearly part of your preaching calendar, this sermon series can equip, reinforce and remind congregants how to share the wonderful opportunity and blessing of a new life in Christ.

EVALUATION & Clearing the Universal Fog Over 2 Types of Goals: Tactical & Strategic

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/11.15.

One of the primarily culprits of goals not being met is not having “measureable” goals.  And, there are two types of goals that should be measured.

TACTICAL GOALS:  Tactical goals (such as “start an  ESL program” or “launch a new small group”) are specific tactical (i.e. planning) goals that support “broader” and “wide-ranging” church goals.

STRATEGIC GOALS:  These broader, more wide-ranging church goals are strategic goals, and they could be something like: “to have more congregants involved in Bible study, fellowship opportunities and prayer meetings than last year.”  These goals are strategic goals, and they can be traced back to metrics Luke described in Acts 2:42-47. Though Luke was not saying every church needed to use these metric, he did use them himself to describe for posterity “how” the church grew after Peter’s sermon.  For more on these metrics click here … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/church-growth-a-definition-mcgavran-housedividedbook/

DIFFERENCES:  For more on the differences between tactics and strategies see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

Leadership Exercise

Here is a leadership exercise to help you think about and differentiate between these two types of goals.  This exercise will look at how we should measure individual tactical actions (e.g. start a new ministry, etc.) and how we should measure bigger strategic goals (e.g. if the church is growing in maturity, unity and service to the community paralleling the metrics Luke used).

A) Listen.  The audio attachment though prepared for my students, will give leaders ideas about how to undertake this leadership exercise.

 

 

B) Read.  This exercise will make a lot more sense if you read the pdf from “A House Divided” that is provided here:  (It is also provided to my students in their weekly course materials).   So, read the “House Divided – Evaluate Your Success” pdf and then listen to the audio recording and you should be on your way toward dispelling the “universal fog” that surrounds most church leadership (for more on the universal fog, see “A Universal Fog” and “The Facts Needed” in Donald A. McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970], 76-120).

C) Discuss by answering the first two questions, and then one of the following of the following questions for discussion.

1) Share two things you learned about the differences between a tactical goal and a strategic goal.

2) Give an example of a strategic goal and then a tactical goal that might support it.

3) Which is usually easier to measure?

4) Which do leaders usually focus upon?

5) What do you think Dr. McGavran meant by the term: “universal fog?”

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/

SMALL GROUPS & Why A Growing Church Stays as Small As Possible #Video

QUOTE: “Small groups are one of the most important structures in the church for discipleship.” Bob Whitesel.

VIDEO of Bob Whitesel Ph.D., Oct. 2012 at the Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN. Published by ChurchCentral.com. For more info see Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).

http://www.churchcentral.com/videos/PZwsvnDJ/A-growing-church-stays-as-small-as-possible

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #DWC

BLENDED WORSHIP & To Blend or Not To Blend: Here is a better option for small churches

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/51/15.

Let me share about blended worship and the evangelistic prowess of blended services (which I prefer to call “unity services” rather than blended – but for this discussion and clarity I will use the latter).

I’ve made clear in my books (“ORGANIX,” “Cure for the Common Church” and “The Healthy Church”) about the lack of evangelistic efficacy of blended services, but often smaller churches (as I mention in “A House Divided”) have trouble having enough people to move to two services.  In this scenario the better option to the blended format is the compartmentalized format.  In this strategy the key will be to compartmentalize your service until you have grown sufficiently to launch two services.

One client had a pre-glow contemporary music component from 10:10-10:30, and then their standard traditional service from 10:30-11:30. This meant those who didn’t like modern worship didn’t have to sit through it. I have also seen this work as an after-glow too (though with a bit more difficulty).  Eventually as growth occurs the two services grow into two worship alternatives.

The reason this is necessitated is that people worship most passionately without alien (to them) music and culture invading. That is because we worship more readily and unhindered when surround with familiarity. Thus separating the two segments (rather than blending them into some sort of muddled goo) allows people to worship more passionately.  Biblically, we see Davidic worship very different than New Testament worship.

Thus, many churches will need to follow this strategy to grow. An area growing with younger families may especially require this. As you know in my book I show you how with about 100 people you can readily go to a second service. This is the ultimate way to dissuade the cultural music wars 🙂  Until then, the compartmentalized format will help smaller churches grow with some degree of cultural anonymity.

TURNAROUND & My 4 Tools to Refocus a Turnaround #ChurchRevitalizerMagazine

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.

My latest magazine article in an overview of my 4 field-tested tools that can “refocus” a church from maintenance to mission. Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – Ch. Revitalizer Mag Refocus- Focus On These 4 Things to a Turnaround. Read the entire magazine here (full article follows):

REFOCUS: 4 Tools to Refocus a Turnaround

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Professor of Missional Leadership & Founding Professor, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.

Joe was a local lawyer and his wife a stockbroker. They had attended our church for six months during which we had had experienced a rapid turnaround and growth. I knew he had been interested in joining the church but I was unprepared for his question. “What is the church’s focus?” Joe stated bluntly. “We’ve seen a lot of growth. We’ve seen a lot of programs. So what is the focus? Kathy and I want to know that before we decide if it’s our focus too.”

Joe’s question set me on a quest where I simplified this into four foci and four tools for keeping them central. Though I wrote an entire book about these foci titled, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan for Church Health below is a brief overview.

Focus 1: OUT. In Jesus’s ministry we see a ongoing emphasis on reaching out to nonreligious people and people in need (e.g. Luke 6:31-33). But churches quickly become inwardly focused, looking more after their own needs than the needs of those outside their church.

Tool 1 to Focus OUT: ASK. Get your administrative board and staff to go out on a Saturday morning walk through the church neighborhood and areas from which you draw your congregants. Tell them to ask people they meet this simple question: “What could a church like ours do to meet needs of people in this community?” Don’t ask them what you can do to meet their personal needs. That is too personal. Rather ask them to tell you about community needs. Usually they will tell you about their own needs. Then go back to the church and compile a list of needs. Pick out a couple needs that your church is equipped or is beginning to be equipped to address. Then reallocate funds and volunteers to meet those needs. I advise churches to do this twice a year. This keeps leaders listening for needs in the community. One church board member said, “I now work that question subtly into my conversations all year long. I find a lot of interesting needs in this community that way. And it helps me be a better board member because I can help the church focus on meeting needs outside the church.”

Focus 2: SMALL. It was in small gatherings that Jesus accomplished most of his discipleship (e.g. Matt., 4:18-22, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:13). Small groups are where people grow together in intimacy and reliance. Even when there is change in church leadership, small group attendees will remain with the church because their friends are still there. Yet most churches have only a token emphasis on and oversight of small groups. If we look at the “method” behind John Wesley and the Methodist Movement we see that getting people into small “Bible study groups” was the key.

Tool 2 to focus Small: BIBLE Studies w/ navigators, not teachers.  I will use the term “Bible study group” to distinguish them from “Bible teaching groups.” The latter oftentimes, but not of course always, emphasize “teaching” rather than study. They are where the teacher becomes the figurehead and is looked up to as the expert. These groups sometimes mimic church services, with an “expert” preaching the group. This works against dialogue and openness. It creates an audience not group dialogue and accountability. And, it reduplicates the legitimate teaching roles of the pastoral staff. No wonder so many church splits come from “teaching groups” where the teacher and not the Word of God is the focus. Therefore I encourage groups to carefully ensure the Word of God is the focus. I prefer, like John Wesley did, to let the Bible be the teacher. This still requires a mature Christian who serves as a sort of “Biblical navigator” for the group, bringing commentaries and Bible handbooks to help people dig into the Word. But these groups are groups that investigate biblical topics each week by everyone digging into the Bible and seeing what the Bible says. This makes people depended upon the Word rather than a novice-preacher.

Focus 3: LEARNERS. Often in church as we try to grow attendance, or we measure baptisms, finances and/or conversions. All of these are helpful metrics but not as important as the metric Jesus gave us, in Matthew 28:18-20. Here Jesus uses four verbs on His Great Commission: go, make disciples, teach and baptize. In the Greek it is clear that three of these are participles, which mean that they modify another more central verb. The central verb is “make disciples” and the Greek literally means “make learners.” Thus, the verse indicates that by going, teaching and baptizing we reach the goal of our commission: which is make learners.

Tool 3 to focus on Learners: Measure STUDENTS of the Word. Thus, in a turnaround our focus should be on helping people learn, rather than focusing on increasing attendance, money or even conversions. Acts 2:47 reminds us, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” So conversion is God’s job. But, helping people become learners, according to Matthew 28:18-20 is our job. It follows that we should measure things like how many people are in the Sunday school and how many people go to regular Bible study in your church. These are a better indicators if people are becoming learners that by simply counting how many are sitting in the pew or writing a check.

Focus 4: NEW. By this I mean cultivating an environment in your church where people’s lives are changed into new lives. There’s an excitement in a church when people expect to be changed there. Today when people need to a changed from an abusive life, addiction, depraved habits and/or self-centeredness they usually go to a psychologist, self-help group or read a self-help book. All of these are helpful tools. But I believe the most helpful and God-ordained tool is the Church. The Church is the place in a community where people should know that you go if you need to be changed. This is because there is supernatural power to change people whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20).

Tool 4 to focus on NEW: Everyone learns a GOSPEL presentation. Every attendee should be equipped with a tool to share the Good News. The Four Spiritual Laws, The Four Steps to Peace with God, The Romans Road or another plan of salvation are the most important tool with which you can equip each congregant. Attendees should be trained in their youth, in their Sunday schools and during a yearly preaching series. Then they will be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, (1 Peter 3:15). A good tool to encourage this is a five-week sermon series every year, where each week focuses on one of The Four Spiritual Laws or The Four Steps to Peace with God. Then on the fifth week extend a call to meet Christ. If a yearly part of your preaching calendar, this sermon series can equip, reinforce and remind congregants how to share the wonderful opportunity and blessing of a new life in Christ.

Speaking Hashtags: #SalvationCenterTX #FlintFirst #StLiz #Renovate16

DEMOGRAPHIC CHURCH & How a Church Changed to Match Its Neighborhood

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “In my book ‘Cure for the Common Church’ I advocate growing more ‘geographic churches,’ i.e. churches whose ethnicity changes to mirror the community’s ethnic changes. I’ve witnessed this at Kentwood Community Church (MI) lead by colleagues Wayne Schmidt and now Kyle Ray. Read this article by my friend Warren Bird for another helpful example of how to grow a ‘geographic church’. Then check out my book with Mark DeYmaz for even more examples.”

By Warren Bird, LeadNet, 8/2/15.

Patrick Kelley has a dream—what he calls his “delusion of grandeur” for churches—that one day, ethnic diversity will be the norm in American congregations, and that Senior Pastor Patrick Kelleyfollowers of Christ will erase what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “most segregated hour in Christian America.”

“It’s been 50 years since Dr. King said that,” says Patrick, senior pastor of River Pointe Church in the Houston area. “It’s still just the beginning, but I think we’re living in this post-segregation age where people aren’t just looking for the black church, the white church, or the Hispanic church. I think they’re looking for an effective church where they meet Christ and get help for their spiritual needs.”

PHOTO AT LEFT: Patrick started asking if he is “too white” in an ad campaign for River Pointe Church — and it’s working. The church continues to grow more and become more diverse. See also this .

Patrick is seeing his dream come true at River Pointe, a multisite church of 5,000 people located in one of the most ethnically diverse counties (Fort Bend County, TX) in the United States.

But River Pointe is in the small minority of U.S. churches—only 8%—that are considered multiethnic (although the larger the attendance, the moremultiethnic it is likely to be, according to research by Michael Emerson). While most churches in America are comprised of 80% of people being from one race, only 68% of River Pointe is white, and the rest is a multiethnic mix.

“People have said that our county is what America will look like in 50 years—or less,” says Patrick. “The church is going to have to figure out how to reach a population that looks like that. And it’s not just predominantly white churches that need this transition.”

Diversity Wasn’t the Goal

Patrick certainly didn’t start out to build one of the most ethnically diverse churches in the country when he moved to Houston 18 years ago—and he wouldn’t suggest that any church make that its goal.

“This community is integrated–no black section, white section or Latino section,” he says. “Yet there was not a church that was multiracial, including ours. I didn’t come to start a racially diverse church, but that’s the neighborhood we need to reach. If we can’t do it here in this country, I’m just not sure it can be done.

“It’s not a goal of River Pointe to be diverse, but to help all people groups find a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. We have to figure out how to be all things to all men in order to win some.”

Patrick admits it had to start with him. It started innocently enough, with the Kelley children developing friendships with kids of varied ethnicities. “It’s funny how kids don’t see color, isn’t it? I looked at my own life and realized, all my friends are lily white,” Patrick says. “That had to change.”

Read more at … http://leadnet.org/how-a-church-changed-to-match-its-neighborhood/

SMALL GROUPS & Grow A Small Church by Multiplying Its Small Groups

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

We all want to know how to grow a small church.  And, after coaching hundreds of small churches, the key to their growth is usually organically growing their small groups.  Let me explain.

A student once remarked, “The people in my church rarely give feedback. I gave them a questionnaire and only received five back out of 50. We only have two major groups, Worship Service and Bible Study. More people show up for Bible Study. I don’t know if it is because they get to eat afterward or not. Small group intimacy does not play a role in our church, maybe because of the size.”

Yes, he was right.  Small group intimacy may not be needed in his church because his congregation was basically one extended family or small group now.

To grow a church in this situation, you usually have to get the people to start another small group.  This could be accomplished by adding another Bible Study or Sunday School class, or any other type of small group.  And, if often helps if a few people form the existing small group help launch this new group by being in attendance.

Let me give an example.

One of my client churches (a Presbyterian church in rural Illinois) had 35 people on Sunday, and a Sunday School for adults that regularly reached 25.  As I interviewed the leaders, they mentioned that they liked the Sunday School because they could share their opinions freely and discuss the Bible.  They said they had invited people, but that guests would usually come once or twice, and then stop.

I explained to them some behaviors of the unchurched that helped bring the organizational forces involved to light.  First, I explained that most people come to church because of a crisis or need.  One of my colleagues (Flavil Yeakley, cited below) found that what motivates people to come to church is:  death in the family, followed by illness, followed by interpersonal problems (such as marital problems, etc.).  Thus, you can see that when people come to our churches they are looking for a more intimate environment than 25-35 people to share their needs.

A small group (12-15 people) is the perfect environment for people to share such needs.  In fact, this is the size of group Jesus used for discipleship.  When the Presbyterian Sunday School understood this, they understood they needed to launch another Sunday School.

Two members of the existing Sunday School volunteer to start this new group, and the new smaller group grew with new members.

Whitesel B. (2012) Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House.  Here is the footnote and citation from that book: “The Holmes and Rahe Readjustment Scale is a comparison of the degree to which different crises affect stress in people’s lives.”  Flavil Yeakley’s Ph.D. research at the University of Illinois uncovered that many times such crises drive people to religion (and to visit churches) in search of answers, help and solace (Flavil R. Yeakley, Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Communication [Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1976].)  Yeakley’s research has been summarized by Elmer Towns in  A Practical Encyclopedia of Evangelism and Church Growth (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995), pp. 209-210.  One implication of Yeakley’s research is that churches should focus more on offering ministry that helps people deal with crises in their life.”

#DWC

EVALUATION / NEED MEETING & How to Tactfully Inquire About Non-churchgoers’ Physical Needs AND Spiritual Needs

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

Most leaders realize it is important for a leader to get all of the news (both good and bad) from the church corridors … but it is especially important to gain knowledge about spiritual and physical needs from non-churchgoers too.

Yet, many people don’t know how to ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs.  And we usually really falter, when we want to ask about their spiritual needs.  With an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology, I learned to design questionnaires.  Therefore, I developed simple data-gatherings instruments to help in need assessment.

1)  The first (below) is a simple question that can help you ask non-churchgoers about their physical needs. The key is not to ask about their needs, which may be too personal.  Instead, ask them about needs in their community (and they will then usually tell you about their needs).

Figure 2.5 Canvass Question (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 38)

“Hello. My name is ___________(name)___________ and I am from ___________(name of church)___________. I am asking people to help us understand what are the greatest needs of this community that a church like ours could address?

2)  Secondly, here are additional questions to ask spiritual travelers about their spiritual life.  It is from a chart I developed for the Cure for the Common Church book.  It can give you proven ideas (from John Wesley no less) for tactfully learning about the needs of non-churchgoers.

Figure 8.3 Questions for Discovering the Needs of Spiritual Travelers (Cure for the Common Church, 2012, p. 150) [i]

These questions should be asked with discretion. Many are variations of the questions John Wesley suggested. Remember, do not be judgmental and do not use these questions verbatim; rather use them as idea generators:

  • Do you have peace with God?
  • How is God dealing with you lately?
  • How do you feel about God? How do you think God feels about you?
  • Is there some thought or behavior that has dominion over you?
  • Is there something in your life you wish to change, but have been powerless to do so?
  • What faults are you struggling with?
  • What secrets are you holding that you need to share among friends?
  • What things do you do, about which your conscience feels uneasy?
  • What do you want to say to God about the pain in your life?
  • When is life flowing out of you?
  • When if life flowing into you?

These questions are not an end-game, but the beginning of a heartfelt dialogue with eternal consequences.  use them as guides to more organic and authentic discussion.  And as always, allow the Holy Spirit to infuse your mind and words (Luke 12:11-12).

[i] c.f. D. Michael Henderson, John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples (Springfield, MO: Evangel Publishing House, 1997), pp. 118-119 and Joel Comiskey, “Wesley’s Small Group Organization,” extracted with permission from Joel Comiskey, History of the Cell Movement: A Ph.D. Tutorial Presented to Dr. Paul Pierson; http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/tutorials/cellHistory-1.html. The last two questions were suggested by Elaine Heath in her address to The Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Chicago, IL, June 16, 2011.

WORSHIP SERVICES & How Many Worship Services Should You Offer & When?

by Bob Whitesel, 2/4/15.

Often when considering a multiplication strategy, leaders wonder how many worship services a church should attempt.  Most leaders understand the strategic advantages of offering as many celebration options and styles as feasible.

But how many is too many, and how many are too few?  6 Answers…

The question of type, time, and format of worship celebrations is a very delicate issue.  And, without a complete understanding of each reader’s scenario I would be remiss to state here definitively. But, I can give you some general guidelines.

1.  Have your services on the weekends if at all possible.  These always prove to be better attended (for all generations: builder to organic) than weeknights.  And, in my personal survey of client congregations:

  • Saturday evenings only have 20% of the attendance you can expect on Sunday mornings.
  • 10:30 am on Sunday seems to be the optimum time (for my clients at least) to draw people in.
  • Therefore, try to have as many services at 10:30 am on Sunday.  This might therefore mean multiple venues, sites, etc. for maximum connection with non-churchgoers.

2.  Do not let an occasional teenage service suffice for your adding an emerging/organic church worship celebration.  Emerging/organic ministries are more college-level and 30-something in target and draw.  Keep high school and college-aged gatherings separate from one another.
PreparingChange_Reaction_Md

3.  Analyze your community (I show how to do this in my book “A House Divided,” and to even a greater extent in “CURE for the Common Church”).  It is from your community that you will find unreached age and/or people groups and thus whom the worship celebration should be reaching out to.

4.  Try to offer as many options as you can, given your person power.  In “A House Divided” (Abingdon Press, 2000) I explain how to start a new service:

  • By getting a committed core of (a minimum) 50 individuals who will commit one year to this new celebration and then replace themselves.
  • If you are offering a modern service and it is 80% full, I would reduplicate that.  Or if you have the person power to reduplicate it (even though you are not 80% full) I would duplicate it to reach more people.
  • The more options you offer, proportionally more of the community you will attract to the Good News. 
  • However, if your modern service is less than 80% full and you have another generational or sub-cultural group in the area, you could start a new expression aimed at this new sub-cultural group.  In most communities today, a church should offer a traditional celebration, a modern celebration, and an organic/emergent celebration.  Then reduplicate these as needed.  Times for each should be ascertained from people of these age groups “outside” of the church.

SP_Sm_Pix
5.  Go slow.  As you will learn in my book “Staying Power” (Abingdon Press, 2002) or “Preparing for Change Reaction” (Abingdon Press, 2006, chapter 8) research indicates that if you move too fast with new ideas (such as launching a new worship celebration), then you will not get all of your reticent members on board.  Feeling left out, or at least circumvented, the reticent members will coalesce into a sub-group someday and you will have two factions.  So remember, though you are enthusiastic about offering more worship options after reading this chapter, go slow and get reticent members on board to ensure success.

6.  Finally, there is a very good book that goes into this and is one of your recommended readings for this course.  It is “How to Start a New Service” by Charles (Chip) Arn.  Professor Arn goes into great detail, and to ensure success if you are planning on starting a new celebration, you should get this book.  And, Chip Arn is also a faculty for our  Wesley Seminary at IWU M.Div. program, teaching for us full time as Professor of Christian Ministry and Outreach.

DISSONANT ADAPTERS & The Tanning of America. Is a New Blended Culture Emerging?

by Bob Whitesel, Feb. 1, 2015.

Author Steve Stoute in his book The Tanning of America (2011) points out a new culture is emerging in America where “brown, black and white mixed together makes tan” (quote by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, “Steve Stoute’s New World Order.” Ebony Magazine, Dec. 2011 – Jan. 2012, p. 87 – attached below).  Stoute argues (see the attached article in Ebony Magazine for an overview) that there is arising a mixed Tan Culture among the Millennial Generation that does not see divisions based upon skin color.

I ask my students to read the article and tell me if you agree with Stoute, that a new culture is emerging.  And then I ask students to …

1) Suggest what the church should do about this.

2) Discuss briefly why they think everyone will become part of this tan culture or if some people will remain “dissonant adapters.”

To understand “dissonant adapters” read the paragraph below excerpted from Bob Whitesel (The healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70).

Healthy Church Cover sm“People from emerging cultures usually adapt to the dominant culture in one of three ways.”

Consonant adapters are people from an emerging culture who adapt almost entirely to the dominant culture. Over time they will mirror the dominant culture in behavior, ideas and products. Thus, they will usually be drawn to a church that reflects the dominant culture.

Selective adapters adapt to some parts of a dominant culture, but reject other aspects. They want to preserve their cultural heritage, but will compromise in most areas to preserve harmony.(1) They can be drawn to the Blended Model because it still celebrates to a degree their culture.

Dissonant adapters fight to preserve their culture in the face of a dominant culture’s influence. (2) Dissonant adapters may find the blended format of the Blended Church as too inauthentic and disingenuous to their strongly held cultural traditions.”

(1) Alejandro Portes and Ruben G. Rumbaut in Immigrant American: A Portrait (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996). They suggest that organizations comprised of selective adapters will be a more harmonious organization.
(2) Ruben G. Rumbaut, “Acculturation, Discrimination, and Ethnic Identity Among Children of Immigrants,” in Discovering Successful Pathways in Children’s Development: Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life, Thomas S. Weisner ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

ARTICLE Steve Stoute Tanning of America

See also on ChurchHealth.wiki info on the related study of “ethnic consciousness” by Tetsunao Yamamori, who created an “Ethnic Consciousness Scale” to measure the degree to which a person identifies with a specific culture. Tetsunao Yamamori’s article on ethnic consciousness and titled, “How to reach a new culture in your community” can be found online and in Win Arn et al., The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook (1979), pp. 171-181.