SHARING FAITH & This can fix churchgoers ‘total lack of confidence’ in speaking about faith: #Waypoint5, #Waypoint6 & #Waypoint7 …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Growing in faith for most is a journey. And, the important parts of that journey may be when a person begins to perceive the uniqueness and expectations of Jesus’ Good News.

Customarily it is His followers (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Peter 3:9, Luke 8:39) who should be prepared to share His Good News with their friends, as Peter reminds us:

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. 1 Peter 3:15-18

To help His followers understand each elements of faith, I dedicated three chapters in my book Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey.

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Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]

Those chapters can be accessed and read online here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/spritual-waypoints-how-to-help-people-at-waypoints-10-9-8-7-spiritual-transformation/

Or download the chapter here (and be sure to support the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy if you enjoy it): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 10, 9, 8 & 7

Below is an article that reminds us that being able to clearly and helpfully share our faith is critical.

Anglicans churchgoers have ‘total lack of confidence’ in speaking about faith

Christian Today staff writer

… The report from the Church’s Evangelism Task Group and Evangelism and Discipleship Team highlights research showing that while 70 per cent of churchgoers could think of someone they could invite to church, between 85 and 90 per cent of these said they had no intention of doing so.

‘The problem was not the worshipper’s local church but the main issue the research highlighted was a total lack of confidence in talking about faith at all and with anyone,’ the report says.

However, it says, ‘small behavioural changes’ from the 1 million Anglican churchgoers could make a huge difference.

‘If one additional person in 50 from our regular attenders invited someone to a church event and subsequently they started attending it would totally reverse our present decline. Nationally the church would grow by 16,000 people per year, offsetting the current net loss of 14,000,’ the report argues.

It commends the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative and calls for the development of a ‘culture of invitation’ across dioceses with a view to encouraging churchgoers to invite people to events. It also calls for 1,000 new evangelists to be engaged by 2025, saying: ‘we believe having more evangelists in dioceses and local churches encourages more of the million to do their part in witnessing confidently in their lives’.

Read more at … https://www.christiantoday.com/article/anglicans-churchgoers-have-total-lack-of-confidence-in-speaking-about-faith/131645.htm

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.

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.