BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

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How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

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

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53

BEYOND HOLIDAY CHARITY & How to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder #YearAroundService

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/12/10.

A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. Such churches in Dan’s mind were comprised of “do-gooders.”

Action C: Be a Good-doer, not a Do-gooder.

The difference between a do-gooder and a good-doer was revealed to me ten years ago. Dan was auditioning to be the drummer in a worship team I led. Though he was more than suitable for the task, I was confused because he looked familiar. “You visited me last Christmas,” Dan responded noticing my bewilderment. “Brought a lot of nice things for the kids.” Each year our church visited needy residents, giving them gifts and singing carols. “You were nice enough to come,” Dan would say to me later. Dan and I had become friends, and now our team was planning to visit needy households. “You go, I won’t,” Dan stated. “I want to be a good-doer, not a do-gooder.” Further conversations revealed with Dan saw a difference between “do-gooders” and “good-doers.” On the one hand, Dan saw do-gooders as people who go around doing limited and inconsistent good deeds. He perceived that they were doing good on a limited scale to relieve their conscience. Thus their good deeds were perceived as self-serving, insincere and limited. A church that brings food a couple times a year to a needy family does little to minister to their long-term physiological needs or safety needs. On the other hand, Dan saw “good-doers” as those who do good in a meaningful, relevant and ongoing manner. And, he was right. In hindsight I had been striving to do good, not trying to do good better. Therefore, a church should connect with its community by offering ongoing ministry and not just holiday help.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2019), pp. 48-49.

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

NEW IDEAS & 7 Lessons for Avoiding A Church Split When You Introduce a New Idea

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2009.

For 20+ years I have studied how to successfully employ intervention events (i.e. introducing “new ideas” such as new programs, new pastor, etc. to intervene in a church’s decline).  Below are my top 7 tips for successfully doing so.

These insights are needed today, because a growing literature in church management and group exit suggests that without an understanding of some of the following lessons, most attempts to introduce an intervention event will not start the church on a new life-cycle, but rather split it into two smaller groups of which neither will survive.

However, seven (7) lessons are introduced (below) to make the change agent aware that before she or he creates an intervention event, they must also be prepared to study and manage the process that follows that intervention.

Lesson 1: Usually, intervention events will produce a church exit. Arn (2009) is correct that life-cycles play an important role in managing organization behavior. Management researchers Dyke and Starke (1999:810-811) concur with Arn that new life-cycles can be fostered by, in Arn’s words, “beginning something new … an intervention event” (2009:9). However, group studies literature warns that introducing an intervention event, with proper knowledge of the six-stage process model involved, will in all likelihood produce a group exit (Dyke and Starke, 1996, 1999).

Lesson 2: Usually, intervention events produce a group exit, because intervention events usually polarize the church into competing groups. Pondy (1967) discovered that introducing an idea which conflicts with a organization’s status quo, usually produces enough conflict for opposing sub-groups to form. Dyke and Starke label one group (the group proposing change) “change proponents” and the resistant group the “status quo” (1999:805-806)

Lesson 3: Most people aren’t polarized from each other, until an intervention event. Dyke and Starke concur with Pondy’s conclusion that “felt conflict follows manifest conflict” (1967). This means that most people won’t get upset until after they witness some visible or “manifest” intervention (e.g. see Arn’s list of “intervention events,” 2009:9) over which they disagree with others.[1] Thus, when an interventionist (Schaller 1997) uncritically introduces or supports an intervention, a visible (i.e. manifest) conflict event often ensues which then gets previously non-conflicted people riled up. The intervention event creates such deep internal felt conflict in individuals, that the result is a deep-seated conflict that usually spins out of control (Dyke and Starke 1996). Some may wonder if the conflict that results from intervention events is unavoidable, but Dyke and Starke have demonstrated that it is not (ibid). This leads us to the lesson 4.

Lesson 4: If the reaction to the intervention event is not managed, the change proponents will leave as a group, create a new organization that will compete with the mother congregation, and usually both groups will die. Dyke and Starke (1996:159-174) discovered that typically such intervention events propel Pondy’s sub-group into a trajectory that leads to a “spin-off” or “unplanned birth” of a competitive organization. Lau and Murnigham (1998) observe that the ensuing “we-they” competition creates two unstable organizations. Case study research has supported the grounded theory of Lau and Murningham, and Dyke and Starke (Whitesel 2004, 2009:151-169). An ecclesial organization will usually not have sufficient economy of scale to survive this exit behavior, especially if the sub-group that exits the organization is comprised of change proponents (as it usually is, according to Dyke and Starke 1999:810-811).

Lesson 5: To manage the results of an Intervention Event, ecclesial leaders must understand the “Process Model for Group Exit and Retention.” If an ecclesial leader wishes to retain her or his change proponents, an intervention event should not be undertaken without a preparation to manage the ensuing process model of group exit (an organizational model has been put forth by Dyke and Starke, 1999; and a simpler model has been put forth by Whitesel 2007, 2009:151-169, 177).

Lesson 6: At Trigger 2, go slow … build consensus … and succeed. Church leaders that keep their congregations unified and thwart group exit, undertake two (2) of the “trigger events” differently (Dyke and Starke 1999: 811-815). Trigger 1 (a legitimating event) occurs when change proponents bring a new idea to a leader, and the leader enthusiastically “blesses” or “inadvertently legitimates” the new idea. Dyke and Starke found that if the leader does so, change proponents will run too fast with the new idea. While the status quo will be initially tolerant, they will later resent the fact that they were not consulted. The result is a church split (and group exit). Instead, leaders that kept their church unified went slow … built consensus … and succeeded. When new ideas were brought to a church leader, the uniting leader slowed down the change proponents, encouraged them to go through proper channels (creating compromise and consensus), and even had them dialogue with people who the church leader knew would be suspicious, apprehensive and/or contrary.

Lesson 7: At Trigger 4 the effective leader plans for conflict, uses conflict-resolution skills and emphasizes the power of unity. Dyke and Starke found that even when Trigger 2 was handled correctly, conflict will still occur. However, the unifying leader plans for conflict, and when it arises, he or she brings the different sides together to stress that they can do more together than apart. Therefore, instead of a “polarizing event” on the route to group exit, Trigger 4 becomes a “harmonizing event” on the route to group retention and “dissonant harmony” (Dyke and Starke1999:811-815). Thus, a uniting leader plans for conflict, learns conflict resolution skills, and is adept at inspiring a church to see it can do more together, than apart.

If a leader wishes to assist the church in embarking upon a new lifecycle which Arn laudably suggests (rather than fostering more typical group exit behavior) then he or she should familiarize themselves with the process model of group exit (Dyke and Starke 1999:813, Whitesel 2003:177).

[1] This initial repression may be due to Christians typically eschewing conflict (Whitesel 2003:85-93).

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177

Citations:

Charles Arn, “Where is Your Church in Its Missional Lifecycle?” (Marion, Ind.: Indiana Wesleyan University, 2009).

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model,” Administrative Science Quarterly 44 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 792-822.

Bruno Dyke and Frederick A. Starke, “Upheavals in Congregations: The Causes and Outcomes of Splits,” Review of Religious Research 38 (NY: Religious Research Association, 1996), 159-174.

Louis R. Pondy, “Organizational Conflict: Concepts and Models,” Administrative Science Quarterly 12 (Ithaca, NY: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, 1999), 296-320

Dora Lau and J. Keith Murnigham, “Demographic Diversity and Faultlines: The Compositional Dynamics of Organizational Groups,” Academy of Management Review 23, 325-340)

Lyle Schaller, The Interventionist (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997).

Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004).

Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

 

HIRING FROM WITHIN & My Top 3 Things to Avoid If You Are Hired from Within the Organization

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/15/15.

A student once shared that he was hired from within the organization to fill the lead pastor role.  I have written (Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation, pp. 109-120) about why this is often a strategically wise practice.  And, research confirms this.

However, hiring from within also brings caveats.  Following the student’s comments, are my top three things you must avoid.

Joshua D. (a student) wrote, “This article is very encouraging.  I have been at KSM for 15 years as music pastor and Administrator and just found out Monday, as of January 1st I will be taking the Senior Pastor position.  This class could not have come at a better time.  Thank you for investing in us.”

My response about Top Three Things to Avoid:

Congratulations Joshua, I have a couple suggestions I make students:

RULE #1:  Even though you’ve been at the church a while, a “listening tour” is the first thing I would do. Tell the people that though you have been around for a long time, you want to have fresh eyes and fresh ears to hear what they haven’t told you before. This is because in this new position you have a new relationship! So don’t get defensive or answer them yet. Just go to them privately and ask them, “What do I need to hear from you?”

RULE #2:  Secondly tell them you’re going to go slow before you make any changes. Remember going slow and building consensus is the secret to making change happening in a unifying manner (see research and examples in the chapter, “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church, pp. 151-169 which you can download here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 8 Go Slow. Also, you will find even more extensive examples in Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About ItAbingdon Press.)  Even though you have been at the church for some time, some people may have felt that the previous later wasn’t open to their ideas. And, they will immediately start to politic you. You do not want to be perceived as taking sides. So listen to them and explain to them their ideas must go through proper channels (baords, vetting by people affected, etc.). Get them working with others who they’ve been at odds with in the past to move the idea forward.  Do not becomes the champion of the new idea or you will be perceived as taking sides. Taking sides on methodology (not theology) is one of the most dangerous positions a new pastor can find her or himself in.

RULE #3:  And this brings us to the third point: don’t get in between people with different opinions – but rather get them working together to solve their differences. As you remember in my book Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press) that when a new leader comes into a position (even if they been a leader in the church for many years) there will arise a new activity of politicking to get the new leader to support their side. You must remember … don’t get in the middle. Research shows the best thing is to get them working out their differences between each other without you in the middle (again download this chapter for the research footnotes: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CHANGE REACTION Chpt. 8 Go Slow.) So don’t, repeat don’t, let them put you in the middle as a go-between between them. Do not be a mediator or negotiator. Force them to meet with one another and to come up between them with a third option. The secret is not for you to be the negotiator, but for them to conduct negotiations face-to-face. That way there is no communication filter or opportunity for them to blame you for miscommunicating their position. So don’t be a go-between – be someone that gets people to talk out their differences with each other (and without you there 🙂  Of course they must still bring it back to you for affirmation. But don’t affirm a compromise, until they work it out themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES & A List of My Writings Which Were Published by Church Central

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Church Central” is a resource ministry started by Thom Rainer and headed currently by Tom Harper, that offers many resources on church leadership. I am honored that they often publish videos of my conferences as well as articles and excerpts from my books. Click here for a list of the articles excerpted from my books: http://www.churchcentral.com/editors/bob-whitesel