3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I teach my students that to understand transformational leadership they must first understand the transformational aspects of that which they lead, the Church (because of its supernatural, directional and eternal synergies). Here is a thoughtful analysis by a friend on Craig Ott’s important new book on mission and the church.￼
“20 Truths from ‘The Church on Mission”
by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today, 9/28/19.
… Below are 20 Truths from Dr. Craig Ott’s new book, The Church on Mission: A Biblical Vision for Transformation among All People. Craig is Professor of Mission and Intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he occupies the ReachGlobal Chair of Mission…
5. “Without the gospel there is no forgiveness, no new creation, no church, no transformation” (Page 23)...
by Ed Stetzer, The Washington Post, 11/28/18.
For some, the very idea of trying to convert others to a certain faith and taking any risk to do so is simply abhorrent. But Christians worldwide genuinely believe that people who hear and respond to the gospel are better off when they do.
…Propagating one’s religious beliefs through missionary activity is practiced by segments of the world’s largest religious groups, including Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Even the United Nations affirms missionary activity as a legitimate expression of religion or belief.
A missionary named Saint Patrick came to the tribal people of ancient Ireland and converted my ancestors from Celtic polytheism. This is not a new idea. Christianity has been a missionary movement since its beginning. As I noted above, Jesus, in his final address to his followers, commanded them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). And, speaking to Christians everywhere and in all eras, the apostle Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Many Christians would say we deny the missionary call if we neglect the hard and difficult places in the world. We are truly called to go to “the ends of the earth” with the gospel (Acts 13:47).
…For example, when Jesus sent his disciples, he instructed them to pray and then go, while showing them how to honor the dignity and humanity of others’ choices. He also sent his disciples out two by two. The Bible has much to say about the importance of teams and community. Teams bring collective discernment and provide a safeguard against unwise attempts at missionary endeavors. According to Ho, there was a team willing to go with Chau, but he chose to go alone.
…Also, in regard to people’s choices, Jesus makes it quite clear in Mark 6:11, saying, “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place.” It appears that Chau returned to North Sentinel even after being shot at with arrows, one of which, according to his journal, stuck in his Bible.
Read more of Ed’s article “Slain missionary John Chau prepared much more than we thought, but are missionaries still fools?” at https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2018/11/28/slain-missionary-john-chau-prepared-much-more-than-we-thought-his-case-is-still-quandary-us-missionaries/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5788b40ca09c
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my consulting on church change and church revitalization, I sometimes encounter a judicatory leader or a parent church that will want to change another church’s theology. But, research indicates that you must be very careful in doing so.
I have observed that churches many times grow around a specific theological viewpoint. Sometimes that theological view is in error, unorthodox, schismatic or heretical. In those circumstances it must be changed.
But in my experience I have also seen churches that, while they may have primarily orthodox beliefs, have a unique view on (what John Wesley would call) nonessential theological points. These might include issues such as charismatic gifts, healing, modes of baptism, etc.
In such latter circumstances, the research cited below indicates that we should move cautiously when changing a theological perspective if it is not an essential orthodox belief … or church exit might occur.
Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers
Don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
… Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.
But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.
Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.
Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.
“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”
Churchgoers stay put
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.
Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.
Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.
Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.
“Most church members have been at their church longer than their pastor,” said McConnell.
Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/july/churchgoers-stick-around-for-theology-not-music-or-preacher
by Ed Stetzer, Twitter, 3/10/18
Glad to get a copy the @TheInfluenceMag today. In this issue, Tena Stone and I write about challenges in rural contexts, talk research, opioids, economics, and explain why Christians should care. Be sure to check out the magazine. https://t.co/DgaGaLjoOz
by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/4/18.
Chip Curry was in trouble. His best friend died. His wife found out she was pregnant. And Chip had lost his way and become “an overall disaster of a person”—completely unprepared to bring a child into the world.
Then he picked up a Bible and everything changed. At least that’s the premise of a new CBS television series called Living Biblically, which premieres this week.
Based on A.J. Jacobs’ best-selling book, The Year of Living Biblically, the show depicts Chip’s attempts to live out all the Bible’s commandments, big and small…
Jacobs, a secular Jew, has said in the past that he grew up with no religion. His year of living biblically, he said in a TED Talk, was profound and life-changing.
He told Christianity Today that the experience gave him a better appreciation of evangelical Christians.
And, he wrote, living by the Bible’s rules helped him better understand himself.
“I didn’t expect to confront just how absurdly flawed I am,” he said. “I didn’t expect to discover such strangeness in the Bible. And I didn’t expect to, as the psalmist says, take refuge in the Bible and rejoice in it.”
Spending time engaged with the Bible is one of the keys to spiritual growth, according to the Transformational Discipleship study from LifeWay Research.
“God’s Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most impact on spiritual growth and maturity,” wrote Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, who helped design the study.
Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/02/26/living-biblically-sitcom-raises-serious-questions/
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Operational leaders lead by employing a tightknit group of people to assist them. However tactical and strategic leaders systematically delegate to others while empowering emerging leaders. Such a transition in leadership style appears to have contributed to Ed Stetzer‘s case study about how and why the church he pastored broke the 200 barrier.
“Break Church-Growth Barriers: Build a Bigger Leadership Table” by Ed Stetzer, EdStetzer.com, 3/28/17
…The Systems Connection
The typical church in the United States has fewer than 100 people in weekly attendance. One of the reasons is that in order to go beyond that number, we must move from relational connection to systems connection. When we are under 100, discipleship influence is exerted through direct relationships. When we pass the 100 mark, if we don’t transition to a discipleship system that can be successful without a direct relationship to the senior leader, it’ll ultimately fail.
The unfortunate reality is that most pastors don’t know how to construct congregational systems and effective structures because they lead only relationally. Sure, this is a wonderful way to lead, but it’s simply not sustainable as the church grows. As we make the transition from leading relationally to leading systemically, there is a loss of control and a loss of intimacy, which can be tremendously challenging for pastors. However, it is one of the most valuable lessons leaders of growing churches can learn.
When one of the churches I pastored made this change, we did some ongoing messaging to persuade people to participate in the process with us as leaders. But remember: not everyone who has been a part of the church will continue to stay as the church grows numerically. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
After our congregation made this all-important transition, it almost doubled in size in a year. Of the people who stayed, every one of them had gone through our process of assimilation into congregational life and every one of them was now serving in some capacity. The pastor was no longer seen as the sole provider, but as occupying an important function within the church where the body of Christ ministered.
This transition became key in the life of our church. If we hadn’t made that change, we would have shrunk back to 75 in attendance because that would have been all that the relationally oriented leadership could absorb.
Read more at … https://edstetzer.com/2018/02/break-church-growth-barriers-build-a-bigger-leadership-table/