MULTICULTURAL & 8 Steps to Transitioning to 1 of 5 Models of a Multicultural Church #GCRNJournal

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., The Great Commission Research Journal, Biola University, 3/1/17.


Theories of change and theories of changing 1 are insufficiently studied, hence often inadequately understood by the ecclesial academy. The few theories that are available are based on an author’s experience with singular process model developed from similar homogeneous contexts. However, the present author, reflecting on case studies over a ten-year window, strengthens the argument for a holistic, eight-step model as first developed by John P. Kotter at Harvard University. Whitesel argues that the eight-step process model is resident and visible in ecclesiological change. He then suggests that the requisite change objective for many churches will be a heterogeneous, multicultural model, which will intentionally or unintentionally follow one or more of the five classifications.

Delivered to the Great Commission Research Network, Oct. 6, 2016, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX

Author Dr. Robert Whitesel Pages 212 – 222

The need for research by the Academy.

In my literature review on ecclesial change 2 I found that most popular books on church change are penned by prominent (e.g. megachurch) authors who customarily tout one model that has worked for her or him. Subsequently, overall general principles of organizational change in the ecclesial context are contextually bound and may be too narrow.

In addition, a theology of change/changing is poorly understood. Yet, both the Bible and church history are replete with ecclesial change, e.g. from old covenant to new covenant (Hebrews 8:13, Col. 2:16-17) and from monarchies (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings), to oligarchies (e.g. Judges) to synodical forms of government (e.g. the council of Jerusalem, Acts 15, 1-12, see Schaff, 1910, p. 504)

To establish a theological context for church change, I penned three chapters in the book Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church. This current article will assume that either the reader has read those chapters or will consult them later. Subsequently, the present discussion will be delimited to the theory and practice of changing with one of five potential multicultural objectives.3

A case study basis for research.

Reliable and valid process models usually arise from examining and comparing numerous case studies. In this regard, the best organizational researcher may be John P. Kotter, former professor at Harvard Business School. Having read hundreds, if not thousands of student case studies, he began to formulate a process model that would explain successful change. His seminal article in Harvard Business Review titled “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” created a seismic shift in the way organizational theorists and practitioners applied the change process. His theory of changing as reflected in his 8-steps for leading change became a staple for the study of organizational change in business schools and increasingly in seminaries.

In my position as professor of missional leadership for over a decade, first at Indiana Wesleyan University and then at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, I have been afforded the opportunity to also study hundreds of student case studies on ecclesial change. I have observed that ecclesial change follows very closely Kotter’s 8-step model. In this paper I will briefly explain how Kotter’s model can inform a process model for ecclesial change.

Outcomes: 5 Models of Multicultural Churches

As mentioned above, a delimiter for this article is that I will consider objectives with more colorful (i.e. multicultural) outcomes. I do this because of my research interest and because it is of growing relevance to homogeneous churches in an increasingly heterogeneous world. I employ the term multicultural in the broadest sociological sense and a list of ethnic, generational, socioeconomic, affinity, etc. cultures as relevant to this discussion can be found in The Healthy Church, pp. 58-59.

In a previous article for The Great Commission Research Journal, I put forth in detail five multicultural models as a contemporary update of the historical categories of Sanchez (1976). I also demonstrated some of these models afford a more comprehensive and reconciliation-based approach. I then evaluated each model through a 10-point grid of “nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation” (2014). This present article will assume that the reader has access to this article for further reading. An overview of the five models will frame the process model’s objectives….

Read more here (purchase a copy) …

Students/researchers may read more here by downloading for personal use: ARTICLE CGRJ 8 Steps to Transitioning to One of Five Models of a Multicultural Church

GCRJ Article 8 Steps to Multicultural Website COVER copy.jpg


1 There is an important difference between theories of change and theories of changing. The latter, and the focus of this article, investigate how to control and manage change. Theories of change however seek to understand how change occurs. I have discussed theories of change as well as theologies of change in the book Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007). For a fuller treatment of the differences between theories of change and theories of changing see Warren G. Bennis, Changing Organizations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996).

2 This article will expand some of my previous theorizing as represented in two of my books: Preparing for change reaction: How to introduce change in your church (2007) and The healthy church: practical ways to strengthen a church’s heart (2013). In addition, my initial thoughts on the “How to Change a Church in 8 Steps” can be found in my article of the same title for “Church Revitalizer Magazine.”

3 I embrace the term multicultural in lieu of multiethnic or multiracial, because the latter carry important implications for reconciliation between cultures that have been polarized by violence and bigotry. My co-author Mark DeYmaz and I in re:MIX – Transitioning your church to living color (2016) spend several chapters addressing the importance of multiethnic and multiracial reconciliation. The reader of this present article should consult our more exhaustive treatment there. Thus, the present article will be delimited to general procedures, processes and plans that can result in a multicultural church regardless if that cultural mix is ethnic cultures, affinity cultures, generational cultures, social economic cultures, etc.

CHANGE & A process model of church change as reflected in St. Tom’s Church, Sheffield UK

Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D., Associate Professor of Missional Leadership, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Journal of the Great Commission Research Network, Vol. 1, No. 2, Winter 2010.


This article is an abbreviation of research originally presented to Dr. Eddie Gibbs, Donald McGavran Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. Gibbs has been involved with the church under study for over two decades and lauded the author’s research. The research indicates a five-stage/four-trigger process model of change that may serve as an ecclesial prototype for effective change. The article is presented here in honor of Dr. Eddie Gibbs on his retirement.


Though how church change occurs is discussed in Church Growth Movement literature (Whitesel 2007), a holistic process model[1] (Poole 2004:11) of how it takes place is largely missing. Toward envisioning such a model, the purpose of this article is to develop grounded theory (Locke 2001) from an analysis of change within a linked Anglican-Baptist congregation in Sheffield England.

Four Forces of Organizational Change

After examining over 2,000 journal articles on organizational change, theorists Andrew Van de Ven and Marshall Poole have noted that change occurs because one or more of four forces are pushing for change (Poole and Van de Ven 1995). The author has shown elsewhere that these four forces are replicated in ecclesial change (Whitesel 2009). The following is a short overview of these forces.

Life-Cycle Forces

Life-cycle forces push for change because of the organizational life-cycle (Poole 2004:8). Life-cycle forces acknowledge a lock-step process “that is prescribed and regulated by an institutional, natural, or logical program prefigured at the beginning of the cycle” (Van de Ven and Poole 1995:7).

Within Church Growth Movement literature a significant amount of ink has been devoted to life-cycle forces, including: people movements (McGavran 1970:333-372), church planting for denominational survival (McGavran and Arn 1977:92-101), individual church renewal (McGavran and Hunter 1980:59-65), life-stage dynamics (Gibbs 1981:17-48, 364-366) and Schaller’s pioneers vs. homesteaders tension (Schaller 1975:93-96).

Teleological Forces

Teleological theories emphasize forces pushing for change that are a result of “goal formulation, implementation and evaluation” (Poole 2004:7). An “envisioned end state” (ibid.) or goal embraced by constituents moves the organization forward toward change.

Church Growth Movement literature is filled with examples of teleological strategies of goal-setting, including McGavran’s emphasis upon dispelling the “universal fog” that can be pierced by facts and strategic verifiability (McGavran 1970:76-78, 93-102), numerical steps for church growth (e.g. McGavran and Arn 1977:15-115), and many of the tactical conventions of Lyle Schaller, a former city-planner (Schaller 1975:97-104, 107-110, 137-141, 184-187).

Dialectic Forces

Here “an opposing thesis and antithesis … collide to produce a synthesis” (Poole 2004:7). The process is cyclical, whereby the initial synthesis “in time becomes the thesis for the next cycle of dialectical progression” (ibid.). These forces are best dealt with through conflict resolution tools.

An analysis of the major writings of the Church Growth Movement reveals the conflict resolution segment is under represented (Whitesel 2007:9). Some references are apparent, including Wagner’s admonition to “plan a considerable portion of your time for trouble-shooting and problem solving” (Wagner 1976:200) and Schaller’s interventionist framework (Schaller 1997:111-125, 139-149).

Evolutionary Forces

Evolutionary forces are forces that push for change because some program or idea is working, and this tactic becomes the prescriptive solution for other churches. (Poole 2004:7).

Within Church Growth Movement literature strategic programs that work in influential churches (e.g. mega-churches, etc.) can lead to a popularity for evolutionary strategies. Most notable may be Willow Creek Community Church’s seeker-strategies (Hybels and Hybels 1995) and Rick Warren’s purpose-driven ecclesial strategies (Warren 1995).

A Time Line of A Change Event At St. Thomas’s Church

The Change Under Scrutiny

The change chosen for scrutiny was the rapid locational and organizational change that St. Thomas’ underwent the leaders received notice that within days they must vacate the facility due to asbestos. As a congregation of 2,000 meeting weekly in Sheffield’s largest indoor venue, simply moving to a bigger locale was not feasible. In addition, the rapidity of the move would not allow a new facility to be constructed or converted. The result was that St. Thomas’ had only a matter of days to inaugurate a strategy, implement change and then maintain ecclesial effectiveness while holding true to their theology and polity.

A Timeline of Change

The following timeline was created from personal interviews (Whitesel 2005, 2006, 2009), as well as books written by leaders of St. Thomas’ (Breen 1997, 2004; Mallon 2003; Hopkins and Breen 2007).

1978                                        Renovations at St. Thomas’ forces it to share facilities with Crookes Baptist Church (Mallon 2003:20).

1980                                        Renovations at St. Thomas’ are completed and St Thomas’ moved back to their original facility (Mallon 2003:20).

1981                                        After missing synergies from their partnership the two churches dialogue about merger (Mallon 2003:20).

1982                                        St. Thomas’ became a joined Anglican and Baptist Church (Mallon 2003:20).

1983                                        Robert Warren became Rector of St. Thomas’ and senior leader of the Local Ecumenical Project or LEP (Warren 1989).

Fall 1985                                 John Wimber, leader of the network of Vineyard Churches, conducted a series of renewal meetings at the church’s request (Gibbs and Bolger 2005:82). Soon after, Robert Warren invited a local charismatic community, the Nairn Street Community, to conduct a 9 p.m. postmodern worship celebration on Sunday nights. This became known as the Nine O’clock Service (NOC) which has been called the “birth of a postmodern worshipping community” in the UK (ibid.).[2]

October 1993                          Warren resigned to work with the Anglican denomination (Mallon 2003:25). Paddy Mallon became the Baptist minister of the LEP (ibid., p. 26). Mike Breen accepted the call to St. Thomas’ and sensed the Lord underscoring the word “Ephesus” in his prayer life. Breen noticed that Ephesus (Acts 19) had several unique and representative characteristics (Mallon 2003:26):

  1. It was the principal city of the region.
  2. Paul trained local leaders in a rented building.
  3. Leaders went out from Ephesus to plant churches at Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, Laodicea and Colosse.
  4. From Ephesus, “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).

Breen concluded that, “the church of St. Thomas’ was to function as a resource to its city and region. It was to be a base for church planting and mission and a centre for teaching and training” (Breen 1997:25).

March 1994                            Breen introduced a discipleship program based upon six icons, eventually calling it Lifeshapes (Mallon 2003:18, 25). Mallon credits Lifeshapes as “the most fundamental change in this period … an easily transferable method of planned, disciplined and structured membership activity, at a person as well as a corporate level …” (ibid.).

1994 – 1996                             Management style under Breen moved from a consensus-modality model of Warren (Mallon 2003:27), into a more directive “manager as planner and strategist” (Jones, George, and Hill 2000:234-243). Approximately 200 people left during the first months (Mallon 2003:28).

1998                                        The New Apostolic Churches (Wagner 1998) has a profound effect upon St. Thomas’ leadership structure, leading to an even more centralized apostolic paradigm (Mallon 2003:29-30; Breen 2004). Maconochie recalls, “basically Mike as a CEO kind of guy, helped us through it all. Although he was very delegating in terms of responsibility for clusters and things, he was the main person we processed (things) through …” (Maconochie 2007:5).

However, when a major church decision was needed more modality was practiced, with Maconochie recalling “we’d move back toward more of a Baptist (consensus) model where we’d actually have a church meeting and everybody would vote on it” (Maconochie 2007:6).

September 1998                      Leaders of St. Thomas’ began to sense that the size of their facilities was “restricting growth” (Mallon 2007:1). St. Thomas’ began to meet in a “leisure centre” called the Logos Centre one Sunday each month (Mallon 2007:4). Since the venue was more accessible for unchurched people than the parish church, growth among unchurched attendees increased. The temporary nature of the facility was fostered in part because the facility was only available 35 Sundays a year, it was expensive to rent, and much labor and time was spent in setup and teardown (Mallon 2003:36).

January 2000                          The Roxy nightclub became available for rent, and appeared to overcome the sociological strangulation of the leisure center. Media attention was fostered because The Roxy had been a bawdy concert venue, and by mid-February 400 people were added to the church (Mallon 2003:36-37). “I think what we saw was every time we created space people joined us,” recalled Mallon. “some of that was transfer growth, but a lot of it was conversionary growth” (Mallon 2007:4).

Sunday mornings at The Roxy attracted Baby Boomers, while Sunday evenings attracted Generation X. Services also continued at the parish church in Crookes and were attended by approximately 300 people committed to the local Crookes parish (Mallon 2003:36-37).

Almost without strategic intent, St. Thomas’ had evolved into multiple sub-congregations (Hunter 1979:63; Whitesel and Hunter 2001:26-27). They designated these sub-congregations “celebrations” after a used Pete Wagner (1976:101-2). Three celebrations emerged, each with different cultural patrons: Sunday morning (Boomer) at The Roxy, Sunday evening (Gen. X) at the Roxy, and Sunday morning at the Crookes parish church (Crookes neighborhood of Sheffield).

2000-2001                               The three Celebrations were comprised of “Clusters” of three to seven small groups. These clusters began to reduplicate themselves among (Mallon 2003:37):

  1. Students,
  2. The Café culture,
  3. Inner-city areas,
  4. Generation X singles,
  5. Generation X married couples.

January 2001                          Mike Breen senses God saying, “What would you do if I took away the Roxy?” (Mallon 2003:38; Breen 2007:1-2). “I was in a bit of a panic about that,” recalled Breen. “Because we had just been surveyed with the rest of the churches in Great Britain…. as being the largest church in Great Britain at that time. So most certainly we were a mega-church. And, it felt like God was giving me the option of really going in the mega-church direction or really embracing this thing he had been developing in us the last few years” (Breen 2007:2).

Breen still saw this as God’s nudging toward planting clusters as missional communities, something that they had always intended. “We already had begun by that stage to realize that we were being confined, as we had been at the parish church, by the size of the building and that was restricting growth,” stated Mallon. “So then what we did was we began to think about planting out the clusters” (Mallon 2007:1).

A leadership structure developed, with leaders of celebrations (culturally similar groups of clusters) reporting to Breen or other senior staff. Operating underneath celebration leaders were cluster leaders who oversaw a network of small group leaders (Breen 2007:2).

However, moving from the seemingly successful and comfortable mega-church event-orientation that The Roxy fostered still gave cause for hesitancy (Mallon 2003:38) and even group exit behavior (Maconochie 2007:3).

December 2001                       An attendee who had concerns about the safely of the “torpedo-style heaters” used to heat The Roxy contacted the local authorities requesting a safety inspection (Mallon 2003:39; Calladine 2007:14-15). A subsequent inspection revealed that asbestos rendered The Roxy an immediate health hazard (Calladine 2007:4). “If we were going to do the work on the building that we wanted to, we would have had to put a bubble over the building and put people in space suits” remembered Calladine. “It would have cost around $7 million to renovate…that building is still standing there unoccupied. Anybody who’s going to do anything to that building is going to have to spend huge amounts. We could’ve come up with 60 thousand, but it’s 60 thousand into a money pit …” (Calladine 2007:4).

“…One minute we were in the building and basically several weeks later we were out because we had to close immediately due to the health and safety issues” remembered Woodhead (Woodhead 2007:2). Though this event occurred just before Christmas 2001, the leaders were able to negotiate a five week grace period before they were forced to leave (Mallon 2007:2).

Communicating the venue change to a large congregation flowed effectively through of the celebration-cluster-cell structure. “…The most effective way of communication was … through four phone calls” recalled Calladine (Calladine 2007:4). The Rector would (1) call the Celebration Leaders, who would (2) call the Cluster leaders, who would then call (3) the small group leaders, who would then call (4) all small group attendees.

In addition, Maconochie recounts the spiritual preparation for this change, stating “We’d been talking about it for nearly a year and so we just said to the guys ‘well the Lord said it was going to happen and it has happened and there you go’.” (Maconochie 2007:2). Woodhead added, “So he’d (Breen) already shared that with the staff team, the senior staff and then the staff team and some of the cluster leaders were aware of this word. But was it going to happen? We don’t know because we’ve got this building and then that was it … it was taken away so they (the leaders) were ready to go” (Woodhead 2007:2).

January 27, 2002                    The last celebration was held in The Roxy (Calladine 2007:15) with 17 clusters commissioned to begin meeting the following week to replace the Sunday gatherings at The Roxy (Mallon 2003:39). The emphasis from the weekly Roxy events, to a weekly cluster meeting, democratized the process according to Woodhead, for “people had to really begin to sort things out for themselves. They couldn’t depend on the center for everything. So leadership took on much more of a dynamic, much more of a community (that) ‘we’re in this together’ for each cluster. ‘We’ve got to go out and find the venues. And, we’re looking to see what God’s heart is for this particular area.’ So there was a whole different dynamic it seemed to me when guys were reporting back” (Woodhead 2007:1).

February 3, 2002                    17 clusters are planted throughout Sheffield as St. Thomas’ takes on a “dispersed church” mode (Mallon 2007:3). The Bishop gave permission for clusters to meet within the boundaries of other Anglican parishes (Mallon 2007:2-3).

2002                                        The Diocesan Handbook of Sheffield indicates the average Anglican parish has 25 worshippers (Mallon 2003:36).

2003                                        St. Thomas’ Church now has 34-35 clusters (Mallon 2007:4; Breen 2007:2) with (Mallon 2003:36):

  1. 2,500 members,
  2. 85 percent under the ages of 40,
  3. 298 identify themselves as Anglicans,
  4. 188 identify themselves as Baptists.

Mallon believes this one year period was “the greatest growth we saw as a church. It showed us what we weren’t going to go down the mega-church road, which was an option. And when we had The Roxie, a plan was to make it a large worship complex that would have been glass and chrome and glitter. And now, we were spared all of that” (Mallon 2007:4).

Still, this considerable growth was a surprise. Mallon recalls, “Even developing the resources for the clustering for the six months beforehand, we had no idea we would double in size in terms of cluster leaders in the subsequent 12 months that we were in a dispersed mode. It’s a bit like The Acts of the Apostles: the idea of expansion, contraction, consolidation and then you grow again” (Mallon 2007:6).

A Process Model of Change At St. Thomas’ Church

A Process Model.

The following process model follows the congregation from a gathered congregation, into a dispersed cluster-orientated congregation. The triangles replace the customary rectangle of process models. At St. Thomas’ the triangle represents an interconnected triad of spiritual holism: UP-IN-OUT ministry (Mallon 2003; Breen 2004, 2005). Hopkins and Breen describe this triangle as the “glue or essence” of their organizational structure (Hopkins and Breen 2007). Arrows signify “trigger events” that push the organization forward toward change (per Trigger Theories, e.g. Pondy 1967, Worchel 1998 and Dyke and Starke 1999).WHITESEL Figure 3 St. Toms GCRJ.jpgStage 1, Program System

The pastorate of Robert Warren (1983-1993) molded the church into an increasingly program system of organizational behavior (Maconochie 2007:5-6). Twenty percent of the congregants support the burgeoning programs above them, often with resultant burnout. Mallon describes this period as a consensus model of leadership, that became “stifled, impaired and over-bureaucratic” (Mallon 2003:27). Hopkins and Breen’s inverted triangle of Figure 4 suggests an unstable organizational behavior.

WHITESEL Figure 4 St. Toms GCRJ.jpg

Trigger 1, Ephesus Leadership

Breen’s emphasis upon the word “Ephesus” (Mallon 2003:26) began to move the leadership toward a more teleological style (Breen 1997:25). The first trigger (arrow) in Figure 3 indicates the four forces pushing in the following ranked order:

  1. Dialectic forces are the most powerful forces pushing for change, as Breen begins a steady yet measured process (Breen 2007:6) of acquainting leaders, congregants and attendees with a new church model based upon the church at Ephesus.
  2. Life-cycle forces next affect change, as Breen emphasizes a new era of church life is emerging (Breen 2007:2).
  3. Evolutionary forces are exemplified in Breen’s wide range of readings (Breen 2007:4), basing his leadership model upon Ken Blanchard’s The One Minute Manager (Mallon 2003),
  4. Teleological forces did not appear to play a significant role, as goals are downplayed in lieu of a reorientation in vision.

Breen begins to “tip” the congregational behavior system (in a counterclockwise rotation in Figure 3) from the point-down perspective toward an upright configuration. But first it must rotate through the horizontal (point to the right) configuration of a mission movement (Hopkins and Breen 2007:70).

Stage 2, Emerging/Organic Leadership

The congregation moves into a growth stage, with increasing numbers requiring stronger sodality leadership (Wagner 1984:141-165). Though small groups and clusters are integrated, increasingly the leaders are required to be primary decision makers. Maconochie remembers, “basically Mike, as a CEO kind of guy, helped us through it all. Although he was very delegating in terms of responsibility for clusters and things, he was the main person we processed (things) through” (Maconochie 2007:5).

Trigger 2, The Roxy is Available

The Roxy becomes available and expands St. Thomas’ ministry. To the leaders it appears that “every time we created space people joined us,” (Mallon 2007:4). At Trigger 2 the four forces occur in the following ranked order:

  1. Teleological forces push the church to change as The Roxy must be adapted and utilized. Examples such as the noisy torpedo-heaters, safety issues and other administrative objectives are required to effectively utilize Sheffield’s largest venue.
  2. Dialectic forces remain strong as Breen and others seek to maintain the unity and missional faithfulness by emphasizing a structure of small groups (cells) and clusters (Mallon 2007:6).
  3. Life-cycle forces decline, as the church sees teleological and dialectical issues coming to the forefront. Yet, life-cycle forces are still evident, as the church moves into what congregants perceive as a new stage in the church’s life, one that resembles a mega-church.
  4. Once much of the organizational foundation has been laid, evolutionary forces seem to wane as leaders have few external models to follow (Maconochie 2007:3).

 Stage 3, Organic/Emerging System

The growing size of the new congregation now continues to “tip” the triangle (continuing a counterclockwise rotation) from the forward sodality leadership style of Stage 2, into a more organic structure with broader participation by volunteers. This broadening of the base (e.g. more cell leaders and cluster leaders are needed) is required by the size of the growing congregation. As a result, cells and clusters receive an increasing emphasis, a factor that would prepare the church for the next trigger, the loss of The Roxy. God prepares Breen personally for the loss of The Roxy (Breen 2007:1-2).

Trigger 3, The Roxy is No Longer Available

Though warned the loss of The Roxy venue came with amazing speed. Within one month (the end of December 2001 to the end of January 2002) the church was in the dispersed mode. Forces that occurred (in ranked strength) are:

  1. The rise in teleological goal-setting by volunteer cluster leaders, democratized the process and heightened teleological change forces.
  2. The sense that the church was moving into the long-awaited dispersed stage gave the sense of a prophetic life-cycle (Maconochie 2007:2).
  3. Evolutionary forces now become more important as leaders sought to grapple with the implications of leading a distributed church. Administrative goals, such as how to collect the offering, etc. became increasingly important (Calladine 2007:7-8; Mallon 2007:10).
  4. Because of the leadership’s high-commitment / low-control style of leadership (Maconochie 2007:5), dialectic forces were not a major factor, as those who did not support the new vision went elsewhere.

Stage 4, Organic System

St. Thomas’ now emerges in much the same form it exhibits today (see Figure 5).WHITESEL Figure 5 St. Toms GCRJ.jpg

In Figure 5, the largest part of the church, represented by the broad base, connects with its indigenous context. In addition, the leaders in Figure 5, represented by the 20%, function as strategic managers looking toward the long-range future and planning of the church.

Trigger 4, (Ongoing) Dissemination

This ability of the 20% to be strategic thinkers and to focus on long-range vision has permitted St. Thomas’ to send its leaders around the globe to share their experience.

  1. Evolutionary forces come to the fore for the first time, since the strategies and systems created at St.. Thomas’ provide a model for similar congregations. Breen’s success as a writer, as well as the designer of Lifeskills, now Lifeshapes,© is testimony to the evolutionary forces now at work. Mallon’s writings have likewise helped disseminate what was learned in Sheffield. The popularity of their Visitors’ Week is also an indication to the evolutionary forces at play.
  2. A teleological emphasis upon measuring the church’s growth indicates that teleological goal-orientation forces still have significant influence.
  3. Life-cycle forces play a smaller, yet important role, as Breen, Mallon and Visitors’ Week help churches on the downward side of their life-cycle (Mallon 2003:76-95, Breen 1997, 2004).
  4. Finally, because dialectic forces do not usually play a significant role once a church has reputation for a particular tactic, dialectic forces are now less influential.

Stage 5, Organic System

             St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield can be viewed today as an example of ecclesial change that is founded upon an evangelistic ethos, wed with a developing and integrated organizational management structure. Within this management structure a process model for change has emerged that deserves consideration as much as does St. Thomas’ insights on clusters (Hopkins and Breen 2007; Mallon 2003) or Lifeshapes© (Breen 1997). It is the writer’s hope that this process model can provide another view of the interplay of change forces and their involvement in church change.

Questions for Further Research

Question 1: Does the process model described above bear resemblance to processes found in other large postmodernal and organic congregations? A case study comparison between Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif. and Mar’s Hill in Grandville, Mich. might inform further discussion.

Question 2: Does this process model overly emphasize the importance of dialectic powers due to this change taking place in a long-standing Anglican congregation? An investigation of newly planted postmodernal and organic congregations such as The Bridge in Phoenix or Scum of the Earth in Denver might inform this research.

Question 3: What are the cultural ramifications of an English congregation as an church case study? In his responses, Breen downplayed the effect of dialectic forces because he sees English spirituality as so unpopular, that congregants who align with an evangelic church in the UK have already made a cultural break with popular expectations (Breen 2007:5). To what degree does a hostile, indifferent or unacquainted culture bear upon change forces, especially dialectical forces?

Question 4: Does the size of a congregation make certain forces for change more prevalent and/or powerful? In other words, are teleological forces more prevalent/powerful in larger congregations where professionals are expected to operate as strategic leaders. Note how this occurred at St. Thomas’ in Stage 2. A study of postmodernal and organic congregations of varying size, such as the sol café in Edmonton, Alberta along with Bluer of Minneapolis and Solomon’s Porch in Minnesota might inform grounded theory development on this topic.

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Gibbs, Eddie. 1981. I Believe in Church Growth. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

———. 2000. Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry. Downers Grove: InterVarsity.

———. 2005. From Crossing Bridges to Building Pontoons: Regaining Lost Ground and Crossing Cultural Frontiers. Paper read at The Annual Meeting of the American Society of Church Growth, November 12, 2005, at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif.

———. 2005. Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Gibbs, Eddie, and Ryan K. Bolger. 2005. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker.

Guder, Darrell L. 1985. Be My Witnesses: The Church’s Mission, Message, and Messengers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

———. 1998. Missional Church: From Sending to Being Sent. In Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, edited by D. L. Guder. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Gumbel, Nicky. 1999. The Alpha Course Manual. London: HTB Publications.

Hitt, Michael A., R. Duane Ireland, and Robert E. Hoskisson. 2001. Strategic Management: Competiveness and Globalization. 4th ed. New York: South-Western College Publishing.

Hopkins, Bob, and Mike Breen. 2007. Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities. Sheffield, England: 3D Ministries.

Hunter, George G. III. 1979. The Contagious Congregation: Frontiers in Evangelism and Church Growth. Abingdon Press.

———. 2000. The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Hunter, Kent R. 2002. Discover Your Windows: Lining Up With God’s Vision. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.

Hutcheson, Richard J. 1979. The Wheel Within the Wheel: Confronting the Management Crisis of the Pluralistic Church. Atlanta: John Knox Press.

Hybels, Bill, and Lynne Hybels. 1995. Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Jones, Gareth R., Jennifer M. George, and Charles W. L. Hill. 2000. Contemporary Management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kotter, J. P. 1990. A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management: Free Press.

Locke, Karen. 2001. Grounded Theory in Management Research. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Maconochie, Paul. 2007. Personal Interview: Appendix 1. Sheffield, England, June 14, 2007.

Mallon, Paddy. 2003. Calling A City Back to God: A Sheffield Church, Over 2.000-strong, Most Below 40 Years Old. What Can We Learn? Eastbourne, England: Kingsway Communications Ltd.

———. 2007. Personal Interview: Appendix 3. Phoenix, Arizona, June 8, 2007.

Malony, H., and L. Majovsky. 1986. The role of psychological assessment in predicting ministerial success. Review of Religious Research 28:29-39.

McGavran, Donald A. 1970. Understanding Church Growth. rev. ed., 1980 ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

McGavran, Donald A., and Win Arn. 1977. Ten Steps For Church Growth. New York: Harper and Row.

McGavran, Donald A., and George G. III Hunter. 1980. Church Growth Strategies That Work. Edited by L. E. Schaller, Creative Leadership Series. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.

McIntosh, Gary L. 2004. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement. Edited by P. E. Engle, Counterpoints. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

McIntosh, Gary L., and Samuel D. Sr. Rima. 1997. Overcoming The Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

Miglioratti, Phil. 1979. Putting Your Laymen When They Will Do the Most Good. In The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, edited by W. Arn. Pasadena, Calif.: Church Growth Press.

Pondy, Louis R. 1967. Organizational Confict: Concepts and Models. Administrative Science Quarterly (12):296-320.

Poole, Marshall Scott. 2004. Central Issues in the Study of Change and Innovation. In Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation, edited by M. S. Poole and A. H. Van de Ven. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Poole, Marshall Scott, and Andrew H. Van de Ven. 1995. Explaining Development and Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review (20):510-540.

———, eds. 2004. Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roxburgh, Alan J., and Mike Regele. 2000. Crossing the Bridge: Leadership in a Time of Change. Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.: Percept Group.

Schaller, Lyle E. 1975. Hey, That’s Our Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.

———. 1997. The Interventionist: A Conceptual Framework and Questions for Parish Consultants, Intentional Interim Ministers, Church Champions, Pastors Considering a New Call. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.

Starke, Frederick A., and Bruno Dyck. 1996. Upheavals in Congregations: The Causes and Outcomes of Splits. Review of Religious Research 38:159-174.

Van de Ven, Andrew H., and Marshall Scott Poole. 1995. Explaining Development and Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review (20):510-540.

Wagner, C. Peter. 1976. Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of a Healthy Church. Glendale: Regal Books.

———. 1984. Leading Your Church to Growth: The Secret of Pastor/People Partnership in Dynamic Church Growth. Glendale: Regal, Books.

———. 1998. The New Apostolic Churches. Ventura, Calif.: Regal.

Warren, Rick. 1995. The Purpose-Driven Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Warren, Robert. 1989. In the Crucible. Surrey, England: Highland Books.

Whitesel, Bob. 2003. Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change (And What You Can Do About It). Nashville: Abingdon Press.

———. 2004. Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

———. 2004. Organizational Behavior. In The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wished Church Leaders Knew About Managment: unpublished manuscript.

———. 2005. The Perfect Cluster: For Young Adults, St. Tom’s, Sheffield Creates Extended Families, And Everyone Knows Where They Fit. Outreach Magazine, May/June 2005, 112-114.

———. 2006. Build Your Church on Its Core Competencies. Church Executive, September, 2006, 48-49.

———. 2006. Inside The Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

———. 2007. Organic Change: 12 Emerging Communities of Missional Theologians. The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth 18:3-16.

———. 2007. Toward a Holistic and Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four Forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Literature. The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth forthcoming.

———. 2008. Preparing For Change Reactions: How To Introduce Change To Your Church. Indianapolis, Ind.: The Wesleyan Publishing House.

———. 2009. The Four Forces of Change As Observed in Postmodern Ecclesial Contexts. Unpublished dissertation presented to Fuller Theological Seminary: Pasadena, Calif.

Whitesel, Bob, and Kent R. Hunter. 2001. A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Winter, Ralph D. 1974. The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission. Missiology: An International Review:121-139.

Woodhead, Mick. 2007. Personal Communication: Appendix 2. Sheffield, England, June 14, 2007.

Worchel, Stephen. 1998. A Development View of the Search for Group Identity. In Social Identity: International Perspectives, edited by S. Worchel, W. L. Wood and J. A. Simpson. London: Sage.

Yukl, G. 1990. Managerial Practices Survey. Albany, NY: Gary Yukl and Manu Associates.

[1] Poole tenders a helpful definition that a “process theory is a series of events that unfold through time to bring about some outcome” (2004:11).

[2] A autocratic management structure eventually led the NOS into schism. For an insightful look into the forces involved, as well as the NOS’s cultural influence see Gibbs and Bolger 2005: 82-85.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 #GCRN #GCRJ GCRN GCRJ

CHANGE & Harnessing the Differences Between Generations & Their Approaches to Change

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”


This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

This study must begin with a few delimitations and explanations regarding terminology that will be employed. I present these as juxtaposition propositions.

Boomers vs. Everyone Else (Gen. X, Y & Z)

There are varying ways to designate generational cultures. The most widely accepted labels have been put forth by Philip Bump in his article “Here is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.”[1] Synthesizing work conducted by the US Census Bureau, the Harvard Center and Strauss and Howe, Bump suggests these designations:

  • Greatest Generation, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Generation X, born 1965-1984
  • (overlapping: Generation Y, born 1975-2004)
  • Millennials, born 1982-2004
  • TBD, 2003-today[2]

Philip Bump, The Atlantic, titled “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts” (3/25/14)

To complicate matters, I have suggested the older generations are more influenced by modernity while the younger generations by postmodernity.[3] Though it is hard to designate an arbitrary point at which the majority of a generation crosses the modernal divide, this article will assume these influences. I have made at length a case for this elsewhere.[4]

Modernity vs. Postmodernity

To contrast modernity and postmodernity is beyond the scope and scale of this article. However, the genesis of these two views coupled with a meta-perspective on culture can frame our discussion.

Modernity roughly coincides with the emergence of education as the interpreter of knowledge. Emerging with the Reformation and gaining momentum in the Enlightenment, modernity viewed the mentor-mentee form of education as the arbitrator of civilization. Modernity hoped that through education the world would become a better place. Therefore, while sitting at the feet of experts, neophytes could build a better life for themselves and others.

Somewhere around the beginning of the 20th Century, disenchantment with the modern experiment arose. Modernity hoped that its emphasis upon education and knowledge would usher in a new world of peace. Instead, it had created new powers who tapped their educational resources to create weapons of mass destruction. The carnage of World War I was a verification that modernity had failed, as witnessed through the most educated countries on the earth becoming the most likely to devise new ways to kill people en masse.

The reaction first took hold in the art world, which employed an oxymoron (postmodernity) to describe a world in which humans move beyond the modern experiment (i.e. into post-modernity).[5] While modernity saw education from experts as the redeemer of culture, postmodernity began to prefer experience as its arbitrator of civilization. Modernity dictums such as “Get an education to get ahead” were replaced with postmodern maxims of “Try it, you may like it.” Thus arose in postmodernity an emphasis upon experience as a better teacher than experts.

To highlight this, the terms modern and postmodern will be used to highlight the difference in leadership approaches between younger and older leaders. The reader is cautioned to not apply these descriptors too narrowly or too generally. Rather, the judicious academic should allow these categories to inform his or her analysis of leadership while also taking into account the context and the players.

Organic vs. Organization

Over time, the term organic church has been more palatable in Christian circles than the term postmodern church. For instance, my publisher rejected my use of the term postmodern in the chapter titles of a 2011 book, because of the perceived anti-religious bent of postmodernity. Thus, I chose the term organic because it is helpful when describing the New Testament concept of a church as an organism with its interconnected, inter-reliant parts as seen in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, and Colossians 1.

Theologian Emil Bruner also emphasized that though the church is a spiritual organism (requiring pastoring and spiritual growth) it is also an organization (necessitating management and administration ).[6] Therefore, the term organic organization will be employed in this article to emphasize both elements.

I find it interesting that secular postmodern organizational theorists, such as the influential Mary Jo Hatch, have picked up upon the organic metaphor as a designation for healthy organizations.[7] Hatch suggests organic organizations embrace four conditions, which I will utilize in this discussion to frame how change mechanisms respond to them.

Condition 1: Organic, postmodern leadership understands it is dependent on its environment. While a modern leadership approach might try to colonize or impose upon another culture a leader’s preferential culture; according to Hatch an organic approach adapts its leadership practices to the indigenous cultures in which it hopes to bring about change.

Condition 2: Organic, postmodern leadership envisions a dissonant harmony that must be cultivated between the varied parts in the organization.[8] While a modernist strategy might overlook parts of the organization in order to emphasize those organizational aspects with growth potential, the postmodern sees an interconnectedness that requires addressing weaknesses in addition to building upon strengths. (Biblical examples for this view may be inferred from I Corinthians 12:12, 14, 20, 27; Romans 12: 4-5 and Ephesians 4:12 – 13).

Condition 3: Organic organizations adapt continually to their changing environments. The organization learns from its environment, weeds out aspects that can be unhealthy and learns which aspects can be embraced without compromising the mission or vision. To do so without compromising an underling mission, Kraft suggests this requires us to see Christ as “above but working through culture.”[9] Eddie Gibbs elaborates by suggesting that behaviors, ideas and products of a culture must be “sifted.”[10] Using a colander metaphor, Gibbs suggest this is an incarnational approach, “He (Christ) acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”[11]

Condition 4: Organic uniqueness recognizes that certain species flourish in some environments and die in others. Hence, to Hatch what works in one organization cannot necessarily be franchised into another context. Therefore, Hatch and other postmodern theorists like Zalesnick reject the notions of “irrefutable” and “unassailable” leadership laws or rules that can be applied in a general manner.[12]

With the above understanding of generational depictions, the philosophical forces that inform them, the organization as organism, and the conditions of an organic organization, we can move on to compare two areas where modern and postmodern leadership may differ. This is not to say these are the only or even most powerful areas in which they differ. I have compared and contrasted eight areas in my Abingdon Press release: ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. More depth on this discussion can be found there. However, for the present article, I will delve into two aspects that were not discussed to this depth in the aforementioned book.

Command-and-control leadership vs. collaborative leadership.

Modern leadership has customarily been associated with command-and-control leadership as depicted in Adam Smith’s seminal book The Wealth of Nations.[13] In this model the role of the leader or manager is to command often unwilling workers to pursue a goal while controlling their actions to attain it. Upon Smith’s ideas Frederick Taylor built Theory X, famously asserting; “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job.”[14]

Postmodern leadership, not surprisingly, reacted against this emphasis on a leadership expert and instead embraced a consensus building and collaborative approach. Harrison Monarch describes the contrast this way:

The archaic command-and-control approach is shelved in favor of a culture in which managers admit they don’t have all the answers and will implement and support team decisions. This means mangers become the architects of that team dynamic rather than the all-seeing purveyors of answers. The result is a culture of trust and employee empowerment that is safe.”[15]

Support for this approach can be found in the research of Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke. Not only organizational theorists who study of the formation of breakaway organizations (e.g. how organizations lose their change proponents), they also participate on the boards of their churches. They have applied their understanding of breakaway organizations to what they’ve witnessed in churches.[16] Dyke and Starke found that pastors who dictate change (or even who align themselves with a subgroup of change components who do so) will usually be pushed out by the status quo unless the leader demonstrates collaborative leadership. They discovered that the successful leader will build consensus for a change, even among the naysayers, before the change is implemented. They also discovered that implementing change too fast and without vetting it with the status quo results in failed change. Thus, change often fails in churches because it was not implemented in a collaborative fashion. Disturbingly, they also discovered an end result is that pastors and those proposing change are forced out of the church because they didn’t attain a unifying outcome.[17]

John Kotter is a Harvard management professor who wrote the seminal article (and the resultant book) on change, titled Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.[18] He states that the “second step” for bringing about change is to create a “guiding coalition” to generate that change. He found that when one person or one side pushes for change, the other sides will push back with the resultant change creating division rather than progress. Kotter’s solution is to create (as the second step of the eight-step process) a “guiding coalition” of both change proponents and the status quo who will bring change in a collaborative manner.

Best practices for the church: A leader must resist command-and-control tendencies and instead embrace approaches oriented toward collaboration. Best practices include Dyke and Starke’s suggestions that church leaders go to the status quo and listen to their concerns before launching into a change.[19] While field-testing this, I have found that simply giving status quo members a hearing goes a long way to helping them feel their voice and concerns are heard. Dyck and Starke also found that when an inevitable alarm event occurs through which some change begins to polarize the congregation, the collaborative pastor will bring the people together to grasp the common vision and cooperate on a solution.[20] Kotter even pushes the establishment of a guiding coalition to the top (second) of his eight tactical steps.

Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22]  

Elmer L. Towns[23]


Whitesel / Hunter[24]

A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry.

Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”


My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring Bill Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

Though they may not realize it, Hatch’s four conditions of organic organizations are reflected in the postmodern emphasis upon an unchanging mission in lieu of the temporal- and quantitative-bound nature of vision. For example, “Condition 1: An organic dependency on its environment” is reflected in the postmodern emphasis that church should not be a closed, self-contained system; but rather an organic congregation tied to those it serves inside and outside the organization. Hatch’s “Condition 2: An organic harmony among the parts” is reflected in the postmodern propensity toward dissonant harmony among multiple constituencies. “Condition 3: Organic adaption to the surroundings,” is exhibited as these organic experiments adapt to the culture of their surroundings by changing visions as the environment changes. And finally, “Condition 4: Organic uniqueness from other organizations” is mirrored in their intentions to not franchise what works in other churches but to create indigenous and elastic visions that serve an immutable mission.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future (New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,” MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17


Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN

CHANGE & My video introduction to “The 4 Forces that Control Change” #LEAD600

Here is a video introduction to articles I have written (for anyone) and assignments (for students in LEAD 600, etc.) that deal with controlling change (which we call theories of changing). It introduces the viewer to “The Four Forces that Control Change” and how to manage each.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

Articles mentioned in the video as well as additional articles are available at the following links:

Download the Church Executive article by Bob Whitesel here:  ARTICLE_Four Forces-Whitesel (Church Executive Article)

Fownload the article in the Journal of the Great Commission Research Network here: article-whitesel-gcrn-toward-a-holistic-and-postmodernal-theory-of-change-in-cg-literature-gcrn . To subscribe and/or receive more information about The Great Commission Research Journal (the new name) click here:

And find more “theories of changing” articles on here:




CHANGE THEORY & Toward a Holistic, Postmodernal Theory of Change by @BobWhitesel

Excerpted from The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth (JASCG), Fall 2008, editor Gary McIntosh, DMin, PhD., La Mirada, CA: Biola University.

Toward a Holistic and Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change As Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature

by Bob Whitesel, D. Min.


Change that permits and even promotes efficacious evangelism would seem to be at the heart of the strategic intentions of the Church Growth Movement. However, in spite of its theoretical centrality, a review of Church Growth Movement literature reveals that change, while persistent in the literature, is far from central and/or holistically addressed. And though the complex interplay of multiple generative mechanisms that drive and channel change is acknowledged in Church Growth literature, due to a narrow focus in many Church Growth tomes, what organization theorist Mary Jo Hatch describes as a more holistic and efficacious “collage” approach to change (Hatch 1997:54) is missing.

The purpose of this present study is to form a background from Church Growth Movement literature against which might emerge a contemporary epistemology and model for theories of change and changing. And, since the cultural predilections of postmodernity heavily influence future strategizing, postmodern theoretical understandings will be sought.

As such, a holistic collage approach becomes requisite. Hatch’s analysis of postmodern organization theories leads her to believe they rely heavily upon a collage approach. She describes a collage as “an art form in which objects and pieces of objects (often including reproductions of other works of art…) are arranged together to form something new – an art object in its own right. When you use collage as a metaphor for organization theory you are recognized the value of holding multiple perspectives and using parts of theories to form a new work… they (postmodern leaders) use bits of old theories along with the knowledge and experience they have collected in their lifetimes to create a new theory worthy of use in particular circumstances” (ibid.).

41tso1esgl-_sy344_bo1204203200_            This author has elsewhere described his ethnographic study of 12 postmodernal ecclesial organizations, and how this leadership collage is evident in many, if not most, of their scenarios (Whitesel 2006:124-134). Therefore, for the present discussion it will be assumed that healthy and effective emerging postmodernal congregations are utilizing holistic and multifaceted approaches to managing change.

But this elicits the question, is this collage approach, born out of innovative reactions to indigenous cultures, reflected in church Growth literature? And if so, to what degree? If it is, then in Church Growth Movement literature there lies helpful and even strategic understandings that can help postmodernal theorists and/or ecclesial leaders manage change. If it is not found, then additional research and publication is required on this important topic. Such questions, that can elicit grounded theory research, are what this article seeks to uncover and evaluate

Four Forces Approach To Change

Theories of Change and Theories of Changing

We begin with a brief review of pertinent aspects of organization theory of change and changing. Within organization theory there is an innovative and influential perspective that change arises and is controlled by one or more generative mechanisms or forces. These mechanisms control the development and evolution of change processes, and as such require varying mechanisms and strategies for their management.

A brief discussion of organization theory’s delineations between theories of change and theories of changing (Bennis 1996) will assist the reader in comprehending the nuances of this author’s analysis. Theories of change, are those theoretical and practical constructs that explain how organizations change and factors that bring about that change. Theories of changing deal with how change can be manipulated and managed to elicit ultimate organizational performance.

The author’s current research is in grounded theory development that can elicit theories of change in postmodernal ecclesial organizations. As such, the exploration of the mechanics and generative mechanisms of change will dominate this discussion. In addition, since the purpose of this study is to encourage my graduate students at Indiana Wesleyan University to develop theories of changing (i.e. how change can be managed), I will also discuss (though because of space constraints to a lesser degree) how Church Growth Movement literature employs prescriptive mechanisms to elicit the management of changing.

A Collage of Four Forces

Organization change theorists Van de Ven and Poole have posited an influential model for change that considers the interplay of four types of change forces, with resultant yet varying prescriptive mechanisms for controlling and managing each (Van de Ven and Poole 1995). These four types or “forces” involve different generative mechanisms or motors, proceed through different process models and are managed by varying prescriptive strategies.

Though some change may involve just one of these typologies, many more change processes will involve two or more of these underlying forces (Van de Ven and Poole 1995:8). Therefore, the key for developing theories of ecclesial changing among future researchers and students, will be to understand and identify the interplay of these change forces, with a resultant indigenous collage from a grounded theory of change.

To begin our quest, an understanding of the four forces involved in this interplay will be required.

The Life Cycle Model

Theories of Change. This model views change as progressing through a lock-step process “that is prescribed and regulated by an institutional, natural, or logical program prefigured at the beginning of the cycle” (Van de Ven and Poole 1995:7). In the ecclesial realm this might be a church that was founded to reach a certain generational, social and/or ethic culture. The manner in which this organization develops has been embedded into the organization’s DNA at conception and/or renewal. Change is thus an outgrowth of the organizational life-cycle and its inauguration. Change will usually not be introduced from the outside as much as it will emerge from a developing cycle, that has been apriori programmed into the organization’s inception. In this view, a church is not GCRscannedcover.jpgin the empiricist metaphor tabula rasa, but rather prescribed and regulated by apriori forces that elicit certain responses.

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MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel.  The following article of mine was republished in the inaugural issue of The Journal of the Academy for Intercultural Church Research (AICR). I highly encourage anyone interested in reliable and valid articles on multicultural churches and their growth to bookmark this site:

Five Types of Multicultural Churches

This article first appeared in the Great Commission Research Journal, vol. 6, issue 1, summer 2016 (La Mirada, CA: Cook School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University, 2014) and is used by permission.

FIVE TYPES OF MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated

Author: Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D.

Professor of Missional Leadership Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University


This article puts forth a comprehensive and reconciliation-based paradigm through which to view multicultural congregations as one of five models or types. It updates the historical categories of Sanchez, adds contemporary models and then evaluates each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation. The five models are: 1) the asset sharing Multicultural Alliance, 2) the collaborative Multicultural Partnership, 3) the asymmetrical Mother-Daughter model, 4) the popular Blended approach and 5) the Cultural Assimilation model. The result is a comprehensive five-model paradigm that includes an assessment of each model’s potential for spiritual and intercultural reconciliation.

The following is excerpted and reedited from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013).

This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of different multicultural[1] church models. Daniel Sanchez offered some of the earliest depictions of such models,[2] but 35 years later they beg to be updated. And despite the proliferation of books on the topic, no significant updating or additions to Sanchez’s categories have been offered other than the Sider et. al. partnership model.[3]

In addition, there is a vibrant discussion today regarding how John Perkins’ intercultural goals of redistribution, relocation and reconciliation are being addressed by churches.[4] Therefore, it can be helpful to assess how well different models of multicultural congregations are addressing each of Perkins’ intercultural reconciliation goals.

The following five models of multicultural congregations suggest a new and contemporized paradigm. I will analyze each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation.

Starting With Goals: Spiritual And Cultural Reconciliation

Sociologists have long known that people of a dominant culture will try, sometimes even subconsciously, to make over people from an emerging culture into their own image.[5] C. Peter Wagner called this the “creator complex” and said, “Deep in the heart of man, even in missionaries, lurks that ‘creator complex’ by which he delights in making other people over in his own image.”[6] And so, when humans encounter different customs, the creator complex in us wants us to view their customs as abnormal and change them to be more in keeping with our traditions.

The creator complex arises because it seems easier and quicker to assimilate a culture and make it look like us, than to try and sift out any impurities that run counter to the message of Christ. But in the words of missiologist Charles Kraft, every culture is “corrupt, but convertible.”[7] To convert any culture thus entails sifting out elements that run counter to Christ’s Good News while retaining elements that affirm it. Eddie Gibbs calls this “sifting a culture,” drawing from the image of a colander or strainer that sifts out impurities in food.[8]

So what then is the goal for our filtering of cultures? Let us return to Charles Kraft’s reminder, that every culture is “corrupt, but convertible.”[9] Our purpose thus becomes to assist God in His quest to convert or transform a culture. Such transformation begins by reconnecting people to their loving heavenly father. This has been called the ministry of reconciliation, which Paul described in 2 Cor. 5:11, 17-18.

John Perkins suggests that today’s divided world needs churches that will foster both spiritual reconciliation and physical reconciliation. This would fulfill Jesus’ prayer that His children would be united as the Father and Son are united (John 17:20). To describe this goal, Perkins employed 3 Rs:[10]

  • Redistribution (sharing money from wealthier cultures with struggling cultures),
  • Relocation (relocating ministry to needy areas) and
  • Reconciliation (physical and spiritual reconciliation, first between humans and their heavenly Father, and then between humans).

Among today’s emerging generations I am seeing young people more attune to this need for reconciliation between people of different cultures. Today’s young people have been born into a very divided world of politics, economics and cultural clashes. Yet, across the nation I have observed churches lead by these young leaders that refuse to limit themselves to just spiritual reconciliation, but also see maturity in Christ as advancing cultural reconciliation. I agree with Brenda Salter McNeil who sees the emergence of a reconciliation generation, who in addition to a spiritual reconciliation, sees “a host of people from various tribes, nations, and ethnicities who are Kingdom people called to do the work of racial reconciliation.”[11]

And so, to bring about both spiritual and cultural reconciliation, we need models that describe churches where people of differing cultures are not only reconnecting with their heavenly Father, but also who reconnecting with one another. A multicultural church may provide the best locale. To understand a multicultural church, let us look at five models.

5 Models of Multicultural Churches

To picture the variety of multicultural congregations I have suggested the following five categories. In each category I have codified examples from many authors, along with my own case-study research to present a clearer picture of the multicultural options and the plusses and minuses of each approach.

The Multicultural Alliance Church

This church is an alliance of several culturally different sub-congregations. Daniel Sanchez describes it as one church “comprised of several congregations in which the autonomy of each congregation is preserved and the resources of the congregations are combined to present a strong evangelistic ministry.”[12] The different cultures thus form an alliance by joining together as one religious organization in which they equally:

  • Share leadership duties (i.e. leadership boards are integrated),
  • Share assets (it is only one nonprofit 501c3 organization)
  • Offer separate worship expressions (to connect with more cultures)
  • Offer blended worship expressions (to create unity).

Offering multiple worship options allows the Multicultural Alliance Church to reach out and connect with several different cultures simultaneously.[13] And a regular blending of traditions in a unity service creates unity amid this diversity.[14] A weekly format of a multicultural alliance church with five sub-congregations could look like this:

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY Multicultural Alliance copy.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY 4.2 Strengths:Weaknesses of the Multicultural Alliance Church.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY Multicultural Partnership copy.jpgFIGURE Healthy Church 4.2 Strengths:Weaknesses of the Multicultural Partnership Church.jpg

Multicultural Mother Daughter Church.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY 4.6 Strengths:Weaknesses of the Multicultural Mother-Daughter Church.jpg

Multicultural Blended Church.jpgFIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY 4.8 Strengths:Weaknesses of the Multicultural Blended Church.jpg

Multicultural Assimilation Church.jpg

FIGURE ©Whitesel HEALTHY 4.10 Strengths:Weaknesses of the Multicultural Assimilation Church.jpg

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WESLEY & CHURCH GROWTH Before McGavran: The Methodological Parallels of John Wesley

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D.

Delivered October 3, 2014 to The Annual Conference of The Great Commission Research Network, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX.


This article will look at methodological parallels between John B. Wesley and Donald A. McGavran. The influence of both men arose during similar social shifts that were accompanied by a perception of ecclesial apathy. Parallels will be demonstrated in McGavran’s principles of 1) conversion as a priority, 2) effective evangelism as a process model, 3) the danger of redemption and lift, 4) the importance of multiplication and 5) pragmatism in methodology. A final section will look at the legacy of these two men and suggest how identification can help retain focus on principles rather than contextually-bound tactics.

Published in the Great Commission Research Journal (2015).  Delivered in abbreviated form by Dr. Whitesel as a keynote at Renovate: The National Church Revitalization Conference, 11/3/14, Orlando, FL.

Whitesel Wesley RENOVATE 1 copy

Parallel Times

In this article we will look at missiological parallels between the principles of John B. Wesley and Donald A McGavran. Wesley’s methodology was hammered out in mid-18th century England as the Industrial Revolution conquered Europe, driving peasants from agricultural to urban lives in a quest to better their lives though technology. As historian David Watson describers it, “a society which was suffering from radical change and depersonalization.”[1] Only in hindsight would history brand the promises of the Industrial Revolution as overly materialistic and rarely altruistic. Yet amid this cultural shift from organic to mechanistic, spiritual fires leapt from the field sermons and structured discipleship methodology of a former Oxford don.

Not surprisingly in such an era, methods overshadowed principles and soon the derisive appellation “Methodist” was applied to Wesley’s followers. Though they preferred to be called Wesleyans, Wesley would only bend to popular terminology by describing them as “the people called Methodists.[2] Yet the sarcastic term survives and even flourishes in churches and denominations with Wesley’s methodologies in their heritage (though they may not remember what those methods be).

Donald A. McGavran’s principles for what he called effective evangelism[3] were born in a similar cultural transition from farm to factory. In the post-World War II milieu, American ingenuity in science and quantification had defeated Europe’s historical masters of technology: the German nation. Amid the euphoria generated by the passing of the technological baton, Donald A. McGavran began to emphasize measurement and anthropological assessment as valid lenses to follow the unseen movements of the Holy Spirit within societies. Based in part on his background as an executive-level administrator of missionary hospitals in India; McGavran suggested principles and methodologies that appealed to a culture infatuated again with measurement and technology.

But, McGavran and Wesley had similar eye-opening experiences regarding the state of contemporary spirituality. Wesley famously received a letter from his brother Charles, who had just begun his studies at Oxford’s most prestigious seminary: Christ Church College. Charles summed up what he found in these words: “(at Christ Church College) a man stands a very fair chance of being laughed out of his religion.”[4]

McGavran had a similar experience as described by Tim Stafford: “One morning McGavran asked his class what should be the first question a person asks when he reads a biblical passage. One of the most intelligent men answered promptly, ‘What is there in this passage that we cannot believe?’ He meant that anything miraculous or supernatural ought to be deleted or explained as ’poetic.’ ‘I had never before been confronted as bluntly with what the liberal position means to its ordinary Christians.’ McGavran says. ‘It shocked me, and I began at that moment to feel that it could not be the truth’.”[5]

Both men encountered dichotomies that would set their spiritual and tactical trajectories. For both, a popular interpretation of what constitutes biblical spirituality had robbed Christianity of authenticity and relevance. As a result, it should not be unexpected that parallel explorations and codifications of the spiritual journey would result…

DOWNLOAD the presentation handout HERE >>> ARTICLE Whitesel – Wesley & McGavran GCRJ GCRN

DOWNLOAD the Great Commission Research Journal article HERE >>> ARTICLE ©Whitesel – GCRJ Wesley & McGavran

[1] David Lowes Watson, The Early Methodist Class Meeting: Its Origins and Significance (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002) p. 129.

[2] John Wesley, Letter to John Clayton, 1732.

[3] Similar to what Wesley experienced, McGavran’s more nuanced designation underwent a similar simplification with an accompanying overemphasis upon its tactical nature. Though McGavran preferred his principles be described as effective evangelism (Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate, (Presbyterian & Reformed Pub Co, 1988), 43) but much like Wesley 256 years earlier, his work would succumb to the more modish label: church growth.

[4] Kenneth G. C. Newport and Gareth Lloyd, The Letters of Charles Wesley: A Critical Edition, with Instruction and Notes: Volume 1 (1728-1756), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 25.

[5] Tim Stafford, “The Father of Church Growth,” Mission Frontiers Journal, January 1986.

#Renovate14   #RenegadePastors