PURPOSE + CHURCH = Growing, Going Learners (my consecration sermon, Matthew 28:19)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/14/17.

“1 Purpose & 3 How-tos ” (long version)

“The “great” purpose, goal, commission, charge.”

In your…
> going, meet their needs daily (prepare the soil) “attendant circumstance participle = !” (an aorist participle preceding an aorist main verb)
> teaching them something you have learned (plant a seed of truth)
> baptizing, as a public statement (water w/ acct)
>> Church purpose: nurture learners
– matheteusate = (mauth-a-two-sa-tay)
– A community of authentic, ongoing learners.
– (BW > Christ is commanding his followers not to produce experts, but rather to foster a community of authentic learners.)
>> Personal purpose:
– Enroll (yourself & others) in Jesus’ school (McGavran)
– Foster active, ongoing learners about their Heavenly Father (BW)
+ + TO DO: each day teach someone what you have learned. + +

Option B:
> first, meet their needs daily (prepare the soil)
> teach them something you have learned (plant a seed of truth)
> pray for them (water it with prayer)
+ ToDo: each day teach someone what you have learned. +

1 imperative verb: in English typically a single action-word, followed by an exclamation mark e.g.…

  • “RUN!” or “FIGHT!” or  “EAT!”
  • = Tells you what to do = 1 purpose.

3 participles: “Participles are “ing” words, e.g….

  • Words like “swimming” and “running” and “eating”
  • = Tells you how to do it = 3 hows.

Participles (“ing” words) in Greek will, depending on who or what they refer to, end with something like “ontes” or “entes” just as our participles typically end with “ing.”  … they are…
1. Poreuthentes  – πορευθέντες
2. Baptidzontes – βαπτίζοντες
3. Didaskontes – διδάσκοντες
+ mathayteusatay (μαθητεύσατε)
“mauth-a-two-sa-tay”
> a 2nd-person plural imperative verb,
= “y’all” (like “y’all eat”)

“Go” is an “attendant circumstance participle” Daniel Wallace’s Exegetical Syntax of the NT offers an introduction to the attendant circumstance participle p. 640, with Great Commission example with explanation on p 645. Retrieved from http://thinktheology.org/2013/11/07/greek-geeking-the-great-commission-in-matthew


GREAT COMMISSION & How Its 4 Verbs Tell Us Our Purpose

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

…the primary goal of every church is not to influence the community for the better, provide a warm place of fellowship, sponsor excellent teaching or even to survive. The church of God has a higher, more encompassing call (that, by the way, includes the previous three tasks).[i] To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)

Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB)

(commissioning verbs are underlined)

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service. In fact, military personnel reading this will no doubt remember their own commissioning into the armed forces. Veterans have told me this was a powerful and moving experience, with one veteran stating, “You weren’t supposed to have tears in your eyes when you were commissioned, but I did. After 9-11 it was clear to me that I was no longer talking about serving my country, I was doing it! I was ready to put my life on the line for my country.”

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

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission

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

And, in this commission Jesus used four commissioning verbs. Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three. In Figure 5.4 let’s look closer at the verbs in his Great Commission and see if we can locate the one that Jesus emphasized as its central aim.

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

Finding the main verb

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

Take away the three helping verbs to find the main verb

Now, you are probably thinking, “What are the other verbs then?” The three other verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]

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

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

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

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

What Do Disciples look like?

As a young junior high student, I heard a pastor say we are to “make disciples.” Being an inattentive youth, I never quite grasped a correct image of what this looked like. From my rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, I pictured Jesus’ disciples and figured the church should make more longhaired individuals with beards, robes and sandals. Because the only youthful image I could conjure up were the “hippies” of the era, I wondered in my naïveté, “Was the preacher really telling for us to go out and produce more hippies?” Now this was not what the preacher intended. But the word disciple had become so archaic and tied in my mind to first century images that a modern depiction was needed.

Picturing a Disciple

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

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

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

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

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

An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple

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

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

The Goal of the Church Defined

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

Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church

The goal of a church is …

To make active, ongoing learners.

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

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

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

In the next chapter we will learn “HOW” to make learners. But, in this chapter we have seen the “WHY” is because nurturing “learners” is the goal of the Great Commission that Christ has given us.

Download the chapter here:  book-whitesel-excerpt-cure-chpt-5-why-learners

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention

keywords: make disciples


by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

Biblical Support for an Ongoing Journey

As seen earlier, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is the apex toward which the Great Commandment (Mark 12:31) aims and instructs.[i] Within the Great Commission are four verbs: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. Though in the English they appear identical, in the Greek only one of these verbs is the main verb, and the other three describe it (the other three are participles, i.e. helping verbs that modify or explain the main verb).

Which then is the main verb, the one that the other three are describing? The Greek language holds the answer, for the unique spelling of matheteusate indicates that “make disciples” is the main verb, and thus “to make disciples” is Jesus’ choice for the goal of our going, baptizing and teaching.

But what exactly is this disciple that we are commissioned to foster? Matheteusate is derived from Greek word for “learner” and means to “make learners.” McGavran stresses that matheteusate means “enroll in my (Jesus’) school.”[ii]

And yet, the Greek grammar holds more surprises. Matheteusate has a unique Greek spelling, indicating that it is in the imperative voice and the present perfect tense. These grammatical constructions tell us the following.

  • The imperative voice indicates that to make learners is a crucial and urgent
  • The present tense denotes that making learners should be a current
  • And the perfect tense carries the idea that making learners should be a continual and ongoing

Therefore, the present and ongoing imagery of a journey becomes a welcome metaphor. Engel said,

In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age. In this broader perspective, the Great Commission never is fulfilled but always is in the process of fulfillment.[iii]

In our search for a culture-current metaphor we see the image of a “journey” emerging, with “traveling wayfarers” moving forward to encounter new “waypoints.” For churches to focus too narrowly on a few waypoints, slows and disconnects the process as travelers will have to seek out new churches to help them travel on the next leg of their journey. Many wayfarers will find the change too awkward, and many will not make the leap at all.

In the following chapters we will carefully examine each waypoint. In the process we will encounter personal stories that illustrate each waypoint and learn what churches can do to help travelers negotiate each point on life’s most important journey.

[i] Still, the mandates are two parts of the same process. Engel however makes a persuasive argument that Wagner (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 12 [July, 1976], 177-180) separates too greatly the cultural mandate from the evangelistic mandate (Contemporary Christian Communications, 66-68). Engel argues from Scripture and from practicality that it is a “grave missiological error” to separate the cultural mandate from the evangelical mandate at all. It is toward re-coupling these mandates that metaphors of a journey and waypoints are employed.

[ii] McGavran, Effective Evangelism, 17.

[iii] Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 66.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints Introduction & Appendix

keywords: make disciples

Speaking hashtags #CWC #CaribbeanWesleyanCollege #commencement #PowellChurch

GREAT COMMISSION & How Its 4 Verbs Tell Us Our Purpose

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

…the primary goal of every church is not to influence the community for the better, provide a warm place of fellowship, sponsor excellent teaching or even to survive. The church of God has a higher, more encompassing call (that, by the way, includes the previous three tasks).[i] To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)

Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB)

(commissioning verbs are underlined)

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service. In fact, military personnel reading this will no doubt remember their own commissioning into the armed forces. Veterans have told me this was a powerful and moving experience, with one veteran stating, “You weren’t supposed to have tears in your eyes when you were commissioned, but I did. After 9-11 it was clear to me that I was no longer talking about serving my country, I was doing it! I was ready to put my life on the line for my country.”

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

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission

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

And, in this commission Jesus used four commissioning verbs. Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three. In Figure 5.4 let’s look closer at the verbs in his Great Commission and see if we can locate the one that Jesus emphasized as its central aim.

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

Finding the main verb

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

Take away the three helping verbs to find the main verb

Now, you are probably thinking, “What are the other verbs then?” The three other verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]

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

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

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

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

What Do Disciples look like?

As a young junior high student, I heard a pastor say we are to “make disciples.” Being an inattentive youth, I never quite grasped a correct image of what this looked like. From my rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, I pictured Jesus’ disciples and figured the church should make more longhaired individuals with beards, robes and sandals. Because the only youthful image I could conjure up were the “hippies” of the era, I wondered in my naïveté, “Was the preacher really telling for us to go out and produce more hippies?” Now this was not what the preacher intended. But the word disciple had become so archaic and tied in my mind to first century images that a modern depiction was needed.

Picturing a Disciple

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

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

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

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

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

An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple

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

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

The Goal of the Church Defined

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

Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church

The goal of a church is …

To make active, ongoing learners.

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

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

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

In the next chapter we will learn “HOW” to make learners. But, in this chapter we have seen the “WHY” is because nurturing “learners” is the goal of the Great Commission that Christ has given us.

Download the chapter here:  book-whitesel-excerpt-cure-chpt-5-why-learners

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention

keywords: make disciples

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & Understanding the 4 Verbs of the Great Commission

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

Biblical Support for an Ongoing Journey

As seen earlier, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is the apex toward which the Great Commandment (Mark 12:31) aims and instructs.[i] Within the Great Commission are four verbs: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. Though in the English they appear identical, in the Greek only one of these verbs is the main verb, and the other three describe it (the other three are participles, i.e. helping verbs that modify or explain the main verb).

Which then is the main verb, the one that the other three are describing? The Greek language holds the answer, for the unique spelling of matheteusate indicates that “make disciples” is the main verb, and thus “to make disciples” is Jesus’ choice for the goal of our going, baptizing and teaching.

But what exactly is this disciple that we are commissioned to foster? Matheteusate is derived from Greek word for “learner” and means to “make learners.” McGavran stresses that matheteusate means “enroll in my (Jesus’) school.”[ii]

And yet, the Greek grammar holds more surprises. Matheteusate has a unique Greek spelling, indicating that it is in the imperative voice and the present perfect tense. These grammatical constructions tell us the following.

  • The imperative voice indicates that to make learners is a crucial and urgent
  • The present tense denotes that making learners should be a current
  • And the perfect tense carries the idea that making learners should be a continual and ongoing

Therefore, the present and ongoing imagery of a journey becomes a welcome metaphor. Engel said,

In short, discipleship requires continued obedience over time…. Thus becoming a disciple is a process beginning when one received Christ, continuing over a lifetime as one is conformed to His image (Phil 1:6), and culminating in the glory at the end of the age. In this broader perspective, the Great Commission never is fulfilled but always is in the process of fulfillment.[iii]

In our search for a culture-current metaphor we see the image of a “journey” emerging, with “traveling wayfarers” moving forward to encounter new “waypoints.” For churches to focus too narrowly on a few waypoints, slows and disconnects the process as travelers will have to seek out new churches to help them travel on the next leg of their journey. Many wayfarers will find the change too awkward, and many will not make the leap at all.

In the following chapters we will carefully examine each waypoint. In the process we will encounter personal stories that illustrate each waypoint and learn what churches can do to help travelers negotiate each point on life’s most important journey.

[i] Still, the mandates are two parts of the same process. Engel however makes a persuasive argument that Wagner (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 12 [July, 1976], 177-180) separates too greatly the cultural mandate from the evangelistic mandate (Contemporary Christian Communications, 66-68). Engel argues from Scripture and from practicality that it is a “grave missiological error” to separate the cultural mandate from the evangelical mandate at all. It is toward re-coupling these mandates that metaphors of a journey and waypoints are employed.

[ii] McGavran, Effective Evangelism, 17.

[iii] Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications, 66.

Excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints Introduction & Appendix

keywords: make disciples

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

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

What is the Goal of a Church?

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Goal for the Church

The right answer for Figure 5.1 is actually “none of the above” and comes from Jesus’ own words. That’s right, the primary goal of every church is not to influence the community for the better, provide a warm place of fellowship, sponsor excellent teaching or even to survive. The church of God has a higher, more encompassing call (that, by the way, includes the previous three tasks).[i] To understand this, let’s look at Jesus’ last and most poignant instructions to his followers (Figure 5.2 which has been called the “Great Commission”)

Figure 5.2 Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 29:18-20 CEB)

(commissioning verbs are underlined)

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

What makes this a Great Commission[ii]?

The Great Commission is the label that has been given to these final and central instructions Jesus gave his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. In this phrase Jesus is literally “commissioning” or “recruiting” all followers down through the ages into his mission. This commissioning is akin to an “official directive,” a “direct order” and a “command,” such as a military conscript might receive upon entering service. In fact, military personnel reading this will no doubt remember their own commissioning into the armed forces. Veterans have told me this was a powerful and moving experience, with one veteran stating, “You weren’t supposed to have tears in your eyes when you were commissioned, but I did. After 9-11 it was clear to me that I was no longer talking about serving my country, I was doing it! I was ready to put my life on the line for my country.”

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

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

The Four Verbs of Jesus’ Great Commission

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

And, in this commission Jesus used four commissioning verbs. Because the Greek language (in which much of the New Testament was written) is much more precise than today’s English, Jesus was able to use a special wording that stressed one verb as the primary verb over the other three. In Figure 5.4 let’s look closer at the verbs in his Great Commission and see if we can locate the one that Jesus emphasized as its central aim.

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

Jesus came near and spoke to them,

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

Finding the main verb

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

Take away the three helping verbs to find the main verb

Now, you are probably thinking, “What are the other verbs then?” The three other verbs are called participles, which means they are “helping verbs” that tell “how” the main verb will be accomplished.[iv] Jesus chose specific spellings of the participles to show that three verbs are participles telling you “how” to accomplish the main verb.[v]

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

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

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

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

What Do Disciples look like?

As a young junior high student, I heard a pastor say we are to “make disciples.” Being an inattentive youth, I never quite grasped a correct image of what this looked like. From my rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, I pictured Jesus’ disciples and figured the church should make more longhaired individuals with beards, robes and sandals. Because the only youthful image I could conjure up were the “hippies” of the era, I wondered in my naïveté, “Was the preacher really telling for us to go out and produce more hippies?” Now this was not what the preacher intended. But the word disciple had become so archaic and tied in my mind to first century images that a modern depiction was needed.

Picturing a Disciple

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

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

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

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

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

An Up-to-date Image of a Disciple

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

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

The Goal of the Church Defined

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

Figure 5.6 The Goal of a Church

 

The goal of a church is …

To make active, ongoing learners.

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

 

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

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

In the next chapter we will learn “HOW” to make learners. But, in this chapter we have seen the “WHY” is because nurturing “learners” is the goal of the Great Commission that Christ has given us.

Download the chapter here:  book-whitesel-excerpt-cure-chpt-5-why-learners

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork #RenovateConference #NationalOutreachConvention

MEASUREMENT & The Goal of the Great Commission: To Make Disciples

x-in-organix“Chapter 8: MEASURE” is excerpted with permission from ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011), pp. 139-156 (copyright by Bob Whitesel).

Let’s break through to the real reasons for growth or non-growth… Let’s put diagnostic tools into the hands of pastors, people … so they will see, clearly and scientifically the real situation. – Donald McGavran, Fuller Seminary Dean Emeritus[i]

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

When Things Add Up

Jerry was preparing to hire two staff members. And, though he looked forward to adding new staff at First Church, he always felt uncomfortable with these interviews. Thus, he was taken back when he heard the sounds of merriment and laughter coming from the waiting room. “This is some way to start an interview,” Jerry thought as he opened the door.

In the waiting room Jerry found an older gentleman, a thirty-ish young man and a middle-aged woman laughing, conversing and chatting with such excitement that he could scarcely interject a word. Finally, Jerry blurted out, “Who is here for the job interview for Pastor to Senior Adults?” to which the young man and the older gentleman both raised their hands. “Well who is here for the position of Young Adults Pastor?” to which all three raised their hands. Spontaneously, they all broke into laughter again. “You see,” said Joan. “We’ve known each other for years, but we had no idea we were applying for the same two jobs. I haven’t seen Gordon and Joel for years, and I guess we just got carried away by the reunion.”

To Jerry there was something comforting in their camaraderie. “Well, we can start this interview together and then break out separately,” Jerry suggested, which they all thought was a good idea. Sitting down in Jerry’s office, he began to read their résumés. “Joan, it says here you pastored at Aldersgate Church. I pastored there years ago.” “I followed you, I think,” came Joan’s reply. “Aldersgate, that was a hard nut to crack,” continued Jerry. “But eventually, when they let me start counting spiritual progress and stop tracking attendance so closely we began to grow.” “What do you mean?” interjected Joel, who had always been a bit impolite when his interest was pricked. “You see,” Jerry continued, “after a few years at Aldersgate Church things weren’t adding up. Positive things were happening but it wasn’t reflected in our attendance numbers. The congregants were more unified than they’d been in a decade. And, a growing ministry to the Hispanic community had been positive, with a nearby Hispanic church growing because of their generosity. I thought to myself, ‘there’s got to be a better way to measure a church’s growth.’ One night I sat down at my computer and sent an e-mail to a young pastor friend in Atlanta. I described Aldersgate’s situation and waited for an e-mail reply. Before I turned in for the night, I found this reply from Aaron: ‘Before you go to bed tonight read Acts 2:42-47. I’ll call you in the morning’.”

For the next hour Jerry recounted how Aaron’s suggestion had led him to measure a church’s health by spiritual metrics, and not attendance numbers. Jerry had inherited a badly divided church at Aldersgate. But, his hard work had brought about an improvement in unity. Jerry recalled, “One lady said, ‘we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough’.” To track the growing unity Jerry would regularly ask people if they sensed the church was more or less unified than last year. Jerry also tracked the number of congregants in small groups such as Sunday School classes, Bible-study groups and even committees. “I wanted to see if people were growing in their devotion to Bible-study, fellowship, meals together and prayer gatherings, as it says in Acts 2:42. These things seemed more important to measure than how many I could get to show up on Sunday morning.” As Jerry continued Joan, Gordon and Joel peppered him with questions and impressions. And, before long all had lost track of the time. Finally, a knock at the door interrupted their lively discussion.

“I’m leaving now, it’s the end of the work day,” came the voice of Jerry’s assistant. “Do you want me to schedule more interviews next week?” Suddenly Joan, Gordon and Joel were brought back to reality. There were three of them, and only two jobs. “No, don’t schedule any more for next week. I think I’ve found our staff members.” With that the assistant departed, but for Joan, Gordon and Joel anxiety took his place. Neither wanted to take the other’s position, but all relished the idea of working with a creative pastor like Jerry. After some uncomfortable minutes of silence, Jerry spoke again. “I’ve made my decision, if the church board agrees. I think Joel would make an excellent Young Adult Pastor.” Gordon and Joan both smiled, and Joan winked at Joel. After all, Joan and Gordon had only suggested themselves for the job because of what they had learned through Joel’s friendship. “And for the Senior Adult Pastor I will suggest Gordon to the board,” Jerry continued. Now elation was tempered. Both Joel and Gordon felt that Joan had been their pastor, and she had been in the ministry longer. Spontaneously they hugged and tears of joy and sorrow began to flow down Gordon’s face. After a minute they composed themselves and congratulated the two men. “I don’t know what you are getting all weepy about,” came Jerry’s reply after an awkward silence. “I don’t know where we’ll find the money, but I think we should create a new position of Pastor to Adults for Joan. I’ve needed help for some time, and I think your experiences and your spirits are right for this church. Welcome home.”

And with that four circular routes reconnected and resulted in fruitful years of ministry. Here at First Church lessons learned in so many diverse congregations and locales had come together to spread ever increasingly the good news of God’s mission.

X is for “Measurement”

This chapter will discuss measurement. Yet, not just any kind of measurement, but ways to measure spiritual growth and its relationship to effective leadership. However, when the words spiritual and measurement are linked together, church leaders often cringe. Such phrases give the impression of either excessive scrutiny or over simplification. Thus, let’s begin with a short investigation into the rationale for measuring spiritual growth.

Is Measurement Spiritual?

The Scriptures are replete with examples of appraisal and assessment, especially when describing how spiritual seekers mature along their spiritual journey. The numberings in Numbers 1:2 and 26:2 reminded a Jewish nation that a lack of pre-exodus faith had resulted in many of them forfeiting the blessings of the promised land. And Luke’s numberings in Acts 1:15, 2:41 and 4:4 reminded the Christian church that even amid persecution, the Christian community matured and spread from the imperial backwaters of Jerusalem to the Roman capital.

Still, some argue against counting, claiming that David was punished for ordering a census of Israel in 1 Chron. 21:1-30. But, a closer look reveals that David was punished by God because in the face of an overwhelming opponent, David sought to count his men to bolster his faith rather than trust in God’s assistance. David’s err was not his counting, but because he counted for inappropriate reasons. And yet, this story of David’s inappropriate counting can be a warning for all who would count today. If you are counting because you need to bolster your faith, then your err is the same as David’s. Measurement should not be a substitution for faith, but an indication of God’s moving among his people.

Let’s look at how modern leadership and millennial leadership differ in their approaches to measurement. This comparison can help tomorrow’s leaders see what should be counted and what should not.

A Peril of Modern Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

Modern Miscue 1. Grow a church’s growth in conversion and attendance.

Just one modern miscue will be investigated in this chapter, because it contrasts significantly with three more organic measurements. The modern miscue is to put too much reliance in measuring conversion and attendance as an indicator of leadership effectiveness.

1.a. Counting Conversion. First let me say that conversion is a critically important experience for every spiritual traveler.[ii] Let’s define what we are talking about using an accepted definition by psychologist and philosopher William James:

(conversion is) “…the process, gradual or sudden, by which the self hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy becomes united and consciously right, superior and happy in consequence to its firmer hold upon religions realities.”[iii]

Such conversion is an important response to God’s mission (the missio Dei) for it describes a second birth where a person begins a new life reunited with her or his heavenly Father. The Bible states, “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Such changes are countable, but there are two caveats to counting conversion.

  • Conversion can happen gradually or suddenly, thus counting is difficult. A sudden conversion to Christianity is easily noted, while a more gradual conversionary experience is harder to count. Let’s look at how the Bible describes both types of conversion and therefore how effectively counting all conversions becomes difficult.
    • Sudden Conversion. Today when people think of conversion they usually think of a sudden conversion like that of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). Many people, including this author, have experienced conversion in this abrupt and unmistakable way.
    • Progressive Conversion. But, if we look at how most of Jesus’ disciples were converted, we see a more gradual progression. Fuller Seminary’s Richard Peace emphasizes that:

“What Mark sought to communicate in his Gospel was the process by which these twelve men gradually turned, over time, from their culturally derived understanding of Jesus as a great teacher to the amazing discovery that he was actually the Messiah who was the Son of God.”[iv]

Scot McKnight adds that “for many Christians conversion is a process of socialization,”[v] meaning that it is in the company and companionship of other Christians that many people gradually convert to Christ.

  • Counting conversion is difficult because it is a supernatural work of God’s Spirit, occurring on God’s timetable. Conversion involves a God who declares, “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( 55:9). Thus, as Jesus pointed out, trying to tally up conversions is like trying to count the wind:

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” (John 3:8, Msg.).

And when Luke describes the growth of the early church, he stresses God’s involvement, writing, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The scriptural emphasis is that being saved from the penalty of one’s sin happens when the Holy Spirit and a human’s free will intersect. Subsequently, counting conversations is not a good indicator of leadership, for it happens at different paces and as the result of a divine intersection.[vi]

1.b Counting attendance. Perhaps because conversion is such an inscrutable intersection, counting church attendance has become the common alternative. Yet attendance at an event, worship celebration, etc. can be artificially skewed by many factors. Figure 8.1 includes just a few temporary factors that can artificially skew attendance growth, making it an inconsistent measurement.

Figure 8.1 Temporary Types of Attendance Growth

Temporary Types of Attendance Growth
Forces affecting

temporary attendance growth:

Actions that can

create temporary growth:

 

Curiosity:

·       New facility is built

·       New pastor is hired

·       New program initiated

 

 

 

Entertainment:

 

·       Special musical guest(s)

·       Special speaker(s)

·       Church becomes the “it” church, meaning it is inordinately popular and thus people want to associate with it.[vii]

 

 

Population changes:

 

 

·       Growing neighborhood surrounding the church

·       Church attracts an emerging culture (ethnic, age group, etc.) from the neighborhood.

In the examples above, temporary and artificial reasons, not leadership, may be driving attendance growth.

Therefore, if modern ways of measuring leadership by counting conversion and attendance are difficult to decipher at best, perhaps Luke has given hints of better indicators. Let’s look at the verses preceding Acts 2:47 and see if more relevant measurement tools emerge.

3 Attitudes of Millennial Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

In Acts 2:42-47 Luke describes Jerusalem’s reaction to Peter’s first sermon.[viii] A fresh Spirit-infused community has come into being, and thus measuring it (as Luke always likes to do) requires new metrics.[ix] In Acts 2:42 Luke writes that as a result of Peter’s sermon,

“They devoted themselves….

  • to the apostles’ teaching
  • and to fellowship,
  • to the breaking of bread
  • and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Let’s start with the word “devoted,” which comes from two Greek words: pros- meaning “a goal striven toward”[x] and karterountes meaning “steadfast, to hold out, to endure.”[xi] The New International Version translates this “devoted,” but the New American Standard Bible translates it more accurately as “continuing steadfastly.” A compromise might be to say that they “steadfastly strove for the goals of …”

The subsequent phrases indicate four goals of this steadfast striving: learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer. What a refreshing metric. Luke is not measuring bodies, but hunger for knowledge, unity, community and prayer. In the new millennium measurement is not about how many warm bodies show up at an event, but how much committed community emerges.

Growth in maturity is one way to label this growth. But, we shall see shortly that growth in maturity is not easily measured. Yet, if we calculate it in the same way year after year (for instance count the number of people involved in Bible studies and prayer groups) we can catch a glimpse of Luke’s intent: to measure how God grows within and through his followers. Before we look at tools that can measure growth in maturity, let’s investigate three more measurements Luke describes in Acts 2:42-47.

Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

Acts 2:44-45 describes a growing trust within the fledgling church. This resulted in their selling of their possessions to help on another. Some throughout history have taken this passage to suggest that true discipleship is only to be found by living a communal lifestyle where all possessions are shared.[xii] However, if communal living was to be the norm for the Christian church, then Paul, Peter, James and others would have admonished churches in Corinth, Antioch, Philippi, Jerusalem and elsewhere to adopt a communal lifestyle. Scholar Everett Harrison adds an interesting insight, “this was not the forsaking of the principle of private ownership, since the disposal and distribution of their possessions was occasioned ‘as anyone might have need.’ When the need became known, action was taken based on loving concern.”[xiii] What Luke is emphasizing is a heightened trust and unity that is growing in the church. Followers are becoming confident they could rely on one another, even with which they formerly valued most: their money and assets.

Such actions describe a deeper unity and trust among believers than they had known before. This is a second type of church growth and makes more sense to track than conversions or attendance. Growth in unity is one way to label this emerging inter-reliance. Again, measuring this will be subjective and require some effort to calculate. But, we will see that a simple congregational questionnaire administered yearly and anonymously can glean congregational perceptions of whether unity is growing or waning.

Degree of unity is an important measurement that is often overlooked by denominational measurement methods too. For instance, in the story that began this chapter (and based upon an true account) Pastor Jerry had inherited a badly divided congregation. His hard work had brought about an improvement in unity, as exemplified in a congregant’s comment that “we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough.” However, because the church was experiencing a plateau in attendance and the denomination was not tracking growth in unity, Jerry’s progress was not evident to the denomination. We might ask ourselves, “was Pastor Jerry growing the church?” Yes. “Was he growing it in a way that was helpful and valuable?” Yes. “But, was this growth evident to the denomination?” No. Herein lies the problem. We are measuring things like conversion and attendance, which human leadership has only limited ability to influence, and we are overlooking important metrics of church growth, such as a church growing in unity. In the next section we will look at tools that can measure growth in unity as well.

Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

The Acts 2:47 phrase, “and enjoying the favor of all the people” describes in concise terms a growing appreciation for the church among community residents. Here we see that manifold connections and service to the community result in favor, esteem and a good opinion from those outside of the congregation. The community does not regard the church as mongers, dogmatists or self-absorbed elitists. Instead, the church seems to have been serving the community with such joyful enthusiasm, that people genuinely respected and valued their presence. Here is another refreshing metric which Luke choose to describe.

Therefore, measuring growth in favor among non-churchgoers can ascertain if community favor is increasing or declining. But, there is a caveat. Growing in favor does not mean catering to immoral elements in a community in hopes of currying their favor. Rather this verse describes what happens when a church applies biblical principles of love, fairness, truth-telling and compassion in a non-churchgoing community. This results in the community returning to them favor and respect. Such regard can be seen in an observation of the early church leader Tertullian, who wrote that non-Christians often commented, “Behold, how they love one another.”[xiv] We shall now see how measuring a church’s impact and esteem in a community be an effective tool to measure leadership.

Nurturing the 3 Attitudes Regarding: – Measurement

Growth in favor is similar to maturity growth and unity growth, in that all three are must rely upon subjective assessment. As noted, this may be why modern leaders often take the easy route of counting physical attributes of attendance and conversion. But subjective measurement is a reliable tool if consistent and commonsense questionnaires are employed. After years of applying the following tools among client churches and students, I have found that the following assessment tools are a helpful starting place.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

This is one of the easier types of growth to measure. Acts 2:42 describes how the young church steadfastly strove for goals of “…the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Every church has groups that center around these purposes. Thus, by counting the percentage of people involved in small groups where teaching takes place, fellowship takes place, shared meals take place and prayer takes place, a church can begin to get a general picture of spiritual progress (or regress).

1.a Count up all of your small groups. Figure 8.2 suggests typical small groups and how they might correlate to the categories mentioned Acts 2:42. When counting groups, limit yourself to small groups as defined in Chapter 3 as “less than 20 people meeting 1+ times a month.”[xv] Measuring changes in participation in these small groups can be a general indicator of changes in how many congregants are actively striving for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

Figure 8.2 Groups Who Might Exemplify Growth in Maturity

“They devoted themselves to … Small groups in a church that might exemplify this:
 

 

 

…the apostles’ teaching…

1.     Bible studies

2.     Sunday school classes

3.     Newcomer classes

4.     Membership classes

5.     Confirmation classes

6.     Baptism classes

7.     Any regular gathering or class encouraging Christian education

 

 

…to fellowship…

1.     Hobby groups

2.     Sport teams

3.     Any regular gathering or class primarily fostering Christian fellowship

 

 

… to the breaking of bread…

1.     Lunches together

2.     Dinners together

3.     Any gathering promoting Christian community with a meal

 

 

…and to prayer…

1.     Prayer meetings

2.     Participation in prayer programs such as prayer triplets, prayer covenants, etc.[xvi]

3.     Participation at prayer times (at the altar, in the prayer room, etc.)

Still, measuring all groups in Figure 8.2 could be cumbersome for many churches due to the large number of groups involved. Therefore, let’s limit ourselves to those small groups that are easier to detect, i.e. those orientated around biblical teaching or engaged in prayer.[xvii]

1.b Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3). A church’s emerging spiritual maturity could be estimated and changes tracked by counting up the number of participants in groups that are focused on Bible study or prayer. Figure 8.3 shows how to tally up the number of participants in these groups and track changes from year to year.

Figure 8.3: Tracking Growth in Maturity (example in grey)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years

Number of people involved  

Total

Involvement

 

 

 

 

 

Church Attend-ance[xviii]

Composite Maturation Number
Bible study groups (adult)

·  Sunday Schools

·  Any small group w/ a Bible focus

Prayer groups (adult)

·  Prayer meetings & events

·  Prayer programs

Total Involvement divided by

Church Attendance

 

% of Change

 

2008 34 16 50 200 25 %
2009 45 18 63 203 31 % + 6 %
2010 49 23 72 199 36 % + 6 %

The goal of Figure 8.3 is to see movement toward a higher percentage of congregants involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups. In the example above (in grey), the church has been plateaued for three years. But, by computing the “Composite Maturation Number” we find that involvement in prayer and Bible study groups has actually grown 5% and then 6% per year (for a total of 11%). This growth in maturity demonstrates that something good is happening, but unless the Composite Maturation Number is tracked a denomination will usually not notice this.

In addition, because each church is unique, a church should not try to compare its scores with anyone but itself. This score will show you only if you are changing in the number of people who are participating in groups that focus primarily on Bible study or prayer. Therefore, compare them only with yourself to gauge year-by-year changes in congregational commitment to Bible study and prayer.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

2.a Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4). Congregants usually have a good sense of whether unity in the congregation is improving or waning. A simple Likert-type scale with two questions (Figure 8.4) can be administered to congregants once a year, and improvement or deterioration in a church’s perceptions of unity can be tracked.[xix]

Figure 8.4: Tracking a Church’s Perceptions of Growth in Unity

Growth in Unity
 

Our church is more unified than last year.

1.                  2.                  3.                4.                          5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 

I trust our church leadership more than last year .

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 Given: once per year  Given when: at each worship celebration  Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred

2.b Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership. The purpose of tracking growth in unity is not necessarily to score high, but to be moving higher. And, each question measures a different attribute of unity that should be increasing.

Question 1: Assesses perceptions of unity among congregants.

Question 2: Assesses perceptions of unity of the congregation with church leadership.

Again these numbers should not be bantered around between congregations. These scales are not relevant to boasting or bravado. Rather these scales measure progress (or regress) in congregational unity. For example, a church that has a low self-esteem may initially score poorly on this scale. But, in subsequent years if the numbers move upward them the congregation’s perception of its unity is increasing. This does not mean unity has always increased, but it does indicate that something is going on that is increasing a congregational sense of unanimity.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

3.a Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5). A Likert-type questionnaire is helpful here too, for it measures changes in attitudes. Here we will not poll the congregation, but the non-churchgoing community. I use the term non-churchgoers in an attempt to be sensitive to labels, for these are people who may go to another church, synagogue, temple or mosque but who are not churchgoers at your place of worship. They include community leaders and opinion makers such as community officials, school principals/superintendents, business people, community leaders, etc.

3.b Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency. When possible, attempt to poll the same people every year to ensure that you are tracking changes in perception among the same local opinion makers. Figure 8.5, when given to community leaders, can help track changing perceptions of favor toward a local church.

Figure 8.5 Tracking the Perception of Growth in Church Favor Among Non-churchgoers.

Growth in Favor
 In your view (name of church) is more favorably regarded

within this community than last year

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
Given: once per year  Given to:

·  Community officials/leaders

·  School and business leaders

·  Local opinion makers

 

Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred.

 

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 4. Measure a church’s growth in conversions too.

For our fourth measurement we will measure conversions. Though we have seen that conversion is difficult to track, it can still be a helpful measurement when evaluated in light of the above metrics: growth in maturity, growth in unity and growth in favor among the community. In addition, Luke tracks conversion as we see from an abbreviated record from the book of Acts:[xx]

  • “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41
  • “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47b
  • “But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:4
  • “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Acts 5:14
  • “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

In Luke’s narrative we see that conversion was taking place, and that he was tracking it. Thom Rainer summarizes, “Luke writes Acts in rapid-fire sequences, demonstrating that believers were persistently active in prayer, evangelism, and service.”[xxi] Punctuating this rapid-fire account is Luke’s repeated emphasis upon conversions taking place at the mystical intersection of God’s will and human choice. As we noted earlier, because of God’s involvement counting conversion is like counting the wind (John 3:8,). But, Luke still tracks it. Yet, because of God’s considerable involvement, outcomes of conversion may be less tied to the leader’s skill. Thus, we should count “growth in conversion” for it is a valid metric to signify God’s movement. And though conversion is the apex of one’s spiritual journey before eternity, we must always remind ourselves that this number is less indicative of effective leadership and more indicative of God’s sovereign workings in the mission Dei.

The cross in ORGANIX reminds us that conversion is the heart God’s missio Dei.

Though evaluating leadership by counting conversion is difficult because of the supernatural nature of conversion, it is also problematical to underemphasize conversion. Conversion is the penultimate experience that God wants all his offspring to experience. The Scriptures emphasize:

  • “And he (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 18:3
  • “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… you must be born again.” John 3:3, 7
  • “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19
  • “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Thus, the X in ORGANIX has at its heart the icon of a cross. The numbers in each quadrant stand for four valid types of measurement derived from Acts 2:42-47. Yet, the X in the center[xxii] reminds us that Christ’s death and resurrection has offered humanity the prospect of conversion. And this conversion, as a turning from trust in self to trust in God,[xxiii] is central to God’s mission, the missio Dei. God wants his offspring to go in the opposite direction, reunite with him in his mission and lovingly join others on the way back to a relationship with him.

Moving Toward Millennial Leadership: Questions for Personal Reflection and/or Group Discussion

The following questions are for personal reflection but can also be utilized in a group setting.

  1. For personal & group reflection: Create an Organix Leadership Journal by …
  • Selecting two (2) items from each box,
  • Writing in it what you will begin to do over the next 30 days to move toward millennial leadership in these two areas.
 

Millennial Leadership

 

 

Measurement

1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

 

1.a. Count up all of your small groups.

 

 

1.b. Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3).

 

 

2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

 

2.a. Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4)

 

 

2.b. Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership.

 

 

3. . Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 

3.a. Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5).

 

 

3.b. Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency.

 

4 . Measure a church’s growth in conversations too.

 

 

 

  1. For group refection:
  • Share your responses to the chart above with your group (omitting answers/plans that are overly personal).
  • Take notes in your Organix Leadership Journal on the following:
    1. Does your group agree or disagree with your assessments and plans?
    2. What input did they give you regarding moving toward millennial leadership?
  • Then rewrite your plans in your journal utilizing their input.
  1. For Personal and Group Reflection:
  • Revisit your notes in your Organix Leadership Journal every month for six months. Ask yourself:
    1. Are there areas where I am making progress? If so, describe them.
    2. Are there areas where I am still weak? What will I do to address this?
  • At the end of six months reread the chapter and update your plans.

 

DOWNLOAD the article here:  organix-chpt-8-measurement-pg139-156 But remember, if you enjoy of benefit from this chapter, please consider supporting the publisher by purchasing a copy of the entire book.

Footnotes:

[i] Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Arn, Ten Steps for Church Growth (New York: Harper and Row., 1977), p. 3.

[ii] There are various types of conversion, such as secular conversion (e.g. when a drug addict is transformed to a drug-free lifestyle) or religious conversations (e.g. when a Sikh converts to Hinduism). Richard Peace gives a good overview of these kinds of conversion and the relevant literature in Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), pp. 7-11. We will limit our discussion to conversion to a Christian worldview as defined by Peace.

[iii] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, 1902), 114.

[iv] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), p. 4.

[v] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press 2002), p. 5.

[vi] The modern inclination to count conversions, while insightful to the wind of the Spirit, may include too many divine and unperceived factors, making measuring it as an indicator of leadership is deficient.

[vii] This is not to say there is not something, like a supernatural and indescribable “it,” that people seek to encounter in a church. Craig Groechel in his book, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), describes “it” not as a trendiness but as a profound encounter with the supernatural.

[viii] Luke’s emphasis is jarring, for most secular writers at the time reveled in the scale of the followers, and not upon new passions for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

[ix] The four types of church growth described by Luke may be divinely inspirited metrics or simply part of a biblical narrative. Yet, they suggest relevant and helpful measurement of tools.

[x] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 716-718.

[xi] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 406.

[xii] The most prevalent historical examples of communal living would be the monastic movements.

[xiii] Everett F. Harrison, ACTS: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 66.

[xiv] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 485

[xv] Some may wish to measure attendance in all-church worship celebrations in lieu of small groups. This may yield a less reliable result, since in a large worship gathering it is easier to attend without a steadfast striving for goals of the apostles’ teaching, etc. In addition, it is harder to attend a small group setting without this commitment since in a small group accountably is stronger.

[xvi] For examples of prayer triplets, neighborhood prayers centers, prayer covenants and prayer chapels see Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), pp. 230-237.

[xvii] If your church has organized and regular fellowship groups (e.g. sport teams, hobby groups, etc.) and/or your church has regular times where congregants dine together (recurring evening dinners/lunches, a “dinners of eight” program, etc.) then these groups can be included in your assessments. The key is for each church to include groups that have as a goal the development of spiritual maturity.

[xviii] Church attendance is valid to track here, since the pivotal number is the percentage of church attendees who are involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups.

[xix] Growth in unity and growth in community favor are based upon perceptions. Yet, subjective scales have been proven to be valid and reliable, see Rensis A. Likert, “A Technique for Measurement of Attitudes” in R. S. Woodworth, Archives of Psychology (New York: The Science Press , 1932), vol. 22, no. 140, p. 55.

[xx] Further examples include Acts 9:42; 11:24; 13:43, 48-49; 17:12; and 19:18-20.

[xxi] Thom S. Rainer, Church Growth and Evangelism in the Book of Acts, Criswell Theological Review 5.1 (Dallas, TX: Criswell College, 1990), p. 67.

[xxii] The cross at the center of these four measurements also reminds us that progress is God’s doing and that we only participate in his missio Dei.

[xxiii] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 301.

COMMUNITY IMPACT & To Meet Needs in A Community You Must Go “Beyond Branding”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Recently Outreach Magazine asked me and four colleagues who study evangelism and culture about how a church can raise it’s visibility in a community.  I joined Tony Morgan, Len Sweet, Tom Bandy and Will Mancini in explaining how a church becomes “visible” in a community when it serves the needs in the community.  (Consider subscribing to Outreach Magazine, one of the best sources for helping a church reach out).  Click here to read the article: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag PICTURE

WORSHIP SERVICES & My 7 Steps To Launching a New Worship Service (& avoiding the attractional trap)

by Bob Whitesel, Ph.D., 11/13/14

Adding a new worship encounter has its caveats. After helping churches for 20+ years add new worship services, below is my “short list” that I use to help clients see the basic “7-steps” of launching a new worship encounter.

(Note: I distinguish between “launching a new service” and “starting a new worship service.” Starting a worship service first begins indigenously with creating small groups among an emerging culture. See my other post on “Five steps to starting a new service” for information on starting a new service  But once you’ve decided to start one, then this post will tell you how to “launch” it.)

First, you must launch with two important goals:

GOAL 1:  The first goal is the Great Commission to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, getting new attendees into small groups where they can grow along with others is the major objective.  This is even more important than adding a new service.  So, if you can’t undertake a new service, than at least add more small discipleship groups.

GOAL 2: The second goal of a new worship service is to create a culturally relevant worship encounter.  It is not a performance, nor a time to create mini-celebrities.  It is a time to foster an encounter with God.

Everything should revolve around these two goals.  If it does, then go onto this short list of things you must do to create a new worship encounter for an existing church.

Here are the key principles for starting a new service:

1.    The people who design a new worship encounter should demonstrate that they are missionaries to that culture, or that they are from the culture you are reaching out to.
2.    Ensure you can financially sustain a new service for 18 months, before you launch it.
3.    Make sure you have duplicate leadership too (start training them now, telling them that soon we will launch a new service and they will lead it).
4.    Pick a venue that will be at around 35% full with your projected attendance.
5.    Start small groups (Sunday Schools, Life Groups, etc.) of the culture you are reaching out to, three months before you launch your worship encounters.  Ensure that these small groups are between 5 and 8 people (i.e. they have room to grow) and that they know they are the new discipleship venues for new people who attend the worship encounter.
6.    Keep the worship encounters to 50 minutes total (with 15-20 minutes between other worship services) if you can 😉
7.    Also, make sure your overall attendance is at least 100 before you start a new service.

•    Then ask 50 people to agree to come to the new service for one year (make a covenant to do this, usually written 🙂
•    At the end of that time, they must either recruit someone to take their place, or re-up for another year.  The idea is to create the minimum number of attendees necessary for worship to break out in a larger gathering: usually 35+ people.
•    Thus, with 50 committed, you will usually have 35 in attendance and your new service can grow.

If you follow these principles, you can avoid what these video portray, i.e. the temptation to succumb to a largely attractional tactic (ugh!):