HISTORY & Why did the English once try to ban Christmas, just one generation before John Wesley’s birth?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Why did the English parliamentarian Thomas Cromwell, along with some English Puritans, try to abolish Christmas as a secular holiday? Well, it wasn’t the average committed Puritan who sought this, but rather an extreme and small group that felt Christmas was being overshadowed by secular and often sinful celebration. Read this article for a brief background.

Did Oliver Cromwell really ban Christmas?

In June 1647 Parliament passed an Ordinance that abolished Christmas Day as a feast day and holiday

by Jonny Wilkes, BBC History Magazine, 12/22/15.

While Cromwell certainly supported the move, and subsequent laws imposing penalties for those who continued to enjoy Christmas, he does not seem to have played much of a role in leading the campaign.

Throughout the medieval period, Christmas Day had been marked by special church services, and by magnificent feasts accompanied by heavy drinking. The subsequent 12 Days of Christmas saw more special services along with sports, games and more eating and drinking.

By the early 17th Century Puritans and other firm Protestants were seeing the Christmas jollifications as unwelcome survivors of Catholicism as well as excuses for all manner of sins.

There was a widespread, though minority view, that Christmas should be a fast day devoted to sober religious contemplation. The defeat of King Charles I in the Civil War put the more extreme Protestants into power and so Parliament passed a series of measures to enforce this campaign on others…

Read more at … http://www.historyextra.com/feature/no-christmas-under-cromwell-puritan-assault-christmas-during-1640s-and-1650s

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & Where/How Did the Church Growth Movement Arise?

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/26/15.

“Effective Evangelism” was the name that Donald McGavran hoped would be its label. And, what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement was actually started by missionaries, who were appalled how ministry in North America is conducted so haphazardly and imprecisely. They argued (among other things) that such a haphazard approach would not be tolerated by mission agencies.

Let me explain. They basically said that just as missionaries are held accountable by people back home to grow a church in the mission field, so too should those churches back home be held accountable to grow (and reach more people with the Good News).  Some churches stepped up to the challenge and began to measure their growth, just the way missionaries had to.  But other churches said they were focusing on “quality” rather than “quantity.”  But, missionaries knew the “quality” excuse didn’t work for them in the mission field, and so they didn’t think people back home should use it to explain their lack of growth either.  Missionaries were saying, “If you are going to make us measure the growth and health of our churches in the mission field or you will cut-off funding; then maybe your churches back home should live by the same standard.”  Here is what one missionary said to me, “We’ve got so many church in America that haven’t won a single person to Christ in 20 years.  Yet, the church leaders still beg for money and the people and the denomination pour more and more money into churches without results.  That would never be tolerated in the mission field.  If we didn’t grow a church by sharing the Good News with people, the mission agency would pull the plug on our mission work, ‘in the name of the churches back home who support the missionaries.’  It is time we pull the plug on a lot of American churches that aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission and stop propping up ineffective ministries in American that we would never tolerate overseas” (personal conversation, Pasadena, CA 2004).

Now, the Church Growth Movement didn’t just criticize American churches, but the movement actually spawned researchers, writers and consultants who dedicated their lives to helping the church in America grow by sharing the Good News (I’m one of those researcher/writers it spawned).

PHOTO McGavran Youg & with a pickSo, here are a few books that lay the groundwork for the Church Growth Movement by a life-long missionary: Dr. Donald McGavran. If you purchase a copy of the first, and maybe the second, you won’t regret it. He demonstrates how the Church Growth Movement was created by missionaries to reach North America. In many ways, missionaries has historically been better strategists and bridge-builders. We need to learn their craft in North America.

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Church-Growth-Anderson-McGavran/dp/0802804632/sr=1-1/qid=1162845529/ref=sr_1_1/102-4814830-8138544?ie=UTF8&s=books

http://www.amazon.com/Bridges-God-Study-Strategy-Missions/dp/1597522503/sr=1-2/qid=1162845529/ref=sr_1_2/102-4814830-8138544?ie=UTF8&s=books

And, here you can order a definitive biography of Donald McGavran, written by researcher and writer Gary McIntosh: http://www.churchleaderinsights.com/bio

Finally, here is a downloadable white paper introduction to McGavran by McIntosh: http://www.churchgrowthnetwork.com/s/PassionofDonaldMcGavran-li0f.pdf

MANAGEMENT HISTORY & Why Pastors Lack Management Skills, More Than Leadership Skills

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/24/15.

Sometimes seminary students have a negative view of the term 
“management” because in their minds it has been linked with inflexibility and control. As a result, seminarians often eschew learning management skills.

But it has been my (oft quoted) observation that, “Pastors more often are kicked out of a church because of poor management skills, than because of poor leadership skills.”

To understand how management got a “bad reputation” that it does not deserve, let’s look the history of management.

The historical beginnings of the “management” movement.

Management as an academic discipline began with a mechanical engineer named Frederick Taylor who invented the term “scientific management” (“The Principles of Scientific Management,” New York: Harper & Row, 1913).  Now, because it was a “science” it seemed legit to study in universities and the field of management was born. Today, management degrees (e.g. MBA, MSM, etc.) are some of the most popular degrees in graduate school.

But, many people, this professor included, have problems with Taylor’s “scientific management.”

Not because it is scientific, or even because it is management, but because of what it soon became.  You see, Taylor put the company before the person.  He famously intoned “the worker must be trimmed to fit the job” (quoted by Daniel Boorstin, “The Americans: The Democratic Experience, New York: Vintage, 1974, 363).  To legitimize this he conducted time and motion studies to show how jobs could be better performed.  Of course, business managers were elated at this science, that could prove that by manipulating people, jobs can be done faster and more efficiency (oftentimes however at the expense of the workers self-worth and dignity).

The Rise of “Tactical” AND “Strategic” Management  

Not surprisingly, many critics arose who criticized Taylor’s approach (an approach when came to be known as Theory X).  The critics said that Theory X did not fully appreciate the worker (it didn’t), that it de-motivated the worker (it did) and that it was too inflexible (it is).

The later point, that it was too inflexible, was championed by Henry Mintzberg in a great book called “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” (New York: The Free Press, 1994). Some wrongly misconstrue that Mintzberg was saying strategic planning was wrong.  He wasn’t. But what he was arguing is that in Theory X management is seen as being too inflexible, too lock-step, too rigid.

He suggested that “planners” need to be both “right-brained planners” who learn procedures and processes (who I call “tactical leaders”); as well as “left-brained planners” who (Mintzberg p. 394, quoting Quinn) are “wild birds … (who) range throughout the organization stimulating offbeat approaches to issues” (who I call “strategic leaders”)

This approach to management, flexible, innovative and integrated (across several disciplines), is very helpful for the church.  Because it utilizes right-brained planners (tactical leaders) and left-brained planners (strategic leaders), I have called this STO leadership (where O represents the “operational, team-orientated leader).

To foster innovation you need both strategic leaders (who can see the vision) and also tactical leaders (who can plan out the innovation). And, I have observed in my church case study research that innovation is very important for church growth (I even wrote a chapter about “Innovation” that I observed at Solomon’s Porch church in Minneapolis).  In fact, you can find a chart that compares “Innovation” and “institutionalism” on ChurchHealth.wiki

I want to stress the importance of this flexible, inter-disciplinary management.  Postmodern management scholars such as Mary Jo Hatch and Haridimos Tsoukas see management as having to do with the ability to plan flexible tactics, address conflict, recruit volunteers and alter management styles as an organization grows.  In fact, in my consulting I have found that among pastors, leadership principles are usually rather well understood, but that pastors are weak in  management principles.

I say all of this to ensure that as you study management and leadership, you do not dismiss the former in lieu of the latter.  A holistic understanding of both leadership and management is critical for today’s church leader.  And in my case study research, I have found management skills missing more in pastors than leadership skills.

ISLAM & Patricia Crone, Questioning Scholar of Islamic History, Dies at 70 #NYTimes

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “Patricia Crone was one of the most impactful historians to study the rise of Islam. To understand the beginning of this religion including the reason for its internal conflicts read this New York Times overview.”

By Sam Roberts, The New York Times, 7/22/15.

… Fred M. Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history at the University of Chicago, said Professor Crone had “made it clear that historians of early Islam had failed to really behave as historians — that is, had failed to challenge the validity of their sources, but rather had accepted complacently what I call the ‘traditional origins narrative’ created by the Islamic tradition itself.”

As a result, in books like “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” (1977, written with Michael Cook), she disputed assumptions that Islam had been transmitted by trade from Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it had been spread by conquest instead. She also identified how indigenous rural prophets in what is now Iran had defied conquering Arabs and helped shape Islamic culture, setting the stage for conflicts within Islam that endure today.

Current events frequently intruded on Professor Crone’s scholarship on historic divisions in the Middle East between secularism and Islamic orthodoxy, and between the Arab world and the West. Writing about present-day Muslims on the website openDemocracy in 2007, she said, “Wherever they look, they are being invaded by so-called Western values — in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy…

In another essay for openDemocracy, Professor Crone focused on the Prophet Muhammad himself, writing that “we can be reasonably sure that the Quran is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God.” She summarized the major themes of the Quran as “God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment.”

She also wrote that Muhammad was perceived not as the founder of a new religion but as a preacher in the Old Testament tradition, hailing the coming of a messiah. His success, she argued, “had something to do with the fact that he preached both state formation and conquest: Without conquest, first in Arabia and next in the Fertile Crescent, the unification of Arabia would not have been achieved.”

Her other books include “God’s Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought” (2004) and “The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran” (2012), which detailed the historical precedents for local rebels defying the ruling elite…

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/us/patricia-crone-scholar-of-islamic-history-dies-at-70.html?referrer=

SPEAKING & How Storytelling Makes Your Speaking Memorable

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “It’ a teaching tool not just reserved for the Son of God 🙂 … because storytelling (i.e. narrative) is key to not only memorable speaking presentations, but bringing about change too (Wishert, 2013). Here are specific steps to attach appropriate stories so that listeners remember a message.”

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/this-presentation-trick-makes-you-sound-brilliant.html

COMMUNICATION & A Historical Timeline of the World Wide Web

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Christians know we have an important message to communicate. And in 1989 a new communication tool was initiated by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, with names considered for the project including “The Information Mesh” and “The Mine of Information.” Known today as the “World Wide Web” or just the “Internet” here is a timeline year-by-year with visuals and video.”

World Wide Web Timeline, by Pew Research Staff, 3/11/14.

Since its founding in 1989, the World Wide Web has touched the lives of billions of people around the world and fundamentally changed how we connect with others, the nature of our work, how we discover and share news and new ideas, how we entertain ourselves and how communities form and function.

The timeline below is the beginning of an effort to capture both the major milestones and small moments that have shaped the Web since 1989. It is a living document that we will update with your contributions. To suggest an item to add to the timeline, please message us.

1989

  • original-proposalThe World Wide Web begins as a CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) project called ENQUIRE, initiated by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Other names considered for the project include “The Information Mesh” and “The Mine of Information.”
  • AOL

1991

800px-First_Web_ServerThe NeXT Computer used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN. (Wikipedia)

42% of American adults have used a computer. World’s first website and server go live at CERN, running on Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which bears the message “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER DOWN!” Tim Berners-Lee develops the first Web browser WorldWideWeb. Archie, the first tool to search the internet is developed by McGill University student Alan Emtage.

1992

Read more of this intriguing article at … http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/03/11/world-wide-web-timeline/

TRANSFORMATION & A short history of the founding of the Salvation Army

As Booth said: ‘The people must be fed, that their life’s work must be done or left undone forever.’

By Richard Cavendish | Published in History Today Volume: 62 Issue: 8 2012 

“Along with the mission went practical charity work to deal with poverty and homelessness. As Booth said: ‘The people must be fed, that their life’s work must be done or left undone forever.’ The Army organised shelters to get the homeless, the sick and prostitutes off the streets and ran its own emigration bureau. When Catherine died of cancer in 1890 the Army had almost 100,000 soldiers in Britain. Today it has 1.5 million in 125 countries.’

“William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, knew that you must improve people’s lives before they would listen to the Good News and be involved in sharing it. He famously intoned: ‘The people must be fed, that their life’s work must be done or left undone forever’.”

Read a short but insightful history of the Salvation Army by Richard Cavendish at … http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/funeral-general-william-booth