OUTREACH & A book review of Rebecca Manley Pippert’s follow-up to “Out of the Saltshaker” titled “Stay Salt.” #MustRead #ShareYourFaith

Book review by Sam Chan, Christianity Today, 6/29/20.

… Pippert, of course, is best known for her classic book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life. First published in 1979, Out of the Saltshaker was written to equip believers for evangelism in a culture that was drifting in post-Christian directions. Four decades later, those forces have only accelerated, but Pippert hasn’t lost any confidence that the gospel message can break through walls of hostility and indifference, even in the context of everyday conversations. As the subtitle of Stay Salt puts it, “The World Has Changed: Our Message Must Not.”

A Multi-Pronged Approach

There are three sections in Stay Salt. In the first, Pippert looks at what she calls the means of evangelism—in other words, you and me, the “evangelists.” None of us feels adequate when confronted with the juggernaut of hostile Western secularism. But Pippert reassures us that this is precisely how God works our circumstances. God uses us not despite but because of our smallness, weaknesses, and inadequacies. We are supposed to depend upon God for the courage and strength to evangelize.

In the second section, Pippert takes us through the message of evangelism—the gospel. Here we might roll our eyes. Don’t we already know this stuff? But Pippert got me excited about the gospel with the fresh language she uses. She skillfully presents the gospel as both a rebuttal to the accepted doctrines of secularism and a positive message our friends will want to hear.

In the final section, Pippert outlines the method of evangelism. This might seem like another occasion for eye-rolling. Surely not another formulaic technique! But Pippert instead motivates us to love our friends and to “proclaim” the message through questions and conversations rather than a pre-rehearsed monologue.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/rebecca-manley-pippert-stay-salt-evangelism.html

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Rick Warren on how understanding hurts led a skeptic named Ravi Zacharias to become “a passionate defender of the faith.”

by Rick Warren, Saddleback Lake Forest Campus Update, 5/21/20.

… This week, Saddleback Lake Forest lost a dear friend who many of you will remember speaking at our campus through the years: Ravi Zacharias. Ravi was a vocal skeptic turned passionate defender of the faith, when he found Jesus following a particularly difficult season of his life. He once said,

“You’ll never get to a person’s soul until you understand their hurts.”

… Saddleback Lake Forest has always been about being a big church that feels small – by getting to know everyone who calls our campus home, understanding the hurts that every one of us carries, and providing places to process those wounds in a Christlike way.

This week, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of those safe and healing spaces that are available to you, whether you’re struggling with mental illness, job loss; or hurts, habits, or hang-ups you could use a faith community to help overcome.  We also wanted to invite you to be a part of our first ever socially distant baptism celebration next Tuesday night, as we celebrate the hope and freedom that Jesus offers each of us in a visible and soul-stirring way.

Read more at … https://saddleback.com/visit/locations/lake-forest

NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Researcher says … “The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?”

by Jamie Manson, NCR Online, 10/19/19.

.., Kaya Oakes, the Oct. 15 event’s opening panelist and author of the 2015 book The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between. 

“The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?” said Oakes.

…Oakes has been intentional about not using the term “nones,” preferring instead to call them the “religiously unaffiliated.”

“It’s a negation,” said Oakes, that is not reflective of their spiritual longings.

A second panelist, Tara Isabella Burton, also questioned whether the term “nones” should be used at all.

The author of the forthcoming book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Burton says that the nones nomenclature is “profoundly incorrect.”

According to her research, “About 72% of the self-identified religiously unaffiliated say they believe in a higher power of some sort and about 20% say they believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”

“There is an enormous number of people,” Burton said, “who see themselves as spiritual persons, who have a spiritual hunger.”

Read more at … https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/grace-margins/us-nones-increase-we-must-start-asking-different-questions

EVENTS & How A Church Can Serve Their Community, Rather Than Just Entertain It (examples from July 4th)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., July 8, 2019.

(Read it below or download the article here: https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/serve-your-community-rather-than-entertain-it/ )

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.09.49 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.10.27 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.10.46 PMScreen Shot 2019-07-08 at 12.09.08 PM

download the article here: https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/serve-your-community-rather-than-entertain-it/ )

OUTREACH & Excited to see how friends Al and Pam lead a church of 400 that weekly feeds 4,000 people. #TurnAroundChurch #Enthusiast.life

OUTREACH & This is how a church of 400 serves 2,000 hungry people each week.

By Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D, 5/23/19.

Al & Pam Goracke are pictured with Rebecca and me in front of their church yesterday. It is a Thursday afternoon and behind us you can see people lining up two hours early for the food pantry at the Hope Church.

Al and Pam lead a Wesleyan church in Blaine, Minnesota that is ministering to over 2000 hungry people each week with a congregation of only 400.

Ministering to the needs of the community is how many churches today are finding they can best reach out and begin sharing the good news with people in a increasingly skeptical environment. “When these people go to the hospital they consider me their pastor. They ask me to visit,” said Al Goracke. “They attend our Thursday food pantry, and though they may not attend our worship services, they consider us their church family. It’s our way of beginning a relationship with them.”

“A lot of churches don’t like to have a food pantry, because so many people coming through their building tears up the carpeting. So we ripped up the carpeting,” said Al.

“And here we are a church that runs almost 400 in attendance, but we’re meeting the needs of thousands of lives each week.”

“But people often ask me, ‘Where do you get the volunteers to run it?’ At first we asked our congregants to do it. And they did. But over the years the people in the community who have been served by this come to appreciate it so much, that many volunteer. And they come to consider our church family, their family.”

Al is one of my students and a friend. To learn more about how they are building bridges to people in need, check out their website at https://everybodyneedshope.org/

And, if your church would like to launch such a ministry, Al can explain how even a small church can begin a ministry that will touch thousands of lives every week.

OUTREACH & 3 ways to engage the “spiritual,” but not “religious” millennial

by Chris Martin, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 1/25/16.

The latest U.S. religious landscape study published by Pew confirms much of what has been reported about millennials in recent years. But the study also sheds new light on this “spiritual, but not religious” generation and can help churches understand how to reach them.

According to the study, millennials have not completely abandoned spiritual beliefs or practices. Millennials maintain a sense of spiritual peace and interest in the universe beyond what is simply seen on earth.

One of the most interesting data points regarding millennials from this latest Pew survey is the large portion of who feel a sense of spiritual peace and well being, while being less affiliated with religion than any other generation. Most young adults also feel a sense of wonder about the universe.

This should lead pastors and church leaders to ask, “How does this affect how I reach out to unbelieving millennials in my community?” Here are three things to keep in mind when attempting to engage young adults.

1. Engage the sense of wonder.

… As Christians, we can engage the wonder of millennials and point to the source of that phenomenon: the Creator God of the Bible. Use this wonderment and point people to the starting point and the upholder of it all.

2. Probe for the source of “spiritual peace.”

Why do such a large portion of people who claim no certainty in the existence of God say they are at peace spiritually? Perhaps they are at peace because they do not think God exists. Regardless, one of the ways churches can engage with unbelieving millennials in their community is by recognizing these young people are likely content with where they stand spiritually.

Christians should talk with them, ask questions, and identify the source of this “spiritual peace,” then figure out in what ways it may fall short in comparison to the gospel.

3. Provide a better way.

Finally, when we engage the sense of wonderment and spiritual peace among millennials, we must work to provide a better way—the only Way, the gospel of Jesus.

The research shows these young people are not hard-and-fast naturalists who only believe in what they can see in front of their face. They ponder the spiritual. They wonder about the universe. Engage these feelings and point them to their ultimate fulfillment…

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2016/01/25/3-ways-to-engage-the-spiritual-but-not-religious-millennial/

OUTREACH & Need-meeting: A poignant fable by a Millennial

“I’m not particularly attracted to a religion where someone approaches me in the parking lot of a grocery store with a tract in hand, telling me I’m going to hell, without ever once considering the possibility that I might need help carrying my groceries.”

Commentary by Professor B: This was a short fable shared with me by a former student. It illustrates succinctly why we should utilize a need-based approach to outreach. Larry wrote:

Prof. Whitesel, I’m doing a response for Bible as Christian Scripture and recalled a quote from a friend of my son’s some years that reminded me of your book, Cure for the Common Church, and in particular, your prescription for growing O.U.T.

The response touched on how we want to world to see us, as a source of judgement or a source of the Good News. The quote I recalled from my son’s friend: “I’m not particularly attracted to a religion where someone approaches me in the parking lot of a grocery store with a tract in hand, telling me I’m going to hell, without ever once considering the possibility that I might need help carrying my groceries.”

Thought you might enjoy that. Larry

OUTREACH & The 4 Basic Tools (to Cure Church Apathy)

by Bob Whitesel DMin, PhD, January 17, 2017. A colleague asked for a simple process to help a new church reach out.  Here it is:

4 Simple “cures” for church apathy which will help a church reach out:

Cure 1: find a need (among non churchgoers) and fill it.

Cure 2: disciple in interpersonal small groups, rather than the anonymity of large venues.

Cure 3:  your goal should be “making learners” (i.e. disciples or as McGavran said, “enroll in Jesus’ school”).

Cure 4: make conversion the apex of the process.

You can tell I use these simple four aspects with church planting (and growing church) clients.

EVANGELISM & Quotes on Its Importance and Holistic Nature

Compiled by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/22/13.


Evangelism relates to people’s eternal destiny, and in bringing them Good News of salvation, Christians are doing what nobody else can do.  Seldom if ever should we have to choose between satisfying physical huger and spiritual hunger, or between healing bodies and saving souls, since an authentic love for our neighbor will lead us to serve him or her as a whole person. Nevertheless, if we must choose, then we have to say that the supreme and ultimate need of humankind is the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that therefore a person’s eternal, spiritual salvation is of greater importance than his or her temporal and material well being.

  • John Stott, Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment (Lausanne Committee for Evangelism and the World Evangelical Fellowship, 1982), 25.

Evangelism is the first priority of the Church’s ministry in the world (italics Snyder).  This is true for several reason: the clear biblical mandate for evangelism; the centrality and necessity of personal conversion in God’s plan; the reality of judgment; the fact that changed persons are necessary to change society; the fact that the Christian community exists and expands only as evangelism is carried out.  The Church that fails to evangelize is both biblically unfaithful and strategically shortsighted.”

  • Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press), 101.

When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the words that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”

  • C. Peter Wagner, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1981).

“By leaving the ghetto behind, the church has implied that its mission is meaningless to the poor, the hopeless and the wretched – except when an ocean separates the church from the ghetto.”

  • David L. McKenna, ed., The Urban Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969) 138.

Howard Snyder reminds us that, “an evangelism that focuses exclusively on souls or on an otherworldly transaction which makes no real difference here and how is unfaithful to the gospel.

  • The Community of the King (Inter-Varsity) 102.

“Today the sinfulness of the social order offends thoughtful Christians everywhere…. The great inequalities of wealth and poverty among the haves and have-nots, and the revolting treatment meted out to oppressed minorities, are clearly contrary to the will of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  • Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Eerdmans, 1970), 25.

“In postmodern terms, we might say that Jesus came to bring equal access and opportunity to those in substandard living conditions, to give voice and identity to those other than the dominant social elite, and to alleviate the ravages of capitalistic imperialism and colonialist economic aggression.”

  • Lewis A. Drummond, Reaching Generation Next: Effective Evangelism in Today’s Culture (Baker Books, 2002), 179.

Of the current authors you are reading …

  • Were more go focused?
  • Were more come focused?
  • Were balanced?
  • What must you do to prevent imbalance?
  • What is missing between “going” & “coming.”
  • Why is the “missional middle” missing?
  • What must you do to prevent the missing middle?

 

OUTREACH & “School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!”

Colossians‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭MSG‬‬, Paul admonishes:

“School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” ‭

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/col.2.6-7.msg

ORGANIC OUTREACH & The Importance of Cultural Bridges w/ Believers Living on the Other Side

“By means of the ‘Gentile on the bridge’ there came to be in town after town within a comparatively short time a considerable number of Gentile converts who remained in close organic connection with large numbers of unconverted relatives.” Donald McGavran

  • The above quote is from p. 34 of The Bridges of God, by Donald A. McGavran.
  • Secure your copy of McGavran’s biography by Gary McIntosh by clicking the link.

OUTREACH & Europe’s churches find new spirit from unexpected source: Muslim refugees

by Elisabeth Braw, Contributor and Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer, CSMonitor, February 10, 2016. BROBY, SWEDEN; AND VIENNA

On a recent Sunday in Broby in southern Sweden, some 100 people settled in for morning service at their Lutheran church. There was nothing unusual about the liturgy – apart from the fact that some 20 worshipers were wearing headphones to hear a simultaneous translation. They were asylum seekers from Muslim countries.

Their presence has grown increasingly customary at this 1930s-era, peach-colored church in the past half year. In fact, as the population of asylum seekers has grown in this town of 3,000, so too has a new curiosity about Christianity.

Reverend Dan Sarkar, the local vicar here, says it started last summer when a Syrian man turned up at their doors. “He said, ‘I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore. Can you tell me about what it’s like to be a Christian?,’” Rev. Sarkar recalls. “Then an Iranian turned up asking about it, too, and since then there has been a steady stream of new people.” Sarkar decided to launch a weekly baptism class for the newcomers, to which he later added a weekly Christian education class. Most attend both.

As many fear an influx of Islam into Europe, Christianity is also getting an unexpected – if anecdotal – boost. “The humanitarian and charitable efforts on behalf of refugees have given new meaning to both Catholic and Protestant churches in Europe,” says Andrew Chesnut, an expert on global Christianity at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Read more at … http://m.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/0210/Europe-s-churches-find-new-spirit-from-unexpected-source-Muslim-refugees

SMALL GROUPS & Why A Growing Church Stays as Small As Possible #Video

QUOTE: “Small groups are one of the most important structures in the church for discipleship.” Bob Whitesel.

VIDEO of Bob Whitesel Ph.D., Oct. 2012 at the Turnaround2020.com Conference, Nashville, TN. Published by ChurchCentral.com. For more info see Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).

http://www.churchcentral.com/videos/PZwsvnDJ/A-growing-church-stays-as-small-as-possible

Speaking hashtags: #PowellChurch #DWC

OUTREACH & One Way To Check How You Are Doing (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/1/15.

A key principle in my Abingdon Press book, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, is this:

Healthy organizations put non-churchgoers’ needs ahead of churchgoers’ needs. – Bob Whitesel, 2010.

But, this is challenging because churchgoers have louder voices at the decision making table.  Also churches soon become mini-cultures of Christians who are more familiar with their own needs than those still outside of their community.

To get your emphasis back upon non-churchgoer needs, I have written an entire chapter on this in CURE for the Common Church and a chapter titled, “OUT: Grow Out.”  There I suggest you:

CURxE O:  Observe whom you are equipped to reach
CURxE U:  Understand the needs of those you are equipped to reach.
CURxE T:  Tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry programs.

You can download the chapter here (not for public distribution, but if you enjoy it please consider supporting publisher and author by buying a copy): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 2 HOW OUT

Plus, in ORGANIX I explain how to put others first in your:

  • decision making,
  • focus
  • and prayer life.

You can download that chapter here (again this is not for public distribution, but if you enjoy it please consider supporting publisher and author by buying a copy): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – ORGANIX Others

Below is an exercise to help you see how you are doing regarding keeping non-churchgoers as your primary ministry focus (and only secondly your congregants).

EXERCISE

Take a look at your webpage and then the webpage of several growing churches.  Then evaluate how, where and how much emphasis non-churchgoers get in the website artistic and visual structure.

For example, one church said “Belong, Live, Know and Serve” prominently on their webpage. But this gives the impression to non-churchgoers that the first emphasis of the church is that you belong.

A better example from another church is, “Help others, know God, grow together.”  I think you can see how this website gives a more Biblical impression that non-churchgoers’ needs take precedence over churchgoers’ needs

So, take a look at your website and the websites of several growing churches. Then write down what you find.

  • Any insights?
  • Any missteps?
  • Any changes you want to make to your website?

Speaking Hastags: #SalvationCenterTX

SMALL GROUPS & 3 Facets of Well Rounded Small Groups

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Sometimes people wonder about the content and foci of small groups.  While small groups come in all styles, types, environments and characteristics; in my experience they are healthy when then all possess three Biblical commonalities.

And, I have often thought that calling these groups NOW groups might be helpful (and relevant) in remembering these three Biblical commonalities.

N stands for nurture

O for outreach, and

W for worship.

Thus, each small group would have what former-Rector Mike Breen (formerly of St. Tom’s in Sheffield) calls the triangle of small group focus: Up-In-Out.  Here is a helpful website that explains the iconography that Breen uses to help small groups remember this (and other important Biblical concepts):  http://www.disciplingculture.com/lifeshapes-an-insiders-look/

Cure Figure 4.3 Up In OutClick here to download the chapter from my book on “How to Missionalize Your Small Groups,” from the BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Get Small Chpt. 3 & 4, Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012.

Speaking Hashtags: #SalvationCenterTX #StLizTX #PowellChurch #DWC #StMarksTX

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EVANGELISM & A Link To Donald McGavran’s Original Article: The Bridges of God

by Bob Whitesel, 3/4/15.

A former student in my “Growing a Multi-Generational Church” course once said, “Once the message (Good News) gets into the culture, then it is like an infection and spreads more rapidly, easily.”

QUOTE McGavran on Bridges of God copyTo depict this, Donald McGavran used the metaphor of  “the bridges of God,” suggesting we must:

  • build multiple bridges to a culture
  • across which the Good News can travel
  • more quickly
  • and concurrently.

Here is a downloadable version of Donald McGavran’s seminal article on “The Bridges of God:”

ARTICLE_McGavran_Bridges_of_God

(From The Bridges of God [Revised Edition] by Donald Anderson McGavran. Published in the United Kingdom by World Dominion Press, 1955. Revised edition 1981. Distributed in the United States by Friendship Press, New York. Used by permission.)

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!):

MEGA-LESSONS & 10 Mega-Church Tips for Ministries of Any Size #ScottThumma #GrowthByAccidentBook

By Scott Thumma, Hartford Seminary Institute on Church Research.

“What could my church possibly learn from these behemoths with million-dollar budgets, hundreds of staff, and thousands of excited volunteers?”

In my travels, I repeatedly hear pastors ask this question. I understand why. But my last 20-plus years of research on megachurches throughout the world suggests that churches of all sizes have much to learn from this phenomenon. However, I don’t believe the primary lessons come from their specific ministry efforts. Instead, the most important things we can learn are the strategies behind all their ministry efforts.

I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to most megachurches’ success is their ability to minister in and adapt to an ever-changing contemporary world. A vital church reaches out to both its members and non-Christians in relevant ways, and megachurches seem to do this both accidentally and intentionally.

Here are 10 basic principles gleaned from megachurches that I believe churches of all sizes can apply:

1) Don’t strive for size; strive to serve God…

2) Know your strengths and put them to work…

3) Evangelize in every possible way…

4) Make it appealing, then make it challenging..

5) Worship is not just a “Sunday thing”…

6) Create participants—not members…

7) Connect the congregation…

8) Whatever you do, do it with excellence…

9) Empower people to identify and live out their calling…

10) Sanctification isn’t just for newcomers…

Read the details at … http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/156871-10-tips-from-large-churches-for-ministries-of-any-size.html

GENERATIONS & Millennials Are Old News — Here’s Everything You Should Know About Generation Z

by Hayley Peterson, Business Insider Magazine, 6/25/14

  • Gen Z wants to change the world…
  • Advanced college degrees are less important to them…
  • They are more entrepreneurial than millennials…
  • They are digitally over-connected
  • But they prefer to work independently…
  • They prefer home-cooked foods over processed, ready-to-eat meals such as cold cereal, according to a study by The NPD Group…
  • Gen Z-ers spend more money on food and drinks than anything else, and their favorite eatery is Starbucks, according to Piper Jaffray’s most recent semiannual survey of teens
  • They are less active…
  • They lack brand loyalty…
  • Gen Z-ers are close with their families…
  • They communicate with speed and often use emoticons and emojis instead of words…

FIGURE Checklist for Connecting w: Generation Z