SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS & A Review by Dr. Kwasi Kena, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church

A Review of “Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey” by Bob Whitesel, reviewed by Dr. Kwasi Kena, Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.


Journey
— from time immemorial writers have employed this metaphor to bear the weight of meaning for their ideas. From Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” to Scott and Russell’s song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” journey has found constant employment. To the phrase, “life is a journey,” auto-makers and airline companies place their taglines: “travel it well” (United) or “enjoy the ride” (Nissan). Isaac Asimov wrote one of my favorite twists on the journey metaphor “Life is a journey, but don’t worry, you’ll find a parking spot at the end.”

But what of the Christian journey. Who provides aid in navigating its path? We’ve borrowed the phrase “life’s a journey not a destination” from the lyrics to Aerosmith’s song “Amazing” to describe the Christian experience, but can’t we do more than borrow catch-phrases and the latest slogans for our service?

At least one author has responded to these questions, Bob Whitesel. In his book Spiritual Waypoints, Whitesel highlights key markers or waypoints located at strategic points of one’s journey toward and with Jesus Christ. Whitesel points out the advantage of using waypoints while journeying to a destination.

A waypoint is a position, not a phase or a frozen marker. It tells where a traveler is in relation to other features on the road. He also points out that a waypoint may be different for each trekker. He offers no single, canned approach to relating to people on the journey. Instead, Whitesel provides a variety of options that may be adapted by individual churches.

The Engle and Clinton Models

In the past, many clergy were exposed to the Engle scale when introduced to evangelism methodology. The Engle scale is a model that visualizes a spiritual journey along a continuum. This continuum begins with the negative number eight and ends with the positive number five. Each number represents a stage of spiritual decision. For example a negative eight(-8) represents “Awareness of a supreme being, no knowledge of gospel.” A -1 represents “Repentance and faith in Christ.” Some traditional approaches to evangelism emphasized focusing more attention on people closer to the repentance stage to maximize the probability of evangelistic “success.” Sadly, people on the extreme negative side of the Engle scale were routinely avoided. It is this type of short-sighted approach to evangelism that Spiritual Waypoints corrects.

A second model used to chart spiritual maturation is Robert Clinton’s “Six Phases of Leadership Development.” In each of these six phases, Clinton describes the “what” and “how” of spiritual development in an individual.

A Synthesized Model

Whitesel combines Engle’s Eight Stages of Spiritual Decision and Robert Clinton’s Six Phases of Leadership Development to produce his synthesized Spiritual Waypoints Model. This model provides sixteen distinct waypoints that guide the reader in determining the spiritual location of an individual. At each point, Whitesel shares practical suggestions about how to recognize and assist travelers on their spiritual journey.

In a lecture on his book, Whitesel noted that while many highly evangelistic churches have typically shied away from a “negative eight” on the Engle scale, there are ways to get the attention of such individuals. Surprisingly, he pointed to the efforts of “community outreach churches” that participated in social outreach. Through their charitable acts, these churches introduced God’s grace to people who were most antagonistic toward God. Despite initial antagonism, even the most hardened soul may take notice of kindness. This experience will pave the way for later receptivity of God’s grace in that individual.

By providing insights into what spiritual travelers are experiencing at each waypoint, churches can help such people negotiate their way toward Christ. The sixteen-point continuum provides a visual for churches to consult and assess how well they are doing to relate to people at all points of their spiritual journey. Many find that their church focuses on people only at certain points of the spiritual journey, but neglects people at other points. That occurs, says Whitesel, “because church leaders are largely unaware of the next phase of the spiritual traveler’s spiritual development.”

The Perils of Narrow Band Ministry

The neglect of the next phase in a spiritual traveler’s journey causes gaps. It means that a church is offering only a narrow band of ministry. When churches offer a narrow band of ministry, Whitesel notes “they can force the spiritual traveler to sever fellowship with one faith community in search of another that will take them to the next stage of spiritual development.”

Pastors and laity who are serious about developing a church culture that excels at evangelism and discipleship will benefit from reading this book. Pastors and laity alike would be well-served to become familiar with the descriptions and accompanying ministry strategies contained in the Spiritual Waypoints model. I agree with what one reviewer says about Spiritual Waypoints: “It will forever change the way you go about fulfilling the great commission.”

Download the review here: Review of ‘Spiritual Waypoints – Helping Others Navigate the Journey’ by Bob Whitesel

Read more here … https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/review-of-spiritual-waypoints-helping-others-navigate-the-journey-by-bob-wh

Related Resources:

Spiritual Waypoints

Engle Scale Explained

The Making of a Leader by Robert Clinton

The Making of a Leader Review PDF

 

GROUP EXIT & Executive Summary of book: Staying Power – Why People Leave the Church Over Change

Executive Summary by Drew Wilkerson of Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT) (Abingdon Press), July 27, 2016.

INTRODUCTION: Pgs. 13-17

This overview summarizes a book by Dr. Bob Whitesel entitled Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT). This book is designed for the church leader that wants to understand “one of the most baffling questions facing church leaders today – why do people leave the church over change and what can be done about it” (p. 7). Staying Power is a book that is essential to every church leader. Change is inevitable and necessary. Whitesel outlines a process to oversee change in a way that minimizes the fallout of the effects of change in a church.

PURPOSE:  Pgs. 18-30

The purpose of Staying Power is found in Dr. Whitesel’s desire to counsel the local church pastor and leader how to bring about positive change. In a succinct overview Whitesel states, “…change and the tensions that accompany it are not only inevitable but also survivable” (p.7).

 

PROCESS & BENEFITS: Pgs. 33-168

Whitesel outlines the six stages that a church goes through that lead to either group exit or group harmony. Route A leads to polarizing and intense conflict. Route B leads to change that is grounded in harmony. The tensions of change will impact every church. Too often churches embroiled in polarizing change never fully recover. Whitesel outlines a step by step process that refocuses church transformation into a healthy course of action. Following a brief explanation of the problems change can bring to a local church, Whitesel defines the stages of change churches must go through. They are as follows:

 

  1. Stage 1: Relative Harmony. A church begins looking at changes that may be needed or desired. Trigger #1 comes into play, “Conflicting Ideas Event.”
  2. Stage 2: Idea Development. At this juncture Trigger #2 emerges, “A Negative Legitimizing Event” occurs.
  3. Stage 3: Change. It is at this point that Route A (Trajectory for Group Exit) and Route B (Trajectory for Group Retention) become visible even though often subtle. It is at this stage that the third Trigger called “The Alarm Event” becomes visible.
  4. Stage 4: Resistance. It is essential that leaders recognize that resistance to change will appear no matter what the catalyst, but during Stage 4 leaders begin to determine whether the debated changes will bring resistance that leads to Trigger 4, “A Polarizing Event” or “A Harmonizing Event.”
  5. Stage 5: Intense Conflict/Dissonant Harmony. A church in the change process will begin to demonstrate, intentionally or unintentionally, whether they will work toward unity or division. At Stage 5 on Route A, Trigger 5 gives way to “The Justifying Event.” On Route B at Stage 5 there is a carryover of Trigger 4, “The Harmonizing Event” that brings about change embedded in unity.
  6. Stage 6: Group Exit/Group Retention. The proceeding stages and triggers will determine if Stage 6 brings a “Group Exit” from a church due to polarization or if the church can embrace change in way that brings “Group Harmony” that empowers the church to become revitalized.

CONCLUSION:  Pgs. 169-182

Dr. Whitesel does an excellent job of unraveling the complex process of change that has been harmful to so many churches. The author shows leaders a very practical way of looking at change as a process of eventual growth and unity. As Whitesel writes, so it is true, “…the church can become a model to the world of conciliation, diplomacy, patience, and conflict resolution – all in the midst of change” (p.176).

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Believe that change can be a healthy process that brings glory to God and revitalization to the local church if pursued intentionally and carefully.
  2. Empower local church leaders to understand the “6 Stages” of change that can either lead to group exit or group retention.
  3. Work together to bring about needed church transition by understanding the “Triggers” as outlined on Route A and Route B.
  4. Realize that all change will have the potential to cause “friction, tension, and uncertainly among congregants,” but through a process of “unhurried, prayer-infused, and bi-partisan strategy,” unity can be preserved and the Good News can be shared (p.170).
  5. Regularly scheduled change communication, based on the “6 Stages and the 5 Triggers,” must be woven into the fabric of every church as leaders continue to remain relevant in a constantly changing culture.

 

CHURCH CURE & A Review of Cure for the Common Church

by Rev. Jeff Lawson, lead pastor, Life Church, Aurora, IN, 3/31/16.

Practical, useful, and downright easy to use. Those are the words that come to mind as I read through Dr Bob Whitesel’s book, Cure for the Common Church. I would highly endorse this book. There is so much that stands out from this resource, but the first thing is my plea that every single pastor should read this and keep a copy on hand as a useful tool to aid his ministry.

CureForCommonChurchThe practical side to this book is the way it is written. Just like you would go to a doctor and describe what ails you and then the doctor gives his prescription as to what will make you well, Whitesel lists numerous issues that most churches deal with that might prohibit their health, and then he prescribes the needed steps necessary to make them well again. I found myself time and time again laughing out loud and saying, boy, now that really makes sense.

There are far too many ‘common’ churches in our world today. Whitesel gives a solid argument that there must be more ‘uncommon’ churches that are willing to go the extra mile so to be healthy and doing all that God has planned for the local church. Whitesel says, “For a church to be uncommon today, it will be necessary for all congregations to go out into their neighborhoods and connect with the needs of non-churchgoing people.” That idea may seem scary to many, but by following the provided prescriptions, everyone is able to use their God-given gifts to increase the Kingdom of God.

The book is divided into multiple sections so that a person could read and easily benefit from everything, or they could zoom right into their own particular issue that they are dealing with so to begin to correct their problems. The area that gave me the biggest boost was in and around the small group area. Whitesel writes, “To become smaller means that a church increasingly focuses on the health of its small, intimate fellowship structures.” I read this and re-read this, and then read it a third time to try to absorb the idea. Whitesel goes on to say, “Growing smaller means ushering a church into a new, central focus on small groups that are not cliquish but reach out to those inside and outside the groups.”

So the immediate question that comes to mind is how? How do you accomplish this? For instance, if a church does not do their small group ministry well, there is an easy to follow guide that helps to make you understand how to, “Grow UP-war, Grow IN-ward, and Grow OUT-ward”. By following this system, the small groups in your church will continue to cultivate healthy relationships within their group, within their local fellowship, as well as within their community. The problem that many small groups make is that they only do one or possibly two well, and then they find themselves out of balance. This is a wonderful plan to ensure that the groups are not only growing, but growing healthy.

One might think, what difference does it make? Why are small groups so important (I know, I once had the same thought), Whitesel quotes Thom Rainer, “New Christians who immediately became active in a small group are five times more likely to remain in the church five years later than those who were active in worship services alone.” That statistic should grab the attention of every senior pastor.

The book concludes with a brilliant plan for the church to be open to all people. The church has a long history of expecting people to clean up their act prior to coming to church. The absurdity of that notion is the same as expecting a sick person to get well before visiting their local doctor. The church is the place to come to receive care. As individuals give their lives to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him, then the healthy change begins to happen. An important lesson I learned was that, “People need guidelines, but they also need those guidelines to be explained by a mentor whom they can trust and question.” Being a mentor is not something that can just arbitrarily be done. Careful selection should be made to match an individual.

This book is a tool that I will use with my leadership team. It would be good to have the team dig through it together, gleaning wisdom as to how to keep God’s bride healthy.

CHURCH GROWTH & A Review of Carey Nieuwhof’s “7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow “

by Cheri Wellman, Missional Coach candidate, 3/15/16.

An executive summary of Carey Nieuwhof’s Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, (Cumming, GA: The reThink Group, 2015).

Nieuwhof addresses potential reasons why local churches aren’t growing and the root of many of his answers are found in the seismic cultural shift happening specifically in the North America although many of these shifts are also happening globally. In answering the primary question of why we are not growing faster, he challenges the perceptions of local church pastors and leaders of existing church health, what keeps high capacity leaders engaged, reasons young adults are leaving the church, cultural trends, and actual willingness to change. The thread that is consistent from chapter to chapter in this book is the focus to continue to be missional. As followers of Christ, as disciples we are all called to be missional (Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts1:8) and I find that Nieuwhof approaches this concept in a variety of ways. Read this book and read it with a group of others. Digest it, discuss it and then do it!

It is important that Nieuwhof begins by addressing practical and simple reasons churches aren’t growing and some offerings at to what are significant shifts that can be made to change that. Again, the theme throughout the book is the significance of focusing on the mission. Focusing on the mission of Christ’s church puts things into its proper place and priority. It’s about the mission. Focus on quality not quantity. Don’t lose the mission. The mission is to lead people into a relationship Jesus not to fill the seats. The plan or method are not sacred; the mission is sacred.   Focus on your mission because that is your purpose; it is the why we do what we do. Innovate around the mission. When we think this way we focus on sending people out to accomplish the mission not on how many are simply attending on a Sunday morning. Healthy things grow. He reminds us that it is our lean toward selfishness both individually and corporately. But this is in opposition to be missional. Missional keeps the mission of Christ as the focus and makes space for the uniqueness of various cultures. Missional requires us to learn and adjust to others for the mission’s sake. This is what I found at the heart of this book. Missional requires us to know and love others including others different than us.

There are so many great points made in this book; points that I wish every church leader would not only read, but understand and apply. Things are different than they were in the past and as a result we as church leaders need to shift how we view them. One example is the shift in meaning of committed church attenders. The committed church attender is attending less often. Understanding the reasons could allow the church leaders (including pastors) to be less judgmental and critical and in turn realize that attendance does not equate to commitment, passion or spiritual growth. A better measurement is engagement in the mission. Mere attendance is less a measure of spiritual maturity than missional ministry engagement. Nieuwhof proposes that it is the role of the church leaders to adjust their responses toward infrequent attenders and the unchurched if the church is going to accomplish the mission we must adjust to the culture which begins with understanding the culture and changing our response to it by adjusting our methods. Unhealthy leaders will be challenged to love others and focus on the missional requirement to adjust method to accomplish the mission.

Nieuwhof addresses issues with high capacity leaders and young adults leaving the church and then he makes recommendations as to how to address the issues he points out. For example, high capacity leaders leave if the leaders are not healthy. We must equip and coach and then give high capacity leaders real challenges and let them run with what we give them. The trend of youth and young adults leaving the church is not an irreversible. As church leaders we have to acknowledge the differences in their generational/cultural preferences and leans and make adjustments to methods in order to continue to accomplish the mission and make room for them to also join us in the mission. They need space to wrestle with the tough questions in an a safe and loving environment. They want their lives to make a difference. The church is the God created group designed to make the most meaningful and significant impact. Coupling the mission of the church with the young adult’s desire for their lives to matter creates a huge potential for revival.

“As we got healthier inwardly we grew outwardly” (p.20). “Mission-driven, mission-focused, and relationally rich churches will draw in people longing for something bigger and more significant than themselves” (p. 121). All this is great to read and even believe to be true, but if in the end the willingness to actually implement change does not exist then the mission will not be accomplished. Change is difficult but worth it if we truly desire to impact the world with the hope and healing of Jesus for Kingdom’s sake.

Each year my Global Outreach Team for the East Michigan District of The Wesleyan Church purchases one book for each of the churches in our district in effort to continually equip and encourage our local churches to think and act with the mission in mind. This year, Lasting Impact will be the book that we will purchase. I believe that if we keep our focus on the mission as the why, so many of the other concerns and issues the local church struggles with would dissolve. It would require a willingness to change, a willingness to think, care, and love of others, and willingness to set aside ourselves for the mission.