by The Highbury Centre, Islington, London, 8/13/19.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., February 6 2019.
Recent forecasts predict these 10 cities’ urban communities will grow exponentially in the next 15 years. John Wesley witnessed similar exponential growth in urban England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. He sought to help the displaced people of these communities have a faith community of their own. And, he sensed that such church planting began with meeting physical needs without asking anything in return. Simply by providing medical clinics, financial assistance, recovery programs, etc. he sought to demonstrate the Good News. As a result, people of faith could share how faith in Christ motivates and strengthens one to be sacrificial and charitable.
Then take a look at this forecast of worldwide urban growth. Then ask, “What is God calling you and your ministry to do to meet their needs?”
“How can Christians support Donald Trump?” by Diane Winston, Religion News Service, 12/17/18.
…While conservative white evangelicals are a significant voting bloc and, as such, command cultural cachet, they’re not monolithic. Millions of evangelicals, notably those who aren’t white, didn’t support Trump.
by Scot McKnight, “Secularizing Kingdom,” Pathos, 11/15/10.
… Sit down some afternoon — maybe today — and look up all the “kingdom” references in the New Testament and you will see the following major ideas:
First, kingdom refers to a redemptive society. Second, one must “enter” this redemptive kingdom society by repentance and faith and obedience to Jesus. Third, kingdom society and Jesus are so closely connected one has to say that there is no such thing as “kingdom” apart from relationship to Jesus. Fourth, no one uses the word “kingdom” in the NT for “social” justice that is not connected to kingdom people of Jesus or connected to the fellowship of his followers — the Church.
The best example of “kingdom” work in the entire Bible is Acts 2:42-47, and there the kingdom people, in the context of a local fellowship (church), were making the kingdom manifest. The place to begin with kingdom work is to take care of the society of Jesus’ followers.
But somehow this equation of “kingdom” with “social” work, especially as distinguished from “church” or “spiritual” or “evangelistic” work, is precisely what has happened in our culture. We have all kinds of people who want to do “kingdom” work but by that they mean “social” justice — and by that they mean helping the poor, building homes in Haiti, creating wells of water in Africa, ministering to AIDS victims in the world, showing support for Palestinians in the Middle East, or running for political office. These folks have done the unthinkable: they have secularized the kingdom of God.
Let me say this clearly: each of those activities is good and godly; each of those actions is noble and ennobling. But none of those actions are “kingdom” work unless they are done in the context of the redemptive society of Jesus, and that means more or less in connection with the Church of Jesus Christ, who is Messiah and Lord.
One could say such actions “extend” the kingdom society of Jesus to others; I’m fine with that. But the fundamental idea here is that if we want to talk “kingdom” let’s talk what Jesus actually says about kingdom…
Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2010/11/15/secularizing-kingdom/
(Notes on a lecture by Bob Black, Ph.D., at the CCDA conference, Detroit, 2017.)
By Francis Asbury’s death in 1802, the Methodist Church had become the largest church in America. Still, the bishops decided not to rock the boat by opposing slavery, so prevalent in the south. A presiding elder, Orange Scott (what we would call today a district superintendent) opposed slavery on biblical grounds as well as citing John Wesley’s strong condemnation of slavery.
Feeling he could no longer remain in the Methodist Church, Orange Scott started a magazine called “The True Wesleyan.” He also called for the formation of the “Wesleyan Methodist Church,” titled thus because it was “Wesley’s view of Methodism.” There would be no slavery and no bishops. The movement, though organized in the north, began to appeal to anti-slavery Methodists in the south. A church of 40 antislavery Methodists in North Carolina ask the Wesleyan Methodist Church to send them a pastor because not pastor would lead them.
Adam Crooks, a not yet fully ordained 23 year-old minister in this new movement, left to pastor the North Carolina church stating he was glad he did not have a wife or family because he then did not need to worry about surviving. Within six months had built a church called “Freedom’s Hill” in Snow Camp, NC. Soon they planted eight more anti-slavery churches. In High Point Adam found noose with a likeness of him handing from a tree. He was poisoned and in the church he preached there were bullet holes in the door.
The Freedom’s Hill Church and the other churches in the network became stations on the underground railroad. Many of these young pastors were harangued, attacked and even hanged. Still, the movement grew under the example of young people who, like Adam Crooks, asked “Can you give you life for the cause?”
“Wesley did not overlook the possible positive evangelistic impact resulting from Christian engagement in such open-ended works of mercy. But the specific potential effect that he highlighted was not the enticement of uncommitted persons to embrace the Christian faith by addressing their physical needs. Rather, he hoped to overcome the widespread crisis of credibility of Christian witness through the increased number of Christians who would model authentic loving care for others!” (Maddox, 2002)
Maddox, Randy L. (2002) “Visit the poor” John Wesley, The Poor and The Sanctification of Believers. Kingswood books Nashville, (pg 69).
Retrieved by Salvation Army officer Regina Shull as part of an assignment for LEAD 600.
social engagement action need-meeting
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
Of the current authors you are reading …
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have pointed out in the book “Cure for the Common Church” that Jesus often met people’s physical needs before he told them that he could solve their spiritual needs. Abraham Maslow, in his Hierarchy of Needs, confirmed this as the most effective approach.
Thus, churches today that are leading people to Christ do so by first meeting physical needs to demonstrate our compassion, care and good news of salvation.
Here is an important article that reminds us that most people do not see us in this, but they should! To understand the dilemma read this article. To you understand the “cure” read “Cure for the Common Church” chapters 1 and 2.
Fewer Americans Believe Churches Solve Social Problems
by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Facts & Trends, 7/28/16.
America may be facing problems, but a growing number of people say churches are of no help in solving them.
Four out of 10 (39 percent) say churches or other houses of worship offer “not much” or “nothing” toward solving society’s problems. That’s up from 23 percent in 2008, according to a new survey from Pew Research.
Six in 10 (58 percent) say churches and other houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving social problems. That’s down from 75 percent in 2008 and the lowest number since Pew began asking the question in 2001.
White evangelicals (70 percent) are most confident of the church’s positive role in society. Nones (38 percent) are far more skeptical.
But both groups have lost confidence in the role of churches in society.
In 2008, 86 percent of evangelicals and 56 percent of nones said houses of worship contribute “a great deal” or “some” to solving society’s problems. Both groups saw a decline of at least 15 percentage points in the latest poll.
The decline cut across religious and political lines.
Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/12/16.
I have found that many churches lead by Boomers tend to adopt the approach of focusing on the churchgoers … in hopes of attracting the non-churchgoers. The Millennial Generation have been raised in this milieu and often see the ineffectiveness of an attractional approach. In the book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press) I point out that researchers find Millennials generally preferring to focus on others before themselves. Not surprisingly I have found Millennial-led churches tend to focus on meeting the needs of non-churchgoers as a way to help the churchgoers mature in faith (and not the other way around). This is analogous to what Richard Sterns calls “filling the hole in the Gospel.”
While conversing with a student on this, he pushed back (which is always fine) responding the spending time on crafting mission and vision statements creates an attraction for Millennials. He thus concluded, “However, I would stand my ground in that millennials are hungry for something of real substance. And something can’t have real substance unless it has Christ-centered mission and vision which is clearly communicated.”
I responded that I would restate that slightly, and say, “Millennials are hungry for something of real substance. And something can’t have real substance unless a church spends more time proactively living Christ’s mission than parsing statements and advertising them.”
I know this latter phrase was not what the student was suggesting, but I find it is often what the Church is doing … and hence, my warning.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: While studying churches that grow in times of crises, I’ve noticed that at these times leaders put authority into their small groups to do most of the ministry work. Such an example is St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, England when as England’s largest megachurch they lost their auditorium with three weeks notice. Read about this in the chapter I contributed to Eddie Gibbs’ festschrift titled “Gospel after Christendom” (Baker Academic, 2012). Basically what St. Thomas did was allow all the small groups to do the social-action ministries and even require them to do so. Therefore, instead of top-down organization of social action programs designed by the executive team of the church, they required each small group to look around it’s community and weekly do something to help non-churchgoers. This democratized the organizations outreach through a leadership-style called “holarchy.” This is exactly what John Wesley required of the small group meetings: they were each required to go out and serve the needy. This became known as Wesley’s “method” and adherents the “Methodists.” Read this article in Inc. Magazine to become acquainted with “holarchy” and how it is much better than top-down autocratic management when managing today’s post modern young adults.
Read more about “holarchies” at … http://www.inc.com/elle-kaplan/want-to-improve-your-company-let-every-person-on-your-team-be-a-chief.html
And read more about Wesley’s holarchy leadership-style here (including a downloadable section on this from my book Cure for the Common Church …https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/small-groups-3-facets-of-well-rounded-small-groups/
Embedded is a chart (click it to enlarge) that depicts a holarchy and was retrieved from http://image.slidesharecdn.com/storyalitytheory-2014uwspgc-jtvelikovskyv2-140715075956-phpapp02/95/storyality-theory-2014-uws-pg-conference-jt-velikovsky-61-638.jpg?cb=1405411334
By Scott Clement, The Washington Post, 5/20/15
Inequality has become the hot issue in politics, and the latest squabble has scrutinized the efforts of religious groups – or lack thereof – to raise Americans’ focus on the issue.
In a Washington Post interview last week, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam claimed organized religion’s public agenda has “been entirely focused on issues of homosexuality and contraception and not at all focused on issues of poverty.” Putnam’s comments were blasted by several commentators, including the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who noted religious groups spend far more on charity, schools and hospitals than pro-life causes or to oppose same-sex marriage.
Putnam’s research has been important in proving that religious individuals give more to charity , but Douthat further argued the atmosphere at church services and in statements of leaders is not obsessed with homosexuality and abortion. Beyond anecdotal claims, how much do churchgoers hear about poverty at worship services compared with hot-button social issues?
Fortunately, the answer is easily at hand, and Douthat’s observation is accurate. Just before the 2012 presidential election, a Pew Research Center surveyasked regular worship attendees what issues they have heard their clergy talk about recently. Roughly 3 in 4 said their clergy spoke about hunger and poverty (74 percent), while fewer than 4 in 10 heard about abortion (37 percent) or homosexuality (33 percent).
A breakdown of the data by religious groups shows that poverty dominates discussion even at churches with strong stances on abortion and homosexuality. Abortion comes close to rivaling poverty among Catholics: 62 percent of Catholics reported hearing about abortion in the weeks before the presidential election, though a still larger 82 percent said they heard about poverty. Among white evangelical Protestants who largely oppose same-sex marriage, far more said clergy spoke about hunger and poverty than homosexuality.
One caveat on these data is warranted. Talking about “hunger and poverty” is not identical to taking action on rising income inequality and the impact it has on the poor, which is the focus of Putnam’s recent book, “Our Kids.”
Much the same, religious groups may emphasize somewhat different themes in weekly services (such as raising charitable contributions) than when attempting to impact policy or influence voters. While Catholics attending Mass ahead of the 2012 election reported hearing more about poverty than abortion, the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” bulletin places heavy emphasis on the former. The publication mentions the importance of a living wage, but also explains that abortion is an evil that “may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
Religious groups are clearly active in discussing poverty at services, providing for the poor and taking stances on social justice. It’s an open question how much religious groups will weigh in and prioritize income inequality heading into the 2016 presidential cycle.
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
by Bob Whitesel, 3/10/15
In his article titled “Christ and Culture” author, theologian Thomas Johnson looks at two divergent groups and how each took the wrong approach to secular culture:
Johnson suggests that to understand Christ and culture, we should consider the following (my students are encouraged to pick one to discuss in a paragraph):
> John 17, which has some very important insights (pp. 4-5)
> That, “the ultimate social and cultural critic is the Word of God” (p.6)
> “The Word correlates with the questions, needs and problems of culture.” (p. 8)
> “In (Francis) Schaeffer’s terms, ‘Every honest question must be given an honest answer. It is unbiblical for anyone to say, “Just believe”.’” (footnote, p. 15)
> “J. Christian Blumhardt, had a fascinating saying, ‘A man must be converted twice, from the natural life to the spiritual life, and after that from the spiritual life to the natural life.” (p. 14).
I especially like the last one, for Blumhardt is making an important point about how our spiritual transformation means not just to Christ, but we also turn toward others to reach them too.
Here is a link to the downloadable article.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “The following is an insightful posting on cross-cultural communication by a friend and colleague, Dr. Kwasi Kena who serves as a professor at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. As I write with another colleague the book ReMix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2016) Kwasi’s advice on what to say when a cultural eruption occurs is very helpful. Read this excerpt from his Wesley Seminary blog post.”
For several years I taught an oral communication course. In that class, we examined a communication phenomenon called “filtering and completing”. Here is a brief explanation of these two concepts. When we are bombarded by too much information, we make conscious and subconscious choices to filter out what appears to be extraneous information in order to make sense out of what we hear or see. Conversely, when some of the message is missing, we complete or fill in the blank to create what we think is the intended message. We complete the message based on our own perceptions, life experiences, biases and worldviews.
For example, if you heard “Mary had a little _____, its ___________________________”, you would be able to compete the sentence based on your previous knowledge of nursery rhymes. If, however, you heard the following phrase “When elephants fight ________________”, you may not have enough previous knowledge or experience to fill in the blank correctly. While a person living in West Africa would recognize the proverb “When elephants fight the grass suffers”. Without context, shared memory, or the intention of the speaker, we are clueless.
Silence in Multicultural Ministry: Friend or Foe?
When engaging in multicultural ministry, when should you speak and when should you keep silent? The answer perplexes many people. It is not unlike the feeling one gets when reading the book of Proverbs where one verse urges you not to answer a fool, while the next verse contradicts the previous advice and states that you should answer a fool (Proverbs 25:4-5). If you find yourself struggling with such a decision, remember in cross-cultural ministry, silence sends multiple messages.
I sometimes use the following scenario to illustrate the effect of silence when attempting to reach people from a different ethnic group. We are all familiar with churches whose neighborhoods have shifted from one dominant ethnic group to another. Members of “drive-in churches” who often want to open the church to everyone usually don’t understand why community members do not come and join their congregations. Perhaps this issue of silence holds a clue to the answer.
In the midst of your congregation attempting to become more multi-ethnic, suppose a major disturbance occurs in the ethnic community you want to reach. Perhaps the local news airs a special report noting that an absentee landlord failed to maintain his apartments causing the ethnic residents to suffer unnecessary illnesses due to poor heating and insulation. Or, what if you learned that community members live in a food desert and their children’s cognitive development is stunted due to malnutrition? Or, what about the recent 911 caller who reported that a twelve-year-old boy was playing with a gun that was “probably fake” resulting in Tamir Rice being shot and killed by a policeman four seconds after the squad car arrived? If some tragedy like this occurred in which members of the community were angry, hurt, distraught, and outraged—how would your congregation respond?
If your church responded to any of these incidents with silence, how might the ethnic community you wish to reach “fill in the blank”? How would your congregation’s reputation in the community inform the way outsiders complete the void left by your silence? If visitors came to church the Sunday following a tragic event, would they hear anything in the sermon or pastoral prayer or any portion of the service that addressed the sorrow experienced by the parties involved? Can your church afford the cultural baggage of a silent response?
Read the original article here … http://wesleyconnectonline.com/break-the-silence-kwasi-kena/
“Gen Z, or the iGeneration as some have called it, refers to those born since roughly 1995. These are kids who have never known a world without the Internet and smartphones. And they’re just starting to hit college.
Marketplace teamed up with Northeastern University to survey the latest crop of college-bound teenagers, aged 16 to 19…
“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
Commentary from Dr. Whitesel: “Many of these cities are also the hubs of Wesleyan churches: including High Point, North Carolina, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plans for church planting should include stronger partnerships with suburban churches, so that suburban support can offset fast rising urban poverty. See the book The Healthy Church for examples of how to create urban/suburban church partnerships.”
Read more at … http://www.businessinsider.com/cities-poverty-soaring-2014-8
John Wesley, The Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 98, “On Visiting the Sick.” http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-98-on-visiting-the-sick/
Speaking hashtags: #BetterTogether
John Wesley, The Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 98, “On Visiting the Sick.” http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-98-on-visiting-the-sick/