HOLE IN THE GOSPEL & Fewer Americans Believe Churches Solve Social Problems

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.

PF_2016.07.13_religionpolitics-02-02.png

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.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/07/28/fewer-americans-believe-churches-solve-social-problems/#.V5nqofT3aJI

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

MISSION & Are You Writing a Statement or Living in Mission?

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.

HOLARCHY & Why Wesley Used This Leadership-style That is Popular Again #IncMagazine

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.” storyality-theory-2014-uws-pg-conference-jt-velikovsky-61-638This 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

NEED MEETING & Do religious leaders really focus on homosexuality and abortion more than poverty? Not exactly #TheWashingtonPost

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).

pewclergytalkbygroup

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.

Read more at … http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/05/19/do-religious-leaders-really-focus-on-homosexuality-and-abortion-more-than-poverty-not-exactly/

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

CULTURE CLASH & Holy Withdrawal or Holy Accommodation? A Theologian Contrasts the Amish & the Nazis

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:

  1. The Old Order Amish and
  2. The Christians in Germany who supported the Nazis.

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.

COMMUNICATION & In cross-cultural ministry, silence sends multiple messages #KwasiKena #ReMIXbook

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.”

How Would You Fill in the Blank?

by Kwasi Kena, Associate Professor at Multicultural Ministries at Wesley Seminary

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/