OUTREACH & Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization by #YorkMoore in #ChristianityToday (also in #JohnWesley)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I recently completed a historically accurate introduction to John, Susanna and Charles Wesley in the format of a devotional. While working on it my friend Ed Stetzer asked me if Wesley ministered to the poor because he wanted to get a hearing for the good news, or because helping the poor was morally good.

I responded to Ed that the Wesleys ministry to the poor began many years before their conversions and before they began to emphasize the importance of conversion. From their lives of giving most of their money to the poor, ministering to prisoners and even paying out of their own pockets for the schooling of the prisoners children, it can be observed that the Wesleys ministered to the poor because it was the morally right thing to do n

Read below this helpful article which explains why those who seek to follow Christ will help the poor, not out of a manipulating interest in their conversion but because it’s the right thing to do.

Yet that also means … sharing with everyone about eternity is also the morally right thing to do.

Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization

by York Moore, Christianity Today, 1/16/21. Evangelism is a moral good and a key expression of our faith…

Evangelism is the highest expression of moral goodness. That is not to say that there aren’t other moral goods. Remember a moral good stands on its own as ontologically good. We do not serve the homeless in order to proselytize. This practice is exactly what has desecrated Christian evangelism. No, we serve the homeless because it is an end in itself, a moral good that cannot be diminished by doing it by itself and for itself. Having said this, however, evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all. One can cloth the naked, feed the hungry, free the slave but eventually, these same people who are made in the image of God, without being converted will all suffer a much worse fate than cold, hunger, enslavement and the like-they will suffer eternal separation from God in a place of suffering. This is at least the conviction of Bible-believing Christians, so we evangelize, in part, because it is an expression of moral goodness based on the concern for the eternal state of people.

“…evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all.”

Unfortunately, even among Christians, eschatological categories like wrath, hell, damnation, and eternal separation from God are rarely talked about-even from our best platforms and pulpits. This reality does not negate their ontological standing-these categories are real and the real consequences behind door #3. Again, the great news is what’s behind these doors is not unknown to the host, God Himself. They are also not unknown to the Christian who is tasked with the moral good of proselytizing or evangelism.

We are tasked with this out of the love of God who wants to give all people all of the blessings behind all of the doors of life and also to save us from each and every pain, heartache, and ultimately, eternal hell and damnation. It is a moral good and requisite expression of faith to help those around us make the right and good decisions about God, life and the afterlife. As we help them, we are asking them to risk what they have in hopes of something even better, to make a deal, knowing what they will win in exchange is eternally better than what they now possess.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/moral-good-of-evangelism-redeeming-godly-work-of-proselytiz.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 20 Truths from ‘Models of Evangelism’ by Priscilla Pope-Levison as observed by #EdStetzer.

Christianity Today, 8/24/20.

…This edition of 20 Truths examines what we can learn from Priscilla Pope-Levison’s book Models of Evangelism. Priscilla Pope-Levison is Associate Dean for External Programs and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Southern Methodist University. She has her MDiv from Duke Divinity School (1983) and her PhD from the University of St. Andrews (1989). Her interdisciplinary publications combine theology, gender studies, church history, and mission. She has a heart for the ancient yet contemporary Christian practice of evangelism…

  • No matter which model you prefer, no matter which model you choose to implement, no matter whether you pick and choose an element here or there to create your own unique model of evangelism or merge several models together, these five qualities—hospitality, relationship, integrity, message bearing, and church rootedness—are the essential ingredients that gauge your evangelistic effort.
  • As you become more conscious of these five qualities, as you practice them day by day, you will, perhaps even without realizing it, be preparing for good evangelism. Good evangelists do not sprout overnight; they mature as they cultivate these qualities. This sort of maturation and mellowing is necessary, especially for a practice that receives more than its share of bad press.
  • Evangelism is not mechanical; evangelism is relational. Strangers to the faith are not targets; they are full-fledged human beings, with whom Christians are called to be in relationship.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/october/20-truths-from-models-of-evangelism-by-priscilla-pope-levis.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & John Wesley’s view of Conversion: An interview with Bob Whitesel by Missional Discipleship

CLICK THE LINK ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW

Today’s conversation is with Dr. Bob Whitesel.  He is a founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and current Professor of Missional Leadership.  He has two earned doctorates (D.Min. and Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary where he was awarded the Donald McGavran Award for “Outstanding Scholarship in Church Growth” by the faculty.  Dr. Whitesel is the  author of 11 books, including the award-winning series on evangelism titled, “Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey”  He is married to his college sweetheart Rebecca and they have four daughters and four grandchildren.  Today, we talk with Dr. Whitesel about John Wesley’s view of conversion and discipleship. We would love your feedback by commenting on the blog, joining our Facebook group, or tweeting us @heathmullikin and @jeremysummers using the hashtag #groundswell. For more information on the Spiritual Formation Department of the Wesleyan Church click here.

Dr. Whitesel’s website at bobwhitesel.com.

Great church resources at churchhealthwiki.com.

Join Dr. Whitesel on wesleytours.com.

PRESCRIPTIONS FOR THE CHURCH & Healthy churches must have outward focus, Whitesel tells Presbyterians.

Emily Enders Odom – August 7, 2013

Move over, Dr. Phil. The church doctor is in.                             

Bob Whitesel, the award-winning author and change theory expert, offered a much-needed prescription for today’s ailing churches in his Aug. 3 luncheon address based on his book, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health.

“You’re here because the church is facing a very challenging time in North America,” Whitesel told his audience here at the Healthy Ministry Conference under the Big Tent. “If you look at all of the research, you’ll find that the common church is not usually a vibrant, growing, healthy church. The common church is usually a church struggling with different growth, multi-cultural, and age issues. My burden and my passion has been for almost 40 years now to go and study churches that are making a difference and are growing.”        

In his 11 books, Whitesel outlines the factors he says prevent churches from being a “force for unity and maturity in Christ.” He also addresses the necessary changes to help churches become healthier organizations. By “healthy,” Whitesel means churches where spiritual growth is taking place, not necessarily larger congregations. 

“Many congregations don’t have to grow numerically, but they do need to grow in their maturity, their acceptance and their reconciliation of different ethnicities, cultures and races,” he said. 

Today’s congregations have to work hard to overcome 200 years of history in which churches functioned first and foremost as social clubs, Whitesel said. 

“I as the church don’t want to compete with other social clubs because I believe we offer something spiritual and eternal,” he said.

Even most new church plants cease being effective at winning new people for Christ after 18 months because that’s when the churches “stop focusing on community and start worrying about their own organizational well-being,” Whitesel said. 

The four cures that Whitesel offers to today’s ill churches all involve changing a congregation’s focus from inward — focusing on organizational issues — to outward. In his address, he covered the cures: need-based outreach; “up-in-out” groups; transformational programming; and measuring learning, not attendance. 

In doing his first doctorate, Whitesel analyzed fast-growing churches in America to find out what they were doing alike. “All of them didn’t want to grow, and they grew, because what they wanted to do was meet needs,” he said. 

Such a change in focus will bring a change in vocabulary, among other results. As an example, Whitesel cited how church visitors are most often greeted. “Instead of saying to visitors, ‘We’re glad to have you here,’ say ‘Jesus is here to meet your needs and we’re here to help,’” he said. 

As for “up-in-out groups,” Whitesel advocates that every small group in a church grow “up” (toward God), “in” (by praying for each other), and “out” (by serving the community). He also calls this cure “missionalizing small groups,” in which they become not just groups doing tasks, but actual discipleship groups. 

The third cure he presented to his audience was transformational programming. By this, he means programming that’s designed to make the church the place that changes people. 

“That’s what Jesus desired the church to be,” he said. “It should be a place where people get changed. Today, people go to Dr. Phil. They turn on the TV. We want our churches to be known in the community as the place that helps people change. That’s what we want people to know about being Presbyterian.” 

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, was a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It was composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

Read more at … https://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/8/7/prescriptions-church/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & How an understanding that God is a loving Father (not an angry tyrant) led to Jonathan Edwards’ conversion. #ARDA #WesleyToo

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Those who have read my devotional on the life of John, Charles and Susanna Wesley (www.Enthusiast.life) know that a key to their conversions was when they came to the understanding that God was a “loving father” not as a angry master. The same understanding transformed the famed American preacher Jonathan Edwards as pointed out in this article by the ARDA (Association of Religious Data Archives).

… While still at Yale, Edwards had a conversion experience and became convinced of the opposite, that God’s sovereignty “very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.” Edwards had become convinced of the Calvinist view of God and humanity. Human beings were fallen, totally depraved, and deserving of an eternity of punishment in hell. God graciously plucked some, the elect, from that fiery fate. Edwards’s view of God transformed from that of a capricious, uncaring tyrant into a loving, gracious father.

Edwards inherited his grandfather’s church at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1729 and the young minister quickly became involved in a series of local revivals in New England during the 1730s. He believed that many New England Puritans were Christian in name only, that they had been infected by an “Arminian” theology that privileged free, human choice over God’s sovereignty. Rationalists, whom Edwards classed as “Arminians,” proposed a theology derived from reason and nature. They also argued that individuals were fundamentally moral beings with the ability to choose their faith, a belief that cut against the traditional Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. 

By 1738, when celebrity English evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour in the American colonies, those local revivals had grown into the mass religious movement that would later become known as the First Great Awakening. Whitefield, Edwards, and other preachers like Gilbert Tennent criticized American churches for their cold theological rationalism while proclaiming a revivified Calvinist gospel. It was in this environment that Edwards preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” while filling the pulpit in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. Edwards wanted to convince the parishioners that their religious faith was dead, that they were sinners, and thus they faced the righteous judgment of God should they not repent and turn from their false religious security.

Read more at … http://www.thearda.com/timeline/events/event_232.asp

MIRACLES & Why Doesn’t God Move the Same Everywhere? Guest post by Josh Howard.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. These are well written and engaging thoughts from the developing world and by my former graduate student at Wheaton College. I hope you are inspired (I was). And if you are, you may want to follow his musings. Click here to sign up for Josh’s email list!

Why Doesn’t God Move the Same Everywhere? by Josh Howard, 7/9/20.

In these 12 years, I have had a front row seat to some of the most amazing movements of God that I’ve ever seen. Churches multiplying like crazy…people getting radically saved…others getting radically healed. It’s like the Book of Acts: Episode II Return of the Jedi. (Apostles)

And almost every time I talk to a group of Americans, they always say something like, “Why doesn’t that happen in America, Josh?  Why does it only happen in India or Africa or China or (insert your favorite mission field here.)”

And I don’t really have an answer…

And then, a while back, I was listening to a message by the famous evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke … And his answer finally gave me an answer. This is what he said —

“If you want to see the power of God…go to where the Gospel has never been preached and His Power will meet you there!!!”

Wow.  Profound.  (Insert mindblown emoji here).  

I don’t know exactly what it is…and there is no special formula, but God’s power moves greatest when we are loving and serving those who don’t know Him.  He’s still leaving the 99 to go after the 1.  His heart is still breaking over the coin that rolled under the table.  He’s still on his front porch looking for the lost son to run home.  And his power is waiting for us to move.  His Hand always moves in the direction that His heart always longs…

You aren’t going to miraculously get the power of God sitting on your couch watching Netflix. His power will meet you at the places furthest from your comfort zone.  

P.S. For the past few years, we have been getting people together over zoom every month to talk about how they can begin to “get in the game” or get their church in the game. If you’re interested in being a part of a group like that, Read more at … https://ignite.mykajabi.com/eb/BAh7BjoWZW1haWxfZGVsaXZlcnlfaWRsKwfcVTdp–ff6a2222e884f89a28edcc9c51e706bf3ab53696

PREACHING & Preach to a procession… in a way that will be an initial invitation to those who don’t know Christ and an encouragement to those who do. #Remembering #LloydJohnOgilvie

In a 1989 interview with Leadership Journal, Lloyd John Ogilvie said:

I preach to a procession: church members who need a fresh touch of the power of God, people who don’t know God and aren’t part of any church, Christians who’ve just come to visit, and others who are facing perplexing problems. … My big challenge is to present the gospel in a way that will be an initial invitation to those who don’t know Christ and an encouragement to those who do and who need to get on with the responsibilities of discipleship.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/1989/summer/89l3016.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Did you know Charles Wesley wrote a song “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion.” It is more popularly known as “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

by Jeffrey Barbeau, Christianity Today, 2/14/19.

…John Wesley’s subsequent “conversion” at Aldersgate Street in London is well known, but fewer realize that Charles experienced his own “heart strangely warmed” experience only a few days before. On Pentecost Sunday (“Whitsunday”), May 21, 1738, Charles attained what might alternately be called a deepening of faith, a new birth, and an assurance of God’s love that helped launch one of the great revivals in modern Christianity.

As he lay sick in bed, Charles experienced what he described as a new “Pentecost.” He heard the voice of a woman, calling out to him: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise, and believe, and thou shalt be healed of all thy infirmities.” Charles records in his journal: “The words struck me to the heart.” In a moment, Charles, with “strange palpitation of heart,” declared “I believe, I believe!”

Three days before John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, Charles beat John to the punch. He came to recognize the love of God in the presence of the Spirit, dispelling the darkness of doubt from his heart.

The event was so moving that he later memorialized the day in one of the great hymns in Christian history, “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion,” more popularly known as “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

In fact, the hymns of Charles Wesley are replete with references to love. At Easter, Christians around the world repeat the words of his most famous composition, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and declare “Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!” Elsewhere Charles praises “Love divine, all loves excelling” and honors God’s great and “universal love.”

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2019/february/charles-wesley-romance-love-sally-wesley.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=20830743&utm_content=635605081&utm_campaign=email

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Acknowledged a great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

by David Ives, Aleteia Magazine, 4/12/19.

While the look of the film (Mary Magdalene) is fine and the acting is uniformly good, any viewer with an ounce of respect for the actual biblical narrative will find themselves far too distracted keeping track of all the little ways the film butchers history to enjoy any of it…

Worst of all, though, is what the film does to Mary herself. The Magdalene is justifiably considered one of the greatest saints in the history of Christendom. She followed Jesus throughout his ministry, was present when he was crucified, and was there for his resurrection. More importantly, as the woman

… possessed by seven demons, and in tradition and art an acknowledged great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

None of that applies to the woman in this film, however. Instead we are presented with an insufferable “Mary Sue” Magdalene

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/04/12/this-films-modern-take-on-mary-magdalene-will-disappoint-devotees-of-this-great-saint/

EVANGELISM & Free Training Videos from Evangelism Scholar Dr. Michael Green via #ChurchLeaderInsights #NelsonSearcy.

by Nelson Searcy, 4/3/19.

Michael Green was widely influential as an author, evangelism scholar and defender of the Christian faith. Green’s humorous, engaging style of writing and speaking made him highly regarded in the Church of England, and in the wider Christian world.

I’ve compiled a collection of four of the best teachings from Dr. Green — all on video. Plus, you can access a complete biographical report on Green, including his notable quotes and thoughts on the 7 Marks of an Evangelist.

Click here for exclusive free training videos from Dr. Michael Green.

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Catholic evangelism? Yes, and why it matters for you.

(Guest post by Jason Tucker & Jesse Skiffington of http://www.ReclaimedLeader.com)

So I confess… I had no idea that Catholic revitalization/renewal was a thing.  Then I was introduced to Rob McDowell of Divine Renovation. I quickly discovered that not only is it a thing, but it is a huge and growing thing that is changing parishes all over the world.

Here’s something else… Divine Renovation’s strategies will help ANY church to experience revitalization.  Don’t get me wrong, it takes commitment and hard work, but the theology and methodology are strong and transferable.

Oh yeah, and Rob was a Wesleyan Pastor who joined a Catholic church’s staff.  Sound crazy right?  Well, check out today’s episode and decide for yourself.

Or, listen direct on your device at:

Apple Podcasts

Google Play

Stitcher

TuneIn

Hope this helps you lead change without losing your roots!

Jason & Jesse

ReclaimedLeader.com

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Do 47 Percent of Christian Millennials Think Evangelism Is Wrong? – Part 1 #RickRichardson

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My friend and colleague Dr. Rich Richardson of Wheaton College has penned an excellent analysis of recent data regarding the millennial generation’s uncomfortable relationship with conversion and spiritual transformation. To understand their quandary, read this important article.

by Rick Richardson, Christianity Today, 3/13/19.

…So it’s not surprising that a new statistic is making the rounds on social media and in church board rooms across the United States. A new research study out of Barna found that “47% of Millennial practicing Christians think it is wrong to share one’s beliefs with a person of another faith in hopes that the person will come to share one’s beliefs.”

Moreover, 40 percent of practicing Millennial Christians believe that “if someone disagrees with you, they are judging you.” More concerning, these are not nominal or cultural Christians that we can dismiss as not the real deal. These are “practicing Millennial Christians” by which Barna means they, “identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.”

While the first stat is garnering the majority of the headlines, the combined message is that many young Christians hold a clearly negative view of evangelism.

Yet with this statistic—like every startling number that reinforces a bias or stirs up controversy—we need to look beyond the number to consider the causes and our reactions. Barna has given the church a much-needed wake-up call to the state of evangelism in the church, particularly among its younger adults. However, it is up to us to interpret what this means and to chart a pathway forward to greater gospel effectiveness.

Over the course of two articles, I want to do just this. In Part Two, I’m going to outline four principles of evangelism that we need to drill down on in light of the fact that many young believers have strong reservations. But first, I want to explore the Barna study itself and provide some greater context and clarity.

Millennial attitudes toward evangelism are complex

While many of the articles responding to the Barna study focused on the 47 percent, it is crucial to note that other findings in the same study seem to contradict or at minimum offer a more complex picture of millennial evangelism. Delving deeper into the study, three statistics jump out that should give academics, pastors, and everyday Christians pause in jumping to a conclusion.

1 – Millennial practicing Christians feel as strongly as other generations that being a witness is part of faith, at a rate of 96 percent

2 – Millennial practicing Christians feel just about as strongly that the best thing that could ever happen to others is to come to know Jesus, at a rate of 94 percent.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/march/47-christian-millennials-think-evangelism-wrong-part-1.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Statistics on the Decline in Conversions in Churches.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, Christianity Today, 3/6/19.

…Church conversions

The lack of growth in worship attendance in most churches is matched by a lack of new commitments to Christ last year.

Fifty-four percent of pastors say fewer than 10 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior in 2018, including 8 percent who had none.

In some ways, however, those numbers mask deeper evangelistic issues. When evaluating churches based on the number of conversions per 100 attendees, 67 percent had fewer than 10 per 100 people attending their church. Around a third (35%) had fewer than five new commitments for every 100 people attending their worship services.

Forty-six percent of smaller churches (fewer than 50 in worship services) say they had 10 conversions or more for every 100 in attendance, while only 18 percent of churches 250 and above meet that benchmark.

While there are no major differences between evangelical and mainline churches in terms of new converts, denominational differences do exist.

A majority of Pentecostal pastors (57%) say they saw 10 or more new commitments to Christ in their church last year per 100 attendees. The next closest denominations are Lutherans (39%), Holiness (38%), and Baptists (35%).

A quarter of Methodist (25%) and Presbyterian or Reformed pastors (23%) say they had 10 or more new commitments to Jesus in 2018 per 100 attendees. Half of Methodist pastors (50%) had fewer than five new commitments last year.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/march/lifeway-research-church-growth-attendance-size.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Gen. Zers believe in the exclusivity of Jesus and the reality of hell more than their parents.

by Aron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/1/19.

…LifeWay Research’s 2018 State of Theology Study found some positives and negatives among the beliefs of younger Americans. They also found some issues that transcend generations.

When pastors speak about the exclusivity of Jesus and the reality of hell, they may find more younger heads nodding in agreement than older ones.

While 73 percent of those 65 and older believe God accepts the worship of all religions, that number falls to 62 percent of those 18 to 34.

Young adults are the most likely age group to agree even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation and among the most likely to say hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.

Pastors may also find more 18- to 34-year-olds concerned about evangelism. They are the most likely to say “it’s important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior.”

Among all young adults, 58 percent agree with the importance of personal evangelism. Among evangelicals 18 to 34 years old, 89 percent say encouraging others to trust Christ is important to them.

In other theological areas, however, church leaders may find hard ground among young adults.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/02/18/generation-why-churches-worry-they-cant-reach-young-adults-full-of-questions/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Alister McGrath eulogies Michael Green, saying: “He taught me the importance of evangelism.” He taught me that too.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: a couple years ago I took a group of doctoral students to Wycliffe College at Oxford. One of the most famous professors there was Michael Green who had tremendous impact upon me when I was in seminary when I read his books “Worship in the New Testament” and “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” Both of those books transformed me.

by Alister McGrath, Christianity Today, 2/12/19.

… Green, an academically talented student, was converted to Christianity as a teenager. In quick succession, he earned first class honors in classics at Oxford and first class honors in theology at Cambridge. His sense of calling to minister in the Church of England reflected his lifelong passion for evangelism. While serving on the staff of the London College of Divinity, a theological college of the Church of England, Green published two works aimed at a student audience that established his growing reputation as an apologist and evangelist: Man Alive (1967) and Runaway World (1968).

These books were widely read and shared by Christian students and led to invitations to speak at major churches and student gatherings throughout the United Kingdom. I read them both myself while a student at Oxford in the early 1970s, and I recall vividly the impact of a sermon Green preached in Oxford on John 3 which helped me grasp the core themes of the gospel.

… In 1975, Green became rector of St Aldate’s Church, Oxford. As an Oxford student at the time, I recall well the sense of delight and anticipation within Oxford’s Christian student community on learning of this appointment. Many were thrilled at the thought of sitting at the feet of such a gifted and well-known preacher and evangelist. They were not disappointed.

Green’s preaching wove together his love for the New Testament, his passion for evangelism, and a deep sense of care and compassion for his congregation. Green’s remarkable capacity to encourage others in their faith and in exploring their callings led many to explore ordination, missionary work, or ways of ensuring their faith and professional callings were woven together.

Somehow, Green managed to find time to write. His works of this period include his I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1975), whose warm and winsome tone did much to commend the new interest in the Holy Spirit that was gaining sway in student circles and beyond.

Read more of McGrath’s eulogy here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/alister-mcgrath-michael-green-tribute-evangelism.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=20830743&utm_content=635605081&utm_campaign=email

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements are Taking Place in Turkey Among Muslim Refugees

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements: Iranians are converting to evangelical Christianity in Turkey #NPR.

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

SYSTEM 4 of 7SYSTEMS.church: REGENERATION & People/Places are supernaturally changed for the better.

7.4 systems yellow

This is fourth (4th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation. (The following is excerpted and adapted from Bob Whitesel’s Cure for the Common Church, chapter 7: “Why New is Needed.”)

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

There is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church.  It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness).  Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

God cares about those in need.
  • “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right  for the needy.” Psalm 140:12
  • You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4
God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness
  • Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)
  • “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness 
  • “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27
  • “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring.  Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated.  Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness.  They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous.  But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions.  The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation.  And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2. 

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation 

The uncommon church
  • Expects miracles to happen
  • Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish
  • Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans
  • Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.  

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right.  God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior).  And, God has made a way for us to be changed.  The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
  • “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
  • “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.  Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.  Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
  • “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God.  Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4  God’s Plan for a Route Back 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
  • “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG). 
  • “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
  • “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
  • “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return.  So, what is involved in returning to him?  The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5.  let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5  How We Take the Route Back to God

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.  This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide.  They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies.  And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too!  He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes.  It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.  The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”

New People (Spiritual Transformation) 

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.  The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore … 

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings) 
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf) 
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

  This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc.  And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized.  Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.  

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing.  When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission.  And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship.  This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves.  This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us.  It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us. 

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge.  Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this.  And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.  

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

You can download the rest of the chapter here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 7 WHY NEW

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BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 8 HOW NEW.

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For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

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TRANSFER GROWTH & In the past, churches could grow by drawing nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case.” #ThomRainer

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/14/18.

… (Rainer:) “ministry is harder now than it used to be.” In the past, he said, churches could grow by drawing in nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case,” he said.

Many churches rightly jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism, but they failed to replace it with anything else, Rainer asserted. “Instead of reaching out,” he said, “they became inward-focused.”

Yet Rainer was optimistic about the future as he spoke at the breakfast with Jonathan Howe, director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay and co-host of the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast.

Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

…Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/13/thom-rainer-points-way-forward-despite-denominational-challenges/

SPIRITUAL TRAMSFORMATION & Christians more intentional, but less likly to share the message of the Good News since 1993.

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/1

… According to a new study from Barna, compared to 25 years ago, Christians today say they try to be more intentional about sharing their faith, but fewer say evangelism is the responsibility of every believer.

In 1993, 9 in 10 Christians (89 percent) who had shared their faith said every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith. Today, only two-thirds (64 percent) of Christians who had a conversation about faith agree—a 25-point drop.

When asked about how they share their faith, modern Christians are more likely to stick to a set formula or certain strategy than were Christians in the early ’90s. More than 4 in 10 Christians in 2018 (44 percent) say they use the same basic approach each time they have an evangelistic conversation, compared with 33 percent in 1993.

The most common approaches today are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70 percent) and sharing their faith through their lifestyle (65 percent).

Those methods were common a quarter of a century ago as well, with 74 percent saying they ask questions and 77 percent saying they share with their lifestyle rather than their words.

The most common method in 1993, however, has since fallen out of favor. Almost 8 in 10 of Christians who had a conversation about faith (78 percent) said then they spoke about the benefits of accepting Jesus. Today, only 50 percent do that.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/05/16/christians-more-intentional-less-evangelistic-since-1993/