TRAINING LEADERS & Easy Steps to Fostering Apprenticeship in Your Organization #SpiritualWaypointsBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 196-197.

(In other postings I’ve discussed “Mentoring” and “Formal Training” for church leaders.  For more on this topic see these postings which are also excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey).

Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]Apprenticeship, on the other hand, is more focused action than mentoring. Apprenticeship means focusing on one specific job. For example, a Sunday School teacher might recruit an ―apprentice‖ and groom them to be their replacement. To foster apprenticeship, there are also two fundamental rules to follow.

Require job descriptions for all professional and lay positions. Job descriptions should include:

  • The number of hours customarily required each week to adequately undertake these duties.
  • The leadership hierarchal structure, i.e. to whom the leader reports and those individuals the leader oversees.
  • A detailed description of the task, including paragraph long examples describing: exceptional work, adequate work, and unacceptable work.
  • A reminder that an updated version of the job description is required to be submitted when a person resigns from a job.

Require a designated apprentice for all jobs. In today‘s fluid and flexible culture, jobs will change and workers will depart. Thus, for continuity it is necessary for all leaders to train their replacement, even if the leader does not intend to leave in the foreseeable future. Thus, an apprenticeship strategy should:

  • Be required throughout an organization, and thus be acknowledged by those who are being led, as well as by all leaders.
  • Allow the apprentice to lead (under the supervision of the leader) at least 25 percent of the time.
  • Allow the apprentice to attend and receive the same training as the senior leader.


TRAINING LEADERS & How to Foster Apprenticeship & Mentoring #SpiritualWaypointsBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 194-195.

(In other postings I’ve discussed more specifics of “Apprenticeship” “Mentoring” and “Formal Training” for church leaders.  For more on this topic see these postings which are also excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey).

Churches often worry about allowing novices to engage in hands-on ministry too soon, especially those travelers who have just completed Waypoint 4: Spiritual Foundations. A common opinion is that travelers need time to ―get to know the way we do things here.‖ Yet one of the most prevalent and productive methods to foster leadership is to encourage hand-on training.

Foster hands-on training and expect failures.

Volunteers must be permitted to roll up their sleeves and engage in actual ministry. Jesus exemplified this when he sent out the twelve disciples (Matt. 10:1–42; Mark 6:6b–13) along with thirty-six teams of two (Luke 10:1–24). And he knew they were not fully ready for everything they would encounter. Since Jesus is all knowing (1 Sam. 2:3; 1 Chron. 28:9; John 16:30), he knew his disciples would flounder at times. And Jesus chose not to prevent this. For example, Jesus knew beforehand that the disciples would not be able to cast out the demons they encountered (Matt. 17:16–19). Yet Jesus used this failure to teach them about the additional preparation needed in prayer, faith, and fasting (Matt. 17:20–21; Mark 9:29). Because Jesus let them flounder and fail, lessons learned would not be forgotten. Therefore, allowing a person to be involved in hands-on ministry, and even to make some initial missteps, can drive home a lesson.
Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]
Foster apprenticeship and mentoring.

In the above biblical story, Jesus did not leave his disciples without advice or follow-up. Jesus beckoned his disciples to live with him (Matt. 4:18–20; 8:20), to travel with him (Mark 1:16–20), to watch him as he ministered (Mark 1:29–45), report back to him (Matt.17:16–19) and to be accountable to him (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10). This gave his disciples informal learning opportunities, an ingredient that many churches underutilize. Too often new volunteers are abandoned when previous volunteers think they are now relieved of their duty and free to depart. But nothing could be further from the truth. New volunteers need an extended time to learn the wealth of knowledge the previous leaders have accumulated. Returning to our example above, Jesus spent months with his disciples before and after he sent them out. And even then the disciples‘ mistakes dogged their mission.

Such training can be fostered by both apprenticeship and mentoring. Apprenticeship is training for a specific task, while mentoring trains a leader in a range of ministries. For example, a newly graduated seminarian might be mentored in preaching, delegation, worship, etc. This would be an example of mentoring, for the seasoned leader works with the novice in a broad range of duties.

Speaking hashtags: #StLiz

RELIGION & Is Christianity in America doomed? #PewResearch

by David Linker, The Week, 5/15/15.

(Based on Pew Research)…The future of religion in America depends to a considerable extent on the future spiritual disposition of the “nones” — the religiously unaffiliated Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Their remarkably rapid growth — up from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent of the population in just seven years — is closely connected to the fact that more than one third (36 percent) of the so-called Millennial generation declines to affiliate with any religion. As elderly Americans, who are far more religious, die off, they are being replaced, demographically, by what seems to be the most secular generation in American history.

It’s clear that these young people have little interest in taking part in religious traditions or institutions. But are they truly godless? And will their lack of faith persist as they age?

The answers to those questions are what will determine the shape of America’s religious, cultural, and moral character over the coming decades.

Teasing out the answers with any confidence will require more polling. But the current Pew poll can get us started — and point pollsters in the direction of the kinds of questions they need to start asking the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew helpfully breaks the nones down into three groups:

* Those who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. (25 percent in 2007; 31 percent in 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” and consider religion either not at all important or not very important. (Steady at 39 percent from 2007 to 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” but nonetheless consider religion to be somewhat or very important. (36 percent in 2007; 30 percent in 2014.)..

Read more at …

RELIGION & Pew Research Center’s New Report on Religion in America Shows the Power of Choosing Your Own Faith #TheAtlanticMagazine

by Emma Green, The Atlantic Monthly, 5/12/15.

…Every American has a religion story, which is why it’s a little strange to think of America as an increasingly secular nation. That would be one way to read the Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study, a massive survey of more than 35,000 American adults. Over the last seven years, it found, the share of Americans who aren’t part of any religion has grown significantly, rising from 16 to nearly 23 percent of the population. A small portion of this group are atheists and agnostics—3 and 4 percent, respectively. More commonly, though, they are detached from organized religion altogether. When asked what religion they identify with, they answer simply: “Nothing in particular.” All in all, roughly one in ten Americans say religion is “not at all important” to them.

But the survey actually reveals something more complex than a slow and steady march toward secularization. Those who didn’t identify with any particular religion were asked a follow-up question: “How important is religion in your life?” The answers reveal that this group might be churchless, but it’s not wholly faithless: 44 percent said religion is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, while 56 percent said religion isn’t important to them, according to Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. This is a slight drop compared to findings from a similar survey taken in 2007: That year, 48 percent of the “nones” said religion was important to them, while 52 percent said it wasn’t.Even taking this decline into account, there’s a pretty significant group of Americans who don’t identify with a particular denomination or congregation, but who still care about religion to some degree. That’s not the pattern of a Godless nation; it’s the pattern of people finding God on their own terms.

And that holds true even among many of those who do identify with a particular faith. The survey gives at least a partial look at what the researchers call “religious switching”: People converting to other faiths, joining new kinds of churches, or ditching religion altogether. If you count switches among the major traditions in Protestantism (mainline, evangelical, and historically black congregations), roughly 42 percent of Americans no longer consider themselves part of the religion in which they were raised. The researchers point out that this estimate is probably on the low side; many people leave their childhood religions, only to return to them later in life. If those decisions were measured, the estimates of “religious switching” would likely be even higher…

Read more at …

SPIRITUAL GIFTS LIST & How to Help Others Discover Their Ministry Calling #SpiritualWaypointsBook

by Bob Whitesel, excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Waypoint 2: Ministry Emergence

“So remember, every picture tells a story don’t it.” – Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, musicians and songwriters[i]

Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]Artistic Emergence (the true life story of author/worship leader Sally Morgenthaller)

Though not yet three years old, Sally climbed on the piano bench and began pounding out a song. Soon Sally added words, and much to her mother’s surprise Sally began to weave a song describing God’s restoration of a destroyed world. “The song began very ominous,” remembered Sally. “The music began dark and sad because humans had done such evil to the world. But then the music turned cheerful, and I played very lightly. I began singing about how God was restoring happiness and joy to the world. I like the word emergence, Bob,” continued Sally, “for from a very young age I had a sense of an emerging divine presence and a special gifting to make Him known.”

By the time she was a teenager Sally carried a camera wherever she went. “I wanted to use pictures to tell stories of how God works. I looked for God’s divine activity in everyday life. I felt it was through artistic gifts that I was created to share God’s message.”

Slowly Sally’s artistic bent shaped her writing as well. One day in church the worship leader said, “In worship we should encounter God.” “So I began reporting on what God was doing during worship in my life and in the lives of others,” recalled Sally. “God united my artistic gifts with my writing talents. The result was a book called Worship Evangelism about how people are reencountering God through worship.”

“But my journey is really about how telling God’s story through artistic expression. I want to bring to people a hope in God. And, I want to help people see His subtle but obvious presence.”

Waypoint Characteristics:

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 2

Travelers may experiment with a variety of ministries. At this juncture the traveler may yearn to try their hand at numerous ministries that the seasoned traveler may feel are unsuitable for them. But some experimentation, within spiritual, moral and theological boundaries, must be allowed. This is because the traveler must learn to discern the difference between spiritually empowered gifts and those whose that have their genesis in human aspiration. The importance of personal spiritual confirmation will be explored under Action 2.4.

Travelers may focus too narrowly on one ministry. While some travelers will try many ministry options, others will focus too narrowly, smitten with the first Spirit empowered ministry they experience. The community of faith must encourage the traveler to see God’s diverse matrix of gifts as well as realize that all ministry requires a mixture of gifts. A leader’s unique assortment of gifts is what Clinton calls a “gift-mix.”[ii] And, this mixture may be received in different proportions and in different strengths. Rarely do Christians have just one gift, for God’s creation is customarily a wonderful synthesis of diversity. Sally Morgenthaler most likely has a gift mix of encouragement, artist and prophecy.[iii] And, these might just be the most noticeable ones, for God’s creation is customarily comprised of a splendid array of elements. The community of faith must encourage the wayfarer to not just focus on the first gift that emerges in their ministry, but to continue to explore God’s endowment for their lives.

Actions That Help W2 Travelers

At this waypoint traits, abilities, skills or behaviors[iv] can become supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit as manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that these can be understood as gifts or manifestations. Theologian James D. G. Dunn observes that they are “gifts” because they are given, and “manifestations” because they attest to the reality of the unseen Giver.[v] And, according to the Scriptures these are given to all Christians:[vi]

1 Cor. 12:7     “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Eph. 4:7          “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Clinton states that at this waypoint the leader now “recognizes that part of God’s guidance for ministry comes through establishing ministry priorities by discerning gifts.”[vii] Discerning or determining a leader’s gift-mix can take place through the following four actions.

Action 2.1: Learn About Your Gifts

The route toward discovering a leader’s gift matrix begins with a study of the gifts in Scriptures. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary gift lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14; Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe approximately 25 gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, because none of the gift lists are complete in themselves, it is reasonable to conclude that there may be other plausible gifts if they can be Scripturally verified.[viii] Therefore, I have listed an additional gift of “artist” that is not mentioned in the main gifts lists, but which appears to have attestation in Scripture and church history.

Here is a annotated expansion of the list the reader first encountered at Waypoint 11:[ix]

Gift Explanation Scripture
Administration Effective planning and organization 1 Cor. 2:28; Acts 6:1-7
Discernment Distinguish between error and truth 1 Cor. 12:10; Acts 5:1-11
Encouragement Ability to comfort, console, encourage and counsel Rom. 12:8; Hebrews 10:25; Timothy 4:13
Evangelism Building relationships that help travelers move toward a personal relationship with Christ Luke 19:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:5
Faith Discerning with extraordinary con-fidence the will & purposes of God 1 Cor. 12:9, Acts 11:22-24, Hebrews 11, Rom. 4:18-21
Giving Cheerfully giving of resources without remorse Romans 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7, 9:2-8; Mark 12:41-44
Hospitality Creating comfort and assistance for those in need[x] 1 Peter 4:9, Rom. 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Heb. 13:1-2
Intercession Passionate, extended and effective prayer James 5:14-16, 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Col. 1:9-12, 4:12-13
Knowledge[xi] To discover, accumulate, analyze and clarify information and ideas which are pertinent to the well being of a Christian community 1 Cor. 2:14, 12:8, Acts 5:1-11, Colossians 2:2-3
Leadership To cast vision, set goals and motivate to cooperatively accomplish God’ purposes Luke 9:51; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:17
Mercy To feel authentic empathy and compassion accompanied by action that reflects Christ’s love and alleviates suffering Romans 12:8, Matt. 25:34-36; Luke 10:30-37
Prophecy[xii] Providing guidance by explaining & proclaiming God’s truth 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:6; Acts 21:9-11
Helps Investing time and talents in others to increase other’s effectiveness 1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 16:1-2, Acts 9:36
Service[xiii] A tactical gift that identifies steps and processes in tasks. 2 Tim. 1:16-18, Rom. 12:7, Acts 6:1-7
Pastor Long-term personal responsibility for the welfare of spiritual travelers. Eph. 4:1-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, John 10:1-18, 1 Peter 5:1-3
Teaching Communicating relevant information that results in learning 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:7, Acts 18:24-28, 20:20-21
Wisdom[xiv] To have insight into how to apply knowledge 1 Cor. 2:1-13, 12:8. Acts 6:3, 10; James 1:5-6, 2 Peter 3: 15-16
Missionary Using spiritual gifts effectively in a non-indigenous culture 1 Cor. 9:19-21, Acts 8:4, 13:2-3, 22:21; Rom. 10:15
Miracles To perform compelling acts that are perceived by observers to have altered the ordinary course of nature 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Acts 9:36-42, 19:11-20, 20:7-12; Rom. 15:18-19, 2 Cor. 12:12
Healing To serve as human intermediaries through whom it pleases God to restore health 1 Cor. 12:9, 28; Acts 3:1-10, 5:12-16, 9:32-35, 28:7-10
Tongues[xv] Various explanations of this gift include: (a) to speak to God in a language they have never learned and/or (b) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to his people.[xvi] Another option is that this can mean an ability to speak a foreign language and convey concepts across cultures. 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 14:13-19, Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:1-7
Interpretation To make known a message of one who speaks in tongues.[xvii] And/or it can mean “those who help build bridges across cultural, generational and language divides.” [xviii] 1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 14:13, 26-28
Voluntary poverty To renounce material comfort and luxury to assist others 1 Cor. 13:1-3, Acts 2:44:45, 4:34-37, 2 Cor. 6:10, 8:9
Celibacy To remain single with joy and not suffer undue sexual temptation 1 Cor. 7:7-8, Matt. 19:10-12
Martyrdom[xix] Ability to undergo suffering for the faith even to death, while displaying an attitude that brings glory to God 1 Cor. 13:3
A gift that is not mentioned directly in the New Testament gift lists,

but which is seen at other junctures in the Scriptures and Church history.

Artist[xx] The ability to communicate God’s message via artistic mediums. 1 Chron. 5, Psalm 33:3, 42:8, 74:21; 149:1, 150, Col. 3:16 & Eph 5:19.
Action 2.2: Find a Need.

The next step is to look for a need that must be filled. The Scriptures say that “…to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), so that “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). Since the purpose is “the common good” and to “serve others,” areas in need of serving become a required starting point. Therefore, the community of faith must help wayfarers begin their discovery process not with leader, nor with the gifts, but with the needs of others that beg to be filled.

Action 2.3: Test Your Gifts.

Ray Stedman said, “you discover a spiritual gift just like you discovered your natural talents.”[xxi] Gift discovery often continues with testing various gifts that can meet the needs identified in Action 2.2. There are certainly some gifts that do not lend themselves to experimentation, such as the gift of martyrdom. But for most gifts, researching and testing is a way to discover your gifts.

Still, sometimes a need is so vital that experimentation is not recommended. In such cases there are spiritual gift questionnaires that can assist a wayfarer. Most of these questionnaires are based upon the work of Richard Houts.[xxii] Many denominational offices have theologically distinct versions available as well.

However, I have noticed that gift inventories are often given without subsequent follow-up or exploration. Churches often require congregants to take such inventories but do little with the results. Such inventories will only help if they are followed by testing, where under the supervision of a trained mentor the person puts into practice their perceived gift.

Action 2.4: Expect Confirmation

A supervisor should give confirmation. Because all ministry involves human souls and spiritual destinies, it is critical that all testing be supervised. James Dunn points out that Paul encouraged supervision in Corinth to prevent overindulgence in the more unusual gifts.[xxiii]

The person exercising the gift should expect confirmation. God gives good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11) and thus while exercising in giftedness, leaders should sense an anointing in their work. In The Greening of the Church, Findley Edge labels this the “eureka” factor, because a person senses that “this, really, is what I had rather do for God than anything else in the world.”[xxiv]

The recipient should give confirmation. Testing should not be done in an autocratic or detached manner, but rather in close partnership with the recipient. This is called “action research” for it signifies research that is conducted with the active involvement of the recipient and their input. The recipient is not a guinea pig, but rather a soul formed in God’s image. As such, the recipient possesses valuable feedback for the minister.

The community of faith should give confirmation. When a leader operates with a God-given gifting, one that has been given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7) and “to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10), then the community of faith should perceive and appreciate that common good as well as the appropriateness of that service.

[i] Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, “Every Picture Tells a Story,” album by the same title (Los Angeles: Polygram Records, 1971)

[ii] Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 32.

[iii] See the definitions and Scriptural explanation of these gifts in Figure XX.X.

[iv] Leadership scholar Peter Northouse describes traits, abilities, skills and behaviors as the basic building blocks of leadership (Introduction to Leadership, 2-3). Traits are inherent and endowed qualities, abilities are aptitudes developed by experience, skills are methods for carrying out leadership, and behaviors are what leaders do with traits, abilities and skills. Northouse makes a persuasive argument that all leaders develop these elements of leadership. 1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:7 and 1 Peter 4:10 appear to indicate that such predilections take on supernatural vigor when empowered by the Holy Spirit.

[v] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit: A Study in the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 205-209.

[vi] The author is indebted to Eddie Gibbs for this comparative structure from I Believe in Church Growth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981), 325.

[vii] Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 32.

[viii] Wagner holds that witnessing a gift in use in the Body of Christ verifies its legitimacy (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 67). I disagree with Wagner here, who embraces in my view a too open-ended approach to spiritual gifts I find Wagner’s viewpoint interesting, and possibly supportable if there is spiritually mature verification (c.f. 1 Corinthians 12-14). However, this may be forcing the text to express too much from silence. I see the lack of comprehensive nature in the three gift lists suggesting other Biblically verifiable gifts, but not going so far as to support just any gift that appears in the Church. For more on a Scriptural three-criteria assessment of spiritual gifts, see Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit, 293-297.

[ix] Adapted from the United Methodist Church’s Explore Your Spiritual Gifts (, 2009), Jack W. MacGorman’s The Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974), Kenneth C. Kinghorn’s Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), and C. Peter Wagner’s Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow: How to Find Your Gifts and Use Them to Bless Others (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1994). Note that the list tendered here is not definitive, nor exhaustive. Rather it is a codification of the above gift inventories and designed to provide a holistic list for Christian communities seeking to help travelers at Waypoint 2. For a chart of the gifts correlated with their Biblical attestations, see George Elton Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), 534-535.

[x] The gift of hospitality is often primarily associated, though erroneously, with church assimilation programs such as hosting newcomer tables, greeting church visitors, etc.. However, when the Scriptures discuss the gift of hospitality, something more radical and basic is indicated by the context. For example, Peter admonishes the church in 1 Peter 1:9 to offer hospitality in scenarios where grumbling might be the normal reaction. The context of Peter’s admonition (1 Peter 1:1-11) indicates that Peter is talking about giving hospitality not only to the Christians, but also to those that heap abuse upon Christians. Such radical hospitality means meeting what Maslow described as physiological and safety needs before that person is ready to have their needs met for belongingness and love met (Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, p. 300-394; and Abraham H. Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, p. 300).

[xi] This is a gift for which there are several interpretations. Assemblies of God writer Donald Gee sees the gift of knowledge as a supernatural forth-telling (Donald Gee, Concerning Spiritual Gifts [Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1972). Others like Wagner (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow) take a less supernatural route, noting that “those who have this gift are superior learners” (190). It is not this author’s intention to side with one interpretation over the other, for readers from various backgrounds and theology will use this book. Therefore, this book is designed to describe the gifts from varying perspectives, to allow the reader to embrace the interpretation that best fits their understanding, tradition and theology.

[xii] Here again there are several perspectives. For examples of the differences see Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts and Kinghorn’s Gifts of the Spirit.

[xiii] The gift of service is sometimes attached too exclusively to administrative tasks (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 258), when in the context of verses such as 2 Tim. 1:16-18, the gift of service indicates organizing to meet the needs of all others. Thus, the gift of service should not be primarily a service to the church, but equally indicate serving the needs of those outside the church.

[xiv] This is another gift which has a more supernatural tenor in Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Kinghorn (Gifts of the Spirit) and Wagner (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow) see the gift of wisdom differently, as those possessing insight and perception into problems and solutions.

[xv] See the United Methodist Church’s definition in “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,”, 2009.

[xvi] Regarding this gift, see Wagner’s Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow for a Charismatic viewpoint and Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts for a Classical Pentecostal viewpoint on this gift.

[xvii] The Charismatic and Classical Pentecostal viewpoints are best described by Wagner in Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, p. 256-257.

[xviii] For another viewpoint of this and other gifts see the United Methodist Church’s definitions in “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,”, 2009

[xix] For the stories of five missionary martyrs, see Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 62-63.

[xx] Some authors list craftsmanship and music as gifts of the Holy Spirit (c.f. Christian A. Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Ministry [St. Charles, Ill.: ChurchSmart Resources, 2001], 157), but these designations are actually sub-categories of artist. To use these sub-categories, ignores the important Scriptural attestations to the Old Testament artisans who worked in varied crafts and mediums. Thus, for a more holistic understanding artist better sums up this categorical gift. Needless to say, Sally Morgenthaler’s story illustrates the various permutations of what may be an artistic gifting.

[xxi]Ray Stedman, Body Life, (Ventura, Calif: Regal Books, 1972), 54.

[xxii] Richard Houts originally published his thoughts in Eternity Magazine (Philadelphia: Evangelical Foundation, 1976). He also penned the Houts Inventory of Spiritual Gifts: A Self-assessment Instrument to Help Ascertain Your Ministry Gift, or Gifts, And the Related Opportunities for Christian Service (Pasadena, Calif.: Fuller Evangelistic Association, 1985). Other authors have adapted the Houts questionnaire to specific audiences and denominational perspectives, including Ruth Towns and Elmer Towns, Women Gifted For Ministry: How To Discover And Practice Your Spiritual Gifts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001); David Stark, Sandra Hirsch and Jane Kise, LifeKeys: Discovering Who Your Are (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), Aubrey Malphurs, Maximizing Your Effectiveness (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2006), 199-208; Larry Gilbert, Spiritual Gifts Inventory: Discover Your Spiritual Gift in Only 20 Minutes (Elkton, Maryland: Church Growth Institute, 1999); and specifically for teens Jane Kise and Kevin Johnson, Find Your Fit: Dare to Act on God’s Gift for You (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999).

[xxiii] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit:, 291-300.

[xxiv] Findley B. Edge, The Greening of the Church (Dallas, Texas: Word, 1971), 141.

CULTURE & The Important Difference Between Assimilation & Acculturation

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D.

In the field of missional leadership, it is important to understand the difference between “assimilation” and “acculturation.”  While there is some authors who use the terms interchangeably, classic research by Teske and Nelson ( 1974: pp. 351-367) found that assimilation and acculturation are widely divergent.

They found that most scholars were consistent in saying that “assimilation” forces others to leave their culture and become like the dominant culture.  And they found that “acculturation” allows out-group members to adapt parts of their culture with the in-group culture and form a new hybrid culture.

Let me explain what Teske and Nelson found.


  • Is unidirectional. Change only happens within one culture and this culture becomes a clone of the dominant culture.
  • The out-group members have to change their values and embrace the values of the dominant in-group. Out-group members must now value the things the dominant in-group values. While this may be necessary with theology, it does not respect their culture when they are forced to adopt the dominant culture’s methodology too.
  • Out-group members must accept the dominant culture as superior.


  • Is “two-way, that is, may occur in both directions” (p. 365). In other words, the dominant culture may change too by its interaction with the out-group. The out-group may bring some new and/or outside perspective that helps expand the awareness of the in-group.  For example, new young people coming into our churches can help the choir or the traditional order of worship employ a contemporary chorus (but the choir may rewrite the chorus to make it more consistent with their musical genre).  The idea is that in acculturation both sides influence one other for good (and hopefully not for bad).
  • Does not require change in what the out-group values.  Out-group members can value the same things as before, where these values do not conflict with the values God wishes for His offspring.
  • Out-group and in-group members see both cultures as having value. Reconciliation between cultures occurs.

Now, acculturation does not mean accepting all elements of a culture. For some elements of every culture run counter to God’s Good News.  Here is how I have stated, this (Spiritual Waypoints, 2010, p. 74):

When elements of a culture run counter to the Good News, and others are in agreement with it, what should be done? Eddie Gibbs has provided a helpful metaphor in the image of cultural “sifting” (Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, 1981, p. 120). Sifting separates out unwanted elements from wanted elements, most notably in cooking where a mesh strainer such as a colander will sift out impurities. The task of explaining the Good News to wayfarers at Waypoint 13, also carries the requirement that we sift between elements of a culture that go against Christ’s news and those that do not.  To not fully explain God’s expectations is to misinform and ill prepare the traveler.  Some Christians avoid the task of doing this, perhaps because championing God’s requirements is awkward in comparison to lauding His rewards.  But both must be undertaken.  A leader who is not ready to sift elements of a culture and tactfully explain what can be retained and what must be abandoned, is not ready to travel forward with the wayfarer.

As you can see, the term “acculturation” is technically the better term, for what we often refer to in our churches as “assimilation.”

Now, while most people in out-groups (e.g. visitors, displaced volunteers, ignored leaders, etc.) will never know the difference between these two terms; it will be important for up-and-coming missional leaders to understand (and be able to articulate) the difference.

Gibbs, E. (1981). I believe in church growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Teske, R. H.C. & Nelson, B. H. (1974). Acculturation and assimilation: A clarification. American Ethnologist, Vol 1, No. 2. pp. 351-367.
Whitesel, B. (2010). Spiritual waypoints: Helping others navigate the journey. Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House.