VITUAL CHURCH & Weaknesses/Strengths of Going to Church in Virtual Reality by @BobWhitesel via @BiblicalLeader #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality/

SCREENSHOT Whitesel Going to Church in Virtual Reality.png

3. Accountability eclipsed by entertainment

4. Technology drives expenditures

5. Disenfranchised continue to be marginalized/ignored

6. Reconciliation takes more effort

7. Spiritual transformation is downplayed

Recently I had the opportunity to pull together speakers for the annual conference of the Great Commission Research Network. These were speakers who had experience leading online churches. You can find more information from the conference at these links:

SOCIAL MEDIA & Questions to stimulate discussion on how churches can more effectively utilize social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA & #NathanClark the leader of one of the nation’s first online communities tells the best thing a small church can do to connect & minister online

In addition one of my students from Kingswood University in Canada has started a church with her husband that includes an online service. Find more info about their multiplication strategy here: SOCIAL MEDIA & How a Toronto church plant uses gaming site Twitch to create online bible studies & community

Finally, here is a good video from CNN that gives a introduction to online churches.//fave.api.cnn.io/v1/fav/?video=us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme&customer=cnn&edition=domestic&env=prod

You can also view the CNN video here: https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme

MILLENNIAL LEADERSHIP & What Boomers & Xers must do differently to lead millennials

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Feb./Mar. 2019.

I find it refreshing to return full time to my passion of coaching churches on church health and revitalization, after two decades of teaching graduate school and seminary students. But my teaching and consulting worked well together for two important reasons:

Organix_final.ai

  1. I became especially attuned to how to lead millennials, because most of my students were in millennial generations (Generations Y & Z). 
  2. And, I became increasingly aware that older leaders (Boomers and Xers) must change their leadership styles radically to to lead millennials, which led to my book “ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church” (Abingdon Press).

You may ask, “Why must I learn to lead millennials, most of my congregants are older?” Though this may be true, you must lead millennial generations in order to create a new lifecycle in church revitalization. 

Here are 7 ways you must lead millennials differently.

Communication systems: In the millennial culture communication is increasingly electronic mediated. Twitter, Facebook, emails, instant messaging, Instagram, Snapchat are are all efficient ways for millennials to get their information. If you’re trying to make them aware of what your church is doing to reach out, you must communicate through their electronic mediums.

Rx: Cross-cultural communication usually begins with one-on-one communication. Have your organization’s leaders each find and begin to mentor a millennial mentee. Ask the millennial to help you communicate to their fellow millennials what you are doing. A standard missiological method is to ask someone from the indigenous culture to help translate your message. They may not actually agree with your message yet, as they translate it they will be learning about it.

7.2 systems yellowReconciliation systems: Millennials have grown up in an age of outrage and cultural fissures. At the same time many want to bridge those divides. The New Testament reminds us the Good News traveled from Jewish believers to Gentile oppressors in a similar time of division and outrage. The Letter to the Romans is an example of the Holy Spirit’s ability to create a unifying Messianic subculture filled with Good News. Among my client and student millennials, I’ve found they want leaders who do not polarize the church, but rather foster a community where dialogue is accompanied by biblical fidelity.

Rx: Foster opportunities to dialogue, understand, forgive and reconcile people who have been polarized over differences. Paul said, “…we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong… Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:16–19).  To Paul reconciliation is a dual process: 

    1. “not evaluating people by what they have or how they look” (v. 16) and
    2. “anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (v. 17). 

Supernatural system: The Hebrew word “worship” literally means to come close to God’s feet and kiss them in homage. This is how worship should be measured, not in flow, performance or excellence. And though millennials have many worship styles, most millennials are united in their uncomfortableness with their parents’ quest for worship “excellence.”

img_0632-3Rx: The solution is to take the focus away from styles and excellence of worship, and put the emphasis back upon the biblical “purpose of worship.” Worship should be evaluated by how well it brings attendees into what I have called, a “face-to-foot encounter.”

Regeneration system: The Good News is news of salvation and change. Most churches have a weak regeneration system. They often have seen few salvations and few changes in congregants’ attitudes. Because millennials have grown up in such an age of rage, they support organizations that help change people for the better. Millennials must find the chruch recapturing its rightful place as a place where people and communities are being changed for the better.

Rx: This requires praying for and allowing the Holy Spirit to work by liberating people from sins, addictions, abuse, bigotry etc. as well as changing the neighborhoods in which the congregants live. Programs that help people change their lives (e.g. divorce recovery, 12-step addiction recovery programs, grief recovery and most importantly the salvation experience) should be what a church is known for.  While researching John Wesley and the power behind his methods, I found a key method was a requirement that every small group regularly help the poor, and so fulfill Matt. 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Involvement system: Millennials expect to experiment with volunteerism, even before they have expertise. Because millennials have experienced a world of knowledge on handheld devices since they can remember, they learn by experience more than by long training sessions or wordy manuals. 

Rx: Increase latitude on who gets to volunteer and what responsibilities they are given. This doesn’t mean giving people responsibility for which they’re not qualified or suitable, for example I’m not suggesting a non-believer distribute the sacraments, etc. But in other areas millennials can be given opportunities to volunteer, even early on in their spiritual journey.

Unified system: Raised in an enraged and divided world, millennials seek a spiritual community that has a higher degree of unity than they have experienced in the world. As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Millennials don’t expect the church to be dissonance free, but they do expect it to be more harmonious than what they experience in the world. 

Rx: Millennials look for a church where conflicted parties sit down and discuss their differences. Conflict resolution theories suggest the first step is to get the divided parties talking directly to one another. The second step is to ensure the leader does not get in the middle. This takes the leader out of being a go-between (who can be blamed by both sides) and gets people connecting directly with one another to understand and grow through face-to-face discussion.

Competent system: On the one hand, millennials often focus their churches on a few signature programs that draw people from across a region. On the other hand, Boomers and Xer churches often saturate a narrowly defined community offering a wide variety of programs (often with mixed results). Studies have shown that healthy churches have a specialized ministry competency that is appreciated by the non-churchgoing community. Not surprisingly, millennials have come to expect churches to know what they’re good at doing and to focus their time, talent and treasures toward what God has empowered them to do.

Rx: Ask community leaders what your church is known for and which of your programs the community most appreciates. Then with millennial mentees assisting, begin to sketch out what God has uniquely empowered your church to do well and that the community appreciates. Ask your millennials to help you expand on these signature ministries by slowly allocating more time, talent and treasure toward your God-given ministry competency.

Find more ideas for church revitalization at www.7Systems.church 

Download the article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – What Boomers & Xers must do differently to lead millennials, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Feb. 2019

7 systems yellow

CHANGE & Eight (8) Research Proven, Field-tested Steps to Change a Church (seminar presentation w/ handouts)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 6/21/15. (adapted and annotated by the author from his book with Mark DeYmaz, reMix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color, Abingdon Press, 2017).

So, what steps are required to transition a church?  Just 8 really.

John Kotter is a renowned and respected change coach who perfected eight steps for organizational change that have been applied successfully to thousands of organizational transitions.1  Harvard Business Review said, “Perhaps nobody understands the anatomy of organizational change better than retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.”2

NOTE:  Here is a link Kotter’s seminal 1995 article and #InfoGraphic on change and the best overview of this Harvard professor’s change methods.

I have consulted or mentored hundreds of church transitions. And, I have found Kotter’s eight stages to be reliable, valid and important steps for a healthy church transition to living color.

Here are the key phases for implementing the principles and procedures of a church revitalization.

figure-whitesel-kotters-8-steps-for-church

8 Steps to Transforming Your Church 3

1. “Establishing a Sense of Urgency.”

  • It is important to begin with a period of time where you acquaint the congregants with the need and Biblical mandate for transitioning to a church living color.  Because of the urgent situation, many church leaders will be tempted to ignore this step and launch headlong into transition.  Yet, in my consulting work I have found that this step is critical.  Pray, study, research and dialogue on the importance of a church transition first.
  • Share the urgency is multiple venues.  Don’t just use sermons, but let this be the topic of Bible studies, discussion groups, prayer groups, small groups and Sunday School classes.
  • Remember, urgency is a key.  Congregants must understand that we are today at the point where changes in communities across North America requires churches to stand up for Biblical principles of growth and change.

2. “Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition.”

  • The second step which you must successfully navigate is the development of an influential and guiding coalition.  Even though you might think you know the situation the best, due to history, education or background: a church is a communal organization and leadership works best when there is a communal leadership.  Find those that resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation.
  • Look for “persons of peace.”  When Jesus told his disciples to spread out and take their message to the byways and villages of the Israel, he suggested they rely upon persons of “peace” they might encounter (Luke 10:6).  The Greek word for peace is derived from the word “to join” and it literally means a person who helps people from divergent viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result.4 So, enlist people who are “peacemakers” who have demonstrated they can bring warring and opposing parties together.
  • Listen to the naysayers, even though they may not be part of your guiding coalition, your coalition should hear them out.  This is a step that if overlooked will usually splinter the congregation. This is because research has shown that unless you go to the naysayers and listen to them, they will feel left out of the consultative process and eventually fight the change.5  So go to those who will most affected or displaced and listen to them.  Hearing them out has been shown to create new networks of dialogue that can prevent polarization.  But, you must go to them early in the vision creating process.

3. “Creating a Vision.”

  • People must see the future before they can work toward it.  The goal is to have an easy to read, clear vision statement in no more than a paragraph.
  • Get all of the members of your guiding coalition to help you draft, refine and edit your vision. NOTE: vision & mission are often confused, but very different. At this link I explain how to differentiate them: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/change-why-it-wont-happen-unless-you-understand-the-important-difference-between-mission-vision/
  • Many times church leaders rely solely on a written statement of vision. While this is helpful (if drawn up with input from your guiding coalition, see above) you must create a vision with the following “communication elements” too.

NOTE:  A vision should be a “visual representation” of what the church will look like in 5 years.  USE:  (a.) A small group to create, (b) a short statement to communicate.  Here is an article on “The Art of Crafting a 15-word Strategy Statement” from Harvard Business Review  Good vision statements and Poor Vision Statements (compared).

4. “Communicating the Vision.”

  • Use all communication vehicles available to you: written, vocal, electronic, narrative, arts, mixed-media, etc.
  • Experience it first-hand by taking your leaders and congregants to places where turnaround ministry is being done. In these locales congregants can see first hand, ask questions and experience the heart of a ministry that is being revitalized. Vision can be communicated best by picturing something rather than just writing out a paragraph of technical terms.
  • stone-stack-sign-1500x430Use stories to help people picture change.  Scott Wilcher while studying change found that successful change is more than twice as likely to occur if you attach a story to depict the change.6  In the Bible you can find dozens of Biblical stories that depict change.  Attach these stories to the vision to make the vision “come to life in a story” (after all that is what Jesus did with his compelling use of parables).

NOTE:  Read more of 12Stone’s story here.  CLICK here for a HANDOUT >>> HANDOUT Whitesel – Metaphor (popular) copy about how metaphor increases change from 30% success rate to 85% success rate.

SLIDE Metaphor 85% = 30% Change based on Wilcher

5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.”

  • Delegate your power to others.  Too many times passionate church leaders are tempted to go it alone. One pastor said, “Jesus had to do it alone.”  And atonement and redemption were definitely things that only the Son of God could accomplish. But remember, he rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his ministry (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9, 10).  You too must delegate to those you have mentored.
  • Create accountability.  Because the Good News (Matt. 28:19-20) is so essential, it requires that evaluation and accountability be central too.  Have regular checkup discussions with clear objectives.
  • Remember, because change can be polarizing, oversight and accountability for progress are essential.

6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.”

NOTE:  This is probably the most overlooked step.

  • This is the key step most overlooked.  Kotter discovered, and we have confirmed in our church consulting, that short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision.
  • Short-term wins are projects, programs and processes that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet).  But they demonstrate the validity of the transition in a quick, temporary way.  Thus, they pave the way for long-term wins.
  • Many short-term wins will convince reticent constituents of long-term legitimacy of the new direction.
  • Use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to investigate and launch new directions in ministries.  Then as task forces prove their effectiveness they can be transitioned into more permanent committees.

7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.”

  • As noted above, wins even in the short-term can give the leadership coalition the social capital to make structural changes.
  • Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t got enough buy-in from hesitant members and/or most of the congregation.
  • Only after your short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies.

NOTE:  There is a “continuum” or “progress toward” better models for a multicultural (or multiethnic) church.  All are found in The Health Church (Wesleyan Publishing House).  Here are three from good … better … and best:

8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.”

  • As your ministry moves in the exciting direction of revitalized ministry, encourage an organizational structure that promotes this in the future.
  • Institutionalizing principles of church transformation will allow you to reach out to new people and cultures as they develop in your community.
  • Finally for long-term health and viability, the revitalized church of must acquire a personality and reputation as a church of consistency in theology but change in Godly methodology.

You can download the article here >> WHITESEL ARTICLE 8 Steps to Changing a Church

Below is the slide I use in my presentations >>

figure-whitesel-kotters-8-steps-for-church

ENDNOTES:

1 John Kotter, Leading Change, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

2  Editor’s note to John Kotter, ibid. Harvard Business Review.

3  John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007), retrieved from https://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

4 James Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1515.

5 Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2008).

Scott Wilcher, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership to Transform your Workplace, Ph.D. dissertation (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013).

VIDEO of Scott Wilchert explaining the role of metaphor/story in communicating change:

Scott Wilchert, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013), video at this link.

ADDITIONAL FOOTNOTES for PowerPoint slides:

F. J. Barrett and D.L. Cooperrider, Generative metaphor intervention: A new approach for working with systems divided by conflict and caught in defensive perception, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 1990) Vol. 26, pp. 219-239

Julia Balogun and Veronica Hope Hailey, Exploring Strategic Change, 3rd Edition (New York: Pierson Publishing, 2008).

G. Bushe and A. Kassam,  When is Appreciative Inquiry Transformational? A Meta-Case Analysis, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Maryland: Silver Springs, NTL Institute, 2005) Vol. 41, pp. 161-18.

Sohail Inayatullah, “From Organizational to Institutional Change,” On the Horizon (London: Emerald Publishing, 2005), Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 46-53.

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolOfTheology

 

 

INTRODUCTION to the “7 systems” of 7Systems.church

img_2562Article by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Outreach Magazine, 1/8/2019.


1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring good news (Acts 13:32).

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message. Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden.

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the positiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a Growing Culture (reconciling system)

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African-American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

But there is another important aspect to reconciliation. Paul stated, “Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know … Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:16–17). Paul continues, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18–19).

Healthy churches to do stop at cultural reconciliation (any more than Paul did when reconciling differences between the Greek/Roman and Christian/Jewish cultures). Like Paul, a healthy reconciling system says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

How well does your church reconcile people to one another and to God?

3. Supernatural Worship (numinous system)

“Numinous” is a theologian’s term for coming close to God. “Worship” in Hebrew carries the idea of reverence, such as bowing to kiss the king’s feet, that results from a close encounter (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament). When people use the word “worship” they are describing an environment where they feel face-to-foot with God.

Striving to create a perfect experience, usually only creates an attraction to an event. But seeking to foster a supernatural encounter creates an attraction to God.

4. People and Places Are Changed (regeneration system)

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Cor. 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 (Rom. 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed, so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics or 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.

5. Involved Volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12), a balance between three types of leaders.

Strategic leaders are visionaries who see future goals but don’t see as clearly the steps to get there. A biblical example is the apostle John, who sketches the grand scenario of Jesus’ ministry, but leaves out many of the contributing details.

Tactical leaders enjoy watching how analysis and numbers lead up to a goal (Gr. taktike, meaning: to set in order). Found in professions like medicine, accounting, etc., a biblical example would be the physician Luke (Col. 4:14), who fills in many of the details that lead up to the actions that John describes. Tactical leaders take ideas generated by visionaries and enjoy putting together steps to accomplish them.

The relational leader leads through deep personal relationships with others. Functioning well in a small group/team environment, they watch out for one another’s spiritual progress.

Leaders are a mixture of all three, but most have a propensity for one over the others. The strategic leader sees the long-term direction of the church, the tactical leader sees the steps necessary to get there and the relational leader gauges how people are feeling about the direction. A healthy leadership system ensures that major decisions involve input from all three types.

6. Lack of Serious Conflict (unity system)

The healthy church anticipates disunity and utilizes two tools to prevent escalating into serious conflict. First, they slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. And second, when disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

The ability to build consensus for new ideas before implementation and to discuss differences of opinion before they fester are two benchmarks behind an effective unity system.

7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

A healthy church knows what it does well and focuses on it. Such a core competency is noticeable in the community where it is viewed as a signature ministry, e.g. children’s ministry, music ministry, missionary churches, a food shelf, grief recovery ministry, divorce recovery ministry, etc. The church is not trying to do many things poorly, but a few things well.

A signature ministry is not something that meets the needs of the congregation or congregants, but rather meets non-churchgoers’ needs (and they are glad the church does so). It is an underlying, church-wide competency that the church does well in many different ministries throughout the organization, hence it is called a “core” competency.

The church is so competent in this area that people outside the church may recognize this in various signature ministries. People are attracted to your church because these are things you are good at and they resonate with that. It also means that new ministries in the church (and the longevity of older ministries) will be evaluated based upon how well they dovetail with this greater church-wide competency.

Discover more at 7Systems.church

Today via Outreach Magazine – @BobWhitesel article “7 Systems That Must Be in Place for Healthy Church Growth”

1. Visibility (communication system)

The communication system should increase the visibility of the good deeds and good actions of those who bring good news (Acts 13:32).

Visibility was historically created by a church’s physical building. A spire would stand out against the sky in London or a small town in Ohio. Building in conspicuous locations such as main thoroughfares and city crossroads became a reminder of a church and its message. Today visibility is much more electronically mediated. Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels allow churches to be visible even when their physical location is hidden.

The benchmark is an increasing visibility among the non-churchgoing community of the spiritual growth of the faith community and the positiveness of their message.

2. Embracing a Growing Culture (reconciling system)

A study of 32,000 churches (The American Congregations Survey) found that growing churches reach out to growing cultures. A growing culture might be an influx of younger families to which an aging church might adjust its traditions. A growing culture could be an African-American community that together with a dwindling Anglo church works to overcome historical differences in order to experience racial reconciliation and health.

Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/discipleship-and-spiritual-growth/38826-7-systems-that-must-be-in-place-for-healthy-church-growth.html

SYSTEM 6 of 7SYSTEMS.church: UNIFIED & How to Unite a Conflicted Church 

7.6 systems yellow

This is sixth (6th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (12/23/16) 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

This sixth installment of how to turn around a church, like the previous installments, is based upon the most comprehensive study of churches ever conducted in North America: The American Congregations Study (Hartford Seminary, copies available at www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org).

A church that has “dissonant harmony” can be turned around, but not usually one with “severe conflict.”

Every church has some degree of conflict. But “severe conflict” is defined as when opinions are so opposed that even in times of emergency the groups will not work together. A different type of tension is “dissonant harmony,” a term coined by Starke and Dyck in their groundbreaking research on church splits. They found that while all churches have a degree of disagreement, if people overlook disagreements to work together for the common good when necessary, there is harmony with some dissonance.

To find out if you have “severe conflict” or just “dissonant harmony” ask yourself the following four questions.

1. Does your church have a guiding vision or mission which most of the people work toward?

2. Do committees, choirs, Sunday School classes and teams focus mostly upon finding the good in others (inside and outside the church)?

3. When unexpected challenges occur, do the people pull together for church survival?

4. Does the congregation view itself as a faith community that at times “agrees to disagree?”

If you said yes to three out the four, then you probably have “dissonant harmony.” If so, you can unite the congregation around a turnaround mission/vision.

The secret cure for turning around a church that has “severe conflict.”

If you could not answer yes to three or more the questions, you are probably bordering on, or already in, “severe conflict.”

Most church leaders will tell you conflict is poorly addressed in the church. Having perused libraries/bookstores for decades on leadership, my hunch is that conflict resolution is the category with the fewest books published. Yet every church leader knows that conflict resolution is a key part of that leader’s job. 

But in conflict resolution literature you find that there are two simple and basic principles in almost all conflict resolution strategies. Here they are.

First, don’t get in the middle as a go-between or so-called peacemaker between the factions.

Church leaders are often inspired by Jesus’ lauding of the peacemakers in Matt. 5:9. Leaders interpret this as a “go-between” or “diplomat” between warring factions. But the Greek does not carry an idea of “go-between” but rather, “keeping aloof from sectional strifes and the passions which beget them, and living tranquilly for and in the whole.” Starke and Bruno found that go-betweens are also usually blamed for resolution failures, because they are not perceived as correctly communicating each party’s perspective. Both sides take aim at the so-called peacemaker who is then often pushed out of the organization. 

Second, get the disagreeing parties talking directly to each other.

Surprisingly, this is the central component of almost all conflict resolution programs. Only when warring parties meet face-to-face to hammer out a compromise, does resolution result. It means getting people with differences to sit down together and tasking them to come up with an amicable solution. The leader makes it the duty of people with differences to come up with a plan that meets both factions needs. 

What if conflict can’t be overcome?

In some churches conflict has been so severe, for so long that compromise may be impossible. But we have a scriptural example to follow when conflict is so severe it may be better to part ways. We see this in Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement about taking John Mark with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). John Mark had accompanied them on the first journey, yet left midway and Paul seemed to feel it was because of his lack of commitment and perseverance. Barnabas, whose very name means son-of-encouragement, undoubtedly saw the potential in John Mark (after all John Mark would later pen the Gospel of Mark) and urged Paul to let him come along. The scriptures indicate that between Paul and Barnabas a “sharp disagreement” arose, which in the Greek literally means “incited … to anger.” The end result was that Paul and Barnabas agreed to go on two separate missionary journeys where twice as much ministry took place. 

It may be that conflict in your church is so severe and so historic, that only by parting ways can both organizations be revitalized. Even after a church split, I have found those who remain are usually more open to change. Without the emotional disagreements and historical baggage of the factions in their midst, churches that go their separate ways can often subsequently be revitalized.

Utilizing the tools above.

If you are in dissonant harmony, continue to take the focus off of differences and get the focus back upon overarching goals. But, if you are in severe disunity then agree to disagree, parting ways if necessary. Use the questions and tools in this article to help.

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

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

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

Want more good ideas about “how” to get a church sharing their faith?  See the many ideas here:

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

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology