TRIALS & When I look at Jesus’ life, when I look at Christian history, it is clear that you cannot play it safe & have abundant life. – @BobWhitesel

Recently while preparing a sermon for a client church in Austin, Texas this conclusion came to me:

When I look at Jesus’ life, when I look at Christian history, it is clear that you cannot play it safe and have abundant life. – Bob Whitesel

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7Systems.Church & An introduction to the 7 church health systems and their ability to measure and increase church health.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, Dec. 1, 2018.

In a quest to understand the systems and benchmarks of a healthy church,  …

  1. Over the past 30 years …
  2. I’ve written 13 books,
  3. earned two doctorates from Fuller Theological Seminary,
  4. Coached hundreds of churches,
  5. Co-founded a seminary,
  6. Studied theology & church history (Fuller Theological Seminary) to add a solid Biblical understanding to my practical experience.

As a result I’ve discovered seven systems that must be healthy for the church to grow.

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 redemptiveness 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 Corinthians 5:16-17 MSG). 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 Corinthians 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 Corinthians 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 & 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.

5.  Involved volunteers (leadership system)

This results from 3 STRand leadership (Ecclesiastes 4:12) i.e. 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 (Colossians 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 it from escalating into serious conflict.

a) They slow down the introduction of new ideas, building broader consensus before they implement new ideas. 

b) When disunity arises, they get the two sides talking together and finding common ground.

This 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 i.e.:

a) 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).

b) 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.  

c) 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 http://www.7systems.church.

  1. Visibility (communication system)
  2. Embracing a growing culture (reconciling system)
  3. Supernatural worship (numinous system)
  4. People & places are changed (regeneration system)
  5. Involved volunteers (leadership system)
  6. Lack of serious conflict (unity system)
  7. Signature Ministry (competency system)

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #4 & Putting Church Time Ahead of Family Time. #PersonalExperience

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week.

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #3 & Being Viewed as an Expert and Not an Equipper.

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper. An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE: It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #2 & Mentoring Others, When You’re Not Being Mentored Yourself.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Sept /Oct 2018.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

… In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #1 & Being Autonomous Without Also Being Accountable. #Acts15

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

I have coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well.

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & Helpful vs. Hurting Disciplines: How to thrive in ministry by choosing the best spiritual practices.

ARTICLE Whitesel CR Helpful vs. Hurting Spiritual Practices

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Having pastored in small, medium-size and mega-churches (as well as planting a church) I realized there were certain spiritual disciplines that when embraced my life and ministry flourished. I also realized that when I ignored them my ministry became difficult and unstable.

Church Revitalizer Personal Disciplines.jpegHaving coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well. 

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

This means being a mentee, in addition to being accountable. But often turnaround leaders are tempted to be the mentor more than the mentee. In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper.  An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE:  It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week. 

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Bob Whitesel DMIN PhD has been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine and ranks as one of the nation’s most sought after church health and growth consultants. An award-winning author of 13 books, he founded an accredited seminary (Welsey Seminary at IWU) and created one of the nation’s most respected church health and growth consulting firms: ChurchHealth.net

Read the article in Church Revitalizer Magazine here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/magazine_sample_for_everyone?e=14225198/64015141