STRENGTHS & Research Confirms 7Marks of a Healthy Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/15/17.

The following is my categorical analysis of the “American Congregations 2015 Study” based upon  initial work by Arron Earls (LifeWay, Facts & Trends). The American Congregations 2015 Study” is available at ChurchHealth.wiki and http://www.faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/default/files/American-Congregations-2015.pdf

For a detail explanation of each mark and how churches can replicate them, see my series of 7 articles for Church Revitalizer Magazine beginning with the first article at this link: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/turnaround-churches/

7 Marks Healthy Church SLIDE.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORSHIP & How to tell if it is organic

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/27/17.

In the Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church I described characteristics of worship that promote an organic atmosphere.  Here is an updated brief list:

Worship flows from the audience to the stage, not the other way around.

  1. Inorganic worship: This is usually manufactured with moving lights in the haze of an artificial fog. It may be lead by the worship team with admonitions of “Come on, let’s praise Him” or “Clap your hands for Him.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done all of those things (too many times to list).
  2. Organic worship: But, I have observed worship that is more natural and flowing from the Holy Spirit originates from the audience and moves across the stage, not the other way around.

The focus is on what is going on inside of your head and heart, not what is going on on the stage.

  1. Inorganic worship: Often focuses on beautiful slides/videos behind words with moving lights on the walls and the audience.
  2. Organic worship: The focus is on what God is doing in each congregants’ head and heart.  The lights on the stage often come from the back of stage, illuminating the worship team as silhouettes so the faces are not illuminated (so that the expressions of the worship team do not distract).

For more see ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church or email me you additions.

 

WORSHIP & Did Pub Songs Lend Their Tunes to Wesley Hymns? No, but popular songs did.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When I take groups to England, a question I often receive is, “Did pub songs of their day lend their tunes to the hymns of Charles or John Wesley?”

While writing a recent devotional book on the Wesleys (its purpose is to help church members understand what the method actually is), I see three important principles about music were part of the “method” of the Wesleyan Movement.

  1. The Wesleys wanted to not only revive the church, but they also wanted to revive worship songs. Therefore, they encouraged and wrote in more engaging and up-to-date musical styles.
  2. Though Charles did not write music, only the words, he did borrow melodies from secular orchestral works (music composed for an orchestra), folk tunes and even operatic works. Thus having studied his life I know that Charles utilized popular secular melodies, but did so carefully because worship is a critical and supernatural communication.
  3. However, I also believe from studying their lives that John or Charles would not borrow the melody of a drinking song and use it as the melodic foundation for a worship song.

To understand more about #3, read this article by Dean McIntyre, director of music resources for the the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.


Did the Wesleys Really Use Drinking Song Tunes for Their Hymns?

by Dean McIntyre, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church, 7/13/15.

…There is also the deeper issue of whether the importing of secular and drinking songs into the church to accompany congregational singing would be acceptable to the Wesleys. Wesley issued three collections of tunes: the Foundery Collection in 1742, Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (in which first appears his celebrated “Directions for Singing,” reprinted on page vii of The United Methodist Hymnal) in 1761, and his last, Sacred Harmony, in 1780. What we find in these collections yields an important insight into Wesley’s musical aesthetic for hymn tunes. Here we find the simple, traditional psalm tunes and hymn melodies, primarily from Anglican song. A number of these survive in our own 1989 United Methodist Hymnal (nos. 60, 96, 142, 181, 302, 385, 414, 450, 682). However, many of Charles’s texts were in increasing number and complexity of meter and required new sources for tunes to accompany them. John made use of new tunes composed or adapted from folk tunes, sacred and secular oratorio, and even operatic melodies. It should not escape us that whenever Wesley allowed the use of secular music as from oratorio and opera he used music of accepted high standard and almost always from classical rather than popular sources. In no instance did Wesley turn to tavern or drinking songs or other such unseemly sources to carry the sacred texts of songs and hymns.

Another help to understanding what Wesley considered appropriate in hymn tunes is to be found in his “Directions for Singing.” Of particular importance is a portion of his fourth direction: “Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.” It is clear that Wesley intends the “songs of Satan” to no longer be sung. Also important is his seventh direction:

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.”

Wesley’s aesthetic to “above all sing spiritually” simply would not allow drinking songs to accompany hymn texts.

Finally, in no hymn book, tune book, or other publication of the Wesleys can there be found any example of or encouragement to use drinking songs for singing hymns.

What About Today?

The question still remains, “What about today? Just because Luther and the Wesleys didn’t use drinking song tunes and other popular music for their hymns, does that mean we shouldn’t?”

Whether Wesley did or didn’t use drinking songs is not really the issue. Rather, the issue is why Wesley did or didn’t use them. Wesley found the close association of hymn text and tune (even commonly referred to as a “wedding”) to be of such importance that the use of tavern songs was beneath consideration. It was never a possibility. That question remains for us to answer today. Do we find it acceptable, appropriate, and commendable to select the music of drunken sailors or the local tavern for our worship? If Wesley’s reasoning for the Methodists of his time remains valid for our own, then the answer is no; and those who choose to use such music in worship should be able to dispute Wesley’s practice convincingly…

For further discussion of this topic, see Dean McIntyre’s article “Debunking the Wesley Tavern Song Myth.” 

Download the full article and read more at … https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/did-the-wesleys-really-use-drinking-song-tunes-for-their-hymns


Now, (this is Bob Whitesel again) some people mention that the web is filled with references to John and Charles utilizing pub songs when, as you can see, this is not supported by evidence or the Wesleys’ practical theology.

Some point to an entertaining video by the Christian ‘acapella group Glad (I use this video in class sometimes) where they say the opposite.  Watch this entertaining video (and learn about culture from it, but not history) and then read the explanation by Glad former member Bob Kauflin.

Gary, thanks for stopping by. I agree that GLAD didn’t research the topic very well when we started singing That Hymn Thing in the late 70s. I’m sorry that it was a stumbling block for you and your friends.
We never said that the melody for “We Praise Thee, O God” was an actual bar tune. We were using the tune simply to illustrate a practice that has existed for quite some time. The Psalmists borrowed poetic forms from pagan nations, and the disagreement about what music is “appropriate” to use for the church has been going on for centuries. What is clear is that some musical styles are definitely more suited for congregational singing than others and as you said, music isn’t created in a vacuum. Leaders need wisdom and discernment. But songs don’t say the same things to everyone, and there is no one style of music that can effectively communicate the glories of God or enable us to express the range of proper responses to God.
Gary: February 28, 2016 at 9:31 AM #  Need to come clean on “I once met a girl and her name was Matilda, she hugged like a bear and she looked like one too”. being the source of a hymn. It’s most certainly a lie. It is still damaging our worship service this morning.
Bob Kauflin February 28, 2016 at 8:05 PM # Gary, I did “come clean” in my response to your previous comment. If you’re interested, I found Harold Best’s book Music Through the Eyes of Faith helpful in this discussion. Grace to you.

 

#DMin

WORSHIP & A leadership exercise comparing worship in different eras (Yikes! The 80s are Back ;-)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This is an exercise about understanding how different cultures worship. My students enjoy it, so I thought I would post it here. Here is how the leadership exercise works:

Watch this video:

It is a humorous video that actually teaches an important cultural lesson too. It is by the Christian band called Glad. They were known for great vocals (and probably also for 80s haircuts 😉

(the video seems to have disappeared, but here is the audio version.)

But aside from their fashion statement, the group makes a good cultural point in this video. Write down a paragraph regarding the point of their video in your mind.

This is an exercise to allow you to dig deeper into cultural patterns and why they differ. So what is the lesson from this video about culture, when we recognize culture is comprised of behaviors, ideas and products (Hiebert, 1997)?

Here is a more recent version of the video to will enjoy also:

And, for a final bit of humor here is a puppet ministry visualizing the song.)

UNITY & 7 Ideas That Create Unity Among Multiple Worship Services

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Hold unified worship services, not just around holidays & special days.
    • Hold a combined service around the 4th of July and meet offsite at a lake or
      community pool for baptisms. Hold a combined fall fest service around Halloween or Thanksgiving, and make sure it has creative elements that express thanks and gratitude.
    • Hold a combined service after the new year, and speak to the ‘state of
      the church’ or the ministry focus for the year to come.
    • Make sure to celebrate ministries that have gone well in the previous year.
    • KEY > This is not about convenience (i.e. to compensate for a low-attendance Sunday).  Rather, it is about showcasing how God is moving through each of the worship expressions by:
      • Sharing testimonies
      • Sharing music
      • Sharing prayers
      • etc.
  • Swap Sanctuaries.
    • Have the different services / congregations switch their worship space for a
      week. Speak vision for the congregation to understand why they are doing it.
    • Consider mixing up the music just a little, and have some unique service
      elements – video, live testimony, special reading, etc.
  • Swap Serving Teams.
    • Not ready to swap sanctuaries? Okay, then how about swapping serving teams?
    • Greeters, Ushers, Hospitality Teams – send them to the opposite end of the
      building once a month to serve the other congregation. A hassle? Perhaps.
    • But the interaction might add some new life or increase the perspective or
      appreciation for what’s happening at the other end of the building.
  • Recruit prayer partners for multiple services.
    • Have designated prayer partners visit the other service and pray for the service, the families, the ministry effectiveness of that unique service.
    • Think about the impact of older folks praying for the younger families in their service, while seeing younger folks praying for the older folks who have prayed and given and sacrificed to build a church of great witness and reach in the community?
  • Hold a combined marriage retreat (or any similar type of retreat).
    • February or March are optimal. Be sure to highlight older couples in the church who are modeling good marriages for those who are just starting out.
    • Partner up older and younger couples for the weekend, and have public moments of prayer and words of encouragement to each other.
  • Hold combined prayer walks.
    • What would it look like to gather 2-3 times a year as one congregation and walk around the church’s neighborhood and pray for the people living in all those homes.
    • Make sure to read up on holding prayer walks; this isn’t a demonstration.
    • But what a great opportunity to expand the bandwidth of everyone’s prayer
      concern for the neighborhoods around the church!
  • Hold a combined mission emphasis weekend / go on trips together.
    • What local, regional, national, or global ministries do you support?
    • Get everyone from both services for a night or weekend to eat food from another country, hear stories of missionaries / ministry representatives. Schedule trips where various groups can interact and serve together.

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch

 

 

WORSHIP & What the Hebrew Word Tells Us About Worship’s Purpose

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

WORSHIP & How to Multiply Worship Options & Avoid Worship Wars (by church size)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/31/16.

We all know, “one size doesn’t fit all.”  And this is true with church health and growth strategies.  So let’s look at how worship wars must be tackled differently by churches that run over 100 attendees and those churches that have fewer than 100 attendees.

But, worship is actually becoming less innovative!

Research from Hartford Seminary’s Institute for Church Research found that worship is actually becoming less innovative today.  Here is a link to the article: WORSHIP & Churches Increasingly Less Innovative in Worship. Yet even though worship is less innovative (not a good thing), conflict seems to have remained high.  A key part of the solution is conflict resolution.  As a professor who studies conflict resolution, it still surprises me how much conflict arises over styles of worship.

Less conflict = Church Growth

And, it stands to reason that lack of conflict leads to church growth.  Plus, research has supported this. Aaron Earls, commenting on research from Hartford Seminary’s Institute, noted that churches that grow have a “Lack of serious conflict — Fighting churches are not growing churches. Serious conflict stunts growth.For churches that maintained relative calm—no serious conflict in the past five years—more than half grew. Only 29 percent of churches with serious conflict did the same.  For more read: 7 Statistics That Predict Church Growth.

Different Tactics for Different Sizes

But, one of the most important mitigating factors for putting and end to worship wars is the size of the church too.

  • If you are over 100 attendees you must solve worship wars in one manner.
  • And, if you are under 100 attendees, you must solve your worship wars in a very different manner.

So, take a look at these twin-tactics in this post: How to Settle Worship Wars By Church Size. At this link you will also find how you can address the “Four Forces That Control Change,” (e.g. lifecycle-, goal- and trend-orientated change forces) with two different tactics depending on the size of your church.

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