Group 3 Notes

Rethinking the Church

Week 0 (Introduction)

Discussed decline of mainline churches and cited a survey commissioned in Charlotte, NC, asking "Why don't you attend church?" The resulting answers:
1. There's no value in attending. People felt they could connect with God just as
easily (if not more) elsewhere.
2. Churches have too many problems.
3. I don't have time.
4. I'm not interested.
5. Churches ask for money too often.
6. Church services are usually boring.
7. Christian churches aren't relevant to how I live.
8. I don't believe in God or I'm unsure God exists.

Week 1

Chapter One -- Rethinking the Foundational Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the church?
  2. What is the church's mission?
  3. Whom are we trying to reach for Christ?
  4. What determines wheather the church is alive and growing?
  5. How will we accomplish the mission God has given us?
    • (The rest of the book will try to answer this.)

Our thoughts:

You have to get very clear on whom you want to try to reach. Should it be our neighborhood?

We need to confront our inclination that our church exists to take care of my family's and my needs first.

NOTE: The reading group had no negative reaction to any of this. Responded
positively to the characteristics of spiritual growth.

Week 2

Chapter Two -- Rethinking Evangelism

Evangelism involves effective communication of the gospel "with the goal of converting an individual to the Christian faith." The message is unchanging; the method of communicating it must change according to the language, culture, and background of the audience.

Rethinking evangelism needs to begin with thinking about who the listeners are. Author cited the differences between evangelism of yesterday and today. In particular, today, there is much more suspicion of clergy, strangers at the door, revivals. Described various
evangelistic environments: seeker hostile, seeker indifferent, seeker hopeful, seeker
sensitive, seeker targeted. The vast majority of churches are either seeker indifferent or seeker hopeful.

Evangelism that works actively invites people into an experience that helps them seek and then find a redemptive relationship with God through Christ. This involves:

Bridge Building -- the unchurched need someone to venture strategically
into their environment and build a relational bridge through which the gospel
is communicated.

Verbal Witness -- a clear, understandable witness within the confines of a
relationship that has been built. Americans seek advice from friends/family.

Invitation to an Evangelistic Environment -- an environment or event that is
sensitive to their spiritual situation but also clear in its presentation of Christian
faith. A safe place to hear and explore a very unsafe message.

It is highly difficult to pursue evangelism and edification in a single service.

A seeker service is one way but not the only way: concerts, seminars, luncheons.

The three "R's" of the 90s: Reason, Relevance, Real.
The three "E's" of the 21st Century

Explanation -- "It's not enough to make a case for the resurrection;
the deeper needs is for "so what?"

Experience -- People are hungry for community even though they are incredibly
dysfunctional in regard to community. They want an experience of the sacred.
More experiential than intellectual -- people "feel their way into believing."
People need to feel like they are getting something they can't get elsewhere.

Example -- At no time in recent memory have models and mentors meant more
than to those exploring the Christian faith. Need to be good news before we can
tell good news.

A change in values -- the key is understanding how the world has changed.

NOTE: The author discusses evangelism in terms of the "conversion event." Pastor Pam
didn't agree with this perspective, noting that Wesley allowed for an "evolutionary"
conversion; "going on to perfection."

Week 3

Chapter Three -- Rethinking Discipleship

After people become Christians, the goal is for them not only to learn how to live like Christ, but to actually live like Christ.

Four assumptions commonly made about life change:

It happens at salvation.
It continues naturally over time.
It is achieved largely by an act of the will.
It is best accomplished alone.

The truth:

Life change begins at salvation.
It takes more than just time.
It is about training, not trying.
It is a team event.

Eugene Petersen calls the process of discipleship "a long obedience in the same direction."

Being exposed to information doesn't mean we absorb it. Churches are full of people who have spent years as Christians yet live lives that reflect little of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Life change is not a question of time, but of "intentionality."

The heart of Christian development has long been a relationship between someone who has something to learn and someone who has something to share. Discipleship was never intended to be a solo event. Such things as accountability, ongoing challenge, encouragement and personal support are essential.

Rethinking discipleship requires rethinking the discipleship process. There must be training on training.

Effective discipleship will help people learn how to order their lives around the attitudes, practices, disciplines, relationships, and experiences of Christ.

5 principles: Teaching; Relationships; Attributes; Investment; Needs. (TRAIN)

Opportunities for relationship: discussion of small groups. A network of small groups must be developed that produces the relationships needed for discipleship to take place.

Week 4

Chapter 4 -- Rethinking Ministry

The traditional approach to ministry

Begin with a program
Find some people
Sell the program
Carry out the program
Maintain the program

A ministry is that which actually meets a need (a real need is required as is a person who will meet that need effectively).

Every Christian is a minister. Every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift for ministry.
Only when a ministry meets a need and supports the purposes and mission of the church should it be pursued.

No one is served if a ministry is not well led. Wait for a leader.

Rather than merely filling in slots on an organizational chart, the process of finding people to serve a particular ministry should involve determining what spiritual gifts are needed.

Regular review of ministries and leadership are required.

Mistakes will be made.

Week 5

Chapter 5 -- Rethinking Worship

Worship is that which authentically and meaningfully expresses honor, love, and devotion to God.

Two unstated assumptions: worship should be traditional; worship is irrelevant to non-Christians.

A King James version of worship in a cyberspace world has led to a weakened sense of worship.

A preferred style of worship is often a reflection of a person's personality.

Seeker sensitivity has nothing to do with changing a church's message , just its manners.

Many of our traditions that may now be irrelevant began in an effort to be relevant.

Classical music currently accounts for only 2% of CD sales, while contemporary music accounts for 90%. Which style would help people worship best?

NOTE: We objected to certain statements, such as "only a Christian can truly worship God in spirit and truth."

Week 6

Chapter 6 -- Rethinking Structure

A church's structure supports and facilitates the purposes and mission of the church.

Areas affected by Church structure: Morale, effectiveness, unity.

Elements of structure: Committees, Policies, Majority Rule

Morale is affected negatively by things like politics, unnecessary rules, poorly designed work, unproductive meetings, internal competition, discouraging responses to new ideas, inadequate use of potential; over control.

Most committees don't actually engage in ministry; they are responsible for the oversight and administration of a ministry. They make decisions that others implement. Overuse results in people becoming separated from ministry. Committees keep people who are doing the ministry from making decisions about the ministry.

Policies are inherently limited because there can't ever be enough rules to cover every conceivable circumstance.

Policies too often become an end unto themselves.

Marshall Edelson says an excess of consensus, or an over enthusiasm for democratic principles, can render an organization impotent.

The Bible teaches that the church is a family.

Bill Easum observes that in some unfortunate churches, serving on committees is the primary form of lay ministry -- people see their primary leadership role as "running the church." This is diametrically opposed to the Bible. Rethinking structure involves an entirely new paradigm: the people are the ministers and the pastors are the administrators.

Churches must decide whether they want to structure themselves for control or growth.

Few areas of church life are as important to rethink as structure.

Week 7

Chapter 7 -- Rethinking Community

Often church members are only friendly to each other, to people they like, or to people who are like them.

True community is when the "masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited, and tenderness flows."

Marks of authentic community

Love and be loved
Know and be known
Serve and be served
Celebrate and be celebrated

The reason we do not share is the fear of what others will do with the knowledge.

Necessary steps toward building a community:

The first step we need to take toward forming a biblically functioning community
is to make membership matter.
Have a clear commitment to a mission
Have a compelling vision
Value community
Work at developing community

You cannot be unified as a community unless you have defined what the unity will be based on. Five things usually form the basis for uniting together as a church:

Faith in Christ
Values and beliefs
Purpose and mission
Strategy for achieving that purpose and mission

If these 5 areas aren't explained and protected through the membership process, there will be little hope for community.

Week 8

Chapter 8 -- From Rethinking to Change

For a genuine values shift, begin with the foundational questions
One of the keys to change must be expanding the congregation’s horizons on authentic spirituality -- to move beyond superficial identity markers toward a true and dynamic relationship with Christ.

Discussion of Innovators, Opinion Leaders, Early Adopters, Late Adopters, Resistant.
Every church has tehse 5 groups.

Change is very leadership intensive.

Two continuum of change -- (1) toward a more contemporary model of ministry, and (2) the change to become more outward-focused (seeker-targeted). The first is easier than the second, but they are definitely not the same thing.

There is a barrier between the seeker-sensitive and seeker-targeted environments.
The latter involves changing who you exist to serve.

Four steps to change:

Establish a sense of urgency.
Develop and cast a compelling vision.
Begin implementation.
Make progress reports.

Change takes time.

Character traits of Change Agents: courage, determination.


George Barna: "We are faced with the very real possibility of dying because of our unresponsiveness to the changing world around us."

In a mythical tale by Erasmus, Jesus was asked what would happen if the disciples failed.
He said, "I have no other plan."

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Wesley United Methodist Church -- Bakersfield, CA