Tips for freeing a stuck church
May 3 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Tips for freeing a stuck church | Friday, May 3, 2002

Friday, May 3, 2002

Tips for freeing a stuck church

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

"Stuck" churches often start at the wrong place while trying to become unstuck, a Christian futurist said.

Bill Easum spoke about "nine unfreezing moves" to help stuck churches at a seminar in Raleigh on April 25. Easum and Tom Bandy, his partner in the church consulting firm of Easum, Bandy and Associates, led a similar event in Charlotte a day earlier.

About 125 attended the Raleigh meeting while about 85 attended in Charlotte.

Several dozen N.C. Baptists attended each event, called "Where is Jesus Going? Way, Way Beyond Emmaus."

Easum, whose latest book is entitled UnFreezing Moves: Following Jesus Into the Mission Field, said stuck churches must first have a "solid community of faith" before moving forward. This involves growing spiritual leaders, he said.

"Sooner or later, everything depends on this," he said.

Easum said the community of faith functions around trust. Churches with major, on-going conflict can't move forward. This doesn't mean the church will not have angst or confusion.

Spiritual development is not a program, Easum said.

"Some of you will say, 'What program do I need to buy?'" he said. "You've got it. It's called the Bible."

Easum said people who aren't serving shouldn't be entitled to make decisions. He suggested four criteria for leaders - tithing, involvement in a small group or Sunday School, attendance at worship and involvement in a monthly mission.

"The only reason controllers control is you don't have spiritual leaders who will hold them accountable," he said.

Behavior is more important than education, Easum said.

"There's a lot of people who know the Bible, but they don't do squat about it," he said.

The second "unfreezing move" is finding the "biblically sound and culturally relevant DNA" of the church, Easum said.

A church's "DNA" is its "clear mission, vision and values." This might also be called its purpose or core values, he said.

"Don't start here," Easum said. "You have to have spiritual leaders first."

Easum said DNA determined by a church committee during a weekend retreat is seldom helpful.

Once the solid community of faith and DNA are established, the church can think about the next three unfreezing moves - indigenous worship, mobilizing the congregation and redemptive mission opportunities. Easum called these the "engines of an innovative congregation."

Indigenous worship is worship that is intended to reach people outside the church. Such worship is built around experience, Easum said.

He used the example of a church that holds a worship service featuring rhythmic sounds and no spoken words.

"All you hear is noise unless you're there to worship," he said. "It's an experience."

The opposite of experience is boredom, Easum said.

He described indigenous worship as "a safe, relevant place to have an authentic experience with God."

"The key to indigenous worship is, 'Does it provide an experience that is authentic that leads to God?'" he said. "If it doesn't start with experience, it can't lead to God."

Easum said he's never seen a church move toward innovation with one worship service unless it radically changed the existing worship service.

"If you're using hymnals, it's not indigenous worship to pagans," he said.

Starting a new worship service is the easiest way to grow a church and the easiest way to get in trouble, he said.

"If you've got major conflict or major controllers, deal with that first," Easum said.

Church leaders can begin mobilizing the congregation only if the church is free from major conflict and has indigenous worship, Easum said.

Large churches need to identify those who are ready for change, recruit those who are willing and discern those who are open to coaching, he said.

Easum said smaller churches should equip those who will commit their time, deploy those who will "finish the race" and coach them along in ministry.

Church leaders must go through four mental shifts that "are simple but hard," he said.

The first is changing the attitude toward new people from "What can you do for us?" to "How can we assist you?"

The next is moving toward unpaid servants instead of entitled volunteers.

"You can hold servants accountable," he said. "You can't hold volunteers accountable."

The third is changing from nominated workers to those who are called.

The fourth is matching ministry to gifts, rather than electing leaders.

"Leadership multiplication is the goal," Easum said.

That multiplication can be achieved by what Easum referred to as "fractaling," the constant repetition of the same thing over and over and over.

"You find what works and do it over and over until it quits working," he said. "Everyone trains everyone."

Easum gave an example of a fractal with a church starting an indigenous worship service. The worship leader recruits people to lead different areas of worship, such as music, visuals, the arts and logistics. Each leader then finds people to lead sections of that area.

For example, the music leader might look for people to lead the writing, the instruments, the singing and other areas. Those leaders then recruit people for their team.

The leaders, in effect, become pastors of their area.

"No one works with more than 10 people in this model," Easum said.

A church in Hawaii used the model to grow from four people to about 9,000 in six years, he said.

Many churches make the mistake of trying to move forward through holding "redemptive missional opportunities," Easum said.

He said churches must first change from having a missions committee to a missional attitude; from having active and involved members to disciples; from offering programs to a reason for being; and from raising money to sending people.

Easum said the final four unfreezing moves - organizing around the DNA, hiring servants instead of professionals, using place and space as metaphors and practicing radical generosity - support the first five.

Bandy told the group that North America today is a "pagan world," similar to the 1st century Roman world.

He said five elements are needed to communicate to modern-day pagans - people who orient their lives around something other than Christian values.

To reach pagans, Christians must have a transforming experience - tell how God has changed their life, not just somebody's else's life; have a specific narrative to tell in the contemporary setting because unbelievers are not interested in such facts that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy; have a particular and peculiar companion, going out in twos and threes, not alone; live differently because they're not like everybody else; and have an urgent sense of missions.

"Don't over plan - just do it," Bandy said.

Bandy said that instead of reaching out to the pagans, churches build "fire walls" to resist change.

Church members tend to look for a scapegoat, blaming their current circumstances for their failure to change, Bandy said.

Churches emphasize turf protection and serving the church members, he said.

Members look toward self-preservation and their need to control, Bandy said.

Bandy offered a "diet" approach for the "fat" church. He identified churches' "fat" cells as too much property or buildings, old technology, endowments, "church type" music that is never heard anywhere but in church, curriculum and too many paid staff members.

He said churches need a "good" diet of worship, spiritual growth, missions, leadership and relevant organization that follows its mission.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Bill Boatwright of the Baptist State Convention's communications office contributed to this report.)

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5/3/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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