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Bob Whitesel: ‘Discover the Emerging Cultures’

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A 10-minute consultation to get your church moving again, from Bob Whitesel of Wesley Seminary.

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Bob Whitesel, founding professor of Wesley Seminary and church-growth consultant, answers the question, “How can churches remain agile in the midst of an ever-changing culture?”

Pastors are asking questions about two cultures: “How do I exegete the church culture and help them focus outward?” and, “How do I exegete the community culture? What cultures, what ethnicities, what socioeconomic cultures, what generational cultures are growing in the community?” and, “How can I connect the culture of the church with the culture in the community through the good news?”

Usually, the culture in the church is inward-focused. They’re focused on the fellowship, the community. The community is so great that people start to forget about those outside the faith community who need Christ. So how do you reach out? You have to begin by inspiring and connecting the people in the church to the needs of those outside the church, rather than just focusing on the community needs inside the church. And secondly, you must discover what cultures are emerging around your church.

I’ve often said that mission and vision statements are absolutely critical, but they’re grossly underutilized. Churches spend months, sometimes years and thousands of dollars, crafting a statement, but then they just put it on their website and never do much more with it. Those statements don’t work unless you have objectives attached to them. For example, if you say, “Our mission is to be a church for our entire county,” you need to look at the different demographics and cultures that exist in your county. You can’t just be a church for the middle class or upper middle class in your county, but you must also be reaching out to the rural poor or urban poor in your county.

I’ll say to clients, “OK, here’s your mission statement. How are you going to measure that one year from now?” Mission statements and vision statements should have multiple objectives that are measurable. Agile churches have measurable objectives with their mission and vision statements, and they revise those objectives on a regular basis—often every year. Objectives allow churches to be agile because every year, they’re looking at new ways to fulfill the mission and the vision.

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