[Prayer & Disciple-Making]
The #ReimagineFORUM Coaching Session with John Whaley
- John Whaley, North American Pioneer for The Rooftop
- Twitter @jwhaley61
- Prayer and Disciple-Making
Why is it important for Christian leaders to begin a journey of rethinking ministry?
John >>> To discover the answer to that question, all we have to do is consider the story of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras.
The Choluteca Bridge is a state-of-the-art bridge that spanned the Choluteca River until 1998. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch stalled over Honduras and for days dumped historic amounts of rain on the region. When all the water came crashing down out of the mountains into the Choluteca River Valley, it did so with such force that it literally changed the course of the river.
In a matter of days, the Choluteca Bridge became obsolete. If you didn't know the story, you would look at the bridge today and think someone built a bridge in the wrong place. However, that is not so. The problem is that the river moved.
This is a great illustration of the church in today's culture. For years, we spanned the river of our culture effectively. However, for the last 50 years, we have experienced a cultural and religious hurricane slowly moving across our national landscape. The river has moved. The river of the US culture has shifted away from the "bridge" of the US church and the river is not moving back to where it was. The only solution is to build the bridge over where the river is now.
If we are to effectively join Jesus in His mission to transform lives in a culture that is increasingly becoming a post-Christian culture, it is imperative that we rethink church. We have to become the church that not only thinks outside of the box but operates beyond the walls. The river has moved and it is time to build new bridges.
Why will a "reimagine-journey" be difficult and potentially dangerous to the status quo?
John>>> For decades, many churches have operated within a well-established structure with clearly defined leadership and ministry roles. Traditions and church culture are firmly in place. "We have never done it this way before" has become more than a saying; it has become part of the DNA in many churches. A "reimagine-journey" threatens that established culture as we begin asking the why behind our traditions, customs, programs, strategies, etc. This is why we need to be certain that our "reimagine-journey" is Spirit-driven. For months, I have been telling pastors that before they restart their in-person worship services, they and their leaders need to be spending time together seeking the Lord. They need to be seeking His perspective on their lives and the church, asking Him what needs to be changed, discarded, or started. It is important that they are able to stand before their people and state with conviction that the changes/adjustments they are presenting come from the Lord and not from the latest book or article they have read.
Agree/Disagree ~ We live in an extraordinary world: Globalization (and a global pandemic). Immigration. #BlackLivesMatter. Gender reclassification. Marriage Redefined.. #MeToo. The rise of White Supremacy. Terrorism. Unpredictable Weather. The impact of the Industrial Revolution gives way to the Technological Age. . . . This a time of epic change that requires the Church to rethink how we apply biblical truth to the traditions-programs-models-systems that format everything we do.
John >>> I totally agree. This goes back to the illustration I shared earlier. The river has moved and we need to be building new bridges to span the river of our culture. God's Word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). The message of the Gospel never changes and neither has human nature but the way we speak the Gospel into our culture must adapt to be communicated clearly. It is time to reformat the hard drive of how we have always operated. The eternal destinies of people are more important than the traditions/programs/models/systems that have driven how we operate for decades.
What does it actually mean to "reimagine?" Please unpack the word as you understand it and the components of a reimagining process.
John >>> In Isaiah 54:2, God tells His people, "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes." In this verse, God is inviting us to reimagine; to look beyond what is to what could be. To look into the future with a spirit of expectancy. To look at the present in light of God's original vision He gave us and ask the tough questions. It is looking at the church through the wide-angle lens of God's perspective and aligning our hearts with His which will require discernment, courage, and humility.
What roadblocks or resistance, barriers and boundaries, inhibit or prevent leaders from pursuing a discerning assessment when they commence a journey to reimagine ministry?
John >>> Pride, unlearning what we have been taught and have always done, fear of disapproval, fear of man, the unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices and changes to see the process through to the end, and the energy and humility required to ask God the tough questions and listen to His answers.
"Where do I begin? Where do you recommend a leader looks first to ensure they commence a truly Spirit-led, Scripture-fed journey?
John >>> Their knees. The first step in reimagining ministry or your life is fully abandoning yourself to God. It is His Church, His ministry, and you are His possession. Unless it is His Spirit gracing you with His vision and discernment, the entire journey will become man-centered. In a day where we want quick answers and swift action, we need to turn to the example of Nehemiah who spent months seeking God before he made his first move. It was in those months of seeking God that he received the vision and the courage to begin reimagining Jerusalem from God's perspective. You will be amazed at how God will guide your steps to the resources/books/people that will help you reimagine effectively once you fully consecrate yourself and the journey to Him.
Who are the thought leaders the Holy Spirit is using to help the Church reimagine?
- Dennis Pethers, The Rooftop, therooftop.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Thom Rainer, com
- Caesar Kalinowski, caesarkalinowski.com
How does your ministry help Christian leaders equip those they serve to begin the reimagine-journey?
John >>> At The Rooftop, our passion is to help Christians see people as God sees them and then with Christ-like compassion, tell them the Good News, making disciples of people who are beyond the walls of the church. Through conferences and resources, we help churches understand what it looks like to join Jesus where He is working in the lives of their neighbors, family, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. www.TheRooftop.org; email@example.com
Additional coaching insights to share? Questions we must pursue?
John >>> Most of my conversations are with pastors who are reimagining their church as they prepare to regather. My word to them is to not look at regathering as a reopening of the building but a restart of their church. Reopening implies going back to what we were; restarting implies taking a fresh look and reimagining what could be.
Please write a prayer that sets us onto a reimagining journey . . .
John >>> Lord, we need to see everything from Your perspective. Deliver us from narrow vision and give us a wide-angle lens to see what You see. Give us the courage to ask the tough questions and the grace to follow through. Help us to walk with expectant hearts and not fearful ones.