The Church Doctor® Report

How Mission-Minded Church Leaders Handle Pushback  

 VOL. 7 NO. 6 Nov./Dec.2011
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A missiologist at heart, Kent Hunter has traveled six continents for over thirty years, as a student-observer of what God is doing. His specialties are tactics and strategy, the "how to" of getting from "here" to "there" in the local church committed to effective disciple-making. Dr. Hunter is the architect of the Healthy Churches Thrive! Spiritual Pilgrimage, and author of numerous books.

Featured Service 

Churches continue to join the Healthy Churches Thrive! (HCT!) Network by participating in the HCT! Spiritual Pilgrimage. This 18-month pilgrimage is a movement in your church, not a program. It is guided by a team of Church Doctor specialists, including: 2 diagnostic consultants, a ministry coach (who meets monthly by phone with the pastor), an intercessory coach (who meets by phone with the prayer team), a support coach who works with the internal coordinators, and an analyst (who helps the church measure spiritual growth).


This bottom-up growth of the church is directed to restore New Testament culture to the church - the main ingredient for missional effectiveness. This is what missiologists call an "awakening" (a wake-up call) that God directs in churches that are open to this leading. It's not about what you do. It's about who you are and what you become.


Healthy Churches Thrive!, in the first six months, produces measurable changes in churches. These baseline changes (measured collectively from churches across North America), include the following: 1) a 15% increase among those involved in a regularly-scheduled Bible study; 2) a 13% increase among those who say they tithe - give 10% or more to their church; 3) a 16% increase in those who report they volunteer regularly in their church; 4) a 34% increase in those who articulate the primary purpose of the church is "to make disciples"; and 5) a 28% increase among those who say they are open to innovation and change toward positive results.


Learn about the HCT! Movement at

June 2012 UK Immersion Experience: A Holy Infection 

A movement is as much "caught" as "taught." You can visit the Holy Land, but you can't visit the New Testament Church. If you could, you would be relationally exposed to the values, beliefs, attitudes, priorities, and worldviews of the Christians who God used for the most explosive movement in history.


Each year we expose 20 leaders to the best example of 21st century mission we have found in the world. Christianity is like a divine, miraculous flu. You don't just get it by reading a book, or doing a program. You catch it from others who have this holy infection.


Since our capacity to coach, train, and guide a group is limited to 20, we are providing preferential acceptance to those from churches involved in the Healthy Churches Thrive! Movement or those churches that have submitted a letter of intent to begin Healthy Churches Thrive! in the next 12 months. This immersion experience is designed to expose influencers from churches who God will use to leverage the Movement within their congregations, as they are involved in the HCT! pilgrimage. Catch God's 21st Century Movement.



June 2012

Team Limit: 20



Watch the

Now Accepting Inquiries for June 2012

Fill out our online application: 

or e-mail Jason for more information 

Download Dr. Hunter's New E-book: The Future Is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century
  • Is there a coming Awakening in North America?
  • Why do so many Christians express "holy discontent?"
  • Why is there a spiritual restlessness in so many churches today?
  • What are the signs that North American culture may have reached the extreme of secularization?
  • How are churches changing their decision-making processes?
  • What is the future of denominations? Why are they being replaced with networks?
  • What elements of postmodern culture is God using for world evangelization?
  • What is the new wave for raising up church leaders?
  • Why must churches "agree to disagree" and cooperate to conquer their cultures for God's Kingdom?


Download The Future is Now here 

October 2012 Threshold Immersion Experience

Experience the New Testament culture of an organic church developed in recent years and patterned after the movement in the UK.

You will experience: worship, outreach, accountability groups, relationships among those who have caught this effective wave of God's movement. You will participate in "Love Toledo" - an outreach to the city. You will catch the DNA of New Testament culture in 21st century clothes.

You will be coached, briefed, and debriefed by two certified Church Doctors who have been involved in this movement for over a decade. They will guide you to process and develop an implementation strategy uniquely designed for your church. You will learn about:


  • Relational discipling
  • Engaging, "white-hot" worship
  • Developing a missional culture
  • Turning you church inside out
  • Adopting a New Testament, flat, organizational culture
  • Empowering postmodern young adults, the growth engine for 21st century outreach.
  • Rediscovering God's approach for raising up leaders and staff.

Now Accepting Inquiries for October 2012

E-mail Jason for more information
Challenging Young Adults to Find God's Plan to Change Their World: The J-Dog Journey: Where Is Life?


  • Give a divine spark to your social networking.
  • Tell your story...change the world.
  • Don't underestimate God's power in you!
  • Let Jesus lead you to the adventure of a lifetime.
  • Don't play church, grab real faith.
  • Find your focus, maximize your mission, make a difference.
  • Is God inviting you to make a living, make a difference, or both?
  • Are you chosen for living a life that will outlast it?
  • Maybe you're not part of the problem. But, how do you know if God wants you to be a part of His solution?
Download The J-Dog Journey here

Begin the Journey at
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This is a true story. Only the name has been changed.


Pastor Dan understands the mission of the church. As a visionary, he communicates well. He is weak on administrative details, but makes up for it through enthusiasm, commitment, and hard work.


Dan's church is in the 8th month of the guided movement called Healthy Churches Thrive! (HCT!). While a growing number of those in his church are growing into a missional culture, a few strong personalities are resisting, challenging, and complaining: "Pastor Dan, you're more interested in outreach than taking care of our own people. Some of 'the people' say they are uncomfortable with the direction of our church" (emphasis mine). Dan is frustrated, so we offered him a one-day retreat. Two of us (who are Church Doctors and designers of the HCT! Movement) listened a lot, and spoke strategically.


What happened in this retreat was a "kairos" moment (a God moment) for Dan. It is insightful for mission-minded leaders who experience pushback. Dan's church is not going to blow up, or divide, because he is involved in a relational bottom-up movement. However, it's not surprising there is some pushback. What Dan will learn is that he is part of the problem. He will experience "a major paradigm shift" (in his own words), by making a monumental change in his life-long thinking and training as a pastor. Perhaps this will provide the same transformational change in your thinking and behavior. But first, let's look at Jesus, as reflected from the Gospel of Matthew.


Jesus and Religious Pushback    

The Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus' lineage, birth, exile in Egypt, return to Galilee, baptism, temptation by the Devil, and move from Nazareth to Capernaum. Then Jesus started to recruit for His movement. He asked Zebedee's sons, James and John, to join Him. Jesus started to speak to crowds and teach Kingdom values, beliefs, attitudes, priorities, and worldviews. He connects the culture with real life behavior outcomes.


By chapter 8 of Matthew, people start coming to Jesus for healing and demon deliverance. At the end of chapter 9, Jesus frames the movement approach - not as another program. It's relational, organic, bottom-up.


Using the healing of two blind men, Jesus teaches that, by God's power, people are to become what they believe (verse 29). It's about being more than doing. (This is a key for church leaders like Pastor Dan.)


In Matthew 9:34, the pushback element enters Jesus' Kingdom launch. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of black magic. In chapter 10, the movement takes on deeper structure: the 12 disciples (including James and John) are "called" and Jesus multiplies His leadership by sending them out after giving them some significant training in strategy and approach. (Also, an insight element for Pastor Dan - and perhaps you.) Jesus provides training, not just by lecture, but also by modeling. In Matt 10:34, Jesus addresses the comfort issue ("Don't think I've come to make life cozy") (The Message). This isanother key dimension for your missional aspirations (and Dan's) 21 centuries later. Jesus comes back to the relational discussion again in verses 40-42.


In chapter 11, Jesus gets a little hard-core prophetic with the followers of John the Baptist, and later to "this generation" in general, and again to some unreceptive cities that had no interest in the Kingdom. At the end of the chapter, Jesus takes a shot at religion, all those burned out on going through the motions of a program. He says the Kingdom antidote is connecting with Him in a relationship.


By chapter 12, Jesus receives major pushback from the old guard religious people, "scholars," and the Pharisees. This pushback escalates. It ends with the cross. However, there is a resurrection, and a commission that follows. Later, in Scripture, there is a Pentecost - receiving of the Holy Spirit - and the birth of the church.


Jesus did say, "They persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). He also modeled an approach to pushback. It was an approach that the New Testament Church followed. This is what Dan, in his words, discovered as "a major revelation" that would greatly change his approach. Perhaps it will change yours.


Offload Your Baggage 


Dan told us the story of the two or three people giving him pushback at his church. We let him talk. Eventually, he got past the symptoms. Every church leader needs to do this, too. When you expose missional culture to church people, some are going to react. Dan finally came to a definitive realization: "They are uncomfortable," he said. When we asked why, he was able to drill deeper: "They have a consumer mentality, the constant theme of our secular culture." He nailed it! So what do you do about it? The next insight was a major revelation.


Dan had slipped into the top-down approach he practiced his whole life. "I need to get with these people and teach them," he said. "I also need to model more mission to them." Here's where the movement of Christianity got derailed for Dan. He defaulted into what we've all been taught and trained to do. He said, "I really want to start a missional community at our church. There are about six or seven guys I have been mentoring...." We reinforced that strategy. But then he slipped from Kingdom growth into religion. "I've got a book on missional communities," he said. "Yeah, we've read it, and it's good." However, it's the way he was going to use the book that was going to derail the movement, make it a program, and invite pushback that could become a blowup.


Dan continued, "I thought I would get these guys and their wives together, and give each of them a book. Then, I would ask them to read it and, week by week, I would teach from it."


Why would Dan default to a program activity like that? Because that is the way he has been taught his whole life. He would also gravitate to that method because that's what much of the church today has adopted: non-biblical, non-movement approach to missional, Kingdom change. It is a: 1) quick fix; 2) academic/rational; 3) content-oriented; 4) top-down approach.


Here is what my colleague told Dan, "Read the book. It's great! Then leave it in your office. Gather a few people. Model missional, 'on-the-job' involvement with them. Nurture and grow them spiritually. Pour your life into them relationally and equip them, by modeling, to multiply. This is the New Testament Movement." Dan was quiet. Then he spoke, "I think I'm part of the problem. I push too fast. I try to make it a program. I'm impatient. I've been trained to force-feed people and focus on head knowledge. I'm too directed toward content and I don't let the Holy Spirit grow people - at their pace. This is a major revelation!"


The Fine Art of Yeast Watching


Jesus did a lot of teaching about how the Kingdom works. Historically, the way the Kingdom is presented in most churches represents a major drift from what Jesus taught - and what really works.


  1. Our approach is vastly academic. We think that if we cram just enough good content in people, it will produce Kingdom results. This cognitive bias is the model most pastors witnessed in Bible college or seminary: listen to the lectures, read books, learn content, pass tests, and become a pastor. Jesus modeled that discipling and mission happens in community. It's all about relationships. Yes, leaders need the content. Every Christian should be reading the Bible for teaching and truth. Teaching material and preaching messages are important. However, discipling for mission and ministry moves from the content-based to relational discipling.
  2. Our approach is to teach the group. Our desire for results leads us to the classroom model rather than nurturing one or two, and thereby multiplying ourselves. Most pastors are trained by professors who rarely model discipling. Aspiring pastors almost never see professors in their training institutions mentoring (discipling) another teacher. The whole system has abandoned Jesus' approach. Those who became professors were in that position based on their academic expertise. Most pastors who have been trained from this model follow it in churches. This model is a result of the Age of Rationalism. It is not the modeling and teaching of Jesus - or the practice of the New Testament Church.
  3. Our approach is a quick fix. We have inherited an impatience for Kingdom expansion. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is like yeast in dough that becomes a loaf of bread. Ever watch a loaf of bread rise? Probably not! It takes too long. We say, "It's a waste of time." Pouring your life into a few is counterintuitive to the way we think. So, we admire the Madison Avenue glitz. We buy program after program for the church. We look for the quick result. Yet, the essence of our churches does not change. Transformational change eludes us because we do not follow the Kingdom plan.
Your Kingdom Come


Pushback is a reality among religious people who resist challenges to their comfort consumerism. This is a fact of church life. It also can be an indication that our strategies are not Kingdom strategies because we, as leaders, fail to live Kingdom leadership. We jump at packaged approaches to force the Kingdom, rather than allow the Kingdom to grow. It is a question as to whether we believe Christ is the head of the church. Well-intentioned leaders push top-down agendas and the result is a church division or blowup.


The Kingdom is as much caught as taught. It is a "holy infection," as people live in relationship. It is an organic process that gently opens doors for people to grow. It's much more like raising children (God's children) than running a university or training facility. We just can't improve on God's gentle, relational approach to nudge Christ-followers to become missional champions.


What about Pastor Dan? He is "in recovery" from a system that has drifted from a biblical approach. If he continues in the Kingdom approach, in a few years, he will have multiplied himself and, by God's grace, will have unleashed a movement that will transform his church and impact his community.

Ten Counter-Intuitive Truths Related to Pushback 

  1. Pushback is a normal growing pain for those maturing into missional effectiveness.
  2. Pushback often moves beyond unnecessary levels because the approach is based in a spirit of religion - a program-oriented, ritualistic approach.
  3. Programs are not what transforms God's people into missional champions.
  4. Cognitive learning is important, but relational modeling is the primary dynamic to grow mission-minded followers of Jesus.
  5. Christianity is an organic, bottom-up movement, not a top-down program.
  6. Nurturing Christians is not a quick-fix, microwave exercise but a spiritual discipline, like raising children.
  7. Discipling is a sensitive approach of opening opportunities and experiences to growing Christians, as they are ready.
  8. Readiness to grow can begin with academic content, but most often results in faith-stretching ministry activities in the safe environment of a discipling and experienced Christian relationship.
  9. Readiness to grow is the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit, as Christ is the head of His body, the church.
  10. Christianity is a holy infection. It is a divine flu, which is caught, not just taught. Renewal of the mind, on a transformational level (Romans 12: 1-2), is not an academic exercise, but spiritual insight of the heart - a cultural DNA transferred from one Christian to another.
SEND North America


SEND North America is a 10-month boot camp offering hands-on experience for young adults called to discover God's unique DNA for them, grow deeper in discipleship, and train for 21st century social networking missional approaches. Young adults live in community, by gender, and are taught by mission specialists who focus on their areas of expertise.


The young adults are involved in weekly ministry as they discover God's "calling" niche for each of them. Each month, the SEND team spends an immersion weekend focused on a ministry area. Each year, they participate in a high-level, out-of-country mission trip. They work with an indigenous missionary, live in an unreached village, and develop a strategy to reach that village for Christ.


Graduates of SEND are high-valued assets for cutting-edge churches. Those who participate in a second year of training are mentored to become SEND leaders. They are in high demand in churches that have effectively completed the Healthy Churches Thrive! pilgrimage. They lead a local SEND unit, which provides high impact for the church and a powerful outreach that targets postmodern young adults.


SEND North America is now taking applications for the September 2012 - June 2013 training season. 



Changing the world begins with you at

Check out the latest Video from the SEND North America Team

Heath, Dan and Chip. Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard. New York, NY: Crown Business, 2010.


Hillman, Os. Change Agent: Engaging Your Passion to be the One Who Makes a Difference. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2011.


Hunter, Kent R. Discover Your Windows: Lining Up with God's Vision. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2003.


Hunter, Kent R. Missional Flu: Infect Others - Without Killing Them, Yourself, or Your Church. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011. (New e-book coming soon.)

Miller, Ken and Robin Lawton.
The Change Agent's Guide to Radical Improvement. Milwaukee, WI: American Society for Quality, 2002


Thompson, Mike. The Organizational Champion: How to Develop Passionate Change Agents at Every Level. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.