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VOL. 9 No. 1 January/February 2013

In this issue:
Risk-taking a priority for mission fulfillment
Ten Issues: Faith & Risk
Learn by Immersion
Host a Roundtable

PURPOSE: To connect with those who have an active relationship with Church Doctor Ministries as peers in ministry, clients, and partners in prayer and support.


The Church Doctor Report provides a quick read of strategic and influential information. This information is free to share as long as the source is respected: The Church Doctor Report,


Kent Hunter has risked often, failed sometimes, and learned a lot, and, by God's grace, has helped the cause of Christ. Like his colleagues at Church Doctor Ministries, he loves to help churches move from complacency to mission, to reach many for Jesus Christ.


Visit our website! 


New Service

Worship Consultation

This is an opportunity for pastors and worship leaders to spend one day focused on mission-sensitive dynamics to worship. You may think you have heard it all: worship that is seeker sensitive, seeker driven, etc. The world has changed. In North America, in the days when seeker-type services were developed, approximately 50% of the population was in worship. That figure is now 23%. How do we approach worship in this new reality of twenty-first century secularized America?


You may cluster with two or three other churches and share a worship consultation at a fraction of the cost. You will learn about the important use of incarnational, relevant language, and how to translate redemptive analogies. (How do you talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd to people who have never seen sheep?) Learn about what is new and effective for preaching and teaching. Discover ways to help people leave worship with good answers to questions like "So what?" and "Now what?"


Special Focus Consultation

Has your church been stuck on an important challenge or decision for months or years? Consider a Special Focus Consultation. Your Church Doctor will conduct an assessment based on information you provide before the consultation period. Your Church Doctor will then move beyond assessment to a dynamic diagnosis: an analysis of your unique church, people, and issues. You'll also receive a set of prescriptions: strategic recommendations that will get you moving in the direction that is right for you.


Healthy Churches Thrive

Many churches risk burning out volunteers and members by trying to do too much. But few churches risk where it counts: in the areas of spiritual formation and discipleship. When effective ministry is happening in these two areas, churches become strong and healthy communities of faith. Healthy Churches Thrive! is not the next program your church will do. It is the most significant transformational process your church can experience, to increase spiritual formation and discipleship, to have long-term impact in your congregation and community. Your church will be guided through a unique process designed specifically to build upon where God is moving, working, and blessing. Your members will begin to grow and experience transformation in ways they have imagined but were road blocked from achieving. For more information and for a specialized assessment to see if Healthy Churches Thrive! is right for your church, visit



Send North America

Servants Equipping New Disciples (SEND North America) continues to seek young adults, ages 18-29, interested in exploring where God may be calling them in missions, ministry, and spirituality. We know from research it is a tough time to be a young adult. This stage of life can be the most stressful and challenging a young person may encounter. We also know young people today are very interested in spiritual matters -- even if not evident in their interest in the local church. Nonetheless, young people are interested in discovering if God has a plan for them. If you know young adults who have more questions than answers about their lives right now, consider telling them about SEND. Share the book, The J-Dog Journey, with them or share this recent television program  with them. For more information about SEND, contact Josh Humberger or visit Send North America.


Learn by Immersion, in the UK

Join Church Doctor Ministries for a life-changing opportunity. If you have a desire to experience what the church in the New Testament really must have been like, join us for the June 2013 Mission Immersion Learning Experience. As a member of the Church Doctor Ministries Travel Team, you will have a unique immersion experience in being a God-watcher and understanding how to see God moving and working in a highly secularized,challenging culture. You will have the chance to participate in unique learning opportunities and hear from key leaders in the missional movement throughout England. Special events have been planned in both Manchester and Sheffield, England, for the CDM Travel Team. You will never be the same after this immersion experience. We have a limited number of spaces, and they are filling up quickly.Deadline for applications is April 1, 2013. For more information,  visit the event page on the CDM website.


Sheffield Immersion Testimony #5
Sheffield Immersion Testimony #5


Host a Roundtable

This is a one-day event that brings a certified Church Doctor to your area to spend a day focused on effective outreach in the twenty-first century. The Church Doctor will focus on issues you bring to the table. You will come away from this event with dozens of good ideas and renewed hope for your church.


For more information about hosting an event for pastors in your area please contact Tracee,


"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:1; ESV, RSV

Ten Issues:
Faith & Risk  
  1. Risk in a church is not a money issue. It is a faith issue. God pays for what He orders. Focus on spiritual formation.
  2. Soul search your willingness to risk. Don't ask God to change your personality or gift mix. Ask God to grow your faith − your trust in Him.
  3. God has been nudging people to do crazy things for centuries. The God of the Bible is the God of today. Anything that happened in the Bible can and does happen today. If God is speaking audibly to you, or nudging you, or speaking to you through others, or giving you Kingdom heartburn to do something, do it.
  4. Practice discernment about God's nudging. Check it against the values and truths of Scripture. Get counsel from other Christians who (1) demonstrate maturity, and who (2) get it. The mission of Christ and His church is to "seek and save the lost," and "to make disciples."
  5. To get others on board for a God-sized, risk-oriented direction, cast vision. Vision is the role a leader. A leader is anyone who influences others. If God is calling you to lead by casting vision, don't' shrink from it. God has used many types of vision casters before: shepherds, slaves, children, a donkey. He can use you. Vision precedes provision.
  6. Every church has some governance structure. It's the mechanism by which you make decisions. If your system requires the "final say" be made by a large group, get help to change your governance structure to one that is more biblical. Two principles apply: (1) Leaders do lead; (2) the larger group always votes the status quo.
  7. Develop a mentality of "failing forward." Each step that doesn't work is not a failure, but another learning step to success.
  8. Change is hard on everyone. No normal person loves change. When possible, change incrementally, over time. This is called "middle-stepping." It is the art of taking baby steps before you walk or run.
  9. As you develop a strategy for an effort pregnant with risk, try it on a selected smaller group, if possible. If not possible, run the idea by a pilot group. You'll learn from their reaction, and you will grow in your ability to move forward more effectively.
  10. If you can, field test the risk for a period of time. Try it for six months or a year and then evaluate. The "try-it-for-a-while" approach will help risk-averse people hang in there and give it a try. But remember, risk is still risk: sometimes they crucify the leader, right?
Jumping off a Cliff:
The Role of Risk 

"Hi James, it's great to see you again. I'm glad we could get together for lunch." I said that with all honesty - James is one of my favorite mission-minded friends in the whole world. But I had a little tinge of discomfort.


James is a ministry-relations director for a foundation. Our ministry had launched a pioneering ministry
outreach called Send North America - a ten-month training mechanism for young adults. We had asked for a grant to help reach out and recruit young adults to this young, fragile movement. James championed our cause at the foundation and granted us the funds.


It was a relatively small grant for the foundation, but huge for us. We had poured our efforts into the project. The strategy was a miserable failure. In my report to the foundation, I said, "What we tried, failed. We learned what doesn't work." I didn't know what to expect as my luncheon with James began.


James broke the ice, perhaps noticing my nervousness: "You know what is my greatest frustration with pastors and churches?" he asked.


I didn't respond. I didn't expect the question. And, I didn't have a clue.


"It's their unwillingness to risk," he said. "It's their play-it-safe, comfort-at-all-costs approach to ministry," he sighed.


Hall of Famers

Hebrews 11 is a litany of Old Testament superheroes who took enormous risks by faith. They accomplished what the world around them called crazy. They trusted God for what seemed humanly impossible. They made it into the record book of spiritual giants.


Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." In this context, that would imply the faith to step out, respond to God's calling, and do what the rest of the world would call crazy.


We Church Doctors get into many churches that are stuck on a faith step: a church in New Mexico that couldn't decide for 12 years to relocate; a church in Omaha that talked about changing worship services for 5 years; a church in New Jersey that wouldn't take the leap of faith to start a preschool for 14 years; a church in San Diego that wouldn't pull the trigger to add much-needed facilities for 7 years.


These churches are led by great pastors surrounded by smart leaders. Yet, they were stalled. Paralyzed, they were worn out from meetings and discouraged from lack of progress. Why couldn't they take the leap of faith to do what God had laid on their hearts? Some of them would look at me and comment, "It's easy for you to say." In a way, they are right!


Think about Noah for a minute. You know the story. As a kid in Sunday school, I saw drawings of these animals getting into this huge boat - how cute! Let's move Noah into reality.


Pastor Fred leads a church of about 270 in worship on the north end of Phoenix. One day God speaks to Fred about building a big boat behind the church - one big enough to handle all those animals. You know, all those cubits high, cubits long, and cubits wide. At first, Fred thinks it's not God, but indigestion. But God is persistent and speaks directly to Fred. Imagine Fred sharing this news with his elders. Really? A boat that large in Phoenix? It is more likely the leadership group would suggest Fred see a therapist than his name be added to Hebrews 11. Sometimes a God-sized vision that calls for risk is, you know ... risky!


Safety Net

How did your church get here? Play-it-safe Christianity, comfort-driven ministry, risk-free faith seems to be the norm. You might respond, "But God does not call us to be reckless idiots." Frankly, most churches are far from that possibility. Often, too far to even be called "faithful."


I think of a church in Portland, Oregon. Their heated congregational meeting went 45 minutes longer because their treasurer reported they had to dip into their $50,000 savings account, used as a "cushion."


"We've got a real problem at the church," said Dawn. "When we borrowed that $5,000 from our savings, it was the beginning of a terrible trend in our church. Who knows what is next? What are we going to do if we only have $20,000 left? We're supposed to have enough money to cover three months of operating expenses. This has never happened before!"


Really? Here's another worldview: If we have $50,000 extra, what ministry or outreach should we be doing with that money? How does this relate to Hebrews 11:6? Where is the faith? Another question: "Could that 'cushion worldview' be related to the plateau the church has experienced for the last ten years?" Not necessarily, but perhaps.


Let me take you to one of the hundreds of churches I have worked with in Africa. This one is on the southeast outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria. Leaders from the church arrived at our hotel early Sunday morning to drive us to this relatively new mission church. When we arrived at the old warehouse they call church, we walked across a narrow concrete bridge, spanning an open sewer. On the other side, gathered in small circles, sitting in the dirt, were the Sunday school children with their teachers. When we entered the concrete building (which had no windows, no toilets), two forces made a major impact: the joyful, exuberant singing of 2,000 people packed into a space for half that many, and the heat from that many people engaged in worship, in a climate already so hot.


During the three-hour worship service (including the one-hour sermon they expected from me), what struck me most was the offering. It lasted about thirty minutes and began with the pastor's announcement: "Up here in front is a big cardboard box. The worship band is going to play, and we are going to sing and bring our offerings to the Lord and put them in this box. If you have no money, just wave your hand over the box and give yourself." I watched, as row by row, the faithful sang and danced their way to the offering box at the front. I was amazed by the joy and enthusiasm for God. Unlike the church in Portland, Oregon, this church was not plateaued, but had grown to 2,000 people in just two years. They had so little -- and so much. A coincidence? Circumstantial? Too different to compare? Something to do with Hebrews 11:6?


I think about the big stone church I consulted in a suburb of Toledo. They are not effectively reaching their growing community. They have an immaculate building and padded pews. From their $1,000,000 endowment, they provide grants for mission and ministry once a year, but never touch the principal. They have a grant request system that is so complicated, with so much bureaucracy, it rivals the gridlock of Congress. How does this reflect faith? Risk? Bold initiatives? Hebrews 11:6?


We have no right to judge, honestly. But we do, each of us, have the responsibility to reflect. If Jesus returned tomorrow, totally unexpected (as He promised), what would He say to that church near Toledo? "Well done, good and faithful servants. You used the interest and over time were able to generate a lot more money"? Or would He say, "What were you thinking? There are hundreds of people in your community who don't know me - and now it's too late. Why didn't you spend that money to reach these people? A nondenominational church from another community put an extension site in your community and reached hundreds who were unbelievers before. What were you thinking?"


Not Just Money

Finances are just one measure of faithfulness and willingness to risk. Consider the theoretical life cycle of a church. It is divided into thirds. Most churches begin with a high profile of mission outreach - and risk! They make risky decisions to advance the Kingdom. The makeup of the new congregation is often a large portion of "pioneers" and a smaller group of what might be called "settlers." The "pioneers" are spiritual entrepreneurs; "settlers" are more focused on maintenance, safety, and comfort.


As a church grows, it develops "needs": for facilities, furniture, materials. With increased size, and more resources, there is a subtle shift from "needs" to "needs-plus-wants." In this second stage of the theoretical life cycle of a church, the risk-taking subtly diminishes and the priority for comfort subconsciously grows. It is in this stage that the church shifts, subconsciously, from mission to maintenance. (Not 100%, but significantly.) This can be measured by the budget, the focus and effort of staff and members, the agenda of the meetings. At the end of this second stage is the phase called the critical third.


Decline is the last third of the theoretical life cycle of the church. The only way to reverse this trend is to recapture the mission. This requires recalibrating the worldviews of the members: from maintenance back to mission. A visual marker of this "rebirth" of a church is the evidence of risk-taking - Hebrews 11:6.


Living by faith is living on the edge. Many leaders talk about "cutting-edge" churches. They are referring to churches who experiment with new strategies, but do not compromise the substance of the faith. They launch out to accomplish what many people might call "crazy." Some of what they do fails. Occasional failure is a part of life for pioneers, inventors, apostles, missionaries, and Hebrews 11:6 Christians. Hebrews 11:6 churches have a culture that provides permission to fail, opportunity to learn, openness to try. It is living by faith.


Someone once said that Christian faith is like standing at the edge of a huge cliff. God is at the bottom of the cliff - a long way down - with his outstretched arms, saying, "Jump, I'll catch you."


I don't think so. Faith, Hebrews 11:6 faith, the faith of champions -- the faith of mission-effective believers − is more like this: You are standing at the edge of a cliff. It's a long way down, and you don't see anyone. God is standing next to you, and says, "Go ahead, jump. I'll catch you."


And by faith ... you jump. Crazy!


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

(Hebrews 11:1; ESV, RSV)



Be careful not to judge another person's faith. Yet, it can't be denied. There is a direct connection between risk-oriented faith and effectively reaching people for Jesus Christ.


What is it that you won't do to risk?


The world is a better place because...

 Michelangelo didn't say, "I don't do ceilings."

 Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks."

 Moses didn't say, "I don't do wilderness trips."

 Martin Luther didn't say, "I don't do doors."

 Jesus Christ didn't say, "I don't do crosses."


 What is it you won't do? 


Church Government Consultation, Church Doctor Ministries., 2013.
Defining Moments, Monthly Leadership Resource. Barrington, IL: Willow Creek Association, 2012.
Furtick, Steven. Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.Colorado Springs, CO: Multomah Books, 2010.
Hybels, Bill and Jim Mellado, Len Schlesinger. Ministry Entrepreneurship. Barrington, IL: Willow Creek Association, 2012.
Maxwell, John. Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.
Ping, A.C. Faith. Jackson, TN: Da Capo Press, 2005.
Smith, Chuck. Faith. Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 2010.
Stanley, Andy. Making Vision Stick. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.
Towns, Elmer. Fasting for a Miracle: How God's Power Can Overcome the Impossible. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2012.

"If God is speaking audibly to you, or nudging you, or speaking to you through others, or giving you Kingdom heartburn to do something, do it.."
Kent Hunter

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Masters at change through process and movement

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