Reflections on Leadership, Vision, Culture, Ethnicity, Congregation, Church, and Mission

Reflective composition resurrects the cognitive ingenuity of the academia reflector’s mind to enable the student recalls the materials learned during the course deliberation. Reflective composition does not only resurrect the reflector’s mind, but it also tests the percentages of materials learned in the course that could be remembered by the learner or the student in the given situation. Reflective composition does not only test the percentages of materials learned with reference to remembrance, but it also reminds the student to go back into the course materials in order to rehearse for understanding so the student can do better reflection on the contents of material covered during the course. The rehearsal prepares the student to do better reflections based on the various contents taught during the course. Reflection could represent a survey tool to inform the educator how well the student had learned with regard to the internalization and comprehension of the course materials; as the result, it could serve as the evaluation of both student and the teacher. Reflective composition is not subjected to a particular topic, but it is general; therefore, it is not based on objective reasoning but rather it is based on subjective one; therefore, the student is at liberty to reflect on what he or she has understood in the course.

            In “Churches, Cultures, and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities,” Branson and Martinez delineate on the complexities of church leadership in the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural church settings. The complexities of church leadership in such environment are the result of diverse cultural behaviors that constitute the behaviors of people from different geographical, historical, national, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Knowing that before such groups became members of the Christian faith through the proclamation of the gospel message they had been members of some sects or cults that I call demonic religions. They are saved; however, their backgrounds will still influence their Christian lives in their daily walk with God. There are ongoing battles in their Christian lives as they are confronted with those beliefs they once had that may want to influence the Christian faith negatively as the result of the culture they once practiced when they were members of those religions that are anti-gospel. In their book, Branson and Martinez discussed the dominant culture of the United States that influences how typical Native American English speaker relates to other people groups that are from different cultural backgrounds. This has to do with cross cultural communication. The Native English speaker assumed that the manner English is spoken in the United States is the same fashion it is spoken to other nations; therefore, the Native English speakers conclude that the English should be understood by all once the English is spoken assuming that the person speaks English. It does not work that way. Spoken language and language comprehension are two different things. To speak a language or read it is different from understanding the language as the result of mechanics and sound. When one has learned how to read or speak the language, one has to learn to understand the language when spoken. There is a difference between the English spoken by the Native English speaker of the United States to that of the English speaker by other people from different nations. The difference has to do with the rhythm, rhyme, accentuation, sound, speed, or jargon used. In their book, the authors indicate that language has social relationship with reference to who is speaking and who is being addressed. The authors assert that the people of the dominant culture of the United States call everyone by his or her first name and assumed that other people from different nations do the same. It is not so; on the contrary, this may look like disrespect to other cultures of the world. The need to study the new culture is vital in all works of lives. Culture dictates the behaviors of people and how they think. Cultural competence in cross cultural communication is vital to maintaining good social interaction among people from diverse backgrounds. Pastors of the multi-ethnic, intercultural, and multicultural congregations need to know these aspects of the church ministry to do well in leadership in term of communications. In their book, the authors discussed two types of cultural practices with reference to human behaviors in the dominant culture of the United States. The collectivist and he individualistic cultures are at war in the United States. In the United States, the culture of individualism is seen instead of collectivism that advocates for the mutual benefit for all members of the group. Individualistic culture is selfish, materialistic, segmented, and market driven. This culture does not care about others, but it cares for itself. This culture has entered the church and evaded Christian living. The individualistic culture is rooted in the individual liberty drifted in the Declaration of Independence of the United States. This culture even influences Christian living and tends to go against biblical principles how believers should live to bring glory to God. Christians in the church have created the religion of self-gratification known as individualism or selfism. This is one of the reasons homosexuality and lesbianism are no longer considered sin in some churches in the west.

            In “Canoeing the Mountain” Tod Bolsinger combines biblical theology, contemporary leadership theories, and years of experience as the Pastor and church consultant to provide novel version of pastoral leadership in the uncharted territory in the rapidly changing church’s world. In his book, the author used biblical theology to support the leadership theories introduced in his book. The author used his personal experience coupled with his education to develop three leadership theories taking into the consideration the complexities of problems leadership faced in this rapidly changing church’s world. The problems that arise in the uncharted territory as he called it, are uncommon and such problems cannot be solved by strict formula or predetermined rules or standards, but such problems can be solved using ingenuity to explore the unmapped leadership territory arena that exists during crisis in the church and also in the world. Taking into consideration the asymmetrical nature of the uncommon problems that do surface uncommonly, the author developed leadership theories that a potential leader could adopt in his leadership career or calling to navigate the uncharted territory to solve the existing problems that arise in both the church and the secular world. The book is written from the biblical standpoint; however, I have added the world because I am of the opinion that the leadership theories in the book can also be used by secular leadership. He introduced in his book technical competent, adaptive leadership and relational congruence as the leadership theories that leaders should adopt in their leadership skills to solve the uncommon problems in the church. These are difficult problems that require payers, spiritual maturity, humility, experience, and formal or informal training to solve them. The author used terminologies like uncharted, navigate, and adaptive challenge to express the magnitude and gravity of the problems or the situations.

            For the emergent leader to solve the uncommon problems in the uncharted territory in the rapidly changing church’s world, the leader should be technically competent to lead. The leader must have received formal or informal training in leadership. The leader is anticipated to be the smartest, the expert, the achiever, the mobilizer, or the vision leader. The leader should have the capability to lead by definition in leadership. The capability is developed over time as the individual goes into leadership since leadership is the observable learned skills developed over a period of time; as the result, the leader will be technically prepared to solve the leadership crisis. During the period of capability skills development, the leader is technically competent to navigate and to solve the uncommon problems in the uncharted territory in the rapidly changing church’s world.

            Not only should the emergent leader be technically competent, but the leader should e adaptable when faced with leadership challenge. Adaptive leadership does not advocate the quick fix of problems in the church; on the contrary, it allows the problems to exist intentionally without attempting to fix the problems. During adaptive challenge, leaders learn from experience as leaders adapt to the prevailing situation. During adaptive challenge, leaders observe, interpret, and apply intervention. The intervention for adaptive challenge in leadership crisis is to allow the problem to exist without making any attempts to fix the problems. As leaders adapt to adaptive challenge in the ministry, they allow God to train and to shape them to become better leaders to handle bigger problems in the future ministry. Every lead should be willing to adapt to the changing condition in the church that poses crisis in the order to allow the leader to learn and e prepared to solve bigger problems. Adaptation is vital to remain strong in the changing circumstances. Leaders should learn to adapt to the changing situation in the ministry to solve the uncommon problems in the rapidly changing church’s world. Adaptation is the period of emotional stability.

            Not only should the leader be adaptable to the changing condition in the ministry, but leaders should be relational congruent. To be relational congruent is to be the person to self and to God. The leader should have a warm and friendly relationship with God to the extent that God can use him or her. Obedience to the word of God and living holy life are keys to be congruent relationship. God will shape the leader during the period of adaptive challenge to prepare him or her to be relational congruent. The three leadership theories are geared toward shaping the leader to become the transformational leader. At the intersection of technical competent, adaptive leadership, and relational congruence lies the transformational leader.

            Pastor Weems, in his book, “Leadership: Vision, Team, Culture, and Integrity,” addressed the four elements of an effective Christian leadership. He defined leadership showing the contrasts between leadership to that of administration and management. He gave ten observations and three common confusions about leadership before discussing the elements of an effective leadership in detail. His explanation on the contrast between leadership to that of administration and management is cohesive. His practical experience in the gospel ministry as the Pastor and the President of the St. Paul School of Theology gave him the edge on Pastoral and academic leaderships. His explanation on Christian leadership, church administration, and management is simplistic. The average reader can read his book on leadership and understands the terms in practice. I have read books on Christian leadership, church administration, and management; however, the materials presented on these subjects were not as simplistic practically as Pastor Weems has defined them and showed a contrast between the terminologies in his book. His ten observations on leadership are things commonly seen in the leadership arena. Writing a book from the practical view point is different from writing a book from the academic view point. The person, who writes a book from an academic view point, conducts research on the subject under review, synthesizes the materials and consolidates them before writing the book. The ideas in the book are the result of synthesis of materials allocated from different sources in order to defend the topic credibly. On the other hand, the book written from the practical experience, the materials in the book were tested and proven to work before they were consolidated to embody the text book. After reading Pastor Weems’ book, one can realize that what he has written are things he has experienced in the pastoral and academic leadership over a long period of time. He defined administration as doing things right and further explained the phrase “doing things right.” He defined management as doing the right things and further explained the phrase “doing the right things.” He then linked administration and management as integrals of church leadership. From the pivoted point of administration and management, it can be understood that to have effective leadership, there should be good administration and good management in place. Leadership becomes ineffective when administration and management are ignored or not being applied in the office. Good organizational leadership depends on good administration and good management. He discussed the three common confusions about leadership. The confusions surface in church leadership when the leader allows congregational preferences before he or she makes decision. The confusion exists when the leader waits to be empowered or enabled him or her before making decision. When this happens the leader neglects his or her responsibility and therefore reduces his virtue of authority to make decision. The question is asked, “Who is in control”? The congregation is in control or the Pastor is in control? If the congregation is in control; then, leadership is chaotic. If no one is in control; then, leadership is anarchical or in the state of lawlessness. The Pastor or the leader must be in control in order to have a stable organization. Leaders are called or delegated to lead. They should not be led by the congregations. Pastor Weems elaborated on the third confusion about leadership. It is called leadership style. Leadership style varies with leaders and such leadership style can become destructive when the substance in decision in leadership compromises biblical principles or standards. For example, a situation surfaces in the church that is related to pastoral office; unfortunately, the pastor is asking the opinion of the congregations. In 2010, one of my professors stood in class during the teaching session and announced that she would be traveling to New York to participate in voting in the church if homosexuality should be allowed or not in the Presbyterian Church. This is matter is pastoral; therefore, there should be no vote on this subject because it is an abominable and punishable act from the biblical view point. The pastoral board should judge this practice using the Bible to make decision about the subject instead of asking congregations to vote on the subject. Who is in control? Is God in control or the congregation is in control? The pastoral leader has recanted its position of spiritual guidance of this sinful act and allowed Satan to rule. Pastor Weems discussed vision, team, culture, and integrity. Understanding these elements of an effective leadership and applying them is vital to sustainable church leadership. Leadership can never emerge or function without a vision. Vision is a driving force that pushes and aligns members of the organization to execute the organizational mission. Lack of vision is lack of accomplishment. Leadership that does not dream does not have a defined and clear identity in this world. Have you seen a church that started twenty years ago and such church has not given a birth to another church? The same old members you saw twenty years ago are the same people you continue to see going to the identical church. Such church is termed as plateau or biological church. The leadership in such church is stagnated because the leadership has refused to dream. Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18). There can be no effective leadership without building a community call a team. For an organization to exist there must be team building. Members of the team work together to accomplish the organizational mission. Members of the organization are called team in the collective sense; therefore, collectivism is the goal of the team’s works. Pastor sent to a new culture or the old culture should study the culture to enable him or her assimilate into the culture. Culture is the distinctive behaviors of congregational members with shared values and core beliefs manifested toward accomplishing the organizational mission. Studying and understanding the behaviors of organizational members through observation, interpretation, and applying intervention is vital to leadership and organizational success. Leaders should study the culture they are called to lead. Leadership is moral position; therefore, leaders are held in high esteem to be good role model so followers can copy their good examples. Personal and social integrity should be exhibited by the Christian leaders. Vision, team, culture, and integrity are synonymous or identities to Christian leadership.

            In their book, “The Transformational Church,” the authors conducted a research to produce the new scorecard for the transformational church since in the American context; the success of churches is capitalized on the bodies, budgets, or the square footage of the building. Defining success in this manner while ignoring accountability, transparency, morality, or integrity is incomplete; therefore, the authors decided to produce the new scorecard through interviews. Before conducting the research, the authors defined success in the context of the transformational church. Success of the church is dependence when people’s lives are change through the gospel power; on the other hand, churches’ success does not depend on the bodies, budgets, or the square footage of the building. Defining success in the context of the transformational church, the authors developed the characteristics of the transformational churches in three categories as the standard of measurement of the transformational church and then conducted the interviews across the American churches using the characteristics as the guides to develop interview questions. After the interviews, the authors developed seven characteristics of the transformational church. The seven characteristics of the transformational church are the determinants of the new scorecard for the transformational church. Primarily, in category one, churches that are transformational, should discern missionary mentality. The transformational church is prone to reach the community through the development of home Bible study, Sunday school, small groups, and group services. Members of the transformational church will build cultural bridges between the church they attend and the community they live. Evangelism, disciples making, and church planting are core shared values of the transformational church. Transformational church is the mission-minded church which forms part of their defined and clear identities.

            Transformational churches embrace vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, and prayer dependence. Leadership in the transformational church is a shared function of ministries. Members in the transformational church are given the chance to exercise their gifts in the church. Leadership prays together in the transformational church. Decision made in the transformational church is never unilateral, but decision is made by everyone on the team. Leadership in the transformational church is the team sport. It is not autocratic or one person’s show. The transformational church embraces relational intentionality. Members of the transformational church ask questions about real people in the community and reach them in order to build relationship with the outside worlds that are not part of the immediate congregations. The relationship is predetermined and it is intentional. The transformational church embraces prayers; hence, the believers cannot be transformed for the better if he or she is weak in prayers. Transformational churches pray together. Not only does the transformational church pray, but transformational church engages the community of people in worship. In worship, believers encounter God spiritually. No one who encounters God in daily worship will remain untransformed. The term transformational has the origin with God by virtue of definition and in practical reality. No one is transformed unless God transforms the individual. Transformational churches involve or engage community members in group Bible studies, prayer meetings, and group services. The transformational church reaches the community through the proclamation of the gospel message. Transformational church’s desire to reach the community makes the church to be involved in mission; therefore, transformational churches are mission-minded churches. Transformational churches discern missionary mentality, embrace vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, prayers dependence, and engagement in worship, engage community in mission, and promote missional endeavors among its congregations.

            In the book “Missional Leader,” the authors discussed the essence of missional leadership coupled with missional imagination among congregational members, the processes involved in cultivating missional imagination among congregational members, the three zonal congregations in the missional model and among others. In this book, the author laid emphasis on the significance of mission which has been neglected by the church from time to time and these are clear evidences that the Great Commission has been downplayed by churches. People who have written books on mission have been written from the academic stand point instead of the practical nature. Even dictions of words used in textbooks have been adopted from other books written on mission due to similar languages used, indicated in the paradigmatic shifts. Even scholars who have written books on mission have never entered the mission field. Books written on mission have been placed on Amazon and other online book stores for students enrolled into missional programs to buy for their registered courses. It appears that book’s writing is the pure business; nevertheless, it could be true that many people who have written books on mission have never entered the mission field; however, their contributions to mission have been writing books on mission in order to inform and to encourage those who have the desire to enter the mission field. I am of the opinion that they don’t necessary have to enter the mission field practically. They are using their scholarly and intellectual gifts to inform people who want to enter the mission field; therefore, they are on the mission field intellectually.

            The essence of missional imagination initiation among the congregational members is vital to encourage members of the church group to enter the mission field. The pastor of the congregation should be the first individual to cultivate the dialogue regarding missional imaginations among the congregations. Initially, the pastor is anticipated to initiate dialogue by having meetings with the congregations in order to explain the biblical or the theological conversation with reference to mission and allow congregational members to brainstorm, decide, experiment, accept, and before committing to it. Before the congregational members commit to the idea of mission, there should be several meetings held to discuss the necessity of the subject and planning with reference to the timeline of execution. It takes time for people to commit to a new idea; therefore, leadership should allow the people ample time to decide about the innovation or the new idea. The reason why most innovations failed to materialize is the result of not being able to communicate the message properly to the people and giving the people more time to think about the vision. When innovation is forced on the congregations, it will fail. People support a thing when they form part of the endeavor. Change does not come overnight because there is always a natural tendency from the people to resist the change as the result of the birth of the vision. New idea creates an atmosphere of anxiety among the people. Some will feel that this idea will discredit their old idea while some will feel that the new idea will be a failure to execute due to some factors they might have pictured in their minds as threats. Volitionally, individual members in the congregation will analyze the strengths and the weaknesses of the organization considering opportunities and threats to make decisions. Some will resist or accept the innovation based on the individual calculation and analysis. This is the reason the people should be given awareness about the innovation or the vision and be allowed to digest it, absorb it, internalize it, experiment it, accept it, and before committing to it. This is the reason; the leader should pay attention to everyone’s contribution. This is the reason Pastor Weems in his leadership book said, “Vision is good and bad news.” It is bad news to those that resist it and good news to those that accept it. Some leaders will want to oppose those who are opposition to the new idea and label such group as lack of faith. This is very common in the Pentecostal setting. There is faith presumption and faith foolishness.

            We conducted a research on the Liberian ministry in 2017 to enable us develop strategies to fund stipends for church workers and fund church projects; as the result, a business has been named ‘Praise Ministries International Charcoal and Agricultural Project (PMICAP)’. Few in the church accepted the innovation; however, there is more need to be done in order to create more awareness among the people so that the community outside of the church can be also be recruited and involved. That is being perceived, we have adopted the Church’s NGO responsible to deal with agricultural project since we are reaching the community comprising of diversities. Phase one of the project is to produce charcoal. Phase two is to plant cash crops on the fields. Phase one encountered a problem as the result of lack of vehicle or transportation to take the products to the market for sale; therefore, the ministry tabled the project to be continued in the future when the transportation problem is resolved or initiate alternative business project that might not necessary need a vehicle. Innovation should be written plainly explaining its necessities or benefits to the ministry or the community. People should be recruited to participate in the innovation.

            In mission, creating the new culture is the direct act of being involved in the new church plant. In his book, “Missional Leader,” the author discussed three zonal congregations. These congregations exist on levels as the church starts, grows, expands, and matures to become the transformational church. The first congregation characterized by creativities, energies, and missionary mind-set is called the emergent zone congregation. This congregation does not have any organizational structures or clerical skills. Everyone is committed to the church works. This congregation fasts, prays, attends Bible studies, does evangelism and church planting, and supports the vision and the endeavors of the ministry. This congregation is not organized administratively. The congregation lacks good administration; as the result, the leadership has loop holes when it comes to keeping track of ministry’s activities such as giving financial and progress report on church’s matters. As the church grows and expands adopting good administration and good management practices and creating organizational structures and getting access to skill for men and women to do the job, the congregation will grow and become a performative zone congregation. This congregation is well organized considering good church administration and good management. The congregation has grown to another level and has put on another face. This performative zone congregation is mature administratively and spiritually and has a vibrant leadership. In this congregational zonal leadership, when the upper performative zonal encounters a problem to discontinuous change and the leadership is unable to navigate in the new environment, the congregation is called a reactive zonal congregation. Such congregation is prone to resist change or innovation because the congregation thinks she has all. The emergence and the progression of these stages of congregational development teach the principle of growth and organizational behaviors. Before the baby walks, the baby has to crawl. Every great ministry seen today went through these phases of the growth processes. It started as the emergent and progressed to reactive zonal congregation. The linear line below indicates the processes.

Emergent Zone————————Performative Zone————————Reactive Zone

            In his book, “Transformation Church,” Kevin G. Ford discussed five indicators of the transforming church and adversely discussed the opposite indicators that stop the church to undergo transformation. The quest to discuss these indicators of the transforming church is the direct response whereby a transforming church has been misdefined and misunderstood. The grading of church attendance, physical building appearance, the kinds of church programs executed, and the educational level of the Pastor do not qualify a church to be a transforming. Ignoring basic factors such as accountability, holiness, prayers, leadership function and structures, mission, social relational interactions of workers, and individual members’ empowerment to use their gifts in the church, one has totally gone wrong regarding the shared values, core beliefs, and defined and clear identities of the transforming church. Transforming churches are healthy churches that are community based as opposed to individualism. The transforming church congregation is the collectivist culture congregation wherein members of the church cater to one another and then reach out to the community members through the engagement of home Bible studies, small group studies, and service groups. Members of the transforming church are actively involved in evangelism, disciple making, and church planting. The transforming church cultivates missional imagination among the congregations in order to engage the church to community development, worship, and mission. Transforming churches are healthy churches whose leadership is a shared function of ministry instead of autocratic. Leadership of the transforming church is a team sport. It is not one person’s show. Decision making is made by all members of the transforming church. Members of the transforming church are encouraged to use their gifts. Leadership of the transforming prays together. Transforming churches are healthy churches that are missional in their imaginations. The church supports mission endeavors and gets involved. Transforming churches are healthy churches that have defined and clear identities manifested through their behaviors. They know that they are called to represent Christ and should live to express Christ’s image through their behaviors. The churches’ core values are holiness, evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Transforming churches are healthy churches that accept change even when the change is painful. The churches are opened to innovations and they are willing to reinvest into change when such change has been ignored before.

            In their book, “Total Church,” Pastor Chester and Timmis defined church not as the place of assembly, but they defined the church as the believer’s identity in Christ. This identity in Christ is purposeful of changing believers’ lives so that their lives and mission can meet to become the total church. When believer lives out this life through obedience and proclamation of the gospel message to the world; then, will the world see the working of God through His word and believer’s life styles and turn to God. Pastor Chester and Timmis called this the total church. The total church focuses on three principles discussed in their book. These principles are based on the Christian practices. These practices focus on word-centered, mission-centered, and community-centered. In word-centered, the Christian life lives is the result of the power of the word. Hebrews 4:12 states that the word of God is quick and sharper than any double-edged sword … Romans 1:16–17 states that the word of God is the power of God onto salvation…. Christians are saved through the word. The Christian practices are word-centered, mission-centered, and community-centered. It is the word of God that empowers believers to live and to preach the gospel message. When the believer’s life intersects the gospel, his or her life becomes word-centered to become the total church. Mission-centered is when believer lives out the word through the obedience to the Great Commission execution; then, will the believer’s mission life intersects the gospel and becomes mission-centered. When believer’s life becomes the center of mission; then, will the believer’s life intersects the gospel and becomes community-centered. When the church is involved in mission, the church’s audience will be the community and the world at large. Where the intersection is situated of these Christian practices lie is called the total church. These Christian practices I called principles are the definitions of the total church discussed in their book. The total church is transformed through the word of God; therefore, the total church is word-centered, mission-centered, and community-centered and it is based on the Christian practices.

            In his book, “Church in Translation,” Pastor Collison adopts an interdisciplinary study of theology, sociology, and missiology. When believers proclaim the gospel using biblical cultural heritages such as painting, dance, theater, sculpture, and film; then, will believers be able to translate the gospel to the world. When believers use their creativities through arts to proclaim the word of God; then, the believers will be prepared to translate the church to the world through artistic arts. Pastor Collison puts it in perspective which he titles his book, “Church in Translation.” After the Reformation era, artistic arts were downplayed by conservative Protestants movements and arts were considered to be idolized form of worship in the house of God referencing Romans Catholicism; probably, the mannerism artistic arts were conducted in the Romans Catholic Church might have provoked such idolized nature of worship. The issue is not the manner of practice; however, it depends on the motives of the person who practices the arts. For instant, in the Roman Catholic Church, the statue of Mary is highly honored and could be idolized based on the motives of the members of the Romans Catholic Church who honor her statue. Artistic practices are biblical; however, the mannerism they are carried out matters the most.

            Dr. Malphurs, in his book, “Look before You Lead,” defined congregational culture as the unique behavior of people with shared values and core beliefs destined to accomplish a specific mission for the organization. In church planting, the church planter or the pastor is required to study the new culture he is sent to. The pastor does it through observation, interpretation, and application to draw intervention in order to accommodate the new culture. While the pastor studies the culture, he assumes the position of the culture architect or culture creator because he is the one who has started the new congregation. While the pastor leads the new culture, he eventually becomes the culture sculptor. He prays, does average church attendance, and averages attendance analysis of the church in order to see where the church is presently. When church enters into the decline or the plateau stage, the pastor assumes the post of the cultural blinder. During this period, the pastor can decide to merge with another church when the church is in decline or decides to end the church ministry.

            Jesus used parables in his teachings to teach a moral truth. Usually, he used earthly elements such as talents, sheep and goats, ten wise and unwise virgins with oil, and perched garments and wineskins to teach heavenly and practical realities. He used parables to hidden, blinding, and deafens the hearts, the eyes, and the ears of those who were not prepared to receive his message. Therefore it is the parable recorded in Mark 2:22 about the old and the new wineskins. The parable can be contextualized historically, theologically, and practically to get across what Jesus meant about the old and the new wineskins bursting if the new is put into the old.

            Historically, wines were pressed in Israel and were deposited into large containers or vats to undergo the fermentation process. If the wines were to be transported elsewhere, the wines were put into the wineskins. The wineskins were tanned goat skins that were tied off at the tail where the goat’s legs have been located. The wines were put into the skins and tied off at the tail before transporting the wines to the destination. When the new wines were put into the new wineskins, the skins stretched out due to the fermentation process that activated chemical reactions into skins. Once the skins were stretched out, they lost their elasticity and could no longer hold any new wines because they have been stretched out. If the new wines were put into the old skins, the skins will burst because the old skins have lost their elasticity and could no longer stretch out. Understanding the historical context of the parable gives us the edge to interpret the parable. To contextualize the parable theologically or biblically, the Pharisees had asked Jesus in contrast to his manner of fasting to that of theirs and John the Baptist. Jesus replied telling them that if one puts a new wine into the old wineskin, the skin will burst. This is the meaning of the parable by reflections: Primarily, the teaching of the Pharisees regarding the Law of Moses was taken out of context and traditionalized. The teaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God was opposed to their traditions. The two teachings (Jesus’ teaching and the Pharisees’ teaching) were incompatible; therefore, the Pharisees ascetic ritualism of the Old Testament could not fit into the teaching of the gospel Jesus presented. Putting new wines into old wineskins the skins will burst.

            Secondarily, in the context of John the Baptist’s manner of fasting, John the Baptist’s fasting was under the Old Testament Jesus came to fulfill; though, Jesus endorsed it; however, it was expiring. The parable describes the types of fasting of Jesus and John the Baptist referencing dispensational covenants (Old and the New Covenants). The new wines and old wines cannot mix together. John the Baptist and his disciples need adjustments to fast as Jesus and his disciples did.

            Thirdly, the followers of the Old Testament would take sometimes to get adjusted to the practice of the New Testament ways of life. People get encapsulated into old habits and it takes time to come out of such habits.

            Fourthly, the parable references patience. In most often times, ministers are not patient when it comes to considering the receptiveness, the weakness or the response of the congregations when it comes to casting vision, new idea or innovation. It is strongly recommended that pastors create adequate awareness among congregational members while holding dialogues to discuss the biblical and theological conversations of what the church wants to do before implementing the new idea. People will resist change by natural tendency; therefore, patience is required to lead people in accomplishing the mission in the organization. Leaders should continue to talk until the congregations get it right and subscribe to the vision.

            With reference to four powerful cultural changes affecting how ministry is done in some parts of the world especially in the west include the use of automobile, the running of the service industry, FM radio or cable TV, and mass customization.

            The use of automobile to do ministry is advantageous in the sense that automobile reduces the stress placed on pedestrians with regards to mobility. Automobile allows people to make decision where they want to go once they have the economic power to fuel the automobile in regardless of distances. People choose which church or Christian program they want to attend in regardless of distances because they have access to automobile. It makes ministry’s works easier and reduces stress when it comes to transportation issues. In the 80’s when I was a young believer, we were involved in active evangelism. During those days in Liberian, we never had access to automobile; however, we still walked long distances to have evangelistic meetings on the estates of the Firestone Plantation Company, Harbel, Liberia. We felt obligated to reach out to the community and we found pleasure doing evangelism. I am of the opinion that at certain times in ministry, some of the graces one has to carry out certain spiritual tasks such as evangelism, church planting, and among others can be reduced as one ages and grows to another level in ministry. At present I do not reach out as I used to do because my tasks in the ministry have shifted. I am leading group of pastors to plant churches and I financially and morally support the endeavors as the visionary of the ministry (PMI). My heart is still on evangelism and church planting and I want to see that churches are planted all over the world. This is the vision of Praise Ministries International, Inc.

            In the African context, one hardly sees a service industry like the McDonald as compared to the west. Church ministries run in the west are susceptible to borrow practices from the business world and have them adopted in the church settings. Such cultural shifts or practices can become dangerous sometimes to the church health. The principle of church’s growth is seen in the book of Acts; therefore, if churches by-pass the principles and adopt principles from the business world nomenclature as ‘quality control’ in order to draw members in the church as it is done to draw customers to the business as practiced by the service industry might not work; instead, it might become dangerous spiritually speaking. There are practices ministry adopts that might not appear to be sinful; however, it might not be in line with biblical practices by subject; therefore, such practices could become sinful in nature and makes the minister to struggle in the ministry. There is disconnecting between the service industry and the church. The service industry is a physical body and therefore offers carnal or physical services to humanity. The church is a spiritual body and therefore offers spiritual services to the congregations. The commonality between the both is that both minister to human beings; however, the offers are on different levels (physical and spiritual). The church offers social, emotional, psychological, cognitive, and spiritual services; on the other hand, the service industry offers social and physical services. This is the reason not everything from the service industry like the Bulgur King can work in the church ministry; therefore, ministry needs to be careful which cultural practices from the business world to adopt in the church.

            Another cultural shift that impacts how ministry is done in the present era is FM radio or cable TV including the internet that uses virtual programs such as Youtube channel, Skype, Google plus, messenger, zoom, and among others. All these programs customize how ministry is done with reference to evangelism, teaching seminar, preaching etc. FM radio can be used to broadcast ministry’s programs simultaneously in various locations of the world while the meeting is being held in a location. The cable TV can be used to televise the programs to mass audiences around the world. While the media are used to enhance the gospel ministry, they are also be used wrongly to expose humanity to acts of impurities such as pornography used on the internet by companies to advertise sex workers involved in prostitution. Believers are prone to these media and they can become vulnerable to the activities of Satan if they are not sensitive to the devil’s schemes.

            Another cultural shift in ministry is mass customization or personalization. Church ministries are susceptible to be drawn to consumerism mentality to adopt business methodology of doing ministry by creating the avenues for individual’s preferences with the goal to attract membership to the church as the business world does to attract customers to their businesses. When church ministry adopts the world system of doing ministry like the profitable business in the business world, the probability of entering into competitions with another church is imminent and inevitable. Every church ministry is unique and has its way of doing ministry through the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit. When churches enter into competitions to do ministry as the business world does, the Holy Spirit is absent and the outcome is unfruitful. This is one of the reasons some churches grows at a speed and after a while they decline or plateau. The reason is that the ministers did not invite the Holy Spirit. When church ministry becomes humanistic, the church will die. This cultural shift has entered the church ministry whereby churches are adopting to individual’s preferences especially those churches that have upper hand financially and materially. This has led some of the American churches to be like business. Competitions are seen among churches who have adopted such cultural shift. Some churches have departed from preaching on holiness; instead, they are given messages to their congregations as social clubs. Messages preached are tailored to individual’s preference as well. Sin should not be mentioned in messages or else the people will leave the church. This is the mind-set of preachers in such congregation. The word of God is watered down. In 2009, a member of my congregation met me after Sunday service and advised me to stop preaching on holiness or else the people would leave the church. I told him to put me in his prayers.