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‘The Church Doctor’ has some strong medicine for congregations

The most important task for every church leader during the next two years is to prepare his or her church for this next major movement of God.

By Ronald E. Keener

Kent Hunter leads Church Doctor Ministries from Corunna, IN, and has become known as The Church Doctor for his 35 years of consulting with churches and training consultants throughout the U.S.

“Our depth, with more than two dozen services, is possible because of our analysts, support team, and use of technology,” Dr. Hunter says. “In North America, we have worked with about 1,500 churches of 65 different denominations as well as an increasing number of independent, non-denominational and emerging churches. The approach to this ministry is based on our Mission Statement that leads to the transformational change of the local church for the effective implementation of the Great Commission.”

Hunter has a couple of books in the works; his greatest focus right now has the working title Growing Quality People: Leading by Relationship. “Many leaders graduate from well-known universities, become corporate presidents or financial tycoons on Wall Street, but do not have character, values, integrity, quality, honesty and authenticity. It is my premise that while institutions can train people with knowledge, one-on-one mentoring—what Jesus called discipling—is the key to formation: developing values and habits that result in quality lives and quality work. Our world desperately needs this.”

Hunter is leading a team of pastors and church leaders to an emergent experience of the Emergent Church Movement taking place in England in June 2010. Hunter is an advisor for this movement and has worked with this group in England over the last eight years. He has come to the conclusion that a revival is coming to America and will be visible to most Christians by the year 2019.

He believes that the most important task for every pastor in the United States is to prepare their church for the coming revival. This emersion experience is based on his perception that a movement is “caught not taught.” He believes that if a church is going to be ready for what God is going to do, pastors have a window of two or three years to start the process of preparing their churches.

Church Executive posed some questions to him about his work with churches and what he has learned over the past 35 years:

What common issues do churches most seem to have that you encounter in your consultations?

1. Identifying methods and strategies to deliver the Gospel effectively in the 21st century mission field that America has become.

2. Communicating to postmodern young adults, eager for spirituality, but turned off to the institutional church.

3. How to activate members for ministry in the backdrop of soaring costs for staff.

4. The best practices that provide a model for staffing today.

5. How to change direction from getting people to church to getting the church to people.

Is there a certain point when churches call for help, recognizing their problem is too difficult for them to handle alone?

Most churches calling for a consultant have leaders that view problems as challenges. Frequently, there will be a cluster of issues matched by a desire to be more effective. This is coupled with an awareness that, in the complexities of today’s world, requires a team effort, which includes an outside, objective expert. The Proverb says, “A wise man has many counselors.” Our Church Doctors are blessed to work with wise church leaders who want to learn, improve, grow and impact their communities.

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What particular skills or helps do you bring in these consultations?

An outside “expert” brings leverage, support, encouragement, and empowerment to the staff and leadership. Our analytical tools, used prior to visiting, identify issues behind the issues, the causative elements, including the culture and ethos of the church. This is the beginning of a path toward positive transformational change. Follow-up and guidance to help the church develop Action Plans to our recommendations changes our report from a blueprint to a three-to-five- year plan of action. We develop a lasting relationship with these churches.

Has the current economic downturn made a difference in the nature of the consultations you have had in the past eight months?

There is no question that the economic issues of our day have impacted every part of life. For many congregations, it has sharpened their values and increased their desire to be more effective in making disciples and impacting their communities. It is not difficult for churches with strong, vision-casting leaders to raise money to provide a consultation. In fact, in a somewhat paradoxical way, the recession has heightened the willingness of believers to give and support a good cause that has tangible results. Meanwhile, in these challenging times, those who are not yet believers are more receptive — it’s harvest time.

You have spoken of “pain-free church government.” Is there such a thing for churches; what do you mean by that?

The church government in 99 percent of churches in the Western world today has been inherited by an over reaction from the State churches of Europe, particularly in the Protestant and non-denominational sectors. Our analytical tool to help churches develop a biblical form of church government demonstrates that most church leaders, and many of the members, already understand the biblical principles of how we should make decisions and interact with one another.

The Scriptures show a form of decision-making that focuses on God’s will above everything else. Most churches operate from a high control/ low accountability model. The model of the New Testament is low control (the priesthood of all believers) and high accountability (speak the truth in a spirit of love).

What advice do you give churches about reaching postmodern young adults?

Postmodern young adults will be reached on their turf, not the church’s. Relationships are the platform of the future church, not the institution. Post-moderns (of all ages) want to hear how God has made a difference in your life. That experiential connection, authentic and unrehearsed, is the entry point for sharing the faith, not bringing someone to the institutional church to hear a sermon. Postmoderns are network-oriented.

This sets the stage for the first worldwide revival, which I perceive is coming to North America in the next 10 years. The greatest roadblock that could hinder that movement is the local church that ignores the realities of our postmodern world. The most important task for every church leader during the next two years is to prepare his or her church for this next major movement of God.

There are other ministries doing consulting with churches. How does Church Doctor differ or what does it bring that is unique in its approach?

We have been studied several times by experts, including some Fortune 500 consultants who have scrutinized our ministry. The results show Church Doctor Ministries is unique and effective because of the holistic, diagnostic effort we put into analyzing a congregation.

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Since we look at a church as a living organism (the Body of Christ), we follow the same approach as medical doctors: diagnosis, prognosis, prescription.

Our commitment to follow through and follow up is surprisingly unusual among consultants. About 90 percent of the churches with whom we work implement 90 percent of the recommendations we make, and many of those churches call us again, as they face new opportunities and challenges.

Hunter is the author of numerous books including The Jesus Enterprise: Engaging Culture to Reach the Unchurched; Discover Your Windows: Lining Up With God’s Vision; and Move Your Church to Action. [www.churchdoctor.org ]

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WHAT CONSULTATIONS HAVE REVEALED

Church leaders often seek substantive changes but use programs and activities that are applied to the symptoms. Causative issues include values, worldviews, and presuppositions. Many leaders guide their churches to become more mission-oriented but fail to recognize they are superimposing another culture upon the present culture of most maintenance-oriented churches. The end result is conflict. We have designed our consultations to measure the cultural and worldview issues and provide practical and tangible recommendations.

I don’t see many churches practicing the discipleship equipping (Ephesians 4) of their members. There is a lot of teaching, many classes — head knowledge, which is good. But there isn’t much on-the- job, one-on-one mentoring — what Jesus called discipling.

Pastors are generally not well trained for the challenges they face.

Many are frustrated and stressed. Many should be more willing to seek outside consultancy help.

Finances are a frequent challenge. The causative issue is usually lack of biblical stewardship issues; not fund raising but biblical principles.

Most churches have a Mission Statement, but no clear philosophy of ministry (describing the unique “personality” of the church), and few have a clear Vision Statement describing “this is what we believe our church will look like in 5 to10 years.”

Most churches have inherited a form of church government that is unbiblical and detrimental. — K.H.

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