Tag: leading change

EP 168 – STEWARDSHIP IN REPLANTING

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EP 168 - STEWARDSHIP IN REPLANTING
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Welcome back Bootcampers! In this EP we get down to the important topic of Stewardship-our focus is on how we are stewarding our gifting, leadership opportunities and the foundational questions: 1) Who does the church belong to and 2) What is my role as a Steward.

Sit back listen in and we’d love to hear your feedback-drop us a line, a voice mail or a comment.

“When we believe that the things we possess are actually ours or exist because of us, they begin to control and define us rather than the other way around. Consequently, our security and identity becomes rooted in them. And then, we are unable to separate ourselves from them, or release them, or trust God with them because to do so would mean to lose our selves. This was never God’s intention for the gifts He gives His creation.” – Mike Ayers, Stewardship, not Ownership  

The Parable of the talents is a great place to establish a biblical basis for this – Matthew 25:14-30

  • We have been entrusted with gifts
  • Not everyone gets the same amount
  • What do we have to do to be told; “Well done!”
  • How should we live in order to be good and faithful servants?
  • What does the third servant teach us?

 

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A man in a pew seeking to revitalize

3 Reasons Churches Don’t Revitalize- And 1 Thing You Can Do About It

When thinking about the reason our congregations are hesitant to revitalize, we often say, “They just don’t want to change.” And while that may be partly true, it isn’t the whole reason, nor is it the sole reason.

During year three of our church’s revitalization process, my husband received an email from a long-time church member.  This church member was very frustrated and disgruntled over a decision my husband made regarding small groups at our church.  Instead of calling our Sunday morning groups by their former name, “Sunday School,” he opted to encompass all of our small groups under the name, “Connect Groups.” Sunday morning, Sunday night, weekday nights, on-campus, or out of homes, they would all be under the banner of “Connect Groups.” Her email started with her main complaint, but unraveled midway through to combine all of her frustration at the changes made during the three years we had been ministering there.  For several paragraphs, this woman compared the way things had always been done against the way things were being done now.  For each change, she listed all the ways it was better before– ending the email with the statement, “I just think there’s no need to change anything. Everything needs to stay the same as it always has. There’s no reason to do things differently.”

My husband responded simply, “Thank you for your email.  I certainly enjoy being able to get quick, efficient communication from my congregation members.  Seeing as how change is so frustrating for you, I will respond via a handwritten letter.  You should receive it in several business days.”

I’m kidding, of course.

My husband has infinite patience and responded kindly and warmly and explained the necessity of the change.  Unfortunately, he did not win her over; the woman would correct anyone who used “connect group” to refer to a group that met on Sunday mornings at church until the day she left our church, still angry and frustrated.  This woman is no different than countless congregation members across all of our churches, and I’m sure each of you reading this could share your own file of “Monday Morning Uplifting” emails from sheep that bite.  So why are some churches, and some congregants, so unwilling to revitalize?

In Episode 99, Jimbo and Bob (I’m really trying to get the “Jimbob” moniker to stick but I digress) discuss three reasons why a church might not want to revitalize: a lack of self-awareness, a desire to control, and the fear of loss.

The Crack in the Ceiling

A crack in the ceiling

One of the main reasons a congregation resists revitalization is a lack of self-awareness.  The church just isn’t aware of just how bad the issues are, whether they be the facilities, the programming, or the church governance and polity. Have you ever seen the commercial for the room freshening spray where the advertiser refers to being “nose-blind” to smells?  That’s the picture of some congregations.  They don’t see the need for revitalization because things don’t seem that bad to them.  It takes an outside perspective to address the issue, because only an outsider can see it.  

A pastor I know began to look at remodeling his church’s sanctuary.  There was money in the budget to do it without going into debt, and the sanctuary’s aesthetic was dated and worn.  But more than the cosmetic reasons for the remodel, the church had serious structural issues that needed to be addressed.  There were cracks in the ceiling that were so large, swarms of wasps would swoop down from them during the service and dive-bomb members of the congregation.  The addition and subtraction of several instruments and sound equipment over the years had resulted in wires and speakers dangling precariously from the ceiling.  And yet, when faced with the decision to remodel, the church voted to refrain from doing any major remodeling.  One long time member stood up and said, “That crack in the ceiling has been there since I started here in 1960 and it’s not hurting anything!”  The pastor left the church shortly after, discouraged and demoralized by the church’s lack of awareness and vision.

Sometimes this lack of self-awareness even extends past the facilities and into the church’s reasons for decline.  “The community changed, they just aren’t the same as they used to be,” is a common refrain. “The doors are open, but they won’t come in!” These church members resent the community, and as Mark Clifton often says, “You can’t reach people you resent.”  Until your church loves their community, they will never feel the need to reach them– and reaching your community is not just a vital part of revitalization, but is also a commandment from your Creator. (Thom Rainer’s book, Anatomy of a Revived Church and Mark Clifton’s book Reclaiming Glory are both excellent resources to help your church see the connection between loving your community and reaching them with the Gospel.) Sometimes, churches will say, “The church down the street is to blame!” as though there aren’t enough lost people to go around.  Or, “The former pastor messed everything up!” But the key is the lack of awareness of their own part in the church’s decline.  There is a reluctance to admit the need to change their behavior or their surroundings.

Who is in Control Here?

Another reason churches are hesitant to revitalize is the loss of control.  Maybe a former pastor came in with a “dictator” mentality and ran people off with his authoritarian style of leadership.  Alternatively, maybe the former pastor was weak and ineffective and the church is now used to controlling its own fate and the idea of revitalizing and changing pushes against that.  

Occasionally, there are “power brokers” in a church.  These people, and sometimes whole families, have gone from being generous givers in the past to controlling congregants now.  Having a new pastor come in and give them advice to change something creates conflict between them and him.  They may even “talk” with their wallets, refusing to tithe until their demands are met.  

This struggle for control can cause pastors who deeply desire revitalization to give in and yield to those who cannot be convinced of the need to change course.  The church then continues in plateau or in a downward trajectory until it eventually dies.

Change is Scary– but Loss is the Real Fear 

A cartoon where a man protests change in church

This brings us to the third reason churches don’t revitalize: Fear.  Many pastors assume that their congregation is scared of change.  But that’s not entirely accurate.  I would imagine most of your congregation is riding around in cars with fuel injection systems and power steering, and some have even embraced such modern amenities as backup cameras, remote start, and keyless entry.  Likely, too, that they use washing machines, dishwashers, cell phones, and microwaves on occasion. Remember our friend from the introduction?  She used email, a relatively modern way to communicate, to express her disdain for change.  So it isn’t a fear of change that scares people– it’s a fear of loss.

Our culture has created a climate of comfort in all areas.  We seek, above all else, to be comfortable.  And when so much of the world changes so rapidly, sometimes our congregation just wants Sunday morning to be the one place where their friends, their pastor, their songs, and their pew stay the same.  They fear not so much the change, but the loss of that comfort zone and that feeling of safety that comes with it.  There is stability in staying the course, even if we’ve determined that the course isn’t working. 

A Spiritual Problem with a Scriptural Solution

The problem with all of these excuses against revitalization is a central one– a lack of faith in Jesus and what He can do for our churches.  This is a spiritual problem, one where the culture of a church is based around the congregation’s abilities, not the supernatural power of God.  The lack of awareness, desire for control, and the fear of loss of comfort, are all symptoms of a larger problem in which churches seek their own desires above the need to evangelize, adapt, and love the community they have been given.  

The culture of the church has to change before any revitalization strategy can ever be effective.  This is why pastors who enter into replants and revitalizations must practice holy patience.  They must be able to pray while they wait.  The pastor must be able to, as Bob says, “lead his people to understand who they are in Christ. He has to lead them to understand the mission of the church. And he asked to lead them to understand the power of Christ to accomplish that mission.”  

This is a scriptural solution to a spiritual problem.  Scripture should be our basis for revitalization, not current trends.  When we seek out what God has to say to us and to our churches, we are better able to guide our church toward Biblical Revitalization that reaches our community with the Gospel and that breathes Holy Spirit-filled life back into the dying church.

The Windows of Revitalization, Explained

Is it ever too late to Revitalize or Replant a church? For churches facing imminent closure, it may be possible that they’ve missed the opportunity to see church renewal. When finances are scarce, laborers are few, and ministry opportunities are thin, the options begin to narrow. But if those windows are acknowledged, a church can pause, ask the right questions, and determine a roadmap for church renewal.

Life Cycles in a Church

When we met with our first church to explore why they had lost 100 members in 20 years, we tried to find out what were the factors of their decline. Was there a major split? Deacons fighting in the parking lot? Did one bad pastor drive everyone out? No, it was none of those things. When we looked at their church’s trends over the past 20 years, we found that the decline had been a slow and gradual one.

The factors of decline involved spiritual warfare, arguing about secondary theological matters, and multiple changes in leadership. The pastor explained it as a slow, gradual loss. It wasn’t a church split that caused members to leave, it was gradual loss of mission and a disconnection from their community ministry. For twenty years, the church had been doing, “business as usual,” without asking the question: “Why are we declining?” 

Fortunately, this church has a high receptivity to change. They have now begun to address those declining factors and started a Revitalization process. They have a great mission field ahead of them, and are seeking out ways they can bless their community while they refocus their church spiritually. 

Churches experiencing decline have windows of opportunity in which they can address decline and see a turnaround. If they fail to address the underlying issues of decline, they could miss the window and head toward irreversible decline and eventual closure. As Bob and Jimbo mentioned in Ep. 161 of the podcast, there are predictive patterns and life cycles in Churches with predictable success or failure.

Seasons of growth, plateau, and decline are present in almost every church at some point in its history. For some churches, a season of decline can lead to eventual closure. The task of every church is to be keenly aware of where it is presently and what steps toward its future it must take.

Asking the Right Questions

When you go to the doctor, you may tell them all of your symptoms. A wise doctor will not ask the question, “How can we treat your symptoms?” unless they first ask, “What sickness do you have?” Once the sickness is identified, the appropriate course of treatment can be prescribed. A foolish doctor might simply give you Tylenol and send you on your way, instead of treating your sickness at its root.

One of the most critical issues facing the church is a failure to ask the right questions. Churches that are facing imminent closure often ask, “What can we do?” Instead, they should be asking, “Why are we declining?” This type of question gets to the root of a church’s decline, whereas the first question deals more with the symptoms than the actual cause. 

A growing church asks, “What must we do?” A plateaued church asks, “How are we doing?” And a declining church must ask, “Why are we not growing?” Every church should evaluate their present condition, take the time to ask the right questions, discern the answers, and once they have gained insight and wisdom from God and others,  chart a course in a new direction. 

Understanding the Windows

No example is perfect, but we’ve found the Windows of Revitalization very helpful in identifying where a church is in their life cycle. For a detailed explanation of each window, see Bob Bickford’s work here.

Revitalization Window 1 – Plateau stage or onset decline (change required)

During this stage, you begin to see symptoms of decline in your church. Some families begin to leave, you see a few less people in youth or children. Giving is down by 5-10%. During this first window, change is needed. There is a small difference, but it’s not very noticeable. 

You then need to begin a prayerful effort and ask what are the changes that need to be looked at. We often miss it because we aren’t looking close enough. During this stage, the missional and ministry efforts of a church begin to wane, leadership becomes exhausted, and conflicts in the church go unresolved. If those things are left unchecked, it can result in a quick change of your church atmosphere. While the issues may not seem urgent, they can grow quickly.

Revitalization Window 2 – Persistent / continued decline (significant change required)

During this window, issues and conflict persist. The loss of missional vitality becomes evident, and the church begins losing touch with their community. They may seek to blame their decline by saying, “The community is changing,” or “We just need a new pastor.” There is a growing number of losses, and at the end of the second window there is an exodus of key members and mission leaders. 

At this point, full time staff may become part time staff or giving starts to drop drastically. The church may adopt a “play it safe mentality” – most people resist significant change, because significant change could lead to loss. People become increasingly more opinionated about how they like church, and they become more selfish with their giving. 

When a church fails to pause and ask critical questions to address concerns, these windows begin closing. And while Revitalization is possible, it’s not always probable. The longer the decline, the more radical changes are necessary to reverse the church’s trajectory.

The Replant Window – Late / critical / significant decline (radical change required)

In the last window, a church desperately needs outside help and perspective. The options to see the church thriving again is very narrow and improbable. The church can no longer do it by themselves as they’ve missed the time of change when renewal was likely. A church facing this stage is likely facing imminent closure within the next 1-3 years, and radical change is necessary. 

Think of a frozen computer screen. It’s sitting there, not producing any work or being used for any good reason. You’ve tried different methods like hitting “escape.” You’ve tried ctrl+alt+delete. But, it still stays frozen on that same screen. You may have to do a whole system reboot to get the computer up and running again. 

A church facing imminent closure has likely disconnected entirely from their community and work of ministry. Leadership is scarce, finances are slim, and hope is wearing out. The church is in survival mode, and are not concerned with reaching lost people for Christ. They may be aged, unable, or unwilling to engage the unchurched in the community.

Thankfully, in Replanting, there are different ways to address these issues. A partnership replant is a helpful option for churches facing possible closure. This can look like a merge/marriage, church fostering, family network churches, or other partnership replants. Replanting from within is also an option if there is still a healthy leadership team that exists.  

Hope for the Future

All of these changes require hard work. And that is why outside help is needed. While a Replant can occur from within, It is often a difficult road. But with the grace of God, we are seeing more and more congregations go through replants and revitalizations for God’s glory and seeing their churches turnaround.

Jesus cares deeply about the health of His local church. When a church recognizes where it needs to change, and begins to seek the face of God, it’s amazing how God can turn a situation around for His glory. We must remember that the church does not belong to us, it belongs to Christ. And He alone can bring renewal if we are seeking Him. How are you stewarding the time God has given you at your church? Are there concerns that need to be addressed?

For more info about the life cycles of a church, see Bill Henard’s book, ReClaimed Church, or Mark Hallock’s book, “God’s Not Done with Your Church.” If you think your church is in danger of closing, take this church health assessment. This self-assessment is meant to help assist you in determining the current state of your local church. Another way to get started is by taking an introductory course that will help anyone understand what church replanting is and how it provides hope for dying churches.

EP 151 – BRAIN SCIENCE AND CHANGE RESISTANCE

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EP 151 - BRAIN SCIENCE AND CHANGE RESISTANCE
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Why is change so difficult to accept? Especially by churches who are steeped in decline? We may need to consider how we’re wired up and what we think. In this episode the guys talk about brain science, group think and what we need to know about it all as Replanters.  Dial it up, sit right down and let us know what you think.

What do we need to know about Brain

  • Your experiences shape your brain and your reactions
  • Habits and Responses become hardwired into your brain
  • Your brain has a natural negativity (protective) bias
  • Thinking is contagious
  • Remapping a thought pattern is possible but difficult, time consuming

Church Application for Replanters/Revitalizers

  • Some congregants are fearful
  • Church traditions are hardwired in the congregations collective conscience and not easily disrupted
  • Congregations are hyper vigilant regarding potential threats to their existence
  • Remaining Members in a deeply declined church will likely have the same mindset
  • Changing the existing group-think is possible but will be difficult and time consuming

It’s not too late to sign up for the Replant Summit in ATL, we’d love to see you there!

 

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EP 146 – FORMAL AND INFORMAL PERMISSION

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EP 146 - FORMAL AND INFORMAL PERMISSION
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Hope you had a great 4th of July-we’re back at it this week talking about something that every Pastor, Replanter and Revitalizer needs to get a handle on: Formal and Informal Permission. What is it? Check out the definitions and discussion below.

Formal Permission: the act of garnering approval via a recognized and agreed upon process for a decision or action. Like these examples below.

  • Bylaws
  • Policies
  • Committee meetings
  • Business meetings

Informal Permission: the leadership skill and insight which recognizes the power of influence and influencers and knows that forward progress often moves at the speed of relationships

  • Every church has influencers, gatekeepers – they are the ones who everyone looks at when a discussion turns to a point of decision or is considering killing a sacred cow.
  • These aren’t necessarily “problem” people – they are often faithful process oriented folks who have made the hard decisions or assumed the important role of keeping the church legal and alive.

Keep this in mind:

You can’t ignore the processes and expect to have the support of the congregation

You have to know the processes and policies and work within them (even if you want to change them)

You gain the opportunity to change them – by working in them and then suggesting or proposing a better way

  • Is this decision making structure leading to the accomplishment of our mission?
  • Is this decision making structure hindering the accomplishment of our mission?
  • How might we more effectively make decisions on important matters?

Forward progress often moves at the speed of relationship and trust.

Need some help with Bylaws? Check out the Bootcamp EP 92 with the Baptist Bouncer, Craig Culbreth to brush up on your bylaws skill.

 

 

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Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy and detail.

 

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EP 131 – CULTIVATING DESIRE IN CULTURE CHANGE with Keelan Cook

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EP 131 - CULTIVATING DESIRE IN CULTURE CHANGE with Keelan Cook
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While the boys were in Atlanta for the annual AMS Replant Practitioner Lab they took some time to record several episodes with some of the plenary speakers. Keelan Cook is OG for the Replant Practitioner Lab and the OG Replant Bootcamp Missiologist.

In the previous episode with Dr. Casey “The Chin” Williams the guys discussed the importance of missions methodology being informed first by right theology and then right missiology.

Theology > Missiology > Methodology

But when it comes to methodology, what is the best way to get people to act on the call we all have to be missionaries? Good information won’t be enough. There has to be a desire, there has to be affection.

In this episode, Keelan Cook helps us think through the integrity of our messaging and the ways that we learn.

Developing desire is the most important aspect of navigating outreach.

  • Integrity of message:
    • MACRO-LEVEL — Broadcast level that is most likely to hit the whole church at once. Think sermons, website, emails, etc.
    • MESO-LEVEL (mid-level) — Smaller groupings of people within the church where much equipping and fellowshipping takes place. Think sunday school classes, small groups etc.
    • MICRO-LEVEL — Interpersonal interaction. Think the foyer prior to corporate worship, or lunch following the service
  • LOVE BY DOING
    • Learning domains
      • Cognitive (Head) – Knowledge and concepts
      • Affective (Heart) – Emotional buy-in
      • Behavioral (Hands) – Activity-based

“In 1964 Leon Festinger’s research led him to advance the radical notion that the knowledge–behaviour relationship actually works the other way around – that is, people are more likely to behave their way into thinking than think their way into behaving”  – Shaw, Transforming Theological Education, 2014.

Your website is part of your church’s mission to reach the community-is it working? Connect with our great partner, One Eighty Digital and get their help to make sure your website both reflects who your church is and what you are about.

Drop us a line, send us a voicemail-we’d love to hear about your story in reaching the community God has placed you within.

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EP 126 – THE EMOTIONAL CYCLE OF CHANGE

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EP 126 - THE EMOTIONAL CYCLE OF CHANGE
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In this EP the guys talk with a boots on the ground pastor, Tim Williams of Gladewater TX. Pastor Tim is new to the field, remodeling the Parsonage, celebrating their new 10month old and doing the hard work of revitalizing a local church.

Tim asks the guys this question: How can I effectively and empathetically lead a 150 year old church, with long time members, toward change in a healthy and respectful way, that will help us reach younger families and not alienate the older members?

The guys engage in some good convo and break down the emotional cycle of change that faces church members and the Pastor as they embark on a change journey.

Emotional Cycle of Change:

  • Uninformed Optimism is an exciting stage, but it doesn’t last long. (Israelites following Moses out of Egypt)
  • Informed Pessimism ”is characterized by a shift to a negative emotional state. At this point, the benefits don’t seem as real, important, or immediate, and the costs of the change are apparent. You start to question if the change is really worth the effort and begin to look for reasons to abandon the effort.” (Israelites at the first sign of trouble)
  • The Valley of Despair “This is when most people give up. All of the pain of change is felt and the benefits seem far away or less important—and there is a fast, easy way to end the discomfort: going back to the way you used to do things. After all, you rationalize that it wasn’t so bad before.” (Take us back to Egypt)
  • Informed Optimism – Finally back in optimism. Don’t stop! (Crossing the Jordan – first Passover in promised land)
  •  Success and Fulfillment – You are finally experiencing the benefits on the other side of change. (Defeating Jericho)

Are you navigating change in your Replant? Have some insights? Drop us a line or leave a voicemail on the bootcamp hotline.

Thanks for being a loyal bootcamp listener, be sure to leave us a review and share this podcast with your friends.

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EPISODE #81 – Holy Discontentment – Overcoming Resistance to Change

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EPISODE #81 - Holy Discontentment - Overcoming Resistance to Change
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JimBo and Bob discuss the importance of holy discontentment in overcoming resistance to change.

Holy Discontent + Vision + First Steps + Leadership > Resistance to Change

Holy Discontent – The unquenchable Spirit-Initiated conviction that things are not as they should be–and that must change.

 

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EPISODE #60 – 5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE IMPLEMENTING CHANGE

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EPISODE #60 - 5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE IMPLEMENTING CHANGE
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The boys are back (in their domiciles) and serving up another episode to you about implementing change in your Replant/Revitalization.  Congrats to Bootcamp Listener, Gary Hinkle-the winner of a new “black ops” Replant Bootcamp cap!  Get your very own Replant Bootcamp hat-the contest continues!

What to keep in mind as you are leading change

  • Operate as a team – avoid isolation
  • Communicate the vision – in as many ways as possible
  • Celebrate wins along the way – they show the sacrifice is worth it
  • Engage in strategic evaluation – from those on the change team and in the congregation
  • Maintain tension – keep things moving forward, you never arrive at the finish line.
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EPISODE #57 – CREATING AND CELEBRATING WINS TO BUILD MOMENTUM

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EPISODE #57 - CREATING AND CELEBRATING WINS TO BUILD MOMENTUM
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In this episode the boys talk about the importance of celebrating wins along the way in Replanting. Why is this necessary? Because the work of Replanting is hard and difficult.

Here are some of the highlights

  • Celebrate small steps and wins
  • Find something to celebrate each weekend
  • Be sure to celebrate missional activity-even if it starts small
  • Celebrate changes in attitude and heart
  • Celebrate being part of something bigger (especially if you are part of a denomination)
  • Celebrate steps that your church is taking toward the accomplishment of your vision
  • Get someone outside your church to come in and help you see things you can celebrate

What wins are you celebrating? We’d love to hear from you-send us an email, a photo or a story.

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Check out the show notes below for more detail. Show transcripts are an approximation of the podcast, audio should be consulted for exact detail.

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