Category Archives: Church Inside Out

Ministry for non-ministers

No tengo alma de cura.” Translation: I don’t have the soul of a priest.

That’s how one church member in Argentina explained why he wasn’t more involved at church. He wasn’t a preacher. Wasn’t a song leader. Got too nervous to lead prayers or direct singing. There was nothing for him to do.

Hopefully we can see the folly in this reasoning, but I also hope that we can see that the view isn’t uncommon. We hear it a lot in gender discussions. We should be aware of it in all of our church discussions.

Church members need to see that they can and should have a ministry outside of the Sunday assembly. Here are some suggestions on how to go about that, taken from my book Church Inside Out:

  • Leaders expect to be positive and affirming when faced with ministry proposals. The church needs to develop an atmosphere where members can try new things; that’s the best way for people to discover their gifts.
  • Priority is on “outside the walls” ministries. It’s too easy to fall back into thinking about what is done in Bible class or the worship assembly when we’re thinking about how God has gifted us. We need to see that the ability to feed the hungry and clothe the poor is a spiritual gift, and teaching young kids to read is as much a ministry as teaching Ladies Bible class.
  • When someone describes something that isn’t right, it’s taken as an offer to help. If someone wants to talk to the leaders about something that needs improvement, that person needs to know they will be actively engaged as part of the solution.
  • Members need to be aware of needs in order to meet those needs. Part of the job of being a leader is awareness of needs in the community and in the church. Leaders need a mechanism for communicating those needs to the body.
  • The church will not and can not meet every need. But we can expect God to use members to meet the needs that best fit their gifts, and we can expect him to provide gifts for the needs the church is best able to meet.
  • Ministries have to be given the freedom to die. People need to know that there is no shame in moving on from a ministry that is no longer fruitful or no longer needed. People need to have the opportunity to try something and honestly evaluate the results. If what is tried doesn’t work, the church members must have the freedom to let it go.

What suggestions would you offer? How can we help our members to identify and use community-oriented gifts?

Ministry is out there

In my last post, I talked about our need to assist Christians in discovering ministries outside of the Sunday morning worship time. Basically, we need to expand our view of what ministry is. The time we spend in corporate worship is such a small percentage of our week; if that’s the only place that ministry takes place, the church will be insignificant in its community.

We have 168 hours in a week. If we take out 8 hours a day for sleep, that still leaves 112. How much time do we spend in corporate worship? Anywhere from one to four hours. That’s a small part of 112 hours; if that’s the focus of our ministry, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives are largely unfruitful.

We need vision. We need imagination. We need creativity. We need to continually find ways to serve God outside of the assembly, as well as inside.

Christian leaders should be focused on equipping the saints for works of ministry, on spurring them on to love and good deeds. We need to encourage our people to explore their gifts, to explore different ways of serving and ministering to the people around them.

When all we see is the assembly, we are doomed to a lifestyle of power plays and doctrinal arguments. When we lift our vision and see what the church can do around our community and around our world, we’ll soon be too busy serving to have time to argue over minutiae.

Get up. Get out. Go serve. Come together to worship God and recharge our batteries for another week of service.

Ministry is out there, not in here. Until we learn that, I don’t see anything for us but fussing, fighting, and decline.

By the way, I noticed that the Church Inside Out books are now available on Amazon.

You can buy the main book here:

You can buy the workbook here:

Church Inside Out seminars

I believe that the material in Church Inside Out is important for our churches. I have no illusions of getting rich off selling books. I do have dreams of the contents helping some churches become more effective in reaching out to their communities.

It was gratifying to hear that 21st Century Christian has already had to do a second run on the workbooks. I guess some churches are buying the book for their teachers and the workbooks for the class members. That works.

I’ll be presenting this material in four large events this year: the Pepperdine Lectures in May, the Red River Family Encampment in June, the Lipscomb Summer Celebration in June, and the Harding Lectureship in September. I also have several seminars planned at churches in the U.S., plus a request from the Dominican Republic!

I’d love to present this material at your congregation. The Church Inside Out seminar is a practical workshop for the congregation that wants to increase its impact on the community around it. The four sessions of the seminar are:

  • Session 1: The Church Inside
    Christians face new challenges when trying to reach today’s changing society: hostility toward religion, skepticism toward the Bible, apathy toward church membership. Yet the biggest hurdles we face are often inside our own congregations.
    In this first session, we will look at attitudes in our churches that distance us from the communities around us. We will also examine the role of Christians as ambassadors of the Kingdom.
  • Session 2: The World Outside
    In this session, we will look at how to analyze the make-up of our community and how to purposefully serve that community. We will also discuss the need to develop relationships with non-Christians to be able to share Christ with them.
  • Session 3: The Church Goes Out
    Conversion is a process, and church members need to know how to actively participate in every stage of that process. The third session will look at how to treat people who are at different points in their spiritual journey towards God. We’ll learn how to recognize when people are ready to hear the good news and how to share it with them.
  • Session 4: Outsiders No More
    When foreigners come to a new country, they go through something called acculturation. This is the process of learning the appropriate ways of doing things in their new culture. When new Christians begin meeting with the church, they go through a similar process. The final session deals with how to help new Christians become active members of the church.

Our seminars page on the Hope For Life website explains the costs:

The only cost to the hosting congregation is transportation, hotel, meals, and an opportunity to tell the Hope For Life story to the congregation, elders, or Mission Committee. Contact Bill Brant, or call 1-800-234-7995, for more information.

I hope to see you soon at a Church Inside Out seminar

One step closer

one-stepLast week I talked about listening to people after the elections. Hopefully you’ve been able to hear those around you; hear their fears, hear their values, hear their priorities. Now I suggest that you look for opportunities to speak.

First, let me repeat a point that I’ve made here and in my book Church Inside Out. Conversion is a process. For many, it’s a long, step-by-step journey from unbelief to discipleship. There are milestones along the way, like the acceptance of the concept of a supreme being, the acknowledgement of the authority of the Bible, the understanding of the exclusive claims made by Jesus. It’s rare for the complete unbeliever to become a dedicated Christ follower after a conversation or two. It happens, but it’s rare.

I would argue that our mindset should always be that we want to move people one step closer to the imitation of Christ. For some, that means getting them to accept that truth exists and can be found; that may seem like an obvious point, but for many in our world today, that’s a foreign concept. For others, their step closer is coming to see that religion is not a malignant force in our society.

For others, that necessary step will be understanding the personal nature of the gospel; many more will need to grasp the communal nature of the gospel. For some, it will be about how to live as believers.

That’s part of what we’re listening for as well. We want to know where people are and how to help them move one step closer… followed by another step and another. Along the way, we hope to take another step ourselves.

As you think about speaking about Jesus to the people around you, recognize that yours is a simple sharing of what you’ve experienced and come to believe. Don’t worry about being prepared to answer every question nor to present a full-blown theological system. Your task is to tell your family and neighbors what the Lord has done for you.

After all the talk, it’s time to listen

Late afternoon yesterday, when I felt that most people had already voted, I posted the following on Facebook:

I’d like to tweak that thought a bit. I don’t think today is a day for talking. I think today is the day we listen. Based on what we hear, we hope to share some things… later.

I’d like to encourage you to listen today to the people around you. Not the talking heads on TV, but your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others around you.

Listen to them. They’ll probably be talking about the elections. Are they happy? Listen as to why. Ask them why. Are they upset? Listen as to why. Ask them why.

You may hear general comments about how ugly the campaign was or how wrong the pollsters were. You may statements about truth, about ethics, about justice. You may hear comments about race, about gender, about religious freedom.

Do they want to make America great? Ask them what greatness is. Do they want to return to former values? Ask what those values are.

What you’re listening for are opportunities to speak truth, God’s truth. You’re looking for what is important to that person, what gives them hope, what scares them. All of this will give you an idea about the sorts of things that you can share to them.

You’ve shared your political ideas. Now put that same energy and conviction into sharing your faith. Begin by listening. If you listen today, you’ll know what to talk about tomorrow.