Tag Archives: outreach

How about some good news?

One of our members, Rosario Gibbs, posted this on her Facebook page. I’m sharing it with her permission:

My church served single mothers through a ministry called LOFT. Every year on Christmas, our church would ask families to sponsor a single mother and her children with Christmas gifts. Two years ago, I was walking the aisles of Walmart, buying items off the gift list we got from one of the single moms and her three children, and as I was looking into the shelves, a Walmart employee stops me and asks, in Spanish, if I’d accept an employee discount card that she had. Me, not fully understanding what she meant, asked if she was offering me her discount card for free, and she said “yes, I am done with my shopping and I don’t need this card, so I asked God to show me the right person and I think it’s you, it’s a 25% discount card.” She said she needed to go with me to the cashier cause she needed to sign to get the discount for me. I said “ok, but I’m not done yet,” and she said she’d wait for me at the cashier. When I was done, I met her at the cashier and she made the discount available to my purchase. I gave her a hug and told her about my church’s ministry and who she was blessing with that act of kindness, she said she knew God would point her to the right person. And I left amazed at God’s mysterious ways and grace.
Last week on Wednesday, a 22 year old male tragically passed away, he was the son of a lady that’s been visiting our church for over a month now, with whom I hadn’t spent much time during church. She was obviously devastated and requested visits and prayers. By Thursday, she was dealing with the unfortunate and painful fact that she didn’t have the money to pay for her son’s funeral, she couldn’t even have access to see his dead son, everything was just too much to deal with. Our church stepped in and helped raise the funds for her. On Sunday, amidst her pain, she was at church and we had a special prayer for her. Yesterday, Monday, some members of my church attended the visitation. I was standing in the room, looking at the young life that was lost, and then looking at the face of that mother, so full of sadness and pain, and I obviously couldn’t contain my tears. After a few words, a prayer and a song from one of our ministers, I left feeling terribly sad, praying for her and her family. As I was driving towards my house, I had her face on my mind and I remembered! She was the lady at Walmart that gave me her employee discount card two years ago!! She was her!
I thought of turning back so that I could ask her if she was that lady, but I didn’t do it. Today, we offered a meal for her family and friends after the burial. At the end of the meal, and after her friends and family left, all the present women from church sat with her and her husband and prayed for them again, when we were done I asked her “are you the lady that gave me the discount card at Walmart? She smiled and nodded, and we hugged. I told her again how she blessed that single mom and her kids, and I said “God blesses,” and she said “I have no doubt about it!”
2 Corinthians 9:8 says “….God is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work.”
Be sure, we serve an awesome God and His hand is all over our lives! And He definitely works in mysterious ways. Thank you God for your grace and love!

Relationships and outreach

Studies done back in the 1980s showed that anywhere from 78-90% of those that came to church for the first time did so because of a friend or relative (The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples, Arn and Arn). Other studies have shown that approximately 95% of those that become Christians have friends or family in the church.

What does that mean? Here are a few thoughts:

  • We, as Christians, need to be developing relationships with non-Christians.
  • The best chance that our relatives and friends have of hearing the gospel is to hear it from us.
  • We need to focus less on programs and more on people, less on showmanship and more on relationships, less on head knowledge and more on knowing our neighbors.

The unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. There are other groups that can do much of what we do in interacting with our communities: building houses, sharing food, providing clothing. These good works and others can be done by those who don’t know Jesus. But only Christians can effectively share the gospel.

And we are the best ones to do that with those in our immediate circle.

Evangelism Inside Out

CIOOne of the main reasons that I wrote Church Inside Out was to help churches and individual Christians grow in their concept of evangelism. More than that, I wanted to help everyone see that we can all be involved in the evangelistic process. Here are some excerpts to give you a feel for what I talk about in the book:

When we are talking about reaching out to others, be they teens or octogenarians, most of what we need to think about can be boiled down to what Jesus called the greatest commands:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37–39)

We have to love God and love our neighbors. We have to show our neighbors that God loves them and help our neighbors come to love God. (p.17)

If a church is focused on building itself rather than growing the Kingdom, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church is focused on making a name for itself rather than making God’s name known, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church postpones outreach and evangelism “until the time is right,” it’s not doing the Lord’s work. (p.35)

There are lots of good things that churches can do, lots of important ministries that need to be performed. But we must never forget that the unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s the task we’ve been given as ambassadors of the kingdom of God. As Paul said, we beg people to reconcile themselves to God. (p.73)

Too often we approach our communities like marketing executives, coldly analyzing demographics and statistics to put together the ideal plan for reaching out to the people around us. We forget that the Bible tells us time and again that prayer is an essential part of evangelism. It’s an essential part of every aspect of the Christian life. (p.82)

Research done in the 1980s showed that anywhere from 75 to 90% of new converts came to church through the influence of a friend or relative. Five to six percent came through the work of the preacher. Less than one percent were reached through campaigns. Only four or five percent started coming to church through Sunday school. The vast majority came because of the influence of someone they knew and trusted. That hasn’t changed. If we aren’t forming relationships with people who don’t know Jesus, we won’t be able to effectively bring them to the Lord. (p.93)

As we talk about the process of conversion, we run the risk of de-spiritualizing the new birth. God draws people to Him and convicts them with His Word. It’s not a question of our skill nor our ingenuity. God gives the growth.
At the same time, He has given us the task of proclaiming the gospel and helping people know how to respond. In the above text, Paul makes it clear that the whole process depends on God; he also makes it clear that God uses people like Paul and Apollos in that process. (p.122)

I think one mistake that the church has made at times is to consider the new birth to be the goal. Remember how Jesus instructed His disciples:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

The command is to make disciples. We do that by baptizing those that believe in Jesus, but we also do that by teaching them to obey the teachings of Jesus. In the journey to discipleship, baptism is a critical step, but it’s not the final step. (p.130)

One problem with many of our evangelistic methods is that they are only focused on taking someone the last step to new birth. To continue the metaphor, we’re trying to sow the seed in a field that hasn’t been cleared or plowed. There was a time in the United States when most people were already several steps into this process. They believed in God. They accepted the Bible. They wanted to follow Jesus. They just needed to be “shown the way of the Lord more perfectly.”
That isn’t true today. We have to be willing to look at non-Christians and determine where they are in their journey toward God. And we need to deal with those people accordingly. Sometimes we’ll be the ones that get to rejoice as the harvest is brought in. Other times we’ll merely clear some stones so that others will one day be able to sow. (p.134)

Before planning what we’re going to say, we need to plan on listening. We build relationships. We are present in people’s lives. And we listen for the kairos, the right time for speaking a word for God. (p.142)

How do we know when someone is ready to hear a presentation of the gospel? If you have built a relationship with the person with whom you’re working, there shouldn’t be too much pressure at this point. That is, even if you jump the gun and share with someone who isn’t ready to hear, that won’t be a big problem if you’ve established a friendship. If she knows you and trusts you, she won’t be offended that you decided to share with her something that’s important to you. (p.147)

When we’re ready to share the gospel, it’s important to keep in mind what we’re wanting to talk about and what we’re not looking to discuss.
What we share can be summed up in one word: Jesus. People need to know about Jesus. (p.156)

The Two-Degree Rule

church kitchenYesterday I shared the link to an article by Kevin Harney about using existing ministries as outreach ministries. I thought the ideas presented there were excellent and fit well with the ideas in Church Inside Out.

Harney makes a great statement at the opening:

Churches, by nature, are selfish. Because the church is made up of people, and people are fundamentally self-serving, the church ends up expending much of its time, money, and energy on those who are already part of the family of God.

Yes. Exactly. I think a case in point is the proliferation of short-term mission trips. Churches that balk at sending $5000 to a missionary will easily spend $25000 to take their members to visit that same missionary.

But Harney isn’t talking about mission trips; he’s talking about church events:

I began thinking about the amazing things that could happen if local churches would vector their time, creativity, resources, and ministries out into the community. I call this the “Two-Degree Rule.” The idea is that we would take the effective and plentiful things we do for ourselves and simply direct these same things out into our community.

Your monthly church meals become meals for the whole community. Your funeral ministry expands its reach to include people in your community who don’t have a church home. Baby showers are held not just for church members but also for needy families in your town.

You get the idea. And it’s a great one. Start dreaming about how to transform your “inward” ministries into “outward” ministries.

Making Acts part of the gospel

OK, real life caught up with me. I just couldn’t get any posts done the last few days. I hope to get caught up soon.

I’ll share a thought that might lead others to say something significant (since I don’t seem to have significant thoughts these days). I was thinking the other day about the fact that Luke and Acts are basically two volumes of the same work. Essentially, Luke’s gospel was written in two parts.

So doesn’t it make sense that we should see in Acts Luke’s view of how the gospel was lived? Not just his idea, but his account of how the church did just that. It’s also his teaching of how the gospel was intended to be lived, for like all historians, Luke presents the events in a way that conveys a certain message.

What we don’t see is the benevolent society that some would make of the church today. Yes, the early Christians shared among themselves. Yes, they healed people. Yes, Paul spent major amounts of time raising money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.

But where are the feeding trips? Where do we see the Christians doing major social projects directed at outsiders? Their priority was preaching and establishing churches. They did not forget the poor and they did much good. But that was not their focus. Their focus was on spreading the good news of the kingdom of God.

Why would that not be our focus as well?

Am I missing something here?