Wednesday, September 26, 2007

visibility evangelism


the steadfast adherence to the same principles, or set course, day in and day out, week in and week out and year in and year out.

It's being determined to out in your community in every season. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.

Galations 6:9 NIV
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I'm reminded of Galaxy Quest. The Captain always stated, "Never surrender, Never give up."

For many years I had a simple sign on my desk which stated, "Never give up. It's aways too soon to give up."

I've read just about every book concerning effective evangelism. All point to one important aspect... consistency

David Wilkerson in NY was always there...going out into the community, talking with people, encouraging seekers, and taking risks.

Floyd McClung living in Amsterdam was there day by day, having conversations with people on the Hippy Trail, breaking down barriers, building bridges.

Billy Graham really didn't ever change... His messages were simple, direct to the point month by month year by year.

Loren Cunningham mobilized the youth of his generation into their world encouraging young people to pray, believe, to serve, and to care.

Steve Sjogren learned to serve his community by going and serving. He understands and lives the value of being out there with small acts of kindness consistently

Mike Pilivochi and Soul Survivor in the UK serve, worship and share the good news, impacting thousands in Manchester, and London with Soul in the City.

How do you know your serving has impacted a community? People you talk to begin to define your church in a positive manner. Hint: we are all already defined by our community, both positively and negatively. 

The good news, we have a major part to play in creating a positive image.

Here's what your community is saying about your church.
Oh, that's the church that(fill in the blank)______________________________________________.

If you want to know how your community defines your church go out into your community and ask.

A sample question: When you hear the name of our church (say name of church) what comes to your mind?

When I was living in a city in FL we were the church that no longer existed. We were the church that had a nasty in-house disagreement and split. They no longer existed. Slowly but surely the tide turned. They are now know as a major caring force to be respected with 6 locations. How did they change? They began to serve others. They were consistent in sowing and the Lord added to their number.

A couple of years ago I lost my phone. I went to my phone provider with an old phone to activate. I was asked, "What business name is your phone under?" I said, "the Dayton Vineyard". The lady standing next to me exclaimed: "Oh you're that pretty good church that serves the community! I've heard about what you guys do." I asked, "What have your heard?' she then gives a list of the positive things she and others have heard and seen us do. Humbly, but joyfully I replied, "Yep that's us, we're just pretty good." I walked away encouraged. I thought, it really does work. What you sow you will reap.

How does this positive feedback happen? It's simple 16 years of hard work, sowing, caring, praying, going, being out there in season and out of season. We are consistent.Our consistency has redefined church to much of our community. People now come to see what a pretty good church looks like. Many become Christ followers as they hear and observe our message and lifestyle.

We also know we need God's favor to be upon our lives and upon what we do. So we consistently have asked Jesus to place His favor upon us as a church.

God's Favor is what empowered Daniel, Esther, Joseph and Jesus impact their community. In fact the early church 'had the favor of all the people' and Jesus 'grew in favor with God and man.'

How do you gain favor?
1. You ask for it? It's a gift that increases with proven character...and sometimes even stays with people who have bad character...
the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.

Samson was a bad character, but was a 'having God's favor' kind of guy. In his last season of life He stood up as before, but didn't realize God's grace for battle had vanished. Realizing he was left alone he turned toward God and asked for strength for just ne more exploit.

Favor brought Daniel, Joseph, Esther, Jesus before Kings, shut mouths of lions, delivered a men out of prison, spared a race of people, and crucified a savior...all because of God's favor.

2. You serve where you are, with what you have, while you can. A simple word study on the phrase good deeds is pretty revealing, especially in the pastoral epistles. 

1 Timothy 6:18 NIV 
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
(the epistles were written as instructions for local church leaders Timothy and Titus)

3. You serve with the attitude of Christ. see Philippians Chapter 2 speaks of true humility, embracing genuine love, a having great attitude, and a servant heart.

Jesus said, don't hide your light under a bushel basket but let your light shine in such a way so that when they see your good deeds they will glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Peter said, let your good deeds shine in such away that they will glorify God on the day of His visitation.

So what is visibility evangelism? It's consistently showering your community with good deeds done in the name of Jesus. It's living consistently with the love and grace that God provides. It's being out in the community in which we live, day in day out, moment by moment. It's being wise how you answer every person who talks to you about the hope you have.

No a great secret why our pretty good church and other serving churches are energized, thriving, and growing. It's simple: someone is praying, someone is serving, someone is loving, someone is caring, someone is going out into the community and sharing Gods love to the people in their sphere of influence in a practical way consistently.

Monday, September 17, 2007

a bit of fun from over the pond

Ever thought about a toothpaste Kindness to go?
grab this product at half price.

Hedley & Wyche

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Kindness to Go

This weekend was a Kindness to go weekend...We used the 'give them the bag' outreach. It's always fun to watch people as they realize it's a KTG weekend...Big smiles, some people usually new, pausing to read the instruction sheet then smile and grab a bag. Those in the know usually grab their KTG item on the way in to ensure they are locked and loaded for the outreach.
Behind the scenes:6 to 10 hrs.
Steve: orders the items from Sam's Club online.
Steve: drives to Sam's picks up items

Steve and Caleb: Unload items and prepares for packing
Caleb and Teens: Set up tables, packs bags, staple card on bag and place bags in safe secure room
Steve: Goes through bags, fills any light bags, puts iridescent film into bag and places two connect cards in bag.

Steve: prints out Instruction sheet and has them photo copied enough for every bag

Steve and Nichole: Place bags on Kindness to go cart and in wagon for each of the 3 services

Church: grabs bags and goes out into the community to do outreach on weekend or through the week.

Kindness to Go! Ok, How’s does it work?
It’s simple:

Step one: Grab a bag
Step two: Transport the bag to your favorite restaurant, after or before the meal hand the bag to the person serving. Say, ‘This is a small gift for you and your team.’
key… tip big and smile.
Step one: Grab a bag
Step two: Take it with you the next time you go grocery shopping, put the bag at the end of your shopping for the person checking.
Step one: Grab a couple of bags
Step two: Take the bags to your local police station, fire station, emergency room or post office. Say, ‘Just thinking about you this time of year.’

When asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Reply, ‘Just showing you God’s love in a practical way.
Be creative...choose your place, smile and have some fun!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Pretty good church Discoveries

2. We learned to begin from where we were with what we had.

My friend Doug met with some church planters recently all stated, 'We don't have the funding to sow seeds.' Doug was stunned, he then asked what business they were in? He clarified, ‘we are spiritual farmers, we sow seeds it is what we are called to do’

...He then told them about what he did during the early days of the Dayton Vineyard, how he began to care for the community with 7 bags of groceries, and cooking hotdogs on street corners, and how his simple beginning grew into a 1.5 million dollar per year enterprise supplying over 50 other ministries with food and reaching over 150,000 people a year.

The principle, begin where you are...with what you have.

If you wait for tomorrow before you begin to reach out to your community, you may have a long wait, for your tomorrow may never come.

He encouraged them to use what they had, to begin now, to invest in the community, to fling seeds, to invite, to encourage, to challenge the people to do the same, and to experiment with what they had.

Last week I talked to a church planter who is beginning where he is. They went out to a local laundry mat to feed some quarters into the machines and to talk to the people...only people...many leaders would have become discouraged and quit...He, being a good leader, led the small group to a coin operated car wash and fed quarters to pay for the car wash...after touching several lives with kindness and having some great conversations. They returned from the adventure encouraged.

Later, when I was asked how can he and his church begin to kick up the volume? I answered, ‘by inviting people to become shareholders.’ I gave a tip...Invite the people to bring outreach items to the weekend meetings...
This month is granola bar, trail mix and packs of peanuts. When you go shopping pick up a box or two of the above items we will store the items for our monthly outreach.

One month ask the question, “Are we a coke church or a pepsi church or a water church?” (I did this in Cincy and we raised 28,000 drinks for a summer outreach.) Encourage the people to bring cokes, or pepsi, or water to the church each can or bottle is a vote...plan a 4th of July drinks outreach...and use the drinks as your outreach items.

3. We learned we needed to be spiritually smart.
What’s being spiritually smart?
Learning that all of life is an adventure.

Learning to take risks and to experiment.

Letting some ideas bubble.

Not chasing fads, or ‘spiritual’ side tracks.

Remaining focused on the main and the plain. (The Great Commission)

Guarding your heart and your talk.

Being who you are… all the time.

Not fixing what’s not broken.

Being humble enough to learn from others…a life long learner.

Not reinventing the wheel.

Understanding your God assigned area /city/regional culture then adjusting your methods to reach out accordingly.

Being consistent in outreach.

Being consistent with the weekend services.
No pastor tricks, bait and switch, or being weird on weekends.

Praying much.

Taking the time and the cash to develop a vibrant children’s area.

When trouble comes your way being honest and explaining/communicating with those who are affected by the issue.

Nurturing a few key worship leaders.

Worshiping the God who is, because He is the God
Who is.

Using humor to make a point of just for the fun of it.

Deciding there will be no more staff mercy hires.

Making strategic staffing hires.

Learning to trust your team, then releasing the team, to do the stuff.

Developing a membership track that works. (Entry Point. Beginnings. Group Link.)

Working what works.

Learning to drop certain areas that are not producing according to your vision / DNA or alignment.

Establishing positive consistent energized outward focused traditions. (Kindness to Go. Turkey’s Giving Away Turkeys. Making Christmas Dreams Come True. Halloween FunFest A Safe Place For Families on Halloween. Back To School Backpack Giveaway.)

Encouraging and modeling a lifestyle of serving others.

Inviting and allowing all who want to play in the game, to play in the game at some level.

Taking field trips when life seems stale, or when you want to launch something new.

Encouraging your team to use all of their vacation days.

Understanding your church seasons, energy levels and then plan accordingly.

Not canceling, period.

Learning that God blesses outward focused-ness.

Doing the stuff Jesus did / does.

Not taking yourself tooo seriously.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A pretty good church

So what makes a pretty good church? Discoveries along the way? 1. We began to understand…evangelism is a process?

If you want a harvest, you must sow many seeds.
See Mark 4:15-16
Jesus said, 'Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.' Later He said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.' When challenged by His disciples He then added, 'Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?'

He went on to explain the parable. In short, the sowers are men, the seeds are God’s words and the four soils are the hearts of men and women at various degrees of readiness.

Later, He continued to explain the Kingdom of God and described how the seed grew. The seed, when planted, matured and produced grain by the All By Itself Principle.
He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Mk 4:1-29 NIV

The seeds we sow can be defined by what we do: our actions, and by what we say:our words, and how we relate to the people within our sphere of influence: our attitudes.

We sow seeds by actively serving our way into the heart of our community. We find a need and seek to meet it. We see a hurt and seek to bring some relief the pain. It might be a cold drink on a hot day, to quench someone’s thirst or feeding the homeless helping them be filled, or by praying for the emotionally wounded bringing encouragement and hope.

Sowing is hard work...consistency is the by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.

...Jesus said, 'I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.' John 4:38 NIV

Most of the time the seeds we sow don't spring up in a day, sometimes it takes weeks, months, or years to see the harvest. It is a spiritual principle foundational to outward focus and outflow.

What we sow into our lives will bear fruit someday...That's why it is important to continually sow positive, good things into our into the core of our lives. Positive inflow=positive outflow.

It is also why it is important to sow seeds into the lives of the people in our communities...the principle: no sowing, no harvest.

A few weeks ago we went out to a low income housing area with mainly a bunch of guys, out of the 25 people who showed up only four were women. We delivered groceries and offered prayer. At one door one a single mom with 4 kids opened the door...she burst into tears...she didn't have any food to last that week...When she was prayed for she sobbed. At 5 pm a van drove up in our parking lot. I noticed a lady looking lost so I went and greeted the lady and the 4 kids in the van. It turns out she was the lady. She had been so moved by her experience she felt she just had to come and see who we were. She also said thanks. She cried again as I prayed for her and her kids.

It is moving when something like this's not the norm.

Most of the time the seed we sow is hidden in the ground of a persons heart. How it grows? Nobody really knows, it is a mystery.

Watering Planted Seeds

I was washing my car yesterday. A guy pulls up in a truck. He then gets out asks me about the house next door. He mentions his parents are returning from Vietnam that night, they are missionaries. I noticed he was a searching, needy guy. After our lengthy conversation about lawn care I asked if I could pray for him. Startled he agreed. I grabbed his hand and prayed blessing prayers over his life, that God would crown him with favor just as God had given favor to his mom and dad and family, that God would provide for him, that God would open doors for him. At the end of the prayer he said, 'You know, you're not the only person who has prayed for me lately.'

My job, your job, is to fling seeds of kindness, by our actions, through our words and by our attitudes and to water the seeds already sown into the hearts of men. God brings the increase.

A pretty good church is a seed sowing church.