Feb 172012

Assuming a churchplanter or pastor wants to share the gospel and impact a local community, there are some ways that a planter can connect quickly and over time in his community to began making inroads that lead to building bridges over which the good news can travel.

Here are some ways I/we began to connect when we planted just over 5 years ago.

Start in your own neighborhood and homeowners association
For a planter/pastor/leader to lead others, he or she must model what he wants others to put into practice.  Start with your own neighborhood or relationship circles closest to home.  There is nothing more powerful than a pastor sharing personal stories about how God has worked through his personal relationships to see people connect to God through Jesus.  I started getting to know neighbors through neighborhood events, homeowner association meetings and my wife and started a discussion group for couples on marriage and family issues.  As a result, we have seen multiple families and people from our neighborhood trust Jesus and get connected at Church at the Grove.

Local Schools
Our church’s two campuses both meet in public schools.  We began building relationships with the principles and staff through feeding them and loving on them in a variety of ways.  We told them we want to be their first call if they need something.  It has worked and they love us and have become “raving fans” of our church.  Here’s the deal:  If you tell them to call you, you better be ready to follow up and meet their request.  You must maintain a healthy credibility with the community.

Police Department
The Police Department knows as well as anyone what is going on in the community.  I went to the local police department and asked them if they had a chaplain.  They didn’t and I volunteered.  Within a year or so, we baptized the Chief and he now plays in our worship band.  We partner with the department on a number of things but the partnership with the greatest fruit has been our “Shop with a Hero” Christmas project that touches over a hundred children through the public schools.

Funeral Homes
One of my mentors told me that when he planted a church years ago he went to the local funeral home and volunteered to do funerals for people without a church. WOW!  I do over a dozen funerals a year for unchurched families.  It is a great way to connect with unchurched people and meet a practical need.  More and more people navigate death and loss without the security and hope that eternity offers us through Christ.  Several families have given our church a try through these connections and countless people have heard the gospel.

We try to maintain relationships with what we call the “365 people” that deal with community needs everyday of the year. These are the police, firefighters and school counselors that deal with the basic needs of people on an ongoing basis.  We go to the school counselors and tell them that our church wants to be at the top of their list when it comes to helping meet needs.  They love us.  Here’s the deal: You better be ready if you make yourself available.

Social Workers
You will be able to meet practical needs if you make your church available to help with DFACS, county or city social workers or any leadership that is connected to everyday needs in the community.

Coach or volunteer in a local sports league
This is one of the best ways to connect with people in the community.  If you love what people love, they will listen to what you have to say.  If you pour your life into their children through coaching a sports team, it will be the easiest way to connect people to your church.  This may be the most productive means by which I have personally connected people into our church!  People are hungry for leadership with character and integrity and it is hard to find on the youth sports field unfortunately.  You can’t go wrong with volunteering to coach kids in the community!  Be ready, because people will be watching how you handle yourself on the field!

Prayer walk
There is nothing better than simply walking a neighborhood or town and praying over everything going on in a local community.  Prayer walking does not provide instant reward or feedback and it doesn’t seem like a glorified activity but God promises to reward prayer.  It is one of the best things a leader can do and it should be a regular part of a leader’s routine!

What have you done to successfully connect in the community?  I would love to hear one of your ideas that has worked!


 Posted by at 2:00 pm
Feb 152012

Here are what I believe are the most important disciplines for a follower of Jesus living in the USA.  I list them in the order of importance.  Some of you will not like this and not agree.  That’s ok.  I want to challenge you to think about WHY I list them in this order.

Why is this number 1?  I think so many followers of Jesus miss out on the impact of serving people around them in practical ways to demonstrate the love of Jesus.  Jeremiah 29:4-7 says to seek the peace and prosperity of a city and if the city prospers we will prosper as well.  One of the greatest ways to make an impression on the people and the world around you is to simply serve people in the name of Jesus.  The spiritual discipline of “service” is under-utilized in making Jesus known to people.  Serve in your church and in your community.  In John 13:3-5 Jesus demonstrates service as he washes the feet of the disciples.  Question:  How do we wash the feet of people around us in the 21st century?

In America, we have more money than we know what to do with. (And yet we are still in debt.)  We live self-indulgent lives and money has a stronghold on our hearts through greed.  Jesus told us that we cannot serve God and money at the same time (Matthew 6:24) The way we break the stronghold of greed and money is to give generously!  There is nothing like the discipline of generosity to change our hearts.

Most believers don’t know how to start a conversation that leads to sharing the hope that is found in Jesus.  We must cultivate the discipline of sharing our faith.  Regardless of your personality you are accountable for making Jesus known to people in your circle of influence.  You can learn how to get into conversations and actually share your faith.  You can click here to see how I equipped our church to share their faith.  I believe if you practice the disciplines of SERVE and GENEROSITY, this discipline will come more naturally.

Read God’s Word
Some will ask, “Why in the world is this discipline number 4 on the list of most important spiritual disciplines for a believer in America?”  Simply because most Christians that are involved in spiritual growth are “over-read and under-applied”.  We have no shortage of Bible studies available to us but most followers of Jesus are not actively applying the Word of God to their daily life.  Some of us need one less Bible Study in our life and need to get out in the community and serve and practice generosity.  Here’s the deal:  If you are serving and giving generously of your resources and sharing your faith, you will want to read your Bible even more.  God’s Word, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us and we should read it daily, don’t get me wrong.  These disciplines are specifically applied to believers living in America.  READ IT THEN DO WHAT IT SAYS! If you do what it says, you will want to read it MORE!

Talk to God
We should communicate with God through the amazing gift of prayer.  This is an underutilized discipline with most followers of Jesus.  Prayer is learning to depend on God.  This discipline is so often a formality and ritual in the life of the American Christian because we don’t lack for anything.  We don’t HAVE to depend on God because all of our needs are met in our culture.  Real, life-transforming prayer is depending on God for what we don’t have.  Pray without ceasing!  Don’t just stand there, pray something!

Connect with other believers in a local Church
Go to church! Join with other believers for the purpose of glorying God and joining Jesus in His mission of redemption.  God has sovereignly chosen to involve us in His mission of redemption.  We get to take the gospel of Jesus to people that are far from God.  2 Corinthians  5:20-21 says that we are His ambassadors.  Go to church!  Hear the Word! Celebrate Jesus with others!  Put into action what you hear!  Do it every week!  Don’t forsake it!  Hebrews 10:25

Circle Up with a Few other Believers
Circles are better than rows!  Invest your life with a small group of believers that can put into practice together these other disciplines.  You can read the Word and study together, serve together, give together, pray together, love one another!  You can’t grow spiritually as God intends by sitting in rows every week simply staring at the backs of people’s heads!  Get into a small group and get to know others on a deeper level and discover what it is like to live on mission with God with a small group of other followers.

These are the disciplines I believe that followers of Jesus must put into practice to grow spiritually and join God in His mission of getting the gospel OUT into the world we live in.  Some may not like or agree with the order of importance I put them in and that is ok.  Let’s don’t argue but simply apply these disciplines in our lives and the lives of those we are responsible for ministering to on a daily and weekly basis!

 Posted by at 12:40 pm
Jan 302012

We have experienced enormous blessing over the last year and specifically over this past month as we have launched our new campus in Social Circle!  We continue to see new people added to both our campuses this month!   We are growing and it is exciting!

Here is my BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL and desire for Church at the Grove right now!  Are you ready?!
Let’s keep growing!  Yeah, I said it!  Let’s keep growing and here are the specific areas I want us to focus on growing:
Let’s keep growing numerically!  
  • I will never apologize for wanting and desiring our church to grow numerically.  Do a word study in the book of Acts on the word “numbers” and you will see that Luke records over and over when people were added to the church.  If our mission is to lead people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples then we should be adding people.
  • I want to see 100 people baptized this year!  There, I said it!  I believe it can happen.
  • I believe that we can average over 500 people in attendance by September this year!
Let’s grow spiritually!
  • I want us to have more people reading their Bibles daily.
  • I want to have more people engaged in serving their community.
  • I want to have more people being transformed into the image of Jesus in every area of their life.
  • I want to see more people sharing the gospel with their family and friends.
  • I want to see more people investing in people and inviting them to our Sunday CATGrove gatherings.
  • I want to hear about more families having a nightly family devotional/prayer time.
  • I want more marriages to grow stronger and healthier.
  • I want to see more people involved in Community Group Bible Study.
Let’s grow relationally!
  • I would love to set a record this fall for how many people are involved in Community Groups.
  • I challenge you to make more time to simply develop your friendships and relationships this year.
  • Make time for people.
  • Come early and stay a little late on Sundays so you can have a conversation with some people you don’t know that well.
  • Plan to get to know some of our newer attendees over this next month!
  • Remember, we are about PEOPLE!
I love Jesus!  I love what He is doing.  I love Church at the Grove!
 Posted by at 11:26 pm
Oct 272011

Here is the question for the day:

If our church were to disappear, would Church at the Grove’s influence be missed?

Our role as a church is to be a bridge.  As we serve and love those in our community we form a bridge through our actions over which the good news of Jesus can travel!  I heard it said recently, “Influence is when you (church) become part of the fabric of the community.” My desire as a pastor is that Church at the Grove become a part of the fabric of the community. My former pastor Mike Linch spoke about this at a recent meeting of pastors and church leaders and it was a good reminder of the need for us to focus as a church on serving and loving our community.

Our community needs our church.  Our church needs our community.  True, lasting influence is gained over the long haul and leads to credibility with the community.

How do we “win” over the community….?

  • We have to learn to love the things they love and get involved in the things that are important to them.
  • My heart as a pastor is for God to raise up some leaders that will become the “flag waivers” (leaders) for our community ministry needs.
  • We want to serve our community with “no strings attached” just like Jesus love on people He came into contact with.
  • Popular author and blogger Seth Godin states, “If you are not remarkable, you are invisible.”

Church at the Grove, let’s dig in over the long haul, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s serve our community in a remarkable way!

Check out my friend Brian Dodd’s thoughts on serving the community as a church:  http://briandoddonleadership.com/2011/10/25/13-tips-on-how-churches-can-best-serve-their-communities/


 Posted by at 12:42 pm