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.

Counselors
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.

SERVE
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?

GENEROSITY
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.

SHARE
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
Feb 112012
 

I took part in an online webinar with the outreachninja.com guys led by Bob Franqiz and it was excellent with ideas for leveraging Easter to reach more people.  My wheels have been turning and here are some ways to prepare to make Easter huge in getting the gospel of Jesus to more people

 

1.  Pray

There is nothing more effective than praying that the Lord of the Harvest will work on your behalf to reach more people with the gospel in and through your church.  As Pastor/Leader, start with yourself and then enlist your leadership and church to pray for people to engage, invest and invite their friends to join you for worship at Easter.

 

2.  Communicate

Easter is different than most holidays in that it doesn’t happen on the same day every year.  Sometimes it’s not even in the same month!  Most people in your church are thinking more about Spring Break than Easter right now.  You must communicate early and often WHEN Easter is on the calendar.  By the way, Easter is on April 8 this year.

 

3.  Creatively promote

Utilize fun, creative ways to promote Easter as an opportunity for people to invite their friends and family to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Troy Gramling of Potential Church in Florida utilizes the INVITE Bunny in “on the street” interviews to “stoke” the creative “fires” and to get people to invite their friends.

 

4.  Put something in their hands

Give the people in your church an “invite” card that they can give to their friends, family or people they come in contact with in the community.

 

5.  Equip people on how to invite their friends

Shawn Lovejoy of Mountain Lake Church teaches the people in his church how to invite their friends and neighbors AND he makes the evangelistic temperature in his church “white hot” leading up to Easter.

 

6.  Schedule Community Service through Your Community Groups

Nelson Searcy from Journey Church and Church Leader Insights encourages his Small Groups to do outreach events leading up to Easter to get the word out to the community about Easter Sunday.

 

7.  Utilize Lent Calendar for Prayer and Fasting

Mark Batterson of National Community Church utilizes Lent as a season of fasting and prayer to prepare his church for Easter.  They organize prayer walks and prayer lists to prepare people to reach out to their friends and family prior to Easter.

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Feb 062012
 

Our Social Circle campus pastor Nathan Boyd (via Perry Noble) shared this with our launch team a few months back in preparation for launching our second campus in Social Circle.  We must continue to advance the gospel through church planting and multiplying movements!

1. Because we understand that found people find people…and we will not stop doing whatJesus commanded us to do.

  • Matthew 28:18-20- “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age.”
  • Matthew 9:35-38 – “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”

2. Because we understand that saved people serve people…and we will not stop doing what the Bible commands of us.

  • 1 Peter 4:10 – “Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
  • Matthew 20:28 – “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

3. Because we understand that growing people change…and we will not stop praying for Jesus to change us.

  • Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

4. Because we understand that we can’t do life alone…and we will obey what the Lord has instructed us to do in Hebrews 10:24-25.

  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9 – “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”

5. Because we understand that we cannot out give God…and so we will obey what God’s Word teaches.

  • Malachi 3:6-12- ‘”Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
  • Proverbs 3:9-10- “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine
 Posted by at 1:20 pm