Outreach http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach Wed, 25 May 2016 09:05:36 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 9 Things That Have Replaced Traditional Outreach in Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/22884-9-things-that-have-replaced-traditional-outreach-in-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/22884-9-things-that-have-replaced-traditional-outreach-in-churches

When I began my journey as a church consultant in the 1980s, I had one tried-and-true approach to determine the outreach effectiveness of a church. I would simply ask to see the records of the number of home visits the prior month. I would then compare that number to the average attendance of the church. It was a pretty basic yet accurate way to see if the church was likely to grow in the future.

From my perspective of over 30 years ago, churches that knocked on more doors were more likely to grow. Indeed, even today if you can visit with receptive hosts in their homes today, the effectiveness of that contact is very high.

The Shift

But my previous statement has two clear caveats. The first is "if you can visit ... in their homes." I began to see the trends shift in that same '80s decade when I was also serving as a pastor in St. Petersburg, Florida. Second, I used the word "receptive." People were becoming less receptive, even hostile, to drop-by visits. And, at least in that city, more gated communities made drop-by visits impossible.

As a pastor, I would continue to use the traditional home visit as our church's primary outreach mechanism into the 1990s, but I saw it become less and less effective. Those most faithful members who showed up for outreach night were becoming more and more discouraged. It was not uncommon for a couple to attempt to make five or six home visits with no success. Even those who tried to make appointments at night had very minimal success.

The Dilemma

Almost every church leader understands that the congregation is called to be faithful to the Acts 1:8 command to be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The practical application of that, of course, is to send members into our communities and, ultimately, throughout the world.

The good news is that more churches are indeed sending members throughout the country and the world. The bad news is that fewer and fewer churches are highly intentional about reaching their "Jerusalem," or immediate community.

There is a direct connection between the demise of traditional outreach and the decreasing effectiveness of reaching the respective communities. Spending time in someone's home was a highly effective connection that usually led to other relational opportunities. But, as noted, this type of outreach is highly problematic in most communities. What's the solution?

The Survey

I conducted an informal survey of church leaders a while back. My simple question was: What is your church doing to reach her community? Here are the top nine responses:

1. NothingThe church leaders who gave me this response knew that it was not a good answer. They simply have not found an effective means to reach their community.

2. Social and caring ministriesUsually these ministries are effective in helping people, but I have heard few success stories of getting those same people assimilated in the church. Often the socioeconomic barriers are too large, despite the church's best efforts.

3. Big eventThe church puts many of its resources toward a major production at Easter, Christmas, or Fourth of July, to name a few. Usually a good number of community residents do attend these events. Usually most of them do not return to the church.

4. New venues or campusesThe multi-campus and the multi-venue models are becoming increasingly popular. Because they are able to attract new segments of the community, this approach does seem to be more effective than most.

5. Community eventsThis approach is similar to the big event, except it is held in the community instead of the church facilities. I recently saw, for example, a church put significant resources into an event called "Carnival in the Park." Like the big event in the church, I am not hearing of significant outreach success with this approach.

6. Natural relationship buildingA number of leaders indicated problems with structural outreach approaches. They believed that the members should be naturally developing relationship with non-believers. I believe that too; I'm just not seeing it too often.

7. Intentional invitationsOur research shows that many unchurched persons will have a high level of receptivity to an invitation to church. Many churches encourage this approach to outreach, but I would like to see how some type of accountability could be created so that the approach can be sustained.

8. New groupsI am perplexed. Churches that are intentionally and aggressively starting new groups are having significant outreach success. They are seeing more unchurched people accept invitations to join the new groups. But relatively few churches are intentional and aggressive about starting new groups. Why?

9. Sticking with the traditional outreachA few churches report that their traditional approach to visits in the homes works well in their communities. Great! If God's using it, stay with it.

What do you think of these nine approaches? What outreach approaches are you using in your church? Are they effective?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit lifeway.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Ministry Outreach Fri, 20 May 2016 18:00:00 -0400
5 Ways to Turn Your Life Into One of Purpose http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/growth/22882-5-ways-to-turn-your-life-into-one-of-purpose http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/growth/22882-5-ways-to-turn-your-life-into-one-of-purpose

Every day people everywhere are searching for that one thing that will make their life count—one purpose and one plan. Our Christian walk is a journey of faith, having to trust God for everything. We cannot do it without Him.

"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14, MEV).

Sometimes we don't understand all that happens in life. We cannot live in fear or anxiety of the "why" or the confusion on "why didn't God." God is faithful all the time. We live in a fallen world and things unfortunately do happen.

What are you doing today to make your life count? Let me pose some questions to you for you to think about:

  • Do you stay in a place of discontent?
  • Are you always complaining about what you have or don't have?
  • Are you always comparing yourself to others?
  • Are you still living with guilt and condemnation from your past?
  • Are you always feeling behind, keeping a mental to do list but never getting anything done?

I could keep going on and on. I think you my point.

We live our lives every day searching for significance, purpose and accomplishments. What doesn't happen in our lives, we tend to blame everyone else or blame our past. Just as James said, our lives are but a vapor, so we don't have time to keep saying we will or one day. We must live our lives to the fullest today. Wherever you are at in life, God has a purpose for you. Whether you've experienced loss, failure or even lack of motivation, you can start over today!

On Dec. 10, 1914, 10 buildings at the legendary inventor Thomas Edison's plant exploded. This made up more than half of the site. According to a 1961 Reader's Digest article by Edison's son, Charles, Edison calmly walked over to him as he watched the fire destroy his dad's work. In a childlike voice, Edison told his 24-year-old son, "Go get your mother and all her friends. They'll never see a fire like this again." When Charles objected, Edison said, "It's all right. We've just got rid of a lot of rubbish."

Edison was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "Although I am over 67 years old, I'll start all over again tomorrow." He told the reporter that he was exhausted from remaining at the scene until the chaos was under control, but he stuck to his word and immediately began rebuilding the next morning without firing any of his employees.

Like most of us, Edison could have become angry and discouraged and quit. Instead, he somehow had the faith to begin rebuilding. After thoroughly surveying the damage, Edison determined that he'd lost $919,788 (about $23 million in today's dollars), according to Matthew Josephson's biography. The flames had consumed years of priceless records and prototypes, and his plant's insurance covered only about a third of the total damage.

Through perseverance and help from his friend, Henry Ford, Edison went to make almost $10 million in revenue the following year. I don't know if Thomas Edison was a devout Christian, but what I do know is that God can take anything we have been through or are going through and make it into something great if we let Him.

Here are five things you can do today to change your life and turn it into a life of purpose:

1. Be thankful for the life God has given you. You have one chance; don't take it for granted.

2. Start over. It doesn't matter what you've done or what has happened to you, we serve a God of second chances. Repent, take responsibility, forgive and go forward.

3. Get a vision for your life and write it down. Set some simple goals and ask God to help you stay motivated.

"And the Lord answered me: Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he who reads it may run" (Habakkuk 2:2, MEV).

4. Quit making excuses. Don't waste your wasted years. It's time for you to take responsibility and live again!

5. No one can steal your joy, bring you down or destroy you. People are not our enemy, Satan is. So keep your heart pure toward people—forgive, forgive, forgive. God is your Daddy, and He has your back.

One woman of God who has truly blessed my life with her ministry is Joyce Meyer. If I meet her one day, I will give her the biggest hug. She keeps it real, ministers from the heart and out of her life's experiences, and she helps people in spite of what they've been through to go forward no matter what.

My prayer is that you have received, opened your heart and, like Thomas Edison, say, "Look at what has been destroyed in your life and rejoice that you can start over!" Trust God in all you do and make your life count!

May God give you the strength, courage and faith to go forward and fulfill your purpose in this lifetime. There are people waiting on the other side of your obedience, so get ready for all God is going to do in your life. {eoa}

Along with her husband, Pastor Luis Reyes, Tricia Reyes is the co-founder of The New Church Of Joy in Waukegan, Illinois. She is a blogger and author and helps manage her daughter Madison's (Maddie Rey) Music Ministry. She is a devoted wife as well as mother to Madison and Matthew and loves the Lord with all her heart! To learn more about Tricia's ministry or to book her for a Women's Event/Conference visit her website at triciareyes.com or thenewchurchofjoy.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Tricia Reyes) Growth Thu, 19 May 2016 12:00:00 -0400
3 Simple Questions to Help Mold Guests' Opinions of Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/22873-3-simple-questions-to-help-mold-guests-opinions-of-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/22873-3-simple-questions-to-help-mold-guests-opinions-of-your-church

Your first-time guests often decide if they will return within the first 10 minutes. Some are more forgiving and will give you a second chance, but most won't.

The unchurched look for reasons not to return. Even though they were probably invited by a friend, even friendship can't override a blown first impression.

It's like your first visit to a restaurant. Your first ten minutes usually determines if you will return. Even if your experience "gets better" through the meal, your initial perspective is so skewed that it's difficult to see past those first impressions. The way the hostess greeted you, the way you were escorted to a table, and the way you were treated for the first few minutes largely determines the remainder of the experience.

The same is true in your church. Your first impressions absolutely determine if the first time guest returns for a second time.

"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, wisely using the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you should answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6).

Here are three simple questions to help you improve your first impressions:

1. How do you greet people? We've all been in a restaurant where it seemed like we were intruding on the hostess's reception area. It's a terrible experience. We wait and wonder. We check in and are told, "As you can see we are very busy, we'll get to you when we can."

In stark contrast, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in San Diego always has a wait. They learn your name, bring out free chips and salsa, and if you wait too long, bring you a free iced tea!

How are people greeted in your church? What do your guests experience in the parking lot—smiles or impatient waving and pointing? Do your greeters make people feel like a million bucks or an inconvenience?

2. How do you seat people? That twenty second walk means everything. I've visited restaurants where the hostess walked slowly, made pleasant conversation, and asked if I was happy with the table. I'm already smiling. I've also experienced hostesses who seemed to sprint off, look back impatiently because I stopped to say hi to someone, dropped the menus off at the table and leave.

Whenever I see an usher pointing rather than walking a guest to a place to sit, I cringe. If the visitor knew where to go, they wouldn't need an usher. Especially when a guest is late, they know they are late, so make them feel even more welcomed! Worship has already started, it's dark, they can't see well, and people are standing. That's intimidating. You can put them at ease. You can make the difference that inspires them to come back! It's the little things that matter.

3. How do you treat people? Whether it's the leaders in the nursery, the person serving coffee, or the prompts from the worship leader, your guests should know if you care about them.

Treat each guest like they were a king or queen!

Go the second mile. If you don't know the answer to a question, find the answer. Do all you can to make their experience warm, personal and engaging.

Serve with joy.

Be real, be yourself, and help each person feel right at home.

"Therefore, everything you would like men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12, MEV). {eoa}

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland ) Church Growth Tue, 17 May 2016 18:00:00 -0400
Why We Aren't Reaching More People for Christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22785-the-missing-factor http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22785-the-missing-factor

Dick Eastman took some concerned Southern California teenagers on a prayer retreat in 1969. The weekend became a sacred event as the Lord powerfully assured the interceding young people that their agonizing prayers for their friends' salvation would be answered. Within months of that retreat, the Jesus Movement was sweeping thousands into the kingdom. These young people experienced a burden for the lost—a seldom-heard term today—that propelled them into urgent, compassionate evangelism.

Urgency Lost

Based on extensive research, Thom Rainer, a skilled observer of church trends, recently listed 15 reasons why churches today are less evangelistic than in the past. Topping the list: "Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people." A culture of caring evangelism is largely absent today. We've been sedated into silence by a toxic serum of complacency, narcissism and flirtations with universalism.

The missing ingredient for effective evangelism is urgency. The absence of a holy imperative embarrassingly juxtaposes us from the spirit of the church historically and from the Spirit of Christ.

Urgency is defined as a force or impulse that impels. It's an urge that is compelling, a deep knowing that immediate action or attention is required—and Jesus and the early church had it in abundance. One can almost feel Paul's throbbing heart when he wrote, "The requirement is laid upon me. Yes, woe unto me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). In evangelism, there is always urgency. Masses are constantly slipping into a Christ-less eternity.

The Student Volunteer Movement of the early 20th century was drenched in an ethos of urgency. Eschatological hopes were high. New modes of transportation were shrinking the world toward what would later be called a "global village." Students were motivated for "world evangelization in this generation." John R. Mott, a visionary missions statesman and prime mover of the movement, often peppered his challenges with phrases like "in our day," "in this hour" and "in this generation." Underscoring all this was the biblical prodding that people must be reached with the gospel now—before it is eternally too late.

Without question, the glory of God is the highest motive for sharing the gospel, but it is not the only motivation. Reaching people who are lost, in every sense of the word, without Jesus—headed for an eternity devoid of God and thus devoid of hope—this is an equally valid, biblical motive for evangelism. There is both a vertical motive for evangelism and missions (the glory of God) and a horizontal motive (the lost state of humanity).

Some noted writers have reminded us of our "great omission" of not adequately making disciples. "Jesus did not tell us to make converts," these writers purport. "He told us to make disciples." That's not exactly correct. He did tell us to make converts. Though some dispute the verse's authenticity, Mark 16:15 is just as much a part of the Great Commission as Matthew 28:19. We have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel to every person on Earth. Paul was clear in his defense before Agrippa that his mission assignment from Jesus was "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18). That's an unmistakable call to "make converts."

Let's be clear. Of course, those who trust Christ as their Savior should also be discipled and live under His lordship. Obedience to the Great Commission is not a matter of evangelism alone. Every believer should also be an ardent worshipper and committed disciple. But there's a distinct insinuation today that evangelism is somehow the tolerated stepsister to the nobler ministry of disciple-making. Why are we making dichotomous what God has joined together? It's evangelism and discipleship, not evangelism vs. discipleship.

The watchword of the historic Student Volunteer Movement—"the evangelization of the world in this generation"—drips with both grandeur and urgency. Today, we must recover a biblically based sense of urgency, and here's why.

Opportunities have a limited shelf life. Every day of freedom to declare the gospel in our volatile world is a great gift. With the potential of disruptive terrorism escalating rapidly, we should pray with the psalmist, "So teach us to number our days" (Ps. 90:12).

Think of the massive open door for the gospel there was in Japan at the end of World War II. The door flung open wide, but the church stalled. Today that door is barely ajar. In more recent times, there was the surprise toppling of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Yet, again, we were largely unprepared. What if suddenly China or Iran did stop their persecution of Christians and put out a welcome mat for missionaries? Are we thinking pre-emptively and preparing accordingly? Someone has wisely observed that "the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity." There are thrilling windows of opportunity wide open for the gospel right now in many parts of the world, and they may not be open long.

Life is short. James calls it "just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). Certainly there is an urgency for those who do not know Christ. But are we conveying this to them? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "Nothing could be more ruthless than to make men think there is still plenty of time to mend their ways. To tell men that the cause is urgent and that the kingdom of God is at hand is the most charitable and merciful act we can perform, the most joyous news we can bring."

Missionary luminary Robert Moffat reminded us: "We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour before the sunset in which to win them." Jim Elliot felt, prophetically, the brevity of time. He journaled this passionate prayer while a student at Wheaton College: "God, light these idle sticks of my life and let them burn for Thee. I do not desire a long life, but a full one—like You, Lord Jesus." Seven years later, his life on this Earth would end at the tip of a poisoned spear as he attempted to get the gospel to the Waodoni. Yet the ramifications of his sacrifice continue to inspire us today.

The season of harvest is brief. I was raised in the city and don't know much about farming, but I do know this much: When it's harvest time, there's nothing else on the agenda. It's not a time to clean the equipment or strategize for next year's harvest. Before daylight and well into the night, the one and only priority is to get the harvest in safely.

By its very nature, harvest is not open-ended; it is a season. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 8:20: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." Jesus warned us not to look for a more opportune time but to put the sickle in now. "Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest" (John 4:35). There is a vast, ripe spiritual harvest worldwide right now—and it is threatened because we aren't reaping it!

On the clock of a beautiful church spire in Dallas, two words are inscribed: "Night Cometh." Jesus said, "I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

Eternity is long. Urgency, or the lack of it, is embedded in theology. Our urgency in sharing the gospel will be in direct proportion to how much we genuinely believe people without Christ are truly lost. To use the old term, they are literally unsaved. There's a clear correlation: The church's evangelistic passion has waned as its belief in eternal judgment has weakened.

Hear again the lyrics of an old missions hymn by Fanny Crosby:

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save!
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Do we wince today at such lyrics? If so, it's an indicator of how far we have moved away from the spirit and passion that has historically challenged the church to evangelism. This song was an oft-requested favorite of earlier generations of believers.

Urgency Regained

Jim Elliot's parents were devout Christians. They urged him to defer going on his missionary assignment in order to spend more time with them. Jim was torn but finally replied that the cry of lost indigenous peoples pressed him toward the perishing. He wrote: "Impelled then by these voices, I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish."

God, give us a new generation of leaders who are "impelled by these voices" and can emit urgency to others. In his book On What Leaders Really Do, John P. Kotter claims that infecting others with a sense of urgency is the difference between effective and ineffective leadership.

"Sooner or later, no matter how hard they push, if others don't feel the same sense of urgency, the momentum ... will die far short of the finish line," Kotter writes.

May you be that kind of intentional leader who is consistently "making the most of the time because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). From an eternal perspective, one of the wisest uses of time—an investment that will yield eternal dividends—is bringing people to personal faith in Christ and challenging others to do the same. The writer of Proverbs counsels us that "he who wins souls is wise" (Prov. 11:30).

How can we recover urgency for reaching unbelievers with the gospel? First, ask God for it. Second, make evangelism intentional. Third, see the world through "gospel glasses." Make the gospel first—in your loyalties and your preaching, in how you view people and how you view life.

In medieval times, a king and his royal entourage were passing through a small village. Suddenly a desperate mother broke through the crowds, threw herself in front of the king's prancing horses and pled for an audience with him. "My son is in your prison," she said. "He is sentenced to die. I beg you, your Majesty, have mercy and pardon my son."

The king looked down on the distraught woman and showed compassion.

"Let the decree be heard, that I have shown mercy on this woman and herewith issue an unconditional pardon to her son," he said. "I declare him free to leave the prison."

Then the king dispatched a royal messenger to deliver the news to the prisoner in the jail some 30 miles away. But as the messenger raced toward the prison, he was diverted by a carnival. He stopped for several hours and then, remembering his mission, he resumed his journey toward the prison. Tragically, however, he arrived just a few minutes after the pleading woman's son had been executed.

The king's pardon was never received. The messenger's shameful explanation to the king was, "I stopped at the carnival to laugh at the clowns, and the time just got away." When our own entertainment is more pressing than the evangelistic mandate, our priorities are clearly out of whack.

"The gospel is good news only if it arrives in time," theologian Carl F.H. Henry reminds us. God, make us urgent—and may the gospel arrive in time. {eoa}

David Shibley is world representative for Global Advance, which he founded in 1990. Each year, Global Advance equips tens of thousands of leaders on site in many nations to be catalysts for fulfilling the Great Commission. His latest book is Entrusted: Anchoring Your Life in the Gospel (Burkhart Books).

webmaster@strang.com (David Shibley) Evangelism Mon, 09 May 2016 21:00:00 -0400
How These Churches Have Transformed Their Communities http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/22779-change-agents-for-christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/22779-change-agents-for-christ

Churches are transforming their communities by caring for people in neighborhoods overwhelmed by crime, illiteracy and poverty. Taking the love of Christ into these situations, congregations fulfill their high calling, knowing that the government cannot fully answer these needs.

Pastor Chris Martin's Cathedral of Faith Church of God in Christ (COGIC) was the first to respond to the water emergency in Flint, Michigan, that shocked the nation.

On the streets of Chicago, Pastor Luis Reyes launched a ministry to children plagued by poverty and illiteracy.

In America's heartland, Ray Stribling, a former drug addict and alcoholic, opened Hope City in what the Kansas City Star called the "murder factory" zip code of Missouri.

Martin, Reyes and Stribling are only a few examples of church leaders who have become change agents in their communities. Their churches help lower crime; break the generational cycle of drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty and illiteracy; and bring the gospel to the unreached.

Mobilize to Help the Community

Pastor Martin was thrust in the middle of the water crisis in Flint.

"We've been the victims of a political fiasco," Martin says. "Flint used to purchase water from the Detroit water system, but our mayor decided to save $2.4 million by changing the source of water to the Flint River. This was done without the EPA or any federal oversight. When a pediatrician noticed that her patients had unusually high levels of poison in their system, she blew the whistle and got the attention of the nation."

Cathedral of Faith COGIC stepped in and bought cases of water for Flint residents during the ongoing health crisis.

"There was a mile-long line of people wanting to get into the church for water," Martin says. "We've handed out 25,000 cases of water since January."

COGIC President Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. says there are more than 60 of the denomination's congregations in Flint.

"When we heard about the crisis, we immediately began to mobilize and strategize how we as an organization could help our members and residents," Blake says. "The leadership of the Church of God in Christ cannot stand silent as innocent children of Flint and their parents suffer the ravages of poisonous water."

Martin has a history of leading his church to serve the community. In 2008, when he became pastor at Cathedral of Faith, he launched a "Pullover for Prayer" campaign that was covered by USA Today. The church now also hosts a Head Start after-school program that serves 72 students.

New Church of Joy in Waukegan, Illinois, ministers to over 2,000 kids every week, hosting Sidewalk Sunday School in area parks, tutoring students at a success center and equipping them for ministry through a teen leadership program. The ministry, which started in an apartment and moved to offices in Zion, now operates in an $8 million YMCA facility recently given to the ministry.

"When we launched Sidewalk Sunday School, we didn't have a truck or supplies," says Tricia Reyes, co-founder of Sidewalk Sunday School and Reach a Generation, an outreach to children and teens in Greater Chicago. "My husband was determined that even if he had to use his car, he was going to reach kids with the gospel."

They purchased a flower delivery truck, which a friend refurbished. Now, the ministry has a fleet of Sidewalk Sunday School trucks and buses that pick up kids in 20 cities in Greater Chicago.

"A lot of our students were graduating, so we started a Bible college," she says.

Ministering to children is also important for New Life Church Milton in Ontario, Canada. Pastor Dan Rogge started the church with nine people "in the middle of nowhere," he says. Today it is a growing multicultural congregation of 500 members. When Rogge started the church, he had no idea that a major development was planned around the church property until he submitted plans to build a storage facility, which the City of Milton declined to approve as it would be an "eyesore."

New Life has built a black-box theater and a facility with breakout rooms for youth. The church also created Firm Foundation, an after-school program to teach morality to children, and after learning that the deaf in the community were not being reached, Rogge launched the New Life Deaf Church with captioning.

At Peerless Road Church, a ministry of the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP), in Cleveland, Tennessee, Pastor Brian Sutton led his congregation to help a distressed neighborhood.

"We prayed for this neighborhood and the needs of this neighborhood," Sutton says. "As we prayed, we tried giving away food, and God opened doors for us."

The need for food led to the launch of Serve, a church outreach that ministers to 85 to 110 families every first and third Saturday.

"On a typical Saturday, we'll gather with a food distribution truck," Sutton says. "We fill up the truck and have volunteers of every age meet us at the church to sort it and serve it. Saturday has grown into a time of worship as we have seen people healed and delivered. They will come back and testify."

The church gives away 250 backpacks filled with school supplies to children.

"Right before school starts, we have a local cosmetology school that donates their staff (services) to cut hair," Sutton says. "Every kid gets a free haircut, backpack filled with supplies, and they hear a gospel message. We have bounce houses and give out hot dogs. We have partners who want to help us give away over 500 backpacks."

Kansas City's 64130 zip code is home to several families with family members who are convicted murderers. Hope City, a 6-year-old ministry in that area, is an outreach of the International House of Prayer Kansas City (IHOPKC) and Forerunner Christian Church. The prayer room is the heart of Hope City's ministry to drug addicts, alcoholics and families.

"When my wife and I got saved, we both had to go back and do some time in jail," says Stribling, director of Hope City. "When we got out, we always had a heart for ministering to people on the streets."

Stribling says that lasting change and freedom starts in the prayer room.

"I've been in the 12-step programs and addiction recovery," he says. "When you sit in the prayer room, you encounter the Lord."

Encompassing half a city block, Hope City has a food pantry and a community center, which is open for anyone to take a shower, get a hot meal or cup of coffee and use WiFi. The center also has a residential program for interns and 30-35 people in addiction recovery. The pantry provides meals for up to 1,000 families a month through a partnership with Harvesters Network.

"When someone comes to the community center, they don't have to go to the prayer room, but most of the time the music draws them," Stribling says. "I've led so many people to the Lord who walk into these doors."

In Adairsville, Georgia, a town with a population of about 4,600, Tina Spellman wanted Living Way Church of Foursquare to be a "transformational church." To fulfill that vision, Pastor Spellman launched community gatherings at locations such as businesses, schools, military bases and courthouses. The purpose of the gatherings is to build relationships and invite people into the community of faith.

The congregation also houses the only coffee shop in town at Living Way Community Center.

"We say Jesus shows up at the shop every day," Spellman says. "This is an experimental enterprise of sorts, a partnership between church and businesses."

The community center is also home to the Living Way Christian Academy and KidZone after-school clubs.

Grow by Meeting Needs

These churches have found that meeting the needs of the community has helped increase church attendance and empowered their members to serve.

"We're the fastest-growing church in Flint," Martin says.

Even local gang members consider Flint's Cathedral of Faith their church.

"One Sunday, 20 gang members walked into the service," Martin says. "When they come to play basketball, we tell them that they have to leave their guns outside."

The crime rate is much lower around the church in a city known for a high rate of homicides. Cathedral of Faith is also one of the few African-American churches that is a member of the Flint Chamber of Commerce.

Jaison Randall says practical evangelism has increased church attendance at CityReach Network, an Assemblies of God church plant in Buffalo, New York. The city has a higher-than-average refugee and Arab population, and CityReach aims to meet community needs with a food pantry, street evangelism and home visitation.

"Our Toys for Tots drive has been really good for us," Pastor Randall says of the Christmas toy campaign. "Our acts of kindness break down barriers between people."

At New Church of Joy, reaching children and teens has added to the congregation.

"What we do draws people to our ministry," Tricia says. "There are more people than we realize who support what we do in the community. When we hosted a summer camp, we had a lot of our members take a vacation from their job to serve the kids. I think more people are seeing that we need to reach the younger generation."

But even though a child in the program may not become a church member, her life can still be changed for the good.

"We had a 6-year-old girl who came to our Sidewalk Sunday School services who was picked up by police," Tricia says. "Her mom was strung out on drugs, and the girl told the police to take her to the church because they would know what to do. We kept her for a few weeks until we knew she was in a stable situation. Today, she is going to college and serving the Lord."

Pastors and leaders who want to change their communities need to start with what they have. Finding a mentor is also critical. Bill Wilson, the founder of Sidewalk Sunday School in New York City, mentored Tricia's husband, Luis.

"There are many people who are desperate," Sutton says of such ministry work. "You will have no competition to reach the hurting."

Leilani Haywood is the online editor of SpiritLed Woman magazine and the author of Ten Keys to Raising Kids That Love God. Follow her on Twitter (@leilanihaywood).

webmaster@strang.com (Leilani Haywood) Community Thu, 05 May 2016 21:00:00 -0400
What We Must Do to Prepare for the Harvest http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22851-what-we-must-do-to-prepare-for-the-harvest http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22851-what-we-must-do-to-prepare-for-the-harvest

As we recognize that we are living in the last days, there are some things that, as the Body of Christ, we need to do. We cannot sit around passively in church, thinking that Jesus will come back for His bride that has been complacent and stagnant.

There are certain things we must do to prepare for the harvest.

"Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted and were scattered, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send out laborers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:35-38).

When we read this, Jesus is saying there are few workers or few people to reap the harvest or reach souls. We usually equate that with people or churches that are evangelizing and getting people saved. That is true; we need that. However, we don't just need people or churches to go out and evangelize; there is something more that Jesus is saying here.

We must honor God with our lives. God wants to restore His honor in all the earth. Honoring the Lord will change the atmosphere around the world. If every church in the world went outside their four walls and reached 100 people and brought them to church and they got saved, would that be enough?

When people come to your church, do they find a place where Jesus is a priority and where an atmosphere of honor toward the Lord has been created? If they find this, they too will turn their hearts to the Lord and honor Him. This is the harvest that God wants.

Most people are satisfied with their salvation, and that's it. I will go to church every Sunday and I'm good, because I know I'm going to heaven. I will throw in a few dollars in the offering, maybe come out and help during a special event or holiday to soothe my conscience and maybe clap my hands if I like the song they sing. That's it, which is all I have to do because I know I'm going to heaven.

The Bible has a different interpretation as to how we must prepare ourselves as the bride of Christ; it is not simply about reaching heaven. We must prepare ourselves for heaven as the bride of Christ.

"'Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. It was granted her to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.' Fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (Rev. 19:7-8).

As believers, our righteous acts are walking in unity as a body, giving our tithes and offerings, serving, worshiping and praising God, knowing and living the word of God, honor and reverence to the Lord, and putting God first. We don't have to be a perfect church, but it is important for us to honor God and put our faith in Him. As we respond, He will continue to change us and bring in the harvest.

We must understand the times we are living in and the urgency of the hour. God must come first and be a priority in our lives.

"As they went along the way, a man said to Him, 'Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.' Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.' He said to another man, 'Follow Me.' But he said, 'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' Jesus said to him, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But you go and preach the kingdom of God.' Yet another said, 'Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go bid farewell to those at my house.' Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back at things is fit for the kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:57-62).

This was a priority statement. When Jesus said "no place to lay His head," this was a test. If you follow me, you may have nowhere to lay your head. Jesus emphasized that they can't look back, they can't return to their past, and they couldn't return to their religious family to get them to approve. 

God knows our heart, but He is not going to compete with that distraction in our life. We have to ask ourselves if we are ready to make Him the priority by honoring Him.

It's not simply about the final destination. You want heaven to be a priority when you die, but you won't make God a priority as you live. When you get caught in an apathetic way or stuck in your religion or tradition, you need to respond and do something different so that you don't stay in that spot. Your life, marriage, home, relationships or with God may be moving toward a dead end, so you must respond.

As we prepare for God's harvest, we must create an atmosphere of honor to the Lord at church and in our lives. When we get this, we will not only reap the harvest but we will do the right thing in God's eyes not only by getting people saved but also by teaching the people to honor the Lord and make Him a priority.

This sets us up for the revival to come, when our hearts will be turned towards God and our lives will be surrendered to Him. We will be a people that God will look at and pour His presence out to us. {eoa}

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Tricia Reyes ) Evangelism Thu, 05 May 2016 12:00:00 -0400
Techs Have the Calling of the Great Commission Too http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/communication/22775-techs-have-the-calling-of-the-great-commission-too http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/communication/22775-techs-have-the-calling-of-the-great-commission-too

Technicians are a different breed. Many are introverts who are content to stay in the back room pushing buttons and not talking to anyone. Many church techs have told me that despite trying, they have never personally led anyone to Christ—and it bothers them.

God created us to worship Him, and we are doing so through our technical talents. But why didn't He create us to be platform speakers or missionaries who boldly go and teach the gospel around the world? After all, God gave us the Great Commission: "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Believing they are missing out on fulfilling that commission can cause tech people to crawl into a shell and feel like they are just "doers," a service department whose technicians simply do what they're told.

I have visited a fair number of churches that not only miss the calling of a tech but also reinforce a tech's naturally negative suspicion that he is just there to "do things." Churches that suspect they might be in this category may be helped by some of these practices:

1. Get acquainted with other teams. Make sure the tech team knows what the other teams are doing and appreciates the contributions of their team members. Do this by forcing one-on-one engagement. Having prayer time together and a few minutes of interaction before rehearsal are positive ways to know what members of the worship, facility and other teams are going through. If possible, get the worship and production teams together for outings that build relational bridges.

2. Provide a path for ideas your team members propose. Don't kill the ideas proposed by the team, but encourage them and have a process for vetting them. Make sure the box that the team operates in is clearly defined, but leave enough room for creativity and freedom to make the work of the technician an art, not a job.

3. Refocus the team. Use a system to review what the teams are doing, and provide praise or correction as needed. Also, hold a brief meeting for the teams right before the service where you can provide a breather, pray a quick prayer for the service and refocus the teams on the real reason why they do tech. The real reason is because tech team members are a part of a ministry that, at its heart, fulfills the Great Commission. Most technicians have led many people to Christ by fulfilling their part in the service. Sure, it's important to have one-on-one contact with people and guide to Christ those who don't know Him. But when it comes to technical abilities and talents, why would these be any less of a ministry to the lost than the pastor preaching? I don't believe it is less of a ministry. The work of a technician is just as much a ministry to others as is a missionary who travels around the world or a pastor who speaks from the platform. I believe many souls have been won to Christ through the ministry of tech. If it were not for technology, how would multisite video church happen? How would ministry tools like CDs be available to hand to our neighbors? Digital witnessing through sermon podcasts or webcasts sent around the world in seconds means a church has an international outreach without the church tech leaving town. None of that would happen without a technician willing to come in early, stay late and work hard to fulfill what I like to call the "digital great commission."

Knowing this should reframe the mindset of the tech team member, no matter his role. This way of thinking should drive the tech team, giving the team a mission, a vision and a goal. It changes how team members act, react and interact. Their job is now more than pushing a button or moving a fader. Through the use of technology, their role is to paint an atmosphere of worship that helps engage or introduce every soul to the Holy Spirit. That's the digital great commission. Let's fulfill it.  

David Leuschner is associate senior director of technology and technical arts at Gateway Church in Dallas/Fort Worth. He directs more than 500 volunteers and staff to facilitate several hundred events a month for Gateway's seven venues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (both @davidleuschner).

webmaster@strang.com (David Leuschner) Communication Mon, 02 May 2016 21:00:00 -0400
12 Stumbling Blocks to the Gospel for This Generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22837-12-stumbling-blocks-to-the-gospel-for-this-generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/22837-12-stumbling-blocks-to-the-gospel-for-this-generation

I preach in a lot of different places, have been involved in evangelism and have overseen a local church for more than three decades. I have often found that it is not the gospel that turns people off, but the people carrying the gospel who turn them off.

It is my opinion that church leadership should remove as many unnecessary stumbling blocks as possible so that as many as possible can be saved.

The following 12 points are based on conversations I have had with millennial leaders as well as the average person on the street:

1. An overemphasis on money – I have been in some services in which the offering took more than 30 minutes, and it was not a special service but the norm. In other services, it was common to collect three offerings or more! This gives new people the impression that the church leadership is more concerned with collecting money than in preaching the gospel.

This also leaves the church open to suspicion regarding their motives. I believe money and stewardship should be taught regularly, and at times fundraising should be a focal point for in church gatherings, but it should never consistently rival the time given to preaching and teaching the Word of God.

2. The opulent lifestyle of the leadership – In many cases, the lavish lifestyle of the pastor and top leaders is a huge stumbling block for the gospel. I believe God wants His children blessed, but the pastor and leaders should model a lifestyle of simplicity and not extravagance especially if they lead churches in poor communities. The apostles Peter and Paul both stated that greed should not be a trait of church elders (1 Pet. 5:2; 1 Tim. 3:3.)

3. Scandals – In this day and age, any fool can post something scandalous on social media about a church or leader that has no basis in the truth. These are things we cannot always avoid; hence, this is why you should not be quick to believe what people post about others! However, when leaders don't have proper boundaries in their finances and personal life, they tend to cross the line in both.

These are the ones that are ripe for a public scandal. Since the huge televangelist scandals of the 1980s to the present, scandals give the unbeliever another excuse not to repent and believe the gospel. Every leader should be careful what they text, email, post and say in public and private. They should also have a strong interior life in which they walk in the fear of the Lord, which enables all of us to depart from evil (Prov. 16:6).

4. Duplicitous behavior. When children of believers and or the unsaved witness ungodly behavior from their co-workers, employees, neighbors and friends who claim to be Christians, it is a huge stumbling block to the gospel.

5. Religious titles – Many millennials in certain communities are turned off by the excessive use of elaborate religious hierarchical titles. In some religious settings, every body has a title like bishop, apostle, doctor, reverend and archbishop. Young people are especially turned off by the need for this kind of identification for self-validation.

6. Religious language – People in this generation are not as religious as the previous generation and feel disconnected when a believer constantly uses religious language in everyday communication. We have to learn to communicate using the "language of Babylon" if we are going to make strong connections with this generation. We have to teach believers how to "think biblically but speak secularly" if the gospel is going to make inroads in culture.

7. Religious images of power – Vestiges of authority and power in the church turn off many young people. They more easily relate to down-to-Earth, transparent leadership. When they see thrones on a church stage in which leaders are elevated above the congregation with pastors preaching (down) at the congregation, it gives them the wrong impression of leadership and is a quick turnoff.

8. Religious behavior – Sometimes in church the people have so many protocols, traditions and rituals, it scares new people into thinking they have to become religious robots in order to believe. We need to show the world the difference between being religious (which does not save or sanctify a person) and having a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

9. Territorial emphasis over kingdom focus – Many are turned off to the gospel when they see leadership merely focused on their own agenda and building programs and not for the good of their community. God called us to serve our communities not just build larger church buildings.

10. Programs over people – Many people are turned off to the gospel when they see the church focus more on events and programs than on relating one on one to people.

11. Triumphalism – Many young people are turned off to triumphalist prayers and pronouncements about taking cities and nations back for God. They feel called to serve their community but not to take it over by force. We in the church have to be careful with the kind of language we use to communicate our vision.

12. No community and authenticity – What people crave for the most is community. Everyone needs to feel loved and to belong to an entity greater than him or herself. Part of the call of the church is to assimilate new believers into the visible body of Christ through relationships and discipleship. When people come to the church and only experience program based Christianity, they will eventually leave and look for a real community in which to belong. {eoa}

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter, go to josephmattera.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joseph Mattera) Evangelism Mon, 02 May 2016 18:00:00 -0400
5 Reasons Why the Large, Single-Site Church Is Dying http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/22839-5-reasons-why-the-large-single-site-church-is-dying http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/22839-5-reasons-why-the-large-single-site-church-is-dying

One of the largely unspoken phenomena of the past decade has been the decline in large churches located at only one site. Most of the large church growth today is taking place at multisite churches.

For clarity, I define a large church as a congregation with an average weekly worship attendance of 1,000 or more. In this article, I focus on just those churches located at one site. Larger churches with multiple sites have largely avoided this issue. They are growing more through multiple sites than larger services.

So why are we hearing more about the decline of these churches? Allow me to offer five reasons:

1. "Cultural Christians" are numerically declining. A cultural Christian is not really a Christian at all. These men and women attended church services in the past because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do. They were drawn to the services that were large in number because they thought they could escape further involvement. They, in essence, hid in the crowd. Cultural Christianity is disappearing rapidly in America. The decline in their numbers has largely impacted the churches with larger gatherings.

2. The majority of millennials prefer smaller worship gatherings. They are thus less likely to attend a church with a single-service attendance of 1,000 or more.

3. The growth of church planting and church campuses. Simply stated, most of the numerical growth is migrating toward these new and smaller sites.

4. Assimilation is often a greater challenge in the larger gathering. If someone stops attending a large worship gathering, it is likely he or she will not be missed. If the person is not missed, there is no follow up, and he or she drops out.

5. The perceived quality of worship services is no longer limited to larger churches. From 1980 to 2010, many church attendees shifted to larger worship services where they could experience a higher quality of worship. Today, many of the smaller churches are able to have similar quality.

Many multisite church leaders are reporting declines in their larger "home base church" services, but those numbers are masked by growth at other campuses. In many ways the multisite movement has been a great blessing in keeping larger churches on a growth trajectory.

Many of the large single-site churches, however, obviously do not have other campuses to offset declines in their single site services. It is a largely unreported phenomenon. But it is a challenging reality in many churches.

Let me hear from you.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Church Growth Fri, 29 Apr 2016 21:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Independent Contractors http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/22830-kingdom-economics-independent-contractors http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/22830-kingdom-economics-independent-contractors

An independent contractor provides goods and/or services according to a written or oral contract.  Since they are independent, and not employees, they have more flexibility regarding their schedule, the number of hours they desire to work and the type of work they perform, all while increasing their income and usually without a long-term commitment.

Higher healthcare costs, increasingly costly administrative burdens (complexity, expanded paid time-off and legal requirements) have accelerated companies' desire to outsource. Less job security, flat wages, higher health care costs and fewer career opportunities have encouraged the workforce to supplement or replace incomes.

More work is being performed by independent contractors and the trend is accelerating.  The data shows increase regardless of gender, race, education or occupation. Over the last five years, the trend accounts for much of the increase in overall employment. Slightly more than 40 percent of independent contractors are doing it full-time. Nearly 60 percent are doing it to supplement incomes. Most have been doing it for less than a year.

The same forces encouraging independent contracting are also influencing the church. Convenient schedules, time requirements, choice of positions, perceived benefits and the lack of long-term commitment are becoming societal norms. Engaging these changes the kingdom way should help alleviate the consequences of these norms and grow the church. Specific issues and recommendations include:

1. Convenient schedules. Today's congregants want church schedules to revolve around their needs and preferences. "I like to sleep late on Sunday so..." is heard by many pastors.  As leaders we need to be cognizant of the wishes of our congregation, while recognizing we cannot please everybody. Additional services stretch the limited resources available.

Kingdom solution: Obtain information from the congregation while maintaining leadership decisions based on the church's mission, resources and inspiration of the Lord.

2. Time requirements. In today's modern world, time may be the scarcest of all resources. Many complaints are legitimate (my job, family and/or health are suffering because of the time commitment), while some reflect poorly on their priorities (please close the service before the buffet lines get long).

Kingdom solution: Make sure all programs are needed, efficient and the result of prayer. Ensure that worship, sermon and ministry are sufficiently long that all have the opportunity to have an encounter with the Lord.

3. Choice of positions. These days, church leadership will often receive requests from individuals for specific positions. While there is nothing wrong with the requests per se, all positions should be considered a calling where church needs, gifting of the individual and guidance of the Lord are paramount.

Kingdom solution: Actively seek the interests of potential volunteers, but follow the inspiration of the Lord.

4. Perceived benefits. People attend church for a variety of reasons; to make connections, to ease their conscience, to make friends, to meet expectations of others, and/or to worship the Lord, learn His Word and serve.  Kingdom solution:  insure that the complete Word is taught, worship is filled with His presence, and that every person has the opportunity to receive ministry and have an encounter.

5. Lack of long-term commitment. Church membership is declining, church hopping is increasing, and church attendance is either not considered or optional at best for far too many. A lack of long-term commitment is a spiritual problem. When we try to compete with the world in the entertainment arena, we lose. If we compromise the Word to increase its acceptability, we reduce much of its power. If we fail to move in our spiritual gifts to avoid criticism, we are limiting blessings to our congregation.

Kingdom solution: Preach the Word and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to reverse current trends to ensure a spiritual legacy for future generations. Our callings and responsibilities are critical. Significance and impacts reach far beyond today's environment.

Let us equip the saints and raise up disciples the way the Bible instructs and the Holy Spirit directs; Jesus paid the price, the Holy Spirit empowers, and victory is assured. {eoa}

Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James R. Russell ) Discipleship Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:00:00 -0400