Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to blogging

For the past few weeks I’ve not been blogging. One reason is that my son spilt some water on our laptop and several keys have been working incorrectly or not at all. I went to see what a small usb keyboard would cost, but one that would be portable like the laptop was just out of our price range.


Today I downloaded a simple free program called keytweak that helped me remap the keyboard around the non-working keys. It worked wonderfully. So, I’ll be writing again in the next day or two.


God bless.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Who are we really trying to reach?

Here’s a list of names. Have you heard of any of these people?

Max Lucado
Beth Moore
Michael W Smith
John MacArthur
Charles Stanley
Andy Stanley
The Gaithers
TD Jakes
Michael Card
Chuck Swindoll
Sandi Patti
Kay Arthur
Philip Yancy

Now, would you be interested in seeing any of these people if they were going to be speaking or performing at in your neighborhood?  I’ve seen many churches hosting or sponsoring events with Christian “celebrities,” and treating the even as though it were the outreach event of the year. Churches sometimes confuse the popularity of these events with success.

There are two key problems with that kind of thinking. First, Knowing and belonging to Jesus goes way beyond being a fan of a Christian “celebrity.”   Second, the people who are attracted to events like these probably already fit into your social circle and culture. Going beyond outreach means going to people who don’t really know who these people are and don’t care if they are in town or not.

In the end, it doesn’t even matter what the “celebrities” have to offer. We have nothing to offer except Jesus, the love of God made flesh, shown to us and shown through us. Make it a point to target your outreach toward those who don’t know or relate to the famous Christians.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why we must go beyond outreach

I grew up in a  church that was always scheduling evangelistic events. We had revivals, retreats, conferences, camps and door-to-door visitation blitzes. For several years our church was consistently among the top 3 churches in the state for baptisms. Our church was one of the first I’d ever heard of to launch a seeker driven service. In fact, it was simultaneous with the traditional service, but held in the gym. In the midst of all this, I was hearing God’s voice in my own life, calling me to a deeper walk with Him and to serve in ministry.


Years later, I returned to serve on staff at my home church. One day I pulled out an old church picture directory and noticed a graph on one of the first pages. It showed the numerical growth of the church by Sunday school attendance. Every year, this number was bigger, and impressively so, up until the last year in the graph 1984, the year the directory was printed. The number was familiar, I looked in our records, and it was the same average Sunday school attendance for the year 2000. I did some more research and noticed a pretty flat line from 1985 to 2000. Fifteen years of non-growth.


The late Eighties through the early Nineties were those “golden years” of baptisms for my church. There wasn’t a significant increase in membership nor Sunday school participation. How odd.


I had also been doing some demographic research for our single adult ministry. Out of curiosity, I pulled the data for our zip code and a couple of others and noticed during the late seventies and early eighties there was a significant boom in the population. Our part of the city was going through development. New neighborhoods were being build and businesses were opening. The church growth lined up with the growth of that part of the city. The tapering off of church growth also lined up with the tapering off of the growth of that part of the city.


How often does that happen? Probably more than we care to believe.


Something else bothers me about this. Our church was a leader in the state of Louisiana in baptisms, and during that time there was no significant growth in church membership. What does that say for the rest of the state?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sermon - Jesus the Missionary

Sorry, this post was for another blog. Removing the URL.


God bless,


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Random Thoughts and Gleenings 1


Anytime you enter into a relationship for any reason other than friendship or actual relationship, you are just writing down the eventual date that the relationship will end. True relationship has to be about just that.
If we don’t have a genuine love for other people, we have probably forfeited our right to evangelize them! – Dave Black
People are never going to believe that God loves them unless they experience that love through you. – William Lane
We must call sin “sin.” but we can’t say, “deal with this first, and then we’ll deal with you.” – Chris Seay
However strongly we may disapprove of homosexual practices, we have no liberty to dehumanize those who engage in them. – John Stott
If you want to effectively reach out to the poor, you should stop acting as though you are a savior. Stop acting like you're "helping" him or her.
Evangelization is a process of bringing the gospel to people where they are, not people where you would like them to be. When the gospel reaches a people where they are, their response to the gospel is the church in a new place. -Vincent Donovan

The most effective outreach is not winning the souls of lost individuals and bringing them into our church. It is bringing Jesus to the lost person and establishing a new church within his household and social network.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #6

Jesus said “I came down from heaven to do the will of the one who sent me, not my will, His will. And what is His will? That of all the people the Father has given me, not a single one would be lost, but that I would bring them all  back to life on the last day.

You see, this is my Father’s desire, that all who come to the Son and believe in him would have eternal life. I will ressurect them on the last day.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everybody’s normal until you get to know them.

I am not sure where I read that recently, but this is one of the truest statements I know. When you take it and apply it to a church context, though, it can be a devastating indictment. Do you attend a normal church full of normal people?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #5

When Jesus was informed that some Galileans had been killed by Pilate while they were offering their sacrifices, he spoke. “Do you think that those Galileans deserved that? Do you think they were taken out like that because that they were the worst sinners in Galilee?”

“No, they weren’t” Jesus continued “But the truth is, if you don’t change your lives, if you don’t repent, you are going to perish too, just as surely as they did.”

--somewhere in Luke 13

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“We ministered to them.”

Sometimes I wince when I hear that phrase.  People say it to laud themselves for having given a handout, said a prayer for someone, or donated some unneeded clothes. But often these words are repeated when all someone really did is keep a safe and sterile distance from someone else. The “ministry” may have been spontaneous, but definitely hastened toward some kind of neat closure.

The problem with this kind of ministry-at-arms-length is that it is really more about assuaging guilt than serving Jesus. We feel bad about someone’s situation and want to help. We know we ought to be more involved in helping others, but we are worried about becoming tangled up in someone else’s dysfunctional life. So we resort to giving something or making a superficial gesture of concern and sending them on their way.

A young man named Jace recounts one of these experiences in his own life:
This And yesterday I went to be a savior to a legally blind man who got robbed and now is facing eviction. I went to see him and meet him and eat with him. Instead, I was an actor trying to protect myself from another needy, messed up person. He wanted a long friendship, and I gave him a check for his water bill, a meal, a little cash to cover what he lost in his billfold and a conversation instead. Jesus exposed my evil heart to myself as I fumbled . . .  I don't what to do about this guy. I've never had someone straight up tell me to my face, "I don't want to be another charity case. I want friendship." All the while I'm telling myself that I don't have time for another person in my life. . . Shapevine blog - The Radical Way

"I ministered to you" is condescending. I’m up here and you’re down here, lucky to receive whatever I am giving you. It creates an invisible social barrier that tells the person that they can not relate on the same level. It is also focused on what you are doing, and not on knowing the person. Many times this is just exactly what both parties really want. Both afraid of what kind of involvement really knowing the other person might require. It’s scary because the deeper you go, the dirtier you can get. But only in the fleshing out of a relationship, however awkward it may be, can real discipleship begin.

Consider the way of of the Savior.

Jesus went to the homes of people with bad reputations and spent time eating and drinking with them. He also went to the homes of proper religious leaders and shared meals there. He sometimes spent the night at the home of friends in Bethany and Capernaum. He even slept in a boat of fishermen. He sat and talked with a man that was considered a monster. When he travelled through Samaria he drank their water and slept in their villages when they let him. He slept outside many, many times.

Jesus touched people with leprosy. He stuck his fingers in a man’s ears and mouth. He was called a drunk. He held the dirty feet of others in his hands. Once, he picked up a severed body part from the ground.  He went days without taking a shower. He grabbed the hand of a dead person. He let a prostitute kiss his feet. He even offered to let someone stick their fingers in his wounds.

What’s obvious is that Jesus didn’t worry about getting dirty or getting too close to the gross. He didn’t fret about social conventions and didn’t care if others would not approve. He didn’t mind the clinginess of those who didn’t know how to respond to his goodness. He was at home breaking the status quo and challenging everyone’s comfort.

So what does this mean for us? It means taking the risk and taking the initiative to begin a new relationship with someone we don’t know. It means humbling ourselves enough to make a sacrifice of our time and our privacy. It means placing everyone, even unseemly people on the same level as ourselves. It means going beyond being inconvenienced to changing the direction of our week, or month, or year… or lifetime.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #4

Jesus turned to the dinner host and said “When you serve a dinner or have a dinner party don’t invite your friends, nor your brothers and sisters. Don’t invite other people who are like you, nor your well-off neighbors. You know you will get invited back to their parties. Instead invite the poor, invite the physically handicapped, invite the disfigured and the blind. You will be blessed if you do this, because you know they can’t do anything to repay you. God himself will pay you back for your kindness on the day of the resurrection of the godly."

-- Somewhere in Luke 14

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Visitation Outreach (Part Three)

Another misconception about visitation is that it involves salesmanship. A number of church members avoid visitation because they feel like they can’t do this well. Perhaps they feel like they need to know more theology, or be able to explain the “plan of salvation” in a smooth and interesting way. Many Christians have never personally led another person to the Lord and feel unsure about when “it” happens. Some worry that there is going to be a lot of explaining or debating. In the end, some only participate in visitation when there is an experienced leader there to walk the person through each step.

Part of the reason I am posting the Gospel Presentations of Jesus series is to show that there was no formula or outline that Jesus followed. He never tried to sell the gospel. Instead, Jesus treated every person and circumstance as unique. The religious leaders got tripped up on formulas and theologies, but Jesus quickly cut through all that. Just read through the stories of salvation and the healing encounters people had with Jesus. The only common thing you will find is that they trusted Jesus and wanted to be near him. The good news message is loving God and trusting Jesus.

Visitation is not about going into someone’s home and closing the deal. It is about meeting and spending time with people, learning their names, their stories, their joys and their blemishes. It’s about entering into fellowship with them and beginning new friendships. It is not condescending. It’s about common ground, allowing them know you on the same level; your stories, your joys, your blemishes and your needs.

As you have fellowship with others, you are introducing them to fellowship with God. Your union with Jesus gives you identity. It is part of your story. It is who you are. As you tell what Jesus has done in your life, you present Him. As you tell what you have experienced of God and learned of God, you are announcing the good news. Jesus taught this. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me (Matthew 10:40).”

Getting people to make decisions by being a salesman and then passing them on to the organization for assimilation is not the way of Christ. Jesus commanded us to make disciples. That involves real fellowship, community, love and time.

Gospel presentations of Jesus #3

Jesus said “Enter in through the narrow door, because the wide door and the easy path lead to hell. So many people walk that path. The narrow door and the difficult path lead to life, but not many people find it.

-- somewhere in Matthew 7

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gospel presentations of Jesus #2

Jesus was at the temple and already teaching when some chief priests and other religious leaders arrived and came up to him. . .

Jesus continued “Tell me what you think about this. There was a man who had two sons. He went and told his older son, ‘Today, I want you to work in my vineyard.’

The son replied ‘'I do not want to,’ but later he had a change of heart, so he went and worked in the vineyard.

Now, the father also gave the same order to his younger son. This one said ‘Yes sir,” right away, but he never went to the vineyard.”

Jesus the asked them, “Now, which son did what his father wanted?”

The religious leaders replied, “It was the older son.”

“I can assure you that this is an absolute truth,” Jesus said. “Tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering into God’s kingdom ahead of you.”

-- Somewhere in Matthew 21

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visitation Outreach (Part Two)

Visitation ministry most often goes wrong by being impersonal. The bigger the church, the bigger the problem, usually. Often ministries stop being ministries and become assembly line programs one step away from the tactics used by political organizations. Once a church has become comfortable sending unknowns to visit unknowns, it’s all over.

One first big step in getting back to being personal and real would be to eliminate all prospect cards and those little registration cards that get passed out on Sundays. Honestly, if no one in a church organization cares enough about a visiting family to meet them and talk with them, to learn their names, find out why they came and maybe trade phone numbers, why would one expect that these families are going to be open and excited about receiving a visit from some representatives of the church a week or two later?

Speaking of visitors cards. Why are those things so painfully detailed? Do we really think we are going to help ourselves by having all this information about someone we don’t know? My wife and I have collected a few of these cards during our visits to the States just to laugh at them. We’ve actually seen cards like this:

Civil Status
_Student _Single _Married _Divorced _Widowed _Remarried _Separated _Engaged

_High School _Some College _Bachelors _Masters _Doctorate

“Ok, Bob. Here’s your prospect card. John and Louise Tucker, divorced, remarried, 3 children, one his one hers and one adopted. She has a Master’s degree. He has some college education, but didn’t finish college, evidently. They both work full time and they are both in their early forties.” Isn’t that putting the family at a disadvantage when meeting people they don’t know? If churches are going to use these cards, they ought not put anything but name, address, phone number and a place for comments. If you want to know more about visitors, get to know them. Don’t survey them.

Eliminating visitors cards can also lead to greater outreach involvement by the congregation. As it is, often times church members think that it isn’t necessary to approach visitors because the visitor cards are there and the “church” will make sure they get a visit and a gospel presentation. Without the prospect-card safety net, there will be more personal involvement… and it will be personal.

Gospel presentations of Jesus #1

A master of the religious law stood up to question Jesus. What he wanted to do was find some evidence to use against Jesus in order to accuse him. He asked, “Master, what must I do to gain eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What do the scriptures say about that? What do you understand of them?”

The man answered “You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And also, love the next person as much as you love your self.”

“That is the right answer!” Jesus affirmed. “Do this and you will live.” - Somewhere in Luke 10

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Visitation Outreach (Part One)

Nearly every church I’ve been a part of had some kind of visitation program. Usually it was to visit those who had recently attended a worship service. Occasionally it was to check on inactive members or homebound members. Sometimes it was just some form of cold calling, like knocking on doors with “surveys.”

The program I participated in most before moving to Brazil was called FAITH. We would have visitation on Tuesday nights, and it was usually in a format of meeting together for 45 minutes to learn the FAITH outline and how make better visits, then going out in groups of 3 to visit “prospects” for about an hour. After visiting or attempting to visit the homes assigned to us, we would return to the church for a 15-minute sharing time.

Visitation is often a backbone of the outreach strategy of many churches. It has been used to varying degrees of success. Unfortunately there is an awkwardness about it that makes a great number of church members choose not to participate. It’s hard to disagree with them. In evangelistic visitation, ninety-nine times in a hundred, you are visiting someone you don’t really know.

It is very hard to develop any kind of real and meaningful relationship with the person in a twenty to thirty minute visit. This is even more true when a primary goal of the visit is to make a gospel presentation and call for a response. Add to that the courtesies of explaining who you are and why you are visiting and your time is about up. The visit is often concluded by giving the family an information package about the church, including its address and phone number and maybe a list of Sunday school classes.

There is an awkwardness to this kind of evangelism. It feels superficial, and it often is. Follow up is even more awkward. If the person made a decision, the visitor wonders if it was genuine or not. He has no way of knowing because he doesn’t know the person. Often when a person responds favorably to an evangelistic visit, their card is sent to a Sunday school teacher or some other person in the church for discipleship.

Its almost as if the message given is “Your decision is important to us. Our church cares about you and wants to help you in spiritual matters. We personally don’t care, but our organization does.”

There is a better way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Out of sight, out of mind.

It was the Sabbath day and Jesus took his disciples to the synagogue in Capernaum, where he taught the people. All the people that heard him were amazed at his teaching. They were even more amazed when a man overcome by an evil spirit began to shout at Jesus, because just as soon as he started, Jesus silenced the demon and freed the man. The whole city began to talk.

Later Jesus and the disciples went to Simon Peter's house. Peter’s wife’s mother was sick in bed with fever. Jesus touched her and she was healed. After sunset, people from all over Capernaum began to carry their sick and lame and demon-oppressed to the house where Jesus was. The whole city turned out and crowded the house. Jesus healed a great many of the sick and lame, and freed people from demons.

The next morning, before sunrise, Jesus had already left the house and gone to a quiet place outside of the city to pray. His disciples found him later that morning and told him that everyone was looking for him.

But Jesus replied, “Let's go to these other villages, now, so I can announce the gospel there too. That is why I have come.”

a loose telling from somewhere in Mark 1

This is an amazing day in the life of Jesus.

After everything Jesus did during that day, he could have remained at Peter’s house and established a mega-church at Capernaum that the whole city would attend. Instead, the next morning Jesus is nowhere to be found. When his disciple finally catch up to him, he basically says “There are people beyond this crowd who need me. We don’t know them yet, so let’s get going.”

Had Jesus chosen to stay put, I can imagine the disciples hard at work, organizing schedules and talking about renovating the house to accommodate more people. “Good thing you’re a carpenter, Jesus.” There would be a great many things to take care of. How many times a day would Jesus teach? When would be the specified healing times? When would they close up for meal time. What about cleaning? Bathroom space for all the people? Would the noise bother the neighbors. Maybe they could buy the neighboring houses and expand a little?

The disciples could have done a lot of work, good work, but that wasn’t what Jesus had called them to do. He called them to become fishers of men. Their calling was to mission, to leaving the 99 to find the one. So, bringing the light of the gospel to the ones still in the dark was the work that Jesus had them do. “Come, let’s go to other places now.”

Simon Peter’s house continued to be a ministry outpost.

In the next chapter, his house is full of people again and having its ceiling torn open for a paraplegic. Our modern church buildings are and should also be ministry outposts, but to be effective in reaching out to a lost world, we need to learn a lesson from Mark chapter one. The meeting place was incidental, secondary. The real outreach was being done outside its walls and with no thought given to its prominence or status. People were first.

  • Are our churches really putting people first today?
  • How much of your church budget is spent on the meeting place and its upkeep?
  • How much is spent on people you haven’t yet met?
  • Can you see the point?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What are we really trying to do? (Part 2)

The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. --C.S. Lewis

How many times have you heard someone say that their church needs a song leader, or an organist, guitar player, secretary, janitor, web designer, sound man, business manager, nursery worker, youth leader, accountant, security guard, pianist, or a director for the family life center? Note how quickly the church mobilizes itself to act when it has been determined that there is a need in the organization. Resume collection, search committee meetings, interviews, tryouts and the like begin to fill the schedule of the church organization as it seeks to meet one of these needs.

All of this work gives the illusion of progress and growth, but it is really all about building and maintaining an organization. Is this what the church is really called to do? Of course not. The church is called to bring the fellowship of Jesus to the lost. Somehow, though, it has entered into the subconscious of many that the church must maintain its stability and structure as an organization. Once that has been established, a terrible prerequisite is placed on evangelism and outreach. It must only be done in a way that preserves the organization.

Part of the problem comes from confusing the church with the organization called, for example “First Avenue Church.” The church are those who are united together in one body by being united to Jesus and who belong to one another (Romans 12:5). First Avenue Church is an organization, run like a business, that represents the church in legal matters, owns property, and often has rules and a constitution.

These two work together, but they are not the same thing. If the non-profit organization called First Avenue Church bankrupts, loses its land, and dissolves as a legal entity, its members don’t cease to be a church. In the same way, if over the course of time the membership of First Avenue Church is no longer made up of people who are united to Christ, it may continue to be called a church, but is is most certainly not a church.

If the church were to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus and his apostles, it would be announcing the gospel to the lost and bringing salvation to sinners without regard to the cost to the organization. After all, Jesus did say “Whoever clings to his life will lose it, but whoever gives up his life for my sake will find true life.” Is that any less true for churches?

What are we really trying to do? That is the question that must be asked over and over again. Are we serving the needs of the organization that represents the church, or are we following the commands of Jesus with abandon? Is it okay to have a well-run, pretty and financially stable church organization, even if it means only a few will come to Christ through it? Would it be okay to bankrupt your organization, lose its property and dissolve its legal status if it meant that a great many would find King Jesus? It’s not always either-or, but only one of these should even be an option.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What are we really trying to do? (Part 1)

And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ who fills everything everywhere with his presence. Ephesians 1:23

The first church I ever pastored was a small country church in a small, small town. I was a youth minister and college student at a Baptist university when they asked me to preach in view of a call. The church only had a handful of members and could only pay gas expenses for me to get there and back on Sundays. The building was nice and new, not very big, but more than adequate. They needed someone to preach and I needed somewhere to get preaching experience. It was a good fit.

We would meet on Sunday mornings at ten o’clock, all nine of us. We always divided into two groups for Sunday School, then we came together for the worship service. We would sing three or so hymns and pass an offering plate. Sometimes, one of the two young girls would provide the special music. Then, of course, I would stand in the pulpit and preach to the eight. We would sometimes sing a hymn of invitation and then the service would be over. That would be it until next Sunday.

Once we as a church had found a rhythm and a good flow to our services, we began to grow. Well, not really, but we did double and triple our worship attendance. I can tell you it wasn’t growth because there was a small layer of accumulated dry dust in the bottom of the baptistery. It had not been used in years. However, as inactive members began returning to our services, the sanctuary began to fill up with enough people to warm the building. The extra envelopes in the offering plate meant that the burden of paying the bills was being eased.

We never did baptize anyone during my few years there. Though it bothered us, it didn’t sting too much. Now, that is a terribly unfortunate statement, but there is some truth it. We had the illusion of progress. Things were changing and improving. In all of that we had accomplished something that made us feel . . . comfortable. We succeeded in what we were really trying to do.

Truth be told, I was always just a visitor there in that little town. The church had been there long before I arrived and planned to be there long after I had gone. It was, and wanted to be, a perfect picturesque fit to small town religion. These people love God, but it was culture that defined the church, and it was culture that set its priorities.

The unspoken non-negotiables of the church mandated that there be a building with a steeple and that its worship service be held on Sunday mornings. The service was to last an hour and included comunal singing and a lecture. The church had to be registered as an organization with several national and state entities and have regular business meetings.

With these cultural prerequisites, our outreach was reduced to seeking people who were willing to come and be a part of what we were already doing, on our schedule, in our way, on our property. This was not Kingdom building, it was organization building. What mattered most was building and maintaining the organization. This is what we were trying to do, and that is all we ever did.

This is why every church must continually ask the question, “What are we really trying to do?” It probably isn’t what we think. No wonder so many churches are stagnant and dying.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beyond Outreach

I am a 33 year old missionary and have been in Brazil for nearly 8 years. Prior to this I served in a large metropolitan church and in a small country church. My family and I are now preparing to move back to the US, near the Baton Rouge area, waiting as the Lord leads and provides an opportunity for us there.

Without losing sight of the church planting work we’re doing here (see my Chronological Bible Storying Journal), I wanted to begin this blog as a way to “think out loud” about how to sucessfully obey the command of Jesus to make disciples.

In American culture, Christianity is declining. This blog will focus specifically on what the typical American evangelical church can start doing or stop doing in order to make a greater impact for the Kingdom of God.

There are already many bloggers out there writing about the state of the church in America today, about evangelism and outreach, and about making disciples. I will likely refer often to other people’s writings and will include hyperlinks so you can read them for yourselves.

Here’s a thought:

If you’re going to reach people that others don’t,
you will have to do things that others won’t.

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