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Archives for : April2020

Engaging When Disconnected

One of the greatest challenges today is how to stay engaged at such a disengaged and disconnected time.  There is so much more to this than how well you are utilizing social media, phone calls, email, and other tools to stay connected with your church family.  It is making sure that you are going a few layers deeper and connecting with one another on a relational level.  The goal is not how many likes you are getting on Facebook live or how many thumbs up you are receiving while live streaming.  How many people are you actually engaging with?   

One of our staff recently called a Christian distributor, Lifeway, and asked about an order our church had placed for resources.  If you have not heard there has been a disruption and delay on many things.  After discussing our order with the customer service representative he asked him, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”  The man began to weep and said no one had ever asked him that before. Wow, he works for a Christian company and usually talks with Christians, yet, no one had ever asked him how they could pray with him.  How can that actually be?

The word “engage” means to occupy the attention or efforts of someone else.  It requires that the person you are engaging with has your full attention.  It is not a casual greeting and then quickly moving to another person and another greeting.  You are connecting with them to see how they are doing and you genuinely want to know how you can help them and minister to them.  Consider asking three questions in order to connect at a little deeper level.  Each of these questions helps to peel the layers off and engages the person by showing that they have your full attention. 

First, ask them how they are doing.  Actually, this can be a very standard question that many people realize, at face value, is just a question and you really don’t care about the answer.  The key here is to ask it and wait on an answer.  Many will give the standard, status quo response, “Fine!”  Second, ask them if there is anything you can do for them or any way you can help them.  What service could you provide or errand could you run?  Third, ask how you can pray for them.  Do not make the mistake of NOT praying for them right then.  Stop and pray!

Here are some ideas from churches of what they are doing to remain engaged and connected during this disconnected time.  One church in Oklahoma utilized Zoom to enjoy dinner together.  They all prepared their meals at home, sat down to enjoy the meal and then joined the group they had eaten out with many times before.  Imagine the laughter and engagement that occurred through this extra effort to facilitate a time of fellowship within the family of God.  What might you be able to do to connect and engage different groups in your church?

Another church shared how they opened up Zoom, at a prescheduled time, as a venue for different people to get on just to say hi and see one another.  It is almost like how you use your foyer at church where you first engage one another on Sunday mornings.  Engagement is not only looking at a screen while someone preaches at you or teaches a Bible study.  Those times are very important but you should consider how you can facilitate a time where people can see one another and speak to one another.  Remember, one of the big five in Acts 2 is fellowship.

StonePoint church in Cumming, GA shared how they would drive by another member’s house and text them that they were outside in front of the house.  Then you could either come to the window, the door, or step outside to wave and see one another in person.  Yes, you need to follow wise social distancing practices because you care about not endangering someone else, but there are ways you can engage one another on a deeper level than only posting a word of encouragement and/or bible study.  Once again it is not an either or but a both and engagement.

StonePoint also engages people by watching their feed and responding to those who are watching.  It is a great tool for assimilating those who are connecting virtually on how the viewers can take the next steps if they are interested.  They also utilize this tool to take attendance.  It is not so they can count how many they have but so that they can follow-up on those who are becoming more distant and disconnected during this difficult time.  A church in AR also does this and people have reached out wanting more information.              

Please do not forget about phone calls, hand written letters, and cards to engage your people.  Take the time to call and engage in conversation and get others to help.  These times are very draining and very depressing to many.  People need hope and encouragement more than ever.  They need to know that they are not alone and that you are there to love them and your church desires to continue shepherding them. You just might come out of this more connected than you were.

The New Normal

Hopefully, we are past the shock and disbelief of the way we now have to hold worship services.  We paused and began to think through how we would make the necessary changes to remain spiritually and relationally connected when the battle cry to contain the virus is social distancing.  The move to virtual church was a stampede and many websites and streaming services crashed on March 15.  Then, we began to think about online giving and plans were made to take that step and other necessary adaptations.

Now we must prepare and plan for the future.  Many believe that the real crisis is at least a week or two away.  Will we be prepared if it gets worse before it gets better?  Leader, what if this is the new “normal” until June, September, or later?  What if we must continue worshiping virtually and then when we do re-engage our finances have taken a 30% decrease?  Please know that I am an optimist by nature and my prayer is that we will not just survive this crisis but that we will be the church through it and emerge the other side stronger and better equipped!

About ten to twelve years ago my good friend, Dave DeVries, challenged me in his training, The Multiplication Workshop, by asking what would happen if we removed the queen (Sunday Morning Worship) from the regular rhythm of most churches?  If you play chess you understand that the queen is the most powerful piece in the game.  The queen has the ability to move in all directions but there are also pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, and a king.  The Sunday morning worship service (event) is important but the other pieces are important also.

Dave asks church planters to stop and think, “How will you start being the church even before you start public worship services?”  Are we only focusing on losing our worship crowd right now?  Please let me say that you should be reaching out to them and caring for them.  They need shepherds to care for them right now more than ever.  Figure out creative ways to stay connected through phone calls, texts, emails, and virtual meetings.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw people who were harassed, helpless, and without a shepherd.

While we are watching over the flock we should also be focusing on training and equipping our core.  What if your core of trained disciple-makers grew during this time?  What if instead of three disciple-makers you came out of this crisis with six who are trained and ready to go?  What if your 12 became 24 or your 120 became 150?  The new “normal” could be a refocusing and a recommitment on the Great Commission of making disciples and not just making more worship attenders.  How many disciple-makers could you connect to disciples during this time?

Our goal, when we are able to have services again, is to show our church the one-on-one disciple making that has been occurring during this challenge.  Then we hopefully will have 20 new disciple makers ready to disciple the next 20.  We are using the Small Circle tool that is a free app on your smart phone and free PDF’s can also be ordered at smallcircle.com.  The other good news is that you can go to bmamission.org/activate that offers six hours of free training by the author, Steve McCoy.  Just scroll down to the red tab that says discipleship training.

A new study on discipleship states that, “fewer than 5% of churches in the US have a reproducing making culture.  This report found a disappointing low percentage of churches with a culture of and strategy for reproducing disciples and disciple makers.”  The new normal should be training and equipping husbands to disciple their wives, fathers to disciple their families, and single parents to disciple their children.  The next question should then be; who is the one, after your family, that you could disciple during this time?

In Innovating Discipleship, a book worth reading, Will Mancini speaks of having input results, output results, and impact results.  He wrote it ten years ago but it sounds like the exact situation we find ourselves in today.  He states, “Innovation can easily revolve more around gadgets than changed hearts.  It’s easy to talk technology without connecting the dots to better outcomes in people’s lives.”  It will be sad indeed if all we came out of this with is more simulcasts, Facebook live, and online giving.

God seems to have slowed us down and given us a wonderful opportunity where we can work “on” the ministry instead of working “in” the ministry.  Do you have a process of discipleship in place in your church?  Do you have trained disciple makers who are ready to be a Paul to a Timothy?  Could you train and equip several to be disciple makers to begin pouring into the lives of young disciples?  Maybe this is our opportunity to return the church to the new “normal” of making disciples.

This is a chance to discover new strategies (actually quite old) and take full advantage of this time.  It very well could be the greatest window of imaginative opportunity that we will ever have in our lifetime.  As we look back at the systems and programs we had before this began what did our impact results look like?  Were we seeing changed lives, transformed families, and a real difference in our communities?  What needs to change and are we willing to make those changes?

The Church Left The Building

God has not hit the pause button on His mission.  God has not stopped asking us to go and make disciples.  God’s mission has not slowed down and He still asks of us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The Great Commission and the Great Commandment remain unaffected and unchanged.  Many things are being cancelled but hear this: NOT CHURCH!

Yes, it will look different and large services will not be held. But the church continues to pray, function, minister, meet needs, worship, study, and love one another.  We must continue to be salt and light.  Do you know why?  The truth is that the church is not a building and never has been.  The church is you and me…Christ followers.  

As we submit (not surrender) to the authorities’ recommendations and mandates we should take a position of cooperation for containment as we care for our flocks and our community.  The church is the people of God who love and follow Jesus.  The church is His children pointing others toward Him.  And right now people need Jesus.  It is all of us who are His disciples helping people to find and follow Him.

A.W. Tozer said, “A frightened world needs a fearless church!”  Maybe, without realizing, we have turned the Great Commission into, “Go into all the world and make more worship attenders!”  We have measured success too much by the size of those present more than those actively becoming disciples who make disciples.  Size and money no longer give any church an advantage or disadvantage.

The challenge to everyone of is to have the heart of Christ and a willingness to be His hands and feet. In Colossians 4:3 Paul says, “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison.”  You cannot mobilize a worship service but you can mobilize a body.  The power of the church is not in its ability to gather but its ability to scatter.

Now geographical proximity is everything.  How do we take responsibility for those around us?  Who on my block is a believer and how can we cooperate to minister to others?  It is time for us to draw a circle around those close to us that we can effectively reach and accept that responsibility.  If you are rural, your circle may include those 2-3 miles around you and if you are in the city it might include 2-3 blocks.

What if we began logging our prayer walk distance?  We say we believe in prayer but this is a great opportunity to put it into practice.  How many miles a day could the members of your church log if each one practiced a mile prayer walk in their neighborhood?  If your church has around 100 attenders that could potentially be a 100 miles a day and easily add up to 700 miles a week.

What if we began holding each another accountable by asking two questions?  How are you doing?  And then following that up with, how are your neighbors doing?  We do not have a relevancy problem, but instead we have an accessibility problem.  The metaphor that comes to mind is that our lights have been under the bushel far too long.  This is a wonderful opportunity to love our neighbors the way Christ commanded.

How do live sent through a crisis like this?  By being the church.  We became experts on doing church but now Christ has placed us in a time to love our neighbor by finding out how can we pray for them and how we can serve them.  We have probably heard someone at some time say, “It’s all about the weekend!”  It is not and never has been.  It is important and corporate worship is needed, but now more than ever it is time to also be the church.

Maybe God is using this crisis to reorient us to love Him first more than a building, a program, a service, or an event.  Here is a word from the leadership of one church,  “Since the ascension of Jesus, the church has gathered with a regular rhythm, but often in different venues. Sometimes the church has met house to house, sometimes in synagogues, and sometimes in catacombs.”  

“Sometimes in cathedrals, sometimes in schools, and sometimes in former movie theaters.  The point was never where, rather, an encouragement to do so on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:24-25).  This is an amazing opportunity for us to remember, and declare, that the church is not a building.”  It is not all about the weekend and never has been.  It is the people of God on mission together.

Have we forgotten about Matthew 18:19-20 that states where two or three are gathered He promises to be present?  Jewish tradition stated that ten men had to be present to constitute a synagogue or to even hold a prayer meeting.  Jesus promised to be present in the midst of even a smaller flock.  Yes, we love getting together but what a comfort to know this truth that He is with us even in groups of 10 or smaller.

To whom is Jesus sending you?  To whom does He want you to be His hands and feet?  To whom does He want you to show His heart of compassion in your acts of kindness and service?