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Are You An Aircraft Carrier?

Jesus clearly told us that He would establish His church and that “the gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:16).  Gates are a defensive protection from those who are attacking. It seems today that the opposite is true of so many churches and Christians.  We appear to be “holding the fort” and protecting our territory instead of invading, attacking, and reclaiming territory that the enemy has taken.

C.T. Studd said, ““Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop,within a yard of hell.”

Unfortunately, many have adopted the opposite mentality of the comfort and security of staying within the walls of the fortresses we have built whether they are real brick and mortar or self-imposed boundaries.  Paul was passionate to make the gospel known to all who so desperately needed to hear its truth.  Paul makes this very clear in Romans 1:14, “I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish.”  The word there for obligated literally means we are debtors and our life no longer belongs to us but to Him!

Paul’s message is that the completely unmerited favor of God placed him under severe obligation to the grace of God.  Acts 20:24 states Paul’s obligation this way, “But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”  That obligation meant he willingly and joyfully took the gospel wherever the Lord led him and allowed him to go.  David Platt has said, “Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell.”

In his book Gaining by Losing, J. D. Greear describes churches as three types of ships.  These images help us to see what the focus and vision of our church might be.

  • The first church is the Cruise Liner.  This church is focused on meeting the needs of those who have decided to go along for the trip.  The focus is on programs for everyone and making sure that you offer everything people are looking for.  Someone has said they will come because you make a better hamburger than everyone else.

The question that must be asked is…what will happen to the members if someone starts making a better hamburger?  We must fight the temptation not to be overly judgmental about churches that seem to have it all.  There are many that are using the best of everything and are reaching people for Christ but we must also fight the temptation to build a ministry of consumers focused on comfort and competition more than on the advancement of the Kingdom!

  • The second church Greear describes is the Battleship. This church is more focused on the task at hand of representing the cause of Christ well but everything functions from the deck of the ship.  The battle is real but it is waged from a distance.  We do our work on the ship and we make plans of how to defeat the enemy but we launch our attacks from our battleship/fortress and we never really get to know those we need to reach with the gospel.

We must go to them, get to know them, and then demonstrate the love of Christ.

  • The third example is that of the Aircraft Carrier.  The goal of this ship is to make sure there is never a battle on its deck. They resource, train, fuel, and equip the planes and pilots to go where the real battle is taking place.  The church is the training center and the sending agency.  If our churches are not going where the action is then we are not doing our jobs properly.  Jesus never said, “Come and grow with us!” but He did say, “Go and tell!”  It is easy to forsake His mission because we settle for becoming a nice, comfortable, ordinary cruise liner.

How do we go about the training, resourcing, and equipping?

First, train your people in building networks through the relationships they already have.  Begin by intentionally helping them to see the lost people they already have in their lives in their families, at work, at school, neighbors, hobbies, and other networks.  Help them to think through how they can begin building bridges to them through loving and caring relationships.  We must move away from a temple mindset (gathering) back to a network (relational) mindset.

Second, give them a pathway to intentionally build relationships.  Dave Ferguson talks about how to B.L.E.S.S. others.

  • Begin by praying for them.  Think of 2-3 people in each one of your circles of influence and begin praying for them daily.
  • Listen to them as you get to know them.  Ask them questions about the things that interest them and allow to feel free to share their heart.
  • Eat with them so you can fellowship through a meal or cup of coffee.
  • Serve them by building a relationship and discovering their greatest needs.
  • Share the gospel with them and the love of Christ.

Third, train them how to share the gospel.  Yes, listen to their story, share your story, but then share His story. I was trained as a teenager to use the Romans Road by putting tabs on a small New Testament so you could find the verses quickly.  There are phone apps that will lead you through a presentation of the gospel.

One method that our church uses is from the Navigators on how to share the gospel using one verse, Romans 6:23. You can find that on their web page, navigators.org and click on the Evangelism tab.  There you can see the presentation entitled One-Verse Evangelism: How to Share Christ’s Love Conversationally and Visually.

Mission Shift

 

Every church reaches a point where their future is determined by choices they make and the vision they have for the future.  In Kingdom First, Jeff Christopherson says, “Sadly, when a church makes the unnatural choice of ecclesiastical birth control in order to preserve its accustomed lifestyle, the natural and exponential advance of the Kingdom of God ceases.”  When you look at the New Testament church in the book of Acts it was multiplying and increasing in number daily.  The reality is that all too often a church stops doing the very thing they were called to do…reaching the lost.

On what was the New Testament church focused? They were congregations who were seeking to provide every opportunity for every person to come face to face with the good news of Jesus Christ.  The mission/vision shift occurs when we are no longer focused on new believers, new disciples, new disciple-makers, and new relationships.  With quiet subtlety our full attention shifts to bank balances, critical mass, and buildings.  Our entire methodology revolves around them finding us instead of us building roads into the harvest.

We begin hearing the concerns of the sheep that are already in the pen as they verbalize, “We need to take care of ourselves before we go out and try to save everybody else.”  The tension is real as you strive to simultaneously care for the sheep biblically while also remaining passionate about your Kingdom assignment. The original driving force of the mission of God begins to diminish as the focus of the mission shifts.  Jeff Christopherson says it shifts, “to preserving our accustomed lifestyles.”  A deadly shift occurs when we begin focusing solely on maintenance.

InKingdom First, we are introduced to a church ministry that asks these two questions.

  • “What percentage of your non-Christian friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors would go to a Bible study or church regularly if you asked?”
  • “What’s your strategy for everyone else?”

Consider this challenging proclamation from Lesslie Newbigin, “ The truth is that we do not truly understand the Gospel if we spend all our time preaching it to Christians.”  There are a few things to consider in making sure that a mission shift does not occur that causes us to drift away from the reason we exist.

  1. We must cultivate a heart for God.  When we love Him as we should it causes us to love who and what He loves.  Compassion produces passion.
  2. We must train our people to share their faith.  Make sure your congregation knows how to present the Gospel properly and clearly.  Consider some type of evangelism training that gives them confidence to share the plan of salvation.
  3. Develop a strategy of building bridges to people who are far from God. Make them aware of the circles of influence they already have in their lives.  They need to think of family, friends, co-workers, school, hobbies, and others.
  4. You must have an understanding of the difficulty of convincing someone who is emotionally and financially stable but generationally unchurched of the need to attend a worship service or Bible study. You must realize that they are not interested in adding an event to their already busy lives especially when it’s not familiar territory.
  5. Love people the way Jesus loves people.  What is the best way to get their attention?  Even if you established and executed the best marketing campaign possible you are still very unlikely to arouse their curiosity.
  6. Realize that there is nothing wrong with being attractional but it is not enough. It is a great thing to do but it is an incomplete strategy.  Our outreach and evangelism plan must not only be “come and see” but it must also be “go and love.”
  7. Be aware that organization, programs, and systems are good things when kept in the proper perspective.  They are necessary or everything your church has done to build relational equity can evaporate quickly right before our eyes.  The challenge is to simultaneously care for the flock while remaining passionate about pursuing those who are far from God.

The mission shift is when we drift from our Kingdom assignment, the Great Commission, and settle into becoming a nice comfortable church.  Quoting Jeff again in speaking about church planting, he says, “All church plants, if they survive, become churches.  But not all churches become Kingdom expanders.”  This is not only true of church plants but can also plague existing churches.  Remember, our ultimate goal is not a worship service (an event) but rather, planting the Gospel (a movement)!  The event is a good thing but it is not the ultimate goal.

The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” describes what so often occurs in our churches.  Consumers demand to be taken care of and we turn inward in a frantic frenzy to maintain what we have.  We hear things like, “we need to be thankful for what God has already given us.” Please notice the focus of that statement is past tense.  We are no longer moving forward, desiring to build new bridges, and develop new relationships with people who are far from God.  In Luke 15:10 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

Our example of a the New Testament church focused on its Kingdom assignment is clearly stated in:

Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

One last thought on making sure we do not allow the mission to shift to the wrong focus is a quote from Peter Drucker.  “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”

Missional Practices

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We are all called to live sent according to John 20:21. What does that look like? What does that mean? Our ineffectiveness to reach out is summarized by Reggie McNeal when he says, “Many congregations have become sociologically cocooned, evidencing little interest in reaching beyond their family or tribe, however defined.”

The challenge has always been, and will continue to be, keeping the church focused outward instead of inward. We are all called to join the everyday mission of God. Living on mission has been defined as “having an inherent understanding of our being the people of God partnering with Him in His redemptive mission in the world.”

The church needs to be led back to an obedience in embracing the Great Commission. When will we wake up to the realization that doing business as usual will not qualify as obedience to the Lord? We are all called to share the gospel.

Recently, PJ Noland preached on this very subject of Missional Practices. He quoted Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as saying, “Practice determines play!” All of us have spent hours practicing something because we were taught from an early age that “practice makes perfect!”

PJ went on in his message to say, “Missional practices produce meaningful moments.” He shared multiple stories of Oasis members practicing missional principles in the regular flow of their everyday lives.

The message shared three missional practices in living sent:

  • IDENTIFY – Who do you know that is far from God? In your community, who are those people and where do they hang out? What can you do to make an intentional move toward them? In the message, PJ shared that in Mark 4:35 Jesus said He had to go to the “other side” and then in Mark 5:1-5, He was on “the other side.” He had identified a group of people with whom He needed to share the good news. It begins with you identifying those God has placed in your path that you can begin taking steps to reach them with the Gospel.
  • INVEST – With whom are you consistently developing relationships? With many it is not enough to just share words, you must also share your life. Who are you spending time with on a regular basis that is far from God? Where could you meet up with them on neutral ground and enjoy some quality time together? What hobbies or interests could you leverage to be salt and light? Do you have a list of at least 10 people who are not born again, as far as you know, that you pray for every day? Invest your time into their lives!
  • INVITE – Jesus was all about inviting people to get closer to Him. He said, “Come and see” and “Follow me.” He challenged His disciples to go out into their communities and compel people to come to Him. Today, Jesus does His inviting through us. What could that invitation look like? Maybe you could invite them into your home to enjoy a meal or to the Sunday morning service or to the lake for the day. Don’t be afraid to ask them!

In The Unchurched Next Door, Dr. Thom Rainer shares, “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” That should be a great encouragement to all of us but Dr. Rainer goes on to say, “Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.”

How can that be? Far too many churches are not even asking the right questions about their ineffectiveness in penetrating the darkness and reaching out to those far from God. We fiddle with this ministry, rework that ministry, implement that new ministry but never address the congregation’s lack of mission.

How will your church regain God’s heart for the people around you? Missional “Practices” require a couple of things for them to occur:

  • Honest Evaluation – When was the last time you invited someone to church? Have you shared the gospel with anyone in the last month, three months, six months, or year? There must be a ruthless admittance to a lack of burden or real concern for the lost if we have not. It is not enough nor acceptable to think and act like they must come to us if they want to find Jesus. We must go to them!
  • Repentance – Is there a godly sorrow for your lack of burden and concern for the lost? When was the last time you wept or I wept over someone we know who is not born-again? We must repent and no longer accept excuses and disobedience to carry the gospel to others around us. Repentance means we are ready to change and that we are ready to turn things around. Changed
  • Behavior – It is not enough to merely evaluate and repent. Our behvior must change and we must begin to develop missional practices on a daily basis. If we say we value the people’s souls then we must begin practicing habits that will lead us to sharing the gospel with them. While we are trying to “do church” better we must begin “being” the church daily!

Healthy churches are evangelistic churches!

The Cross, Community, and Culture

God has called us to proclaim His gospel to the ends of the earth.  According to Matt. 4:19 if we are following Christ we are fishers of men.  The logical conclusion is that if we are not fishers of men we are not following Christ.  Partial obedience is still disobedience.  The truth of the gospel is unchanging and His children are the carriers of that truth.  Interestingly enough, one of the primary challenges to carrying out our mission is the Christian subculture many churches have created.  This has caused them to turn their focus inward instead of outward on those who desperately need Christ.  The challenge for every believer is to transform from a consumer of Christian product to a compassion for those without Christ.   

There is one act of obedience that we can do on earth that we cannot do in heaven.  That is sharing the gospel with our lost friends and family.  The goal in our churches should be to help people get over their instincts to stick together and form a “holy huddle” and empower them to live their lives on mission for God.   We must develop missional communities that remain focused on their neighbors rather than on their church.  Sadly, it appears that we would rather close ourselves up in a sanctuary several hours a week than open up our homes to share dinner with unbelievers who live right next door.

First, we must embrace the cross because without its truth we have no message.  If a church is focused on the community (serving their needs), and the culture (the context in which we live) but does not share the truths of the gospel it offers a Christless mission without hope!  A gospel-saturated congregation proclaims that Jesus is Lord, knows who they are in Christ, knows how to enter into culture without losing their Christian distinctiveness, knows its neighborhood, and exists not for itself but for its city, neighborhood, and block.  CULTURE + COMMUNITY – CROSS = NO Hope!  Any message without the cross produces a dead religion, a consumer Christianity, a social gospel, a country club mentality, and usually salvation by works.

Second, we must experience community because loving nurturing relationships in a local body of believers is necessary for spiritual development and service.  Everyone needs a place to belong.  God created us to function in authentic community where we learn to experience Christ through one another.  Jesus always had “sinners” around Him who could tell how much He cared about them and because of His compassion they were interested in His message.  The problem is that many churches require that you believe before you can belong (not talking about church membership).  CROSS + CULTURE – COMMUNITY = NO CHURCH  A churchless mission produces spiritual orphans, loneliness, individualism, selfishness, immaturity, and forces parachurch organizations to do what churches quit doing.

Third, we must also engage the community where God has placed us.  We must quit making excuses for why we do not verbally share the gospel.  God has allowed us to have impact and favor within our circles of influence.  If we truly desire to bless someone’s life we must tell them there is hope because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Someone has said that everything preaches but not everything reaches.  Contextualization is the particular way in which we as Christians communicate the gospel.  We must consider the context (the setting and the culture) into which we are communicating the gospel.  Darrin Patrick explains it this way, “Contextualization is not ultimately even about the content of the gospel.  It’s primarily about the way you communicate the unchanging content of the gospel.”  CROSS + COMMUNITY – CULTURE = NO MISSION

When we ignore and neglect the culture we live in we become a Missionless Church.  We become isolated and separated from any contact with lost people because of our “Come to Us” mentality.  CT Studd lived from 1860 -1931 and was an English missionary to China, India, and Africa.  He said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  The gospel is our message of our mission and it is unchanging.  The method of our mission is contextualization.  We must admit, though, that the temptation of far too many churches is to neglect our communities and ignore the culture God has placed us in while believing we are protecting our churches.

            Thanks to my good friend Dave DeVries and the development of these principles from his Multiplication Workshop.  Check him out at www.missionalchallenge.com .

Missional Leadership

 

Leaders

There are now well over 200 million people in North America who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and that number increases by one million every year. There are over two billion people in the world who do not even have access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s command to us is to “Go and make disciples!” We must stop sitting around making excuses for why that is not happening. We have deserted our responsibility and ignored His command far too long.

We love going to church, fellowshipping with one another, and even desire to serve in various ministries in our churches. However, we do not appear as committed to the mission of God by loving the lost, the last, and the least. In Barefoot Church Brandon Hatmaker says, “We settled for serving ourselves and serving as an event rather than serving those in need and living a new way of life that Jesus has called us to.” We are better at gathering than we are at scattering to share the good news.

Could it be that because we have so much we do not realize the desperate need of others? Hatmaker compares what Jerry Jones recently spent on the new Dallas Cowboy stadium to what a church in that area was spending on their new facilities. While it cost $16,000 per seat for 100,000 fans to watch “America’s Team” the mega church spent $43,000 per seat. His point is summed up in this statement, “We spend way more on ourselves than we do on reaching, serving, and loving those outside the church.”

The challenge is, and always will be, to think of others before we think of ourselves. We must be challenged to get our eyes off of ourselves and see the multitudes that desperately need someone to tell them about Jesus. Hatmaker goes on to say, “We need to develop a better understanding of the gospel of how it is both a message we announce and a reality we display to a lost and broken world.” We must be lead back to the mission of God by leaders who have their eyes focused on the harvest.

Catalytic leaders direct their disciples, churches, and network of churches in the implementation and expansion of God’s vision for evangelism, disciple making, and church planting locally and globally. They create movement and momentum in God’s mission. Their leadership invites others who have been searching for a way to get involved to join in the journey.

Dr Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest, AR and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached at my tribes gathering of churches (Baptist Missionary Association) and challenged us that the time is “now” for us to reach our country with the gospel. Here are a few of the things he shared that challenged me:

  • “We’ve got a theological problem! We don’t believe people are lost anymore!”
  • “We’ve got an eschatological problem, we don’t believe anymore that Jesus is coming back!”
  • “We’re going to go with those who want to go with God!”
  • “We’re going to hang this sign up & they will come! Get a real clue!”
  • “Prayer is not an action it is the primary action!”
  • “Pastor rise up in your leadership and quit focusing on secondary things!”
  • “God didn’t call you to reach the 1950s! He called you to reach the people around you now!”

If we desire a missional movement then there must be missional leaders. Our DNA must be composed of a multiplication mindset that calls people away from maintenance back to mission. Our prayer is that God will raise more catalytic leaders. What characteristics define catalytic leadership?

  • Spiritual: They are not interested in positional authority but lead through the evidence of their calling and walk with God. Their lives are evidence of the power of God.
  • Missional: Order their lives around a missionary purpose with a passion for fulfilling the Great Commission. They live every day sent by their Master.
  • Visionary: Energized by a vision of a preferred future not the status quo. Motivated by God’s heart not a program or the latest methodological fad.
  • Pioneers: Extend the mission of God by embracing their essential calling as a missionary people. They are driven to carry the gospel to every nation and every people.
  • Entrepreneurial: Take calculated risks to create new environments for the gospel where multiplication can occur through relationship building.
  • Team Players: Prefer working with others as a part of a team. They believe far more can be accomplished working with others who share their values.
  • Courageous: Reawakening us to the truth of the gospel, its demands, and its implications. They are willing to pay a high price for the furtherance of the gospel. (Rom 9:1-3)

Tony Evans puts it this way, “God is not as interested in your ‘Amen’ as He is in your action!” A healthy church is an outwardly focused church!

4 Ingredients of Missional Leadership

Outward Focused

 

     Recently, I have been asked to meet with the staff of three churches.  They all had the same passion; “We want to do a better job of reaching our communities for Christ!”  That is music to my ears!  The leadership of all three churches was trying to break the “missional code” of their community and discern what door God was providing for them to walk through so they could more effectively reach people far from God.  They had a good grasp of what they did well but they also desperately wanted to improve in penetrating the lostness of their city!

     There are three things about this that thrill me.  First, the passion and heart they have to share Christ.  They want to make a difference.  Second, their willingness to examine their effectiveness and change.  They desired input and were not afraid of being evaluated.  Third, they all voiced a discontent with the status quo.  They refused to just go through the motions of doing church and had a burden to be the church.  They were trying to discern how they could better mobilize their membership to live on mission throughout the week!

     These leaders were greatly burdened for their church to be the church Jesus intended them to be.  There are three elements involved in healthy churches.  First, is the church Biblical?  Is the Bible seen and preached as the authoritative word of God?  All three of these churches have an extremely high view of the scriptures and I have not worked with a church that does not!  No heresy found!  Second, Is the church Relational?  All three voiced how well the membership got along and visitors commented on how friendly they were.  Just a side note: People are not looking for a friendly church as much as they are looking for friends! 

     Third, is the church Missional?  This area is the greatest challenge to most churches.  It is easy to become comfortable and satisfied because the word is being preached and everyone is enjoying being together.  The problem is, if we are not careful, we become inwardly focused.  In U-Turn Church, Kevin Harney puts it this way, “The gravitational force of the church naturally pulls us inward, toward each other.  If we are going to move outward toward those who are lost it will take more energy than most of us dream!” 

     What effort will be put into reaching the lost, the last, and the least with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  I noticed several ingredients necessary for a church to be led toward being outwardly focused:

     First, the leaders must be outwardly focused!  Don’t expect those who follow you to catch what you are teaching unless they see you demonstrating it in your life.  The speed of the leaders will determine the speed of the team.. You must have a story to tell of how you are sharing His story with others.  When asked, are you able to share who you are actively praying for, building a relationship with, and striving  to bring to Christ?  Do others see your passion to share Christ daily as God gives you the opportunity?

     Second, the church regularly celebrates stories of transformation.  Unfortunately, many churches are not very good at celebrating the right things.  We become what we celebrate and if we celebrate the wrong things then our culture will be inwardly focused.  Think about ways you can  creatively celebrate life transformation and those who are committed to making a difference.  Consider interviewing them during a service, showing a video of their outreach ministry, and others ways you can celebrate those who are living a missional lifestyle. 

     Third, they also celebrate those who are being the church during the week not just doing church on Sunday.  This does not mean we do not celebrate those serving the Lord in the ministries on the campus of the ministry but that we also make an intentional effort to celebrate those living as missionaries in their zip code.  It is not an either/or but a both/and commitment to celebrating both.  Make sure you regularly recognize those who are volunteering in local ministries, schools. hospitals, civic groups, etc.  They are penetrating the darkness in your community with the truth. 

     Fourth, they are not afraid to find out what other churches are doing and learn from them.  These leaders are always actively looking for ways to better connect with their city and their neighborhoods.  They refuse to sit idly by waiting for the lost to enter their buildings, attend their services, or sign up for a Bible study.  They are pursuing them by loving them and displaying the love of Christ to them in practical ways.  They are more concerned about serving their city than they are about building their church. 

     Healthy churches have leaders who are always working hard at remaining outwardly focused!

PRAYER-CARE-SHARE

Prayer Care Share

Mission America is connected with the Lausanne Conference with their focus on reaching all of North America with the gospel.  They have begun a new campaign called Love 2020 with a threefold approach of Prayer, Care, and Share.  They state, “The vision of Love 2020 is for every person in America to be loved by at least one Christ follower, who is living a prayer-care-share lifestyle by the year-end of 2020.”  The spirit and passion to blanket our country with the gospel of Jesus Christ was very compelling.

It was my joy and privilege to meet with Mission America last week in Chicago, IL.  They invited twelve different affinity groups to come together and consider how the Love 2020 initiative could become a reality- not just a vision of what could be.  The affinity spheres included government officials, marriage and counseling ministries, denominational leaders, prison ministries, and others.  My invitation came because Tom Nebel with Converge Worldwide was asked to bring several church planting leaders to the table.

One of the presentations shared the history of evangelism around the world.  The Jesus Film was able to answer the “what” in many cultures that had no previous knowledge of the gospel.  The tract Four Spiritual Laws (and others) answered the “how” for those who were asking.  Now many in our culture are asking “why” because they have a negative image of Christianity.  Researcher George Barna just released a new study entitled Are Christians More like Jesus or More Like the Pharisees?  His findings revealed that most Christians lack Jesus’ love for others. 

The church planting affinity group I was a part of gave a report to the leadership at the end of the meeting that, “The church planting world is always excited and encouraged to get behind any initative that promotes Christians loving others the way Jesus loves us!”  We praise the Lord for leaders who have a passion to get the gospel not only presented but demonstrated by the love of Christ to every person in our nation.  We also expressed our skepticism that some might see this as the newest “bestest” program on the market to turn everything around for every ministry.

All of the church planting leaders felt that most planters are already striving to live missionally by demonstrating the love of Christ in as many practical ways as they can while being faithful to present and preach the whole gospel.  Our heart was, “Great idea!  Now let’s do it!”  Every believer can begin, right now, to reach those in their circle of influence through Prayer-Care-Share.  Our minds raced, “What could it look like?”  “What might God do if Christians began to make this their daily practice and lifestyle?”  

You do not have to wait for the packet to come out or receive the email update but you can start by praying faithfully and fervently for your neighbors, co-workers, family members, and others you know who need Christ.  You could check out www.love2020.com and you will find a very simple biblical missional approach that every believer can follow.  We are called to be missionaries in our zip codes and remember that “The Holy Spirit moves in wonderful and mysterious ways when we pray for people.  He convicts, woos, and draws people to Jesus.”

The first step is Prayer: Praying for those who do not know Jesus.  Then you can Care: Show them love in tangible ways through acts of kindness and meeting needs.  Then it is time to Share: Share the gospel with them lovingly and appropriately.  We need winsome courageous believers who are not relying on their presentation but are looking to God for His power and presence to move in mighty ways.  Where might God be asking you to get started and who has he placed in your life to Pray-Care-Share!

Dr. Paul Cedar said, “We are not asking you to become involved in another short-term program.  We believe it is time for us to change our long-term lifestyle by becoming praying, caring, and sharing followers of Jesus.”

Every Christ follower can and should practice Prayer, Care, and Share!

Developing a Prayer Strategy

Prayer

     God’s word is very clear that we are to be a people of prayer and our churches should be a house of prayer.  The battle we are in is a spiritual battle and when Paul tells us to put on the armor of God he says in Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”  Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle!

 

     When we strive to advance the kingdom of God there will be resistance because the devil is not going to release the ground he controls without a fight.  However, the devil does have difficulty making progress when we speak in Jesus’ name, when we use the word of God, and when we are praying with a positive attitude and spirit.  There are a lot of things Christians are praying against but who are you praying for, who are you asking God to enable to win the spiritual conflict they are in right now?

 

     Do you have a prayer team?  Have you developed a strategy where people are praying regularly, faithfully, and fervently for one another?  Are you praying daily for the leadership of your church?  Are you using the P5 Prayer calendars to pray for a missionary family somewhere around the world, every single day?   We get together to sing, we love to fellowship, but how often do we get together to pray fervently for someone or some specific region of the world?

 

     Henry and Norman Blackaby’s book Called and Accountable has six chapters designed to help you discover your place in God’s eternal purpose.  The six chapters are: Why Does God Call Us?, What Is A Call?, Who Are the Called?, How Am I Called?, When Am I Called?, and How Do I Live Out The Call?  Chapter 1 ends with a wonderful story about how prayer can make a difference in carrying God’s call because of the power of prayer.  Here is that story:  

 

     “Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 in Dresden, Germany, into one of the noblest families of Europe.  As a young adult, Nicholas visited an art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he saw the painting by Domenico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man).  The painting depicted Christ with a crown of thorns on His head and the legend, “All this have I done for you.  What are you doing for Me?”  The face of Christ in the painting never left Zinzendorf’s heart, and Christ’s love became the compelling force of his life.

 

     The love Zinzendorf felt for his Savior expressed itself in his love for other believers, especially through a small group of approximately 300 Moravians whom he allowed to establish a church on his estate at Herrnhut in 1722.  He helped the Moravians develop a deep passion for their Savior and helped them to live out Christ’s command to love one another.

 

     Zinzendorf’s love for Christ was also expressed through his life of prayer.  He spent countless hours in communion with his Savior and sought to lead others to commit to a life of prayer.  His example led the Moravian believers to begin a powerful prayer movement they called “hourly intercession.”  They prayed in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the work of Christ around the world.  This “hourly intercession” went on uninterrupted for more than 100 years!

 

     The desire Zinzendorf had to reach those who did not know his Savior was another manifestation of his passion for Jesus.  By 1752, The Moravian Church at Herrnhut had sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant church had done in 200 years.  Before long, they had three members on the missions field for every one at their church in Herrnhut.  All of this was accomplished by men and women with little formal and theological education, but with a burning passion for the Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

     Zinzendorf’s life was a labor of love for his Savior, who had done so much for him and a lost and dying world.”

 

What Happens When?

Be a Blessing

I am writing this while flying back from Philadelphia after having the privilege of teaching The Multiplication Workshop at First Baptist Church in Blackwood, New Jersey.  David McMurray has been the pastor since 1975 following his father, Silas McMurray, who planted the church in 1968.  First Baptist is a very diverse congregation having almost a 50/50 ratio of Caucasian/African American. 

Also attending was the Living Word Fellowship, an African American church in Glendora, NJ. It is wonderful seeing two churches working so closely together.  Their pastor, Dr. King, preached an awesome message on Sunday morning.  When I opened the Sunday bulletin I was thrilled to see an article Bro. David had inserted.  It was exactly why we were there and what we were challenging the church to implement into their lives.

“Most people have heard something about Jesus and, truth be told, whatever they’ve heard or seen has give them ammunition to form an unpleasant understanding of Him. Their perception or limited understanding of Christ is distorted or blemished. We all agree that Christianity—and subsequently, Jesus—has an image problem.  So how will outreach and evangelism impact and influence this cultural context over the next ten years?  Numerous answers and possibilities exist, but here, I offer a truly essential one: real human relationships.

Why do they matter?  Relationships matter because they help debunk and break down fears, stereotypes, caricatures, myths, pain, and anger.  The answers that will speak to and deeply engage the dis-churched, overchurched, and never-gonna-step-into church kind of people aren’t buildings, more conferences, more theology or even more doctrine.  While these all have important value and purpose, something is so simple and profound about the power of human relationships. 

The story of God, leading up to the time of Jesus, became very confusing and inaccessible to everyday people.  The message was blemished by sin, deceit, legalism, abusive power, and false teaching.  What changed?  The story of God became truly accessible through the power and mystery of the incarnation.  One of the most profound and irrational scriptures is recorded in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (The Message).

What’s next?  The future of outreach and evangelism will take many shapes, forms, and turns. This is inevitable because change is constantly taking place and at a pace more rapid than at any point in history.  As our churches continue to weave through this inevitable path of change, we need to remember what we can be accomplished through the power of real relationships.

  • What happens when our churches move out from their buildings to engage the community?
  • What happens when we embrace our neighbors as part of our great calling?
  • What happens when we share time with our neighbors and learn their stories?
  • What happens when we drop our routines and deadlines and focus on relationships for the sake of the mission?
  • What happens when we start eating with sinners, once again, like Jesus?

What happens?  That’s what we need to find out again in a fresh way.  Remember, God calls us not to be a light to the light, but a light to the world.  Let’s enjoy our churches and Christian communities, but let’s not forget to move into the neighborhoods and, in doing so, point people to Jesus by the way we live our imperfect lives by God’s grace.”

What happens indeed?  We cannot afford to wait any longer; every believer must begin now to be a missionary in their zip code.  God has placed people in your circle of influence so that you might point them to Jesus.  A great way to build real relationships is to:  First, ask them questions about their lives and listen to their story.  When you are willing to listen to someone you are telling them that you value them.  Second, tell them your story.  If you are born again you have a testimony you can share about what God has done in your life.  There is no stronger witness than a transformed life that loves people like Jesus loves them.  Third, when the opportunity opens, and it will, share His story.  It has been said, “Share the gospel and use words if necessary.”  At some point and at some time it will become necessary!

 

Get Out of Your Bubble

Our family was living in Romania in 2000 and we had a college student come to spend the summer with us.  She was a fine Christian young lady fitting in well with our family and was a great encouragement to all of us.  She interacted well with the Romanians and was always ready to help any way she could.  One of the things she did that still makes me laugh was when someone would get in her space she would say, “You’re invading my bubble, please move back a little!”

While this makes me smile, the way many Christians and churches seem to be living inside a bubble breaks my heart.  We have built a sub-culture where we stay to ourselves and enjoy our Christian friends while giving the impression that no one outside of our bubble had better get into our space.  That bubble seems to define being a good Christian as someone who is faithful in attendance, follows all the rules, and holds a position in the church.

The Christian bubble focuses on our needs and taking care of one another.  Church membership to some is more about entitlement and protecting their rights rather than about enlistment into service.  Churches are in trouble because we have lost our passion for any ministry beyond our own personal bubble.  We do not have time nor space for those on the outside because most programs and activities are centered on taking care of those already on the inside.

The time has come to burst the bubble of being inwardly focused and begin developing intentional relationships with lost people.  Many churches talk about being the friendliest church in town but the people outside of their bubble will never know it because they have not been allowed inside.  We have our circle of friends who are saved and faithful so there is really no space or room for anyone else that isn’t already inside of our bubble.

What if we took a lost neighbor hunting with us?  What if instead of always going out to eat with those who are already saved and nicely secure inside our bubble we invited our lost neighbors over for steak?  What if we decided to pay for a round of golf for that coworker who is unchurched just so we could demonstrate the love of Christ in a practical way?  Maybe instead of expecting them to burst through our bubble by attending an event we should show them Jesus as we do life together with them?

We must seek to engage the culture around us by caring about and relating to individuals on their turf which, I know you know I’m going to say it, requires allowing them inside our bubble.  They should not have to burst our bubble for us; instead, we should burst our own bubble and pursue them.  When we get out of our bubble we will be constantly looking for ways to engage the culture we live in rather than creating programs to serve only those who are already saved.   

Well, did I burst I burst your bubble?  If we are going to be salt and light as the Lord has commanded us to be then we are going to have to figure out ways to penetrate our culture.  We have to find a place of entry where we can contribute to our communities but it won’t happen if we continue to protect our space and stay inside our self-created bubbles.  Matthew 5:16 says it well, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”