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The Church is the Hope of the World

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The hope for America is in the hands of your church and my church. God has entrusted us with His gospel and it is our responsibility to reach our communities with the good news. That is why our purpose statement for North America is “raising up a generation of church planters to transform their communities with the gospel!”

Stories of life transformation are occurring as church planters step out in faith and obey God’s calling on their lives. These planters are obeying their responsibility to cast their nets and God is responding by filling them.

First, “raising up!”

There must be a system in place to develop leaders through discipleship and mentoring. We are dedicated to assessing, training, and coaching church planters but it is churches that produce church planters (Acts 13:1-3).

Do you have a farm system in place for developing leaders in your church?

  • IDENTIFY potential leaders. Always be looking for young Timothys, and others, that God brings your way to mentor.
  • INVEST in potential leaders. Develop a process that will properly equip and empower them for leadership.
  • INITIATE potential leaders. Develop entry level points of service and ministry. Assign them projects and observe how they do before ever considering them for any position.

Second, “a generation!”

Here are some shocking generational facts Thom Rainer has reported that show how every American generation since WWII has become less churched!

  • Builders – born before 1948 – 65% attend. Boomers – born from 1948-1964 – 35% attend.
  • Busters – born from 1965-1976, – 15% attend regularly.
  • Bridgers – born 1977-1994 – Only 4% attend.

While not mentioned above, no one has forgotten the “Millennial” generation, those 20-to-37-year-olds, referred to as “the most researched generation in history.” The new generation in town is Generation Z. They are still in their teens but are rapidly coming into their own.

What are we doing to reach them with the gospel? Are we equipping the teens in our churches to share the gospel? Barna Research reports, “nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.”

Third, “church planters!”

Our church plants are also producing church planters. While statistics say 90% of church plants never plant another church, two of our church plants have reproduced already.

Grace Hills in Northwest AR has sent out Michael Smith and Cody Woodward to plant in Siloam Springs, AR and Refuge Church in Terrell, TX has sent out Todd Cox to North Atlanta.

Both of these congregations planned well for this step of faith and multiplication. There are always concerns of when is too soon but usually we wait too long!

Dave Browning said, “The time to start a new location is when we have the leadership to execute it, rather than the people to attend it!” He adds, “We have never done demographic studies prior to launching a small group, cafe, or center in a community. If there are lost people in the community and leaders willing to reach them, then we figure we need to be there.” We talk about reaching our nation for Christ but very little missional action is taking place!

Fourth, “to transform their communities!”

Here is an example of how transformation can occur. Church planter Anders Lee in Southaven, MS shared how they rented a bowling alley and Jason’s Deli. Over 60 people, who they knew were unchurched or dechurched, were invited.

They funded the cost of the bowling and the food based on a core value, “Our Dollars match our DNA.” They printed welcome cards that included a simple note of thanks for coming and an invitation to their worship services. There were 34 “Oikos Connections” that showed up.

Several couples were asked to greet and have conversations with their guests using the “tap” method. If one couple was talking to a guest and another couple came up, before they could leave they had to “tap” them on the back to let them know they were handing them off. It worked because 26 of the 34 came to worship the next Sunday and 4 families said they would definitely be back!

Transformation of communities begins with the transformation of hearts by building relationships with them through “oikos.”

Fifth, “with the gospel!”

As we send out church planters all across North America we are sending them to proclaim the gospel which is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). Verse 15 says, “So I (Paul) am eager to preach the good news to you.” Our church planters are eager to share the good news of the gospel to the people God has called them to reach. They desire to be culturally relevant and community sensitive but their first commitment is to be Biblically sound. Jesus is the only answer!

Every church should increase their involvement in church planting! Many think we have all the churches we need but the opposite is true. It has been estimated that there will need to be 700,000 more churches planted by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. It takes all kind of churches to reach all kinds of people.

We have a responsibility to reach as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as we possibly can! . Samuel Johnson gives us this challenge, “We need to get urgency up, fear down, and complacency down. We have to get predisposed to go anywhere, to go to anyone, and to go now.”

I LOVE SUNDAYS

Hal Seed is a friend who has a heart to help churches impact their communities for Christ in healthy ways.  This is not a campaign just to have big numbers but rather in order to connect people to small groups and more importantly introduce them to Christ!  Please look into this great campaign!

 

I LOVE SUNDAYS

By Guest Hal Seed:

Why Every Church Ought to Hold an I Love Sundays Campaign:

In 2005, New Song Church averaged 750 in worship. I had spent the previous five years trying to figure out how to break us out of that plateau. A friend suggested we use Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life Campaign. That went so well, I decided to hold a Church-Wide Campaign twice a year.

I LOVE SUNDAYS 2

 

Today, we average 1,750 in attend. Our ministries saw over 2,000 people come to Christ in 2014. We’re on pace for 2,500 salvations this year. 85% of our attenders are in Small Groups. I pastor some of the most committed believers I know. Most of this I attribute to the power of Church-Wide Campaigns. Here’s what they’ve done for us:

 

  1. Attendance Growth

New Song has grown by 133% in the last ten years. All of that growth has come from Church-Wide Campaigns. Every time we hold a Church-Wide Campaign, attendance surges between 7 and 25%.

 

  1. Small Group Participation

Before we started holding semi-annual Campaigns, about 40% of our attenders were in Small Groups. Today, we’re over 80%, because of the drawing power of a Church-Wide Campaign.

 

  1. Personal Growth

When simple truths that are preached on, talked through in a Small Group, and read about personally, the combination accelerates spiritual growth.

 

Why Campaigns Work:

  1. Relevant topics draw unchurched people

Most Americans aren’t against church; they just don’t have a compelling reason to attend. Newcomers are drawn by topics that matter to them and have the potential to change their lives. When you place a book in your people’s hands, it creates excitement and serves as a great inviting tool to bring people to church.

 

  1. Positive Peer Pressure draws people into Small Groups

Humans are social beings. We want to do what everyone else is doing. Leading up to a Church-Wide Campaign, almost everyone is signing for a Small Group so almost everyone else signs up too.

 

  1. Focus accelerates learning

Focus is a powerful thing! Take two forms of light: while the sun can warm you, a laser can cut through steel. Supernatural transformation happens when the pastor preaches on a topic, people go home and read about it, and then they come together with a Small Group to discuss what they’re learning.

 

When should you hold a Campaign?

We’ve discovered that unchurched people are most open to checking out church right after school starts and right after the New Year. So we hold Campaigns every September and every January. The ideal dates to start an I Love Sundays Campaign are on the third Sunday in September, which is National Back-to-Church Sunday and the fourth Sunday in January, which is the Sunday after a three day holiday.

What’s in The I Love Sundays Campaign Kit?

Last year the 26,000 churches who participated in National Back-to-Church Sunday saw a 21% jump in attendance that day. This year, Outreach, Inc. is combining National Back-to-Church Sunday with the I Love Sundays Campaign to create a highly-attractive five-week Church-Wide Campaign experience.

 

The I Love Sundays Campaign comes with

  • Campaign Planning Guide
  • Resource DVD with sermon bumper videos, countdown clock & promotional video
  • 5 customizable sermons
  • Web and social media graphics
  • Small Group Study Kit with Leader’s Guide & Study Guide
  • An I Love Sundays gift book
  • An I Love Sundays T-shirt
  • An I Love Sundays wristband
  • Sample promo tools

Why Hold a Series about Sundays?

  • Time pressure is one of the highest needs of our society. The solution is a rest on Sundays.
  • Pace of life is straining marriages. A key answer is time together on Sundays.
  • Families are being fragmented. Their glue could be Sundays.
  • God ordained the Sabbath as a day to refresh, refuel, and refocus. Without being preachy, I Love Sundays teaches people how to take back their one day to do that, regardless of their current spiritual condition.

 

To learn more about I Love Sundays and get free videos, visit http://www.pastormentor.com/i-love-sundays/. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page.)

 

Oikos Connections

Oikos

   All of us need to identify our circles of influence, our “oikos.”  It is simply defined as our household; our extended family and friends.  Years ago, Elmer Towns talked about and even had an outreach program called “F.R.A.N.gelism.”  It was a challenge to focus sharing Christ with our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors first.  These are the natural relationships already in our lives that God has placed there for us to share His love with.  Our circles of influence! 

     In The Multiplication Workshop, Dave DeVries defines “oikos” as “the fundamental unit of society involving families, friends, neighbors, and associates.”  The New Testament describes churches meeting in the ‘oikos,’ and it teaches that believers belong to the ‘household’ of God.  The spread of the gospel happens most effectively through close relationships.  Therefore it is vital to explore and expand our ‘oikos’ evangelism.”

     Dave designates 5 keys to working effectively in reaching your “oikos” with the gospel:

  • Time and Availability – relationships that are significant take time.
  • Hospitality – changed lives and kingdom values are best seen in everyday living.
  • Spiritual Intuition – listen carefully to others and the Holy Spirit.
  • Generosity – people are drawn to those who give freely and cheerfully.
  • A Transformed Life – new life in Christ is contagious.

     Central Church and church planter Anders Lee in Southaven, MS, have taken their “Oikos Connections” seriously.  They are not just talking about reaching their circles of influence; they are doing something about it.  They schedule events for their people to invite those who they know are unchurched or dechurched.  Recently they invited over 60 people to an evening of bowling and then a meal at Jason’s Deli.  They funded the evening for those invited based on one of their core values, “Our Dollars match our DNA.” 

    There were 34 “Oikos Connections” that showed up.  Several couples were asked to greet and have conversations with their guests using the “tap” method.  If one couple was talking to a guest and another couple came up, before they could leave they had to “tap” them on the back to let them know they were handing them off.  It worked, because 26 of the 34 came to worship the next Sunday and 4 families said they would definitely be back!  Of the 26 who attended on Sunday, six raised their hands to be contacted to discuss what it means to be born again.

     Anders attended The Multiplication Workshop and immediately began implementing the training into the outreach strategy of his church plant.  It is not just for church planters but will benefit anyone desiring to make disciples who make disciples.  The training is based upon the Multiplication Cycle developed by DeVries.  It has seven elements:

  • Seize the Mission of Jesus – Embracing the mission of Jesus as your own.
  • Adopt Missional Thinking and Behavior – Thinking and acting like a missionary in your zip code.
  • Exegete the Culture – Identifying your unique circle of accountability.
  • Incarnate the Gospel – Being Jesus to everyone everywhere around you.
  • Multiply Disciple Makers – Helping others to help others follow Jesus.
  • Form Communities/Churches – Gathering disciplemakers into Missional communities.
  • Mobilize Leaders and Teams – Empowering others to lead on mission.

Church_Cycle_with_Text

     If you have never gone through The Multiplication Workshop you should.  We will be hosting the next training in August (exact dates TBD) at the Global Ministries Center in Conway, AR.  You can contact me at larry@bmaam.com    Also, check out Dave’s website: www.missionalchallenge.com or email him at dave@missionalchallenge.com          

     Also check out “Circles of Influence” at http://larryjbarker.com/?p=441          

     Healthy churches are always focused on building strong relationships through “oikos” connections!

Circles of Influence

Circles

     Several years ago I picked up a copy of Concentric Circles of Concern by W. Oscar Thompson Jr.  It was a good read but more importantly it reminded me of the influence every believer has and our responsibility toward those God has placed in our lives.  We are accountable to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child within our “circles.”  Have you identified your circles of influence?  Have you shared Christ with your family, friends, neighbors, and associates?  The spreading of the gospel happens most effectively through close relationships.  It is vital for us to focus on those God has placed closest to us that we may have a godly impact on their lives.  

     In a book review by Brian Foulkes he says, “Concentric Circles of Concern is a dynamic plan of specifics through love to develop disciples for Christ.  Through the entire book Thompson links the importance of relationship, love, prayer, and organization as a fortified team to accomplish discipleship.  He states that there are seven stages in this process: get right, survey, pray, build bridges, show love, make disciples, and begin again (Pg. 30-31). He makes a stance of declaring that the word relationship is the most important word in the dictionary.  That word alones provides a stem or basis from which everything else can and will grow.  He is very adamant about relationships being the glue that holds everything together in the area of discipleship.  He states the premise throughout the entire book that if you do not have a right relationship with those close to you, how can you have one with those far away?  He goes even deeper by saying that you can’t have a right relationship with God and then treat others adversely (pg. 93).”

     Relationships take time and require commitment on our part.  Who do you know that needs Jesus?  Can you identify by name people in your “circles” of influence who need to be saved?

  • First, make a list of your natural circles of influence. Take a sheet of paper and draw seven to ten circles and then label them by who belongs in that circle.  These are people, places, and points of interest where you can personally make contacts.  Examples: Immediate Family, Relatives, Close Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Acquaintances, School, Frequently Visited Locations, Clubs, etc. 
  • Second, once you have your circles drawn and labeled then begin to list names in each circle of those who need Jesus. Hopefully, you will be able to list twenty to thirty people within your circles.
  • Third, be challenged to build relationships with people who are far from God.  How did you do?  Were you challenged by how many lost people you know or were you burdened by the realization that you really do not know anyone lost?
  • Fourth, begin to brainstorm ways you can expand your circles of influence. If you were disappointed by your lack of contact with those who need Jesus begin to brainstorm how you might be able to meet them and build relationships with them.  Invite your neighbors over for steak, take that guy at work that tells dirty jokes fishing with you, join a club, volunteer your services, or simply begin building a relationship with those you see every day.  There are a lot of places where you can build relationships to show others Christ.  Examples: Home Owners Association, Service Clubs, Sports, Music, Neighborhood Watch Programs, Chamber of Commerce, Health Clubs, Parent Teacher Organizations, City Government, Block Parties, Golf or Country Club, etc.
  • Fifth, get started! Where do we begin?  If you don’t know anyone lost go find someone who is and begin building a relationship with them. 

     If you were able to write down several names then here are a few suggestions for you: 

  1. Pray for them daily asking that the Holy Spirit of God would begin drawing them and working on their hearts.
  2. Ask God to show you a way to strengthen your relationship with them so that you might be able to have a conversation with them about Jesus.
  3. Do whatever it is that God asks you to do as you are sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to not go too fast or too slow. All of us have circles of influence and God has placed these people in our lives for a reason.  We need to love them the way Christ loves us and let them know what an awesome God He is!!!   

     Begin by listening to their story.  Once they know you are someone who cares about them then you will have earned the right to share your story.  Then you will be able to tell His story!