Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Inhibitions to the spread of the Gospel in your community

The church is decreasing in America while our population continues to expand. One major factor contributing to this decline is how Christians think about themselves and their community of faith in the greater community in which they interact. This “self-talk” internally acts as a mental inhibition towards the innovation and creativity we need to reach lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Here’s some examples of inhibitions:

  • There’s nothing new under the sun. Really? I hear this dismissive tone nearly every time a new idea is floated. While there are certainly many, many who just redress the same pig and expect a different award at the fair– there are also tons of brand new ideas out there. In fact, the rate at which new information about our world is gathered, disseminated, and implemented continues to accelerate. There are actually new things discovered under the sun every second of every day.
  • People aren’t interested in Jesus. To the contrary every study reveals a wide gap between those claiming Christ and those actively involved in fellowship with other believers. While the gap changes based on the studies you read, let’s ballpark it at 20% of the United States population. That’s 61.4 million people in America who are walking around identifying themselves with Christ but are disconnected from the Christian community. When Jesus said the fields are white for the harvest he wasn’t kidding. Literally, 1:5 people you will meet today already call themselves a Christian but just need to get connected. (John 4:35)
  • I am not an evangelist. Good! People desperately need community. And people with microphones selling Jesus scare almost everyone. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is the best evangelist ever. Your job isn’t to tell every person about Jesus and ask them to receive Christ. Jesus said the two most important things you can do are to love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:33-35) Anyone can do that, right?
  • I’m not a pastor. Cool, neither was Jesus. He was a carpenter and a lay teacher– A blue collar regular guy like you or I who went to work every day. He didn’t have a church to invite people to. If the last 50 years of church decline have taught us anything it’s that the “If you build it, they will come” strategy can’t reach an additional 20% of a growing population. We can’t build fast enough.
  • People don’t want to come to church with me. Who said they need to go to church? Giving your heart to Jesus and finding community with other believers doesn’t mean people have to join a church. You can form a community of believers who hate church right in your house. Who knows? As they discover that you aren’t a tool, maybe they’ll want to be a part of church later? And maybe that group of church haters in your house will grow… and become a church?

What are other inhibitions, mental blocks, that are impacting the spread of the Gospel in your community?

Categories
Good News Talk Notes

Created to be Good News in the Neighborhood

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to teach at Encounter, the high school ministry of Journey Community Church.

Here’s the main idea of my talk: With the canvas of our life God gives us the ability to create a masterpiece with our lives through our good works.

Ephesians 2:10 describes believers a God’s masterpiece.

[Pause, think about that for a second. Whoa.]

So often we feel like being a Christian is a cookie-cutter experience. Not so! We were each uniquely hand-crafted by God to be his agents of Good News to our community. (Our church, our city, and specifically our neighbors.) Our talents, skills, strengths, and stories are lovingly interwoven with the activity God wants to tell in our community. He doesn’t need us to do His will, but He created us in Christ Jesus to do it.

To download my notes and the slides that went along with this talk, click the link below.

[download id=”17″]

To check out all my free stuff, click here.

Categories
Christian Living Good News

5 Simple Ways to be Good News This Week

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Practically speaking, that means that going to church on Sunday and rocking a Christian bumper sticker isn’t enough.

Here are 5 simple ways that your actions can be Good News this week:

  1. Personalize your convenience. Ask the store clerk where you go regularly for their name, begin to see them as a person with a story and not an object who collects your money or makes your double shot skim vanilla latte.
  2. Tip well and say thank you. No strings attached, just be a good tipper and look your server in the eye to express gratitude. (Learn more, Christians are Bad Tippers) [Conversely, if you see a Christian leave a tract as a tip, be Good News to servers worldwide and punch them in the face.]
  3. Sweat the small stuff. Did a coworker get a haircut or just come back from vacation? Make a few minutes to compliment them or look at their pictures. Or did your kids school get recognized for an achievement? Send the school’s principal a note expressing your appreciation. Noticing something small is huge.
  4. Mow a solid. Next time you mow your front lawn, go ahead and mow the front lawn you turn your nose up at. You know, the person who hasn’t figured out that Spring has sprung. Maybe, just maybe, that person has a really good reason they haven’t mowed their grass yet. Doing them a solid might open the door to hearing their story.
  5. Bless from excess. Next time you are out to eat and have leftovers, don’t just throw it away. Instead package it up as a meal for a homeless person. Add napkins, a fork, and a bottled water. Not all homeless people are hungry. But some definitely are. You don’t even have to wait until you eat out. Why not make an extra lunch and take it with you… just in case? (Read Under the Overpass for more on this.)

Being God’s handiwork made new in Christ to do good works doesn’t mean you have to save the world. You don’t have to build a house to do good works. You don’t have to go on a mission trip or teach Sunday school to children.

Small, simple things do make a big impact.

Be Good News this week.

Categories
Blog Highlight Church Leadership Good News

Being Good News

Today’s video post is a synopsis of about 10 conversations I’ve had in the last 60 days. All of them get to the question, “Adam, something has changed inside of you. I like it sometimes and I don’t like it sometimes, what is it?

One thing I’ve learned to get comfortable with in the last 10 years of ministry is people asking me hard questions, diving into my motivations, and even offering critical responses. I can handle it. I am not intimidated by it. In fact, questions like this actually encourage me.

Categories
Christian Living Culture Good News

Nativity, Defined

Photo by Grand Canyon NPS via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Nativitythe process whereby someone becomes a native.

Christmas is one of the most confusing holiday’s on the planet. It’s half religious and half a celebration of solstice. The secular vs. religious scales have tipped back and forth over millennia.

That’s a historically accurate tension.

If you are feeling it this year. Welcome. You are in good company. Grab a glass of eggnog.

Some people think that Christmas is a religious holiday that’s been ruined by secularization. In fact, it’s a secular holiday that’s religious people have tried to hijack since the 3rd century when Rome turned to Jesus.

Sometimes Christmas is about revelry. And sometimes it’s about Jesus. Right now it’s a little bit of both, isn’t it?

Centuries ago, Christians strategically capitalized on a holiday which felt like it had something to do with the incarnation of Jesus. Every pagan group in Europe had celebrated some variety of a multi-day winter solstice festival, some marked by the giving of gifts, and as Christianity became the dominant religion in the area we just tried to rebrand it as being all about Jesus.

Every element of our modern Christmas celebration is irreligious and about revelry. The tree, the carols, Santa Claus, the yule log, the Christmas parties, the gifts, the traditional foods, family togetherness. These are all pagan festivities we’ve adopted into a pseudo-Christian hybrid holiday we call Christmas.

The tension you feel is because tension is the intention of the season.

Imagine how it must have felt as Jesus stepped out of heaven and into the arms of a teenage mother? Uninvited game changer. He ruined the reputation of a young woman. He entered the world as a family disgrace. And the political powers didn’t like who people said he was to become so they had every boy his age killed. Like it or not… Jesus’ arrival changed everything. His process of coming here was just as messy as the messiness you feel at a family Christmas celebration this December.

That is nativity at it’s core. The process of becoming a native. Uncomfortable. Foreign. Out of place. Contradiction. Frustration.

And just like Jesus dealt with the tension and contradiction of becoming a native, he asks us to do the same by doing things which seem counter-intuitive. Instead of Good News being about us, Jesus asks us to be Good News to our neighbors. Instead of Good News something we privately keep to ourselves, Jesus asks us to live a life worthy of sharing. Instead of living a life about our family, Jesus invites us into a community of new family.

There’s a lot of tension in this season we call Christmas. It is by design. The tension you are feeling is the tension of bringing Good News into a broken world.

Ask yourself today, “How am I being Good News today to my neighbors? What can I do to be Good News to the family next door?

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

The God of My Neighborhood

We want to change the world!

We want our church to reach this whole community!

God is the God of this city!

[The crowd raises to its feet and cheers as the band begins to play…]

These are guaranteed anthems to bring a church to its feet.

But I’m left wondering if our ecclesiology is a little too big?

It looks like your eyes were bigger than your stomach.” That’s what my mom used to say when I put too much food on my plate at dinner.

And I think that’s the strategic error of many churches.

I know it’s the strategic error of most believers.

Most churches mission statements tell the people the goal is to reach the world… and when we aim at that we get nearly nothing because it’s too big.

Isn’t our job to love our neighbors as ourselves and put God first? (Mark 12:28-31)

Isn’t my job, then, to love my neighbors? Like the ones who live next door? Or down the block? Or maybe as far as around the corner? Isn’t that why God, in His infinite wisdom, placed me in my neighborhood?

Yes, it is. That is the business God has clearly called you to. He has called you to be good news to your neighborhood.

Every other type of ministry you do is secondary to that. To take it a step further… every other ministry you have which gets in the way of what Jesus calls the second most important command, is unnecessary. Until you can love your neighbors as yourself you have no business doing anything else. (Yeah, including those who work in churches. I’m looking at you.)

Step 1: Get to know your neighbors

Loving your neighbors isn’t hard. You were created in Christ Jesus to do it. It takes no training. And it takes no special skills. This is what you need to do.

  • Get to know your neighbors names. If your yard touches theirs get to know their names. If they are across the street they are your neighbors, too. Each neighborhood is a bit different. But just start with the people immediately around your residence.
  • When you see them… stop and say hello. Talk to your neighbors. These are people God foreknew you to know. You don’t need an agenda, just be friendly.
  • Keep your eyes open and your ears open. When you can see they need help, do what you can.
  • When you need help, ask your neighbors. Sometimes exhibiting some dependency is the perfect open door to getting to know someone.
  • Over time, learn to depend on one another. Maybe your neighbor is a little older and you have a snow blower. Start shoveling the walk. When you go out of town, ask them to pick up the mail.

As you do this process, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal to you next steps. Maybe it’ll be to host a neighborhood BBQ? Or maybe it’ll be to help find a lost dog? It could be any number of things… but it probably isn’t to invite them to church or to give them a flyer. God didn’t ask you to bring people to hear the Gospel at your church. He empowered you to bring the Gospel to your neighbors through your love for them.

What are you waiting for? The power of the Gospel will prevail when you set out to be Good News in your neighborhood.

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Cultural Engagement Strategy

 

Photo by Stuart Boreham via Flickr (Creative Commons)

 

Have you ever opened your eyes underwater? You know, without goggles?

 

All of the underwater world is a blur. Sure, you can see stuff but you can only see things nearby and its nothing like what you see on a National Geographic special.

Then someone hands you a set of goggles and you go back underwater. It’s an entirely different experience. If you are shallow enough and the water is clear, you can see the bottom. You can see fish and rocks and plant life.

The difference is quick and obvious.

This is the same experience I feel that most people in full-time church ministry go through. They are underwater in the culture they live in without goggles on.

Most churches are failing to reach the culture because they lack a strategy to engage the culture they live in.

The staff needs goggles so they can actually see what is happening, not just 5 feet in front of their face and fuzzy, but all the way to the bottom!

Any ministry professional can do the math. Add up the amount of people who are actually attending the churches in their community, divide it by the population and you can see that the Gospel is not winning. In most communities you’ll find less than 10% of the population goes to any church more than once a month. In the most reached communities you’ll find about 30%. (Go ahead, spend the 30 minutes to do so with your zip code if you don’t believe me.)

That’s an F for the church. The church is underwater in the culture it is supposed to thrive in. Jesus calls us to reach the whole world (100%) with the message of the Gospel and we’re at 3%-30%. Not awesome.

It’s no wonder why…

  • Christian colleges and seminaries focus little on engaging culture. I’ve visited a fair number of them and most of their students describe their campuses as a bubble. (Meaning they don’t engage the community around them very well.)
  • Churches are notoriously insulated from culture.
  • Churches tend to hire people who have spent the vast majority of their adult life either in a Christian college, a seminary, or the local church. All places which are notoriously bad at engaging with culture.

The result is an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s a simpletons philosophy of cultural engagement.

And it isn’t working.

I once visited a church that had the following truism painted in big letters on the wall of their foyer. “Through you we have access to every single person in our community.

That is true. But if we aren’t teaching people how to engage with those people in a meaningful way it’s empty access.

I believe that people working at churches across the country and around the world are good people. They are in ministry because they want to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. (e.g. The right reason for being in ministry.)

I believe that the vast majority of people who are frustrated in their ministry calling are frustrated because they feel stuck… a ministry life isn’t what they thought it was… and that frustration will be eased if they stop focusing their time on running programs for people who come to church and start focusing their time on reaching people who don’t come to church.

5 Steps to Creating a Cultural Engagement Strategy for Your Church

  1. (observe) Lock your church staff out of the office for a week and each of them visit 10 parishioners at their places of work. (More on this idea)
  2. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the closest public school to your church office.
  3. (engage) Implement 3 of these 10 ways your church can be good news to the neighborhood your church building is in.
  4. (strategy) Schedule a 2 day off-site retreat with your entire staff and leadership team to share what you’ve learned in items 1-3, and create a strategy which continues to foster engagement between members of the church and the community the church ministers in. (Cover my travel and I will facilitate this retreat for free, if your church will commit to doing items 1-3 beforehand.)
  5. (implementation) Take whatever steps are necessary to become a church wholly focused (Maybe possessed is the right word?) on meaningfully engaging the needs of your churches immediate area for the sake of the Gospel prevailing.

Before people will hear Good News you have to become a church which is Good News.

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

10 Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to Public Schools

I have a fervent belief that if we want to reach a post-Christian society, we have to be Good News before someone will listen to Good News.

I asked some teachers, “How could a local church be Good News to your public school?” Here are 10 of their ideas.

  1. Create a team that participates at every school board meeting. Your presence at meetings, without bringing forward issues, will communicate to the decision makers that your church cares.
  2. Sponsor a community-wide clean-up day during the Fall and Spring semester. If you lead the charge, other churches and community organizations will join forces.
  3. Ask teachers to post individual classroom needs on Donors Choose, and then ask church members to help fund things that will go directly to the classroom.
  4. Set-up a tutoring program that meets in your building after school. (Example) You don’t have to be a certified teacher to help kids with math, science, and reading homework.
  5. Ask your congregation to strategically send their children to public schools. Resist the temptation to home school or send children to a private school. Instead, ask the congregation to invest that time and money into their children’s individual classrooms.
  6. Schools are often lacking volunteers for events. Meet with the principal early in the Fall and find out which events need help.
  7. Have the church cover any expenses for background checks or medical tests related to volunteering in schools. Sometimes the smallest obstacle becomes the biggest excuse!
  8. Once a month, provide treats to the school staff. Every school has a teachers lounge and every employee of the school will appreciate if you provide a bagels or a healthy lunch snack. (Don’t just bless the teachers, bring enough for everyone!) Trust me, this will make even the most hardcore staff smile.
  9. Many districts have cut spending on arts and music. Have your worship leader work with local administrators to set-up workshops, after school, or any opportunity for children to get exposure to art and music.
  10. Find out what projects are important at a school and help provide the supplies. If they have a garden, make sure they have tools. If they are allowing children to paint murals, make sure they have the paint they want.

Want to get started? Pick one and let me know how it goes!

These are my ideas. What are yours?

Many of these ideas came from classroom teachers. Special thanks to Erin, Annie, and Paul for speaking into this post.

Categories
Good News youth ministry

Good News for High School Students

I’m always at odds with this reality:

If Jesus offers good news, what is it about how we do youth ministry that is only attractive to 1% – 2% of the high school students on our campus?

That always lead same  to a place where I say, “I don’t think we’re doing this right just yet.

  • Good news spreads like wild fire.
  • Good news is unstoppable.
  • Good news releases energy.
  • Good news releases joy.
  • Good news is contagious.

In 1994, as a high school senior our basketball won the Indiana state basketball championship. If you’ve seen the movie Hoosiers than you get a glimpse of how important this is to the state of Indiana. It’s a really big deal. Not only do the finals fill the RCA Dome, the same building which hosts the NCAA Final Four, it is a much bigger tournament as every high school in the state got a chance to enter the tournament. So as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime and our team was up 93-88… the student body of Clay High School collectively lost it. We poured onto the court. We screamed and danced. And then when we got kicked off of the court we ran around the inside of the stadium screaming, chanting, bouncing, skipping, and dancing! And then we got kicked out of the RCA Dome and we literally just ran through the streets of downtown Indianapolis screaming, chanting, bouncing, skipping, dancing, and stopping traffic to tell them, “We won!

That was good news worth celebrating. It unleashed unstoppable joy. It was universal on our campus. It was even universal in our city as everyone felt good about this good news!

If youth ministry were good news to the high school students on our campus.. you’d see this same unstoppable release of joy. It’d be nearly universal. Even those who didn’t embrace it would be excited it. Good news is worth celebrating, dancing, and running through the streets for.

I know it. You know it. 1% – 2% of people running through the halls… that’s just creepy!

The only question is, are we will to think and dream of ways to be good news to our campus so they might desire to hear Good News?

Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Bring a Can to Church Day

Photo by CarbonNYC via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I want to encourage you to do a little civil disobedience within your church congregation.

Start bringing and leaving a canned food item to your church every time you go. Have every person in your family do it, too. Don’t make a spectacle of it. Just leave your cans in the foyer on the floor or on the counter in the bathroom. Sunday morning worship? Leave a can. Mom goes back later for a meeting? Leave a can. Your son goes for youth group? Leave a can.

Don’t ask permission. Just do it. The Bible tells you it is OK.

Eventually, someone on the church staff is going to say… “What’s up with all of these cans? And what do we do with them?

I’ll tell you what they will do. Someone will put the cans in a box. And it’ll just sit there.

Imagine if 20% of your congregation got in the habit of doing this? Instant food pantry. It’s not a program. It’s dealing with a problem. Who keeps leaving all of these cans here!

See, I think you’ll join me in the understanding that a house of God should also be a place of refuge for the hungry. As we linger in this recession I can guarantee you there are hungry among every single congregation.

And my experience in working in churches for nearly a decade– every single one of them had random people who drop by every single day looking for food or money. And in nearly 10 years I can think of only a couple of times we had food on hand to give them.

Almost every time people come to the church looking for help and are turned away. This isn’t exactly Good News in the neighborhood, is it?

I believe God has hard-wired us in the knowledge that if we need help or need a place to run to, the church is there.

Sadly most congregations in America have gotten lazy. They think an annual clothing drive or food donation to a local pantry is the right answer.

Ding-dong.” Every day the bell rings at the church. People come to them who are hungry. Don’t you want your church to be a place that gives them food? Wouldn’t you want your music pastor to overhear the secretary start to explain to someone that the church doesn’t keep food at the church but makes an annual donation to the food pantry in town… and says, “Wait a minute. The janitor found these cans. You can have them.

Bam! Instant food program. The church didn’t spend a dollar. They didn’t have a meeting to discuss it. They didn’t hire a staff member to start it. It’s just a box (or closet) full of cans people mysteriously left at church.

Bring a can to church. Every time. Every person.

Problem solved.