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
Christian Living

5 Ways to Encourage Your Church Staff

One thing I learned when I was on church staff rarely does a person really want what they are presenting what they want.

In other words, when a parent wants to come in and talk with you about some ideas for the summer youth group schedule, that’s only the presenting issue. I know that with enough time and a couple “How are things going?” and “How can I pray for you?” type of questions you can usually get to the real reason they drove 20 minutes to come to my office.

I’m finding the same is true with church staff.

Satan has a very active and special ministry with church staff.

We have an enemy. Not a metaphorical one. Not one who wears a red cape and pulls some cameos around Halloween. No, Satan is real and he is active and he is effective.

And he knows when, who, and where to tempt your church staff. He is sneaky and he thrives on discouraging them. Satan loves a sucker punch so he gets them when they are really, really high and really, really low.

As a youth pastor, I hated the end of our youth group time on Wednesday nights because I knew what was coming. I called the hours between the end of youth group and when I finally fell asleep, “The dark night of the soul.” I went home and questioned everything. I relived every moment. I wondered why I was a youth pastor since I clearly sucked at it. My heart criticized everything I said. I’d often stay up late and re-write everything.

Logically, I knew that Jesus wasn’t the author of that. But emotionally, I just couldn’t flee it.

And I’m not alone. The staff of your church likely experience the same things.

5 constant temptations for all church staff

  • Evaluate the wrong things.
  • Make brash decisions and abuse power.
  • Do it your their way with their own talents.
  • Comparing to other ministries.
  • Leading more and serving less.

5 ways to encourage your church staff

  • Translate evaluation questions into affirmation of calling. They are asking, “Am I doing the right things?” And you need to tell them, “You are the person God is calling. You are in the right spot.
  • Communicate to your staff that you love them by praying for them.If you won’t pray for the staff and their families find a new church.” A long time ago I went to a membership class lead by Ray Pritchard. He said that and it kind of shocked me. I thought he was being arrogant. But its true. If you don’t love the staff God has placed in your church enough to pray for them than you better take that up with Jesus. He’s way smarter than you are. Get over yourself.
  • Only say nice things on Sunday’s. I know that sounds fake. (Maybe you need to be more fake and less mean?) But your staff has laid their hearts on the altar in ways you will never see. Right after they have finished their ministry time they are most open to Satan’s attacks. They will pick up on the slightest slight and amplify the words you say. Just save it. Sleep on it. Put it in your pocket. Instead, look your staff in the eye and tell them thank you, that you are praying for them, and you think they are doing a great job.
  • Act as a shepherd and guardian for their family. Not the cute, cuddly shepherd who leads sheep to still waters. No, the defensive one with the rod. Smack people in the forehead when they attack your church team. In case you didn’t know, your church staff isn’t paid all that well. Help them take care of their relationship with their spouse by offering free childcare so they can go on dates! Grab a gift card at the grocery store “just because.” When you hear people pick at or about the pastors spouse or kids, get angry and defend them. When you hear a staff member squirm with embarrassment at their kids behavior, grab their arm and say, “Stop it. They are kids. It’s OK for them to be kids.
  • Think about their schedule and send notes at the right times. Find out when your pastor is preparing the sermon. Or when the worship band practices. Or when the youth pastor writes the talk. Or when the kids worker is photocopying curriculum. That’s when you want to drop them a text, Facebook message, or email. That’s when you want to leave a voicemail just to let them know that you are praying for them, that you love how they are ministering to them, and that you are thankful to God for bringing them to your church. 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, that’s not the right time. Friday afternoon or Saturday morning… bam.