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Good News

A House of Good News

What if everyone on my block knew who I was? What if other people on my block knew each other because I introduced them? What if I knew what the needs of my neighbors were and were in a position to activate others to help? And what if I had an eye to initiate or come alongside a program to serve my neighborhood as quickly as I come alongside my church?

That would be good news in my neighborhood, wouldn’t it?

That would look a lot like Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:39, wouldn’t it? 

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s one of those obvious things we don’t do. If you are like me you think, “Gosh, that would be cool. But I’m not _____.” [Insert your excuse, mine is too busy already.]

But think of the possibility of this dream. What if my neighborhood were good news for residents? What if, compelled by a love for Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, neighbors got to know one another, learned to love one another, and helped to meet one another’s practical needs. What if people thought about the place that they live as a source of life instead of just a place to live?

Is that possible?

Of course it is. We believe Jesus at His word on so many other levels, why not the most basic one? Love your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say, love your family as yourself or love your church as yourself or love your TV as yourself or love the idea of a neighbor as you love yourself.

You and I are the change agents who can make this happen. Ephesians 2:10 is clear, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. So let’s get on that horse and do some good works!

You just have to push away the voices inside of you that tells you it isn’t your job. Or that being involved at _____ is enough. Or that you are too busy, your neighbors are annoying, they don’t want to know one another. On and on. Don’t let the voice of doubt win.

5 First Steps You Can Do This Week

  1. Learn 5 names you don’t already know on your block.
  2. Create a simple drawing for your fridge. Make a box for every house and put names in every box.
  3. Take a slow walk every day this week on your block with the intention of saying learning names. “Hi, I’m ___. What’s your name?” You can do that. This works well after work when people are out and about. It also works great in the morning if you have a dog. (The dog will love this!)
  4. Pick the newest person on your block and intentionally introduce yourself. Welcome them to the neighborhood.
  5. Tell 1 person your dream for the block, that it would be a place where neighbors are not strangers.

You’ve got this. You can do it! 

Categories
Good News

Good News needed!

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I don’t know who Dan Cook is, but it looks like he could use a little good news in the neighborhood.

Categories
Church Leadership

How much is “enough?”

I go to church on Friday night, volunteer in the high school ministry on Sunday morning, and help lead a high school small group on Wednesday night.

That is enough. When I hear an announcement for something else I could do, or somewhere else they need help, or even something else I would really enjoy doing– I have learned to resist. I am doing enough at church. (If I’m being honest, I’m actually doing one thing too much.)

Hierarchy of serving

I know this is hard for my friends who work in churches. They have spots to fill and they feel like a failure if they can’t fill them. But there is a very real hierarchy of service we all need to bend our lives around.

  1. Serve your family, however that is defined for you. In my life, my kids are in their primary years of faith formation. The Shema dangles inches above my head. There is no mistaking it. My primary ministry right now is my kids, it needs to be my kids, and relying on the church– even expecting them to cater to my kids– is on the edge of sinful selfishness.
  2. Serve your neighbors, there is no other way to love them as yourselves. Jesus’ words couldn’t be more simple. Love God with everything you’ve got, love your neighbor as yourself.
  3. Serve your church, it’s a good thing. The New Testament talks a lot about community life, and Paul talks several times about the various roles of people in the body of Christ. And we certainly get a lot of joy out of serving the greater needs of the church.

For where I am at in my life, with three young kids and two fledgling small businesses, that leaves me with just a handful of non-work, non-running-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off hours to serve. For the sake of simplicity we’ll say that is 10 hours per week.

Within the hierarchy of serving for my stage of life that looks like this.

  1. Family – 70%
  2. Neighbors – 20%
  3. Church – 10%

When I try to do more at church… it’s not like I get more than 10 hours per week. It’s that other areas of my life lose those hours. I sleep less, I rest less, I go to my kids school less, I lean on the fence talking to my neighbors less. And it means that less of what I need to get done, gets done.

It’s OK to tell your church leaders the truth. If you are doing enough and it wouldn’t be wise to take on more… don’t. (And don’t feel guilty about saying no.) There is no shame in doing enough! [Which is why it’s called, “Enough.”]

And if you’re a church leader with spots to fill and no one seems to have the time to fill them, kill some things guilt-free. I know that sounds harsh, but if you’re people are already doing enough… why try to burn them out? Maybe this will even lead you to re-evaluate the priority what you’re doing?

The Disconnect

Here’s an observation from going from a church staff person to a volunteer lay leader. There’s a big assumption differentiation. As a paid staffer I constantly had this feeling that people were on the sidelines and largely uninvolved. “If only I could get them in the game, this church could really do some big things for the Kingdom.” But sitting on the other side of that coin I see the opposite to be largely true. People are very, very involved in stuff at the church and lots of other places. They are exhausted! They are doing too much. It’s not so much that they aren’t doing things for the Kingdom. It’s that their definition of Kingdom is bigger than your church.

Categories
Christian Living Good News

5 Ways to Be Good News in Your Neighborhood on Halloween

Christians have a weird history with celebrating Halloween. Not growing up in the church I was appalled when I heard church people refer to it as “Devil’s night” and say things like, “Of course we don’t celebrate Halloween.” It’s as if we’re talking about two different holidays. There’s the one that actually happens and the one that you’re afraid is happening. Like all things– fear is irrational. 

The whole anti-Halloween concept is built on a theology of fear. Be reminded that in Ephesians 5 Paul instructs Christians to be light in dark places!

Many churches offer alternatives such as harvest parties, hell houses, or trunk-or-treating. Those things aren’t bad, but they aren’t good news in your neighborhood

Here’s my suggestion: Skip the Christian alternatives altogether and embrace Halloween for what it is. It’s a night when hundreds of families will wander around your neighborhood, smiling and enjoying one another, and giving candy to children.

Think strategically: For those who are anti-Halloween I have this challenge. One night a year one hundred families want to come to your door and say hello. Are you going to greet them? Or are you going to turn off your light and pretend they don’t exist?

Don’t be “that guy” on your block. Embrace Halloween as an opportunity to be good news in your neighborhood.

5 Ways You Can Be Good News in Your Neighborhood on Halloween

  1. Sit on the front porch. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on the front porch all night and talk to people as they come by. Resist the temptation to go inside between visitors. Trust me on this. You’ll like what happens. You’ll make great small talk with parents AND every time I’ve done it my neighbors see me and do the same. We have great little conversations porch-to-porch conversations between visitors.
  2. Make it a game. Set up a simple game in your front yard to give trick-or-treaters the opportunity to win the big candy bar. It could be as simple as a bean bag toss or throwing a football to knock something down. Make it simple, kids want to hit every house on your block, but this will make a great impression.
  3. Host a warming station on your block. We’ve done this one bunches of times– it’s ALWAYS a blast. We had close to 1000 trick-or-treaters at our house in Michigan and doing this cost me, maybe, $75. Set up a little tent in your driveway or front yard and serve coffee, hot cocoa, and apple cider. It’s a great break to the routine and easy to invite your small group or someone who doesn’t have trick-or-treaters to help with. Do it 2-3 years in a row and you’ll get known as the house that does that tent thing. Really want to make some friends? Offer parents a little Kahula or Bailey’s for their hot drink!
  4. Do something fun and not-so-scary. There are people in our neighborhood who go all out. They build tunnels over the sidewalk and scare the tar out of children. You can have fun like that and just make it fun. Rent a bounce house and play some music. Be weird and decorate your house for Christmas. Dress up like the easter bunny and have an easter egg hunt every 15 minutes. Just because you don’t want to get into the whole devil/ghosts/zombie thing doesn’t mean you can’t be creative to have some fun with the hundreds of kids who will come up your walk.
  5. Cover every house. I live on a block that has some elderly folks. Consequently, we have kind of a bummer block because many of them aren’t mobile enough to hand out candy. It would be great to rally a few people and make sure every porch light is on and there is candy at every house. Warning: You may need to actually talk to your neighbors to pull this one off. (Which is more scary than Halloween itself, right?)

What are other ways you can embrace Halloween as a way to be Good News in your neighborhood?

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Coyote Fear

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Yesterday, I opened my front door to this letter. Everyone in my neighborhood did. Take a second to read it.

There are so many things wrong in this letter. At its core it teaches us a lot about the power of fear in our lives.

  • The letter is completely anonymous. It’s a letter about fear from a person too afraid to reveal who they are.
  • A concerned neighbor expressed a legitimate concern. Coyote are dangerous to pets. Let’s agree that this note came from a very good place, right?
  • The solution offered is counter-intuitive. Hiding your animals and yourself in your house will not scare away predators.
  • The neighbor doesn’t talk about the one obvious solution: Calling animal control.
  • There’s a cynical side of me that wonders if this isn’t really about coyote, it’s a passive-aggressive note about keeping your pets indoors at night. Maybe this neighbor was awakened by a dog barking or two cats fighting? And there are plenty of neighbors feeding lots of stray cats.
  • The note talks about facts, says there is evidence to back up these facts, but provides no specifics as to where you could see the facts.
  • The notes use of hyperbole is impressive, poetic even, like a chapter of Inferno.
  • Every cat left outside will be attacked, killed and eaten.” That’s my favorite line. It reminds me of the nightly news.

Fear is big, bold, all caps… and delivered on your doorstep while you sleep.

Remember: Jesus is not the author of fear.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

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.

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San Diego Living Sports

Why you should watch SDSU vs. BYU on February 26th

 

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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
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

Leading Your Church to Reflect its Neighborhood

It’s been more than 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. quipped, “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.

If we are honest with ourselves– churches are nearly as divided today as they were 40 years ago. We call it culture and we call it personal preference. But the truth of the matter is that we just don’t want to rock the boat. (We like the comfort, staff members like their paychecks.)

So we allow racism, sexism, and a lack of cultural diversity to run rampant in our congregations.

It’s time those of us called to lead, lead our churches into a new paradigm.

And it starts with a sober assessment of where our congregations are at.

Simple measurement tool

Make a written observation the demographics of your congregation this Sunday morning. (Age, marital status, socio-economic status, race, gender) Then compare what you observe at your church against what the data set of your churches zip code as provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • Does your congregation reflect its neighborhoods demographics?
  • Does your church staff reflect the demographics of the zip code?
  • If there is a disconnect, is your church leadership making serious, active efforts to close the divide?

Cutting to the chase: While most evangelical congregations don’t have white, middle class theology. They predominantly attract white, middle class congregations. And it’s scary how many church staffs are filled with white, middle class males. (Go ahead, look at the staff pages of 10 of your favorite churches.) That disconnect you observe should lead you to make changes!

Changing your behavior: If you are like me, a child of the 1980s, you were raised in a dogma of multiculturalism.

From kindergarten I was taught that all the cultures in my community have value, deserve equal rights, and should be given access to the same things I am given access to as a member of the dominant culture. That value may have been taught to me from a secular perspective, but I believe it also reflects a biblical perspective on how Christians are to live in society as well!

If you want to express that same value on Sunday morning you need to take some steps (maybe radical ones) towards that value.

In other words– Maybe you need to change churches? Maybe you need to stop funding something that doesn’t reflect your values and start funding a congregation that does? Maybe you need to lead the way and stop waiting for church leadership to lead you?

Personal testimony– This is what I’ve done. For the past 2+ years my family has been a part of a congregation that works hard to reflect its neighborhood. At times, it is simply beautiful and at other times it is wholly awkward. But it’s been a radical transformation for my walk with Jesus. So, know that I’m not just pushing an idealism, I’m encouraging you to participate in something that I’m finding tremendous joy in.

If you are a church leader who is taking a serious look at bridging the divide between the Sunday morning demographic you have today and the one you’d like to see in 12 months, may I suggest some action steps?

5 Radical Steps Towards Becoming a Congregation which Reflects its Neighborhood

  1. Hire staff members that reflect the demographics of your zip code. (Race, gender, marital status, age)
  2. Require all paid staff, from the janitor to the senior pastor, to live within the zip code of your congregation. (Give them a few months to move, make it financially possible, remove staff members who won’t move within 12 months.) Take it a step further by requiring all board officers to do the same.
  3. If you live outside of the neighborhood, lead the way by moving into the community your church is trying to reach. Don’t contribute to the disconnect– lead the way!
  4. Get involved in neighborhood issues. Lead the way on issues of justice, advocate for the poor, let your congregation be a voice in the community. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the neighborhood)
  5. Adopt a local public school. The local schools are the access point to the people your church is called to reach. Get involved, not as an agent of adversary, but as a community partner. (Here’s 10 suggestions for your church to be good news to the local schools)

Is this a magic growth formula? Of course not. But as you take these steps you will earn the trust of a community who has learned to ignore you. When you care about what they care about and when you reflect who they are, you will be amazed at the social currency this will earn your congregation.

I recognize that these steps may seem extreme. (And I’m certain someone will tell me that firing staff for this is unbiblical) But that’s the nature of leadership, isn’t it? Sometimes God asks you to push past what you are comfortable with or what feels right to do what is right. Remember the rich young man in Matthew 19? He asked Jesus how he might enter the Kingdom of God, but he left disappointed because the cost was too high.

The reality is that if those in leadership don’t take radical positions so that their actions reflect their theology, the church will never change.

We simply cannot survive as a viable faith if we continue to act as agents of discrimination on Sunday morning. The church cannot be the most segregated place in our culture. It is time that the church take a good, hard look at who they are in their community and make some radical changes.

It’ll never get any easier or cheaper to do so than it is today.