Evangelists of Unbelief by Rice Broocks

I’ve been deeply challenged by the tireless efforts of the men and women that advance the cause of the “new atheism” into the empty hearts of postmodern westerners.

Nature abhors a vacuum so in the absence of faith, unbelief or atheism becomes the anti-cause. The mission of these atheist crusaders is to rid the world (especially the young) of religious faith and “superstition.” They carry their message with zeal and with the confrontational style that rivals any fundamentalist preacher. In short, they seek converts – people who will “repent” of religion and follow the secular path to freedom.

Caricatures of the worst aspects of religion make it easy to gain people’s attention. Lumping all religions together, it becomes one monstrous “straw man” that can easily scare the average listener more than hell itself. Tragically, they are gaining momentum, especially in the arena of the university campus and the media.

If this were a boxing match, the Church would be sitting on a stool in the corner of the ring, dazed and confused and doubting whether we were really “called” to this fight. What can we learn from their efforts?

Talking to Ourselves

First and foremost: We must start engaging our culture with the Gospel beyond the church walls and stop just talking to ourselves. The majority of the effort we exert as Believers is talking to fellow Christians about being better Christians.

“Missional Church” is a term we debate vs a real mission we do. We have deceived ourselves by not obeying the Word ( James1:22).

Most of the people in our churches have heard enough to be teachers themselves, but are defenseless against the basic arguments and accusations of the opposition.

The Gospel is the answer to the cries of the human heart, but the lack of zeal to proclaim it demonstrates our lack of faith in its power.

We can also see that if we don’t step up and speak a clear message, the enemies of the Gospel will gladly take our place.

History has shown that God will allow a Goliath to taunt His people, knowing that someone like David will be provoked into action.

May we be shaken out of our stupor, get off the stool and get back into the fight for this generation.

Photo by lewishamdreamer.

Who Is Doing The Evangelizing? by Steve Sjogren

I don’t want to sound heretical but I have an observation to make. My friend Fred was prolific at leading people to Christ in the first few years of his Christian life as he came out of the music scene in Los Angeles and pointed something out to me I thought was interesting. He noticed that the vast majority of people who come to Jesus weren’t so much led to the Lord by someone or by a church that was doing a bang up job of evangelism. He said his role was mostly to befriend folks, to share what God had done in his life then to invite them to church where they could sense the presence of God, pray a simple salvation prayer and the “Deal would be sealed” as he put it. You might call it Presence evangelism more than Informational based evangelism.

Hundreds of books have been written from the perspective that it’s the church’s responsibility to do the working of evangelism – and to a degree that’s right. It’s of course clear from Scripture that Believers play an important part in leading people to the Lord. Let’s not entirely change that equation. At the same time we need to recognize what God is doing as well – that a big percentage of people worldwide are being directly engaged by the Holy Spirit directly by various means other than linear means of evangelism.

If this is true what does it imply regarding our evangelism approaches? We need to be doing a lot of seed planting. We need to find some measure of satisfaction in the ministry of nudging many toward Christ whether they actually come to know Christ through us or not. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 3:6, it’s about planting, watering as well as harvesting. Before there is a harvest it’s necessary to diligently plant and water. Sometimes there is a lot of repeated planting and watering before a harvest comes about. My professor friend George Hunter agrees with me – on average in our day it takes a person about 12-20 revelatory connections for a person to be converted. In his words, “Steve, that’s a lot of toilets that need to be cleaned.”

I’m going to continue to proclaim the Gospel as clearly as possible to as many as possible. At the same time I recognize God is quietly, persistently up to something dynamic in the hearts of many we will perhaps never engage in conversation.

3 Fun Easy and Inexpensive Holiday Outreaches by Steve Sjogren

1. Bread Giveaway

Everybody likes bread! Especially from those high-end bread stores with Bread Company somewhere in the name… Did you know that you can arrange to receive day-old bread from specialty bread stores for FREE? You can also check with national chain grocery stores that have in-house bakeries. Talk to the store manager and explain your outreach concept. Tell a few stories of the people you are helping and you will likely establish your “daily bread” connection. It will only take one or two of these connections to begin a substantial ministry in your community.

Many of these stores do not have a reliable source to distribute their old bread to. The key is to be consistent and reliable in picking up their bread. You will need to have a team and as schedule so you don’t disappoint the bread store managers. As a good public relations gesture, write a letter of thanks to the store manager for his company’s generosity to the community (and don’t be surprised to see it framed and posted on the wall of the store).

The ministry is simple and straight forward. Knock on the doors of the houses and apartments. Say, “Hi, we’re giving away fresh, free high-quality bread. Could you use some, or do you know anyone in the neighborhood who could use some?” Give recipients an outreach card and offer to pray for them as you hand out the bread.

How Do You Find People To Give Bread To?

Cold calling (just knocking on doors) in lower-income neighborhoods and apartments complexes works fine with this project. Stay away from neighborhoods closest to the donating store.

What You’ll Need

2. Big Christmas Party

People in need don’t always celebrate Christmas properly because there aren’t Christ-centered celebration opportunities. You can sponsor an event that will be fun and cause everyone to focus on Jesus.

The elements of this celebration include playing games and singing songs. As you sing Christmas carols, make sure the words are available. It’s also fun to have a few inexpensive rhythm instruments to play along with.

Someone can share what Christmas is about in a very positive and upbeat way – simply explaining, “Christmas is important to me because…”

Decorations and refreshments and a meal can be simple or elaborate, depending on the inclination of your group.

For about $1 per photo, you can take Polaroid pictures of kids with an ethnically correct Santa. Design a simple backdrop and get up-close with the camera. Mount the photo on red or green construction paper and add the child’s name and year with a gold or silver marking pen.

At the conclusion of the party, give away small gifts as people depart – perhaps a Bible or devotional book. Consider giving away the decorations as well.

How Do You Find People Who Would Enjoy A Christmas Party?

Invite those who are already connected with your ministry to those in need. Give out fliers or invitations at previous events in the neighborhood, or simply walk around the neighborhood and distribute fliers.

What You’ll Need:

  • facility to host the party
  • Polaroid camera and film
  • construction paper
  • glue sticks
  • gold and silver marking pens
  • refreshments
  • outreach cards

3. Winter Survival Kits

Winter can be hard on the body and the soul.  A survival kit is great encouragement to everyone who receives one.

The kit contains a packet of facial tissue, lip balm, throat lozenges, and an outreach card.

In Action

Our churches have had great success with this project as we have aimed it at parents and business professionals. We go to parks that parents frequent with their children and downtown sidewalks as business professionals make their way out to lunch. When those we meet notice how nice the kit is, they are very grateful and usually end up striking a conversation with us.

Where To Go

  • campuses
  • parks
  • neighborhoods
  • sporting events
  • downtown
  • commuters
  • shopping centers

What You’ll Need

  • zip lock plastic bags
  • lip balm
  • throat lozenges
  • individual packets of facial tissue
  • outreach cards

Why Outreach Cards

When doing a project, it is important to have a means to connect with those you serve. An outreach card is a business-sized card you can leave with those you have served so they can get back in touch you if they desire. The idea isn’t to accomplish a sales job where you promote your church. Rather, it is a simple way to leave your church’s name, address, phone number and service times so that when future needs arise, those you’ve served will have a way of reconnecting with you. The idea is to be available without giving out personal addresses.

If you need outreach cards for your holiday projects, we highly recommend those on our sister site at KindnessResources.com.

Christmas Outreach Card

The 90 Day Outreach Challenge by Steve Sjogren

Church plants need to find creative ways to connect with the non-believing culture around them. If you pray for not-yet Believers to show up they will. But how do you lead them into relationship with Christ? Usually there is a process involved in leading them to Christ.

When my wife Janie was seeking to know who the Lord really was, she asked God to reveal himself at the beginning of the summer. On June 1st she prayed an open ended prayer: “Show me who you really are by the end of the summer.” She promptly forgot about her prayer but God was at work arranging her circumstances. Some months later she ended up at a wedding (for a couple who weren’t even engaged in June) thousands of miles away. That was Labor Day weekend – the end of summer! She took a several hour car trip with a couple of turned on Believers who enthusiastically shared the Gospel with her. She became convinced that Jesus was Lord and that she had misunderstood him. On the Saturday before Labor Day weekend, marking the end of summer, she was converted to Christ!

True to answering her prayer, God moved by the end of summer. God loves a challenge! He takes the prayers of not-yet Believers seriously.

Making deals with God

Consider this:

Make deals with the not-yet believer. It’s a daring stand off. Either God will move specifically or nothing will happen. I’ve seen God move time after time in these situations. He loves to prove himself to Seekers.

Choose 3 things they need to see God move in their life to prove himself. Choose things that are measureable, for example jobs and finances. Stay away from romantic situations – those are too subjective. Pray in agreement for those things to happen.

I recommend you give it 90 days to see God show up. Come together at the end of those 3 months to compare notes.

In my experience the person in question will often have either forgotten about the prayer or will be convinced God didn’t answer their prayer, but when you look at the specifics it is usually clear that God clearly did move.

At that time bring them back to the original agreement – that they would open their hearts to Christ. Bring them around to the notion that God is madly in love with them! Pray together. Start their relationship with Christ.

Evangelism Is Not Just Relationship by Rice Broocks

Or “You don’t have to know a drowning person to save their life.”

There has been enormous emphasis placed on the need for relationship with people as the prerequisite for evangelism. So much so that some go as far as saying that relationship with others should be the only motive and not the hidden agenda of evangelism.

Relationship-Relationship-Relationship…This seems to be the word of the hour. I spoke to church planters who had not succeeded in their efforts to launch a ministry. As I dug deeper it became apparent that they made a lot of friends and very few disciples. In fact they admitted, they rarely got to the Gospel. “We focused on building relationships first.”

So here’s the question: how soon should the Gospel be introduced in a relationship with someone?

Looking at the ministry of Jesus, many times He spoke directly to people in their first encounter.

  • The woman at the well
  • Nicodemus
  • Legion – He cast the devil out of him during their first meeting. Jesus called people to follow Him with no relationship at all. (It doesn’t appear that He even had introduced Himself fully yet.)

Paul had a similar pattern in his witness.

He preached immediately after his salvation.

He was beaten and suffered as a result.

He confronted strangers in Athens, in Macedonia, in much of what was recorded in Acts.

I believe that the Gospel comes sooner in biblical examples of witness not later. For me, the Gospel has actually produced authentic, lasting relationships with others.

Things to remember:

Preaching the Gospel takes boldness.

The Spirit must fill us with His passion and power. If we are honest, our reluctance to preach the Gospel may just be a case of being a man pleaser or being ashamed of the Gospel.

Preaching produces persecution.

It’s much easier to say nothing. If the Apostles would have only done community service or waited on tables they would not have been persecuted as severely. If they hated Him they will hate us. We are an aroma of life to the saved and an aroma of death to those who are perishing.

Preaching the Gospel produces faith.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. No preaching means no faith. In order for them to believe they are going to have to hear the Gospel.

I certainly believe building relationships is important.

Many times it takes a number of hearings of the Gospel to be saved. I also believe there is wisdom in knowing when we should speak to people about Christ and how we can maximize the impact of our witness.

Someone recently told me “We must earn the right to be heard.” As I pondered this statement, something didn’t sit right with me. As much as I tried to understand what he really meant I couldn’t help but think that according to the Scripture, Jesus earned that right for me as well. We preach in the authority and righteousness He earned through His life and death.

In fact if a person’s eternal soul is at stake then we should have some sense of urgency in our efforts. Remember, you don’t have to know a drowning person to save their life.

Don’t Go Underground On Halloween by Marty Boller

I’ve been a proponent of servant evangelism for many years. Our Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is 13 years old and we’ve always had a heart for the type of outreaches that Steve Sjogren first brought to our attention in the Vineyard family back in the late 1980’s. Over the years we’ve done free food giveaways, hosted farmer’s markets, distributed free flowers on Mother’s Day, raked neighborhood leaves in the fall, and given away free goodies at Christmas parades.

As I write this short report, our church is gearing up for our seventh annual Trunk-N-Treat Halloween event. On October 31st, we turn our large parking lot into a Halloween spectacular that draws in hundreds and hundreds of families from around our city. We line up our cars at the end of our parking lot, making a huge U-shaped loop. For two hours on Halloween night, from 5 PM to 7 PM, we give away candy and treats from the trunks of our cars, giving parents a safe and protected place to do their Trick-or-Treating. At the end of the “U” each participant gets a free hot dog and drink, and a warm greeting from our welcoming team.

Over the years, I’ve had well-meaning Christians question me on why we are cooperating with such a dark holiday as Halloween. I tell them that while I personally hate Halloween (and I’m guessing that so does Jesus), I believe that Jesus wants us Christ-followers to be out there with the masses, loving ‘the hell’ out of those who come our way. Oh yeah, I know, I might be trafficking with evil, but as I see it, God’s love is so much stronger than the powers of darkness.

So my encouragement to you this October 31st? Don’t go underground on Halloween, hiding behind your locked doors or hunkering down in your church buildings. May I suggest that you and your church go ‘public’, moving beyond the typical Hallelujah evening for “Christians only”. Try something risky. Take a step into the darkness with the loving light of God. Try hob-knobbing with some of the pagans this year, letting the love of Christ be evident. And while the time might be too short for you and your church to pull off a full-fledged Trunk-N-Treat, try doing what our youth group has done in past years. We call it a Reverse Trick-or-Treat. We arm our youth group and families with bags of candy and on the night before Halloween, we send them out into neighborhoods, knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. When the folks answer the door, we offer them free candy! Without a doubt our teams come back with many reports of surprised faces and blessed neighbors! I’ve been so thrilled year after year when parents from our neighborhood express their appreciation to me that a local church would provide such a great blessing for them during the Halloween season. As I see it, it’s a perfect opportunity for our churches to bring the light of God into the darkness of the season, for His Name’s sake.

The Crystal Cathedral – BTW, How’s Your Definition Going? by Steve Sjogren

What lessons can we draw from the demise of the Crystal Cathedral?

No matter what you think of that congregation, know that at one time it was a thriving model on the American landscape of churches. It was an amazing, trend-setting place that was super creative.

Things slowly changed however. Mostly the Cathedral stopped defining itself to the public, both locally and nationally. For whatever reason her leaders assumed that the public knew all about this place. That was a common but poor assumption. They were forgotten.

Church plants usually do a good job of defining themselves to their community in their initial phase. It’s imperative that a new church clarify why they exist and how they are distinct in their community. I’m not too worried about new plants, but I am quite concerned about the next phase most plants go through. It’s easy to forget those initial lessons learned and fall into a pattern of an inward focused on money, facilities, staff – and forget what got us to that point of initial momentum. Then BOOM! We become stuck in a cycle of irrelevancy.

If we don’t regularly, clearly define ourselves to our community – through strong acts of generosity, love and service – those around us will have no idea that we even exist. We will soon have no worries about our facilities, money or staff because there will be no one coming!

The church I lead in Oregon has been in Newberg for over 100 years (just SW of Portland). It is well-known to other Christians (18% of the city) but virtually camouflaged to the rest of the people for whom God so loves that he sent Jesus to suffer and die.

Things are beginning to change. We have taken to serving the city in a variety of ways. We are going door to door with hamburgers – squeegeeing windshields at gas stations – cleaning toilets at public places – and using the doors those projects create as connections to share Christ at whatever level fits.

To get back to where we started – if we do a bang up job of defining ourselves by serving we will soon become relevant. We need to make a profound impression on those around us in a truckload of ways. The ways you serve can vary greatly according to your community’s needs. God will speak to you are you pray a famous biblical prayer, “Here we are. Send us!” He absolutely loves to answer that prayer. Count on it. He will speak to you. You will not be forgotten.

Photo by Sarah Mount

 

The Few Can Touch Many by Steve Sjogren

It doesn’t take a large crew to make leave a big footprint.

Victory in God’s kingdom has always gone to the underdogs. God nearly always anoints a miniscule group to do his bidding. I find this encouraging since all that I have started has been small – usually for a long time if not forever. What God builds usually starts (and typically stays) on the smallish side.

I used to say that it started small but then would grow large, but now I see that often numbers usually only grow fat. I now see that it is almost always the case that a radical but small fringe gets the Kingdom lifestyle and message. Why does it stay small? It’s all about the offensive cost of mercy. Jesus said “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 18). The context of that verse could well be restated, “Many are called but few choose” the Kingdom. The Kingdom, as God defines it, is always something that is set up according to his parameters, not ours. Most don’t like that much, so they protest, they decide it’s not for them, and vote themselves out of it like the religious people in Matthew chapter 18 (yes, it was the religious people who decided not to participate in the Kingdom once they figured out how the mercy of God works as in this story).

This Jesus story is fresh with me today. A few of us went out mixing it up with dozens of lost people who, like those in Nineveh, didn’t know their left hand from their right. We did a $1 carwash. We washed people’s cars and paid them a dollar for the privilege of serving them. We stunned many. Numbers teared up. We teared up! I’m always amazed what can happen when a few, enthused, dedicated people move in a common direction and pour their hearts into something. Do something great with God. It only takes a few.

Bullhorn Evangelism… Is There A Better Way? by Steve Sjogren

Have you ever been dogged by someone that was excited about their faith? I was in the New York City area a while back when I got off a subway overpass in Queens to the sound of some Spanish preaching Pentecostals who were taking turns preaching (yelling loudly more accurately) into a bullhorn. As one finished his turn he turned the mic over to the next with a high five and a chuckle. Those guys were having a good time at what they were doing, but clearly they were not connecting with the crowd. My ears were nearly bleeding! The crowd was trying to ignore them and everyone wished they would unplug themselves and go home. They were overly aggressive and not connecting with the passing crowds. I believe God will use any approach to sharing the Gospel we make available to him, but some approaches are awfully difficult for him to use!

Just below there another church was doing an outreach based on serving. They were washing cars, trucks – even a huge metro garbage truck pulled up to test the sincerity of the team’s faith! (Yes, they passed the test and made it spick and span!) This was a study in contrasts. The group below the overpass was attracting a crowd, bit by bit, little by little, and making an impact one person at a time with no sound reinforcement other than to say, “We are showing Jesus’ love in a practical way…” (There were plenty of conversations that followed those introductory words.)

Before I became a Believer I met an occasional person who was downright excited about Christ – not many of them, but a few along the way. Those people got me thinking about the possibility of following Jesus. It began to occur to me that there was something out there that was worth giving my life for. Positive zeal is powerful and beautiful. Our zeal needs to be a lot like the oath doctors take upon graduation before they treat their first patient: “First, do no harm…!”