When Servant Evangelism Becomes Routine by Marty Boller

outreachI’m not sure when the term ‘servant evangelism’ first came into play. In the early days of the Vineyard movement, Steve Sjogren was the first voice I heard talking about focusing an entire church community around the idea of serving outsiders through practical, applicable acts of kindness. My Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has been actively involved with servant evangelism for much of our thirteen years of our existence. In 1998, when we started our church, it was common for our small church planting team to be involved in SE events nearly every weekend.

We did free car washes, free water bottle giveaways, free neighborhood leaf-raking, free carnations to moms on Mother’s Day, free snow shoveling, etc. etc. It was common back then that when a new person started coming to our church, we knew they were staying when we saw them at our next giveaway! And while I can’t deny that we did these servant evangelism events in our earliest days because we were trying to plant a new church, over time I believe some of us actually caught the SE bug and decided it was a good thing to do even when it wasn’t all about building a new church. In truth, as I see it, servant evangelism should never be about planting or building a church, but about simply loving people we don’t know. And as Steve Sjogren has so often taught us over the years, words just can’t express how thrilling it is to give something away with no strings attached.

But isn’t it interesting that over time, we Christians can take something that is at its’ core something new and fresh and make it into a routine, or worse yet, a church project? And so it becomes with many churches as we grow and get into facilities of our own. As I look back, I see how my church went from having a ‘freely-received-freely-given’ attitude about servant evangelism to a programming mode that can make SE all about growing our church and measuring for results. Sadly, as we grow larger, the concept of random acts of kindness tend to evolve into highly-developed, well-planned-out programs of servant evangelism. And somehow, someway, the true joy of doing SE for the right reasons is nearly lost.

Today, as I write these words, I’m praying about what it might take in our well-established church to once again return to the carefree, light-hearted spontaneous SE giveaways we once enjoyed when we were smaller. I’m guessing there might be other pastors out there who share that same dream. In recent weeks, I’ve been blogging about what type of changes might need to happen in my thirteen-year-old church in order to get back to the joys of doing simple Kingdom outreach ministry just because Jesus loves it that way. Join me at my blog and chime in on some of your ideas as well. Together with God’s help, I believe we might just see a fresh wave of SE, for His Name’s sake!

4 Moves That Guard Against Burnout by Steve Sjogren

Burnout is a regular problem with anyone who reaches out. Jesus was in nearly continual outreach mode in his three-year ministry so he found it necessary to take on a number of mindsets in order to live with spiritual centeredness. Here are a few of Jesus’ points of view you might find encouraging.

Define for your assignment.
Invite God to clarify the specifics of your calling. Listen in. Take notes. God tends to speak the most clearly to me in two settings – as I wake up and as I drive. A friend suggested someone drive me around and I take short naps throughout the day in order to hear from the Lord a lot. Maybe we can try that sometime. Figure out what your primo setting is and reproduce that as often as you can. God is more interested in speaking to you than you are in hearing from him.

Focus on the outcome.
It’s easy to grow frustrated with the burdens and details of the present. We frequently hear encouragement as to the importance of aiming on the immediate only. When it comes to outreach it’s not that way. There are times when it is best to look ahead. Scripture says that Jesus endured hardship for the joy that was set before him. We are wise to follow his lead.

Flow…Give Up On Struggling
One of the most frustrating assignments in the world is the sense that we are responsible to create a spiritual result. We are incapable of making something happen in the spiritual realm – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our role, like Paul’s, is to plant and water what God has already begun in others’ lives. Walk in sensitivity to what God is up to. It’s usually not all that difficult to see what he’s up to. Go where the joy, the passion, the energy is. It is exciting to be in the midst of where the Spirit is at work. Find that sweet spot and live there.

Be unique.
Look for the specifics God has for you whether you’ve seen anyone else walk there or not. Perhaps there are new approaches to ministry God has in mind for you to carry out that no one else is doing. Be bold! You may think you need permission to step out. In many cases that’s not the case. You’d be surprised how often those you think you need to clear things with will be overjoyed when you simply try something new then show them the results afterwards. Nearly always you’ll receive a standing ovation!

Listen To God… Really? by Jason Taylor

It seemed I had tried it all!  From dropping thousands of eggs from a helicopter to sending out what seemed like millions of postcards, but our church was not getting the “results” that everyone else had gotten.  I hired coaches and mentors who told me “how” to plant the church.  I did everything by the book, but the results were minimal in comparison to what everyone else was “getting”.  Was there something wrong with me?  Was I really called?  Is this really what God wanted me to do, start a church from scratch?

I still remember the day that I just came to a realization that I needed to stop listening to coaches, books, and blogs first and start listening to what God was saying through the Holy Spirit for our church in our town.  That’s when everything changed!  I remember praying and asking God, “What’s next?”  As I stopped and listened, He spoke and we started becoming who God wanted us to be as a church in our town.

For example, God said…

  • Move your location 9 miles across town to another school, when you do not have the money to do so- we did, and we started growing and God provided!
  • Set a goal to touch 5,000 people with random acts of Kindness in six months, when we had no dollars for this outreach- we did, and people’s lives were changed forever and God provided!
  • Move again to another location that you cannot afford- we did, and God provided and since that time over 260 people have given their lives to Jesus in our services!

My point is this:  There is nothing wrong with coaching, mentors, and blogs, but please LISTEN TO GOD FIRST, and God will use the other voices to implement the vision that He gives you.

5 Launching Lessons From Johnny Appleseed by Steve Sjogren

John Chapman, aka the legendary “Johnny Appleseed” was a missionary who reached out to native Americans in the Ohio Valley in the early 1800s.

He Had Simple Tools

His primary planting tool was a stick! Do you have a stick? When his current stick wore out he found a new stick. I heard recently through the grapevine that sticks are still easy to find!

The more elaborate we make our plans the more likely it is that we will fail.

He Heard the Invitation

He picked up on the invitation of the Father to accomplish his lifelong mission, therefore when the going got tough he was able to return to the beginning of it all to when God unmistakably spoke to him to go out in the first place.

He Didn’t Talk About Outreach, He Did Outreach

Johnny understood it’s about activism, not mere talk, nor continual preparation study, nor the accruing of more cool conference notebooks. He was all about taking risks and getting out there. If he were alive in 2012 his motto would be, “Missional schmissional! Stop the incessant talk, stop being a chicken and just do it for Pete’s sake!”

He Did Small Things

It doesn’t take much to change the world. A tiny apple seed grows into the largest fruit bearing tree in the plant world that will bear thousands of apples.

He Was Faithful

He was all in! He burned his bridges. There was no return.

He Saw Potential in the Faith Realm

Some would find it difficult, if not impossible, to do the ministry of Johnny because it was long-term and not immediately fulfilling. He was called by God to do something great but something that not would fully bear fruit in his lifetime.

Each seed was destined to produce an amazing tree that would produce thousands of apples to the glory of God. It takes the kind of faith only God can provide to live from that perspective. We can’t work that up. “God empower us the ability to hear your calling, regardless of the timing.”

With servant evangelism ministry the fruit takes a while to come about, but guaranteed, but when a church plant remains faithful to strongly serve and show generosity to their surrounding community, astounding results will come about.

Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple, 
But only God can count the number of apples in a seed.

Robert H. Schuller