St. Patrick – Patron Saint of Servant Evangelism by Steve Sjogren

St. Patrick Patrick lived a life of tragedy turned into victory. That’s supposedly why we celebrate March 17th by eating special Irish foods and drinking green beer. These are supposed to be celebrations of a life redeemed.

This time of year there is a lot of hoopla around a lot of silliness that has little to do with the origins of St. Patrick’s Day. Somehow I don’t think the real St. Patrick was all that excited about the color green. I’m pretty positive he wouldn’t pinch someone who wasn’t wearing green. I doubt he ever ate corned beef and cabbage. I’m not sure where those nutty traditions got started. They’re fun to do once a year but they have absolutely nothing to do with good ‘ol Patrick.

Yes he killed a few snakes as you have perhaps read, but that’s not what he was about. He was a champion of the underdog. He was all about liberating people who were stuck in sin, who were put down by an oppressive system. I relate to Patrick especially because he was someone who had been in slavery, he had gotten free, and now he was dedicated to liberating others from their captivity. Isn’t that what we are doing in evangelism? If we are up to anything it’s that we recognize in all humility that we are fairly messed up people who are in need of an intervention. We need saving. We don’t need a little bit of help or some reform. Like Patrick, if God doesn’t save us we will remain stuck in captivity. The good news it God has set us free just as he has done for Patrick.

Now that we are set free let’s do as Patrick—let’s make it our lifestyle that we will liberate others. For Patrick life took on greater momentum as he walked further on. The older he got the greater his impact. I believe God wills that sort of Umph for you and me as well. Let’s walk out our calling with zest, with passion and the enthusiasm of God himself. His provision rests upon us as we dedicate ourselves to losing our lives. We have nothing to lose other than our lives—and he will give us great joy in giving those up as well.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Snakes or no snakes, whether you are wearing green or not, it’s about setting people free. Let’s do it together! Thanks for being a part of the Servant Evangelism tribe.

Stop Saying “Unchurched”? by Stephen Gray

I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague recently (Darrell MacLearn) about using the term “unchurched” to describe a person. It is a favored term among most of us in the church world. But, should we use the term to describe those outside the church?

First, let’s set the terminology. When most of us refer to the church, in theory we mean “the people of God,” however in our practice we often refer to the “Unchurched” to refer to those who have not entered into the doors of our location, place of meeting or at least someone’s place of meeting. Usually the term “unchurched” focuses in on conventional models of “church” and builds a case for doing it another way. In doing so, even those who look to another mode of “church” have reduced the use of the term unchurched to a program or method of operations.  Does that make sense?

If that is the case, then we are saying, “If you fall into my node, method and style of “church” then you are good.” Yet, we all know that there are many in today’s church (conventional way of speaking) who are not Christians. By using the term, are we inferring that if someone is no longer “unchurched” then they are ok? Could someone who attends our church become churched and yet unchristian? The quick answer is “Of course!” (if you are using the term church incorrectly). Darrell was right!

Secondly, as my colleague shared, speaking to someone about being unchurched is like saying they are “un-bingoed,” and our goal is to make them Bingo players and therefore bingoed. The goal has little to do with their soul. As long as they are bingoed, they are ok. So the goal becomes to get people “churched” and less focus is placed on life-transformation.

Ben Sigman, pastor of Timberlake Church and a good friend of mine said, “We should stop using unbiblical terms to define the church, like attractional and missional, which you fidn no where in scripture, and instead talk about transformational churches.” It was a good point and one we should all pay attention too.

Maybe we should be careful as well using terms like “unchurched” and find a way to talk in terms of those not yet transformed by Jesus. That levels the playing field doesn’t it? What do you think?

Evangelism Key: Start the Conversation! by Rice Broocks

In my previous article “Evangelism is not just relationship” I submitted that we must not hesitate to share the Gospel even if we don’t have a relationship with the person. My hope is to get people talking about the Gospel. Yes, preaching the Gospel to those we come in contact with.

If we try to build a genuine relationship with someone and fail to mention our faith either one of two things is true. Either that relationship is not very deep or our faith isn’t .

Yet, great soul-winners are also relationally intelligent. They are good at starting conversations that eventually lead to God and the Gospel.  It is also critical to remember that evangelism involves listening, not just talking.

The principle I would like to introduce is called S.A.L.T.: Start a conversation, Ask questions, Listen, and then Tell the story.

In many cases, when looking for ways to engage unbelievers, it is critical to ask them questions and then genuinely listen before presenting the Gospel. The more you listen to others’ beliefs or lack thereof, the more they will listen when you tell the story of the Gospel and how it has impacted you.

As far as starting a conversation goes – I have never seen people more open to discussing God and spiritual things as they are now. Just remember to respect the person you are talking to by listening carefully to what they say. You’ll be amazed at how they return the favor.

We’ve developed a tool to help you engage those around you in this way. It’s called The God Test. For more information go to GodTest.Org or RiceBroocks.Com

5 Obstacles to Evangelism by Doug Murren

Everything that has to do with communication runs into some hurdles.  Bringing a message of hope can even have hurdles it must face.  When trying to nudge someone into Jesus’ arms there are five obstacles to evangelism you should be aware of.

One:   What options will I give up?

People are smart they know in reality nothing is free.   And following Christ does have some requisites and we all know it.  The gift of faith via prevenient grace is one. The willingness to repent is another.   And the beginning of the experience of total surrender is another.  Turning salvation into a quick prayer just isn’t honest.

You need to be honest and make part of your message a clear indicator of what options you give up when you receive Christ.  And what new options you gain.

If you can get your friends beyond this consideration you have gone along way toward doing some real nudging.

Two:  Am I making a mistake?

Believe it or not one of the chief fears of people is that they may be making a mistake.   People have an aversion to being wrong.  People have to be convinced that they are making a credible step or they will resist your message.

Do you know enough to thwart this great fear the enemy uses?  Let’s face it a personal experience of your own can be very authoritative and genuine.  Be ready to help a friend know that they are not making a mistake.  Show that the greater mistake is to not receive the message.

Three:  Peer Pressure

The next question you need to work through is, what will this cost me relationally?

This is a big one.  In our community we have a strong Mormon presence.  And we have many converts from Mormonism in our church.  Their step toward the Gospel was a costly one for most.

People do decide to change or not change partly based on how will their friends think about there choice.  It helps to address this hurdle when nudging.  How you go about that will depend upon the person and their circumstances.  I like to reference this issue when I am speaking publicly about the need for Christ in my friend’s lives.

Four:   Am I going to look foolish?

I think this fear is a predominate one in people’s lives.  No one wants to look like a nut case.  It is essential that we uphold the wisdom of a decision for Christ.  I like to recount great leaders who have been Christians when I present the Gospel to a friend.

I like supporting deal with the foolishness of not deciding for Christ when I have someone’s ear.  Churches should have an environment that makes sense for this reason.  People are already afraid of looking foolish and if we confirm it to them we lose.

Five:  Is it going to cost me too much?

Everyone has a threshold as to what life currency he or she is willing to spend.  I like to make people aware of that fact that God was not cost adverse when He gave His only Son for us.

We shouldn’t try and make it too easy for people or we will have faulty conversions.  A quick easy careful prayer just isn’t receiving Christ.  I must pause and surrender fully to Him and His vision for me not my own.  It cost everything to be a true follower of Christ and we should address this.

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!

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

Lessons from Stubby The Cat…nudging others to Christ by Austin Cooper

I have to admit that I used to hate cats. I never understood why someone would want an animal that hides 20 hours of the day and hisses at you the other 4 hours when it decides to grace you with its presence. I see all the “cute” kitten pictures girls post on Facebook and all I can think is “You need a dog in your life.” Strangely enough though, my perceptions of cats have taken a complete 180 turn in the past several months due to a stray cat named Stubby that visits our house from time to time. Stubby has not only done well for his entire species, but he has highlighted a great truth that too many of us as Christians forget: Genuine small acts of love push people toward Christ no matter how far away they are from His Grace.

Stubby started coming to our doorstep early this winter and I wanted nothing to do with him. My wife and I would sometimes put out some scrap food for Stubby. He would eat it and then go his way. I liked his lack of neediness but one night it got down to 20 degrees outside so I agreed to let him in for about an hour, but no longer. While he was in our house he was playful, well behaved, clean, and actually showed his love toward us with many small gestures. After his hour was up I kicked him outside with some warm towels that he could shelter under. A week later cold weather returned and Stubby was at our door waiting for us when we got home. This time I agreed to let Stubby stay the entire night. At about 3 am I woke up to a shifting of weight at the foot of our bed. Stubby had cuddled up and was purring more than any cat I ever heard before. All of my instincts told me “KICK HIM OFF”, but I decided to let him stay. Time and time again this has happened and now when we come home Stubby is usually waiting for us doing backflips for us to come in. I have bought him play toys, I let him stay whenever he wants, he has met all of my friends, I have bought him Meow Mix, and yes I let him sleep in our bed whenever he wants. I am officially still a dog man, but little experiences over time with Stubby has me rethinking how I view cats because now I can truly say I love Stubby and look forward to seeing him every day. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, but now I see it clearly. Stubby was working a plan. Bit by bit, Stubby was nudging me toward a relationship with him.

This experience teaches a great lesson about how we as Christians need to reach out to the Lost.

There are many people in this world who are not yet ready to accept Christ. They are “Not-Yet Believers.” They are open to a gesture of kindness and love that can nudge them closer to being ready to accept Christ. Recently, I’ve heard pastors use the analogy of golfers on a golf course to represent those who are on a journey toward coming to Christ at various points of readiness to accept Christ. Some golfers are right on the green and ready to putt their ball into the hole (accept Christ), while others are so far away from the hole it wouldn’t work all that well for a putter to move them. For the person that is far away from the hole, a simple act of love can be used to get them closer to the hole where the golfer can use a putter to nudge them into the hole (to accept Christ) so that progress will take place. Progress takes place all along the golf match no matter which club is used. The lesson learned is this – use the appropriate club depending on where the ball lies, not on your affinity for a particular club. Learn to use a number of clubs!

Too many times in evangelism we focus on the end result and we want to rush people there without taking the time to show them who God is through small acts of genuine love. There are many people who are so distant from accepting Christ, that a push in His direction with a practical service may be all that God asks at that moment. I like to think that our small obedient acts of love give the lost a first impression of who God really is, and how much He loves them. If I think about my relationship with Stubby, he did not come in and demand that he sleep on my bed and eat my food right away. I would have promptly kicked him off my property. However, little genuine acts of love over time gave me a first impression of cats and brought me to the point where I was ready to dive in to whatever Stubby wanted. When we grasp the truth that God uses even our small acts of love to draw the Lost to Himself, it inspires us to live a life that is bursting out with the love and kindness God has shown us. Every small act of our life becomes meaningful simply because a small act of love shown to an Unbeliever could be all God needs to draw them to a better understanding of who He is, which in effect draws them closer to accepting Jesus’ love.

Our church has recently caught fire on giving people within our community a first impression of who God is. As we focus on giving the Lost a little nudge closer to Jesus we like to perform small acts of kindness such as passing out free water on a hot day, passing out free candy, doing free car washes, raking leafs for free, or any free service that aims just to show people that God loves them in a practical way with no strings attached. The people we are serving often say, “I have never felt so loved by a Christian” or “I have never heard of a church doing something like this just to tell me God loves me”. Over time we have seen the fruit of nudging people towards Christ through small acts of love.

If Stubby can use small genuine acts of love to bring me to a place where I admit that I love cats, how much more can God use our small, genuine acts of love overtime to bring an Unbeliever to a place where they accept Him.

Hang in there as the ball moves closer to the hole. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to have patience.

 

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.