The Human Conveyor Belt

Here is a real simple one, that we often overlook. . .

WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

hauling foodNo matter what type of SE project you are working on, chances are you have to unload and load materials.  Contrary to popular opinion, I have found that you should NOT do all the preparation behind the scenes in the name of being volunteer friendly.  Keep in mind, there going to be some new folks showing up to your outreach.  They are really afraid of “witnessing” or “evangelism” because they think most of the work here will be talking.  Those of you that are veterans, no it is more about doing than talking.  When folks gather for an outreach, they are either socializing, or fretting about all wondering if they will mess this up.  Give them something to do.  Here is way to encourage conversation, team building, and effective utilization of volunteers (if they are standing around they get bored then you will lose them).  Let’s say you have 250 boxes of Coke Zero to move from the outreach shed into three SUV with ice and coolers waiting.  Do not make the mistake you see above, where only three strapping young men heft the materials, walk it fifty yards or so, and load it.

plenty of helpInstead make a human chain.  There is an art to this believe it or not.  Look at the group of people you have meandering around and try to figure out how many you need to span the gap from the staging area to the truck.  Next, arrange folks based on heigth and reach.  Put them in a straight line from loading pile to target.  Then, this is real important, have every other person turn and face the opposite direction.  This will cause each person to be a “cog” in your human conveyor belt. They now face a partner.  Now small boxes of just about anything (try to keep the weight under 15 lbs) will fly from one place to another via simple “pushing” of the object from one person to the next.  Even better, since there is no twisting, bending, or lifting it will go smooth and easy.  The nice thing about such an ergonomic system, is that it makes it easy for even kids to help out, and people can still have conversations with one another as they work since they are facing two people each.

Try it. . .you will slap your head after you see it work the first time and wonder why you didn’t do this earlier!

I Want My Name Back by Fr. Joe Butler

Sometime ago I was driving down one of the beautiful streets in downtown St. Augustine. As I was driving, I looked to my right and saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus save me from your followers.” As I looked at this sticker, a wave of emotions flooded over me. I thought to myself:

“How can someone put something like that on their car?”

I got really upset with the gall of this person. As I drove on, there was another wave of emotions that flooded over me and questions began to arise in my mind. What has happened to this person that they would put a bumper sticker like that on their car? How did some “Christian” hurt them? Then I began to remember the times that other “Christians” treated me as I me as if I was not a Christian and did not even know that God existed.

I became very sad as I drove to the Post Office, because many times we so-called Christians misrepresent the name of Jesus. Several years ago a friend, Tom Pelton, preached a sermon and said that Christians have so misrepresented the name of Jesus, and not acted like Jesus, that he believed that Jesus was crying out to reclaim His name. He wants it back!

Have you ever misrepresented Jesus? Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone misrepresenting Jesus? If we were truly honest with ourselves we can all say that at some point in time we have misrepresented the name of Jesus.

1. We misrepresent the name of Jesus when we use Jesus’ name apart from His nature and character.

Let me explain. Several years ago a young man was murdered by other young men because he was gay. During the trial, a pastor and his church members were at the courthouse with huge signs saying “God hates fags.” As I saw this my blood boiled. God does not hate anyone. That is not His nature or character. But that is all that everyone saw on the evening news.

As you examine Exodus 34 we find God revealing Himself to Moses. In so doing, God reveals Himself first as loving, merciful, full of grace and then as a God of justice. So many times we as “Christians” get it backwards. We want to give out justice first and save the love, grace, and mercy for ourselves. St. Paul says that it is the goodness and mercy of God that leads us to repentance.

So, before we open our mouths and say this is what God is like we better check out His nature and character before we say anything. Let us truly become “Christ followers.”

2. We misrepresent the Name of Jesus when we move away from sinners.

The average ‘Christian’ after one year of being a Christian has no friends outside of the Christian environment. What a sad commentary. How do we reach people with the love of Christ if this is how we act? If we look at Jesus, he was a friend of sinners. It seems that he was more comfortable around sinners than around the “religious” people.

Today we have ‘Christian’ health clubs, stores, clothing, bowling alleys, and the list goes on and on. In fact, we could go our whole life without being around non-Christians if we really wanted to.

The problem with this is this is not who Jesus is or what he is like. If we are to be like Jesus we must get out among those who do not know him and be with them. It is not a time to judge them, but to share their life and get to know them. Instead of trying to get them to say ‘the Prayer’, why not ask them how their day was? Why not be their friend? If we would begin to do this and treat people with respect I believe that they would come to faith much quicker.

Lay down your Amway salesman evangelism and begin to be real with people. Get out among those that Jesus misses most. Let us truly become Christ-followers.

Dr. Martin Luther King Day Outreach? by Dr. Savant

Dr. Savant

Dear Dr. Savant,

Do you have any ideas for SE on Dr. Martin Luther King Day?

Pastor Eugene Jackson
–Detroit Michigan


That is an excellent question!  Most schools would love to have members of your church help out during programs and festivities on this very important day.  In fact, why not host a parent teacher appreciation dinner at one of your local schools?  It would be easy to do.  All it involves is taking the normal Sunday Church social or brunch on the road during the next PTA meeting. You could expand this small outreach into a reading tutoring program.  Tutoring reading is actually easier than it seems.  Kids love to be read to–even older kids.  As you win them over by reading a few stories, you then extend beyond that and show them how to read on their own.  I will let you in on a little secret.  When you read out loud to kids, visualation of the story comes naturally.  Most kids that have difficulty with reading lack the ability to translate the character strings on a page into viual context in their brain.  That is were you come in.  Sure there are some children that have serious learning disabilities that require the intervention of a trained professional, but what they often lack even more is face time with a caring adult that models learning for them.  That small investment of your time and energy will pay huge dividends in their lives.  The economy is really bad right now, and families with children are really feeling the pinch.  So are teachers and schools.  Why not consider sponsoring a few kids or classroom with books to read for sustained silent reading?  I can even put you in touch with a great company that sells book with African American themes for schools, teachers, and families of students at a fantastic price.  If you drop our editor’s name, you will get an extra discount:

TOWNSEND PRESS

–Dr. Savant


Keep on Serving… a Target Group by Charlie Wear

In 1998 I was burnt out. Three years earlier, I had taken over as the interim pastor of a local Vineyard church. For my three years pastoring the church, everything that I had previously learned about church growth and leading a church stopped working. As a person who believed that cause and effect were a predictable process, this was a hard lesson to learn. I also found out, like Charlie Brown, that “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.”

I had every possible kind of bad experience, from church splits, to church rebellions, to gossip and slander. I was kind of cheered up when I read a book on pastoral burnout and realized that I hadn’t ended up on the floor of my bathroom in a fetal position, like the author of the book. Eventually, the church had “grown” from about 125 to 30. It was time to call it a day, and start over. We released the remaining church members and decided to re-launch in a few weeks.

Skateboards at the foot of the cross
Skater’s “cast” their broken boards at the foot of the cross at the Skate Ranch in Moreno Valley, California.

I had become a pastor because I wanted to see people “saved”, birthed into the kingdom. I hadn’t seen much fruit from those efforts. We had tried some outreach efforts, mostly on a small scale. Simple servant evangelism projects, like handing out cokes on a hot day, on a hit or miss basis but with no sustained commitment. I had heard of Steve Sjogren, the guy who cleans toilets for Jesus, I had read his books, but I hadn’t really become outward-focused in my daily life.

Here is where the story gets interesting

At the first meeting of our re-launched church an amazing thing happened. In preparation for that evening, I asked one of our teenage boys, “What if we were to rope off an area of the parking lot for skateboarding, and set up for your band (a Christian punk group) to play, would you be into that?” He said yes, and that he would invite some of his friends.

I didn’t think a whole lot more about it until that night when nearly 60 skateboarders showed up! At one point there were more people participating in the skateboarding and watching what was happening in the parking lot, than were inside for the things I had planned for the launch of our new church.

I have learned from the scripture and from experience that you have to keep your eyes open to see what God is doing, and then to act on it! God was doing something with skateboarders! One of my fellow church members, Marv Schuler, jumped in that night, picked up a microphone and began to run a skateboard contest. He and his wife, Karen, were called that night to reach out and to minister to these kids.

The re-launched church became a small group that met on Sunday evenings and eventually that became just four of us who became truly committed to serving those skateboarding teenagers.

Bird's Eye View of Skate Park at the RanchThe Schulers’ own 10 acres in Moreno Valley, a place we affectionately learned to call the Ranch. We poured some concrete and built some ramps and skateboarders began to come most every Thursday night for skating, snacks and to hear us explain what Jesus was all about as we gathered around the fire pit. We committed to serving and showing God’s love to those skateboarders, no strings attached.

In 1998, when we held the first Christmas party, Karen prepared and served a dinner, and desserts consisting of several pies. A professional skateboarder came and shared the gospel. The Christian punk band, CIP (Christ in Progress) played. And over 100 kids showed up on a winter night!

I told Karen that night, God was going to save some of these kids with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. That’s the only gospel presentation they are going to need. When I told her that, she said she just  to see the kids come to Christ! Marv spent 4 months constructing a half-pipe. Karen and Marv took some of the kids who needed a place to stay into their home.

We shared the gospel every week over that long fall and winter of 1999. I had taken a job and was commuting daily by train about an hour and a half from my home. I wasn’t enjoying my life very much and we hadn’t seen much evangelistic fruit from our efforts with the skateboarders. I’ll admit it, after about 26 weeks of altar calls in the dirt around the fire pit, I was ready to throw in the towel.

God speaks through Steve Sjogren

It had only been a few weeks since I had stared out of the commuter train window and had uttered this simple prayer, “God, get me out of this mess.” I was offered a new job, easier commute, less responsibility, more money and with the break between jobs I decided to attend the 1999 Vineyard Pastor’s Conference in Anaheim.

On Tuesday evening, Steve Sjogren spoke on the topic, “Six Things I Learned When I Almost Died.” I had read Steve’s books and had dabbled in Servant Evangelism. The skateboard ministry was taking the principles of Servant Evangelism to the max, targeting a specific people group, concerted and focused service in the form of a skate park, food, skateboard repairs and more. But I was ready to quit.

Steve told the amazing story of his medical accident and his encounter with God. His positive attitude in the face of his ordeal was inspiring in and of itself. But near the end of his talk he used a story from the life of Moses to encourage all of us to simply be faithful to the ministry that God had placed in our hands. He explained how Moses argued with God about his ability to do what God was asking him to do. Steve was talking to pastors who did not know what to do next in their ministries, and he quoted God’s question to Moses, “What is in your hand?’ He drew the parallel that we should look to the things that God has placed in our hands and be faithful to using those things and doing those things. He told us that God “will change the world through the simple thing that he has placed in your hand.” In the case of Moses, it was his staff, but from the burning bush forward when God did something significant in Moses’ life it always seemed to involve that staff.  During the prayer time after his message I became convinced that I should not quit the skateboard ministry.

Keeping on…

What was happening at the Ranch was not normal church, but the kids (mostly teenage boys, with a few girls who like to be around the boys) were experiencing the gospel through servant evangelism (the skate ramps and food have been presented as a gift from God); through personal evangelism (there is plenty of opportunity to talk with the kids one-on-one); and through proclamation evangelism (the kids hear the gospel around the fire pit every week).

This was not your normal youth group, most of the kids had no church affiliation and did not come from homes where God is an active presence. But God did something great. We even have had the opportunity to pray for healing for parents, and for broken ankles!

A lot of raw material…

I was not sure at the time if we would ever get a church out of what we were doing at the ranch. I did know that we had a lot of raw material to work with. It was fun to be in on the ground floor of something that God was doing. It was also fun to be part of an adventure, especially when we didn’t know how it was going to turn out.

Eventually the small group got smaller…

The small group which was hanging out at the beginning of The Ranch consisted of the Schulers, my wife and I, two couples of the former parishoners of my church and my former worship leader. Our early conversations concerned whether we would allow the skaters to smoke cigarettes or not, and whether we would resist allowing the skate ministry to be turned over to the children of Christians. Eventually my wife and the two couples stopped coming to our weekly meetings.

Somehow the mission grew larger…

For years Karen’s dream had been for the Spirit to fall on Moreno Valley and for the Valley to be saved! The Ranch played its part in fulfilling that dream. In the early weeks I gave “altar calls” at the fire pit. I never saw much fruit from that sowing of the gospel. Marv spoke every week and told the kids: “This is a God thing.” “God is building these ramps, God is building the Ranch.”

We never made a conscious decision to live in community, but…

We never made a conscious decision to live in community, but about one year after we started the skate ministry my wife and I separated and I rented a room from the Schuler’s. Tom Chapman, the former worship leader at our church, bought an RV and parked it at the Ranch. So there we were, the four of us living in community! We encouraged one another, ministered to one another, and made all of the ministry decisions effecting our mission.

One sign of mission is opposition

Early on the next door neighbor made it clear that she didn’t like what we were doing at The Ranch. She hired a private investigator to video tape our preaching time and file investigative reports. She filed complaints with the City of Moreno Valley. She called the police. We went to court in that first year and won our case, we weren’t operating a church illegally, nor were we disturbing the peace. A few months later, the neighbor sued Marv and Karen for nuisance. At that point we had been cussed out, hauled into court, Marv was punched in the face and cited for assault!

Eventually we saw thousands come to Christ…

The skateboards at the foot of the cross signify the skaters who have surrendered their lives to Christ at The Ranch. My new ministry position was defense attorney. We settled the suit out of court and agreed to move the skate ramps over 150 feet away from the neighbor’s property line. We had already been asking what God’s will was in the midst of the opposition. We were convinced that he wanted us to continue to serve the skaters and preach the gospel. When we moved the concrete slab and the ramps we made the area bigger. Soon, we were joined by two young men, Mark and Matt, an evangelist and a teacher, who began sharing regularly. Ministry was opened five days a week. The “altar calls” began to yield more fruit. Over a 12-month period we gave away 3000 New Testaments to young people who responded to Mark and Matt’s messages.

I wish I could report that the opposition decreased. While we thought the police calls would end, they continued. The code-compliance complaints continued. Eventually the neighbor got the ear of two city councilmembers and the City brought their full weight and authority to bear to close the Ranch.

Living in community has ebbs and flows…

Eventually my job took me to another geographic location. The code complaints made it impossible for Tom to continue living at the Ranch in his RV. We moved away from the Ranch, but others took our place. Tom would always be the businessman who funded much of the early construction. I continued to be the defense attorney. I defended the Ranch before the City Council and before a Superior Court judge.

Others came alongside Marv and Karen and ministered to the skaters. However, in 2005 the injunction went into effect and the Ranch skate ministry was closed.

We saw God work…

As Marv says, there are many stories of how God has worked in the lives of the skaters. I know he has worked through the prophetic, in evangelism, healing, dreams and visions over the last five years. He has poured out financial blessings. While there was opposition, there was also favor. As we tried to obey what God had asked of us, he was always faithful in spite of our lack of faith.

Being missional…

We didn’t set out to have a mission to skaters. That was God’s idea, and we saw what he wanted, listened to his voice, and obeyed by serving them week in and week out for several years. We learned that a few people can accomplish a lot when they are on a mission from God. We didn’t set out to live in community, it just turned out that way. I know my life has been changed for the better because of that experience. We didn’t start out with a lot of faith, but our faith has grown as we have seen God move, with resources and fruitfulness.