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!

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.