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.

The First Conversion by Steve Sjogren

We tend to associate Cornelius’ conversion in Acts 10 solely with his coming to Christ, but sometimes Scripture gives more diverse examples of the notion of conversion. The life of this Italian cohort in Acts 10 is one such example.Cornelius was influenced by the Spirit of God for a time prior to his conversion to Christ (what I would call his second conversion) which was followed by his third conversion (the dramatic filling of the Spirit that happened at the preaching of Peter). Granted, his second and third conversions happened almost instantaneously, one after the other, but these two were distinct experiences. The question is, what led up to his two profound conversions? Lets focus on his first conversion.

He prayed regularly.
God put into Cornelius’ heart a hunger to draw near to seek him. Perhaps to a degree this invitation is given to all mankind. Sadly, few respond with a willingness to seek the Lord.

He probably connected with God through the only model he had seen – the prayers of the Jews who sought the Lord at various times of the day at his local temple. Though some of them no doubt merely went through the rote motions of prayer, Cornelius was sincere in his approach to seeking out God. God was able to get through to his hungry heart.

Cornelius was a Gentile so he was not allowed onto Temple grounds. Originally Jewish temples were to have an outer court that was to be dedicated to Gentile God fearers who were seeking to know the Lord. By the time of Jesus, nearly all temples had given up on these spaces in favor of turning these into stalls that sold sacrificial animals for pilgrims. It was this area at the Jerusalem temple where Jesus turned over tables and chased out the moneychangers and animals. Cornelius’ connection with God in prayer was a testimony of God’s willingness to draw near to anyone who is hungry to draw near to him.

As Cornelius prayed, God began to speak to him. Eventually God spoke clearly even to the point of sending an angel who spoke to him to call for Peter. He heard clear directions as to where Peter was located, what to ask Peter to do, and who to gather at his house. Cornelius had a deposit of faith for all of this to happen. When Peter arrived shortly thereafter, Cornelius’ nearest family and friends were there and ready to hear. He had told them about his angelic chat. Wouldn’t you come to hear Peter’s message if you heard from a reliable friend about the angel visitation?

As not-yet Believers pray regularly and sincerely for God to reveal himself they are likely to have an encounter with the God of the Bible before long. I have had numerous conversations with Seekers who have been in a responsive mode and inclined to seek after the Lord. My encouragement to them has been to open themselves up to hearing from God as he reveals himself. The problem with many God seekers is they are fearful of confining themselves to a single approach to God, or what they consider a too narrow approach to him. In so fearing they cut themselves off from what he may show them. Thus they are not entirely open hearted.

I have often encouraged them to give God a specific timeframe during which to reveal himself – for example, a 90-day period. Also, to give God a few things to prove himself in what is measureable – usually three matters that can be clearly tracked and evaluated at the end of those three months. I have done this a number of times with God-fearers and seen God come through consistently manifesting/proving his reality to them. My own wife, Janie, came to Christ through such an arrangement. She prayed that God would show her himself as he really is by the end of the summer. She prayed that open ended prayer on Memorial Day weekend (the beginning of Summer). She promptly forgot about her prayer – something common with these situations. In the end, she was surprisingly converted on Labor Day weekend – the end of Summer. It wasn’t until a bit later that she remembered her “deal” with God. Such arrangements are best done with Christian friends who can keep track of the passing of time and can schedule a meeting at the end of the 90 days. Perhaps Cornelius made a deal with God along these lines and God revealed himself to this Italian leader.

He gave generously go the Poor.
God impressed upon Cornelius’ heart a value for caring for the Needy. He was a generous man or at least he became a generous man. In a sense, he was initially converted in his pocketbook. God calls us to generously give to matters that are his values. As we draw near to God, his values become our values.

One of the first matters God impresses upon us is the need to treat people differently.

Near the top of the list of his values is the Poor and how we treat them. As we draw near to the Poor we draw near to God. In turn, as we draw near to God, God gives us the desire to draw near to the Poor. This is the pattern of Scripture and the testimony of church history.

As he drew near to God, the Father began to sensitize Cornelius’ heart to the things that were kingdom values. In other words, the matters that were important to God became important to Cornelius. It is probable that Cornelius had little exposure to God’s word considering that he was not allowed onto Temple grounds. Perhaps he heard occasional verses quoted by passing Jews. It’s difficult to know. In any case, Cornelius’ conversion is a testimony to the sovereign ability of the Holy Spirit to call sincere people into relationship with the Father.

Let’s bring many to the Lord. At the same time, let’s pray that God intervenes directly in the lives of those around us like our friend Cornelius. Once he initiates the first conversion, it will be a short time until the second and third conversions take place.

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.