This video with Steve Sjogren talks about the importance of prayer and outreach.
Here is a real simple one, that we often overlook. . .
WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!
No 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.
Instead 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!
Dear Dr. Savant,
Do you have any ideas for SE on Dr. Martin Luther King Day?
Pastor Eugene Jackson
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:
I had a strange dream the other night. I was sitting at a table in a McDonald’s restaurant. The room was filled with people of all ages, from children to senior citizens, married couples and singles, and teenager of all shapes and sizes. In all there were about 50 people in the room.
The smell of fries and happy meals and the sound of boisterous conversation and squeals of playing children filled the air. I had a sense of anticipation because I knew that in a few minutes I would stand up on a chair and begin to “preach” to this crowd of people.
In my dream I was turning over and over what I was going to say to this diverse group of people that would bring them to faith. I was turning words and phrases over and over in my dream-state mind, searching for just the right combination that would have the maximum effectiveness.
On another level, I thought about how my dream-character had obtained permission to preach at McDonald’s. Somehow it had been arranged. Somehow it was authorized. I don’t know the details, but it was O.K., in a minute I would stand and speak.
I moved to the front of the room, climbed on a chair, one of those plastic kind that is attached to the table and swivels and it was as I began to open my mouth that I moved from dreaming to the twilight zone between sleep and waking. I wondered about the dream as I lay there. What did it mean? What were the words that I was about to say? What would have been the effect on the crowd?
We need to bring the message to McDonald’s
So much of the program-based church is built on the assumption that people will come to us to hear the message. We spend hours preparing and then executing our weekend “services”. We are intentional (at our best) in attempting to communicate our chosen themes to the audience that will gather. But what of the majority of people who are making their way through life without ever taking advantage of what we have to offer. Is God’s message compelling enough that it can be brought into the marketplace, into the McDonald’s?
For that matter, is some form of preaching enough, or should we also be examples of what faith can mean in life? And is that preaching, that example, truly “good news?”
I received a letter written in response to one of the articles that has appeared in Next-Wave. The letter went something like this:
“I saw the… article [in Next-Wave]… and found it disgusting. Are you people so mixed up as to think that this is somehow reverence to God? Why don`t you just drive stakes through your hands and feet? It would follow your screwed-up logic. Only morons and depraved derelicts would do such things, not real Christians. [What] is the next step…? Please pray for wisdom before it`s too late. P.S. I give this counsel out of love for your soul…..Bro. Blank.”
Brother Blank’s disgust doesn’t feel like good news to me. And he’s writing in response to an article by Christians about Christians. I wonder what message he would “preach” if given the opportunity at McDonald’s.
Paul, of course, understood. He knew that religion can get in the way of trusting in God. He expounds at length on this subject in the letter to the Romans, chapter 10. He describes the dangers of trying to live according to the law code, religion at its finest, as Dr. Petersen says in The Message translation: “every detail of life regulated by fine print!” Unfortunately for most of us who have been alive for a while we’ve learned that “it’s not so easy”to live right before God in our own power.
Paul says, “Say the welcoming word to God—”Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simple calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: ‘God has set everything right between him and me!’ Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”
My McDonald’s audience
I guess that is what I would have liked to preach to my dream McDonald’s audience. I would have liked them to know that you can live a life of faith, hope and love. You can draw strength and courage to face the trials of sickness, heartache, tragedy and death. God is more than willing to help if we will only ask. I would have wanted them to know that I struggle with “right-living” but that I have the confidence that God is with me in the struggle, guiding, teaching, loving and encouraging me along the way.
I would have wished that some of them would have been willing to give God a chance to help them.
Scriptural formulas don’t mean much to those who haven’t trusted God
I don’t think I could have used some sort of scriptural formula to persuade folks that trusting in God is a good idea. You see, people who don’t know the book, can’t be persuaded by the book. I probably would have had to rely on my own life experience, to tell them about how trusting God has helped me.
We need a different language
Somehow we need a different language to communicate God’s message to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow McDonald’s patrons. People are less willing to hear dogmatic diatribes that speak from a posture of disgust and superiority. The language and attitude of “winning” the “lost” should be abandoned. We should begin tell our stories without arrogance or pride and offer good news.
Years ago now,l I attended the Off-the-map Evangelism conference at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I got to listen to Steve Sjogren, Brian McLaren, and Leonard Sweet talk about the new understandings and language needed to help our fellow travelers along on the journey of faith. Their creative ideas inspired me to think about new and different ways to bring a life-saving message to my city.
Paul asked a good question in Romans 10: “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”
All of us Christ-followers are sent to someone, to tell our story, by preaching or example. Will you be sent to McDonald’s?
Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson, 1993, 1994, 1995. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Sjogren: “The Church seems to be seeing outreach as normal behavior these days. Outreach Pastors are becoming increasingly common on church staffs.”
Serve: “Do you see any encouraging trends regarding outreach across the board?”
Sjogren: “There is certainly more focus on the topic of outreach now than at any point in my years in the Church. People seem genuinely interested in growing in outreach effectiveness. My hope is that this discussion will become many acts of obedience and that creativity will kick in in a big way,”
Serve: “What do you see as the challenges the church is facing right now in order to become outward?”
Sjogren: “Two main subjects come up here–leadership and finances. First, most are trying to find someone to lead outreach in their church. The actual physical work and organizing can be delegated. However, leadership in outreach will only be accomplished as the senior leader(s) are involved. Second, finances are an issue for everyone in this economy. Just recognize that and quit complaining. The only thing worse than a difficult economy is leaders who don’t seem to be able to fixate on any other topic. I recommend you dedicate a certain (and generous!) percentage of your budget to outreach. Dollar amounts don’t mean as much as dedicated, consistent funding that comes in week after week.”
Serve: “What is the main thing a leader needs to know in order to properly launch outreach?”
Sjogren: “Outreach will either start to launch or it will languish and frustrate your people depending on the actions of your senior level leaders–and particularly the senior most leader. As with all matters of leadership, outreach success is a team effort that will include numbers of people. However in this case it is vital that you involve senior leadership from the get go–and for the long haul–in order to properly see your people “get it.” As these few but key people get involved and talk up what they are doing your people will follow suit.
Serve: “What if our leaders aren’t naturally gifted at outreach? Our leaders are more the studious, introverted type.
Sjogren: “Your type or inclination doesn’t really matter. I have been doing this stuff for many years out of sheer commitment (at first anyway–it eventually became a joy). I come up as an introvert on personality inventories. The mark of a leader is she or he sees what is needed to be done and then simply does it. Forget natural inclinations. Do the right thing. God will bless your efforts abundantly. He will show pin the wake of your obedience.”
Serve: “Read any good books lately?”
Sjogren: “You are hitting upon a sore subject with me. I read a LOT as you may know. There is a dearth of original thinking on the Christian scene these days. If I see one more Christian author attempting to cook down a great secular book in hopes of addressing the church audience I think I will scream. Let’s get back to originality with seminal books being penned by Believers. We are in dwelt by the Spirit of God. That means we can so a heck of a lot better job with originality than we have been doing.”
In 1975 James F. Engel wrote a book called:
What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest?
It was meant to get the attention of the church and nudge them into a new way of thinking. The main thrust of his writing was to convince us that evangelism should not be thought of as simply sharing the gospel. It is not effective to simply make the same broad-based message and spread it repeatedly. No matter how innovative that approach might be, it simply will not work the same way every time. Evangelism should be constantly evolving. What is the definition of insanity? Oh yeah, it is doing the same thing, the same way, and expecting a different result.
Engel introduced us to a type of classification scale to keep in mind as we observe the people we encounter. This scale is not intended to stereotype folks as much as it is to simply remind us not everyone is at the same stage of readiness to receive the gospel message:
For the person who already believes there is a God and is aware of their separation from God, the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ is refreshing. However, for the person who doubts the existence of God or for the folks that have such little awareness of God that those three letters are really just an adjective you throw before a more profane word (yes they are out there–I have met them) the presentation of the gospel in merely a verbal form will fall on deaf ears, or even worse, become an obstacle to receiving his love.
If we picture people on a continuum from –10 which represents atheism, to –6 which might represent an open minded agnostic, to –1 which represents a seeker and on to +1, a new believer, and +5 as a person well on their way to spiritual maturity, then effective evangelistic activities (for –10 to –1) and effective discipleship activities (for +1 to +10) will depend on where the person is along the continuum. To effectively reach out to people, we must adapt our approach to where they are in their readiness.
In other words they might only be ready for a free Coke and a smile.
Remember it can take 12 to 20 nudges before folks make their way on the road to the kingdom. Just like people are different, so are the paths they are on. The nudges have to be adapted to the people. It is quite an irony that some of the first disciples were fishermen. There is a segment of society that understands adaptation. Ever been to a bait and tackle shop. Even a road side stand has more than one type of bait, hook, net, etc. If you want to see a real eye popping array, visit a store on Port Aransas, Walkers Cay or in Islamoroda.
People are as diverse as fish. God designed the kingdom that way. Rather than constantly train how to deliver the gospel, we need to train folks to be more in tune with the people they are connecting with. We need to train people how to observe and listen–not talk. Talk is cheap. That is why GO AND DO churches tend to thrive more than COME AND SEE churches.
Why is this?
The COME AND SEE CHURCH is entirely too committed to the investment in the place they want you to come and see. They have to be. They operated under the premise of “if we build it they will come,” and brick, mortar, glass and steel is not cheap. It is difficult to adapt once you lay down pegs. You can talk all you want about moving the tent pegs a bit further out, but the reality is the tent fabric will only stretch so far–move the pegs out too far and all you do is rip the tent. Having a good base camp is not bad, as long as you also invest in the gear you need beyond the tent for a variety of purposes. There is nothing wrong with having a great tent–just don’t expect it to also work well for cooking and starting campfires.
Meanwhile the “go and do” church is designed to adapt. You “can’t go and do” immersed fully in the community without adapting, even if the adaptation was not intended. You become relevant in a given situation because you have to just to survive.
When Jesus walked the earth, the region he was in was an agrarian based society. The gospels are filled to the brim with metaphors and similes that folks with dirt under their nails, from working the land, understood. I think there are a few layers of revelation that are lost on those of us that only harvest processed food. That is why I always have a garden. You learn a great deal when you get dirt under your nails on a regular basis. I had a bumper crop of tomatoes, jalapenos, and habaneros, so if you are in the Cincinnati area, stop by and try my homemade salsa! We can also have a chat about the harvest and adaptations you might need to make on your back forty.
Take a gander at the cover of the issue this month. This is not the “Harvest” Jesus was speaking of. We can’t make the “crops” we are called to tend as Christ followers into nifty little pegs that fit the same slots. We are designed with unique talents and communication skills because we are going to encounter people that are very different. There is no cookie cutter approach to evangelism that will work any longer.
There is nothing wrong with the harvest. It is the harvester that needs to be fixed.