Having A Heart For The Poor Means Having A Heart For God by Martin Buehlmann

Not that long ago my wife and I were sitting in our kitchen, preparing a nice family dinner. Suddenly our doorbell rang. Going to the door we saw Ghebremariam, a 38 year old woman from Eritrea who works for Mariam. Ghebremariam is a refugee from Eritrea, a neighboring country to Ethiopia. She had to leave three children behind and has now been in Europe for four years.

We have known Ghebremariam for quite a while, since Christmas when she came to our home for a party for the lonely and enjoyed it immensely. As she sat with us in the kitchen, she began to share more of her heartbreaking story. When she came to Europe four years ago she hoped to find a place of peace, a home, a hiding place from all the abuses, all the arbitrariness and unrighteousness she had to live under. But now, as she was sharing her story, crying aloud, she told us she was just refused as a refugee, being left without any rights and without support. Our dinner changed from a leisure time to a wonderful expression of care, love, acceptance. We listened, cried with her, hugged her, prayed for her and finally blessed her with some money. After two hours her countenance lifted and she smiled slightly. When she left we knew that we had expressed the kindness of Jesus to this dear woman.

Suddenly it dawned on me. It is Good Friday and Jesus has visited our home. We were able to console Him, for Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, that whatever we have done to one of the least, we have done to Him.

Serving others means meeting Jesus in the lives of others, sharing their pain and helplessness. As we are faithfully doing this as an expression of our lifestyle, it becomes a continuous prayer and invitation for Christ to come.

4 Moves That Guard Against Burnout by Steve Sjogren

Burnout is a regular problem with anyone who reaches out. Jesus was in nearly continual outreach mode in his three-year ministry so he found it necessary to take on a number of mindsets in order to live with spiritual centeredness. Here are a few of Jesus’ points of view you might find encouraging.

Define for your assignment.
Invite God to clarify the specifics of your calling. Listen in. Take notes. God tends to speak the most clearly to me in two settings – as I wake up and as I drive. A friend suggested someone drive me around and I take short naps throughout the day in order to hear from the Lord a lot. Maybe we can try that sometime. Figure out what your primo setting is and reproduce that as often as you can. God is more interested in speaking to you than you are in hearing from him.

Focus on the outcome.
It’s easy to grow frustrated with the burdens and details of the present. We frequently hear encouragement as to the importance of aiming on the immediate only. When it comes to outreach it’s not that way. There are times when it is best to look ahead. Scripture says that Jesus endured hardship for the joy that was set before him. We are wise to follow his lead.

Flow…Give Up On Struggling
One of the most frustrating assignments in the world is the sense that we are responsible to create a spiritual result. We are incapable of making something happen in the spiritual realm – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our role, like Paul’s, is to plant and water what God has already begun in others’ lives. Walk in sensitivity to what God is up to. It’s usually not all that difficult to see what he’s up to. Go where the joy, the passion, the energy is. It is exciting to be in the midst of where the Spirit is at work. Find that sweet spot and live there.

Be unique.
Look for the specifics God has for you whether you’ve seen anyone else walk there or not. Perhaps there are new approaches to ministry God has in mind for you to carry out that no one else is doing. Be bold! You may think you need permission to step out. In many cases that’s not the case. You’d be surprised how often those you think you need to clear things with will be overjoyed when you simply try something new then show them the results afterwards. Nearly always you’ll receive a standing ovation!

5.5 Things To Do When Rejected On An Outreach by Steve Sjogren

No matter how hard you try to come across as a “safe” person to those you reach out to, some will not receive your offer of service.  That is an unalterable reality. But don’t fret. There are some proven steps I’ve found that work well for dealing with harsh people.

1. The Forrest Gump-Andy Griffith Response.
It’s never a good idea to return fire with fire. Instead, put on a combination smile and blank response. You might practice this response with others on your team. You might be more of a natural arguer – that’s my natural inclination but it doesn’t work well. I’ve managed to abate other’s anger thrown my way many times and in fact I’ve been able to later return to the same place with the same personnel and find them willing to allow us to serve them!

2. Keep on keeping on.
The one thing we can’t entertain is the possibility of giving up. The end of Paul’s verse above regarding giving up is the quip, “for we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Keep that promise in your heart. There is a harvest before you and your team. Remind your team that we are doing something that blesses the heart of God. When we reach out we are doing the ministry of Jesus – that is amazing!

3. Realize what is happening beneath the surface with those you serve.
Sometimes the most angry, nearly violent responses come from the very people who are being the most profoundly worked on the most by the Spirit of God. Keep that fact before you. If people are lackadaisical, ho hum regarding your outreach attempts you might be register with their souls. Remind your team that they need to proceed by faith, not sight, and serve with enthusiasm regardless of the surface of response.

4. Release the hound of heaven on them.
Francis Thompson wrote a poem with this title about the pursuit of the Holy Spirit – how he pursues people with power and faithfulness. When we serve, according to Paul in Romans 2:4, “the kindness of God leads to repentance.” Something supernatural is released upon their lives. It’s not our job to make sure everyone we reach out to is efficiently followed up on. If you read the Book of Acts it is obvious that many of those exposed to the Gospel were followed up on by the Holy Spirit in sovereign ways that only God could arrange. In other words, don’t sweat it! Your extra efforts won’t change things in any case. It is the ministry of the Spirit to see to it that people come into the Kingdom, not yours. Do what you can, then relax, smile and continue to plant, water and harvest as the opportunity presents itself.

5. Tell your story!
Chances are some haven’t had a 100% successful day of outreach. Sometimes an encouraging conversation will un-empower the work of the Enemy that might otherwise scare the daylights out of people. A friendly sharing time will allow them to realize they didn’t fail but that it was probably just that the person they connected with who was having a bad day.

5.5 Eat a taco.
Stop at Taco Bell (or wherever) and connect with others on your team and download regarding your outreach experiences regarding what happened. Why a taco versus a burger at Wendy’s? You can eat like a king at Taco Bell for about $1.95!

Serving Together = Growing Together by Austin Cooper

“Enjoyed spending my morning with the kids and my church family doing a Winter Survival kit outreach!! It’s an awesome experience and I am so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to teach my kids how to show Gods love in simple, practical ways.”

“I am blown away by God’s mercy, just to be a part of His work…it’s amazing!!! Today we got the opportunity to drive a little boy and his sister, whom we met on an outreach, to church and he said are you taking us to Jesus’ house??? He was SO excited! What a blessing to be able to be used by God to draw people into Himself…we are SO unworthy!!! It BLOWS my mind.”

These quotes are real Facebook posts from two different people in our church that have occurred in the past month. As a culture of Servant Evangelism is enveloping our church there seems to be a two part blessing that has occurred from our church developing an outward focus: a blessing for us as a church and a blessing for the people we are reaching by showing them God’s love in simple and practical ways. Nothing highlights these two blessings better than the two Facebook posts above.

In August of 2010 our church started participating in Servant Evangelism. As a church we did a kindness outreach on a Saturday from 10am-noon once a month in which we served people in very simple and practical ways such as $1 car washes (wash a car and give away the dollar), leaf raking, toilet cleaning, soda and water giveaways, washing windows, etc. When we were asked by the people we were serving why we were doing this we would just respond, “We wanted to show you that Jesus loves and cares for you in a practical way.” Furthermore, we passed out a card with a big smiley face on the front that says: “We hope this small gift brightens your day, there are no strings attached. We just want to let you know God loves you.” We had so much fun we decided in January of 2011 to start doing the kindness outreaches twice a month. Finally in June of 2011 we decided to completely dive in and start doing a kindness outreach every single week whether we have 1 person show up or 20 (trust me there has been plenty of weeks where we have had only 1 person show up to an outreach, but God still uses it) and we have seen the outpour of blessings that God has put upon our church, both from the inside and the out.

From the very beginning of our outreach efforts it became apparent that God was using this outward focus to bless and bring our church together. Whenever we step out and look to further God’s kingdom there is a great deal of joy involved. I have never felt or seen strangers within a church grow to become a loving family quicker than when we are serving others in fun and practical ways. When we set out on our outreaches whether it be simply giving away soda or putting on a block party there is an overwhelming sense that God’s Spirit is going before us and just as in Acts 13:52 which says, ““And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” there is a great deal of fun, bonding, and joy involved. We have all heard the phrase: “A family that prays together stays together” well I like to say “A church that serves together grows together.” This growth means takes place both physically and spiritually. The two Facebook posts at the top of the page illuminate this truth greatly. God blesses us in the greatest way possible when we bless others.

Of course our ultimate goal in reaching out to others in our community is to allow God to use us to bring those who he chooses to a place where he can draw them to Himself. When we pass out sodas, or chap stick, or whatever it may be we always pray that God’s spirit will use such a simple, material thing to change someone’s heart towards him. I like to think that through Servant Evangelism and a simple offer of a 10 second prayer after we serve someone, we are giving people a new and redefined first impression of who Jesus is. This impression destroys any other impression that they may have had in the past through bad experiences with other Christians. We constantly get comments from people who say “I have never heard of a church that would do something like this” or “I have never felt so blessed and loved by a simple act of kindness”.

After consistently serving every Saturday for just an hour and a half for 6 months we have started seeing many of the people we have reached out to come to our church on Sundays where they get to hear in even more detail about who Jesus is and what he has done for them.

At a recent free block party outreach we put on I met a student, introduced him to Christ then baptized him. This was one of the neatest moments of my life. We have multiple people in our church picking up those who we have met during kindness outreaches and bringing them to church (i.e. second Facebook post at the top). We have people that have never been to church before coming in our doors and actually enjoying it. The truth is God chooses to bless those who are warriors for his kingdom. Strangely enough our warriors clean toilets, rake leaves, mow yards, and pass out soda, however sometimes there is nothing more fulfilling to us, and useful to God, than to reach out to the Lost providing them with a spotless toilet, a clean looking yard, and a quenched thirst.

The Few Can Touch Many by Steve Sjogren

It doesn’t take a large crew to make leave a big footprint.

Victory in God’s kingdom has always gone to the underdogs. God nearly always anoints a miniscule group to do his bidding. I find this encouraging since all that I have started has been small – usually for a long time if not forever. What God builds usually starts (and typically stays) on the smallish side.

I used to say that it started small but then would grow large, but now I see that often numbers usually only grow fat. I now see that it is almost always the case that a radical but small fringe gets the Kingdom lifestyle and message. Why does it stay small? It’s all about the offensive cost of mercy. Jesus said “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 18). The context of that verse could well be restated, “Many are called but few choose” the Kingdom. The Kingdom, as God defines it, is always something that is set up according to his parameters, not ours. Most don’t like that much, so they protest, they decide it’s not for them, and vote themselves out of it like the religious people in Matthew chapter 18 (yes, it was the religious people who decided not to participate in the Kingdom once they figured out how the mercy of God works as in this story).

This Jesus story is fresh with me today. A few of us went out mixing it up with dozens of lost people who, like those in Nineveh, didn’t know their left hand from their right. We did a $1 carwash. We washed people’s cars and paid them a dollar for the privilege of serving them. We stunned many. Numbers teared up. We teared up! I’m always amazed what can happen when a few, enthused, dedicated people move in a common direction and pour their hearts into something. Do something great with God. It only takes a few.

Flower Give-Aways Are Great Outreaches by Janie Sjogren

flowers

Get a group together to bundle up flowers, with some other accent greenery.  Target anywhere that you can find women, i.e. shopping areas, Nursing Homes,  and people leaving libraries and exercise clubs.

Buy buckets of flowers, baby’s breath and some fern.  Get some ribbon, clear and green paper to wrap the flowers in, and some preprinted cards and rubber bands.

outreach cardCreate cards to attach to the flowers:
We just wanted you to know you are loved!

Have a blessed day!

From ______(church, website, celebration times, phone number)

This is a small reminder that you are loved!

or

Have a great day!

From ______(church, website, celebration times, phone number)

Create Phrase: Use a phrase above, or create your own.

Copy It: onto colored paper or cardstock.

Cut It: Assign a perfectionist to use a paper cutter and cut up into smaller cards.

Punch It: Make a hole with a hole punch in each card.

Bundle It: Buy buckets of flowers, baby’s breath and some fern.  Wrap a flower with some greenery, surround with green and clear plastic sheets of floral paper to wrap the flowers in, and secure with a rubber band.

Thread It: Thread a ribbon or two through the hole to attach the note to the flowers. Use one or two colorful strands, maybe 2 strands of 12” of either of red, pink, purple or white curling ribbon.

Bucket It: Place bottom ends of flowers into water in buckets, tub, coolers or bins to transport your flowers to your hand-out site.

LOCATIONS FOR OUTREACH

Intentional Acts of Kindness:  Find women to give flowers to on street corners, nursing homes, shopping areas and door to door give-aways.

Empower the people in church to extend love beyond the walls of the church:  Have the flowers with cards attached and ready on Sunday morning, and ask people to take them as they leave to give away.  They might have someone in mind, or they might know of someone who lives alone in their neighborhood who could use a lift.  Or they could hand them out to strangers that they come across.

WHAT TO SAY

“We just wanted to bless your day!”  “We just wanted you to know you are loved!”

How Do You Spell Effective: S-I-M-P-L-E by Doug Roe

A few years ago, I was standing on a street corner giving away cans of soda. Traffic backed up as people stopped to get their free soda. While most people were pleasantly surprised, one man stood out as particularly unhappy. He pulled to the corner, the windows of his big dark blue Buick rolled up, with an annoyed look on his face.

“Diet or regular?” I asked. He took a diet soda – though he was not appeased.

Several weeks later I was washing cars at a business near the same intersection when who should appear? The same annoyed man in the big Buick!

Annoyed Man!
You are causing a traffic jam!

My job that day was to be the “wheelman” – that is, to wash tires and whitewalls. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the grim from the annoyed man’s tires, when I looked up to see him towering over me like a vulture. He had the same annoyed look on his face. I figured that I needed to say something before he did.

The first thing that popped into my head was this:  “If Jesus were here, what would you ask of him?”

The question seemed to disarm him, and for a moment he forgot that my act of kindness had annoyed him. He offered money for the car wash, but I refused. I continued my offer to pray for him. He asked me to pray for his family, so I prayed a quick prayer and he was on his way.

A few weeks later, low and behold, I was shocked to see “Mr. Buick” and his family seated on the front row at our Easter Sunday service. At the end of the service, he and his wife came forward and asked me to pray with them. We prayed, and he accepted Jesus as his Savior.

In more than 20 years of serving others, I have learned a few things that have helped me enjoy the ride.

Servant Evangelism cannot be delegated!

People will follow what they see their leaders doing. Leader must be involved in serving others as a completely natural lifestyle – an overflow of their living, vital relationship with Jesus. If you are the lead pastor you don’t have to be the one developing the ideas and doing all of the legwork, but you do have to be the lead server.

Start small with out-of-the-box ideas.

Often when we start a new project we think of starting something that is creative and dazzling. The power of serving is not in the size or “uniqueness” of the project. Projects that capture the inspired, creative attention of your people don’t need to be “sexy” or have a lot pop and sizzle.  Simplicity if often the best approach to take.  If you get nothing else in this article get this:  The essence of the power of serving is in showing up in unexpected places. It is a simple act of compassion shown in a place where it is completely unexpected. Keep it simple, and the creative things will follow.

Listen to your community.

Every community is different.  And those unique needs that can and will be met by the unlimited resources of the kingdom of God flowing in and around us.  The key? To find a need and then meet that need. The best ideas for reaching the people in your city are to listen to the people in your city – understanding their rhythms and needs.

While shopping at a local grocery store, I overheard two single mothers discussing what groceries they had put back in order to get the oil changed in their cars.  The thought popped into my head, “I can do that! I can help them change oil in their car!”

So I went to a local mechanic to ask if he would be willing to help. “Now that is what the church should be about!” he said, blowing a puff of cigarette smoke in my face. We now change the oil in 300-400 cars a year, and we are beginning a new, broader ministry to single parents.

Servant Evangelism is like growing asparagus.

When thinking about evangelism, we often think of wheat, but I have discovered that it is more like growing asparagus. When a gardener grows asparagus it takes three years before he can yield a crop.
Asparagus Bunches

Pastors often ask, “If I do this serving thing in my church how many people will come to my church?” That is the wrong question to ask, and really reflects a “me” mentality.  Servant evangelism is about the Church being the Church and serving others. If I try to grow my local church things just get mucked up. But if I serve other people, seek to expand the kingdom of God, and do the deeds that Jesus did I find that God brings the people. In the end it is not about the size of our congregation or budget, but about the number of people we have loved along the way.

Gene, the annoyed man in the Buick, has been part of the church for more than 10 years now. He and his wife lead a small group. This once annoyed driver now helps me give soda away to other annoyed drivers.

“You know that day I stepped out of the car while you were washing the tires?” he asked one day.

“Yes,” I said, very clearly remembering it.

“I was going to chew you out for having caused such a traffic jam the day you gave out the sodas,” he said.

“What stopped you?” I asked.

“The fact that you wanted to pray for me,” he said. “I still have the can of diet soda you gave me sitting on the mantel of my fireplace. I kept it because it was the starting point that brought me to Christ.”

People may not flood into your church because you gave them a soda, but their lives will be changed because you were willing to share God’s love with them.