Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One out of ten ain't bad for starters...

Totally selfish post: here I am, pastor of a small-ish Covenant Church (65 adults + kids), recognizing my need to lead our folks in a more "outward" direction. Help me develop a Top Ten list of things a guy like me, and a church like ours, might do to get ourselves going and reproducing/making disciples. Let's not have any one of us give all ten, but if everyone could offer one, with some reasons why you think it's important, maybe we could create a practical list that a guy like me could start doing! I realize you can't tell much about us from this brief description, so if you'd like more info, I'm happy to provide it, but feel free to fire away without it.

26 comments:

don woolley said...

Start simple. The church I was appointed to was used to doing yard sales to raise money. We did a "yard give-away" instead ...same stuff, but all free. Its a blast. People ask "how much is this" and you get to tell them its all free just like God's love. We limit to 3-5 items early in the day and all you can cart away by the end. You can give them a small card that says, "We hope these gifts brighten your day. Its just a small way to say "Jesus loves you and so do the people of _______ church." And on the back it can have your worship times, etc along with "You're Invited". Steve Sjogrin's (spelling?) site on servant evangelism has tons of ideas like this, and it'll spark a lot of ideas of your own you could do quarterly or monthly.

John M. said...

Brian,
I like Don's idea, but I would leave off the card. Cynical people like me will think, "There's no free lunch. They're just doing this to try to leverage me into their church -- then they'll start asking for my money."

"Customers" are going to ask why it's free. Have your people say something light and ambiguous like, "Oh we had a bunch of stuff we didn't need and wanted to share it with our neighbors rather than throw it away."

Some will be satisfied, some will persist and ask, "Who are you folks anyway?" If they do say, "We're followers of Jesus who are trying to learn to live like him -- that's the short answer."

At that point they will either freak out and get out of there with their stuff, or they'll be curious and want to know the "long answer".

For the ones who get that far, say, "It's too long to get into now, let's have coffee next week and talk some more." If they're game, exchange phone numbers and when you get together share your "story" -- your personal pilgrimage and how the corporate pilgrimage fits into the context of the personal. Again, you're not trying to sell your church, you're sharing Jesus and how he relates to your story.

Then ask the person if they would be willing to share they're own story. The goal is not to "grow" or "sell" your local church, but to build a relationship. In fact keep your story short and sweet. The most important part will be their story.

Perhaps you can build a friendship and a bridge of trust over which Kingdom truth and life can ultimately travel. Perhaps a whole family or a whole network of friends and/or families will eventually open. Who knows? Remember what we've heard Joseph and others say, "No agenda or expectations except a desire to be a genuine caring friend.

What I'm suggesting will possibly lead to genuine outreach. The other approach is just another attempt at "attractional evangelism" -- hoping that if you get your church name and meeting times "out there" that they will come.

josenmiami said...

In terms of making disciples, I have come to a different view recently. We are not called (IMHO) to make disciples of Brian or Joseph, but disciples of Jesus ... and we do not do that through intensive mentoring as much as just getting them pointed toward Jesus and following him. That is no small task ... but doable. Once they are "disciples" then I see the relationships as mostly horizontal... fellow disciples traveling the way together.

One thing you can do? Talk a lot about the importance of following Jesus from the pulpit...be vulnerable and model for them your own path of discipleship.

don woolley said...

I've never thought of Servant Evangelism as attractional. As most of those who've done it know, you rarely get the people you're serving to attend worship, but it would seem rude here to not let them know they are welcome in worship - "Yeah, they'll give us their stuff, but they didn't invite us to join them." This would be especially true across racial and socio-economic lines.

Servant Evangelism, if its rightly understood is about changing the hearts of those doing it. Helping them to discover the joy of serving, as the card says, "no strings attached."

I do agree with looking for opportunities to build relationships.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, all! What else might be worth trying? Anyone think it a hopeless endeavor to try to help a "regular church" move in a more missional direction?

(By the way, and just to be fair/honest about my situation, I don't really think we fit the "regular church" model all that well either. I feel like I want to encourage a movement that is already somewhat underway. So I don't think I'm trying to "change our channel" as much as learn how to draw to the surface the rich underground springs that we hardly even know are there.)

And this post doesn't really have to be about Covenant Church in Arlington--just wanted to use a concrete situation to get us thinking together praxis-tically.

josenmiami said...

plan a "mission" night ... ask your people to go spend some time building relationsips with unchurched people rather than coming to your building for a meeting. Then, have a follow-up where you gather for prayer and ask them to share about their activities and new relationships.

Patrick said...

I like Joseph's idea.

This is really off topic, but kinda serious. I have a friend who just asked for some help. Please pray for him if you think of him. He's struggling with a heroine addiction (and we're not talking about a fascination with Queen Elisabeth here). Thanks

Robert said...

Creating environments where new relationships can be developed seems key. These occasions will have to convey "giving" rather than "gathering." People know if they are being invited to an event that is designed to get them to sign up. We have to do a better job of just simply seeking their welfare. People are automatically predisposed to be defensive toward those recruiting their resources...time, talent and treasure. Most people are responsive to those who sincerely care about their welfare. We need to prayerfully consider how to do a better job delivering that message.

Brian Emmet said...

My continuing thanks...any more of your continuing ideas?

John M. said...

Patrick, how's your friend doing? Is he in a 12-step group or a rehab situation. Severe addiction requires extreme measures to conquer. Obviously, prayer and support of friends like you is invaluable.
John M.

josenmiami said...

Jeff Rohr usually reads along in here... he is a full-time tentmaker (teacher), leads a small congregation that meets in a building, and also has developed one of the most creative outreaches to his neighborhood that I know of.

What really impresses me is that he has no agenda or desire to try to pull his neighbors into his congregation ... rather, he is looking for ways to point them to Jesus and help them be "disicples" ... he has a lot to contribute to this discussion.

Patrick said...

Hey John,

Thanks for asking!

We tried getting him into a methadone clinic, but they wouldn't accept him. He's about 21, I think that had something to do with it. He's been through rehab once, so he's kinda ruled that out. When I talked with him today, he told his friend he's done with it. I guess we'll just see what happens.

Brian Emmet said...

So Jeff, if you're lurking out there... please?

josenmiami said...

he must be tied up with mid-terms or something ...

Michael said...

I'm not a pastor (this is my disclaimer to disregard what I am about to say) but if I were to move my church into a more missional direction, I would have the church spend more time praying (this seems to be the pattern in Acts), add in Joseph's idea of freeing up the church to interact with the world (which would mean rearranging what is important in the life of the church), and teaching the Body of Christ to look for natural ways to live out our faith incarnationally in the world.
Part of this might include a change in perceptions and expectations on what evangelism is and how we go about doing it. We need 21st century models.
One of the things I hear often from members of the church we attend is the need to bring the pre-believer to a church meeting in order for them get saved? To me this seems to be a breakdown in the adequacy of the follower of Christ to point them toward Christ themselves and leaves it up to a professional (the pastor) to seal the deal.
Cetainly our confidence is in the work of the HS in the pre-believer, but the adequacy of Christ in the believer is also important.

This probably sounds to formulistic but these are my rambling thoughts.

josenmiami said...

excellent suggestion Michael... one could make a good case that every significant advance of the good news among new groups of people in the N.T. was preceeded by prayer.

I think another factor to consider is the consumer mentality that predominates among modern church goers. The thinking that the church is a provider of religious services (rather than disciples on a mission together) is so pervasive that in many case it is nearly impossible to alter. Prayer will be essential.

Michael said...

Joseph,
If I could add to that the instant gratification that if I don't get results immediately (a soul saved every 5 minutes) that it is not worth the effort.

Brian Emmet said...

My continuing thanks...any other thoughts? Trust me, I will be/am already using these suggestions. Not all will bear equal fruit in our New England soil, but nearly every one of them will at least get a planting!

josenmiami said...

Yes, in order to effect change in people’s view of engaging secular and unchuched people, you must model it as well as teach it. More is caught, than can be taught.

Next to prayer, as Michael mentioned, probably the most powerful thing you can do is to set aside some specific time yourself to begin in engaging unchurched and secular people. It may take 6 months or even a year for you to develop contacts and a network of unchurched friends…then you might start taking some of your church friends with you and letting them “see” your example.

Do you like billards?

josenmiami said...

speaking modeling ... if any of you want to fly down for a few days and go with me to the pool hall and hang with me and the tribal folks ...or some of the grad students... you are more than welcome. John M, and Billy L have both gone with me.

I want to say more about Michael's point, about being in a hurry, vs. taking the time to build relationships...but I'll let someone else comment first.

jeff said...

Hi all,
I haven't been reading for a while and came across Joseph's post from Jan 29. tonight. My comments are similar to ones that have alreay been posted. The neighborhood bible study was a gift from the Lord ... My wife and I became friends with our neighbors, which Brian, is my number 1 thing to do. Not friends to convert, just good friends. We talked in the driveway over the years, poured new sidewalks with each other(4 houses), shoveled a lot of snow, grilled out,played with their kids, hung out ... for 4 years, and then suddenly they began to ask questions which turned into a 2 couple question and answer session in the backyard after their kids went to bed. (We are 20 years older than everyone in the group) Word spread through them and now we have 8 who meet Thursday nights. My prayer (number 2) was "Holy Spirit, you have to work in their hearts. I cannot change a heart or an attitude. I can just be available and respond to what you are doing in them." So, as the Spirit does his work, I try to follow His lead as best I can. We are seeing a lot of neat things happening in lives. Everyone is in a different place but on the same journey. We will probably have a baptism soon (as soon as the ice melts which means July!) God is good. We also have an "American Idol" group which is a whole other story.

josenmiami said...

Jeff: can you remind us what grade you teach, and what subject?

jeff said...

I teach 5th graders, all subjects, in the public school system. I enjoy what I do and have taught 30 years. I think Brian and John would agree that "teach" has a breadth and depth in a school setting that is rewarding,frustrating, and often hard to explain to someone who hasn't taught. Content is important, however, the life lessons are often the ones that endure.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks again, all... I sense this thread has run its course, so new post is up.

josenmiami said...

I just want to summarize what Jeff is doing, because I think he provides (in a quiet and low key way) one of the best examples of what we are talking about in terms of getting out of the box of the Christian Ghetto and engaging the harvest. A fire-breathing, anarchist radical he ain't ...

Here is what Jeff is doing and has done as a model for other current church situations.

Jeff is a tent-maker, serving the community as a 5th grade teacher for almost 30 years... supporting himself and his family through his own labor and filling an important niche in the community.

Jeff pastors a small congregation. They own a nice but small building in town and meet in the sanctuary on Sundays. Mostly older, mature people ...

Jeff built vital relationships with his neighbors over a long period of time. Rather than trying to get them to come to his church, he engaged them right there in his (or their) home and now has a on-going bible study in one of the homes. They are being discipled to follow Jesus ... rather than to just 'go to church.'

Jeff is now sowing to a relatively new group that he gathers with and builds relationships with on Tuesday nights to watch American Idol.

Besides supporting himself in a valuable secular role...he is sowing, watering and harvesting in three different fields... reaching out to the harvest, while staying in engaged in the good "old wineskin" on Sundays...

my point is that it can be done... and it does NOT require an "either/or" approach. Jeff, don't take this as a backhanded compliment, but if he can do it... anyone can do it.

John M. said...

Jeff,
Thanks for your posts. I greatly admire what you are doing. I marvel at the capacity some of you guys have to have a vocation and two or three "bi-vocations" going simultaneously week after week. After teaching all week, I certainly don't have a sermon in me, or even the energy/motivation to go listen to someone else's. I just look forward to two or three hours of quiet, reading, writing, thinking,listening. Maybe has something to do with my introversion -- ie being drained by people and recharging in solitude.

Teaching children in a traditional classroom setting definitely has its unique rewards and challenges. It's a wonderful mission, but, in my opinion, it should certainly be approached as a mission from God, not just a job. Come to think of it, I would hope that we could all see our vocation as God's mission/placement.

Btw, Jeff, after meeting you at ACM in Oct., I would never have thought that you were old enough to have taught for 30 years! What's your secret of youthfulness.