Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creative ideas for connecting with people in the real world

Let's change gears and talk a little about how to connect with people outside of church services.

here is a recent post from JESUSCREED ... do you like this idea and do you have any other creative ideas for getting out of the church box?


I am a pastor and had spent nearly a decade in our community pastoring a
congregation full-time and doing what churches normally do related to outreach and the like. I became acutely aware that I didn't know the folks in our small (about 1,000) neighborhood/community. Eventually frustration grew to a tipping point (the Jesus Creed helped with that) and we decided to do a really crazy thing, we opened a pizzeria. The whole idea behind doing this was to get to know our neighbors. We got a lot more than we bargained for.

My wife and I and our four kids jumped in with all 12 feet. We knew more people in our small town after six months of making pizza, than we did in 10-years of pastoring the church; we've been at it three and a half years now. We're just serving them and being kind -- it was the sole purpose of the venture, to just be with the people in our community that we can't seem to get to.


Joseph Holbrook said...

Murry Bradfield told me last week that their church had recently attended a Gay Pride Parade and had set up a booth with a large sign saying “Free Dream Interpretation and Spiritual Readings.” There was a long line of gay couples waiting to get into the booth. According to Murray many people experienced emotional and spiritual healing and received personal prophecies. Several were healed and others prayed to receive Christ. I thought this was a tremendously creative idea for out of the box outreach.

of course, it would not work for a group of Christians to attempt this if they had a harsh or judgemental spirit.

They learned this approach from a guy who sets up a booth annually at the Burning Man festival.

edchinn said...

Too often, "Christian world view" just means conformity to a sub-culture.

Good grief, if Jesus wasn't a Christian, I'm not sure why I should be. I'm just trying to follow Him while staying out of the weeds of the culture which grows up around "Him."

When you look through any viewfinder, you can only see what it looks at. But, if I step away from the fisheye and just look at what is in front of my eyes, I might see the glory of God.

When anyone asks me what God is saying, I usually say, "Get a job!"

I had already read Jesus Creed. And, spewed coffee across my work surface, window, and sleeping cat. Wonderful stuff! As is the booth at the Gay Pride parade.

Thank you so much for this whole topic.

steve H said...

I do like the idea of the pizza shop. (Boy, would I get fat if I tried that one.)

I don't know how creative it is, but we are trying to change our way of thinking and acting in regards to "church."

We don't have a building, but we do have a regularly scheduled Sunday gathering. We have been pretty informal in that gathering — allowing for interaction and encouraging individual contributions in the spirit of 1 Cor 14:26. We are trying to learn to see that gathering as a time to do kingdom business through prayer and declaration and proclamation — to represent the throne of the universe here on earth in our city and region.

And we are trying to encourage our brothers and sisters to mobilize their households as kingdom centers of hospitality, service, evangelism, discipleship, and... Often "churches" are structured to serve their own families and maybe a few more. We hope, instead, to be able to put the focus on equipping people to establish households (may be a single family or an "extended family") that serve the kingdom.

And we elders are setting the example and calling others to seek the Lord about involving themselves in the life of the larger community. One of our elders is a city commissioner as well as a businessman. Another elder has been involved in the local soccer league and also with his wife from time to time offers a "communication" seminar for people outside our church. (That has been held in their home or in the community room at the public library.) I am president of a citizen's group that is trying to do something to turn around a major problem in our area -- drug trafficking and abuse.
Several of our younger men have been involved in a character training program that the courts and police have established for juvenile offenders.

In other words, we are trying to move "ministry" outside the meeting and to mobilize our people as ministers. Admittedly it is difficult to turn outward, but it is our commission.

Joseph Holbrook said...

excellent comments Ed and Steve. Ed, I had kind of a delayed response to your prophetic comment "get a job" ... I'm still pondering that one, but it resonates with me. This semester I have worked hard at my 20-hour-per week as a Teaching assistant and I have consciously taken the role of servant to the 60 students under my responsability. It has been hard work but deeply rewarding.

Steve: what you are doing is a really good role model for any church. I think you are right on target by encouraging your people to be salt and light in the larger community.

I can think of several other examples of things that both me and Debbie are doing to connect with people ... Deb has developed a wonderful networks of friends among both medical staff and patients at the hospital ... some of whom she is ministering to. But I will leave more details for later until after other people share.

I know Billy has been forcefully shaken out of the salt shaker and into the world ... so has Laurel in the university world.

John M. said...

When I saw the "missional pizza" piece on Scot's blog, I thought of you Joseph. I think what they're doing is awesome. I'm amazed at some people's capacity, though. When I was pastoring full-time it pretty much ate my lunch with internal maintanence. How he can find time to work in the Pizza shop 80 hrs. a week AND continue to pastor is beyond me. I hope he and his family don't burn out. Perhaps he should resign the pulpit and just run the business.

Steve, what about the monthly "Bread and Jam" gathering? Are you seeing that as outreach or is it mainly in-house?

I think that the recovery movment is and will be an incredibly fruitful area of befriending hurting people. Every week at CR I have the privilege of rubbing shoulders with and getting to know street people, ex-cons, people living in shelters and middle class guys like myself, all who are struggling with serious life issues.

As various addictions become more "mainstream" and seemingly more prevalent, there will be even more numerous opportunities for deep life-sharing and ultimately Christ-sharing in the recovery context.

Joseph Holbrook said...

this appears to be another conversation headed into infamy and oblivian. Like Billy used to say, we started off slow and tapered off ...

While we are waiting with baited breath for more passionate and insightful comments about outreach, if anyone wants to take issue with me on immigration reform, you can come over and check out my opinion post at

Ideology and Immigration

John M. said...

Where is Murray? I'm glad I didn't hols my breath! Is he hiding in the baggage after Joseph's build up?

Joseph, maybe everyone is so busy imlimenting thier creative evangelism ideas that they don't have time to comment on the blog.

Umm, I won't hold my breath on that one either...

Joseph Holbrook said...

Murray is a busy guy. He spent five years getting a PhD whle working full-time (something I cannot even imagine) and raising a family. He worked 14 years for the city of Atlanta and now is the Vice President of acadamic affairs for Argosy university while being the lead elder and teacher in his church and finding time to go to a gay parade to pray for people and love on them. I say we cut him some slack.

We have probably talked out all of the burning issues of the day until there is not much left to say without repeating ourselves (I know i have) and we are all busy trying to live life. If you look at the archives of topics on this blog (lower right hand side) we have covered a lot of ground over a three year period with a relatively small group of people. Perhaps there is just not much left to say without getting some fresh blood (with fresh perspectives) in here.

John M. said...

All I have to say is that I should have spell checked my last post.

Brian Emmet said...

My town already has way too many pizza joints, but I like the idea and wonder what sort of a "store-front" operation we might develop...

I passed along both the pizza joint and the Gay Pride pieces to the group that is working through some fresh visioning for our church... have actually used many items from these bloggings for those purposes!

Laurel Long said...

I think very highly of Murray and Debra,VERY HIGHLY, but I cannot support supporting Gay Pride in any fashion. I have had Gay men work for me and have been just as courteous and loving to them as I would any other employee. Even tried to discuss with them a few light spiritual issues to no avail.
Did it ever occur to anyone that Jesus was confronted with every type of sin but homosexuality? I believe He would have referred those people to the Old Testament. Does anyone have the spiritual "balls" to tell them what they are doing is an abomination and sin?
Neither can I support disguising the Gospel with fortune telling as an evangelistic tool. If they experienced emotional and spiritual healing are they still Gay? I am so glad that some were saved. But what next? Did they ask for deliverance?
Joseph,you basically "judged" those who could not do such outreach as being "harsh and judgmental." I take offense to that assumption. Billy and I sanctioned 3 Gay men in our church while they sought deliverance and healing. Those three men have thanked us time and time again over the years for not compromising Truth for their tendencies. They are some of the happiest men we know.
If my comments ignite a re-fire of exchange, that is fine, but I don't want my comments to be misconstrued as being inflammatory for the sake of perpetuating an interesting discussion about Gays.
I have said all in a spirit of meekness and love for Truth and for all who participate in this discussion.

Joseph Holbrook said...

sorry I offended you.

Laurel Long said...

I may have just made your point about being "harsh and judgmental." No apology is necessary, you're a good man Charlie Brown!

Joseph Holbrook said...

np Laurel, I appreciate you and value your opinion ... and I am truly sorry if my comments offended you. I am a deeply peaceful and quiet place this morning and feel close to the Lord, so I don't want allow myself to slide into a virtual argument.

But i do want to recommend a book that edified me and has helped me in my thinking about this subject:

Marin, Andrew. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009.

Billy Long said...

I'll make a few comments in follow-up to Laurel's and Joseph's regarding Murray's outreach. When we were in Raleigh we had at least 4 men as part of our fellowship who were dealing with homosexuality. All received tremendous love and support from leadership and the people. Not once did any of them feel any sense of condemnation from the fellowship. So we have stood with and helped a number of them.

I certainly understand the principal and purpose of the new out-of-the-box outreach. I think that type of thinking and creativity is desperately needed in the church. But how do we hold both sides of the coin (without doing the pendulum thing)? How do we love and reach out compassionaltey without appearing to endorse and approve the (dare I say "sinful") lifestyle of the "Corinthian" culture in which we live?
I understand the pharisaical principle of self-righteous and religious condemnation of the "sinners", which always insulates and alienates Christians from the real world. But I also understand the danger of "falling asleep in the arms of Delilah" potential. I aggree with the creative outreach efforts, but where do the following verses and their principals come in to play?
Jeremiah and Ezekiel both chided the prophets for not exposing the iniquity of the people to bring them out of their captivity, for saying "peace, peace" when they were in sin and needed to change their ways (dare I say "repent").

Jesus said two things to the woman in adultery: 1. "Neither do I condemn you." 2. "Go and sin no more." Usually the church has only condemned and "preached". But how do we love and not condemn and not lose our way in leading them out of the sin, which can destroy and lead them to hell?
I am just talking out loud. Not trying to provide answers. And like D L Moody said to the man who criticized Moody's evangelism style. Moody said, "Well,how do you do it?" The man said, "Well, I don't do it." Mooday said, "I like the way I do it better than the way you don't do it."

Joseph Holbrook said...

Good points Billy. I had already promised myself that I was not going to allow myself to be drawn into this discussion, but here I am, a glutton for punishment. So, rather than beat around the bush, let me get straight to it.

First of all, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. There is no point in speculating about what he might of said, because he didn’t say it. Why should we make such an emotional issue out of something that he didn’t even bother to mention? I suggest it is for reasons other than strictly biblical.

Secondly, he DID say some things about lust. Unfortunately, while gays get the blunt end of the hammer from Christians, I only know a handful of Christian men who, if they are really, really honest, have dealt decisively with their lust and internet porn issues. As far as I am concerned (and I am not pointing this at you at all) the conservative evangelical church is hugely hypocritical and disingenuous on this point. There are thousands of Ted Haggerds out there, both hetero and homo.

Thirdly, we are ALL sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God and in need of prayer. ALL of us … as far as I am concerned, there is no point we ever reach when we can take ourselves out of that category. St. Paul said “I AM the chiefest of sinners” … not “I WAS …” Yes, we should “go and sin no more …” but you were a pastor … how often do people actually do that … regardless of whatever the sexual orientation is. My answer, almost zero … including within my own family. So I am simply not willing to single out gays and call them sinners. I have too many of my own sins to throw stones. I tell my gay friends the same thing I tell my single hetero friends: lust is wrong. Promiscuity does damage to the soul. It is just as true for porn-addicted “Christians” as for monogamously committed gay couples.

And finally, even if I were to concede that the gay lifestyle is dysfunctional or even wrong (which I am not going to do on a public blog – I have too many friends with whom I would rather have that conversation face-to-face), Jesus’ words were very plain: when they asked why he was mixing in socially with sinners, he answered, On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

If someone were to invite me to go to a Gay Pride parade, I would go. If someone at the parade wanted prayer, prophecy or help interpreting a dream, I would do my best to serve them in a spirit of love.

Brian Emmet said...

I concur with Joseph's recommendation of Andrew Marin's book--definitely worth reading/pondering.

I think we've aired out the different sides on the homosexuality question, so let's refocus on the current theme, "Creative Ideas for Connecting with People in the Real World." The dream-interpretation-at-Gay-Pride-Day was one idea of several int this string. Let's keep in mind, too, that we have no idea of the content of what the believers shared with the folks at GPD, so we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that it represented, or was taken as, "endorsement."

We probably shouldn't forget/overlook the obvious: thousands of churches connect with their neighbors via food pantries, tutoring programs,hymn-sings at the rest home, Vacation Bible Schools, and similar old-school approaches to neighbor love. These may not count as particularly "creative" any longer, but they have borne and do bear a lot of fruit.

Billy Long said...

Joseph, I don't think you and I are on opposite sides of it all. Although my first paragraph referred to the homosexual thing, the rest of my comments were addressed to the general "sin" issues in the same way you were discussing it. I was not speaking to the homosexual issue, but the general approach to evangelism in general, and to all of the sins of the "corinthian" culture. Also, my questions were not challenges to anyone like Murray, but were questions related to my own dilemna and how to appoach people in the world who don't know the Lord. Also, I am not emotional or "hot" about this discussion at all. It just sounds that way when you ask the honest questions you have to ask yourself. I would have to speak with Murray before I make specific charges or criticism of him. Our church in Durham when I was there set up a lemonade stand at a Gay parade that passed by. they expressed love and told them about the Lord, while another church group across the street yelled that the gays and our church members were all going to hell. So I understand the principal. But I still have to ask myself these questions: 1. How do we "jump into the world" wisely without communicating tacit approval? Also, when we do approach wisely, at what point do we, and can we at some point actually share the truth, in terms of "correcting" the things that grieve the Lord and destroy people? Most church people never get to the second question because they never address the first. I know that. So...I ask myself these questions. These are not challenges to Murray's example.

Billy Long said...

Brian, I now defer to your suggestion about discussing the broader issues.

Billy Long said...

Hey, Brothers. I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but here again is an honest question, not a challenge. Below is the verse that Joseph quoted in his comment above about Jesus' "calling sinners." That verse ends with..."to repentance."

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17.
My question is: Those of you who have been successful in reaching out to people outside the church, how has the "call to repentence" fit into or worked into the plan, in your own experience in this arena?

Joseph Holbrook said...

ok, last comment. Billy, take a look at 1 Corinthians 5, especially verses 11-13. I think it indicates that we are not called to correct corinthian culture ...its not our job ... as Paul says, "what do we have to do with judging outsiders?" God judges people in the world, not us. We are only responsable for those who make themselves accountable within the church. Thats a whole different dicussion. THose that are outside, we are only called to love and serve.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, OK, let's focus on connecting with people. Once we've learned how to establish good connections, then we can discuss some of these other worthwhile questions and issues. How could believers individually, and churches, get better at connecting with the sinners all around (as opposed to the sinners all within!)? Examples, experiences... crazy ideas?

John M. said...

Thought Questions:
• Is homosexual sin in a different category than fornication or adultery?
• Is same-sex attraction a sin in itself?
• Did the person who tried his/her darndest to be heterosexual but never felt any sexual attraction except same-sex attraction do something to make himself that way? What choice did he/she make except to try to be attracted to the opposite sex when he/she was not?
• What about the Christian man who laid on the floor until the wee hours crying out to God to take away his same-sex attraction [not just once], only to find that nothing had changed?
• Is the guy who struggles with attraction to men and sits beside me in small group each week a worse sinner than me because I “only” struggle with lust toward women?
• What about the guy in my step-study who has several years of recovery under his belt and is a leader in CR who says he will never marry because he still doesn’t have any attraction to women? Am I somehow superior to him because I have enough heterosexual attraction for the both of us – even though he hasn’t acted out on his homosexual desires for several years and I’m only nine months clean?
• Is a homosexual more “fallen” than a heterosexual?
• Does a homosexual possess less of God’s image than a heterosexual?
• Is praying for people, giving them prophetic words or words of knowledge in the name of Jesus fortune-telling?
• If a fortune-teller showed up at a Christian festival and advertised “Prayer, Prophecy and Words of Knowledge” and I went in, wouldn’t I be able to, rather quickly, discern that what was actually happening in that booth wasn’t what I was looking for?
• Couldn’t those at the gay pride event figure out pretty quickly that what was going on in Murray’s booth was quite different than traditional fortune-telling? But they stayed and received prayer. Why is that a bad thing?
• Does God withhold common grace from gays and lesbians? Should we?
• Just asking…

John M. said...

Sorry Brian, my post probably doesn't help move the direction you're proposeing. Mine posted over yours. Those qustions were flying around in my head after looking at the preceeding posts.

Joseph Holbrook said...

sorry Brian ... I think this thread is lost. Might as well move on to the next discussion.

Joseph Holbrook said...

ok, I will make one more comment. Sorry, John, out of difference to Brian, I am going to ignore your questions.

I think there is a core issue at stake in this discussion (outreach) that should be considered. One of the reasons that is given in scripture for the diaspora of the Israelites was their failure to take the blessing of God and impart it to the surrounding nations ... to be a "light to the gentiles". Because they didn't go, they were scattered.

The same dynamic was repeated with the early Pentecostal church in Jerusalem. When they tarried a little too long in Jerusalem, a great persecution arose, and they went everywhere preaching the word.

There is a great scattering going on today, as huge numbers of people are dropping out of churches ... or leaving and going to liturgical churches.

Is it possible that this is due to a reluctance to carry the blessings of God to those who are around us? Is there such a thing as collective narcissism?

Perhaps this is a different topic but it certainly relates to reasons why it is so difficult to get Christians outward focused.

Brian Emmet said...

More fun available on the new post!

SteveBrad said...

I am thoroughly convinced in this said post. I am currently searching for ways in which I could enhance my knowledge in this
said topic you have posted here. It does help me a lot knowing that you have shared this information here freely. I love the
way the people here interact and shared their opinions too. I would love to rack your future posts pertaining to the said topic we are able to read.

harada57 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.