The Christmas season is upon us.  No doubt your church is already scheduled music, special services, and lighting the advent wreath.  Are you using this as a growth opportunity?

Have you advertised on community and online bulletin boards?  I posted notice for our church’s presentation on the ‘Events’ page of the local paper,and the 3  local TV stations and 3 radio stations that had events pages.  Posters went up at workplaces and stores that were amenible.  (Not many stores will post flyers at high impact times like this -for fear of alienating those that come later and don’t have space to post – but you can ask.)

Every special music presentation should point the listener to an understanding of the miracle of Jesus’ birth.  If the music & story line doesn’t implicitly say so, the moderator or pastor must make the connection clear between the birth and death and resurrection.  Don’t assume everyone there is a believer.  I have a Jewish coworker coming to hear me sing, knowing it’s a church; she will hear the Gospel plainly.

I say this because I was chatting on an online news site last week and another mentioned he was a-theist; he wasn’t against God, just didn’t believe it was true.  He said his friends told him his lack of belief would send him to hell, but never told him how to be saved.  I mentioned that some believers don’t know how to share the faith, and pointed him to an online explanation of the plan of salvation.  He replied with thanks for my concern, at not condemning his position but offering a solution.  He said he’s never been told the Gospel before.

In your Christmas audience may be an uncle, grandma, child or friend who has never before clearly heard the Gospel.  They just came to hear the music, or to spend time with someone, or to keep peace in the family.  Never let the opportunity pass to provide a reason for the season.

I’m trained for disaster response.  Specifically, I’m one of the 80 thousand Southern Baptist yellow-shirted volunteers certified to help out in a disaster.

I’ve taken that training a step further.  I and others at my church have received Red Cross training in first-in damage assessment.  Sleeping in the truck first in.  Helping the Governor decide if it’s bad enough to make it a federal disaster area.  It gets me to where hurting people are.

I have a ham radio license.  I’m one of the 40 or so locals who actively participate in civic events like marshaling parades and parking cars at community events.  I train with the radio team and they know me.  In an emergency, I become a trusted agent with access to the shelters and the command post, as a minister of the gospel.

We train for commodity distribution, and when the church gave away 1600 boxes of food, our team did so efficiently and with smiles and prayers, ministering love with order and cooperation. (no one waited in line more than half an hour)

When we go in to “mud out” a flooded house, or take a chain saw team to remove downed trees, or set up a mobile kitchen to feed thousands a day, we do so to get close to hurting people who need to hear that God loves them, and in spite of present circumstances, has a wonderful plan for their life, and has brought me past the police checkpoint to minister His grace.

Because if I provide aid without a witness, I’m just another city volunteer, with a dead faith.  I want instead to work out my salvation to people who in that moment are anxious for a good word.

Seth Godin wrote a great post this week about the “About” tag on websites, called “Five rules  for your About page.”

It’s 5 simple rules, but they speak volumes:

1.  Don’t use marketing jargon.  Tell us who you are and what you stand for.  In plain language your grandmother could understand.

2.  Don’t use a stock photo of someone not at your church.  Use real pictures of real people (with their permission).  Not just leaders.  Ordinary people.  Helps visitors connect when they see the web face sitting next to them in the pew.

3.  Make it easy to contact you. Don’t hide the address or phone number.  Don’t use an email address that doesn’t work anymore.

4. is like 1.  He says to “Be human. Write like you talk and put your name on it. Tell a story, a true one, one that resonates.”

5.  Use true testimonials to build credibility.  Helps if it’s not someone on staff.

Good words.  Read and heed.  (excuse me while I edit mine!)

I follow the tweets and posts of Dr Alvin Reid, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Seminary and tireless advocate of youth evangelism.  It was he who taught (in a guest sermon and  then in the book I bought) that we who expect our students to be geniuses in school and supermen on the athletic field, ought to hold similar expectations of them as thoroughly-equipped mature believers before they leave high school.  (Set the standard high and watch them surpass it!)

So when I heard he had a new e-book out called advance, I went there immediately and began reading.  It’s only 48 pages and easy to read.

on pages 14 and 15, Dr Reid quotes Steve Addison in describing a christian movement.  Addison says each one has 5 essential characteristics:

1. White-hot faith: “Missionary movements begin with men and women who encounter the living God and surrender in loving obedience to His call.”
2. Commitment to a cause: A commitment to the cause of Christ and His gospel leads people to become “fearless and uncompromising agents of transformation in this world.”
3. Contagious relationships: A missionary movement will be “at home in the existing culture and yet radically distinct from it.” Movements spread quickly “through preexisting networks of relationships.”
4.  Rapid mobilization: Missionary movements that spread rapidly are not “centrally planned, funded, or controlled.” I would add this is why young people have been so instrumental in the spread of gospel movements. They do not need tremendous structure; they need a cause and a direction and then to be released.
5. Adaptive methods: From Patrick of Ireland to today, methods change even though the gospel never changes. “The forms changed to fit the context and to serve the needs of an expanding movement while the unchanging gospel remained at the center of the movement.”

Reid reminds us that our participation does not require a seminary degree or even an appointed position in the church.  Instead it is all about putting yourself in the middle of God’s will and adopting the posture of a missionary wherever  you find yourself living.


Download your own copy of Dr Reid’s book here.

Steve Addison’s book is titled  Movements That Change the World.  (Smyrna, DE:Missionary Press, 2009)

The visiting preacher suggested that 94% of Americans that reach adulthood (age 18) without becoming Christian will never convert.  He used the statistic to talk about the importance of witnessing to children.

He’s right.  It’s critical we reach young people.  Although I haven’t yet found proof of the number, I did find a study by Barna.org that says only 17% of children who did not attend church will eventually become active as adults, and 61% of them will have no faith as adults.  Fortunately, 80% of America’s kids are exposed to church programming, and most of them (70% of adults) remain predisposed to  attend church.

But still I’m troubled.  Whether the number is 6% or 17%, it’s clear that if we don’t reach children with the gospel (using current methods), they will probably not  become  Christians as adults.

The key, to my mind, is “with current methods.”  How is it that – according to Church Planting Movements author – that in areas where the Gospel is exploding (Asia, Africa, etc.), the conversions are among adults first and then their children.  In those situations, the overwhelming numbers of conversions are adults who had no prior Christian contact.

Fortunately for us, we live in a country dominated by a Christian context.  what the data suggest is that we don’t try to reach adults.  We focus our attention on children.  If we instead spent half that effort on getting adults into some sort of meaningful Christian dialogue, especially in a Gospel situation, would we see a turnaround in the numbers?

Ruth Moon at Christianity Today has started a discussion on whether Christians should show affinity with Muslims and fast during Ramadan. (“Should Christians Fast During Ramadan With Muslims? ” – CT 26 Oct 09) 

Beyond the responses from the 10 church leaders contacted for their opinion, there is discussion on the topic in the blogosphere, as there is every year during this annual fast.  What should the proper response be?

The answer seems to be:  “It depends.”

Proponents of religious tolerance say we should make accomodation, especially for Eid, the celebration that ends Ramadan.  Some even offer an ecumenical solution, that we join with them as a sign of solidarity and frinedship, out of respect for their religion.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum, responses include:

  • Not in a western country. On the contrary, they should pretend to eat so as not to offend me.
  • Let’s fast when the Saudi’s do, which is 10pm – 6am our time.
  • No. This would indicate solidarity and some sort of compatibility with Christianity.
  • No. Christians should only observe Biblical fasts, such as Yom Kippur.

I come down somewhere in the middle, and always with a motivation qualifier.  What is the purpose of the fast, and are you strategic about it?

The Muslims I knew fasted out of duty, abstaining from food and tobacco and caffeine during the day, but partying hard at night.  Then they’d go to bed late and have an even harder time functioning at work the next morning, with no coffee or breakfast to ease the headache, and no cigarette to calm the nerves.  Fasting that way, as a ritual, is not effective.

But if you observe fasting the way the moderate Imams suggest, spending time reading the Scriptures, doing acts of kindness, etc, then it is appropriate to match them, so long as you either engage them in spiritual discussions on the meaning of the Quran, especially the person of Issa (Jesus), assurance of Paradise, and the need for personal peace.

If you are not near any Muslims, then take the time during Ramadan to fast and pray for missionaries that are, and that the work of the gospel not be hindered. 

Fasting for the sake of fasting is empty religion.  Fasting for the purpose of strengthening your prayers for the salvation of the Muslims is however a commendable goal.


In choir tonite we continued learning “Let the Church Rise”.  It has such a powerful message to the struggling church and the church in transition that I wanted to share it with you.

Music is a large part of my life.  I’ve done just about every kind of job there is in the local evangelical church, and in most of the churches I’ve been part of I  sang in the choir.  I have also been choir director, children’s choir worker and congregational worship leader several times.  When my children were young, I would rock them to sleep singing my favorite hymns.  Music – especially worship music – speaks to me.

The words of Israel Houghton & Jonathan Stockstill’s Let The Church Rise are instructive:

We are alive filled with Your glorious life
Out of the dark into Your marvelous life
We are waiting with expectations
Spirit raise us up with You

Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise

We are moving with His compassion
Spirit fill our hearts with You

Let Your wind blow, Revive us again Lord

And Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise

It’s a great song, with an easy 6/8 melody.  So I went looking for a youtube of the song to share with you.  What I found was an unusual mashup – an Anime video to the song.

Anime is the Japanese animation art form that is beginning to take hold around the world (in part due to Pokemon and similar shows).   It has roots in ancient Japanese myths (often from Shinto religion), but the themes are universal,  generally featuring someone of low status bringing light and power to overcome an evil force.

And so we blend old Christian themes into modern youth animation to let the message “rise from the ashes” as we are “light in the world.”

May your missional heart be stirred as you watch:

Jon Cook, who leads an organization of industrial chaplains, quotes Joe McKinney, a former pastor and now in the marketplace, “I am convinced that if we aren’t going into the workplace and building relationships with business people because of a lack of time then we are doing things that God doesn’t intend for us to do.”

Jon says

” In our culture today, evangelism is building relationships with unbelievers. It is loving, caring, and serving. It is investing time. It is patience while waiting on the Holy Spirit to woo an unbeliever, through a relationship with a believer, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is proactive. And it happens in the workplace.”

The world thinks it knows what a church is for, and what Christians are like.  Let a person of faith act different from what the culture thinks we ought to do and see how they protest.  “Christians shouldn’t do that.”  They don’t come to church because they think all churches are franchise operations, the way every McDonald’s worldwide has exactly the same menu.

What the effective pastor – or lay person – needs to do is get to know and be known by those outside the church.  When they look past the denominational exterior and begin to see us as people of compassion, that’s when we can begin to make the case for our Savior.

Jon’s post got me thinking. I commend it to you.  Read it at joncook.wordpress.com

I heard again tonite a podcast I downloaded from Ozark Christian College from David Bycroft on “Celebrating the Small Church.”  He pastors a church of 700 in a Kansas town of 250, and at the time of the sermon was praying for 3000.  Briefly, here’s some of what he said:

First, know again that the impossible is possible with God.   You can build a congregation that reaches the lost.  In Bycroft’s terms, the average church takes a sports car and each week turns the ignition and “shifts into neutral,” agreeing to do exactly what was done the week before, getting the same lack of result they’ve gotten every other week.  Instead, Bycroft urged his listeners to be extraordinary by tapping into the power of God .

Second, know that it will take some work.  It will take personal prayer on your part.  You will need to teaching your people HOW to pray effectively. And you need to do what you do with intention, being a church that works hard at being God’s church.

Third, get help if you need it.  If you need to learn more, or need encouragement from seasoned pastors, remember that there are LOTS of free podcasts out there.  OCC is but one of the Christian schools that records their chapel services and makes t he sermons available for free download.  Start here.

“Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

What do you do if the visiting high school football team comes without fans, without parents, without a cheering section?  Would you send half your parents to sit on the other side and cheer for the other team?

Rick Reilly has an article about a game in Texas where this happened.  Grapevine Faith, a Christian High School, hosted Gainesville State School, and more than just made them feel welcome.  “For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.”

Faith’s head coach, Kris Hogan, knew the  14 Gainesville players were serving time in a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas.  He also knew few people showed them any kindness.  They traveled handcuffs with 12 security guards.  People avoided them.  They themselves expected no kindness.

Instead, Hogan called some of his parents and asked them to make a demonstration that would tell the kids they still mattered to tell them “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

He put in players from the 3rd string to make sure the visitors scored some points, ending the game with a respectable loss (33-14), enough to give their coach a squirt-bottle victory shower!

And as the boys walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.


Read the full article at ESPN.com


Now that you’ve read, what opportunities will you look for to show the love of Jesus in extraordinary ways?

Next Page »