Archive for February 2011

Mistake #10. Over-Training.

When we lack confidence we tend to seek out programs that seem to promise easy success. These are fear responses. Success is not so easily gained. God wants to “co-labor” with us as Paul wrote.

Our human tendency is to overdo the training dimension of things while we delay obedience to Christ’s call to actually evangelize. Of course we need to be trained in order to adequately walk out our call of outreach. Too much focus on training will cause us to be reticent. If the cadence for action is “Ready-Aim-Fire” we tend to never get to the final part, to Fire.

How can we make a correction? Let’s pull the trigger sooner. Let’s get to Fire now. We need to hit the activate button. Until we actually get to Fire we are not obeying God, we are not advancing the Kingdom.

Yes, training is a good thing. Let’s not allow it to be a substitute for obedience. There is too much vital stuff going on around us to delay our obedience.

Mistake #9. Not enough training.

Training is essential. In the Book of Ephesians Paul wrote of the need for the “equipping of the saints” to take place in the Church of God. That is the role of the office gifts: Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist, Prophet, Apostle. As those offices of the church are in function, the Church is equipped to do works of ministry. Effectiveness is hopefully accomplished. I say “hopefully” because there are other factors to take into consideration. We also need to be willing to obey. We need to be hungry for results. God shows up in our settings as we say, “Here I am!”

At times I have been guilty of asking people to do more than they have been comfortably able to do. Comfort isn’t the only factor to take into consideration in ministry, but we as leaders are foolish if we discount the importance of people’s feelings. To miss out on this factor is to slowly erode the strength and enthusiasm of our teams. Just because you as the leader are decent at walking out your version of ministry doesn’t mean your team will flourish in those same areas.

We can fall prey to gift projection. For example, just because I find it fairly easy to talk to strangers that doesn’t mean others will find it possible to reasonably engage with those they have never met. Or just because I as their leader find it fairly easy to share my faith that doesn’t mean others will be able to find it possible to convey their belief in Jesus in a natural way. The job of the leader is to empower those he is leading with the mission at hand. Leaders remove barriers to their followers face to the big picture.

As the office gifts in the Church world function rightly there will be plenty of courage to go around. The name of the game is to stir up the gifts of God he has placed within us. That’s the balance in all of this. Let’s focus on the unique gifts God has placed within each of us. Let’s take those seriously. Let’s celebrate those in one another. There’s no point in trying to imitate the gifts of others. God doesn’t make copies. He is only into making originals! You are an original work of God.

Mistake #8. Not enough mentoring.

The typical way leaders depend on raising up people involvement is to exhort them into service. “If you know what’s good for you you will go out with us to do outreach…” That approach might work for a short time and with a few people. If you hope to connect with more folks you are going to have to do something that is a lot more hands on.

Bring others alongside. Show them how things work. It’s about encouragement.
Outreach is more caught than taught. It would be nice if we could merely pass on a book to read and once that’s done we would be able to simply say, “Now I get it. On to the next thing.” Outreach doesn’t work that way. It’s necessary to work with others who get the message in order to become effective. Like no other area of ministry, outreach is rich, deep yet simple at the same time. All I have known who have excelled at outreach have been mentored by someone who understood it well. It is learned by taking hand of someone who does it well. We gain faith by seeing success happen.

Mistake #7. Too few outreach opportunities.

Sometimes we think about doing outreach only now and then. But it takes a steady commitment to reaching our community if we hope to be effective.

When we have done an effective outreach that is a bit unusual I sometimes hear other churches comment, “We ought to do that next year at this time of year…” My response is, “Are you serious? Wait till next year before you step out? Do something next week or this week maybe.” There is sometimes a Hail Mary football desperation pass mentality present in our outreach thinking. Certainly there is something to planning for a cool outreach in a year, but we need to “occupy till he comes” as Scripture exhorts. We need to get to work right now.

My discovery is this: for a church to effectively launch into outreach it needs a weekly team outreach for six months straight. That’s 26 weekly outings in a row. At the end of that time there will be significant enough momentum that your church will be able to sustain outreach long term.

That may sound like a lot of outreach and it is a lot. If you have not been doing anything in the realm of outwardness that is certainly is significant. But keep in mind what you are seeking to happen. You are launching something great. In effect you are launching an airplane. You are helping something go into orbit. To get adequate lift and thrust it takes a measure of momentum to get things off the ground.

Mistake #6. Not taking enough risks.

We tend to be perfectionists as Believers. It is easy to conclude that if God wants our best effort, then we dare not step out to do anything in representing God unless we are guaranteed a win. I believe G.K. Chesterton was inspired when he penned this thought:

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

There is a time to step out of our place of safety.

I’m skeptical of cold, thin and hard.” – G.K. Chesterton

He said this in the context of debating George Bernard Shaw, who was very proper, calculated, thought through in his communication style. Shaw was an avowed Atheist who often took on Chesterton, a committed Catholic Christian during the World War I conflict in England. Chesterton was a bachelor. He was a bit frumpy. His clothes were usually wrinkled. His mustache was rarely trimmed correctly. He was significantly overweight. Once a woman asked him why he wasn’t “Out on the front” as others his age were during the war. He turned sideways to show his tummy and said, “Madam, I am out in the front!” What Chesterton lacked in the precision Shaw displayed, he made up for in his passion, conviction, not to mention his own brand of thinking on his feet. Above all else, he was comfortable taking risks.

Somehow we have gotten to the point in American Evangelicalism where we view the taking of risks as an unnecessary option. We are against all that has to do with stepping out on any sort of ice—thick or thin. But risk is part of progress in the Kingdom of God. If we hope to effectively co-labor with the Holy Spirit we must grow used to being in a place of holy discomfort.

Put another way, we won’t be successful in bringing others to Christ unless we are willing to be uncomfortable. How about it? Are you willing? The ice is fine!

Mistake #5. Trying to control the results.

All evangelism works… if you just keep at it.

This is particularly true for Servant Evangelism. God’s Spirit flows through us out to those we serve. The success of SE happens on the spot each time we have a serving encounter. In a sense, all of our serving projects are merely excuses we make so we can expose those we serve to God’s presence in us. As people get in touch with him, their lives are changed every time. “The kindness of God leads to repentance” says Romans 2:4. God’s winsome presence is released through us as we show people the kindness of God. This is a simple but profound truth. As we serve, God’s Spirit embraces others.

There is a pipeline that flows out of us as we serve others. That flow is the secret weapon we wield in outreach. Ultimately we aren’t so much dispensers of information though we do inform people of the truth of God’s word as we can. No one gets into right relationship with Jesus without an awareness of the truth of God through his word. At the same time, the desire to know God, the openness that comes to people, comes as a result of God’s Spirit stirring people up. This happens through us as we show the kindness of God. Mostly we are carriers of his presence.

Don’t try to control the presence of God. Allow that pipeline to flow smoothly through you. Your efforts to “help” his presence will only get in the way of him drawing others to the Father. Let him flow…through you.

My Top 10 Outreach Misfires: Mistake #4. Not having patience with people coming to Christ.

“How long does it take for someone to come to Christ?” Can we put a timeframe on people’s trek to Jesus? To listen to the (usually) ungifted ones who dole out funds to outreach efforts, one might conclude such things can be quantified.

I believe it takes numerous defining events in a person’s life before he comes to Christ. People need to have a personal revelation about God before they are willing to respond to the Gospel of Christ. They need repeated such touches with his presence before they are able to believe and be saved. Once people understand that God is real and that he is for them it is rather bring them to God.

There are lots of biblical examples of people in both the Old and New Testaments that had a short or lengthy journey into an intimate relationship with God. God was at work in all their lives. He called the shots and wooed them into relationship. Moses was prepped for following after God for 80 years—much of that time in harsh conditions shepherding in the desert. David had a tender heart and was apparently following after the Living God by the time he was a young teen. Samuel was even younger when he started hearing the audible voice of God. Saul-Paul was a slow convert. He apparently watched the coats of those who stoned Stephen as a youngster only much later to be confronted by God in dramatic fashion.
“Everybody is somewhere” – Steve Allen
God is inviting everyone to follow Jesus. Not everyone will respond to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus. “Many are called, few choose” is a more literal take on Jesus’ words. Our job isn’t to worry about those who aren’t responding to the message of the Good News. We serve them all, and keep on serving them, then leave the results to God. The minute we focus on the results we are sunk. There will be plenty of results, but those come and go like the planting, watering and harvesting Paul referred to (1 Cor. 3:6). In a time of harvest abundance is the rule. In a time of planting, not so much. Keep showing up. Your harvest is coming. It might be right around the corner.

Mistake #3. Outreach without simultaneously listening to the Holy Spirit.

If we hope to succeed in outreach it is essential that we walk in a spirit of prayer. We need an acute awareness of what the Spirit is doing in order to be effective in reaching out to others.

It is easy to emotionally bifurcate the task of evangelism into a doing part and a spiritual part. We can mistakenly conclude that effective outreach is merely backed up by supporting prayer. It’s as we pray while we walk out evangelism that great things happen. Unless we pray we are going to miss a large part of what God is doing right under our noses.

Paul says, we are to “keep in step with the Spirit” as we do life and ministry. I like those two words, “in step.” Following in line with the Holy Spirit is something active. To do that we need to pray AS we serve others.

What’s up with seeing then understanding what God is doing? I believe it’s not difficult to discern what God is up to, at least it’s not difficult as we move forward. Granted, if we are static and off the side of ministry…if we are operating in a theoretical zone it is rather challenging to zero in on what God seems to be doing. The non-active approach has never been the focal point of God’s kingdom. His gifts have always been focused on giving away his life.

God will give you eyes to see what he is doing as you walk in a spirit of prayer.

Let’s do outreach WHILE we pray. Let’s pray while we do outreach. If we hope to be effective we must to do both.

Outreach Mistake #2: Not catching an adequate variety of fish

Mistake #2. Not trying to catch an adequate variety of fish.
Typical human nature encourages us to reach out only to those who are like us…to those who look like us, who live in houses similar to ours, who work at places similar to where we work. God, on the other hand, is a fan of variety. On the first day of the Church’s history, the Day of Pentecost, God saw to it that the single people group of the Semitic Jews were joined by thirteen people groups from all over the world. In other words, God likes diversity a LOT! If we hope to connect with God is doing in outreach, we need to reach out to lots of different kinds of people.

We need to try numbers of different approaches to outreach if we hope to make an adequate impact on our community.

When I go fishing I’m not so much in love with fishing itself even though we call it that. What I’m really after is CATCHING! My guess is you are like that as well. If you aren’t catching anything you are just a knucklehead standing next to the water holding a pole! It is catching that causes it all to make sense.
When it comes to catching I’m not all that picky about what I hook and land. After all, I am a fisherman. I’m not a troutman nor am I a bassman or a catfishman.
God is in love with all sorts of people. He wants to use you to reach out to a variety of people, not just one kind. The of the primary marks of God’s favor upon your church is that it will attract a variety of different kinds of people. Different kinds of people falling in love with Jesus. To only focus on those like us, in a word, is boring. Let’s spice it up. Let’s embrace the entire city.

Top Ten Mistakes in Outreach

I’m listing a few days worth of thoughts on mistakes I’ve made in the area of outreach. I’ve made plenty! I’ve had to pare the list down to just ten for this blog. As you look it over maybe you will save yourself some energy by not repeating my misfires.

#1 Mistake: Didn’t go fishing often enough.
Jesus said Peter would become a fisher of men as he followed in the kingdom. Fishing is what you and I have also been called to. Not going fishing often enough can be a mistake we easily make. That is, making the mistake of not being out in the community often enough. It’s all about frequency. To not go into the community frequently is the fastest way to fail at outreach.

My discovery is that we need to go out in an organized way over an extended time in order that adequate momentum will be generated. How long does it take for this momentum to be stirred up? Go out weekly for six months. Go out with your team once a week for six months–that’s 26 times in a row–and just watch what happens. Momentum will occur. You will be GREATLY encouraged.
Planting any sort of kingdom seed takes time to bear fruit. Some seeds sprout faster than others. Outreach seeds tend to be slower in coming up and showing fruitfulness than those in other areas of the Church. Servant Evangelism in particular bears fruit a lot like a crop of asparagus. Asparagus takes a while to produce a crop. Other plants pop up soon but then fade away fairly quickly. Slow as they are at shooting up, once its shoots begin to appear, it produces fruit for years to come. It’s an enduring, long-term vegetable.
So it is with Servant Evangelism. Persevere with it. Keep going out to serve. Show up no matter what. Receive from God an indomitable spirit. Great results are coming!