Archive for March 2011

#14. Set Goals For Reaching Out

Goals are a wonderful thing. They accomplish much, but above all else they keep us honest. With a good goal in hand and heart we can reach to amazing heights.

Goals empower us to aim beyond ourselves onto what we sense God is calling us to be about.

They keep us connected to God in the realm of vision. As we ask God to give us his heart he speaks up—he comes alongside us and stirs things up. He causes us to understand the things that are on his heart.

Set big goals. There’s nothing spiritual about being shy with your goals. Will it be necessary for God to show up in order for your goal to be accomplished? If so, it is a worthy goal.

Set goals regularly. Once they are established, reconnect with them to stay on your game.

Check up on your goals to see how you are doing.
An empowered goal needs to be checked in on – to be connected with on a regular basis.

#13. Focus On Serving Projects That Reflect The Personality Of Your Group.

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good worksEph. 2:10, NKJV.

We all have distinct personalities. If you are the parent of more than one child you can see clearly that each of your kids have amazingly different make-ups from day one in life. Children come into life with a unique outlook that is all their own. It works the same way with groups of people. As the Holy Spirit works in a group with their various giftings and callings something wonderful and uniquely challenging comes to the surface.

Janie and I have launched five churches and have closely coached several dozen. One thing is clear—each of those churches has a unique personality. It is vital that we as leaders understand the make up of the group we have been called by God to lead.

In outreach it is vital that you as the leader get in touch with the unique parameters your group has going for it. For example, your group may be naturally inclined to linear thinking. Most church groups tend to be inclined in this direction. They think in concrete terms. Such groups find it difficult to relate to abstract ideas. They are very practical almost to a fault. Sensory thinkers approach tasks as a series of checklists. They find satisfaction in getting things done. The church leaders I serve in Oregon are inclined toward this sort of linear thinking. My natural bend is not like that. I am a highly intuitive person. I have very little sensory skill in me naturally so it is sometimes cumbersome for me to communicate effectively. It is my left hand so to speak. To be effective I have recruited a number “translators” who understand my approach to leadership and outreach and who naturally “speak” in the sensory mode.

Speak the language of evangelism that your people will understand. As importantly, speak the language of outreach your greater community understands. Those you reach out to today will be the ones joining your team and doing the reaching out before long.

#12. Decide That Your Group Will Go Out To Serve On A Scheduled Basis.

Spontaneity is wonderful. Jesus was spontaneous in his approach to reaching people. There is plenty of evidence in Acts that God also values planned outreaches. Paul heard from the Holy Spirit that he was to reach out to certain cities to establish churches. Later he heard again to reconnect with many of the same places.

Not long ago I connected with a leader in the world of outreach. I told him and a group of other leaders about some of the things we are doing to reach our city. I was amazed that he guffawed at our efforts. His response? “We would never do something ineffective and organized like that. Our style is to just hang out with people and out of that try to become people’s friends. After we become their friends they will naturally become Believers.”

I understand his strategy. I buy his line of thinking, at least to a degree. I see another side as well. There are tens of thousands nearby all of us that the Holy Spirit is interested in reaching with the Gospel of Jesus. There isn’t enough time or manpower to depend on the “hang out” strategy alone. Yes, let’s hang out. As the popular saying goes, let’s do life together. The problems is this: If we depend on that approach solely there will be countless people not touched with the love of Jesus.

As with most things in life, this is not an either-or conundrum. It’s a both-and. Let’s scatter seeds of kindness in practical ways throughout our cities. God’s kindness leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Let’s share the gospel message a LOT in organized and spontaneous ways. Let’s also hang out with people to be their friends. We will need to persevere with people in order to see them come to faith.

“It will take 12-20 revelatory events for most people come to know Jesus.”

The people of your city require lots and lots of touches before their spiritual light comes on.

It concerns me that planned and scheduled outreaches have lost favor with many outreach leaders in recent times. Some have come to the conclusion that it is somehow more spiritual to not work from a plan in outreach.

To some it seems a little too structured to announce that a group of people are gathering at a given time to reach out to the city. I thought that way at one point. That was before I saw the enormity of the task at hand. I fear that many who are inclined to only be spontaneous don’t see the largesse of the task at hand. There is a lot for us to do if we hope to see those tens of thousands touched 12-20 times.

Let’s get to work!

#11. Start Praying For Your Community.

As you pray you will begin to experience God’s heart for your others. God softens our hearts toward others as we pray God’s best for them. It is nearly impossible to have an authentic love in our hearts until we can sincerely bless others with our lips. If you find it difficult to ask for God’s best to be upon someone confess that to him. Of course he is already aware of the situation. By agreeing with what is already obvious (to God anyway) you are humbling yourself. He will start at the point of your availability.

Out of your praying God can send you out to serve. Praying is not enough. If you don’t hear his invitation to invade the community you aren’t hearing very well yet. With nearness to God comes the invitation from God to serve him—to make him known to those who aren’t yet connected. He is hungry to love your community to himself. He wants to use you—he wants to move through your network of relationships to bring many to the Father.

During your group gatherings take time to specifically pray for people to come to know Christ. Our prayers precede the fulfillment of things by God’s grace. It’s an amazing proposition—God allows us to co-create with him. We get to ask him for help before he shows up to bring it about.

#10. Don’t take yourself, or your results, too seriously.

What you are doing in ministry is 100% experimental no matter what you may say to the contrary. I’ve been doing outreach for decades and I am more philosophical now than ever. I can see clearly that it’s all practice.

Sometimes our evangelism outings go phenomenally well. Those times seem to be anointed as if Jesus himself was leading things. At those times the Holy Spirit seems to oversee even the minute details. Then there are the other times—when chaos reigns. From the outside it is difficult to discern the difference between these two outreaches. In each case plans were carefully made. Both were bathed in prayer. There seemed to be an equal amount of sincerity on the parts of the leaders.

To our eyes there are vastly different results from these two outreaches. One seems blessed while the other seems like a wash. One seems like an answer to prayer and the other is what most would consider spiritual warfare.

God is at work in the calm of answered prayer AND he is at work in the chaotic settings that drives us batty. It is difficult to weigh our surface responses too heavily. God just might be at work in the negative one even though you are not all that happy with the result. Don’t rush to judgment. He is up to something amazing no matter how you feel.

#9. Determine This: “We will have big fun now!”

The goal in outreach is always to have fun. That may not seem like a worthy goal. That may sound unspiritual. It might even sound a little sinful. After all, aren’t we rooted a little deeper than the mere thought of enjoying ourselves through life? Aren’t we doing all of this so we can connect with the spiritual needs of others? That’s all true. On the other hand, enjoying the presence of God and one another is indeed a spiritual matter. Considering how distant most of us have been from connecting with outreach having a good time is, in fact, a great accomplishment. I believe we are to set out to enjoy ourselves in doing evangelism.

Give yourself and your team permission to enjoy yourselves. Sometimes we simply need to verbalize this. “You have permission to have fun today!” or “I hope you enjoy your time of ministry!” or “If you have a good time in winning others to Jesus we will have accomplished what we came here for!”

Not everything that is productive in the Kingdom is serious. As ironic as it seems, many matters that are aimed at winning people into the family of God, are also highly enjoyable. To do ministry in the Name of Jesus is THE most enjoyable use of time this side of Heaven. Somehow we have gotten the false idea in our heads that in order for a something to gain traction before God, it must be deadly serious, always sacrificial and an emotional downer. Nothing could be further from the truth! Yes there is a high cost fo following hard after Jesus. He demands our all and all. We withhold nothing from him when it calls us to sacrifice, but in exchange we get the most enjoyable life imaginable.
Scripture reads, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” Another version of that is “there is freedom” or “there is enjoyment.” I like that last rendering especially. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is enjoyment.”

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is enjoyment.”

That, my friends, will preach!
Let’s make that our focus in doing evangelism. Let’s make it our prayer as well. “Make me a carrier of your enjoyment as I do evangelism today!”

When we model a Debbie Downer attitude in doing evangelism we project a truckload of false images to others that are not accurate. Those don’t convey the atmosphere of the Kingdom and they are far from portraying the heart of Jesus toward others.

Let’s get it straight. Repentance is in order for some of us. Let’s get back on the horse and ride on, this time smiling… Smiling a lot!

#8. Don’t Wait For Special Guidance To Start.

Some of the most spectacularly gifted people in the Church world are those who have never had a strong or specific sense of calling into ministry. You might ask how such people have gone forward in ministry. These folks consistently report they responded to the calling they saw in the word of God. They became convinced through the Scriptures that God has already called all Believers into ministry, thus they felt activated.

Some things in life don’t require much guidance in order to step out to get started. Sometimes we don’t need any further clarification other than what God has already offered us in Scripture. For example, we know that it is God’s will that we pray (still we need to be empowered to pray effectively). We know it is God’s will that we give financially to the causes God stands behind and is sponsoring (still we need to be led by God with wisdom so we know how to give intelligently). We also know it is God’s will that we evangelize the world–that every last one of us who are a part of his Church is involved in a heartfelt way in extending his kingdom on Earth. Still we need his inspiration about how we are going to do that with the utmost of intelligence and insight.

I have met numbers of uninvolved people over the years that were not involved in the task of evangelism or any sort of outreach who felt guilty about their lack of obedience. Instead of acknowledging their lack of involvement as a simple fact, they felt obligated to go negative on others who are committed to outreach. One of the most common points of reasoning I have heard is this: “God hasn’t spoken to me about evangelism…” One of these sorts recently told me, “I am amazed at how little the Bible says about evangelism and ministry to the poor.” I couldn’t believe my ears! I immediately retorted several long sections of both the Old and New Testaments that speak in great depth about God’s heart for the poor and the Lost. To that this person said, “Yeah, whatever…” Amazing!

He said, “I am amazed at how little the Bible says about evangelism and ministry to the poor.” I couldn’t believe my ears!

If we all waited for special orders to start reaching out to the Lost and the Poor very little would be accomplished in the Name of Christ. Amazing calls into ministry are rare. Your calling and mine is found in the pages of God’s everlasting Word. Let’s get to work!

#7. Don’t Wait For Money To Start.

“We will start just as soon as we have the financing to do so.” It may seem reasonable to place this caveat on your projects, but such thinking is not reasonable. Most of what is done in the Name of God is accomplished by unreasonable people. Simply begin doing outreach and the funding you need will show up. Provision comes with momentum. This is one of the great mysteries of the Kingdom of God. His favor is accompanied by his financing. Don’t panic. Don’t fret. Flow with his provision.

Remember this: Money follows momentum. It is helpful to repeat this truth often and out loud when starting out in outreach ministry. Our real problem when there are shortages is not a lack of money. We come up short in the realm of momentum and money shortages are merely one manifestation of that lack.

In church history, ancient and modern, when someone had a great idea and the follow through to walk that out, funding happened rather spontaneously. The major challenge in the church world these days is a lack of momentum, not a lack of cash. There will be plenty of funding as your anointed ideas are set into action. Count on it, you have had a few anointed ideas already. Move forward and money will follow without a problem.

Practical idea: Take up occasional special offerings within your small group to fund outreaches. You might be surprised at the amount of money that can be raised from even a home group. Your group will be able to literally buy in to the task at hand.

#6. Don’t Wait For Encouragement From Your Church To Start.

It’s good to receive the right hand of fellowship as Paul referred to it. However, we can’t establish homemade barriers that need to be cleared before we are willing to start to obey God in reaching out to our community. Encouragement is great to receive, but it’s not necessary in order to go forward. We can start and then move forward on scant encouragement from the outside.

In many cases church leaders don’t speak the language of encouragement. It’s not that they don’t have it in their hearts to say something that might lift you up, it’s just that they don’t know what to say. There is a general communication snafu. Therefore we can’t wait until all things are ideally in place before we obey. God is going to move in response to your forward progress. You simply need to get started. You can’t withhold obedience to God while you wait for someone to speak the language of encouragement.

We will receive affirmation in due time. God will see to that. We may not receive it before we start into our outreach actions though. Don’t spend much energy worrying about your personal comfort. He is in love with you and me, but he is not all that concerned with your personal level of comfort.

#5 Way Your Group Can Connect With Comm. Long Haul — Commit For Long Haul

When God can find people like you, who are willing to be diligent with his activities in a city, he gets excited. God blesses those who are willing to walk in simple, profound, humble obedience. There is almost no limit to the good that can happen through a few determined people who are walking in the anointing of God. God’s history is filled with examples of underdogs who took on amazing odds but came out as victors because they were willing to hang in there to endure for the entire race they were in.

Following God’s plan for the long haul isn’t usually the exciting way forward. God wants us to love with his ability. It’s clear we can’t succeed unless we operate in his strength. In the short run we can put on a good face–to look as though we are embracing our community with authentic love while in reality we are reaching out in our own strength.