Archives For Challenging

photo 2If you haven’t taken a stab at Kindness Outreach, the summer is the perfect time for doing a “Lab” – that is, to do some experimenting to learn a few lessons about how to build a heart connection with the those in your community.

Any season has it’s advantages for connecting with people, but the summer works well for both servers and those they serve. The weather is better, so people are outside more, and in general there is a bit of a “Vacation mentality.” This could be the ideal time for your people to take a stab at reaching out.

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind.

A. Relax.
As we show God’s kindness we are planting seeds more than harvesting crops, at least to begin with. Don’t pay attention to the conventional stats you might be tempted to count, like “How many came to church this month because we served them.” Trust me, they will come, so don’t worry.

Right now the goal is to learn how to enjoy reaching out with the kindness of God “…that leads to a radical life change.” As we reach out in fun, doable ways we will catch the “Virus” of God’s love for others – and begin to see them with new eyes.

B. Have fun!
We have been wired by God to enjoy life. We may need to “Practice,” but as we stick with it, before long, we’ll be having fun like pros!

If we aren’t having a good time, we can’t disguise the truth. Those we touch will pick up on that, they’ll be turned off and won’t want to have anything to do with the God we are inviting them to follow.

Here are a couple of summer “No-Lose” projects to try on for size.
Give Away Bottles of Water
There are lots of places and ways to serve thirsty people in warm weather.

Dollar Car Wash
Wash a car, then give drivers money for the privilege of serving them. Mind blowing!
This is great for involving numbers of people (a minimum of 10 or up to as many as you want if you are able to do several cars at once).

To get the detailed explaination of these and many more projects, pick up “101 Ways To Serve Your Community.” It’s available on Amazon as an instant kindle eBook purchase, or in a paper version as well.

outward-focusedHave you noticed that the U.S. Church tends to go through trends every now and then? Books are written, conferences are held, programs come and go and the voices of experts in these areas rise to prominence.

When these trends flow, we are naturally excited about the possibility of these manifesting around us, We dream about what it would be like to walk in that reality right now, but the dream world and the real world aren’t one and same.

When there was a lot of hoopla about worship, I helped a church that was doing “Contemporary” worship but failed to connect with their community around them in Pasadena. They were baffled that they weren’t connecting with younger families, even through there was no shortage of those around them.

But I discovered that their worship song rotation included a number of Gaither Band songs. I like the Gaithers as much as the next person. I even have a song or two of theirs in my iTunes collection, but to call their songs contemporary is big stretch.

Currently the trend moving through the Church is a return to the importance of outreach, and I couldn’t be more enthused! As I see it, this is the core of any other practice. Jesus modeled outwardness above all else. Again the question boils down to “Are we really pulling off outreach, or are we just excited about the importance of it? Is it a goal we celebrate at conferences, or is it a current reality?”

What are we to do? Let’s live differently, strategically and begin to walk it out. As the motto of this site goes, “Making the dangerous doable.” Let’s move toward some dangerous but doable stuff together.

How do we pull that off? That’s a longer discussion than we can have today, and that’s exactly what this site is about. We will have scads of discussions here down the road, but today let’s kick it off with a couple of practical assignments.

  1. Commit to the work it will take. I’m lazy by nature, and I’m in good company. When we are lazy it is easy to fall prey to living in a fantasy world. Do what it takes to sweat. As the Army saying goes, “No one ever drown in sweat.”
  2. Resist the temptation to advertise until you’ve practiced it. If you are like me it’s tough to resist plugging a book you like even before you’ve finished reading it. If you are a visionary you’ve probably pulled that one off a time or two. It’s good to be enthused, just hold on to your hat until you have finished it. When you begin to reach out keep it on the quiet side at first. Don’t wave the flag more than your experience can support. Do outreach with a handful of others and as you learn and have fun, then begin to spontaneously share your stories one on one before you broadcast them to the entire congregation.
  3. Start small Great things have small beginnings. That’s biblical and that’s the pattern of church history. Small starts are not the mark of failure by any means, rather they are usually the mark of assembling a runway for God’s Spirit to land with his presence in a big way.

 

It’s amazing how transferable kindness outreach is. To reach out with God’s love in a practical way – to bring the Good News to skeptics – can be pulled off in any culture – even Scandinavia. Go figure.

We gave out hundreds of waffles in Norway. Waffles you ask? In Norway that’s the draw. When a Norwegian gets a waffle they feel incredibly loved!

What’s the “Waffle factor” in your neck of the woods?

The famous Burning Man Festival is happening right now in the desert north of Reno right now. About 50,000 people from all over the world are gathered together to celebrate – uh, all sorts of things. If you ask them, they will give lots of different answers as to why they are gathered together, but one thing is for sure, BM is a great place to connect with people who are in search of a spiritual connection.

As you watch the news footage about Burning Man on Labor Day, the lessons below might put things in better perspective.

There are two of the little known facts that people generally don’t know about me.

A. A few years ago I went with a team of friends to serve folks at Burning Man, and

B. I was a guest on the Jerry Springer Show. (Yes, you can see the episode on YouTube, but I’ll save the story for another article.)

Here are a few lessons I learned at the Burning Man festival when I was there with a team a couple of years ago.

1. Being around extreme people tends to beat negative religion out of a judgmental person like me.

We will not be effective in outreach as long as we carry around judgmental attitudes towards not-yet Believers. Pretty much all of us have some measure of a judgmental attitude, it’s just that we are in denial of that truth.

As far as outreach goes, it’s vital that we break free from the grip of negative, judgmental attitudes. When I use the “R” word, I’m referring to human attempts at making something spiritual happen without the power or presence of God. That kind of religion is common, but it is something God hates, something that people outside the Church hate and above all, something God despises.

Extreme people are a gift to Believers. God will bring Burning Man people into your life – not literally mind you – but those he will use to reshape you. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and only hang out with those who think, look like you, drive cars like you and who work where you work.

2. We need big hearts for others if we hope to be successful in outreach.

You will never get a heart for others while you are stuck at home just thinking thoughts or reading books. Change happens when you get around others.

3. To be successful in outreach we need to destroy ridiculous myths we carry about regarding “Those kinds of people.”

Perhaps in all of our lives, there are some we categorize as ones who are impossible for God to reach. We think of them as “Those kinds of people.” They may be people who have wronged us, or maybe they have even done something wrong to all of America. We may feel obligated to dislike them.

As my friends and I drove up to the entrance gate of the BM event I was rubbing my eyes a bit like Mr. Magoo (if you have seen those cartoons of the nearsighted man on TV Land). I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was real. It was a scene that resembled what I imagined Woodstock would have been like only a few steps beyond that event. People sported fluorescent wigs and crazy get ups beyond that even.

I had always had categories in my mind – that there were “easy to reach” people, then there were the “hard to reach” ones. People at events like Burning Man were in the latter category because of what seemed to be their wild ways. But surprisingly, when I actually got around them, I quickly discovered they were super nice, very approachable, and in many ways, easier to reach out to than middle-class people I’d been reaching out to for decades in the suburbs across America. Go figure!

It was important that I just stop judging them, open my heart, talk to them, and most of all, listen to them. As my inner chatter stopped a bit he began to speak to me about his love for them.

4. To effectively connect with not-yet Believers, I have to be myself, with no attempts at looking any different than I really am.

In other words, I couldn’t have been anyone other than myself and gotten away with it. Folks at BM have a highly developed BS detector – even more sensitive than most others in the general culture.

Being myself is a high value for me, and probably for you as well. When I drove through the gates at BM I realized that this was not a place where you could fake it for a minute and get away with it.

As well as being transparent, the question was whether I was willing to be a little flexible and join in on the fun. Either you wore a neon wig or you didn’t! (Hey what’s wrong with that! You might look good in one yourself. “All things to all people…”)

5. To walk powerfully in outreach we need to be stirred with love for those outside of Christ.

God will give you a heart for others if you are open to being touched. Just ask him for his heart. He is in the business of touching hearts with his passion for others. Warning: His heart is sometimes offensive to your sensibilities and background.

6. Outreach – especially the practical kind – can connect with radical not-yet Believers more than church folks think is possible.

We found it fairly easy to connect with folks at BM. We reached out a couple of ways – the water give away as already mentioned and something pretty different that fit the BM crowd – Biblical Dream Interpretation. We saw some amazing responses. In a future entry I’ll blog about that unique outreach.

7. The Holy Spirit is strongly at work in the lives of not-yet Believers around us, no matter how they appear on the surface.

In addition to serving BM people, we followed that up with a simple question – “May I pray for you for ten seconds?” Many at BM had a different version of the spiritual world than us, but we brought them the Kingdom’s presence as we prayed for them – for ten seconds. Jesus prayed for less than ten seconds most of the time and amazing things happened.

7.5 Outreach is big fun!

We learned this important lesson. We gave ourselves permission to have fun as we loved and served others. One thing is super clear when you drive onto the grounds of BM – everyone there has come to play!

At a place like this you can’t take yourself too seriously. How often in life will you sit on a toilet only to notice later that your backside is completely covered in blue from the body painted person who went in before you. Hello! That was another blow to the remnant of negative religion in me.

We experienced the favor of God at this festival. We crossed paths with the founder of Burning Man and ended up hanging out with him. He liked us and, though I’m not sure he fully understood what we were doing in serving people with God’s love, he really loved our idea. We ended up hanging out with him for a while and in the end he asked one of our team guys to be on a regional board for him.

I’m not sure I’d recommend going to Burning Man willy nilly unless you feel called to serve and minister to people. If you do end up there, one thing’s for sure – God will “Mess” with your heart and mind and it will be difficult to be the same again. As it turns out that was something I desperately needed.

A friend of mine wrote a couple of popular books but those came out a ten or so years ago. He was with a pastor who happened to be on the phone telling someone he was with this author. The guy on the other line said he thought this author had died since he hadn’t come out with any new books lately! This author is actually not that old, but when we aren’t in the public view consistently people can come to some dark conclusions.

That incident got me thinking about our life messages.

Our lives come down to messages – sometimes expressed and sometimes tragically not spoken by the time we finish life. You are a unique expression of the life of God and he wants to life his unique life through you – through your life message.

Perhaps you already understand your life message – then further hone it. A life of clarity is a life of effectiveness.

Lean into it. Don’t wobble. Don’t give in to being diffused. Be a laser. LIfe is always going to try to pull you away from your uncompromising focus.

Walk out your message as you call upon the power of the Spirit. “You can do all things…”

One of these days my author friend really will die – his books really will come to an end. Your life will be said and done before long as well. I don’t wish that upon you, mind you, but let’s face reality. We only have so much time to devote to our life’s message. Now is the time to go for it.

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