Archive for Outflow

Are You Really Outwardly Focused?

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.


The quickening

The Scriptures use the word Quickening to refer to the living presence of the Holy Spirit in Believers – and the Apostles Creed (“he shall come to judge the Quick and the dead.”) To be Quickened is to be enlivened with the touch of the Spirit. This is exciting. We can actually walk through in a living sense of the presence of God. True, sometimes we feel little or none of the Spirit upon us, at least that’s true for me. At other times there is a strong sense of the Spirit on us (tactile response). The question to is this: Are you willing to allow God to make you aware of his quickening today? If you are he will re-ignite the quickening in short order.

You are quickened whether you feel anything today or not. He wants you to know his likes and dislikes, not mentally only but through a vital, dynamic connection with his Spirit. He has assignments for you to accomplish today that require your quickening. Walk in his quickened presence and go change everything.

The senior leader is the primary mentor…

The senior leader is the primary mentor… who guides the way in all things related to evangelism. A local church will rarely grow beyond the skill and passion level of her pastor. As that person does, so does the church, for better and for worse. Most of the time, not surprisingly, the pastor of the local church is not naturally gifted at evangelism. He is usually more introverted and oriented toward speaking and teaching gifts. He would rather spend time studying than out with people trying to lead them to salvation. That’s okay. God can take a person like that and bring about exciting change. Remember this important principle: as a pastor changes so changes the local church.
To the degree the senior leader owns his responsibility in leading the way for evangelism God will be able to break through and do something significant. Until the senior leader owns this role little will happen.

Do the work

It’s all about doing the work, not talking about the work.

Leaders aren’t leaders until they lead.

Writers aren’t writers until they write.

Worship leaders are so until they bring others into worship.

Evangelists are only evangelists when they evangelize. Connect with the Lost.

Don’t just talk. Do the work. Start today.

#8: Follow the leadership of God in evangelism.

It is God’s nature to lead his people in ministry. He is large. He is in charge. Our nature is to seek to take control from God. Thus there is a natural conflict.
If we hope to function effectively in evangelism we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.
In our desire to see people come to Christ we can grow impatient and step out of alignment with God. It is easy to grow dull of hearing and simply become disinterested in listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice in ministry. I have met numbers of veteran evangelism leaders who poo-poo the idea of being led by the Holy Spirit in outreach because they grew impatient long ago on asking God in connecting with outreach. They usually see such notions as excuses for not doing outreach. I disagree.
Instead of hearing from the Spirit we trade for inferior voices. We grow accustomed to our voice and those of our friends or Board members. Those voices consistently drown out the Gentle Voice that leads. Those other voices are easy to discern. They push. They sometimes threaten with the withholding of favor or hope or capacity. God’s voice, even when he brings correction, brings hope and passion. He speaks in the proactive perspective. “Move forward! Take that risk! Do that outreach! Pray that prayer.” He gives us encouragement and specific instruction.
There is nothing wrong with your current outreach setting that a decent conversation with God will not improve greatly. Start with a prolonged time of listening to Big God.

Cleaning Toilets

We went out to connect with retail shops by offering to clean their toilets. We simply walked into these places with our cleaning kits in hand and said, “Hi, we’re here to clean your toilets – for free – to show you a bit of God’s kindness.” Pretty much everyone gave us a funny look. They all said they didn’t want it – but I could tell they assumed we wanted a donation. I know they thought this. We had to say several times we were doing this strictly for free with no donations accepted at all. It was only after we had told them several times that this was for FREE and we weren’t taking donations that they lightened up. After that we were able to connect with them. We were able to tell them this was a way of conveying the love of God to our neighbors. They warmed up quickly after that.
The Church has a lot of work to do in this area. We need to get to work by conveying to the culture around us what we are about. It is common that people who aren’t a part of church (perhaps they are a part of church…) think we are all about raising money. It is almost inconceivable that Jesus’ followers would do something altruistic. We need to get to work by serving others in a big way.
At the same time this provides the Church with significant opportunities. We make a strong impact by serving in surprising ways. We are able to break through into people’s lives by doing simple, doable serving projects. I don’t have a corner on the market of ideas we need to be involved with but I have discovered a few things apparently connect with the watching world.
I pray for more hearts in the Church to be able to hear the challenge God is offering these days. I pray we can sense his calling out to the culture around us. As Jesus said the harvest is plentiful – it is the laborers that are few.

Details Details – God is in the details

I have been working to launch teams of windshield washers. It has been a while since I last connected with strangers in this particular serving style. Found some very cool squeegees – they have metal handles and expand long enough that you can wash both sides of a large windshield at once. Got them at WalMart for about $5 per item. Went into WalMart to get equipped for both restroom cleaning and windshield washing. Ended up spending around $125 for a LOT of great serving equipment. It pays to go to a place like WalMart – it is easy to find the cool stuff needed and at a great price!

Go Out Anyway

Just Show Up!
When it comes to doing outreach projects with teams a lot can go right… and wrong. After doing team-oriented outreaches for decades now I realize a lot can go haywire when you step out to serve the community with a number of people. Today I was scheduled to go out with a number of folks. We are approaching the end of the year so people are a bit busier than usual. However today we had a number who were to have been present at this outing no matter what. When all things came together we had a grand total of just me and another guy present. Two of us! We made a last minute adjustment to our focus and we went out just the same.
All went well in spite of the low numbers. We spoke with a number of interesting people who were out in the retail areas of town. It seemed a good time was had by all. All and all we made progress today.
When times are down a bit it is still time to go out and make connections. No matter what, today is the day for us to connect with the community. God will show up day after day as long as we show up.

It Only Takes A Little

It only takes a little bit of life to make a difference. Sometimes we talk ourselves out of attempting something significant for God because we think it takes a great thing to make a dent in life. Nothing could be further from reality. God delights in taking something rather small, anointing it and blessing it to become a great thing.
God is looking for hearty people who are willing to step out of their ruts and risk with him. He is interested in setting up adventures with those who will risk the way forward.
Most of what we do is small stuff. That is the way life is set up. It is best that we give up on the notion of major accomplishments being the goal in life. What is left is the many things we can do that are small but significant in God’s hands.

God Is Up To Changes All Over

Ever get to a fork in the road? Yogi Berra exhorts us to take it in times like that.

We can hopefully all relate to the notion of coming to a fork in the road in the best sense of the possibilities that God is opening up for us.

I know more people who are in some sense of flux right now than I can remember in recent memory. Maybe change comes to us in clumps. Perhaps God works on a broad scale as a Scatterer of seeds of change. It seems clear that God does mount changes with groups in similar ways all at once.  Our part is to role with the punches as it all starts to flow. We get to practice patient endurance as chance commences.

So how is your change happening these days? How do you rate it? If those around you are going through thick change you might be next though we don’t need to anticipate any negativity.