Archive for Servant Evangelism

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

There is no magic to reaching the Millennial generation.On the other hand, if we hope to get them, we simply need to do and be what God’s word has called us to be about all along.

Sometimes working with the millennial generation is about as frustrating as nailing Jello to a tree. The truth is they are not just a gift to your church. They are even the strongest booster rocket you can desire.

They call us to think through what we want to see. As you look this over realize a couple of matters. These are descriptions of the sorts of churches that the millennial generation will consider joining.

As you read these over, resist the trap of “Cognitive dissonance” – that is, the tendency to assume the best about what we are doing, even when our image is far from reality. This confusion is more prevalent in the church world than any other.

When we begin to make changes those already in our church usually resist – even to the point of threatening to leave or even worse, to stir up others to leave because all of the sudden “My” church has changed to a different direction.

1. Be Generous with Money

 

In the eyes of many of the millennial generation, the church seems to exist mainly to for self-perpetuation. More than their predecessors, they live out the line “Put your money where your mouth is.”

To reshape that assumption, let’s be known for our extravagant generosity. Let’s even go so far as to be willing to nearly “Squander” money on the world around us. All hyperbole aside, let’s drop any caution and now define ourselves as incredibly giving without being overly concerned with that self-interest mindset.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible uses the word “Generous” to describe one of the marks of the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians chapter 5. When we show generosity, we establish credibility. As we go into the community to give away bottles of water at a stoplight, sometimes people ask how we can afford to pay for all of this.

“Oh, we pay for it out of our offerings. We can’t help but spend a lot of money in our community to bring the same love that Jesus showed in his day.”

“But how do you cover all the expenses your church needs if you give so much away?”

“We see the city is worth investing in – worth showing love by serving. We believe that if Jesus were walking around town today, he’d being doing this sort of thing.”

As we loosen our grip on funds, our reputation as a giving church will begin to spread like a life-giving tsunami. As it was with Jesus, when we get into the community “Advertising” will take care of bringing all the attention we need to notice and experience God’s tsunami, his love, attention, and acceptance, they will start to “Gossip the Gospel.”

When we start to flow with God’s generosity, we are merely opening the door for our people to do what has already been in their hearts.

When it comes to outreach to the needy, pantries are good, but don’t let that be the limit of your outreach. Sometimes those with the greatest needs can’t get to any pantry without a lot of difficulties. Jesus reached out to the poor in a variety of ways. The most common way Jesus reached out was to meet needs as he ran across them.

Invest a given percentage of the congregation’s income back out into the community. A smart way to begin is to commit to percentage giving. If you already have required portions, you are expected to pay – tithes to the denomination, the denomination’s requirement to foreign missions, etc. You can negotiate those percentages.

Coming soon: 2 – 5

How About A Summer Outreach Lab

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.

7.5 Lessons I Learned About Outreach At Burning Man

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.

Perseverance is the Name of the Game

I recently connected with someone who is introducing outreach at his church and is receiving a less than enthusiastic response. Not surprising.

In general, when we start something new, we will, of course, meet resistance. I have written a bit about the power of resistance on this blog and there is much more to write on this. Let’s face it – part of the fall of Adam is the tendency of all humans to be skeptical of new ideas no matter how powerful and important those ideas may be. Our role as idea carriers is to persevere come what may. The life we carry about is too important to worry about our personal sensitivities. Our role is to focus on the outcome.

What’s true for new ideas in general is especially true for outreach. I am convinced the Enemy of the purposes of God is hard at work seeking to dissuade people from positive thoughts about outreach. There is much ungrounded fear surrounding the notion of reaching out.

“God empower us for the marathon, not the 100 meter dash.”

Results of Hamburger give away

All I can say is “Wow!” A great time was had by all.

Some technical aspects:
We had a few dozen involved in a combination of preparing, packing and giving away the burgers and hotdogs. We cooked the product in phases, partly because our large grill could only do about 50-75 at a time, but partly because this approach allowed us to keep things warm as we made them and wrapped them in thermal packaging as soon as they came off the grill. Our system worked out well. We used medium-sized coolers for storing the burgers and dogs. Those maintain temperature whether warm or cold. Teams went out with a medium sized supply of burgers and dogs, gave those away, then either returned to home base or had someone bring them a fresh supply. Our team of four went through about 120 sandwiches between our first time out and our resupply time.

Responses & Discoveries:
At first people were a little timid. That might have been partly due to our timidity (I personally wasn’t timid since I had done things like this many times before but some of our people hadn’t done much outreach door to door like this and were intimidated). Also, we started a bit after 11:00 AM – not quite yet the lunch hour so perhaps people weren’t yet hungry. Before long our people got into their stride. We started in an area we felt led to go to that was overtly more economically depressed.
The responses we received were interesting and varied. About 80% of the houses we went to gladly received what we had to give away. I found that as soon as they opened their door, even before we said anything, the expression on their face made it clear they were “open” and pretty much determined whether they would receive from us. Those same people seemed to be spiritually open. When we asked if we could “bless” them they inevitably said yes – meaning we could pray for them momentarily. Numbers of those we prayed for emoted as we prayed – they teared up, or became choked up. It was interesting how many we ran into who were facing impending surgeries and they expressed concern about those outcomes. Those encounters became prayer times with person after person. It seems like God used our presence as an excuse to jumpstart something with those people.

One team went to a particularly challenging trailer park in the city. The first few places they came to didn’t respond to the knock on the door. When they got to the third place the door opened, then the first two places opened up and asked them to return with food. Before long they were circulating throughout the park with burgers and dogs to all the residents. The opening line was the same for everyone – “How many would you like?” – “Like what?” – “Burgers or dogs? We have plenty. We made them just for you – to show you a little bit of God’s love.” – “Well in that case I guess I’ll have a few of each. They are free aren’t they?” The conversations went from there. Literally everyone we talked to – several hundred people – was open to receiving a blessing in the form of a 10-second prayer.

Hamburger give away

Doing sometime a bit different today. Going out to serve part of the city by giving away grilled hamburgers and hot dogs to people. We are going door to door with the offer, “How many would you like?” Of course people will say, “Like what?” To that we will say, “Nicely grilled burgers and dogs. How many would you like?” Of course they will then ask, “What’s the catch?” As usual we will say, “There is no catch. We are just showing God’s love in a practical way. So how many would you like – two, three – how many could you use? They are nice and hot!” (We have them in thermal wrapping.) We are then going to ask if we can offer them a blessing. We plan to pray a generic blessing upon them in most cases – something like, “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we bless you. Amen.” Anyone can pray that prayer. It takes almost no practice.

I’ll get back to you when we get done. We are doing 500 of these in an area of town that is not used to receiving a touch of kindness. We’ll see how it all works. We go in humility and dependence upon God for success.

Low risk.

I mean minimizing what can go haywire.
A lot of what I tried to do early on in the Christian life was high-risk ministry. That is, a lot could go wrong. Sometimes a lot did go wrong. There were a lot of moving parts to go haywire. It was marked with complexity so there was the great possibility that something would go wrong. The more complex we make something the more likely it is to break down.
I like cars that are cool. A friend of mine has an amazing car that has a lot of features. It is quite impressive, or at least it was impressive for its first 18 months until little things started going wrong with many of the shiny dodads. It wasn’t long after that that the manufacturer’s warranty expired, then he was stuck with a vehicle that was riddled nit picky problems that drove him crazy. It got to the point that he couldn’t even get his windows to roll down without investing $500. Ouch! There is an outreach lesson to the wise in this car story. Sometimes it’s better to stick with the basic model and steer clear of things that are the extravagant versions.

I’ve done a lot of things that have gone south, especially in the realm of outreach. I’m at the point now where I seek to minimize the risk as much as possible. Instead of going for the glitzy, I say let’s just go with the basic approach that will get us from point A to point B efficiently. Quick, easy, no one gets hurt. Let’s wash cars. Let’s clean toilets. Let’s mow lawns. Let’s knock on doors at the trailer park and give away juicy, fresh hot hamburgers by asking, “How many would you like?” There’s not a lot of room for error there. There’s not a lot that can go wrong. I like that. I think you will too. Let’s go do some damage to the powers of darkness.

Few touch many.

It doesn’t take a large crew to make leave a big footprint. Victory in God’s kingdom has always gone to the underdogs. God nearly always anoints a miniscule group to do his bidding. I find this encouraging since all that I have started has been small – usually for a long time if not forever. What God builds usually starts (and typically stays) on the smallish side. I used to say that it started small but then would grow large, but now I see that often numbers usually only grow fat. I now see that it is almost always the case that a radical but small fringe gets the Kingdom lifestyle and message. Why does it stay small? It’s all about the offensive cost of mercy. Jesus said “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 18). The context of that verse could well be restated, “Many are called but few choose” the Kingdom. The Kingdom, as God defines it, is always something that is set up according to his parameters, not ours. Most don’t like that much, so they protest, they decide it’s not for them, and vote themselves out of it like the religious people in Matthew chapter 18 (yes, it was the religious people who decided not to participate in the Kingdom once they figured out how the mercy of God works as in this story).

This Jesus story is fresh with me today. A few of us went out mixing it up with dozens of lost people who, like those in Nineveh, didn’t know their left hand from their right. We did a $1 carwash. We washed people’s cars and paid them a dollar for the privilege of serving them. We stunned many. Numbers teared up. We teared up! I’m always amazed what can happen when a few, enthused, dedicated people move in a common direction and pour their hearts into something. Do something great with God. It only takes a few.

Non-aggressive.

Have you ever been dogged by someone that was excited about their faith? I was in the New York City area a while back when I got off a subway overpass in Queens to the sound of some Spanish preaching Pentecostals who were taking turns preaching (yelling loudly more accurately) into a bullhorn. As one finished his turn he turned the mic over to the next with a high five and a chuckle. Those guys were having a good time at what they were doing, but clearly they were not connecting with the crowd. My ears were nearly bleeding! The crowd was trying to ignore them and everyone wished they would unplug themselves and go home. They were overly aggressive and not connecting with the passing crowds. I believe God will use any approach to sharing the Gospel we make available to him, but some approaches are awfully difficult for him to use!

Just below there another church was doing an outreach based on serving. They were washing cars, trucks – even a huge metro garbage truck pulled up to test the sincerity of the team’s faith! (Yes, they passed the test and made it spick and span!) This was a study in contrasts. The group below the overpass was attracting a crowd, bit by bit, little by little, and making an impact one person at a time with no sound reinforcement other than to say, “We are showing Jesus’ love in a practical way…” (There were plenty of conversations that followed those introductory words.)

Before I became a Believer I met an occasional person who was downright excited about Christ – not many of them, but a few along the way. Those people got me thinking about the possibility of following Jesus. It began to occur to me that there was something out there that was worth giving my life for. Positive zeal is powerful and beautiful. Our zeal needs to be a lot like the oath doctors take upon graduation before they treat their first patient: “First, do no harm…!”

It’s inexpensive.

It doesn’t take much of an investment to reach out. Something pretty amazing can happen with a small investment. In fact, some of my favorite outreach projects cost virtually nothing. For example, windshield washing is a blast. Do a quality job (don’t leave a streak or you won’t be helping anyone!) and a windshield can be cleaned in less than a minute. I leave a special windshield outreach card on the driver’s side window next to the door handle. A team of 5-6 people can clean a couple of hundred windshields in an hour. Not only does this cost virtually nothing, it noticeably improves the lives of those you serve. By the way, pray for the owners of those cars as go about cleaning. You will be surprised at the specific insights you receive with each car you clean. God will show you how to pray specifically as you move from car to car. That insight is a gift to make you to help you move in both the physical and the spiritual realm.