ACTS OF KINDNESS

8 06 2016

543d91b2112d4.imageBY STEVE DUNN

“Like a  a good neighbor, State Farm is there” – tag line for popular television commercial

I confess I often leave the room when the commercials come on.  Only the most clever or creative reverse that urge.  One that captures me has people finding themselves in unexpected predicaments or overwhelming problems and they say these “magic words” and poof!-their friendly insurance agent appears to help them.

One of the best ways for a local church to connect with its community and become a valuable neighbor is to keep their Acts of Kindness ministry active, aware, and timely.  Many years ago the “random acts of kindness” movement emerged in America, then refined by people like Steve Sjoberg and the Vineyard Fellowship into “servant acts of kindness.”   Such a commitment changed the focus and the image of local cburches–definitely for the better.

After a while all good ministries lose momentum and slip into the plethora of church activities that occupy volunteer time and church resources.  That might be acceptable for study group or worship methods, but it cannot happen to the church’s outreach.

It is helpful to remember these simple principles:

  1. Be more intentional than random.  Acts of Kindness need planning so that they produce the best results, avoid embarrassment to your people, and don’t cause your own busy people to think they are wasting their valuable time.
  2. Don’t abandon the spontaneous.  Nonetheless, sometimes the Holy Spirit presents you with an unanticipated opportunity.  Go for it!
  3. Teach your people to do individual acts of kindness.  Teach people to be alert to their neighbors and their needs, give them some tools of discernment, and encourage them not to have to have a crowd to serve Jesus well.
  4. Follow up. Not for bragging, but for ministry–try reconnecting with the people you have helped (a) to see if you really helped (b) see if there is a deeper need (c) connect them to the Jesus in whose name you were helping them.
  5. Pray for opportunities by giving you and your church a heart for their neighbors.

This post originally appeared in my blog BEING THE BEST CHURCH FOR THE COMMUNITY.

 

© 2015 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 





THE NEXT BRIDGEBUILDERS SEMINAR – SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2015 CARLISLE PA

7 08 2015

40466_137821966257615_3396476_nThe next BRIDGEBUILDERS SEMINAR New Hope Church of God in Carlisle PA

 SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2015

“Bridgebuilders-Helping Your Church Reach Its Unchurched Neighbors”

Dr. Steve Dunn. Leader

The church is located at 1250 Waggoners Gap Road Carlisle PA 17013

Session One: Friday Night  6:30-8:30 pm

The Mission Field Outside Our Front Door

What Every Church Needs to Be

Session Two: Saturday Morning  9:00 am-12:00 noon

What Every Missionary Needs to Know

Christ’s Respectful Ambassadors

Tools for Building Bridges

Getting Started As a Church (And as Individuals)

Cost is $15 per person or $50 flat rate for 4 or more people registering from the same church. Materials and snacks are included in the cost.  Register by calling the church at (717) 241-5544 or emailing pastordickwarner@gmail.com.  Checks should be made payable to the ERC and are due the day of the seminar.





LEADERSHIP FOR BRIDGEBUILDING CHURCHES

25 06 2015

church1_editedIn cooperation with the School of Evangelism, Bridgebuilders is planning two “graduate seminars” that build on what we have been learning these past five years. Each school will have two 2 ½-3 hour sessions on either consecutive Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings. The overall topic is: Leadership for Healthy, Outreaching, Disciplemaking Churches.

Individual topics will include: The Stewardship of Leadership, Helping the Church to Mature to Match Its Mission, Managing Change and Resolving Conflict, Measuring Your Health and Fruitfulness.

If you would be willing to host, or if you have interest in participating in such a training experience, please contact Dr.Steve Dunn at 717-471-3018 or sdunnpastor@gmail.com





CLUELESS OR WILLFULLY IGNORANT?

11 06 2015

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BY STEVE DUNN

I am often astounded when talking to church people who don’t seem to have a clue about the people living in the community around their facility. If they “see” people at all, it is to recognize the persons who are most like them and be reassured – or to see the ones unlike them and to move on down the road as quickly as possible. John Stott’s challenge for all churches to exegete their culture proves difficult because in their blindness, these people rarely see enough to gather the facts about the true nature of their community.

Bill Hybels is famous for his statement, “You have never locked eyes on someone for whom Christ has not died.”  But what motivation is that if our eyes are constantly averted from our neighbor and their condition.

I am reminded of the great premise of the American judicial system that “ignorance is no excuse.”  But in a higher court, one that we all face one day, the same premise holds true.  We read in Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Isn’t it time we opened our eyes?

help_someone_block





THE BRIDGEBUILDER PRINCIPLE

13 03 2015

IMG_20150105_190159472For those of you who would like to learn more about the biblical foundations, ministry values, strategies and stories behind BRIDGEBUILDERS SEMINARS, you will want a copy of Steve’s book (and the first publication of Bridgebuilder Publications, The Bridgebuilder Principle. This 124 page book is available for $12 plus shipping and handling.  You can order via the comment feature of this blog.





3 WAYS CHURCHES WILL ADDRESS CULTURAL ISSUES IN THE COMING YEARS

13 03 2015

Ed Stetzer has some very important observations about the interaction between the church and the prevailing culture that greatly benefit those committed to being Bridgebuilding Churches. – STEVE

3 Ways Christians Will Address Cultural Issues in the Coming Years

The way we engage culture as Christ followers matters. It matters a lot. |
3 Ways Christians Will Address Cultural Issues in the Coming Years

Jean-Christophe BENOIST / Wikipedia

At some point during the 1980s and 90s, a desire birthed among politically conservative Christians to begin to stand for things that mattered to them culturally in more active ways than before.

What followed was a ground swell of support for what would become known as the “Moral Majority.” Their understanding was that those who held the beliefs they championed were actually the majority in the country. Some believed that through the right flavor of political activism, they would win the “culture war.”

Fast forward a few decades and, despite these efforts, evangelicals appear to be on the losing side for those who considered it a war.

That’s not a matter of preference or desire; it’s a matter of numbers. Simple math shows that most of the core issues on which the religious right was focused are trending the wrong direction from evangelical belief and practice.

It didn’t work.

When I said that a few years ago, it ended up being quoted in the Washington Post and was listed as a key quote of 2012. It seemed news then.

Now, that idea just seems like common sense and most people would agree. Actually, recent surveys show that the vast majority of pastors tend to agree. (I should add that I don’t use the term “culture war” except in references where others use it—I don’t think you can war against a people in culture and reach them at the same time.)

So the question is, what do we do now? How do we find our way out of a rather awkward cultural moment?

I believe Christians can and will generally focus on three approaches in the years to come.

Cultural Engagers

First, I think there will be some who will be culture engagers. This is where I fit in, but I am aware enough to know I’m not the only one who thinks about engaging culture and that my way is not the only way to do so.

That being said, those who are culture engagers are those who believe we must understand the people around us in order to meaningfully engage them for the cause of Christ. We think about planting churches that are culturally appropriate for the setting, equipping our people with the tools they need for wise and appropriate cultural engagement, and how we can be biblically faithful and culturally engaged at the same time.

We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.

This issue still remains. And, as the culture is shifting, most churches (yes, most) are still living as if they lived in a different era, not engaging the people around them.

I teach and write about this topic often because it is so widely misunderstood. Christians need to engage culture for the cause of Christ, not run from it because people are worldly. Paul explained that he did not call us to “leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10) but rather to “become all things to all men” so as to engage them with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22). (I’ve written extensively on engaging culture and contexutalization, so I won’t rehash that here, but you can find about 90 articles I’ve written at this link.)

Christians need to recognize that holiness is separation from sin, not separation from sinners. Put another way, holiness does not mean separation from people in the culture around us, but separation for the sin in culture around us.

For Christians to identify with and be identified with Christ, we need to do more of what He did. We need to be accused of the things he was accused of. We need to spend more time, not less, with the people he did.

Our churches need to better understand when we need reflect and when we need to reject the culture in which God has placed us. As one who cares about discerning culture engagement, I will spend more of my time helping churches understand and engage the cultures around them.

We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.

Cultural Defenders

I do not think, however, that we only need the particular emphasis about which I am enthusiastic.

Other approaches to culture will be essential. For this too-simple article, the second approach would be that of culture defenders. These people are the ones who will take a stand in both the political and social arenas on issues that have to do with human flourishing.

They will, hopefully in a winsome and gracious manner, stand in the public square to speak on issues of life, family, and morality. They will be the evangelical voice on important issues where Christians are concerned.

They will defend certain positions, arguing that it is better for human flourishing to value certain things in any culture. These people will participate in important work and start organizations that carry it out, as well as supporting those who are already involved.

Though the work or organizations may not be inherently “Christian,” culture defenders will engage with them for the sake of the gospel. I imagine this may be the most difficult work, but people’s religious liberty will have to be defended, the greater good will need to be advanced, and truth will need to be said.

I imagine that some culture engagers and culture creators will roll their eyes, thinking that the culture defenders are not helpful or as discerning as they are. And, some, indeed, won’t be helpful—fighting in ways that are unhelpful and counterproductive. However, culture defenders will be an important part of our future engagement with culture as we move to the new cultural reality of our time.

We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.

Cultural Creators

A third way Christians will approach culture is as creators. Now, I need to distinguish here between culture creation and evangelical culture creation.

Two-thousand-and-fourteen was the year of the Christian film. Evangelicals released all kinds of different films last year. The unimaginable success of God’s Not Dead caught people completely off-guard, both Christian and not (you can see more from the author of the book on which the movie is based in my interview with him here).

We need more Christians in culture creation and we need more churches encouraging them that way.

Many of these films were made by Christians for either Christian consumption or evangelistic purposes. Their messages are overt and clear, and they are meant to challenge those who do not share the evangelical worldview.

There is nothing wrong with these types of films. There are probably some in this vein I could do without (and some my family enjoyed together), but they help and encourage many.

However, other films written and developed by Christians do not have an overt Christian message. This type of movie seeks to shape culture in a completely different way than the others—they are creating culture that engages the broader culture.

They are not evangelistic, but they are creating and presenting a picture of a different—and better—reality to a culture that needs a picture of the vision they present.

The purpose is to create art that crosses religious boundaries, yet communicates particular constructs that reflect those of the Christian artist.

These types of projects are being produced in several genres of art, including music, theater, and film. The idea is that Christians, having been changed by the power of the gospel, espouse a worldview that creates culture. As believers, they engage in activities that shape the culture around them.

Andy Crouch has written about this in his book Culture Making (you can see my interview with him here). I would encourage you to read what he has written about the creation of culture. We need a lot more culture creators. For two examples, and there are many others, see the music of Lecrae and the movie The Blind Side. Neither see Christian as a genre, but rather hold up Christian values and a better way.

We need more Christians in culture creation and we need more churches encouraging them that way.

Culture Matters

When we assess our current situation, I believe that we find the need for all three types of respondents: culture engagers, defenders, and creators.

We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.

Many Christians will go about this in different ways—and it won’t fit in three nice little categories. Regardless, it does matter that we think well about culture: how we engage it, defend things within it, and create it. And, we need to do so “christianly.”

The challenge will be developing ways that honor Christ, while loving and living with those who think differently. And that’s our new and great challenge.

These three different types of people interacting with culture—engagers, defenders, and creators—need to stop shouting at each other and start acknowledging the value that each brings to this new culture moment. All three types of cultural interaction are important.

In this new and shifting context, we need all hands on deck, and even though we’re working in different ways, we need to work together.

If we are not a moral majority, how do we show and share Jesus in the cultural moment where we find ourselves?

Somehow, as God’s people, that’s how we should engage culture—that because of our good works they might glorify God (1 Peter 2:12) and, ultimately, might consider the truth claims and gospel and the Christian worldview that undergirds it.

Related Topics:Arts; Film; Music




WHAT YOUR CHURCH NEEDS MORE THAN ORDINARY

12 03 2015

Dr. Steve Dunn, Bridgebuilders creator, speaking at the recent sessions of the Great Lakes Conference in Findlay OH. Photo courtesy of Ed Rosenberry.

Churches who are building bridges often slip into the trap of the worst of “attractional” Christianity.  They try to have the “best show” in town or depend on approaches that are as much spiritual adrenalin as Spirit. Tim Spivey has some guidance on this important issue. – STEVE

What Your Church Needs More Than Extraordinary

If I asked you to tell me about your 2014, you’d likely tell me about the highlights—vacations you took, job changes, big things in the lives of your kids, and other things that stand out in your mind. But that’s not what made the biggest difference in your life in 2014. Here’s what actually made the biggest difference:

You ate.

You slept.

You drank water.

That’s why you’re alive. That’s what sustained you and allowed all of the other things to happen. When any of those slipped, so did the rest of life. Try to enjoy your vacation without food, drink or sleep. Try to have breakthroughs at work or be a sunshiny presence at home. Eat, drink, sleep. Do those three things well and the rest of life happens. Fail to do them and life is worse—or life ends.

It’s more consistency in the ordinary stuff of Christianity that helps one’s spiritual life grow—not major breakthroughs. Major breakthroughs are great—but they tend to be flashes in the pan or become squandered opportunities when they aren’t undergirded by a foundation of consistency in basic Christian practices like prayer, reading Scripture, loving others and sharing our faith.

Consistency in the Basics—Most Vital for Churches

There’s a trinity of basics in church life that sustain churches—an eat, drink, sleep. It’s attending, giving and inviting. I’m not saying they are the most important things of all, theologically. I’m saying they may be the most necessary.

Consistency in attendance, giving and inviting friends is the eat, drink, sleep for churches. Without it, there will be no big shiny new initiatives. It sounds simple and bland, but it’s true. Look around at the best churches you can think of and you’ll see: Great churches aren’t great because of the big stuff. They are great because of faithfulness in the “small stuff.”

We spill a lot of energy and ink trying to convince ourselves these things don’t really matter. We say idealistic things like, “You aren’t a Christian because you go to church.” True enough, but when we don’t explain our emphasis well, what we are saying is … it doesn’t really matter much. So, people aim for something splashier or more private that feels more powerful but sustains them less and detaches them from basic Christian practices that teach obedience to Christ, humility (you’ll rarely get thanked for showing up to church consistently), and bless the faith communities that help nourish their walk with God. We’re not only hurting the spiritual walks of people when we say thoughtless things like this—we’re crippling churches.

In all our efforts to cast big visions for our churches, we must make sure to help them understand the vision behind the “ordinary.” If we don’t, it will reveal itself when the stakes of our “bigger” visions are high. Ministry is neither marathon nor sprint—it’s more like interval training. That’s why consistent beats extraordinary in ministry.

It’s better to be consistent in the ordinary than irregular at the extraordinary. If you are looking for a way to bless your church and walk with God, do these three things with a great attitude: show up consistently, give faithfully and invite your friends with regularity. Encourage others in the church to do the same. You might be surprised how much growth, evangelism and community happens. You’ll also be shocked at how it transforms you—to be consistent.

These days, that’s what’s exceptional.