3 THINGS CHURCHES LOVE THAT KILLS OUTREACH

28 06 2013

From Ed Stetzer comes these important observations:6.12.OutreachKiller_513938495

All churches love certain things. Some love fellowship, some worship, some prayer. Those are good loves. Some are neutral loves. Some are not. Other churches love their building, their history or their strategy.

Those can be good or bad, depending on what we mean by love and how we value those things. But, some things that churches love hurt their mission and hinder their call. Here are three I’ve observed from my work with thousands of churches.

1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context.

It’s remarkable, and I’ve said it many times: If the 1950s came back, many churches are ready. (Or the 1600s, or the boomer ’80s, depending on your denomination, I guess.)

There is nothing wrong with the fifties, except we don’t live there anymore. We must love those who live here, now, not yearn for the way things used to be. The cultural sensibilities of the fifties are long past in most of the United States. The values and norms of our current context are drastically different and continue to change. The task of contextualization is paramount to the mission of the church because we are called to understand and speak to those around us in a meaningful way. We can learn much from the Apostle Paul’s example recorded in Acts 17:16-34.

So, a church on mission — in this time and place — engages the people around it. Yes, in some ways, it resembles its context — a biblically faithful church living in its cultural concept. But, if your church loves a past era more than the current mission, it loves the wrong thing.

2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission.

The fact is, your church probably needs to be less focused on what makes it happy and more focused on what pleases Jesus. This is an easy trap to fall into because it happens very subtly.

Most churches have worked hard to get to a place where congregational customers are happy — their needs are met. The problem is that we are not called to cater to customers. We are called to equip co-laborers. When we win the affections of those inside our circles, it becomes hard to pull away from the affirmation we receive. Again, this only becomes a problem when the affirmation of those on the inside works to the detriment of our mission to those on the outside. It is a lot easier to settle down with the people who are like us than to reach the foreigner or alien among us.

So, a church does not exist for the comfort of its people. Actually, the Bible reminds us again and again that we are to “provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24), to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and more. But, if your church loves its comfort more than caring for others, it loves the wrong thing.

3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.

How can you tell? They persist in using methods that are not relevant to their own children and grandchildren. Far too often, church leaders, in an effort to protect the traditions of their congregations, draw lines in the sand on nonessential issues.

This is not to say that “tradition” is wrong. It depends on how you define it, but I think most will know what I mean. Christian scholar Jaroslav Pelikan said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Churches that love tradition that way will choose their traditions over their children every time.

Too often, churches allow traditions to hinder their ability to humbly assess their missional effectiveness. Moreover, they allow traditions to trump the future trajectory of their demographic. I know of several young pastors who have been exiled from their local congregations because they didn’t fit the mold of what had always been the ethos of the leadership. Sometimes this is because impatient pastors try and force change too quickly. Other times it’s because settled churches resist change so forcefully.

Undoubtedly, there are always times to defend the traditional stances of essential doctrines in the local church. But we should not have a cultural elitism that hinders passing the torch to a new generation of leaders. If your church loves the way you do church more than your children, it loves the wrong thing.

It’s time to evaluate your church.

Love is good, and everyone wants a loving church. However, loving the wrong things leads you the wrong way. Loving what is good, including our context, Jesus’ mission and the next generation (to name a few things), moves the church in the right direction. The church should be always reforming, that is, humbly looking at itself and assessing its ability to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Sadly, many of the people Jesus devoted His time to would not feel welcome in our churches.

What about your church? What does its posture, behavior, practices and activities communicate to your community? I think all of us want to understand the culture and community we are ministering in so we can communicate the gospel with absolute clarity. To do this, we need to ask ourselves the hard but needed questions.

  • Who are we reaching?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who are like us?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who are already believers?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who understand Christian subculture and taboos?
  • What about the people who don’t have a church background?
  • What about the people who are unfamiliar with Christian beliefs?
  • What about the people who don’t understand church subculture and behavioral taboos?

To say we are unable to reach the lost because of our traditions or preferences is simply unacceptable and antithetical to the mission of God.  





IS YOUR WEBSITE ATTRACTIONAL OR MISSIONAL AND WHY IT MATTERS

24 06 2013

Social-Network-Marketing-BusinessThis is precisely what we teach in Bridgebuilders course INTERNET EVANGELISM AND SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS

From PLANTING CHURCHES

Attractional vs. Missional. It’s all the buzz. But have you applied the thinking to your website?

An attractional website:

Is a destination on the web.
It is static and doesn’t change much.
It is difficult to foster relationship and communication.
It looks good and gives all the critical information about the church in one place.

A missional website:

Is dispersed widely across the internet and found in many different places (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Community Forums, Blogs, Google Ads, etc.)
Everyone can play and interact with the content pushed online. It is social by nature.
It can be found in the online communities where everyday people interact on the web.
It is often discovered because of relevant content and social interaction rather than directly sought out.
The critical information about the church can be difficult to find.

Just as church models are evolving, so is the internet. Ten years ago church website were largely static pages on the internet. They were little more than an online brochure, a destination to learn more about the church. Sites were build to be attractive. The site’s ease of use and look communicated something about the church. It still does today. The internet at this point was a popularity contest. Every link to the site was like as vote for best church website. To get found online, you simply had to be the most popular.

But the internet has changed. It is now largely about social and content. A church’s web presence cannot only be in one static place. A common phrase in missional circles is “The Church has left the building.” Applied to web presence, “The Church has left it’s domain.” To be relevant today, church websites have to be missional. They have to go where the people are. This is why it is critical to have an interactive presence in social media.

Interactive is the key. You can’t just hop on Facebook and start shouting out church announcements. Put your megaphone done and have a conversation. This can’t be accomplished with just the church staff. You have to get the entire congregation involved and help them be evangelists on the web. Open their eyes to how their online communication can be seeded with the gospel. If you just make announcements, you’ll be annoying. Stop it.

It used to be that links to your site were the key metric in the popularity contest on the web. Now content is king. Google will evaluate everything on the web tied to your church. All of your website, podcasts, blogs, social media outlets, white papers, webinars, etc are evaluated. The more Google can see that your content is relevant (measured by sharing, re-posting, liking, etc.), the more you will show up in search results.

Here are a few tips to start moving from attractional to missional with your website:

Distribute lots of content. You already create lots of content (sermons, small group lessons, parenting classes, etc.) With a couple of tweaks this content can be easily transformed into blog posts, podcasts, white papers and more. Move all of your content online.
Pick a couple of social media outlets and do them well. You can’t jump into every online community. Pick a few (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) and get social.
Model for your congregation how to interact online with the gospel in mind. Spread seeds of hope and love in your communication and don’t just point back to your website; point to Jesus. People are raw online, be equally raw and transparent about the hope we have in Jesus.





UPDATES ON BRIDGEBUILDERS, PART 2

13 06 2013

slide-02Earlier we talked about new developments and a new direction for Bridgebuilders in cooperation with the Commission on Evangelism of the Eastern Regional Conference.  Read previous post.  Part of this partnership involves the School of Evangelism that has been operated by the Commission for six years. The School, which will be run by a faculty designated by the Commission with a Director, appointed by the Commission will offer course aimed at raising the evangelistic temperature, understanding and skills of persons in local churches who are seeking to design and implement an evangelistic vision and strategy in their local context.  The School will also provide a component to help people in local churches coach their people in evangelism.

Through the School and through Bridgebuilders Ministries persons are also being trained to specifically coach churches who want to put the Bridgebuilders Principle into practice but who may initially lack someone within the church to serve this function.

The school is offering in 2013 four core courses and two electives in half day offerings on five weekends throughout the year.  The courses are:

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

DEVELOPING A STRATEGY OF EVANGELISM IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

EXPLAINING THE FAITH

SHARING JESUS WITH EMERGING GENERATIONS

The two electives are: EQUIPPING YOUTH AS EVANGELISTS and INTERNET EVANGELISM AND SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS.

Dr. Steve Dunn continues to be the Director of the School through 2013 but afterwards is stepping away to help promote Bridgebuilders beyond the ERC and also to spend time with his own consulting ministry which is also part of the Bridgebuilders umbrella.  Currently he is providing those consulting services to the Harmony Church of God near Dillsburg.

Pastor John Yoder  of Manheim (New Horizons Church) oversees the Commission Evangelism Coaches which provide consultative leadership to churches in the area of evangelism, and also sees the Bridgebuilders coaches.  Currently there are five Evangelism Coaches and three specific Bridgebuilders coaches.  The bottom line — if you need evangelism coaching in your local church in the ERC you will want to contact Pastor Yoder.  For Bridgebuilders coaches beyond the ERC, contact Steve.