10 12 2017

Cary Nieuwhof is one of the favorite bloggers of those who work Bridgebuilders Ministries.  This is an extremely helpful post for this time of year. – STEVE


Any idea what the best outreach opportunity of the year at your church might be?

You might think it’s an event you do, or perhaps it’s Easter. But whether Christmas has historically been your best opportunity to reach unchurched people or not, I believe it could be.

You may think it’s far too early to start thinking about Christmas, but think again. Whenever I’ve shared these ideas about Christmas, people say “Hey, I wish you’d talked about this earlier.” So we are.

In addition to this post, Jeff Henderson and I are doing a free live training outlining how to turn Christmas into your best outreach opportunity of the year.  Jeff takes all his learning from Gwinnett Church (#ForGwinnett)  and I take mine from Connexus Church and hand them to you.

The training is on replay for a limited time leading up to Christmas 2017, and you can watch it here.

So why can Christmas become your very best outreach event of the year?

It Only Happens Once A Year These Days

As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, we’re seeing far fewer times when the holidays of the church and the holidays of culture sync. I remember about a decade ago hearing a Toronto DJ refer to Easter as “the first long weekend of summer” (in Canada Good Friday is a holiday and schools still take Easter Monday off…a relic from Colonial days). Good Friday and Easter were completely lost on him. It was simply time off.

Christmas is completely different.

Our culture still loves Christmas. Sure, the motives are commercial. But Christmas is the only time of year when you’ll hear malls belt out explicitly Christian songs like Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:”

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

If you follow a lot of Christians on social media leading up to Christmas, you probably have noticed how many people lament over the culture’s disregard of Christ.

Well, you can see the obstacle. Or you can see the opportunity. I choose to see the opportunity. There are so many connection points with our culture you’ll miss if you only see the glass as half empty.

This is no time for the church to be more cynical than the world, which still remembers something is different at Christmas, even if they’re not exactly sure what it is.

Stop complaining about the world. Reach it instead.

As the general population thinks less about the Christian faith, Christmas provides a unique opportunity to reach people who no longer ordinarily attend church.



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 


24 11 2014



ExponentialChurch.TV of Harrisburg is a four year old congregation that meets in a movie theater.  Powerful and highly contemporary worship, practical and creative sermons and a children’s ministry make up a Sunday experience.  The church has in its DNA a strong service component called You Matter.  One of the things this ministry promotes is for individuals to follow their passion and gather others to make a difference through their service.

Karen Lockard commutes nearly 30 miles to be a part of this urban ministry.  One day as she was in another town she saw homeless man with a cardboard sign “Will work for food.”  She was on her way to a Life Group, her car carrying clothing that another  church was distributing, but the encounter so compelled her that she called a friend and together they met the man on the street and helped him

.10734130_801767273195524_1212667097432725992_nKaren says she is not a leader and a  small comfort zone.  Yet this experience prompted her to start a ministry as part of her You Matter connection,  With friends and her church she put together “I Can” – based on the promise of Philippians 4.13. The result was she and several others from Exponential now making periodic visits to 13th and Derry, an economically depressed part of Harrisburg,  With vans and trailers, they distribute food and clothing and coats to the people living in that area.  Just a small thing in her eyes, a growing effort in the estimation of her pastor, Gilbert Thurston.

Karen Lockard is a bridgebuilder, as is her church.


24 05 2014

Thank you Justin Meier for sharing this video from the VERGE NETWORK

Check them out


23 03 2014

thumb.phpby Steve Sjogren

Success in outreach isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. After coaching lots of leaders over many leaders – many of them who were previously convinced they couldn’t possibly do it – here’s a summary of some of what I’ve learned.

1. Believe You Can Be A Success In Outreach.
Exert the faith God has given you to reach your community. That faith is already there, just believe as an act of your will!

2. Imitate Others Who Are Successful In Outreach As Much As Possible.
I sometimes hear, “Oh that stuff that so and so is doing is his approach. He’s already done that…” My thought is “What in the heck are you thinking? It’s sheer lunacy to think that you need to be original.”

I like what Robert Schuller says about these things – “The first time I use someone’s stuff I mention that they’ve said it. The second time I say ‘Like someone has said.’ The third time I say ‘Like I’ve always said.’” I love that! Take my stuff. You don’t need to mention me – just plug my books!
…on other hand,

3. Tune In To What The Spirit Is Uniquely Saying In Your Backyard.
He is at work right around you, that’s for sure. Your job is to tune your heart and ears to what he is doing right here, right now. Do some prayer walking. Slow down your pace a little. Look people in the eye. Ask God to let you feel their pain.

4. Begin Your Outreach With The Poor.
The poor are ideal place to begin to reach out to. It is cruel to only verbalize the Gospel without meeting physical needs with them so find creative ways of connecting. The book 101 Ways To Reach Those In Need (Janie Sjogren, NavPress) is a great, creative tool to kickstart your outreaches. Convey the message of the Gospel along with meeting practical needs. As your people succeed here they will grow in their confidence and ability to share elsewhere in more challenging places in town.

5. Bring Children Along.
Don’t forget the promise, “The children will lead them.” Often their faith will spur the faith of your adults.

6. Start By Serving In Practical Ways.
Kindness Outreach opens doors and reduces the risk so that more straightforward means of communication can take place. Serving in practical ways is an easy way to build your faith for greater levels of outreach.

7. As You Serve, Verbalize The Gospel.
To only serve is to miss the point and to chicken out. Show AND tell.

8. Begin To Share The Gospel By Telling The Story Of How Jesus Has Changed Your Life.

9. Pray For, Then Look For, People To Share With.
He will bring people to you. Just open your eyes.

10. Look For Mentees to Bring Alongside You.
Even when you’re brand new, part of the point to this is train others. As you train others, as little as you may know, you will grow deeper and faster.

11. Just Begin.
“Ready, Fire, Aim”

12. Work Really Hard At Having Big Fun In All Of This!
Don’t forget the famous verse, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is fun!”


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.