2 07 2014

Bill Tenney-Brittian partners with Bill Easum (Dancing with the Dinosaurs) in a ministry called 21st Century Strategies.  Recently he posted an article on their blog EFFECTIVE LEADERS that committed Bridgebuilders might want to consider. – Steve


Stop Inviting People to Church … and Grow Your Church Anyway

Stop Inviting People to ChurchThis weekend I’m working with a church that desperately wants to grow … well, the pastor wants it to grow. He asked his core leaders about their inviting experiences and to a one they all said shades of the same thing: “I’ve invited all my friends to church and they’re not interested.”

Well, Duh!!

Unless you happen to be inviting a formerly well-churched person who somehow misses the falderal of doing church, there are few people out there just waiting for an invitation to come to church … pollster’s statistics notwithstanding. As I’ve said before, pretty much everyone who wanted to be in church last week was in church last week. That means that everyone else really didn’t want to be in church. So why bother inviting them? Especially since they’re unlikely to accept your invitation anyway.

Besides, there’s a better and significantly more effective way.

Typically, people only accept invitations to events (functions, meetings, etc.) that they perceive will add value to their lives. Of course, “values” are as personal as they are ephemeral. What one finds valuable another finds pointless. The truth is, a lot of people believe they get more value out of staying in bed than they would from attending a worship service on Sunday morning. On the other hand, these same folks find value and invest their time in hanging out with friends, going to concerts, attending workshop on improving their lives or their golf game, and taking their children to endless soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, and swimming practices. Value is in the eye of the beholder … and for a growing number of people, attending a worship service just isn’t worth the investment.

If your church is serious about reaching these folks, and if you depend on member’s inviting those in their circles of influence to come to church, then the church will need to host something “valuable enough” (in the eyes of the beholders) that your members’ friends are willing to say “Yes!” to an invitation.

Here’s an example:

A church in a very small town is located next door to the town’s single-screen theater. They’ve got a good relationship going with the theater owner so they get a heads up about upcoming movies a good bit in advance. They’re offering a Family Friendly Dinner Date Night a couple times a year and they encourage their members to invite their friends to it. For $15 per adult, the date night includes a sit down dinner at the church, the cost of admission to the movie, and childcare for the kids.

Of course, the childcare isn’t just babysitting. The children’s team pulls off full programming with the children that’s gentle-faith based and over the top fun. The kid care is designed to encourage the children to be excited about coming back.

But like Ginsu knives, “But wait! There’s More.” Just before the movie lets out, the church sets out a family friendly bedtime snack spread to encourage lingering and mingling. And as the families linger, the church members serve, and mingle, and build new relationships.

But the real genius isn’t the invite-worthy event; it’s what comes next. Sure, the kids go home with their handmade craft (that’s always a lot better than a coloring sheet), but the parents go home with a “handoff” as well. They receive an invitation to a special three-week series on a topic targeted to these mostly unchurched families. Sometimes there’s a three-week series based on the movie, but more often it’s a three to four week series that’s compelling such as the date night was.

For instance, following one of the date nights, each couple was given a VistaPrint magnet card that advertised an upcoming three week sermon series titled: A Guys’ Guide to Relationship Sanity. The series is based on how husbands (and prospective husbands) should treat their wives (prospective wives). The church was intentional in creating a series that guys could get into … but that the women were invested in getting their guys to go to.

But the genius just keeps on coming. Before the series is over the church will be delivering another handoff event or series to keep the guests (and the members!) coming back.

So, stop inviting people “to church” and start inviting them to church hosted events that your target finds value-able enough to accept an invitation to. And then make sure you’ve got a handoff … because it’s those handoffs that can move them from an event participant to an exploring disciple who’s attending worship


9 01 2014



This is an awesome example of the Bridgebuilders Principle (“building redemptive relationships with the community”).  I thank George for permitting us to reprint this from his newsletter.  George is the pastor of Turning Point Church in Mechanicsburg PA.  – Steve

by George Spangler’

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Jn 13: 34 – 35


Please Dont Do This


Recently, I became frustrated with the numerous stories of stingy Christians who made a point out of being overtly critical to the servers that waited on them.  Perhaps you saw the story of the Pastor who was offended that an 18% gratuity was added to his bill.  He crossed out the automated gratuity and wrote these words, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?”   On top of that I was frustrated with the stories and posts of how Christmas has become so commercialized.  I read an article about the number of people killed or seriously injured in Black Friday shopping related, crowd stampeding incidents.  My secular friends used these types of stories as rational to stay away from church altogether, and sometimes I can understand how they feel.



Turning Point Church


But these stories do not describe the Christ followers I know.  The people that I know who love Jesus are generous and loving and so I gave Turning Point Church a challenge.  I said, “These stories do not describe  the Christ followers I know, let’s get out there and intentionally love a server this Christmas season.  Let’s do our part to share the love of Jesus and be exceedingly generous in someones life.  I need nominations of hard work servers that are struggling to make ends meet.”


 We were led to a woman that we will call “Susan.”  Susan is a mother of four small children and is working hard to provide for them.  We called the restaurant she worked at and arranged with the owner to be seated in her section.  We told them what we were going to do and asked them to keep it a secret. She had no idea why we were there or why we requested her. We didn’t know her and she didn’t know us, but we were about to have a lot of fun getting to know each other.


 I  invited people to our “Guerilla Lover” breakfast.  That’s right!  Guerilla Love (jumping out from behind a tree, kind of guerilla, and showering her with love and kindness in the name of Jesus. )  I loved to lend you my Guerilla Lover book, just email me.


 I had two expectations of the participants:  1.) Come and eat breakfast with us at this diner on a Thursday morning, order whatever you want and 2.) leave at least a $20 tip.


 I found 11 people from Turning Point who were able to make the Thursday breakfast and who were willing to leave a generous tip. I was also blessed to reach out to one of our ministeriums which brought about the attendance of some awesome COG pastors like:  Dan Masshardt, Zack Wilt, Stefanie DiFrancesco, Charlie Zahora, and Dave Williams. Tracy Connor, who is planting VisionPointe Church in York, was also able to attend.


Participants at the Guerilla Love Breakfast


 After enjoying a breakfast together and spending time getting to know our server, we presented her with a Christmas Card signed by all of us and containing our tips.  I explained,  “We got together to celebrate Christmas and the joy that Jesus brings us.  That’s why we are eating together today. God has been so good to us and we want to celebrate it together and share it with you.  So we got you a Christmas Card too.”  She looked at me a little confused and said, “Thank you.” When she opened the card, she noticed it contained a wad, and I mean a wad of dough.  She was taken back and overcome with tears.  In the name of Jesus, we were able to bless this wonderful hardworking mom with a tip of $440. At the same time, we gave witness to the wonderful generosity of our awesome savior, who entered the world to give his life as a ransom for ours.


 I couldn’t think of more enjoyable way to spend that $20 than to eat with people I care about, celebrating the love of our amazing God, and giving generously to a stranger who God prepared in advance for us to meet.


 Here is what some of the others are saying:


  “It was fun.  Sure we all have our ups and downs but overall as we express Christ’s love and action to the world around us should’nt it be a blast?   I will never forget the expression on Susan’s face as she experienced that love for real.” -Tracy Connor



“It was fun to be there, but mostly it was fun to make an impact on one life that day.”


– Dan Masshardt


 “The following Sunday I told the story of our experience and I shared the story of the starfish.  With so many “starfish on the beach”  what difference did we really make?   We made a difference in Susan’s life.  It mattered to her.” – Stef Difrancesco



“There aren’t very many days and experiences that a person will never forget. This was one of them. Our server will always remember this and so will the 17 of us that participated. I shared this story with our church on Christmas Eve, as an example of what God’s church should look like in the world. If I leave a $20 tip, that’s not a big deal. But when a whole group of us each leaves a $20 tip, that is a big deal. Thanks for the opportunity!”


– Charlie Zahora



“It was probably the best part of Christmas break. Just for us as a group of pastors to be meeting the same time as your act of love so we could join in–that was a divine plan. Living out my faith in practical ways has always been my style so joining with you was a blessing. Thanks for inviting us. Also as a conference guy I typically hang around with pretty committed believers so I am always looking for opportunities to meet with people not yet a part of the faith community. So thanks for the opportunity to share God’s love in a very practical way.”– Dave Williams


 “It was the best part of my Christmas week. the opportunity to see Christ’s love in action was a real blessing.”


– Zack Wilt



I am looking forward to next year’s Christmas Guerilla Love Breakfast, perhaps it will become a movement with multiple locations and multiple blessings.  Who knows?  Maybe we will eat together and perhaps be an answer to someone’s prayer for God to miraculously provide.


 Share the Joy,


 George Spangler


8 03 2013



“Would you be willing to put a cross on your front line as a simple expression of witness?”

This is how an older lady in a Methodist Church in Harrisburg PA began  a quiet announcement in her church.  “People have all kinds  of signs on their front lawns for many purposes.  How about a simple cross that simply says ‘A Christian lives here.”

Ultimately 250 persons from her church living around the Linglestown area of the city had crosses on their front lawns.  Not garish.  No other messages–but the most powerful one.  “A Christian lives here.”

One day a lady knocked at the door of a house with this cross on the lawn.  “My car broke down, my cell phone doesn’t work, and I am lost,” she told the homeowner.  “I really didn’t known what to do, and then I saw your cross and thought, ‘Someone with  cross will surely help.”

What a wonderful serendipity of the Spirit!  What a wonderful witness!  What a wonderful way to say to a community in an inviting and non-threatening way, “A follower of Jesus lives here.”


11 06 2012

BRIDGEBUILDING CHURCHES have a kingdom-sized vision and a mission field that ultimately moves beyond Judea and Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Dean Hay pastors the United Church of God in Ursina, Pennsylvania and are definitely a BRIDGEBUILDING CHURCH.  Here is their latest mission field.

The amphibious assault ship, the USS Essex


2 06 2011

This an excellent post from James Nored on his Missional Outreach Network blog.  I urge you to subscribe.

James Nored

The Gospel Spreads through Social Networking – Lessons from Jesus & the Early Church

I am not opposed to “advertising” for the church, particularly if it is tied to offering to meet a felt need in the community. But the most powerful form of “advertising” is the sharing of the gospel person to person through social networking. Today, obviously, we have tremendous online social networking tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that we need to utilize to reach the lost. But even without these tools, the early church grew from a small band of disciples in the first century to an Empire-wide force in the 4th century through person-to-person, “social networking.”


Jesus was certainly shaped by his social connections, and his ministry was launched through social networking connections. On a divine level, he was sent by the Father to the earth, and he was conceived through the Holy Spirit. The Father was well pleased at his baptism, and the Spirit descended upon him at this time (Matt. 3:13-17). On a human level, Jesus was raised by parents that sought to be obedient to God (Luke 1:21-40), and he followed the ministry of his relative, John the Baptist, preaching this same message: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).[1] While his mother, brothers, and sisters were at times skeptical of his messianic claims, after his death and resurrection his mother Mary and his brothers were present at Pentecost, and his brother James became a foundational figure in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14; 15:13; 21:17).

The synoptic gospels seem to portray Jesus calling the disciples out of nowhere and without any prior connections; however, the gospel of John makes it clear that Jesus used social networking as he made this call, beginning with Andrew, one of John the Baptist’s followers, and then spreading through Andrew’s family and friends (Jn. 1:40-42).[2] Jesus of course also worked through other social structures of his day to spread the gospel, including the rabbinical schools, the synagogues, and agrarian society. Galilee, where Jesus grew up, also would have provided Jesus with various points of connection, serving as a physical hub connecting him to all sorts of people, including fishermen, farmers, tradesmen, artisans, tax collectors, and others.[3]

The early Christians followed Christ, sought to be like him, and took up his call to be fishers of people seriously. Moreover, missiologist Eckhard J. Schnabel asserts that the early Christians followed Christ’s life and mission even on the strategy level, for “they confessed Jesus not only as Messiah but also as Kyrios: his behavior was the model and the standard for their own behavior.” [4] An examination of the early Church’s outreach strategy shows that the Church followed Jesus’ model of social networking.

On Pentecost, the number of Jesus’ followers who were gathered together was a mere 120 people. Yet, as the Spirit of God was poured out and Peter preached the gospel message, more than 3000 responded (Acts 2:1-41). While the apostles and other evangelists would play a key role in the spread of the gospel, increasingly the gospel would be spread by these ordinary Christians through their own social circles.

The structure of the book of Acts is made up of radiating people-group circles, with the command to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This rate of the transmission of the gospel through social networks would increase as persecution broke out against the Church and “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).

As has long been noted, the physical and social structures of the world of the early Church made networking possible on a grander scale. The Roman roads connected cities around the Empire, and those at Pentecost and those scattered by persecution were able to quickly take the gospel to their old or newly developed social networks. The common Greek language provided not only understandability, but a common way of thinking and a reference point for those sharing the gospel. The Diaspora assisted in the message transmission, with the synagogues serving as nodes or distribution hubs, connecting missionaries like Paul to family, friends, and a vast network of people who already believed in God and were looking for a Messiah. And as Paul goes through the household codes in his letters to Christians and draws out the implications for the gospel, he repeatedly encourages his readers to reach out to outsiders, make the most of every conversation, and impact every social stratum which they occupy for Christ (Col. 3:18-4:6).[5]


As noted above, while the gospel message spread through apostles, evangelists, and missionary bishops, it spread primarily through ordinary Christians. Unlike the public evangelism of the “full time” evangelists, this “ordinary evangelism” would have worked primarily through social circles. This is the very type of evangelism on display in Origen’s response to Celsus, who charged that Christians spread their beliefs in women’s quarters, leather shops, and laundries.[6]
In its beginnings, it appears that Christianity was largely a movement amongst the lower class, Jews, women, and agrarian society in Palestine, but it soon became a movement that encompassed Gentiles, men and women, the educated, and urbanites across the Roman Empire.[7] While there were many sociological, religious, and political reasons for this, social networking played a major role in the numerical growth and demographic shift of Christians in the first three centuries.

How can we use social networking today to share the gospel and start a new movement for Christ?


[1] Jesus’ connection to John the Baptist undoubtedly helped him tremendously in launching his ministry, a concept that is both testified to in the gospels (John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus) and by social construction theory. The authors of Palestine in the Time of Jesus state that kinship was the primary social domain of ancient Mediterranean societies, followed by political structures and associations. K. C. Hanson and Douglas E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 20.


[2] “Instead of immediately leaving one’s everyday work place and following without hesitation, [in John] there is networking with kin and friends in the villages.” See Dennis C. Duling, “The Jesus Movement and Social Network Analysis: (Part Ii. The Social Network).” Biblical Theology Bulletin (2000). (accessed 5-14-09).


[3] See Hanson and Oakman, 99-129. See also Dennis C. Duling, “The Jesus Movement and Social Network Analysis (Part I: The Spatial Network),” Biblical Theology Bulletin (1999). (accessed 5-21-09).


[4] Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, vol. 2 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 1544.

[5] For a summary of the conditions that favored the spread of Christianity, including the Roman roads and common language, see Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 579-80. In regards to the Diaspora, Stark writes, “In all the major centers of the empire were substantial settlements of Diasporan Jews who were accustomed to receiving teachers from Jerusalem. Moreover, the missionaries were likely to have family and friendship connections within at least some of the Diasporan communities. Indeed, if Paul is a typical example, the missionaries were themselves Hellenized Jews.” See Stark, 62.

[6] Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 208-09.


[7] Stark’s entire work, The Rise of Christianity, lays out these reasons and others for Christianity’s growth in the early centuries. Stark.



18 12 2010

From Igniter Media, an interesting take on how the story of Jesus’ birth might have been told had there been a social network at the time. Click the link below.