BRIDGEBUILDING IDEAS

22 02 2013

page25_picture0_1345493656These are some ideas Bridgebuilder churches have used to begin developing a redemptive relationship with their communities.

Volunteering to help the cafeteria workers in the schools

This is a great one for building a rapport with the school and helping your people see that side of life

Taking a Vacation Bible School INTO a neighborhood

This helps people meet you—lets them see their children are safe with you—lets your people meet neighbors who may hide out in their houses otherwise

Offer A GOOD QUESTION Forum in a neighborhood coffee shop

This I can share in detail—but you create a middle space where people are invited to come, enjoy coffee and ask questions about the Bible, God, Christianity etc—where they will not be asked to join anything , agreed or commit to anything.

Throw a Baby Shower for an Unwed Mother

Walk the Neighbor Hood and Ask “How can we make this a better place to live for you?”Great starter for spiritual conversations)

Adopting a Food Bank and Offering Coaching in Food Preparation

Microwavable and easy-to-prepare food is not often present and people have to learn how to use the food they receive

Diaper Changing Stations at Community Festivals

Setting up a Prayer Station at a Community to Pray for Loved Ones in Afghanistan, etc.

Does your church have an idea they would share with us?





CHURCHES BUILDING BRIDGES – NEW CUMBERLAND

7 02 2013

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FROM CHARLIE ZAHORA and the New Cumberland PA Church of God:

We have a small team at our church called the CORE team, Community OutReach Events. We formed last year and have completed several outreach events. We began by adopting a “mission field” outside our church door, which is about 10 square blocks and 350 homes. In this area we hosted three “Meet Your Neighbor Barbeques”, gave every home a potted flower with an invitation to the barbeques, walked around giving away quarts of homemade chicken corn soup, hosted free summer lunches for school kids, done a few home repair projects for disabled folks, elderly & single mothers, picked up litter, done prayer walks, and a few other ministries. We’ve had lots of “touches” and have been content with our impact. Our intent is to GO into the local community and serve as missionaries. Thanks for any ideas.





FRUITFUL CONGREGATIONS – FIVE PRACTICES

8 10 2012


This post was written by Robert Schnase and is an excellent checklist of DNA of fruitful congregations. -steve

The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how do we do that? The most visible way God knits people into the community of Christ and draws people into the relationship with God is through congregations that fulfill the ministry of Christ in the world. Fruitful congregations repeat and improve on these five basic practices: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity.

The practices are basic and fundamental. But it’s the adjectives that make these words come alive, because they stretch us and cause us to ask ourselves, “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation? How might we do better?”

These are practices—they’re not qualities that some churches have and some don’t. They’re not phases that, once we get them done, we can move on to something else. These are practices that we have to learn and improve upon constantly. These are the activities that are so critical to the mission of the church that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational decline and deterioration.

Here’s a look at the five practices used in fruitful congregations.

Radical Hospitality
(Romans 12:9-21)
Congregations offer the invitation and embrace of Jesus Christ, the gracious welcome that creates genuine belonging that brings people together in the Christian community. Churches characterized by Radical Hospitality are not just friendly and courteous. Instead, they exhibit restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to a faith community. They sense a calling and responsibility to pray and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and supported in their faith journeys. Congregations surprise newcomers with a glimpse of the unmerited gracious love of God that they see in Christ. Our Radical Hospitality goes to the extremes, and we do it joyfully, not superficially, because we know our invitation is the invitation of Christ.

Passionate Worship
(John 4:21-24)
In Passionate Worship, people are honest before God and one another, and they are open to God’s presence and will for their lives. People so eagerly desire such worship that they will reorder their lives to attend. Passionate worship motivates pastors not only to improve their preaching but also to learn continually how to enhance content and technique for effective worship. Worship is something alive that requires continuing care, cultivation, and effort to keep it fresh. Pastors should willingly review and evaluate their own work and invite feedback. The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our own faith but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope, life, and love to others. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our utmost and highest

Intentional Faith Development
(1 Corinthians 9:19-24)
Transformation comes through learning in community. Congregational leaders that practice Intentional Faith Development carefully consider the full life cycle of members and look for ways the church forms faith at every age. They look for gaps, opportunities, and unmet needs to round out their ministries and ask how they can do better. They train laypeople to lead small groups, teach Bible studies, and coordinate support groups. They realize the power of special topics and interests to attract unchurched people, and they advertise and invite beyond the walls of the church. They form affiliation groups such as grief or divorce recovery, substance abuse, parenting, and more. They explore new ways of forming learning communities–blogs, chat rooms, e-mail Bible studies, and downloadable materials. These pastors also participate in forms of community with other pastors or laypersons to help deepen their own relationship with God

Risk-Taking Mission and Service
(Matthew 25:14-30)
This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve Him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-Taking Missions and Service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies, and non-profit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors, and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others, and changes churches.

CONTINUE READING FULL ARTICLE





WHY THROWING PARTIES IS MISSIONAL

3 06 2012

One of the key ideas of BRIDGEBUILDERS is to learn to throw parties with a purpose. This video elaborates on that idea.





JAMES NORED ON THE GOSPEL AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

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). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-94331533.html (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). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-94332368.html (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.

 





MORE THAN OUTREACH

22 05 2011

by Steve Dunn

Many churches have begun to reach out to their communities and neighborhoods. They have begun to develop strategies of outreach, to respond to and meet their neighbors’ needs.

There is a danger in all of this.  Outreach, although never easy, is easier than evangelism.  Lots of time and energy is invested in serving the community in practical ways.  But much of it is done without communicating the message of Jesus Christ.  We do many good things in Jesus’ name but do not necessarily lift up the name of Jesus.  Recovery programs, food pantries, neighborhood clean-ups, childrens’ day camps do not necessarily include conversations with people about Jesus Christ and the Good News he brings.  People are easily motivated by the sense of personal satisfaction that comes from knowing they have done a good thing; but often fear is the motivation for letting it stop there.

Chris Hunter, the Evangelism Coach, recently made this comment in a workshop I attended.  “Without an opportunity to actually talk to people about Jesus Christ, all we are doing is good deeds.”

Do we create those opportunities?

Do we equip or train people to carry on those conversations?

Do we value these conversations even more than the blessing that comes from doing something good?

They are questions worth asking?  The answers will impact the eternal destiny of those for whom we are doing good.





FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE EVANGELISM COACH: BARRIERS

20 05 2011

A few years ago, I listened to a talk given by Mark Mittelberg, who was on the staff with Willow Creek at the time.

It was titled “Sharpening Your Evangelistic Edge.”

Below are 8 barriers to effective communication that Mr. Mittleberg shared. If you have others to add, I’d love to hear them.

Barriers to Effective Evangelism:

  1. Lack of freshness in our relationship with God.
  2. Lack of confidence in the Scripture
  3. Lack of exposure to the Scripture
  4. Lack of clarity about the gospel itself.
  5. Lack of courage to present Jesus as the only way of Salvation.
  6. Lack of confidence in the power of the gospel.
  7. Lack of preparation.
  8. Lack of guts (courage).

The simple solution to most all of this is to spend time nurturing your own relationship with the Lord.

You’ll want to share about what God is teaching you from the Scripture, you’ll be propelled by grace, and you’ll have the confidence in the power of the gospel.

We need to study to know the truth, know what we believe, and know how to share it.  We should always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that lies within us.

Let me ask you this?

Are you prepared to share your faith today?

Is your relationship with God vital enough that you cannot help but share?