Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tell the Truth

We live in a generation where knowledge is power.  It seems that if you know the most, you have power over those who know less.  We esteem information over just about everything else.  This is why we are often consumed with learning how to do things better.  We spend hours and days in training and seminars learning how to do many things.  Now let me say here that I believe education is valuable to a point and training is important if it helps you become who it is God has made you to be.  But there is a point when the training must stop and we should put it all into practice.

I know I personally have sat for many hours learning “How to share my faith”.  When I think about that, it almost seems wrong.  I have listened to others pour into me about how to share something that, if I have it, should be easy to tell.  It is, after all, MY FAITH.  What is it I believe? Who is it I believe in? Where do I place my faith?  The story of Jesus is a simple and powerful story.  We don’t have to read into it or add anything to it.  We just have to tell it.  We shouldn’t be afraid of it, but embrace it.  Our faith will see us through.  If we do believe in Him, we should be excited to tell the truth any time we have opportunity.  We will have a desire to share it with anyone we come in contact with as God provides the opportunity.

We are to be witnesses.  Acts 1:8 tells us that we are to be witnesses to those around us.  A witness is someone who tells what they have seen, heard or experienced.  That’s it.  We are just supposed to tell the truth and let God work out the details.  We should tell about what we have seen Jesus do, what we have heard about Him and what we have experienced personally.  It’s not a memorized presentation, but telling about something we have personally experienced.  A presentation that comes from the heart is more powerful than one that comes from a script.  You can reference scriptures as God brings them to mind, but know that in telling the truth, it doesn’t have to be a perfect presentation.  It just has to come from a witness who is available to be used.  If that is the case, what is it that keeps us from telling the story of truth?

Our faith may be misplaced.  This is easy to do in our lives.  It is much easier to believe in things we can see than in things we cannot see.  We often become tripped up by our own good intentions.

  • Our faith may be in others.  We don’t want to offend someone.  We don’t want them to become uncomfortable.
  • Our faith may be in ourselves.  We are afraid of what they will think of us if we tell them the truth.
  • Our faith may be in this world.  We are afraid that we will lose status, possessions, power or comfort if we tell the truth.
When our faith is in God we see people as He sees them.  We see that they are lost and in need of a Savior.  We aren’t as concerned about ourselves, because we care too much about them not to tell them.  The things of this world become less important as we gain a perspective on things that are out of this world.  When our faith is in Christ, we are motivated to tell the truth whenever we can.  But how can we do this in a way that people will relate to?

His story becomes our story.  We shouldn’t just tell the story as a statement of history, but as a statement of how it has impacted our lives as well.  If the people we talk to hear us telling our personal experience, they will relate to it.  We can’t sugar coat it or make ourselves look better or worse than we were.  We must simply tell the story of what happened in our lives when we believed in Jesus.  What changed?  Describe the peace.  Describe the feeling of freedom.  Describe how it has changed every day since.  Tell about how Jesus is actively working in and through your life today.  Simply put, we should tell the truth.  Below are a few keys as you prepare to use your personal experience as a witnessing tool.

  • Think it through.  Remember the details of your salvation experience as clearly as you can.  When was it? Why did you want to be saved? What did you do?
  • Write it down.  We are more likely to remember things when we write them down.  Be sure to write out the details.  It will also help you make it clear in your mind.  The truth is, we will not tell the truth until we feel comfortable with talking about the details of what God has done in our lives. (What you have written down is just to solidify some thoughts in your mind so you will be ready.  It is not a script for you to memorize.)
  • Organize it well.  What was your life like before Christ? How did you receive Christ? Are there any verses that were used that you could share with your friends?  what is your life like now that Jesus is Lord of your life?
  • Practice it often.  Once you know your story.  Tell it.  You may start with just telling it to a friend who is already a believer.  Here is an important tip: Don’t ask, TELL.  We don’t ask people permission to tell them a story of our latest mountain climbing experience or the game we watched last week.  We just tell them because we’re excited about it.  The same should be true about the experience with Christ as well.  We need to have that same kind of excitement about telling the truth about our experience with Jesus.
  • Know how to invite them into a relationship.  Once you tell your story, you can ask if they have ever experienced a personal relationship with Christ.  If they have, ask to hear their story of faith. If they have not, ask them if they would like to today.  Here you can use a simple gospel presentation (Romans 6:23 is a great verse to use to describe what God has done for us) to confirm some thoughts with them and invite them to pray and ask Jesus to be their Savior.

Let’s not over complicate this.  Let’s be willing to be witnesses.  Let’s be willing to be bold.  Let’s just tell the truth!

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The Small Group Journey

To say that we’ve tried just about every small group approach out there would be accurate.  When our church started, we knew we wanted to have the small groups be the main hub for developing relationships, discipleship, caring for people, reaching the community and engaging people in a real life journey with others.  In the process of making this happen, we have tried a variety of ways manage the small groups systems at our church.  We have had long term groups and short term groups, age graded groups and stage of life groups, interest based groups and gender based groups, book studies and sermon discussion groups, and many other varieties.  We tried appointing people to groups and having people sign up for groups.  We have tried groups that consist of only 2 to 4 people and groups that were just over 20 people.  All of this was in an effort to discover what would work in our community and in the culture that we had been ministering within.  Through all of this, we discovered some things that were true for our church and may prove helpful to you as well.

1.  You can’t force relationships.  We worked really hard assigning people to groups because we wanted to make sure they were with someone.  We discovered that many times we were working against ourselves because we were the ones making the choices for the people in our church.  They had no ownership in the decision.  Because of this group attendance was hit and miss at best and the discussion seldom went past surface level.  We even tried this with 2 to 4 people to create opportunities for one on one discipleship to take place.  But there again, we were the ones matching people up and were in a constant state of frustration when many of the pairs/groups didn’t go well.

2.  Group settings require a forum.  We have discovered that really 6 to 8 people are the smallest forums we want to have healthy discussion and dialogue during the weekly group meeting.  Fewer than this and it often moves into more of a lecture format or very little discussion taking place.  In order to have this as the minimum, we try to sign up 16 to 20 people in each group.  This allows for people to be MIA at times and gives and average weekly meeting of 8 to 14 people. (Special Note: Even though this is a forum, it’s not an open forum for discussing church business or openly criticizing direction, ministries or staff.)

3.  Not everyone fits the stereotype.  Not every empty nester wants to be in an empty nesters group and not every college student wants to spend their time in a college group.  Because of this, we allow people to sign up for whatever group they feel would be most beneficial to them.  An exception to this, of course, would be gender based groups.  We have discovered that having a broad age range within one group often helps to add many different perspectives to the group setting.

4.  Leaders must come from within.  We have discovered that the leaders that excelled in their group are the leaders that had personally grown from being a part of a group within our church and had a heart to help others experience the same thing.  Giving a leadership role to someone who is new to the church is very tempting but often would come back to cause us issues in the future.  Even though new comers may show leadership skills and look like they would be a perfect fit, we discovered that waiting for at least 6 months would allow them to experience groups and us to experience them.  This approach has eliminated some of our frustrations with groups.

5.  Common Ground is essential.  For any group to fully engage those who are in it, there must be some common interest, study or pursuit.  This is why we now have implemented a lot of variety within our groups system.  We do have groups that tend to be age graded, some groups that go through certain books together (i.e. parenting, marriage, finances, etc…), some groups that explore a book of the Bible together, and some groups that are centered around specific interests.  This allows us to engage people where they are and let God work to shape them into He wants them to be.

6.  Change can be good!  Change is essential to any growing organization.  The same is true with groups.  We have found that within our culture, short term groups of 8 to 12 weeks work great.  We then reshuffle the deck and sign up for new groups.  This constant change makes it easier for newer people to jump in, keeps it fresh for people involved in groups, and allows many relationships to be cultivated throughout the church.  Change is also a defining force in our culture.  We know that once we have found “what works” that it will only be temporary, as the culture changes around us.  We continually make adjustments to impact and involve more people.

The truth is you’ll never get to where you want to be if you’re afraid to fail in the process.  We failed many times in our attempts to create healthy group environments within our culture.  But in the process, we learned new truths that helped us get to where we are today.  Don’t wait until you think you have all the answers.  Get started and discover that there is a good chance you weren’t even asking the right questions.  Enjoy the journey.


Tithe Challenge

There are some who believe that tithing is a legalistic approach to giving.  But I believe that God has called us to bring our tithes and offerings to Him on a regular basis.  It’s a physical act that demonstrates that He is the Lord of our life.  The New Testament didn’t lower the expectations of giving.  If anything it actually increased it to the point that we should be willing to sacrificially give to glorify God and further His Kingdom.  We should teach regularly on the biblical perspective of giving using both the Old and New Testament as our guide.  Jesus talked more about money than he did any other subject while He was here on earth.  He knew that if we were going to learn to trust in Him, we would have to learn to let go of our main object of trust, our money.

I have found that once or twice a year as you are teaching a series on giving or one Sunday on giving, you can use the tithe challenge to jump people from initial givers and systematic givers to tithers.  It’s just as easy to ask for a 30 day commitment as it is to ask for a 3 month tithe challenge.  If your asking for a 3 month challenge, you can also modify it to a 4 month challenge.  In Malachi, God says test me.  Encourage people to test God.  “For the next 4 months I want to encourage you to take this challenge and see what God does in your life.”  Along with this challenge, you could give out copies of the treasure principle to those who take the challenge.  Either hand it out that day or mail it to them.  Mailing it could be better because in the packet with the treasure principle you can include a letter from the pastor with info about the challenge and a mail in envelope and even ask them to use auto debit.  After the challenge Sunday, send an email from the pastor encouraging them about their commitment.  Then one month in, send another encouraging email, “Right now your being challenged and are wondering what is going on and you are considering taking back what is God’s…”  Again at half way through the challenge, send another email requesting stories about what has happened since they took the challenge. (Tangible or Intangible)  Do they feel better, have inward peace, seen financial blessings, seen financial struggles, etc…  And one month before the challenge ends, send out all of the stories you received to encourage others and invite more stories from those in the challenge.  If you’re ambitious, you can also do a daily devotion dealing with money to people who took the tithe challenge.

Note: Know that there will be some people that will not continue tithing after the challenge is over.  But there will be a good percentage of those who took the challenge who will realize the value of giving and continue to do it on a regular basis.

Times of change are good times to start a tithe challenge.  These would be the months January or Feburary and then again in August or September.

A Side Note on Tithing

Malachi 3 is the basis for tithing.  The best time to teach on giving is when things are going good.  It should be a part of the normal routine.  If you taught on money as much as Jesus taught on money … it would be every third week.  A third of Jesus’ teaching is on money.  You should challenge people to give more so they can grow more.  When you are not tithing, God is not proactively against you.  But at the same time, He is not proactively for you.  The curse from not tithing is the absence of God’s blessings in your life.  Partial obedience in the tithe is complete disobedience.  Genesis 4 is another good passage where it talks about Cain and Able.  Cain gave what was left over … it says he gave some of his fruit (not his best fruit).

A common excuse for not giving is debt.  But, the way to get out of debt is to pay God first and let him manage the debt, not to pay down the debt and ignore God.  Proverbs 3:9&10 tells us to honor the Lord with our wealth.  Additionally, the tithe should be given to the church not other organizations.  The church belongs to Jesus Christ.  It is the organization He left behind.


Plan to Reach More People with the Gospel this year!

I’ve worked on developing missions strategy and structure within the church for the past couple of years.  I found there wasn’t a lot of basic structure  on how to develop and/or promote missions into the lifeblood of the church.  As a result, I developed the following approach to missions and evangelism through the church.  I am including this here as a reference for anyone who might be developing this within their church.  This structure may give you a good starting point for developing a structure for your ministry.  Feel free to copy, take and use any portion of this.

Missions & Evangelism Ministry Breakdown

Overview:

The basis for our missions’ ministry is found in Matthew 28:18-20.  The passage tells us to “Go and make disciples of all nations …”.  It is our responsibility to “Go”.  Every child of God is commanded to “Go”.  This is not dependant on some calling to foreign, national, state or other missions.  God did not leave this as an optional area of service.  He has told each and every one of us to share the gospel throughout the world.   The structure for this ministry is found in Acts 1:8 – [Jerusalem (Local) / Judea& Samaria (Regional)/ Earth (National & International)].

Our purpose is to involve every member of our Church in missions as an effort to encourage personal fulfillment of the Great Commission, both locally and globally.  The foundation of this ministry will always have a goal of sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of God in radical ways.  The vision and desire of the missions’ ministry is to increase the passion of our Church for personal evangelism, local, state & foreign missions, and missions efforts in general for the glory of Christ through training and involvement in missions opportunities.

This ministry will function under the direction of the Missions Pastor working with the Point Person of each area of missions to determine needs and plans for spreading the Gospel.  The foundation of this ministry should always have a goal of sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of God in radical ways.

Trip Selection & Planning

Finalization of Trip Selection is to be determined by the Pastors and Point Person of each area.  These trips will be the church promoted/sanctioned trips for the year.  There may be some trips that are one year trips while others commit to a longer relationship with the field.  Those with longer relationships should be planned with the intentions of a multi-year commitment to the field.  These trips should be designed with the intention of developing relationships with the field.  Types of these trips could include: Evangelism, Construction, English teaching, Pastoral Training, Medical, Leadership Training, Life Skills, VBS, Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Orphanage, Church Planting, and more.  The goal of all missions’ trips should be to support and/or help establish local churches with indigenous leadership.  National and International trips should be prayerfully selected, approved and scheduled by July 15 of the previous year.

Trip Funding

Missions Ministry Leadership will annually prioritize ministry objectives to determine funding.  Portions of church sanctioned trips will be offset by the Missions Fund. (The Missions Fund is supported by the annual missions offering and special gifts given throughout the year to the Missions Fund.)  Each trip’s offset amount will be independently determined by the missions/stewardship team based upon the total cost of the trip, type of trip, availability of funds, and total mission efforts that need to be funded. Because of the missions ministry offset of the trip cost, each team is asked not to conduct a corporate fund-raiser aimed at the Church membership until after the annual offering is received.

Trip cost offset funds are only available to members of our Church.  And team members must contribute a minimum of 50% of the cost of the trip before offset funding will be considered.  Offset funds may cover anywhere from 0% to 50% of the trip depending on fund availability and trips to fund.  There is NO guaranteed percentage or amount for support.  Offset funds are guaranteed only for a set number of participants.

Deposits should be made by all participants on dates determined by team leaders.  Plane tickets may not be ordered until there are sufficient funds (including offset) to cover price of ticket.

NOTE:  Funding assistance for non-sanctioned missions’ trips by church members will be considered on an individual basis. Support will be determined by the missions’ team/pastoral staff with consideration given to other trips and funds available.

Trip Participation

  • The necessary qualifications including age, physical ability, mental & emotional stability, missions’ experience, and spiritual maturity of participants should be determined by the team leader in advance of advertising the trip.   This should be determined based on the requirements of the trip and type of trip.
  • Team participants should submit application including personal testimony to participate on trip.
  • Must be willing and able to share a gospel witness if needed (training will be provided)
  • Must attend mandatory pre-trip meetings
  • Must have or acquire a valid passport at their own cost prior to purchase of tickets. (If trip is International)
  • If the team capacity is not filled from the our membership, openings may be filled by individuals of similar faith. All other requirements remain other than church membership.

Trip Leaders / Trainers

Leaders and/or Trainers must be a faithful member of our Church who meets the qualifications for the First Lead level of ministry.  They must have participated in at least one other church sanctioned trip and/or been approved by the missions leadership and pastoral staff. They must also have served as a co-leader with an approved trainer before leading their own trip.  Additionally, they should have good organizational skills including the ability to contact local missionaries, make all travel arrangements, and manage the team while on the field.  They will be responsible for planning the trip itinerary, team size, project costs, and leading the necessary training sessions prior to the trip.  Team trainers are church pastoral staff members and other leaders who have the experience necessary to qualify as a trainer as approved by the missions leadership and pastoral staff.  Those going as co-leaders may receive additional financial assistance from missions’ funds because of an increased level of involvement as determined by missions’ leadership and pastoral staff.

Structure Developed

National & International

  • One to two main areas of focus will be developed for the church with the possibility of other relationships being developed on a lesser scale.

Regional

  • Church Plants will receive high consideration in this area as a way to multiply churches throughout the region.  We will discover ways to partner with and help various church plants.

Local

  • As part of the full spectrum of our missions’ obligation we must participate in missions efforts on a more local level.
  • The Missions Ministry will promote and help coordinate local mission projects throughout the year to help involve more our members in missions.
    • Servant Evangelism (use groups as a vehicle) – these are acts of kindness with the purpose of showing God’s love.
    • Community Involvement (church wide events) – these are opportunities to team up with existing ministries (i.e. food pantries, foster care, homeless shelters, etc…) to assist them in their efforts.  We don’t need to recreate the wheel that someone else is already doing well.  Also, should look for opportunities to partner with other churches to increase our overall efforts and reach.  Our goal is Kingdom growth!
    • Quarterly Collection Projects – (coats & blankets, food for holidays, cereal for kids, etc…)
    • Work Days @ Park / City clean up / etc.
    • Big Days – 3 or 4 per year.  These are more attraction type events that allow our people to bring their friends and family into our environment for worship.
  • One Dayin the community (make use of Servant Evangelism ideas)
    • Prayer Walking and Neighborhood canvasing Teams (get Easter door hangers)
    • Kite Day @ Lake Willastein (children’s and Family outreach event)
    • Car Show (community event)
    • Evangelistic FREE Car Washes (find location)
    • Evangelism at car washes and Laundromats
    • Yard Work/ Minor Home Repairs – Various Locations
    • Bottled Water Team (parks, etc…)
    • Senior Adult Ministry – (Nursing Homes)
    • Block Party (children’s and Family outreach event)
    • Dental & Health Clinic
  • Evangelism Group or Team
    • The vision for the group is to reach outside our comfort zones to share the gospel and build our faith and trust in God at the same time.
    • The tools for the group will use an evangelistic survey, evangecard, tracks (from E3) and invite cards to the church.
    • Demonstrate the tools to the group and how to use them.
    • Have those who have gone out tell stories about what has surprised them the most about going out and what opportunities they have had.
    • Have the group break up and practice scenarios including: How to approach people, What to say and How to close the conversation
    • Challenge the group to learn the E-card before the next meeting because it will be time to go out and put it all into action.

Missions Rally

  • This is designed to cast vision, promote opportunities, celebrate what God has done and pray for the harvest.
  • Missions Rally Plan (once or twice a year … below is an example layout for the meeting)
    • 6:00 – Welcome (Excited about what God has done)
      • Upcoming Opportunities in Missions
      • Praying for fields we have ministered in
  • 6:15 – Pray
    • Testimonies from missionary teams

Evangelism Training

  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY should function as an evangelism arm of our Church.
  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will lead / help promote at least one evangelism training study or event annually to encourage the church body to become more able at personal evangelism.
    • Evangelism Explosion / Share Jesus Without Fear / FAITH / Way of the Master
    • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will work with the Groups Pastor to ensure that Servant Evangelism is a part of groups every semester.

Prayer in Missions

Daily prayer is necessary if we want to see something happen that only God can do.  We must encourage our church to pray as they are involved in missions opportunities.

  • PRAY for God to give you patience and flexibility as you minister.  Prayer is an important part of any missions effort.  There won’t be any wasted time as we minister … just more time to pray!
  • PRAY for God to bring us people who need to hear about Him and His salvation.  Pray that God will use YOU to share your faith with another person.
  • PRAY that God will bring people in the ministry area to be saving faith in Him.
  • PRAY for the churches of your area.  Ask God to guide them as they ALL seek to reach the city for His glory.
  • PRAY for church as a whole and the leaders of the church.  Ask God for wisdom, guidance, opportunities and safety for those who serve.
  • It is also vital that each person participating in a missions project have a prayer team of at least 5 people who will commit to praying for them daily.

Miscellaneous

  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will lead and help coordinate along with the pastoral staff an annual missions’ season to promote the missions efforts of the church.  (November through January)
  • The Missions Ministry should seek out new and better ways to promote missions among our church family.
    • Missions’ conference / Missions Rally / etc.

 

Church Missions

Team Participant Application

Name _________________________________________________________

Email __________________________________________________________

Best Phone ____________________________________________________

Are you a member at our Church? Yes      No

Will you commit to pray for this trip daily beginning today?         Yes      No

What do you hope to see God do in the mission field on this trip?

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What do you hope to see God do in your life personally on this trip?

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My personal Testimony: (Including Salvation Experience)

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