3 Ways We Make It Difficult for People to Be Saved

I came across an interesting story in my daily Bible reading. In Acts 15 we find possibly the most critical church business meeting in history. God was working mightily and the church was growing steadily. New believers were being added daily to the body and in the midst of this powerful wave, satan sowed a subtle seed (say that seven times).

A proposal was made by the frozen chosen to actually make it harder for people to become a part of the church. They wanted the new believers to clean up before they join up.

After hearing testimony from two front line missionaries (Paul and Barnabas) and The Rock (Peter, not the actor), James, the senior pastor of the church in Jerusalem, stood up and declared:

“My judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19, NLT)

That phrase really hit me. How many times do we make it difficult for people to come to Jesus in our churches? Sometimes it’s intentional, but more often it’s unintentional. So, what are some ways we might “make it difficult” for people?

THREE WAYS WE MAKE IT DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO COME TO JESUS

1.  We make it difficult to feel at home.

Perhaps one of the scariest things a non-Christian can do is to visit a church for the very first time. There are so many questions echoing in the mind of a first time guest. (10 Questions First Time Guests are Asking) Long before a guest makes it to their seat, the question is who will they meet. Will it be a warm, welcoming greeting? Will they feel wanted and accepted? Will they be ignored? Or even worse, will someone treat them rudely. The fact is hospitality is palpable. The question is, what taste are we leaving in our guests’ mouth? Sweet or sour?

Most churches consider themselves friendly. The problem is that they’re usually only friendly to each other. If you really want to know whether your church is truly friendly, hire a secret shopper and ask them to review everything you do. The results just might surprise you.

An unfriendly church makes it difficult for people to come to Christ.

2.  We make it difficult to enjoy the worship.

Music is the world’s most powerful medium. How many people will endure a boring Superbowl (yes, there are boring ones) just to catch the half-time show? Like it or not, music can penetrate where words may fail to communicate.

The musical style of the church can either increase the discomfort of your guests or it can build a bridge into their heart.

How many all-hymn radio stations do you think lost people listen to? If the musical style we use for worship is completely foreign to our guests, it further amplifies their cultural discomfort. I know, I know, some will say, “Yeah, but unbelieving sinners shouldn’t feel comfortable in our service!” Please tell me we know the difference between making a guest feel comfortable in our service versus comfortable in their sin. I’m sincerely hoping that a church, whose mission it is to reach people doesn’t want to repel them.

Non-believers cannot worship, but they certainly can be drawn into the worship. Music does that. When we use music styles that the culture can relate to, the guests find themselves tapping their feet to the beat thinking, “This is pretty neat!”

However, when we choose music that feels like a funeral, we make it difficult for people to celebrate new life in Christ.

3. We make it difficult to understand the truth.

There are three ways we make the truth difficult for people. We use difficult translations (KJV, really?), dated versions (paper versus apps), and dull preaching.

Bryan Chappell cites a survey on preaching in America in his classic book, Christ-Centered Preaching, finding that “1) Preachers tend to use complex, archaic language which the average person does not understand; 2) most sermons today are dull, boring, and uninteresting; 3) most preaching today is irrelevant; 4) preaching today is not courageous preaching; 5) preaching does not communicate; 6) preaching does not lead to change in persons; 7) preaching has been overemphasized.”

I know we want to get our money’s worth out of all that seminary tuition, but we need to get back to the approach of the Master. Jesus used simple language to communicate a difficult truth. Jesus’ sermons had 4 characteristics:

  • They were short (the longest one is estimated to be less than 15 minutes)
  • They were clear
  • They were relevant – He often used everyday stories to communicate eternal truths
  • They were actionable – people knew what to do when He was through

The Bible is the world’s most practical book. The promises, principles and precepts contained in scripture are truly life-changing, and yet somehow, we seem to make it difficult for people to understand and apply. The point of preaching is to make the Bible clear.  People can’t obey what they don’t understand.  The Apostle Paul said, “In a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.” (1 Co 14:19)

Our preaching should reinforce our people’s confidence that they can read and understand the Bible themselves. So we need to discombobulate their misconceptions by recombobulating our methods (see what I did with that?). In other words, put the jam on the bottom shelf so the people can get to it. Choose clear over clever. (For more on the topic of preaching, check out my blog: 8 Principles of Great Preaching)

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Those are some of my thoughts.

What are your thoughts?

What are some other ways we make it difficult?

Posted in ORBC

3 Proven Practices for Reaching the Unchurched

Recently a pastor asked me, “What are the top 3 to 5 things your church does to reach the unchurched?”

I immediately thought about our DREAM strategy. It has guided our church for 17 years and has allowed us to reach thousands of people for Christ. The good news is that any church can become more effective at reaching the lost in their community and it doesn’t even involve new buildings or expensive technology.

In fact, the secret to reaching the unchurched is not even a secret. The principles are as old as the New Testament and are transferable into any church in any community or culture.

So, what are they?

3 PRACTICES FOR REACHING THE UNCHURCHED

1. Consideration.

You cannot connect who you are not considering. Reaching the lost begins with passion. Passion drives practices. If the church leaders are passionate about reaching lost people then it will bleed out onto every part of the church. Remember, Jesus’ passion literally bled out. Before you can reach the lost your heart must break for what breaks the heart of God and God’s heart breaks for people. Do not even attempt to change the programs of the church until you’ve changed the passion in the church.

Want to light a fire for evangelism in the heart of your leaders? Bring them to the 2017 DREAM Church Conference!

2. Accommodation.

Once you have a burden for the unchurched it will color how you see everything you do in church. You will be looking at your church through the lens of the lost. For example, if you were hosting important guests for dinner who have never been to your home before you would probably do some things differently. You would probably make sure the house is picked up. You would warmly greet them at the door. You would let them sit in “your” chair. You would turn the TV off in order to give them your full attention. You would probably even break out the nice dishes instead of the paper plates. In other words, you would pull out all the stops to show them that you are glad they came and do everything you can to make them feel welcome and wanted. This isn’t compromise; it’s courtesy!

Churches that want to reach the unchurched must have a guest-friendly makeover. They should examine every element of the weekend service through the eyes of their target and then make adjustments to ensure that they are treating their guests as VIPs.

Learn the 3 systems you must change in your church to make it unchurched friendly at the 2017 DREAM Church Conference.

3. Invitation.

Now that you’ve prepped the house for company, you’re ready to invite them over!

It is still true that nearly 70% of our first time guests came because someone invited them. Yes, it’s good to have a great web site, Facebook page, and social media presence, but all those things are supplementary tools. Nothing will ever replace the power of personal invitation.

Pastors often ask me, “How do I get my people to invite?” But that’s not the right question.

The right question is, “Why aren’t my people inviting?” And sadly the reason is usually because they don’t feel their church would be a great experience for their lost friends.

People naturally invite to something that they are excited about and has changed their life. You don’t have to twist someone’s arm to talk about what they’re excited about.

Want to learn the 3 secrets of turning your members into inviters? Check out my blog post entitled, How to Spark an Invitational Revolution.

When the leaders are filled with a passion to reach the lost, the worship services are tuned to be guest friendly, and your people are regularly inviting, you have a powerful recipe to reach the unchurched in your community!


READY TO BUILD THE CHURCH OF YOUR DREAMS?

To learn more about building a healthy, evangelistic church that is reaching the community, I want to challenge senior pastors to bring your entire leadership team to our annual DREAM church conference. We’ve partnered with thousands of church leaders, both in the U.S. and across the world passing on what we learned from successful churches and now we want to pass it on to you!

When you need more than inspiration, the DREAM church conference provides you with practical tools and proven strategies that can be applied to any church anywhere.

http://www.thedreamchurchconference.com/

Posted in Leadership, ORBC

The Top 10 Posts of 2016

I had quite a bit of blog traffic this year coming from all over the world. I am thrilled that my posts have been a blessing to some fellow Christian sojourners. I am also deeply humbled that I was published several times this year by pastors.com, the official community of purpose driven pastors worldwide.

Here’s the Top 10 of 2016:

  1. I D.R.E.A.M. of a Church
  2. The Church Isn’t Meeting My Needs – Part 1
  3. The Top 10 Characteristics of the Average Unchurched Family
  4. The Erosion of the Family in America
  5. Why You Should NOT Give Money to the Homeless Person
  6. Why We Stopped Doing VBS
  7. The Church Isn’t Meeting My Needs – Part 2
  8. The Church that Canceled Christmas
  9. How the North Pole Became a Cultural Bridge
  10. Why Your Church Should be Doing Bridge Events Instead of Outreach Events

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support.

My passion is to equip church leaders to pursue God-sized DREAMs for their church.

My prayer is that this blog helps them to do that.

May 2017 be our greatest year yet!

Posted in Leadership, ORBC

Why Your Church Should be Doing Bridge Events Instead of Outreach Events

Churches that have a desire to use an outreach event aimed at reaching their community for Christ struggle with strategies that are effective.

Over the years I’ve seen churches (including mine) use big events that require a lot of time, money and volunteers, only to find that they were relatively unsuccessful at connecting unchurched people into their congregation.

Of course, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to using events to reach people. However, there are some guiding principles of what not to do and what to do.

First, what not to do:

1. Don’t be pushy.

On my honeymoon a guy at the hotel offered us a “free cruise.”  All they wanted was for us to “listen to a brief presentation about their vacation timeshare.” We thought, “Why not? We have no money for a timeshare so this will be easy.” What we didn’t know was that the “cruise” was a boat ride to a private location with no way to get back except the boat. Finally, after several hours of very painful high-pressure sales pitches which felt very much like a Nazi interrogation, we were allowed to leave. I remember thinking, “I will NEVER do that again!”

I wonder how many “guests” feel that way after attending a church’s “free” event?  Trapped and pressured.

Outreach events should leave them thinking, “I’d like to know more,” rather than, “Man, where’s the door!?”

2 Don’t get creepy.

One time a friend invited me to check out his church’s Halloween outreach program. He told me it was one of their best evangelistic outreaches with hundreds of decisions. We decided to go check it out. It didn’t take long before I realized it was going to get weird. The “program” consisted of being taken into different rooms where volunteers acted out the story of a young rebellious girl. The first room showed her getting into an argument with her parents. The next room showed a mangled car with a shattered windshield. Next, they crowded us into a room with low lights and a casket. There they talked about how this girl had thrown her life away and would never get another chance to be saved. From there they moved us down an intensely hot, dark hall where all of a sudden a red light flashed on and the girl was standing behind bars of a side room decorated to be hell. There were several people tied in chains to the walls behind her. Blood dripping down her face, she screamed over and over, “I’m in hell!  Help me!”  Reaching her arms through the bars towards us she cried, “If only I had listened when I had the chance. Now it’s too late.” Finally, they ushered us into the sanctuary where they “presented the gospel and begged us not to get back into our cars until we had made certain we were saved. In fact they asked every person in the room, “Are you a Christian? Do you know for sure? Do you?”

I thought to myself, “Thank God I was a Christian before I came here because I’m not sure I would have ever considered Christ afterwards.”

I asked him afterwards how many people had been added into his church as a result of the outreach and he responded, “A few.”

Remember, our goal is to make disciples, not decisions.

3. Don’t be tricky.

Whether it’s bait and switch tactics, high-pressure “seal the deal” evangelism or scare them into Christianity; none of these approaches are highly effective at reaching the unchurched. That’s why your church should consider a bridge event instead of just an outreach event.

What’s the difference between an evangelistic event and a bridge event?

Bridge events are pre-evangelism outreaches that are designed to build a relational bridge into the lives of the lost.

What are the elements of a great bridge event?

1 IT’S FREE.

A great bridge event must demonstrate that the church exists to be a blessing to their community.  Most lost people think of the church as a private service organization that exists purely for the benefit of its members.

A great bridge event needs to show that we exist for the purpose of our non-members.

Going all out with no cost to the community says, “We’re here for YOU!”

2 IT’S FUN.

Get in the mind of the UNchurched and think about an event that they would enjoy.

We’ve done this in a variety of ways including a free concert that played rock and roll hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

However, by far, our most successful bridge event has been our Santa’s Wonderland. You can read more about this event here.

A great bridge event should be a “no strings attached” environment where the people in your church can form relationships with the people in the community. Nothing does this better than good old fashioned fun.

3 IT’S FOCUSED.

Resist the bait and switch.

As hard as this is as a dyed-in-the-wool, Bible belt evangelical, I’ve come to realize that you have to earn their trust before you can share the truth. There are no shortcuts to building a relational bridge. Lost people today are more skeptical than ever. Their guard is up and their hearts are closed.

A great bridge event that sincerely communicates care does wonders to lower their guard and open their heart.

 

So, what great bridge event could your church do?

Posted in Leadership, ORBC

The Church that Canceled Christmas!?

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“WHAT!?  You’re not having services on Christmas Sunday? Pastor, are you out of your mind?  What kind of church doesn’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday?”


Our church, along with church leaders everywhere, wrestled with the dilemma of what to do about services on December 25th.

Having been at my church for over 17 years, this is not my first “Christmas lands on a Sunday” quandary. In fact, it’s my third!  Christmas also fell on a Sunday in 2011, and in 2005.  Although expected attendance is a major concern, it certainly is not the only one or even the most important reason we decided not to have services on 12/25.

WHY WE ARE NOT HAVING SERVICES ON DECEMBER 25th

1.  We’re not canceling Christmas services; we’re actually expanding them!

In 2011 and 2005, we had just 1 worship service celebrating the birth of Jesus. This year we will have 10 celebration services spread out over 4 days in 2 adult venues!

  • 12/21 @ 7pm,
  • 12/22 @ 7pm,
  • 12/23 @ 7pm,
  • 12/24 @ 3pm and 5pm.

2 .  We are giving back to our volunteers.

We know from our data that only about 30% of our average weekend attendance will come to a December 25th service. Because of this most churches that normally run multiple services will end up running only one service that Sunday.  Knowing that it takes volunteers to run the weekend programming, what that really means is that the core will be there to service the fortunate few.

We want to acknowledge the incredible sacrifice of our volunteers who serve so selflessly every single week by giving them a break to spend time with their family on this special day. That’s our Christmas present to them!

3. Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th.

I hope this will not completely shatter your faith, but no one actually knows the exact date that Jesus was born. For further discussion on this topic see https://gotquestions.org/December-25.html In fact, the earliest Christians never even celebrated the birth of Jesus. They celebrated His resurrection not His birth.

The real reason we don’t know the date is because it simply isn’t what was important about His coming.

The significance of Jesus’ birth is not the day He came, but the way He came.

Yes, some will get upset that we chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on several days other than the 25th, yet Paul addressed Christians who get caught up in making a big deal about certain days in his letter to the Romans:

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance…some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable…So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:1–10, NLT)

4. We are acknowledging our target.

Oak Ridge is very clear about our target. Our mission is to bring hope and healing to hearts and homes. That means, we work hard to understand the people we are reaching and then adjust our programs around their needs not our wants. Our average attendee, we call the Oaks family, comes from a broken home where the holidays bring more headaches than happiness. I’ve written about the average unchurched family in a previous blog post.

These families are dealing with the harsh realities and painful consequences of divorce and blended homes. Their lives are not the picture perfect nuclear family and Christmas for them often means kids being shuffled to 2, 3, or even 4 different households in a single day! Reducing their anxiety of trying to figure how to fit one more expected event into their overloaded calendar is an acknowledgement that we get it. That’s the whole reason we expanded the number of service options leading up to Christmas. Options allow these frazzled families to be able to celebrate their faith while also juggling the complexities of their family. Remember, our mission is to bring hope and healing, not stress and guilt.

 

5. We will offer an online Christmas message on December 25th.

For those families in our church who are able to huddle their loved ones together on Christmas morning for a brief time of spiritual reflection, we will be offering a special online message. My wife, Lisa will read the Christmas story (your kids will LOVE it) and I’ll share a very brief devotional entitled, TGIF – It’s Christmas!

 

Finally, for those families who are just itching to attend a full service in a church building on December 25th we encourage you to attend one of the many fantastic sister churches who are holding regular services that day. Remember, we are not in competition with other churches, we are in collaboration.  Our competition is the world and there are plenty of lost people to go around.

So invite every person you know to one of our Christmas Candlelight services to celebrate the birth of Jesus and then enjoy Christmas with your family and we’ll see you on New Year’s day!

Posted in ORBC

How the North Pole Became a Cultural Bridge

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For over a decade our church invested a huge amount of time, money and volunteers to pull off an annual fall festival. It was our biggest evangelistic bridge event.

In a previous BLOG post I share why we decided to stop doing the annual Fall Festival. You can read why we stopped doing the fall festival by clicking HERE.

In this blog I want to share why we decided to use Santa’s Wonderland as our largest Christmas outreach.

I received a message from a family stating they were leaving our church. They were outraged that we would use Santa Claus, an obviously secular Christmas character, as an invitational hook for the community. “Pastor, don’t you realize that if you rearrange the letters, Santa spells Satan! Why would a church promote such paganism!?”

Of course, this reaction is a bit extreme, but many Christians would feel uncomfortable with the idea of using Santa Claus for a Christmas outreach.

So why did we land on Santa’s Wonderland instead of maybe a living nativity?

Several reasons:

1. We wanted to use the culture to build a bridge.

It’s important to have a historical perspective on how the church has handled paganism over the years. As the gospel advanced geographically over hundreds of years, the missionaries were winning people with rich pagan cultures. It was very common for these people to use feasts and celebrations as a rhythmic part of their community life.  The medieval church decided that instead of telling these new converts to abandon their seasonal celebrations and stop having parties, they simply re-themed many of these holidays to celebrate their new found faith in Christ. In other words, they not only converted the people, they also converted their parties! Using cultural icons where applicable can be an incredibly effective evangelistic strategy if used appropriately. BTW – most Christians should be aware that Santa’s legend grew out of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a godly Christian, not satan.

2. We wanted to attract our target.

The target for our church is unchurched families. We needed a Christmas outreach experience that would speak the language of our target without using the classic bait and switch methodology so often employed by evangelicals. For example, many unchurched families have been to church sponsored outreaches that used fun for the bait, but then cornered the family into a high pressure evangelism, “turn or burn” presentation. Instead, we wanted to create an outreach for families that would best communicate, “No, really, this event is totally designed to simply be a fun experience for your family.”

Using Santa was a strategic decision. Santa’s Wonderland communicates that this is not a deeply religious event, but simply a “holiday fun” experience. This has the double effect of attracting the unchurched while also deflecting Christians from other churches who are just looking for a religious event for their family. BTW – There’s nothing wrong with the former, but the idea of an OUTREACH event is to create an experience designed to be a front door to the church for our target.

3. We wanted to do something no one else is doing.

Again, if you want to reach the people no one else is reaching then you have to do what no one else is doing. In our area we found that no one else was creating a FREE holiday experience for the family. Most families could count on spending significant money just to see Santa and snap a pic. We decided to create a powerful immersive experience for the whole family that includes:

  • An entire North Pole set complete with dozens of elves
  • Photo booths
  • Holiday Characters in full costume such as Elf, Olaf, Frosty, Elsa, etc.
  • Crafts and games
  • Story time with Mrs. Claus
  • A holiday movie theater
  • Free candy, snacks, and hot chocolate
  • and of course, a visit with Santa complete with a free photo op!

4. We wanted to demystify the church.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. One of the most critical elements of a successful outreach event is to show the unchurched that church people are not weirdos. We’re normal fun-loving, family-centric people who have been changed by the love of Jesus Christ.  Our goal is for our Santa’s Wonderland guests to be so blown away by their experience that they walk away saying, “We have to come check this church out!”

And that’s exactly what has happened. Santa’s Wonderland has become one of the most effective evangelistic outreaches in our church’s history.  We have connected dozens of new families whose first exposure to Oak Ridge has been through an old guy with a white beard in a red suit. 🙂

Posted in ORBC

WHY SHOULD I RETAKE THE CLASSES?

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THREE REASONS I NEED TO RETAKE THE CLASSES

Someone may have thought (not you, but some other person), “I love the campaign and the energy but this business about taking all the classes again…  I’ve already taken them.  Why should take them again?  I mean, come on we’re all busy right?”

There are three reasons why I sincerely believe that this is a commitment worth investing in.

1. WE ALL NEED REFRESHERS.

Can you repeat the main points of last Sunday’s message?  No?  Then you certainly can’t remember all the material from the base CLASSes. We packed into the base CLASSes the most important habits that every Christian needs to know in order to grow.  However, it’s hard to retain what’s slipped out of your brain!

The Apostle Peter told us that we need regular reminders in order to remain renewed:

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away…Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live.” (2 Peter 1:10–13, NLT)

Vince Lombardi was arguably the greatest football coach of all time. He left behind a legacy rich in leadership and excellence.  Vince Lombardi is famously known for beginning training camp every year by holding up a football and after a long, deliberate pause, he would say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  He knew what so many others forget.  That getting back to the basics was what made champions.  As Christians, we often drift off course in our spiritual life for the same reason.  We forget the basics.  We neglect the fundamentals.  We look for quick fixes or new methods or “deeper” teachings, thinking that must be the key to reigniting my spiritual life when the truth is, most of us just need to be reminded of the centuries old basics that have been making disciples for 2,000 years.

2. TONS OF NEW MATERIAL!

God’s Word has given us all the tools we need to do everything He wants. Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NIV)

As culture changes, so do the problems facing the faithful. Because of this, in 2013 I added new material vital for your spiritual journey to each of the base CLASSes. I want you to be thoroughly equipped to accomplish all that God has for you.

3.  I DON’T WANT YOU TO GET LEFT BEHIND.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)

God is taking Oak Ridge into a brand new frontier of influence.  I cannot overestimate the exponential impact of the opportunities that are opening up to us.

As God mobilizes every member into ministry and mission He is going to use YOU to change the world.

Just like surfing, if you want to fly high you have to catch the wave when it goes by. As this wave of God’s Spirit is moving through our church, I want you to “HANG TEN!”

So, what do you say?  Ready to change the world with me?

Run the bases.

Do the habits.

Change the world.

Posted in ORBC

How to Make America Great (or any country for that matter)

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I have lived through twelve presidential election cycles.

In each one the candidates work hard to point out what’s currently wrong with our country, what it will take to fix it, and why they are uniquely qualified to get the job done (though often more time is spent explaining why their opponent is NOT qualified to get it done).

Every campaign uses slogans that are meant to elicit our emotions and move us to action:

For the Future (Nixon)
The Stakes are Too High for You to Stay at Home (Johnson)
A Leader, For a Change (Carter)
America Needs a Change (Mondale)
The Better Man for a Better America (Dole)
Reformer with Results (Bush)
Let America be America Again (Kerry)
Change We Can Believe In /Change We Need / Hope and Change (Obama)
Make America Great Again (Trump)

And yet no president, government or armament can bring about the changes that are most needed in our community, country or world.

The problems facing our world today seem almost insurmountable.  In the face of these global giants it’s easy to assume that we could never make a real difference.

There are three ways we respond when faced with overwhelming challenges:

  1. We can fear it – allowing the challenge to chain you.
  2. We can feed it – allowing the challenge to chafe you.
  3. We can face it – allowing the challenge to change you!

Christians are called to make a tangible difference in this world.  Jesus called us salt and light, both of which have a measurable impact on their surroundings. I not only believe that Jesus meant it when He challenged us to change our world; I believe He expects it.

So, how can an ordinary Christian make an extraordinary difference in a troubled world?

THREE WAYS EVERY BELIEVER CAN CHANGE THEIR WORLD

1. You must change the world inside you before you can change the world around you.

You cannot share what you do not have. Before you try to change the world, be sure God has changed you.

How can we experience real change?

Peter said, “I am a servant and [change agent] of Jesus Christ. I write this [letter] to you whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours…” (2 Peter 1:1, The Message)

When Jesus enters your life He transforms you from the inside out in order to send you out!

Changed people change people.

2. You must see daily irritations as divine invitations.

We often feel ‘called’ to change the problems 2,000 miles away while ignoring the problems right in front of us.

It’s far easier to have compassion for earthquake victims in another country than to have patience in line at the grocery store.

Changing the world doesn’t start by boarding a plane.

Changing the world begins right here, right now, with the people right in front of you.

3. You have to sacrifice to serve.

You cannot make an impact without making a sacrifice. It will cost you something to make a difference. Maybe that sacrifice is giving up your time. Maybe it means taking your next step in your own faith journey. Maybe it means saving up for when God opens a door.

No matter what, it will mean getting out of your comfort zone.

The world’s challenges can only be changed when we have been changed by the challenges.

———————————————————-

So, how about it?

Are you ready to make a difference with your life?

Are you ready to change your world?

Join us on a journey of change beginning September 25th as our church learns how we truly can change our world!

Change Your World Introduction from Oak Ridge on Vimeo.

 

Posted in ORBC

Why You Should NOT Give Money to that Homeless Person

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There he is again. The guy at the corner holding his sign, hoping that sympathetic travelers will donate some money to his cause.

I realize that, as a pastor, I risk being vilified by my own constituency.

“Pastor, doesn’t the Bible teach us to give to the poor?”

However, as a church that launched the single largest ministry to the homeless and poor in our city, I do have a few opinions on the subject.

4 REASONS YOU SHOULD NOT GIVE MONEY TO THAT CARDBOARD SOLICITOR

1. You are usually buying a lie.

Dishonest money brings grief to all…” (Proverbs 15:27, The Living Bible)

Pretend your 5 year old had strep throat and you jumped in the car to buy them some throat lozenges. On the way you spot someone selling low-cost throat lozenges on the corner. “These are guaranteed to relieve the burn of your poor 5 year old’s throat,” the solicitor tells you. You buy the lot! However, after your 5 year old has tried some you realize that they are only cherry candy. They didn’t help your child at all. Would you be mad? Of course you would. You’d realize that the person lied to you about the product and about the outcome. Not only were you ripped off, but your child is worse off.

Frankly, that’s the case with the cardboard toting solicitors. They all have a story to tell. They just need something to eat. They just need enough for a bus ticket. Their relative is sick and they need to get home. Their car is out of gas. They just need a little to get back on their feet. The local charities wouldn’t help. On and on the stories go. The only problem is that they’re almost never true. There is a word for when someone elicits money under false pretenses: fraud.

Why do you get mad if a car salesman rips you off but not a cardboard salesman?

2. You are usually feeding an addiction.

Why should fools have money for an education when they refuse to learn?” (Proverbs 17:16, CEV)

Conservative statistics show that 64% of the homeless have addiction problems and some studies have placed that number as high as 90%. I realize that some homeless have made jokes about their addiction:

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Addiction is no laughing matter.

If someone who you knew was suicidal asked you for a rope would you give it to them?

3. You are destroying their dignity.

Even while we were still there with you, we gave you this rule: “He who does not work shall not eat.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:10, The Living Bible)

Every time you do something for someone that they should have done for themselves, you are destroying their dignity. Every western Christian would do well to read When Helping Hurts by Corbett & Fikkert.

Any parent knows that one of the most important lessons that we can teach our children is that they should work to earn money. Getting something without working for it breeds ingratitude, laziness and even contempt.

If you knew that giving money to a beggar actually made them feel worse about themselves, would you still do it?

Well, now you know.

4. You are postponing life-change.

The Lord…refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:3, NLT)

Giving money to someone who is almost assuredly going to use it to continue a destructive lifestyle is not compassionate, it’s complicit. People don’t change when they see the light; they change when they feel the heat. Giving them money may make you feel good, but it almost certainly isn’t used for good. Real life change occurs when the well dries up and they begin to seek long-term solutions.

Thankfully, those solutions are out there. For example, in our city that long term solution is a ministry called HALO – Hope and Life Outreach.

HALO exists to give the poor a HAND UP, not a HAND -OUT and their ministry is doing just that! Their Journey of HOPE program is an intensive, year long program that restores dignity, equips them with life skills and gets people off the streets. I had the privilege of attending a recent graduation ceremony and I have to say it was truly moving.

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If you REALLY want to help the homeless, don’t give your money to the cardboard solicitor, give it to a ministry that is working to bring hope and healing to the homeless and hurting.

What are your thoughts?

 

Posted in Life, ORBC

The ABCs of Empowerment

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In my last article I looked at the 3 Principles of Effective Leadership.

Delegation and empowerment are easier to write about than they are to actually implement.  For anyone who has ever tried it, you have also learned that there needs to be a few rules to help guide the person who’s been empowered. It’s not uncommon for the new leader to quickly use their new power to set off in unintended directions.

We need to not only give them power, but also some guiding principles.

May I suggest the following ABCs of Empowerment

1. Alignment

The greatest example of empowerment in the Bible is found in Matthew 28:16-20.  We commonly refer to this passage as the Great Commission.  In this passage Jesus empowers the leaders He has trained for the previous three years to fulfill His ongoing mission.  He tells them, “Guys, I’m outta here. I’m handing the baton to you now. Complete the work I started by making new disciples everywhere.” (Mossolonian Loose Translation)

Jesus is clear on the mission, vision and values.  He is conspicuously vague on the methods. Of course, this is on purpose. Jesus wants His followers to focus on the eternal purposes of the church, not the cultural practices of a particular context.  This allows incredible freedom for His followers, but with that freedom comes the opportunity to veer off course.

It’s important that a newly empowered leader is clear enough on the organization’s mission, vision and values that their creativity will remain aligned with the organization’s overall goals.

For example, if the church’s highest value for the weekend service is to reach the radically unchurched, but a newly empowered worship leader wants to bring in a prophetic, “signs and wonders” traveling evangelist, then there probably is an alignment issue.

Empowered leaders need to bleed the heart of the organization and ensure that everything they do aligns with its overall mission, vision and values.

2. Boundaries

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the twelve Apostles on a Great Commission test run. He empowers them and gives them specific instructions on what to do and what NOT to do.  “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only go to the people of Israel–God’s lost sheep.” (Matthew 10:5-6, NLT)

Newly empowered leaders need to know where the boundaries are. What’s off limits?  Where are the guard rails for the ministry?

It’s unfair to reprimand someone for violating a boundary they were never shown.  We often think it’s common sense when truth be told, we only learned where the guard rails were by our own trial and error.

Establishing a few boundaries for the new leader actually gives them even greater empowerment. There is a confidence that comes when one knows where the boundaries are.  You’ve probably heard of the story of the early days of the progressive education movement.  One enthusiastic theorist removed the chain-link fence surrounding the school playground. He thought children would feel more freedom of movement without the visible barrier surrounding them. When the fence was removed, however, the children huddled near the center of the playground. Children exercised even less freedom when the boundaries were unclear. So do leaders.

3. Clarity

Finally, and most importantly, leaders need to know what the ultimate goal is. Andy Stanley, in his book, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, lists”Clarify the Win” as #1.  I would agree.

New leaders need to know what they’re being graded on.  What puts points on the scoreboard?  Otherwise they can easily fall into the rut of activity without productivity.

Although biblical churches have 5 specific organizational purposes (wins), each of its ministries ultimately only has one. For example, if a newly empowered children’s ministry leader thinks that the win is that every kid has learned the books of the Bible, but the defined win is that every kid is living the Bible, then frustration is inevitable.

In my experience every leader wants to win.  They want to know that what they are doing is making a difference. They want to help the organization meet its goals and accomplish its vision. No newly empowered leader wants to consciously work against the organization. We can help them and ourselves when we take the time to teach them the ABCs.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in Leadership, ORBC