What Does Love Have To Do With Outreach?

Chapter 1 of Organic Outreach (Harney, 2009) is titled “The Law of Love”.  I used to think of evangelism and outreach as something that I’m supposed to do because Jesus tells us so in Matthew 28: 19-20. However, after reading this chapter of Organic Outreach, I have a bit of a different view.

In one of my previous churches, we showed a video one Sunday from The Skit Guys about how NOT to invite your neighbor to church. That video lines up with what Harney (2009) tells us in this chapter of Organic Outreach. Harney (2009, p. 26) says, “I explained that if reaching out was nothing more than a religious homework assignment to him, his neighbor would soon sense his lack of sincerity. His efforts could become counterproductive if they weren’t motivated by love”. WOW! Talk about a punch in the gut. Seriously, this really gave me a new light at looking at outreach. I love people. I truly do. Am I really loving them enough to reach out with sincerity?

God loves us so much that He gave up his most precious possession – Jesus, his son. Jesus came to earth as a tiny human so that he could grow up and give his life for you and me – not just the people living at the same time as him. I often imagine Jesus, nailed to the cross, seeing all of our names flash before him, with our sins listed after. Kind of like a rolling screen. God LOVED us so much that he reached out to us. “Loving God and loving others are the two big hooks on which everything hangs,” according to Harney (2009, p. 25).

How can we reach out to people with true & sincere love, like Jesus did for us? Harney (2009) gives us a prayer that we can pray. We can ask God “to give us a heart like Jesus’ heart toward those who are still living on the borderlands of faith” (Harney, 2009, p. 27). What a powerful prayer that must be! If I can truly & sincerely love people even somewhat like Jesus did, how much of a difference will that make?

Our world is a broken world. There are dark places. There is evil happening. God is still here and he’s still using us to reach the people that are in those places and situations. God doesn’t want anything bad to happen to any of us, but unfortunately because of the brokenness of our world, those things do. Something I am learning from my own personal circumstances is that despite the terrible things that have happened to me, God can take the ashes and make something beautiful out of it. He can use us to love people so much that we love them through the heartache and the terrible and the hard times. He can use that love for those people to reach them. Our God is a great and powerful God. The miracles He can perform are beyond words. All we have to do is love people.

One of my favorite things about Harney’s (2009) book is that there is an “assignment” at the end of each chapter. On page 29 of Organic Outreach, Harney (2009) gives three options: Option 1  – Spend five days in prayer for a person that you know is far from God. That means intentional prayer. Not just something you remember and say in a quick prayer, but take time to truly pray over and for that person. And for your heart to love them through whatever it is that keeps them far from God. Option 2 – Read a chapter each day from one of the Gospels and study how Jesus loved people. How did he love them? How did he reach out to them? Option 3 – Find places to connect to people outside of your inner church circle – people you know who aren’t believers. I like to watch football on Sundays at a local restaurant (that’s what happens when you’re a Seahawks fan in Cincinnati). I don’t sit at the bar watching the game and advertise that I’m a family pastor. I don’t even talk about what it is that I do. I talk football and Russell Wilson. We find a way to connect. You know what? The next week we’re sitting in that same restaurant bar, watching football, some of those same people are there again and we can continue building our relationship. I can learn how to love them even better.

This chapter was powerful for me. It was a heart check. There are people in my family that don’t know Jesus that need to know him. I can’t just make it an assignment. I need to love them through it all.

 

Harney, K. (2009). Organic Outreach for Ordinary People. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.

Feature photo courtesy of http://searchengineland.com/manual-link-buildings-7-worst-outreach-offenses-245688
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Preparing the Soil of our Hearts

As a staff, we are reading Organic Outreach by Kevin G.Harney (2009). As we read each week, I want to discuss my thoughts and feelings as we read this book. If we want to reach families, we need to learn how to reach them.

Harney (2009) says, “Organic outreach is about living the kind of life that naturally draws people to Jesus” (p. 16). How are we living our lives? Are we naturally drawing others to Jesus? Harney (2009) later says, “The truth is almost any approach to evangelism, if it is rooted in Scripture, done in love, and propelled by the leading of the Holy Spirit, will be fruitful” (p. 17).

The first place to start is with preparing the soil of our hearts. To do outreach well, we need to prepare the soil of our hearts. Harney (2009, p. 20) says:

        As we walk through this world, some will reach out and grab our hand, while others  will need us to reach out to them. In the name of Jesus, we can prepare the soil of our hearts to engage in the most glorious enterprise in all of life: reaching out with God’s love and grace.

There’s no telling when we might be engaging with someone and can lead them to Christ. It can be someone we meet on the street who will reach out and grab our hand. Yet, it can be others that we know are hurting that will need us to reach out to them. We have to ask God to prepare the soil of our hearts so that we truly can reach out with God’s love and grace.

I urge you, friends, to ask Jesus to prepare the soil of your hearts. You need to be intentional with this. You need to let even the most ordinary moments be ones where you can reach someone with God’s love and grace.

 

Feature photo credit: By Dorothea Lange – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17247529

 

 

 

 

 

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D6 Conference – 1/168

I wish there was a way to truly convey how amazing this conference is. There aren’t enough words that I can come up with. This is my absolute favorite conference because of the depth of the content. Just to give you a glimpse of the schedule, there were a number breakouts to kick off the conference before starting with the first general session. The 2nd day was one full of general sessions with some amazing speakers. The 3rd day is a day full of break out sessions on a wide variety of topics. There’s 68 different break out sessions offered on day 3. Each is about 50 minutes long. There is just so much good information.

d6 schedule

The line up of main stage speakers is nothing short of amazing.

Ron Hunter Jr., executive director & CEO of Randall House publishing

Christina Embreee, my best friend from Seminary

Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages

La Verne Tolbert

Richard Ross

Vern Bengtson

Candace Payne, the Chewbacca mask lady

Michael Bayne

Edward Moody Jr.

Timothy Paul Jones

Joshua Straub

Michael Covington

Kristie Christie

Josh & Sean McDowell

The Skit Guys

 

There’s a large number of breakout session speakers as well. To even begin to try to explain the depth of information is hard. Not only is there a lot of deep content, but there is also a lot of emotional content. These speakers are other family pastors, children’s pastors, youth pastors, etc. – people just like me. They understand what it’s like to be in ministry. They know what we feel and why. They’ve been there or even are there. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here and to learn from some truly amazing people. In addition to that, it’s also fun getting to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in awhile! It’s also a great place to network with others in ministry.

Look for more posts about specific sessions from the D6 conference. God is truly moving through this conference and I am SO excited to see where He is going to lead me through all of this.

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The Kingdom Dream

I am currently attending the Annual Meeting for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Last night was the big kick off for the 132nd annual meeting, which is appropriately called Gather. We started with some amazing worship. The worship team led us in song and prayer before and after dinner. Then 3 people read the Scripture, Acts 1:1-11, in 3 different languages. That was super cool. Then, Al Tizon brought the message. Oh my goodness, it was SO good!

I want to give you some of my notes and my thoughts.

Al started with saying that Jesus is alive and on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. What a wonderful thought! Jesus is ALIVE. He is on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. This is something we see daily. It reminds me of all the good I see/saw in Haiti. This is something I see in the faces of the kids I work with at church. I see this in the faces and lives of my nieces and nephews. This is all so amazing, Yet, how can I help foster this movement in my community?

Al posed this question, “If God lived in your community, what would be different?” If we want to see and enduring transformation, it needs to being with dreaming the kingdom dream.

In Acts 1:3 we read, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (ESV). When Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was resurrected, he spoke about the kingdom. Jesus tried to instill the kingdom dream in his disciples. Yet, they still didn’t get it.

All throughout Scripture, we read about kingdom dreams of various Bible heroes. In Isaiah 65:17-25, we see Isaiah’s kingdom dream. In Revelation, we see John’s kingdom dream. The kingdom dream is very real – it’s not just a nice thought or ideal.

After Jesus presents the kingdom dream in verse 3 of Acts 1, He then tells the disciples to just wait for the Holy Spirit before they do anything. He warned them not to do anything on their own. Jesus doesn’t want us to do anything on our own. We need to make sure the Holy Spirit is moving in us to do something. When we try to do things on our own, we end up feeling like we’re beating our heads against a wall and we burn ourselves out, as well as those in our ministry.

All too often, I try to do things on my own. Jesus has been trying to tell me this a lot lately. As someone who struggles with severe anxiety and depression, I tend to try to keep control. I want to believe I am always in control. I all too often try to do things on my own. I wear myself out. I burn myself out.

Our church staff has been reading a book (we just finished it, actually) called Churchless by Barna & Kinnaman (2014). In the last chapter, they talked about churches leading with prayer, starting with the church leadership. As a member of the church staff, I consider myself to be part of church leadership. I have not been praying or living my own spiritual life, like I should be.

I am transitioning into a MUCH better time of life after wading through 2 very terrible years. Part of my personal journey has been working on healing. For those who don’t know, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have started to open up about this a lot more lately. Through all of the work I’ve been doing, I have had to spend time grieving relationships that will never be the way they should be. I spent all of 2015 grieving some of those important relationships. In 2016, I worked in a church where I was not a good fit. They hired me in haste and looking back I should never have accepted the position. That being said, I am grateful for the friendships I made and I know that something good will eventually come out of the work there. In my time of waiting last year, I grew tired and weary. I let my anxiety and depression take over and started trying to do things on my own. I lost sight of who I am in Christ. I lost sight of the kingdom dream.

I am now is a MUCH better place. I know that God has placed me in my current church. It’s the only way to explain how I ended up there. I have such a great vision for my current church. I see God doing some seriously amazing things. That’s not just in my current church where I see God doing amazing things. I see it in our country and the world.

We live in a very polarizing time where people seem to only identify through certain politics. As I scroll through my Facebook feed every day, it gets me down a bit. All I see is hate and negativity on all sides of the political spectrum. I heard a very respected ministry leader recently say that if God fits within your political ideals, then politics is your idol. I started to think about how so many people I know try to get God to fit in their political spectrum. God doesn’t have a political spectrum. Al reminded us last night that it’s not about the Israelite dream or the American dream. It’s about the kingdom dream. Jesus teaching is NOT about national greatness. While I could start a political tangent, I won’t. Just listen to Jesus and remember the kingdom dream. Sometimes, your faith will put you at odds with your political stances. That’s ok as long as you keep the kingdom dream what you’re striving towards.

The last part of the Scripture (Acts 1: 9-11), the disciples watch Jesus ascend into heaven. They continued to gaze up  into the sky when 2 angels appeared to them, asking them why they’re still looking into the sky. Essentially, they tell the disciples to move on, stop gazing at the sky because Jesus will come back just as he left, but we don’t know when that will be.

We can’t just stand and gaze up into the sky. We need to engage the poor and oppressed. We need to live out Micah 6:8 – love mercy and do justice. We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when it’s hard. We live in polarizing times, yet God is at work. Don’t settle for a lesser dream than the kingdom dream.

 

Featured photo courtesy of Free North Church.

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Resource Review: Owlegories

I have known and played around with the original Owlegories app for several years. I like that the app has updated and added more over the years. It’s a fun way of teaching our kids faith plus science. From the Owlegories website, “You can tell a lot about an artist by what he creates. That is the theme behind Owlegories, the animated series. Owlegories teaches kids about God through the amazing things found in nature and revealed in God’s word. The banner verse for Owlegories is Psalm 19:1-4:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Over the years, the creators have added more to Owlegories, including 2 other apps! There’s now the Owlegories TV app and the Owlegories Memory Verse app. What a fun way to teach your kids about God and nature/science.

I’ve just had my first experience watching the animated series. While the animation isn’t something like you would get from the big studios, it isn’t terrible. I like that they have a recap at the end, which brings the faith point and science together. After that, a guest – typically a well known person in ministry – gives a 2-3 minute talk to help make the point relatable. The first episode had Dr. Tony Evans, another has Si Robertson, and Jennie Allen to help connect these ideas with kids. I also like that there’s a Bible verse for each episode.

Each episode follows 5 young owls (Joey, Gus, Nora, Violet, and Twitch) as they learn from Professor Owlester. They go on an adventure in each episode. Of course, there is a bad guy, Devlin, in every episode. However, he’s not super scary. I think kids can handle him.

This is a great series for kids – especially younger kids – to watch. I find it super cute – especially because it’s owls. The animated series is available to watch instantly on Amazon Prime. You can also purchase the DVDs online or in stores such as Wal-Mart, Lifeway Christian Stores, or Amazon.com. This series is a win for kids – as is the original app. You don’t have to worry about kids getting a wrong message or learning about things they shouldn’t be. I give this series/app a huge thumbs up!
Featured photo from a review post by Melissa Nesdahl. 

 

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Getting Out of the Boat

Oceans is probably one of the most popular worship songs over the last couple years. It’s a song penned from one of my absolute favorite passages of Scripture, Matthew 14:22-33: 

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”” (ESV)

The story of Peter’s faith – and the doubt or lack of faith. 
In the bridge of Oceans it says, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” A year or so ago I read a post from Annie F. Downs about why we should stop singing Oceans. Annie reminds us that when we sing this bridge, we are asking the Holy Spirit to lead us to a place where our trust is without borders – this song is a prayer. Those borders He can lead us to come in a variety of ways – geographic, economic, racial, religious, social, political, and so forth. Annie asks her readers, “If you will ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to where your trust is without borders, do you actually mean that?” 

A similar question was posed to me while in Haiti – except it was about the hymn I Surrender All. When we sing that, are we really willing to surrender all? Will you surrender your spouse, children, finances, job, etc.? I’d like to think that yes, we would. Giving up control (even the idea that we’re in control) is not something we like to do. I’ve fought God on this one. I’m getting to a point where I’m finding and learning total peace when I surrender all. As a military spouse, this is really hard. During my husband’s last deployment, I almost flat out refused to surrender my husband to God for fear of something terrible happening. God showed me time and again that He’s got my back! As I write this, it’s early in the morning and my husband is sound asleep next to me. 

When we ask the Holy Spirit to lead us where our trust is without borders, then we have to surrender all to Jesus. Ever since reading Annie’s post about it, it’s what I reflect on every time I hear and/or sing Oceans. It’s that reflection that brings me to tears. I want to live my life in total surrender to Jesus. I want to go where He wants me. I want to have a faith so deep that if Jesus calls me to get out of the boat, that I will walk on water toward Him. I also know I’m human and I’m a sinner. I let my doubts and fears sometimes become bigger than my faith. 

Often times, when the waters get rocky, instead of trusting, I start fearing and doubting. I try to make that bridge part of Oceans my prayer and mean it, but then I get afraid of what that means. I let my faith become shallow like Peter did as he walked on the water. 

One of the reasons I love this story about Peter, is because I think it’s a perfect example of how we, as Christians, really experience our faith journey. We keep our eyes on God during the easy times. Even small storms we stay focused on Jesus. But what about the big storms where the wind is scary and the water we’re walking on gets choppy? Do we stay focused on Jesus or do we let fear and doubt get the best of us? Friends, even as Peter looked away, Jesus saved him. Jesus will be there for us when we fall. We just have to be willing to let Him help us back into the boat. 

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Two Are Better Than One

While at CM Connect 17, my good friend Heidi gave a message on the main stage. She focused on the Scripture passage Ecclesiastes 4. Ministry has to be a calling – it cannot be just another job. Even when you’re living into your calling in Ministry, it can be very hard and exhausting. I think, personally, that sometimes those of us who are living into our calling are also in bigger need of a support system because we know that Satan does not want us to live into our calling. Satan wants to keep us from furthering the kingdom of God. Spiritual Warfare is real, my friends, and we need to make sure we are prepared for the battle.

Heidi explained that when we are at work, 2 are better 1. That is because the work we do – ministry – is NOT about us. It’s about God/Jesus. It shouldn’t be about us. If we are doing the work by ourselves, we identify that “I did that” instead of “God did that”. Ecclesiastes 4: 9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (ESV). The NIV says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” When we work together, when we are in ministry because we are living into our calling – furthering the kingdom of God – we are sowing good seeds. We are laboring. Ministry is a Team Sport. It’s not something someone can do by themselves – not effectively. There are those who try and want to do ministry by themselves, but it doesn’t produce good fruit. The return for the labor of one person will not be anywhere near what the return of the labor of two or more is.

Two are better than one because if one falls, the other is there to help him up. Friends, we are not perfect people. We are a fallen people. We all sin. The only exemption of that is Jesus. We will fall. I fall all the time. I am so glad to have the ministry support system that I have. They catch me more times than they know. Outside of my co-workers at church, I have 5 very close friends that I can count on to help me up when I fall.

Often times, though, we have warning lights before a big fall. We need to pay attention to those warning lights just like we pay attention to the warning lights in our cars. We need to have people in our lives that also know when our warning lights are coming on. 1 Corinthians 10: 12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV). The key word in this verse is thinks. We need to be paying attention to our warning lights. We need to know that we are standing because we are not doing this on our own or for ourselves. When our friends tell us of our warning lights, we need to be ok with that and not get upset. We need to take heed so that we don’t fall.

Further in Ecclesiastes 4, we know that two are better than one because a second person will help us when we are cold. Do you know what your spiritual temperature is? Are you spending time in the Word every day? What about prayer? Are you actually building into your relationship with God? These are all indicators of our spiritual temperature. 2 Timothy 2:6 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands,” (ESV). Encouraging and affirming each other in ministry is fanning into another’s flame. One of the many reasons (and this is on the lower part of the list) that I love my “new” church (I’ve been there less than 2 months) is that my pastor, my co-workers, my volunteers, and the rest of the congregation affirm and encourage me every chance they can. Not only are they doing this for me, but they do this for each other. I also try to do this for them.

In Family Ministry – especially with kids and youth – we have volunteers that are in the trenches every week. I want my volunteers to know that I truly appreciate them, that they are amazing for what they are doing. I want to affirm and encourage them as much and as often as possible. I want to fan into their flame. As you go through your week, look around your “playground” and see who is falling. Hand out encouragement! That encouragement will keep you warm. Encouragement is warmth. Sometimes, in the more tough times in ministry, encouragement can be the only thing to keep you going. I’ve been in spots like that and to be honest, it sucks. But the encouragement is needed and it keeps you warm.

As I mentioned earlier, we need to be prepared for battle. Spiritual warfare is very real. Satan wants to bring us down. When there is just one of us in the battle, we can be overpowered. However 2 can defeat it. I’m a veteran. While I never saw combat, I did serve. I know that in order to be combat ready, you cannot do it alone. The military requires teamwork.

There will be times when  you think you are going to land, but instead you’ll find that you are going to crash. I had this experience in ministry. I took a position where I thought I was landing, but instead, I crashed. I crashed hard. My spiritual temperature dropped, I fell, and I didn’t have a team to work with. Thankfully, I had a support system that prayed for me and helped me. They encouraged me, which kept me warm during the cold times. They were my battle buddies.

We have our battle buddies, but at the same time we still need to prepare ourselves for battle. Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. However, even with armor, we have an uncovered part of our body – our back. When I was in the Army we did MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training. We trained to watch our buddies’ backs. Why? Because it’s the one area that is not covered. Why is the back not covered? There’s 3 reasons: 1 – mobility reasons, 2 – you NEVER retreat, and 3 – you don’t go it alone in battle. There’s a level of trust you have to have with your battle buddies when you go to war. Battle buddies. We need them to survive the war. We need to be able to trust them, be transparent with them, and be close to them. Be a friend. Be an encourager. Win the war. Add Jesus as your third cord, and the strand cannot be easily broken.

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