each year we endeavor to reach out to the less served of our community by hosting block parties / community funfests. We target low income apartments where we have served in the past. Each new summer season we mobilize around 60 people to serve(60 people per funfest helps us to focus upon the people attending we also want to have more people from the community than the team helping the event). We paint faces, have crafts, games, snow cones, popcorn, hotdog, hamburgers and usually have an anchor for the event…a small to medium bouncy castle and slide.
It always amazes me that the people who come to these events are appreciative, open and are surprised by our acts of kindness.
I often tell the team our task is not the games, etc but to love and interact with the families who show up. We seek to have more than one person at each station to make the interaction possible. If we are busy with the game etc we may neglect the main reason for being there.
The danger of logic
I’ve noticed in many churches people / leaders easily forget the process and the importance of helping people join the team to serve. Over the past few years we have worked hard building on-ramps into the community. We seek to create many serving opportunities to help people take the first steps into the arena of evangelism. When people use logic they sometimes miss the faith in action aspect of serving others.
I’m also convinced people who do not zoom out to see the big picture are often focusing on the inside workings of church rather than remembering why the church exists in the first place. So, non-visioned people seek to slow down, tweak outward focusedness. It’s a danger…not just because I’m the outreach guy…but because the natural tendency of the human heart is to turn inward.
Willow Creek a more than a few years ago used logic…We need to balance our outreach efforts with the other ministries. So they did. 2o % of resources across the board. After a few years of the shift of resources they discovered a disturbing trend. New believers, and baptisms dropped dramatically. As leaders they asked a good question Why? the answer: the natural tendency of the human heart is to turn inward…They realized without some extra push toward their mission they would not accomplish their task. Being wise leaders they then shifted 40% resources toward outreach, and discipleship. Almost immediately the downtrend stopped and they began to see an increase of new believers, baptisms and discipleship. As a leader of the outreach area I have to continually remind our leaders why we do what we do. The Why? is all important.
here is an encouraging email sent a friend of mine from next wave
I wanted to thank you for your site. I just found your site. I’m a pastor in the Orange Crest area of Riverside and we are just getting started. A recent article really helped some of our leaders to catch a vision of being a church that is on the move. anyway, thanks, and blessings
It was the article “Why does the Church exist?” I just had our elders, work through the same question this past weekend, with several other questions, to come up with a matrix by which our fellowship will be guided. We spent a ton of time on this question and came up with some great stuff. One of our men went home and did some searching and stumbled on this article. It added story to the theory that we had been talking about all evening.
I’m really trying to help some, not all, of our guys to make the move from the modern church to the now. Articles like these help immensely.
here is the article I wrote years ago from next-wave.org
Not long ago I went to my favorite restaurant, the Screaming Coyote, to purchase a Forklift burrito, the biggest ever made, to bring home to share with my wife. While waiting I noticed a young mother with her child. The mother was dressed in typical alternative dress, appropriately ripped jeans, T-shirt and Doc Martin sandals. She was wearing more than one earring and looked like the typical post modern. While she was digging in to her purse to find the correct change to purchase her food, her baby sat in his stroller and stared into space. He did not look well. I then noticed a tube running to his nose. I thought, I need to pray for the child. It was a crowded night so I waited for my order and observed that the mother had moved to the sidewalk tables. I paid for my burrito and nachos and strolled outside. I introduced myself and asked the mom about her child mentioning that I had noticed the tube. She explained that the baby had been born premature and had some major health problems since the birth and that the tube was a feeding tube. Interestingly she also informed me she had named the child a biblical name. At some point in the conversation I asked if I could pray for her and the baby. Unsurprisingly she affirmed by saying something like, That would be nice. Thank you very much. Before I prayed I asked permission to place my hand on the child’s head and then prayed a please give health to baby and grant wisdom and strength to mom type of prayer. I did notice the mother had tears rolling down her face. At the end of the prayer, I said, Thanks for letting me pray. She responded tearfully by saying, No, thank you for praying. Her next response ripped my heart she said, I didn’t think anybody cared. Stunned, I affirmed God’s care and love for her and her child and told her about a great outward focused church where I knew she could find acceptance. The only problem, it was miles away.
As I walked away I pondered the situation. I was living in Pensacola, host of a revival that had been going on for over two years, and here was a person who never knew somebody cared for her life. I thought about Jesus and the many times compassion moved Him to action. He was graceful and caring toward the people who needed health and healing. I then thought, When will the church ever be a go church instead of a come to church? When will the church ever become outward focused instead of inward focused? Something happened in my life that day I can never explain. I did know I wanted to be part of a church that cared and welcomed people where an alternative young mother and child could find refuge.
Not long after this event I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became a part of Vineyard Community Church, one of the largest outward focused churches in the USA. Thousands of people each week are touched with God’s love through varied expressions of Servant Evangelism. Hundreds of people are then welcomed by the staff, an army of fantastic volunteers, and pastors. People are allowed to come as they are and hang out. They are also patiently encouraged to discover Jesus and become a part of the church. The love and care we present to thousands out there each week through ServeFest is duplicated by the atmosphere we seek to create in the celebrations.
What makes Vineyard Community Church a part of a growing group of people across the world who are attempting to be outward focused? I believe that many years ago they discovered their purpose for their existence. In a nutshell, Vineyard Community Church exists to love the people of Cincinnati into a relationship with Jesus Christ. That means it is a go church.
Why does the church Exist?
The Church is God’s great idea. It is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way. The people of the early church were the called out ones, disciples, and followers of the Way. In the early church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe, togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community, and a strong sense of mission. The resulting fruit? The Lord added to the church day by day those being saved and the church found favor with all the people.
Our mission and focus is all important. It defines why we exist and why we are here. Emil Bruner in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its Reason For Being states,The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry in the U.K. once said, When we lose sight of the great commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life. Both statements are extremely important. When any church focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s primary purpose for existence it will eventually lose it’s purposeful mission. That church will quickly forget why it is blessed in the first place.
Many people need to recover their sense of mission. Disillusioned Charismatics in particular, who were seeking the great dream of a painless, prosperous Christianity have realized the dream was merely a vapor without substance. In their pursuit to find fulfillment through the accumulation of things, and seeking to become successful they have become inward and blessing focused.
God wants to get the attention of the church. His purpose that the church might seek Him and discover His passion for our dismembered world.
It is interesting to view church movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are mission/value-driven. Some of the fastest-growing churches in the USA are in this category. They are doing all they can to reach everyone they can. They are focused upon the main thing. Everything else follows.
For example Pastor Rick Warren with the Saddleback Church author of the best seller The Purpose Driven Church. He encourages leaders to recapture their purpose, by defining their mission. A church committed to the great commandment and to the great commission will grow a great church.
80% of his church growth is by first-time believers. As one man stated, We cannot continue to be a traditional church and expect non-believers to want to be a part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to experience the reality of life-changing answers for life’s problems and the God of that reality.
The questions Warren asks in his book provoke thought. What drives your church? What is it’s purpose in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of mission? Or is it a church adrift?
Sometimes getting back to our foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? and how is business? Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need to discover our present reality in order to move forward.
One year during a losing season Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi gathered the team together and said, Gentlemen, this is a football. This is getting back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His team together, point to our world and say, Church this is your mission. It really does matter where you focus your aim. It will set the course of your life.
Where are you aiming? Inward or outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist? May I suggest that answering these questions will help you discover what really matters to you and to your church.
Fill in the blanks: Our church exists to _____________________ ________________.
We are a church that ______________________________.
Our purpose in this town, city is to ___________________________.
Our main focus is to ______________________________________.
May I also suggest that if you answer anything less than the Great Commission you are falling far short of your destiny. Secondly check and see if your practice equals what you believe / value. Christians often define themselves by what they believe. Our communities define us by what we do.