Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

This week’s message is called Messy Ministry, part I. It’s on the theme of outreach and evangelism using the example of the calling of Matthew.

A project that has been on my mind for years, and it’s time. I call it The Imaginative Church. The idea is pretty simple. I want to see the church embrace their imagination to find new ways to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s Word. I already have worked up a lot of this material in various forms, but I am finally going to curate it into a compendium of (hopefully) useful information. Stay tuned, and in the mean time, which cover do you like better?


or B.

Share your vote in the comments.

I was out of work, my day job had gone away and I was trying to figure out where I was headed and looking for some work along the way when i saw a listing looking for something called a “Master Artist.” Well I didn’t really know that it was and Rembrandt is a master artist, not me, but it had artist in the title so I decided to investigate. It turns out the listing was a for a paint party service. As part of the application process, I went to be a participant in a paint party and had a great time but I also had a thought. I could do this myself. So I rounded up some easels and some supplies and started to do a few here and there and I found it was fun. One of my life missions is to help people embrace their creativity and this seemed a great way to do it.

Fast forward, I find myself accepting a call to be an interim pastor. I wondered how would a paint party work as an outreach/fellowship opportunity for the church. Well we tried one and we were so pleased with the results that we have been doing them ever since.

I started by coming up with a simple painting that I could teach others how to paint in about an hour-90 minutes and then publicized it to the church, making flyers they could hand out to their friends featuring the picture they would be painting. We set up tables in our fellowship hall with easels, brushes and paint for each participant. We also posted a sign up sheet so we would have at least a rough idea of how many people were coming.

The event itself lasts two hours. I start off with a few rules. Most of these are humorous, just to remind the people that we are there to have a good time and to set their minds at ease. Then I just teach the painting step by step. About half way into the party, we take a 15 minute or so break to talk, look at each other’s work and let the paint dry. We did the first one as a free event and started charging a small amount to cover materials after that (less than a third of what the commercial painting parties charge). The people also bring snacks which are hared throughout the night.

I find everyone ends up laughing together and having a great time and it’s a great way to build community. There’s no high pressure evangelism with this. I usually just plan on painting in my service the following Sunday and invite the people to come and see what I do. We’ve had a few people actually take us up on that, which was nice. Also it seems that everyone who comes, comes back and many bring a friend with them. This has been a great way to get to know people and open doors to the church.

Today should be a fun day. Each year our church hosts a yard sale. Basically all the members, as well as some friends of the church being their unwanted items to our fellowship hall. We then sell the items and the proceeds go to funding various projects for the church. It’s actually fun and if you know what you’re looking for you can make some great finds. As I looked over the huge room with it’s heaping tables, I had a realization. Everything I found that I wanted is something that, for some reason or another, someone else was probably going to throw away. This shows once again that value is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure… 

…and I hate to say it like this, but it’s the same way with our creations. Some people will look upon it and see a treasure while others will look at it and only see trash. The task for the creative is to value their own work enough to ignore the critics and keep creating and it can be hard. After all, we love our work, or at least we should. I’m continually amazed at how many creatives seem to really dislike their own creations. I think if this is you, you’re looking at it wrong. You see I don’t think we actually dislike our work. If we did, we’d lay it aside and do something else. No what we are really struggling with is disappointment. On one side, the thing we’ve created is not as good as what we see in our heads and so we don’t like our end results. Here’s the thing, I’m not sure we are capable of creating a piece that is as good as the one we envisioned. That space between our ears is virtually unlimited, no struggles with media, no laws of nature contend with and certainly no limitations of ability. The imagination can just run wild and it can go way beyond our current skill level. Bringing that wildness into something others can see, is both the problem of the joy and the artist. Handled rightly, that disappointment can push us to greater levels of mastery and creativity. So don’t get down on yourself for your limitations, let those limitations spur you to greater levels of creativity.

On the other side are the external critics. Your work is just not their thing and sometimes they will disparage your work quite vocally. This is hard. We pour our hearts and souls into our work (and we should!) and this kind of stuff can feel very defeating. The thing is we have the choice as to whether or not we are defeated. Defeat in creativity (and many other aspects of life) can be summed up in one word, “quitting.” Do not give into that. The one calling you is bigger than your critics. If you’re work does not speak to someone, you have a decision to make. Are you going to give in and quit? Are you going to try to appease your critics by doing something that pleases them, even if it means creating work that no longer pleases you? Or are you going to forget about the people who consider your work trash and find the ones who consider it a treasure? The last choice will give you a lifetime of creative joy. The others will make you feel like trash.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Look for the audience that treasures you.

peoplenumbersMy church still takes attendance (I guess most churches do). Last week seemed pretty full (for us) so I was a little shocked when I saw a not terribly high number on the sheet. I checked with someone who knows such things to see if there was an error. She confirmed the count and then said something you might be thinking, “Don’t become obsessed with numbers.” She was right to a degree and there is a little bit of a fleshly thing in me that I do need to guard against. I can’t afford to get my validation from how many people show up on a given Sunday and it would be very wrong for my church to assess my performance in that way as well, but there is also a larger issue.

You see, if as a pastor, I begin to treat people as numbers, I should get the right foot of fellowship from my church as soon as possible. I would deserve to be fired. People are not numbers, people are people, and they deserve to be treated as such, especially in the church. Everyone should be treated as individuals and with honor and respect. I strive to make sure that I always do that, and I think I succeed most of the time.

People are not numbers but numbers are people and this cannot be overlooked. Our attendance on a given Sunday ranges from 50 to 80, not bad for a small church and the people are faithful as all get out. Our area population is about 5,000, with nearby communities we could also draw from. This means our church accounts for about 1 percent of our population. Again people are not numbers, but numbers are people and in a world that needs Jesus so desperately, every church would want to see their numbers rise. Rising numbers means more people are hearing the truth that sets men free. The church is a body, a living organism and living organisms grow and reproduce. So am I fixated on numbers? To some degree, yes, and you should be too. We are called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now of course it’s more than numbers because people aren’t numbers. We need to be exceedingly relational, after all we are called to do more than just make converts. We are called to do the hard work of making disciples, fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. In order to do that properly, guess what we need (in every church, not just mine). We need more people.

At the end of the day, a big part of the reason the church exists is for the people outside it. We exist to take the Gospel to the world. There are other functions as well but outreach is primary. Before people can become disciples, they have to hear God’s Word and that often means entering a local church. There’s this really great church growth book that says these words:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

That book is called the Bible, specifically Romans 10:14-15. How will you use what you have been given, your creative gifts and talents, as well as anything else, to take the good news to the world and bring people in to the church?

People are not numbers, but numbers are people, and in this world, we need all the people we can get.

I have started on a project to encourage my congregation to see our local area as our mission field. The purpose of this project is really simple. It’s all about encouragement. I want each person to see himself or herself as gifted with something to offer and a story to tell. I want each one to realize that the great commission is for us all. At the end of the day I have a wonderful congregation of godly people who are genuinely loving and caring. We just need to find a way that other people can see it. We need to bring them in and we need to go to where they are. Most churches are in the same boat. This is one way am using my gifts to encourage my congregation. How might you use your gift to help people get the word out?

My friend Jason Leith is the creative arts director at Saddleback Church. A few years ago, he did a really unique project called Sacred Streets where he created portraits of people he met on the streets of Skid Row, largely on found objects and turned them into iconic images. This project is right on so many levels. What a great way to use your gifts to serve the Lord.

21-hauntingly-beautiful-photos-of-deserted-shopping-mallsIt’s not what you think. I met a friend at a local mall the other day. He lives quite a distance away and we were going a meeting together. I suggested it as sort of a half way point, though I haven’t been there in years. I arrived a little early and decided to go in and have a quick look around. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. It was nearly empty. Most of the shops were gone. It’s happening everywhere. That vast bastion of capitalism, the local mall, is dying, replaced by Amazon and eBay and a bunch of other stuff. It’s kind of sad really but there is something sadder.

At the same time these huge properties are sitting empty, many people are out of work, cities are falling apart, we’re in a general mess. What would happen if one could help the other? After all, we’re all about creative solutions here. What if, rather than letting these massive structures rot or meet the wrecking ball, wasting tons of resources, someone got innovative? What if we turned these spaces into business incubators? What is we somehow offered these spaces for rent to entrepreneurs who have a vision for creating jobs, and helping people out. What if we partnered with them, giving lowered rents in exchange for a percentage of profits? What if we helped people to make their dreams come true? What if we offered more hand-ups and less hand-outs? What if, rather than lamenting the way things are, we began to imagine a better world and began to do the work of making it happen?Abandoned-Malls-02-685x454

I know there are many problems to be overcome in an idea like this. I know, often the owners of these spaces would rather let the spaces rot than take less money for their space, (trying to start a storefront church years ago opened my eyes to this reality) but surely there is someone out there with enough vision to see the possibilities of such a venture.

Imagine walking into a converted mall, filled with artisans and entrepreneurs working to make the world a better place, a culture and arts venue, people turning mom’s best recipe into a household name, people meeting needs, a place where people were creating beauty, educating children, and in the process making their dreams come true. Can I stack one more thing on top of this. What if the people to take this on, were a church? Worshipping in part, serving others in the rest, glorifying God in the whole thing.

I would love to be part of a project like this. Who’s with me?

opensignI saw one of those church signs with the interchangeable letters that kind of amused me. It said:

(Name of Church)-Now open between Christmas and Easter!

I have to admit I found it a little funny-snarky, to be sure, but funny. After all, all of us who’ve been in church leadership have at one point or another wondered what we could do if our weekly attendance was as good as it is on the Christian “big 2” Christmas and Easter. I thought it might have been equally successful were the sign to read:

(Name of Church)-Now open between crises!

Because let’s face it. That’s the other time we run to Jesus or at least to church, as if somehow showing up in our Sunday best will appease an angry God. Just that statement shows we don’t know God very well. Tough times are usually no more sign of God’s wrath than the rain, which many people see as a blessing. Tough times don’t mean God is mad at you and showing up for church once in a while is not likely to change it. God’s not that capricious.

Both these signs show a fundamental problem and a fundamental misunderstanding. It assumes that the world is going to beat a path to our door if we do nothing but show up. The fact that we notice an increase at the holdiays and in times of trouble shows the fundamental problem. People, on their own, are not that interested in God. If we are waiting for them to come to us, we are fighting a losing battle. We need to go to them. Jesus didn’t say “Therefore wait until they walk through the door.” He said “Therefore go…!” If they’re not coming to you, and they probably won’t, you’ve got to go to them. Meeting them where they are and inviting them in and not just to a worship service, but to a life-changing, world-changing relationship with the living God. A snarky roadside sign won’t get that done, but a conversation built out of a real relationship might.

Am I discounting regularly gathering for worship? NO! I’m saying make that worship service the best you can possibly make it and on Christmas and Easter, please, please, please, pull out all the stops and BRING IT! Instead I’m saying don’t wait for them to come to you.

Go to them and bring them in!

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I want you to know this and hopefully share it.

There I was, a new believer and recently sober after what could best be described as a three year bing. I recently joined the church and God was doing a major work in my life, but there was a problem. The folks in my new church decided to try to get me involved in serving the church. The get lots of A+ bonus points for that, but there was a problem. It was the wrong ministry. They made me a trustee and I was woefully ill equipped to do the work. I was floundering and probably in danger of walking away from the church. Then one day my pastor approached me and asked me if I would do something for him. I was hesitant but I said okay. He asked me to paint backdrops for a VBS skit. I was in shock because I actually knew how to do that. Friends, don’t miss this, that one request changed the course of my entire life.

I began to see that I could use my gift of art to serve the Lord and the local church, but it was more. I was terrified of public speaking, but after a few years of painting backdrops I was lured into acting in the skits. After a few years of that, I was asked to teach. Eventually I got a call to ministry, which felt a little absurd because I still swore I would never be a speaker. One by one the walls fell and today I am an artist and a speaker who travels all over to serve the Lord. All because of one person finding my gift and showing me how to use it.

That’s why AMOKArts is important. You see it is my goal in life to get to the churches to use my gifts to share the Gospel, but it’s more than that. I want to speak to the people in the church who are like I was. The people looking for their place to fit, to grow and to thrive. I want to show them the possibilities associated with their gifts and I want to show churches how to put these people to work. I know I can’t get everywhere so I make use of this medium to reach far and wide. My life’s mission is to help people to know Jesus and find their God-given mission and purpose. I think that is the most important thing I can do with my working life. I could really use your help.

If you think this mission is important, there are ways you can help.
1. Pray for me… Frankly there are days where the distance between my vision and my reality look pretty vast. Your prayers and intercession are really vital. Pray that I stay in the center of God’s will and keep moving forward.
2. Spread the word… I create this web page to build up and encourage people, so please share it, repost my stuff, tag it, tweet it anyway you can help me get the word out is helpful. I am not at all territorial with this information, you can share this stuff at will. Messages the spread, win.
3. Bring me in for a presentation or a workshop… Getting into churches can be really difficult and I get it. I would want to protect my pulpit and congregation too. Those of you who benefit from this ministry and those with whom I have build trust can really help to serve as ambassadors for getting me into places I currently can’t reach. I need you!

I keep on doing this ministry because I know something. Throughout the Body of Christ are a lot of people, especially creative types, who are wondering where they fit and if their gifts even matter. I want to help them to do great things for the Kingdom, will you help me?