We Are Sold Out for Church Planting

The number one reason we should be sold out to church planting is the Glory of God.

 

Yes, church planting is the central vehicle for achieving God’s mission.

Yes, church planting is a critical strategy in fulfilling Jesus’ great commission.

Yes, church planting is critical to establishing ongoing mission posts throughout the world.

Yes, church planting is a natural by-product of a healthy, multiplying church.

 

Every one of these reasons motivates me in some way or another. Still, the number one reason church planting inflames my heart is that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ has captured my heart.

 

God revealed his truth about his Son deep within my soul over 40 years ago and continues to reveal himself to me every day. I am passionate about church planting because I am passionate about God. My zeal for God drives me to be a part of what he is doing in this world. If God is on a mission, I want to be on a mission.

 

If the foundational motivation for church planting is the glory of God. Then what is the glory of God? One author describes the glory of God as the afterglow of God’s holiness. Because man cannot stand in the presence of a holy God, God gives a glimpse of himself through his glory. Through his supreme plan, he chose to use the church as his chief instrument. His glory is manifested throughout the world today.

 

Three times in Ephesians 1:3-14, we see how the church is “the praise of his glory.” 

 

  • The spiritual blessings we experience in Christ exalt the glories of God’s grace (v. 6), 
  • The supreme hope we have in Christ brings unceasing praise to the glory of God (v. 12). 
  • The divine security we possess in Christ creates “…praise of his glory” (v. 14). 

 

Churches in the small villages of Haiti, along with churches in the rural areas of northern Michigan, reflect the glory of God. Churches in our major urban centers, as well as churches in the sprawling suburbs, all have one thing in common…they are bringing praise to the glory of our God. 

 

Therefore, planting new healthy churches is a means of seeing God’s glory spread throughout the earth and proclaimed in the heavenlies (Ephesians 3:10).

 

In his book “Let the Nations be Glad!” John Piper reflects on the significance of God’s glory with all missionary endeavors. 

 

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” He continues, “Worship, therefore, is the fuel and the goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because, in missions, we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.” 

 

Every new church plant becomes a lighthouse of God’s glory. The afterglow of God’s holiness is reflected, manifested, and ultimately enjoyed! 

 

Let our passion for church planting be driven by a passion for God! May our zeal for church planting be consumed by a zeal for the glory of God! 

 

The glory of God is not only the motivation but the goal of God’s sovereign work among men. There is no more majestic theme, no more noble pursuit than the glory of God.

 

We are sold out to church planting at Converge because we are sold out to God and his glory! 

 

“To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

Join churches around the country as we celebrate church planting throughout Converge on June 5-6.  

It’s Church Health Month

For several years now, we have been declaring May is Church Health Month! In Converge, we are sold out to church planting as well as very serious about church strengthening.

We are convinced that scripture has a clear mandate on church planting as well as church strengthening. 

We believe that this is a both/and proposition and not an either/or competition.

Here is our biblical case for church strengthening.

In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles starting churches on their missionary journeys. Then we see them returning to those churches “strengthening the disciples” (Acts 14:22), “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41), and “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:22). The care of these infant churches was heavily on Paul’s mind as we see his thoughtful consideration for each church in the letters he wrote.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, we see a more detailed charge in how Titus was to strengthen the churches across the island of Crete. He writes, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” (Titus 1:5). Some commentators say that Titus could have been working with up to 100 churches on that island.

The phrase ‘straighten out’ (NIV) or ‘set in order’ (NASB) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It was used by first-century medical writers for setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones. The root of this word is ortho, from which we get our terms: orthodontics and orthopedics. When you go to the orthodontist, he straightens your teeth to strengthen them. When you go to the orthopedist, he straightens your bones to strengthen them. Interestingly, both professions use braces to straighten our teeth and to mend bones.

Titus’ commission was to brace up the church by appointing godly leadership, teaching sound doctrine, and encouraging missional engagement.

Let’s take a look at how Titus was to strengthen the churches under his care?

  • He appoints qualified leaders in every town (Titus 1:5-16).
  • He sets forth healthy leadership qualifications (v. 5-9) and how to deal decisively with unhealthy leaders (vs. 10-16).
  • He makes sure that sound doctrine is taught throughout the church (Titus 2:1-15).
  • He promotes healthy thinking and healthy living (vs. 1-10), which is found in the gospel’s power and motivation (vs. 11-14).
  • He continually reminds God’s people how to live out the gospel in this world (Titus 3:1-14).
  • He reminds them to “be ready to do good” (v. 2), to “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 8), and “to learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 14) all for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel (vs. 4-7).

So what is a healthy church from Paul’s perspective?

  1. It is led by healthy leaders who are examples to follow.
  2. It deals with rebellion quickly and courageously.
  3. It promotes sound doctrine, strong orthodoxy, along with healthy orthopraxis.
  4. It is intergenerational and branches beyond social structures.
  5. It promotes the centrality of the gospel as the fuel for sanctification and mission.
  6. It does not talk about mission; it fulfills the mission of God.

One of our core convictions is that no leader should lead alone. I believe this also translates onto a corporate level that no church should attempt to achieve God’s mission alone. Our desire is to walk alongside our churches and to be a voice of encouragement. We want to be like that friend you can lean on, as well as that coach who calls his players to the highest level of their potential.

In light of this scriptural foundation, we are serious about church health. In an effort to promote healthy, missionally engaged churches, we have declared May as Church Health Month.

Why May? 

May is an excellent opportunity in a church’s ministry calendar to get a pulse on the ministry. While allowing enough time throughout the summer to make plans and strategic moves before their growth thrust in the fall. We hope we can serve you and your church in maintaining a healthy ministry focus that is gospel-centered and missionally engaged.

We are doubling our efforts on this topic because so many of our churches will be relaunching this fall. Check out the special discounts on Natural Church Development Surveys as well as coaching opportunities.

6 Ideas for Overcoming the COVID Giving Slump

God never estimates what we give from impulse. We are given credit for what we determine in our hearts to give; for the giving that is governed by a fixed determination."

Oswald Chambers
On Thursday, March 18, Gary Rohrmayer led a webinar on helping people experience the timeless truth of moving from impulsive and haphazard giving to systematic and joyful giving. Watch a recap of this 60-minute webinar and check out the accompanying resources on overcoming the COVID giving slump.

Welcome New Part-time Interim Director of Church Strengthening for Southeast Region

We are excited to welcome Kendal Anderson as the Part-Time Interim Director of Church Strengthening for our Southeast region.

Kendal has been a Converge pastor for 35 years, spending the last 15 as pastor of The Crossing Church in the Orlando area which he and his wife Sherry planted. His primary responsibilities will be pastoral care and coaching for our pastors at more than 80 Southeast churches. He will also be working with Bryan Moak, Vice President of Church Strengthening, to continue to expand the strategic and visionary focus of seeing our churches be healthy, gospel-saturated, and reproducing places.

We are thrilled to see what God will do in the weeks and months ahead. Feel free to send him a note of welcome at kendal@convergemidamerica.org.

Welcome aboard Kendal!

Confess Jesus as Lord this Christmas

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. – Romans 10:9

Augustine wrote, “Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all.” 

When we confess with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord,” we are acknowledging his absolute, unlimited, and universal authority over all creation.  This term ‘Lord’ is translated as ‘Jehovah’ in the Old Testament. Jehovah is the highest and most sacred name for God used by the Jewish people.  Jehovah speaks of self-existence, eternality, and God’s desire to reveal Himself to humanity in such a way that we can know and relate to Him.  

In declaring “Jesus is Lord” we are also recognizing his ownership.  Scripture teaches that we were “ransomed” (Mark 10:45), “bought” (II Corinthians 6:20) and “purchased” (Revelation 5:9) by the death of Jesus so that we could be set free from the slavery of sin to “become slaves to God” (Romans 5:22).  Therefore, surrendering ourselves to his ultimate control.  The Apostle Paul sets a beautiful example for us in writing, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Confessing, declaring, and affirming Christ lordship is only one part of the equation, Paul continues by stating, “and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).  Confessing is the intellectual assent to the truths of the gospel but “believing in your heart” is a volitional act of your will.  It is an entrusting of one’s life and eternity to the risen Lord and living Savior.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very center of the Christian faith. One Author wrote, “Apart from the resurrection Christianity would be little more than a well-intentioned ethical system.”  We see the resurrection is at the heart of the apostles preaching, Peter declared, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins” (Acts 5:30-31).

Confession is the verbal expression of our deepest convictions, and yet our sincere beliefs will always lead to us to personal transformation (Romans 6:1-7).  This is not an ‘either/or’ statement but a ‘both/and’ truth.  We must confess and believe that the Lord Jesus is alive and he has active authority over lives.  Therefore, we can make this very personal confession that Jesus is my Risen Lord and my Living Savior.

My prayer for you this Christmas as we end such a difficult year is that we will not be people who consume Christianity but we will be people consumed by the living Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your encouragement, personal support, and financial commitment to Converge MidAmerica as we start and strengthen churches that declared that Jesus Christ is LORD!

An Invitation from Pastor Darryn Scheske

In normal times I’m always excited to gather with our Converge MidAmerica family in Chicago every April. We celebrate what God has done in us and through us as we partner together at this great banquet. Well we missed that opportunity this past April because of COVID-19, but we still need to celebrate the miracles and the milestones of our partnership.

That’s why I’d love for you to join me on Thursday, November 12. We’re going to host a special, one-hour, online virtual meetup where we can celebrate together the testimonies of lives changed by God and the churches that we’ve started and strengthened together.

Best of all, my friend Pastor Jeffrey Johnson’s going to bring a message from God’s word just for this moment for all of us. He’s my favorite preacher; he never fails to inspire and challenge. I’m looking forward to hearing some fresh vision of the impact that we can make together.

Will you register online at celebrationbanquet.org? It’s happening on Thursday, November 12 at 7 pm CST / 8 pm EST. You won’t want to miss it.

Your church is reopening and trauma is coming

I had always believed church to be a safe place. Through years spent attending and pastoring various churches, I developed a deep love and respect for the local church. But I would soon learn that church isn’t really safe at all.

Two major events stole my feeling of security. First, my wife of 20 years succumbed to breast cancer. Second, 10 years later, my 21-year-old son, Taylor, was the victim of a homicide. Both scenarios were very public.

As a pastor, I felt I was living in a fishbowl. Suddenly, the church was no longer a refuge. It became a frightening place that seemed too fearful to manage. Leaders didn’t know what to do. Congregants descended on me. I wanted to hide.
 
Like many other lead pastors, I have discovered working during this COVID-19 pandemic is difficult. We pastors are facing unprecedented situations and flailing in the dark for solutions, but congregants are hurting, too. Trauma has reared its ugly head, and it’s not going away.

As your church reopens, you will see hurting and damaged people coming through your doors. Not only are they dealing with current hardships brought on by the pandemic, but past trauma has been triggered in many of them.

According to a recent article in Medical News Today, “The COVID-19 pandemic has many potential sources of trauma, such as experiencing the death of a loved one. For some people, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also exacerbate existing PTSD symptoms.”

Congregants, like everyone else, are hurting. Here are some suggestions to help you make your church a safe and loving place as you begin to meet again.

Practice the art of presence

As pastors, we feel we have to say the right thing. People are continually looking to us for advice, and even when we aren’t sure what to say, we mumble something that sounds very pastoral. When a person is experiencing trauma, it’s often better not to say anything.

In Romans 12:15, we are commanded to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” In Job 2:11-13, we notice that Job’s friends ministered to him in silence: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

The most meaningful way others comforted me during the darkness of my suffering was simply by being present. Some would walk by and just touch my elbow. That gesture said, “I am here if you need me.” Others would pray or offer to care for the kids to give me a break.
 
Whatever the case, they weren’t demanding anything of the sufferer or looking for quick fixes. They were practicing the art of presence.
 
When one of my staff members lost a son to suicide, I had nothing to say. So, I just sat with the family for hours. It’s all they needed and wanted. I have repeated that practice over the years, and it has become a joy to simply be. Your presence will speak volumes to one who is suffering.

Talk about your suffering

A powerful way to help your congregants deal with their suffering is to talk about your own. Pastors do suffer, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” said, “I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”

A powerful way to help your congregants deal with their suffering is to talk about your own.

He understood that a congregant could find healing when he knows that his pastor understands his pain. When I share what it was like to raise three young children after losing a wife, receiving a call in the middle of the night from homicide detectives, and wading through press conferences and television interviews, I have the congregants’ attention.
 
It’s not to glorify me. It’s to find common ground with them.
 
I can’t count the number of funerals I’ve officiated where I’ve simply said to the family, “I have been where you are.” Instantly, they see me as a real and vulnerable person. I am no longer the holy man or a hired gun in their eyes. I have their ear. I can minister to them in a deeper way.
 
Trauma is coming through your door. Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles and how the pandemic has affected you. Give your flock a pathway toward healing.

Don’t assume anything

When you look out and see smiling faces in your worship center, it’s easy to assume they’re all doing well. But they’re not.
 
A recent Washington Post article chronicled the massive damage that’s been done by COVID-19. According to the story, “Three months into the coronavirus pandemic, the country is on the verge of another health crisis, with daily doses of death, isolation and fear generating widespread psychological trauma. Federal agencies and experts warn that a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.”

Allow your shepherd’s heart to take you deep into the suffering of another. This is what you are called to do. It’s the most gratifying part of ministry.

Churchgoers are experts at pretending. They can make anyone believe anything for a couple of hours on Sunday morning.
 
But it’s a mistake to think there’s not deep-set pain behind the masks, literally and figuratively. It is up to the shepherd to help make the church a safe environment for people to express true hurt and pain.
 
Jesus could see the coming pain Jerusalem would experience because of her rejection of him. This caused him great distress.
 
His shepherd’s heart shows through in Luke 19:41-42: “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’”
 
Allow your shepherd’s heart to take you deep into the suffering of another. This is what you are called to do. It’s the most gratifying part of ministry.

Trauma is real, and it is prominent in people’s lives. Don’t let this opportunity go by because you assume everyone is OK.

Train your flock

COVID-19 has offered a wonderful chance to train others to care for the flock. This training really isn’t optional.
 
Paul commanded believers to pass along their knowledge to others. In 2 Timothy 2:2, the apostle wrote, “…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
 
New and emerging resources are available to help you do this. I am honored to host a podcast entitled LifeSupport, which is available on the Faith Radio network of stations. The podcast’s goal is to help trauma sufferers find more of Christ and to help the Christian community learn how to come alongside them.
 
Five Stone Media is doing excellent work in this area, equipping ministry leaders to help those who are suffering. There are also many other resources, such as Stephen Ministries and GriefShare.

The point is: Don’t struggle to deal with congregants’ trauma on your own. Allow others the blessing of helping you.

Help your people find Christ in suffering

Times are hard, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of Christ’s glorious work in suffering. It is within suffering that Jesus shows himself in a way that is magnificent and life-changing.
 
Many a night I’ve lain in bed and felt unbearable pain. It seemed darkness was winning.

When trauma comes through your door, Christ will be waiting to do miracles and bring a deepening of faith to your church you’ve never imagined.

To combat this sense of descending into darkness, I would listen to faith-filled music and pray. Without fail, Jesus emerged. He did not take the pain away, but I’ve learned to love and trust him in a new and powerful way.
 
It is through pain that we find unshakable faith and learn to obey God’s commands. The psalmist wrote: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

I am committed to ushering my flock into God’s throne room by means of their suffering. When trauma comes through your door, Christ will be waiting to do miracles and bring a deepening of faith to your church you’ve never imagined.

Take care of yourself

Finally, in the midst of this pandemic, pastors are struggling. I must admit, I am terrible at self-care, but I am working on it.
 
You will have nothing to give your sheep if you are burned out, angry and frustrated. Pastoral fatigue is real, and we all suffer from it.
 
You need to watch out for your body and mind. Satan attacks pastors, and he is after you. We all know this.
 
1 Peter 5:8 offers this reminder: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
 
I pray God will help you make your church a safe place where congregants can discover the love of Jesus amid suffering. Please take this seriously. Make no mistake about it: Trauma is about to come through your door.

Merger FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Merger

What states make up the Southeast District, how many churches does that constitute, and what is the cultural make-up of the region?

What precipitated the original discussion of a potential merger?

In February of this year, Ernie Cabrera reached out to Gary Rohrmayer and shared the need that Converge Southeast was facing.  Gary shared the steps that were taken to facilitate the Michigan/MidAmerica Merger in 2009-10 and recommended that the first step be that the CSE Board send a letter of inquiry to the CMA Board. This letter, after much prayer and consideration by the CSE Board, was sent early May and brought to the attention of the CMA Board at the May board meeting.

In early March, Gary Rohrmayer brought this to the attention of Scott Ridout who shared a few concerns and important issues such as the Caribbean to be a part of the merger and that there would need to be some plan for the region to become autonomous again. Finally, that the other regional leaders were to be made aware of the merger plan.

What were the major issues surrounding the Southeast’s desire to merge?

The major issues were finances, staffing experience and systems. Ever since the financial crash 12 years ago, CSE has struggled to be financially viable even with the financial assistance of Converge National and the other ten Converge Districts throughout the country. This has impacted the district in its ability to staff appropriately and to create and implement needed systems, all of which CMA can bring to the table.

Why would CMA desire to merge?

There are no financial advantages to this merger.  CSE has no financial assets, only missional opportunities.  To put it in simpler terms: CMA has an opportunity to be neighborly and CSE is asking for our assistance. There were others that offered to help but CSE believes that CMA is the best organization to help them in their time of need.  The generosity of CMA churches, CMA’s financial strength, the talent of the administrative and ministry teams, the executive team and Gary Rohrmayer’s 22 years of regional leadership experience all played a key role in CSE’s desire to ask CMA to assist them during this time. With all of this in mind, the CMA Board desires to take this step of faith because we collectively believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us forward in this endeavor and we are seeking the Spirit’s confirmation from our members.

Is this arrangement forever, or is there a plan to “re-separate” the regions?

The Resolution states: “AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED, believing it will take 8-10 years for the CSE family of churches to become healthy and vibrant, the CMA board will regularly and prayerfully consider the efficacy and strategic Kingdom value of CSE becoming an independent entity again.”

This issue will be regularly visited by the CMA Board. Nothing would make us happier than to see this region become healthy and financially viable again, but our experience tells us that it is a long-range plan.

Also, we are deliberately choosing to keep each region’s unique identity. Converge MidAmerica will establish two additional entities (DBA), Converge Southeast and Converge Caribbean, that are governed by one board and led by one executive staff team.   The cost efficiencies for centralized administration, financial and legal, will allow us to invest more resources into field staff.

What happens to the CMA/CSE staff? Particularly, will we have the same access to staff as we have had in the past?

Yes, every MidAmerica Pastor and lay leader will have access to CMA staff.

CMA’s Church Strengthening and Church Planting Staff will make strategic hires in the Southeast and in MidAmerica that will not only assure the coaching, training and resourcing we currently have, but to see these improved through our systems and services. 

Our long-term vision is to have a dedicated church strengthening and church planting person in every region where we have a significant number of churches.  As the funding comes in from our churches, we will continue making those hires.

Are there any theological differences between CMA and CSE?

No, every church in each Converge district is committed to upholding Converge’s Affirmation of Faith and the conviction “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” 

Will there be two regional presidents, or will Gary lead the entire area?

Gary will function as the one regional president.  Ernie Cabrera will function on the Executive Team as VP of Church Partnerships.  50% of his time will be working in the area of affiliating churches into the Converge Family.  25% will be focused in Pastoral Care.  25% will be focused on overseeing and expanding the Caribbean mission team.  Today there are 3 full-time missionaries serving churches in the Caribbean and we are looking to see that team be expanded.

What will it cost CMA financially to do this merger and will we be able to fund CSE and continue to fund what is going on within CMA?

In 1999 the Converge MidAmerica Board of Overseers made an intentional commitment to spend down the assets they had accumulated over their 165 year history.  From 2000-2010 we spent $2,245,000 to see 66 churches planted during that time.  In 2010 the Board of Overseers asked Gary Rohrmayer to address this issue.  By going to a part-time practioner model in church strengthening and church planting from 2010-2017, the merger with Converge Michigan, the sale of two businesses started in the early 2000’s, a significant donation, and the continual increase of giving from our churches, we had 7 years of positive cash flow and increased our assets $2,350,000 along with seeing 89 churches started in 2010-2018.

The Board of Overseers is prepared to take the same step of faith that it took in 1999 and spend down the necessary assets as a strategic investment into the kingdom of God without hurting the CMA financial position.  We are under the conviction that a continual investment in the harvest is the best way to protect our financial future.

This seems to be moving very quickly. Why is that?

The timeline has always been driven by Converge Southeast because of their financial challenges.  Recently they have decided to slow down the process, consider all the options in front of them and to develop a thorough communication plan to their churches which led to a new merger timeline.

Maintaining Our Focus

Remember Dug, the talking dog from the movie “Up”? He had a device that allowed his master to hear and understand him. What we discover is that as much as Dug wants to focus intently on his master, he is constantly distracted by squirrels. Dug’s hilarious distraction has become part of our vernacular. We now call them “squirrel” moments.

Brothers and sisters, I think that we might be in potential squirrel moment. As much as we desire to stay focused on the Master, I fear our focus is being tempted to shift to other things, even important things. We are now approaching month seven of the COVID 19 pandemic. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined how life would be so radically altered and how we do church to pivot constantly. We are entering a presidential election cycle that once again is dividing our country into differing ideologies, and according to some, who I vote for makes some sort of statement as to my spiritual maturity. Our cities are literally blowing up with unrest and we wonder if it will ever “settle down” again. If there was ever a potential for distraction, this would be it.

Recently, I read Psalm 63 and I was struck with my desperate need to re-focus on the Master. “God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you. I thirst for you; my body faints for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So, I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.” (Ps. 63:1-2)

Do you see it? Our focus must always be on Him. Our desire must always be for Him. Our gaze must always be fixed on Him. Pastor, is this your truth today? Are you pursuing Him above all the other things that swirl around us? Are you preaching and teaching and sharing on your social media ways to help your people eagerly focus on the only One who satisfies? Are you reminding your people that in the midst of living in a dry, desolate land without water, the only hope we have is to maintain our gaze on the Source of living water? Pastor, if we are not focused on the Master, how will be able to lead our congregations to do the same? The tendency toward distraction is real and this distraction will not only affect us, but our congregations as well.

Verses 3-5 are most striking and convicting to me. “My lips will glorify you because your faithful love is better than life. So, I will bless you as long as I live; at your name, I will lift up my hands. You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.” Is He better than life? Do you really believe it? Do the people in your church really believe it?

Losing our focus on the Master will manifest itself in fear. It is only when we fix our gaze on Him that we will experience joy that transcends fear, and allows us, even in the midst of distraction to lift our hands in joyful praise. This is what pastoral leadership demands. This should be our focus in every conversation.

My prayer is that the churches of Converge MidAmerica will focus, in the midst of these difficult days, on earnestly seeking the Master. I pray that we would encourage each other to keep our eyes fixed on the Master. And finally, I pray that we would continue to press into a better together that shows everyone around us what it means to live in the joy of the Master!

We love you!

Gary’s Observations Concerning the Merger

One of the values I have sought to operate from throughout my ministry is, “We as Jesus followers must be ready to move where God is moving!” Throughout this merger discussion, we have prayed to see the hand of God in this opportunity because it could just as easily be a missional distraction as a missional opportunity.

After two months of multi-level meetings with both boards, a joint task force and staff members, as well as extensive research and due diligence, both regional boards have unanimously agreed to a merger plan to be proposed to the delegates of our churches for a vote of affirmation.

As we approach this merger here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. This merger is only possible because of the generosity of Converge MidAmerica Churches and our financial supporters.
  2. This merger is rooted in the lessons learned from the successful merger between Michigan and MidAmerica that happened ten years ago which has led to over 50% growth of that region.
  3. This agreement is in line with Converge President Scott Ridout’s desire to see stronger regional entities in Converge as well as his desire to see that one day Converge Southeast will become a self-governing and self-supporting ministry again.
  4. To keep each region’s unique identity, Converge MidAmerica will establish two additional entities (DBA), Converge Southeast and Converge Caribbean that are governed by one board and lead by one executive staff team.
    President – Gary Rohrmayer;
    VP of Church Strengthening – Bryan Moak;
    VP of Church Planting – Danny Parmelee;
    VP of Church Partnerships – Ernie Cabrera.
  5. This agreement will force us to grow smaller through a strong presence of Together Groups, consistent regional gatherings of 8-12 pastors in a geographic region where peer learning, mutual encouragement and missional engagement happens.
  6. This agreement will be another step to a long-term vision of having part-time church strengthening and church planting personnel in every region where we have significant church presence.
  7. This agreement provides the greatest missional opportunity in the history of Converge MidAmerica. Not only will it provide church planting and church partnerships in five additional states but opens the doors for developing a strategic missionary force reaching 27 countries with 43 million people in the Caribbean. Today, Converge Southeast has three full-time missionaries serving in the Caribbean and we could dream of 10-20 missionaries being sent out from our churches to reach this part of the world in the next ten years.

All in all, we sense God is moving in this merger with Converge Southeast and that it will enrich the mission of MidAmerica and will not detract from it. We believe that with this merger, we will have the opportunity to impact over 100,000 men, women and children with the Gospel of Jesus through the starting and strengthening of churches.

Let us all continue to prayerfully seek God’s leading and confirmation in this matter.

Four Reasons to Relaunch Your Church with a 21 Days Campaign

Pastor, this fall would be an excellent opportunity to take your church to a deeper level as you relaunch your church. Converge MidAmerica’s 21 Days Campaigns are an opportunity for you as the Pastor to lead your church to a deeper level of prayer, generosity, and evangelism.

Here are four reasons for during a 21 Day Campaign in your church:

1. They focus your people on their daily relationship with Jesus.

One of the critical disciplines in discipleship is to teach your people how to have a meaningful quiet time. Teaching people to feed on the word of God and to speak to God in prayer is essential to move them on the path of maturity. During a 21 Day Campaign, you drive that principle deep into the life of your church and give them the tools to help facilitate this discipline.

2. They inspire spiritual formation in the key areas of discipleship.

You cannot manufacture spiritual growth, but you can create an atmosphere for spiritual growth. In reminding your people of the essential habits of discipleship–bible study, prayer, fasting, generosity, and evangelism–while giving them useful on-ramp tools, you will ensure your church is spiritually healthy and missionally engaged.

3. They rally the church around a focused theme.

The prophet Daniel, who was deeply concerned about his people’s spiritual condition, prayed and fasted for 21 days (Daniel 10:1-3). There are certain seasons in our lives when we need to give focused attention to our personal spiritual growth and the spiritual needs of our family, church, and community.

4. They help you drive the vision and mission of Jesus deeper into your church.

Leading your church through a 21-day campaign allows you to shepherd and lead the church in a unified way. Campaigns give you an opportunity to lift your church’s eyes to the high calling of the church in a practice way. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mathew 28:19-20).

I have said, “The church is dying by assumptions!” We assume our leaders have meaningful devotional lives yet are spiritually drying up right in front of our eyes. We assume our leaders our getting into meaning spiritual conversations yet have not shared their faith in years. We assume our leaders our tithing and growing in generosity. However, when a financial assessment reveals some of your leaders have no record of giving to the church in years, you feel deceived.

Pastor, don’t let your church die by assumptions; instead, bring focused attention to the essentials to discipleship.

Prayer – 21 Dangerous Prayers

Fasting – 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

Bible Study – 21 Courageous Prayers

Generosity – 21 Days towards a Generous Life

Evangelism – 21 Days to Increasing Your Spiritual Conversations

P.S. All these campaigns can be done entirely digitally.

Converge MidAmerica and Southeast Districts Affirm Merger Plan

Last week, the Executive Board of Overseers for Converge MidAmerica and the Board of Stewards for Converge Southeast sensed the Holy Spirit leading us to join our ministries and unanimously affirmed a merger plan and agreement.

After two months of multi-level meetings with both boards, a joint task force and staff, we have agreed to propose this merger to the delegates of our churches for a vote of affirmation.

Converge Southeast is scheduling a virtual Annual Meeting for August 26, 2020 and Converge MidAmerica is scheduling a virtual Special Business Meeting for September 24, 2020. We will provide more information on the proposed plan and merger agreement in the next few weeks.

In preparation for this historical vote and unprecedented missional opportunity, Converge MidAmerica and Converge Southeast will be hosting a series of virtual town hall and prayer meetings. The first Town Hall Meeting will be July 28, 2020, at 7 pm CST (8 pm EST) with the Converge MidAmerica and Southeast Executive Teams.

Thank you for your prayers as we consider this opportunity.

Getting Ready for the “New Normal”

We all know we’re in an unprecedented time. We hear about it on the news. It’s in ads all around us. We’re living it daily both at home, at work (nowadays, these are the same place) and at our place of worship. As we are closer and closer to gradually moving on to the next phase, we can’t help but look to the future. What do we need to do to get ready for the “New Normal”?

Our strategic partner Warehouse Direct has put together a list of areas to look at in your church as you get ready to define what your “New Normal” looks like. And don’t worry, they have experts on hand to help you navigate the whole way.

Set Up for Social Distancing

Reopening safely means looking at your workspace and the common areas of your church to ensure they are optimized for social distancing. We’ve created effective spaces for many clients and can help you adapt your facility for today’s guidelines. Some things to think about:

  • Do you have open seating areas that require barriers?
  • Do you need additional permanent or movable partitions?
  • Do you need to add barriers at the end of the aisles?
  • Do you need barriers for in-person meetings?
  • How will you handle in-person collaboration?
  • Do you need to look into easily cleanable surfaces?
  • Do you need signage or floor decals to direct traffic, tape to mark off seating for social distancing?

Prepare for Protection and Prevention

Infection control is going to be a key factor when you reopen. Incorporating health screenings, keeping PPE supplies ready, adding hands-free dispensing, and reducing touchpoints are essential. Look to us for solutions that help minimize transmission. Some areas to consider are:

  • Is your bathroom optimized with hands free paper dispensers instead of air dryers?
  • Do you have hands free soap and hand sanitizer dispensers in your bathrooms, kitchen, entrances?
  • Have you thought about installing foot pedals on your doors (especially bathrooms) to open without contamination?
  • Will you need to upgrade existing food service items like individually wrapped disposable utensils?

Make Clean a Priority

Cleaning is critical to providing a safe transition. In addition to disinfecting, sanitizing, and hand hygiene, what cleaning products do you need for the “new normal”?  Some things to think about:

  • You’ll probably need to increase your cleaning schedule. Do you have a written checklist so all areas are cleaned?
  • Are there cleaning machines you need to help keep productivity high without adding labor?
  • Are you fully stocked with sanitizers, disinfectants, soaps, and cleaning supplies?
  • How are you going to keep your spaces more organized for easier cleaning?

Plan for Safety Supplies

PPE, disinfectants, and sanitizers will now be an office staple, and you’ll want at least a 30 to 60 day supply to avoid running out of difficult to find products. Our storage, dispensing, and disposal solutions will help you manage these supplies and provide easy access in public areas and at personal workspaces. Some areas to consider are:

  • Do you have a stock of PPE supplies like masks or face shields?
  • Do you know the different brands of sanitization wipes or hand sanitizer that is available?

Communicate Clearly

Gathering places are changing and it will be important to keep your congregation and workforce informed of the new safety requirements for anyone visiting your church. Our signage and whiteboards are a smart way to communicate new protocols, social-distancing reminders, cleaning guidelines, hallway traffic flow, and more.

  • What are the areas that require additional signage?
  • Do you have areas where people naturally line up or congregate around?

Ready to get situated for the “new normal” in your church? 

Contact: Debbie Cladis, your Warehouse Direct Account Manager to discuss solutions for your phased in facility reopening plans.

Don’t Forget to Pray

As much as I would love to hit the reset button on 2020, that isn’t going to happen. So instead of focusing on what “isn’t” right with 2020, I have instead begun to ask the question, “God, what are you trying to teach me?” I believe he’s teaching me at least two things:

First, I believe God is reminding me that my home Is not here, but rather in heaven. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:20 “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” I say I’m looking forward to heaven, but do I really live that way? I have a nice place to live, great job, lots of food, many friends and an amazing family. God is showing me that I have become too comfortable with my “home” here on earth. Brothers and sisters, I believe God wants us to be reminded that we have a mission to accomplish here on earth, but we are not citizens here, and we must live each day with a longing to arrive at our real home that awaits us in heaven!

Secondly, God has been convicting me that in all of my conversations about the difficult things we are dealing with as a country, I am not spending near enough time focusing on prayer as a critical piece of the solution. Am I putting a priority on prayer that formulates everything I do in my personal life, my church life, and my work in Converge MidAmerica? We started three years ago a ministry called Prayer First! It was a reminder to all of us in Converge MidAmerica that we needed to put a priority on prayer as first importance. I can honestly say that I have not been living with that first of all priority like I need to.

What about you? Is prayer a first of all priority for you as you continue to dialogue with others? Is prayer a priority for your church as you continue to struggle through what’s next for your “new normal”? As the early church was formed and expanded in ways that can only be described as incredible, it was marked by a concerted effort of prayer. Not just token prayers, but nights of prayer, days of prayer, seasons of prayer and God moved! Are we praying like that?

Ephesians 6 reminds us in the explanation of the armor of God that all the pieces of armor are put on with prayer. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (6:18) Brothers and sisters, let us, as a movement of churches, pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayer. Let us look for ways to wrestle with God in prayer. Let us look at our schedules, our thoughts, our activities and make sure they are saturated in prayer. Let us keep striving to make “Prayer First”!

The Missing Ingredient to Leadership Development

Jesus did not tell us to “go make leaders” but he did tell us to “go make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). If your church does not have a strong spiritual formation plan it will have a weak leadership development plan. Not every disciple will be a leader but every leader must be a growing disciple reproducing the life of Christ in others.

Leaders who are not growing disciples are simply task managers at best and at worst could be stumbling blocks for those they lead.

If you have a leader who has great influence but little spiritual depth this is a recipe for disaster. This is why churches have elders, pastors, board members and leaders who don’t study God’s word, pray, tithe, or share their faith. Leaders who are not spiritually grounded will burn out, lash out and eventually fall out of the church and take out many others with them.

Here are three practical suggestions for ensuring that you are making disciples as well as leaders.

1) Have a reproducible discipleship process that helps you identify leaders out of the harvest

Asa brand-new follower of Jesus, I had a co-worker who invested in me every day at lunchtime. For two years he answered my many questions, inspired me to study my bible and read Christian biographies, and gave me a love of God’s mission. When I became a church planting pastor, I discovered that very few people had had that type of experience and I
desired to make sure our church was going to provide it to everyone who desired it.

After being completely frustrated in trying to make para-church discipleship tools work in the local church, I decided to develop tools that were church friendly and helped assimilate new believers into the life of the church. Asking the question, “What does a fully devoted follower of Jesus look like?”

I developed a one year curriculum with these six goals or outcomes in mind:

  • Growing in intimacy with Jesus through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
  • Sharing Christnaturally with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Serving in the church and throughout the community.
  • Mentoring others spiritually through discipleship.
  • Putting God first in our finances and growing in generosity.
  • Understanding the centrality of the gospel on my life.

I felt if we could teach people how to be Jesus first in their day, week, finances, and relationship this would help them live out and within the mission of Jesus.

2) Be a “disciple” first and apastor second.

Every Monday/Wednesday mornings I had standing discipleship breakfasts. I met with men who were new in their faith or who were never discipled, we spent time studying the bible, memorizing scripture, and wrestling through the implications of the gospel in their lives.

Too many pastors are waiting for ready-made leaders to walk in the doors instead of identifying, discovering, and making leaders out of the harvest through a holistic discipleship process.

The future of every church, whether large or small, I believe is in the
harvest … future members, finances, and leaders they will all be found
as we enter into the redemptive work of Jesus.

The more successful you are at developing disciples the more successful
you will be at developing leaders.

3) Get your best people (staff, lay leaders, mature followers) investing their lives in others through discipleship.

One of the covenant statements we had with our staff and our elders is that they would invest in at least one person every year by taking them through our discipleship material with the goal of seeing those they invested in repeating the process with someone else. We need to get our best leaders reproducing themselves.

How do you keep your leaders fresh in their prayer/devotional life? Have them teach a new believer every year on how to meet with God on a daily basis. How to keep your leaders growing in generosity? Have them teach a new believer about tithing and generosity. How do you keep a leader from slipping into bad relational habits? Have them teach a new believer
how to maintain and practice biblical relational principles.

Every church needs a leadership engine. Your discipleship process is the fuel to make the engine hum. Solving the discipleship issues in your church will be the key to solving your leadership issues.

Reflection:

  • Are you as a pastor investing your life into a new believer or undiscipled Christian?
  • Does your church have a reproducible discipleship or spiritual mentoring process?
  • How many of your leaders have been discipled and are discipling others?
  • Do you have a definition of what a disciple of Jesus is and does?
  • Do you have a pathway so those who want to be discipled can be?

Relaunch Coaching Cohorts Reach 100+ Churches

Over 100 churches participated in our 4 -week Relaunch coaching cohorts.  Using Zoom, all participants gathered in a large group, focusing on insights of relaunching in light of COVID-19.

The real power of the coaching cohorts happened in smaller group settings. Each small group had a coach that facilitated discussion based on worksheets. Every church has a unique context, so each pastor was given the opportunity to work at analyzing and implementing a 90-day plan to relaunch. Each pastor developed a plan they believed would work best for their church, and in sharing their ideas created a beautiful synergy of pastors learning from one another.

Relaunch was a great example of churches being “better together,” and we are confident that the time and effort spent in this coaching cohort will have a significant Kingdom impact.

If you missed Relaunch, you can download worksheets and watch sessions on-demand on our website.

Seven Qualities of a Remarkable Citizen

In this 2-part sermon series, Gary Rohrmayer shares Seven Qualities of a Remarkable Citizen as found in Titus 3:1-2. 

Below you can download the video and notes for use in your church service. We hope these videos will encourage and empower your congregation to live remarkably in these times. 

Join us for a Prayer Gathering

“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” Joel 1:14

B. Meyer wrote, “Whenever our life is visited by special trials and perplexities, we should withdraw ourselves from common pursuits, and lay bare our heart-secrets, so that we may learn the cause of God’s controversy with us.”

The four things the Prophet Joel calls God’s people to do when facing a national disaster is:

  1. Declare a holy fast.  Joel is calling God’s people to consecrate themselves through the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is more about replacing than it is about abstaining. Replacing daily habits with times for focused attention on God’s word and prayer. Fasting without replacing is nothing but a simple diet.
  2. Call a sacred assembly.  One of the great gifts we can give to the Lord is our time. Joel was calling the people of God to give of their time to feed on God’s word and to pray together with God’s people. Remember, the effort that took place for people to gather together in those days was daunting and sacrificial.
  3. Summon the elders and all who live in the land.  Joel wanted the leaders of every family to come and represent them before the Lord. Who is on your prayer list, and who are you representing to the God of mercy?
  4. Cry out to the Lord.  This is not a sweet bedtime prayer but a soul-shaking prayer for God to relent and move mercifully on behalf of his people. David voices such a prayer, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

Remember Joel’s call to prayer and fasting is all in the context of repentance. “Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God” (Joel 1:13).

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Repentance isn’t only sorrow for past sins, it’s also a determination to now do the will of God as He reveals it to us.”  

So, pastors let us show God our determination to do his will at all cost during this global crisis.  Will you join me for a day of fasting, a sacred “zoom meeting”, representing your church and our community as we collectively cry out to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are inviting all of the pastors, staff, and lay leaders of Converge MidAmerica churches to join us on Tuesday, June 9, for prayer and fasting as we go to God and cry out for mercy.

Please register here to receive the Zoom link in your inbox; we’ll see you on June 9 at 2:00 pm CST.

The Importance of a Regular Check-up

Every year my wife makes me go to the doctor for a check-up. It’s not my favorite thing, but I do it anyway, even though I feel fine. Why? I do it because I want to make sure that I’m ACTUALLY fine. No news is not necessarily good news, so doing preventative medicine helps me to deal with any issues that might come up before it gets too serious. The church is often referred to as the body of Christ because it is a living organism, and it too needs regular “check-ups” to make sure it is healthy.

For the month of June, we are encouraging all of our churches to do a “check-up” by doing the church health assessment Natural Church Development (NCD). Why do we think it is so important to take this assessment? Because we believe that healthy churches take an honest assessment of their current health, and diligently plan to improve. As a matter of fact, we think a check-up like NCD is so important, that we are offering a discount to our churches. Normally, an NCD costs $400. During the month of June we provide a NCD for $300. If you’ve never taken a NCD before, or can’t remember when you did, we will provide a NCD for $200.

So what’s stopping you from taking your church to the doctor for a check-up? No matter the diagnosis, we are here to walk you through you a treatment plan that will move your church to increased health for your good and for the glory of Christ and His kingdom.

Contact Kirsten at kirsten@convergemidamerica.org or 847-655-6841 to schedule your NCD.

User-Generated Content for your Social Media

If you’ve read any of our other posts about ideas for social media posts, you know we recommend posting a lot of photos of your congregation to your church’s social media. In these days of online church, however, we have fewer opportunities to take photos of congregations to post on social media. However, we have a great opportunity to involve more people than ever before in our social media posts by soliciting user-generated content. Here are a few ideas for user-generated content your congregation can submit for your church’s social media.

1. Kids!

Ask parents to send in pictures of their kids participating in your church’s children’s curriculum. After all, what parent doesn’t love an excuse to take a picture of their kids?

2. Sunday View.

During your online service, invite congregants to snap a picture of their view of church from home. This could include families in pajamas, coffee tables and televisions, kids huddled around laptops, or any other settings from the homes of your viewers.

3. Online Groups.

Invite your small groups to take a photo or screenshot of their small group on Zoom, Google Hangouts, or however they meet.

4. God Sightings.

Ask your congregation how they’ve seen God at work in their lives. Take those stories and (with permission) share them on social media to encourage your community.

What kinds of content are you posting in the days of online church?

(P.S. These content ideas are inspired by our friends at SundaySocial.tv)

Ten Practical Steps to Creating Momentum for Your Relaunch

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18

Every church will have a unique opportunity to Relaunch their ministry this fall. Whether your church is six weeks old or 170 years young, each church will have a chance to reorient their ministries, equip their leaders and inspire their people to fulfill the mission of Jesus of making more and better disciples in their unique context.

Here are ten practical steps to help you and your team to think through your Relaunch Plan.

1. Develop a team.

Too many pastors try to carry the load all by themselves, which is an unbiblical notion. Christianity is a team sport. Team building is one of the skills successful pastors need in their tool belts. Learning to pick the right players on your team is crucial. Guiding and leading the team is imperative. Trusting the team to execute the plan is empowering. Celebrating and encouraging the team is vital. I encourage pastors to use short-term task forces with a specific task, along with a starting and ending point. If you built a task force for each of your major outreach initiatives for fall, winter, and spring, your team-building skills would improve each time. Team building is a skill that is honed through the “learning by doing” process. Getting key influencers involved in the process is vital to building positive momentum throughout the church.

2. Determine a Date.

You will first need to pick a date for this relaunch. In some communities it will be early August, others will be Sunday after Labor Day, and still, others will choose early October. Whatever date you pick is okay as long as you select a date. Momentum will be generated as you bring focus to a specific timeframe. Remember, God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to launch the church on Pentecost. This date has a rich theological significance as well as many practical implications.

3. Develop a timeline.

To develop a reasonable schedule, start with the last date of the project, and work backward. If you are doing a fall growth push, here are a couple of ideas. End your fall outreach campaign on the first weekend in November with a family-friendly, social distancing appropriate comeback event and start July first with the selection of the team. We call this the “three-month rule,” which is to begin the detailed planning process at least three months before the launch of the outreach campaign. Here is an overview of what would happen in those three months:

4. Create a Theme or Big Idea.

Brainstorm ideas for delivering strong biblical content that addresses the heart issues of your mission field. Many pastors struggle with the creative aspects of leadership. I recommend that pastors research and purchase some of the excellent outreach or spiritual growth campaigns available. Many of these come with timelines, job descriptions, graphics, sermon ideas, and small group materials. The key is planning. After the church has done a few of these campaigns, then they can take a shot at developing their own.

5. Promote Prayer:

Raise the spiritual temperature of the church. It is a must to incorporate a church-wide prayer project for before and during the campaign. One example: Call the church to “pray for five neighbors, for five minutes a day, for five weeks” before the outreach campaign. Another idea would be to mobilize the church to prayer walk your whole community before the campaign. You could also call the church to a season of prayer and fasting. Still another idea is to do a 21 Day Prayer Campaign to get your churches to focus on praying missionally for your community.

6. Create Buzz Outside the Church: 

Brainstorm ideas for creating buzz throughout your church, your community, and all the social media platforms. Work with your team to think of ways to get the word out. I like to use the biblical language of sowing when it comes to getting the word out to our community and through our social media networks. Here more is information on the Sowing and Reaping Principle.

7. Create Excitement inside the Church.

Create urgency through effective vision casting. Create energy by promoting opportunities. Creating a sense of synergy throughout the church is essential. Drive the theme throughout the church. Getting every section of the church moving in the same direction is a momentum building experience that creates positive energy and good morale. So, take your theme and drive it throughout the church from seniors to youth, from singles to toddlers!

8. Develop next step opportunities.

Creating opportunities for new guests to connect relationally, as well as spiritually, is crucial to having a successful outreach campaign. Planning some family-friendly event is a great way to get people involved in serving for the first time and connecting relationally with others in the church. Offering entry-level Bible studies like Bible 101 or Christianity 101 within weeks of your outreach campaign is vital in providing those next steps for those that are spiritually interested. Finally, you want to offer people an opportunity to connect with the church and its leadership by providing some newcomer’s gathering or party at the pastor’s event where they hear the story and vision of the church as well as connect relationally with key leaders.

Offer a Clear Call to Action

  • “Go into our online prayer room after the service”
  • “Come to our ‘after party’ immediately after the service to meet other people and discuss the sermon
  • “Download this resource for use during the week
  • “Call a friend and [fill-in response relevant to the sermon], and then in your online small groups, tell each other how it went”
  • “Please let us get to know you better by filling out a digital welcome/connection card”
  • “Take this online survey to find the way that you can best serve right now”
  • “If you prayed to receive Christ, begin telling others by putting something in the chat”
  • “Ask God what He wants you to give financially, and then do whatever He shows you”
  • “Sign up for a ‘meet the pastor webinar’ which temporarily replaces our ‘pizza with the pastor’ get acquainted event”

Source: Warren Bird, ECFA

9. Recruit volunteers to fill needed ministry roles: 

Doing a relaunch is an excellent opportunity to recruit and train new volunteers for setting up, cleaning, event planning, children’s ministry, ushers, greeters, follow up, administration, new hosts for small groups, and small group apprentices and leaders, etc.

10. Drive your vision and values deeper into the culture of your church: 

Remember, anytime you do an outreach campaign, it is an opportunity to drive your missional vision and values deeper into the lives of your people. The values of evangelism, community, spiritual dependence and community transformation come alive during the campaign and provide opportunities for personal growth and corporate maturity.

Conclusion:

Pastors, church leaders, and all followers of Jesus, this worldwide pandemic, is providing for us a defining moment. A moment to not only relaunch our churches, but it is also an opportunity to recalibrate our ministry priorities and for you as a pastor to retool pastoral and leadership skills. Pastors, I know, you are psychologically exhausted. I don’t think any of us would have imagined that we would be doing ministry in the fashion we are doing it today. And yet it is in moments like these that God shows up and does the unprecedented. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ give a fresh experience of his strength (Ephesians 3:16), a fresh encounter with his love (Ephesians 3:17-19), and a fresh vision for the future (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Read More: Ten Biblical Principles for Relaunch or Launching Your Church

Lee & Cinnamon’s Faith Testimony

I know the last thing you probably want to think about as a church right now is the idea of a capital campaign. Frankly, you all have so much to think about and a capital campaign isn’t on your radar at all. We get that. But we also want to encourage you to think through your reopening plan with generosity and vision at the forefront, and one effective tool is a capital campaign. Certainly capital campaigns help to raise money for your church. But even more than that, they can be used by God to build an increasing culture of generosity, and propel your church with vision in unique and powerful ways. The above video is just such an example of a campaign’s transformative power. It is a bit long, but I think you will agree that it is both encouraging and reproducible in the life of your church members as well.

We at Converge MidAmerica stand ready to serve you in a capital campaign experience, and are strategizing some unique ways in which we can provide our service over the next months.

  • If you are a church plant that is over two years old, you might be dealing with the reality of changes in your lease space. Now is a good time to think about a permanent space with a long term lease as there will be many commercial real estate spaces opening up. A creative capital campaign can prepare you to move when that door opens.
  • If you are an established church, you have probably been re-envisioning what your future will look like. Issues like upgrading technology and reworking spaces within your current facility have become important. A capital campaign can help position your church for greater gospel effectiveness in a new season of ministry


So give us a call if you’d like to talk more. As always, we love you and stand ready to serve you.

The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

In taking this evangelistic journey, we will take a close look at the Three Spheres of Outreach which include: 1) The leader and the people they connect with during the week, 2) The church and those within their sphere of influence, 3) The unconnected, those who know nothing about the church and are disconnected with your people.

In each of these spheres we develop Three Strategies of Outreach, 1) The leader sets the standard through modeling, 2) The leader equips the church to reach into their relational spheres, 3) The church learns how to sow evangelistic seeds into the masses of unconnected people in their community.

One of the foundational principles of scripture is the principle of sowing and reaping.  We see this first in the life of Isaac (Genesis 26:12). He sowed, planted and reaped a hundredfold of crop because of God’s blessing.  Farmers understand this principle in a very practical way, the more seed you plant, the more you will reap at harvest time.  The Apostle Paul in addressing the need for generosity in the life of the Corinthian church wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (II Corinthians 9:6) So my question to you, as it pertains to evangelism, is: How many evangelistic touches are you sowing into the masses of people who are unconnected with your church? The evangelistic fruitfulness of your church is directly related to the amount of evangelistic seeds you are sowing into your community.

Here are four ways to evangelistically touch the unconnected in your community:

  1. Community Service:  Simply serving your community and displaying the love of Christ without overtly making an invitation to attend your church.
  2. Servant Evangelism:  Earning the right to make an invitation to your church through random acts of kindness.
  3. Sharing Your Facilities With Your Community:  How many people go in and out of your facility in a given week?  Treating your facility like a community center is one way to sow evangelistic seeds to the unconnected in your community.
  4. Marketing Your Church’s Message Through the Various Media Opportunities in Your Community:  Every church has a marketing strategy, the only difference is that some are better than others.

Yet, the quantity of seed is only part of the equation, there also needs to be a concern about the quality of the seed. Read Hosea 10:12-13. If you sow righteousness you will reap love, if you sow wickedness you will reap evil.  With very stern words the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from the nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7)  

In relation to evangelism, here is the question to be answered: How would you rate the quality of the evangelistic seeds you are casting in your community?  

  1. Community Service:  Is the quality and consistency of your community service something that reflects the beauty of Christ?
  2. Servant Evangelism:  Is the quality of your random acts of kindness received as a nuisance or a pleasant surprise?
  3. Sharing Your Facilities:  Do your facilities reflect a sense of care or are they run down?
  4. Marketing:  What type of first impression does your signage, website and promotional materials evoke?

Over the summer, we will take a close look at how to increase the quantity and quality of the evangelistic seeds you are sowing into your community.

Solomon wrote these words, “Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

Three Stages of Outreach

The next step is to help leaders understand the spheres of outreach that exists within their community. Today we are going to move from understanding to implementation. If we, as leaders, are going to create a system that will stimulate evangelistic activity throughout the local church, then we will have to develop strategies for each sphere within our community. To help us think through the issues, I forced myself to ask ten questions under each area. Feel free to add to the conversation by sending in your own questions or another spin on the questions I came up with.

Strategy #1: MODELING – Creating an example to follow.

  • As a leader, how would your followers say you are modeling personal evangelism throughout your community?
  • As a leader, how are you keeping your heart passionately engaged in the harvest?
  • As a leader, how are you upgrading your evangelistic skills?
  • As a leader, is evangelistic activity built into your weekly schedule?
  • As a leader, how are you serving and connecting with community leaders?
  • As a leader, how available are you to people in need?
  • As a leader, what fun activities with unchurched people are you participating in?
  • As a leader, how do you identify “men and women of peace” in your community?
  • As a leader, how do you engage people in spiritual conversation and keep them engaged?
  • As a leader, have you ever considered hiring an evangelism coach?

Strategy #2: EQUIPPING – Creating missionaries to be sent out.

  • How are you stimulating outreach prayers for friends, family and neighbors of your people?
  • How are you heating up evangelistic passion within your people?
  • Is evangelism training a part of your spiritual formation plan?
  • How do you identify and celebrate those with the gift of evangelism in your church?
  • Do you have an evangelism tool that is taught throughout the church?
  • What opportunities do you have for people to engage in entry level evangelism?
  • How are you teaching and mobilizing your people to love their neighborhoods and cities for Jesus?
  • What pre-evangelism events or opportunities are being created through your small groups?
  • What pre-evangelism events or opportunities are being created through your public worship services?
  • When was the last training event you offered to help people share their faith?

Strategy #3: SOWING – Creating connection opportunities for the unconnected.

  • How many people live in your “Jerusalem” that have no knowledge of your ministry?
  • How are you creating awareness of your church throughout the community?
  • What are the internet tools you can use to sow seeds throughout your community?
  • What are the promotional tools you can use to sow seeds throughout your community?
  • What are the media outlets you can use to sow seeds throughout your community?
  • What partnerships can you form that will enhance the church’s image throughout your community?
  • What community events or service projects can you join to live out the gospel?
  • How many pre-evangelism contacts are you planning to make this year throughout your community?
  • What percentage of your budget is dedicated to sowing your message throughout your community?
  • If people know about your ministry, what is the first thing that comes into their mind when it is mentioned?

Well, how did I do? What did I miss? How would you tweak the above questions?

“I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 6

Raising Your Evangelist Temperature

If a leader is going to raise the evangelistic temperature of their church they will first need to understand the three spheres of outreach:

  • Level 1: These are people who know the pastor and the name of the new church.  This is accomplished through networking and the personal ministry of the pastor and their family.  The key concept here is MODELING.
  • Level 2: These are people who are in contact with someone on the launch team.  This group is reached through relational evangelism and personal invitations from the church.  The key concept here is EQUIPPING.
  • Level 3: These individuals have no contact with the pastor or people within the church.  This group is reached through a variety of awareness activities.  The key concept here is SOWING.

Understanding these spheres is just the beginning.  If leaders are going to stir up the evangelistic spirit of their church they need to develop comprehensive evangelistic systems addressing each of these spheres.  A system is a reproducible process that actualizes the operational values and convictions you hold dear in your church.  For example: As a leader what is the most common method you use to engage individuals in a spiritual conversation?  Once you have identified it, ask yourself the following questions: 

1.   Could this method be used by others or only you?

2.   How long would it take for a person to learn this method?

3.   Could a new believer easily use this method?

4.   Could this method be taught by others?

If you can answer these questions then you are on your way to developing an evangelistic system in your community of faith.  If you can’t, then the evangelistic temperature of your church is going to be pretty low. I am convinced that the pastors, leaders and churches in America need their evangelistic fires seriously stoked.  Over the summer, I am committing this blog to the task of encouraging and resourcing leaders to raise the evangelistic temperature throughout their church.

Who will join me is this task?

Ten Biblical Principles for Launching or Relaunching a Church

Every church this fall will have an opportunity to relaunch and retool their ministry.  We hope this series of articles will inspire and practically assist churches as they look into the relaunch process. We desire that every church will take this God-given opportunity to heart and leverage it for kingdom expansion.

As we read through the book of Acts, we always need to remember it is an inspired book of history.  It gives us a glimpse of how God worked through ordinary men and women to fulfill His purposes and carry out His ongoing mission of redemption.  We should look at the book of Acts as a place to glean principles and insights for church planting and church life.  It is not a book to look for blueprints or models but rather a book to discover transferable principles that will be shaped by your cultural context.

Here are a few transferable principles that we can glean from the launching of the church in Acts 1-2:

1. Our motives must be great commission driven.  Acts 1:4-8

If our only motivation is to get butts in the seats at whatever cost, we are heading for a world of hurt and disappointment.  If all we are doing is to try to increase our revenue stream and meet our church’s financial needs, we are just going to be frustrated.  If all our efforts are trying to get the “already convinced” into our church, the wheels will fall off very quickly.  We must be great commission focused. Our hearts must be broken and burdened for those who are far from God. The only way some churches are going to grow in the consumeristic Christian culture will be through effective evangelism.  My experience is that unchurched people don’t need all the bells and whistles of the mega-church – Christians do!  Those far from God want relationships, meaningful connections, and hope for the future.

2. Spiritual dependence is vital.  Acts 1:12-14

The disciples continuously gathered for prayer.  They reflected on their deep reliance on God, clinging to God, not knowing what was next, merely waiting in humble dependence was the posture of Jesus’ disciples. How will your congregation reflect their prayerful dependence on God?  I remember hand labeling 12,000 mailers with our team and praying for each person that God would open their hearts and touch them.  Prayer walking our community before and during our launch and relaunches had a powerful effect. Having our people generate a list of people they would like to see come to Christ during this outreach, and then having a special prayer meeting where each name is lifted before the throne of God has proved very effective.  Every fall and start of the new year, we had a focused prayer campaign to get our hearts right with God and to intercede for our loved ones, friends, and community.

3. Select and build into leaders in preparation for outreach.  Acts 1:15-26

Preparing for a launch or relaunch is a great way to expand and develop your leadership team and volunteer-based.  Giving people short term specific assignments is a great way to training and identify leaders.  In some cases, you can double your leadership team and volunteer base with inviting people to fill needs for the short-term commitment.  The critical aspect is that the more people you have involved in the planning and preparation, the more committed they will be in inviting and reaching out to their friends and family. We need to see these times of focused outreach as leadership development opportunities.

Pastors, how much time of the week are you giving to leadership development?   Who are you as a leader personally investing time and energy?  Remember, multiplication starts with you and the faithful leaders you pour your life into (2 Timothy 2:2).

4. Pick a good day and time of year for launching or relaunching your church.  Acts 2:1

In Acts 2, we see that God launched the church on the day of Pentecost. This was no accident! There are theological, historical, and sociological implications to this date. Pentecost, which means “50” was the final celebration of the Feast of First Fruits which happened 50 days earlier. At this Feast, God’s people were to give a free-will offering (Deuteronomy 16:9-10) celebrating God’s provision. The theological and historical significance was that the Feast of First Fruits started on the Resurrection Sunday and ended on the Day of Pentecost. So, we see that the church was born out of the first fruits of Christ’s sacrifice. The sociological significance was that Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was one of three annual pilgrim feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16), where God’s people from all over the world came to celebrate. We see such an array of people and languages in Acts 2:5-11. Pentecost was no accident. It was strategic, and this is one of the reasons why three thousand were added to the church that day. So, when is the best time to do a launch or relaunch?  Our experience has been:

  • Fall: Late September-early October
  • Lenten Season: February-March
  • Easter: Late March-early April

The best time for launching or relaunching is the fall because you have nine months before you face the summer slump. The second-best time for launching a church is in February; this is a season when unchurched people come back to church. The third is right before Easter.

5. Launch out in the Spirit’s power.  Acts 2:1-4

Remember, only God can draw people into a relationship with him. It can be tempting to trust your planning, but you must teach your people to act in faith and depend entirely on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the life-giving power. Prayer and fasting will be critical for you and your church to express its dependence on God. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7

I hope that every church would experience a season of dramatic growth like the church in Acts 2 did, but the reality is that most are unwilling to pay the price for that type of growth and impact. A significant growth campaign in your church will cost you something.  It will cost you your comfort, it will cost you time, it will cost you money, it will cost you your sleep, and it will even cost you some relationships because everyone is not going to embrace this journey with you.

6. Create interest throughout your webs of relationships and throughout the community. Acts 2:5-13

Three thousand people were added to the church in a single day. Still, the big question is, how many people were impacted by the miracle of the disciples speaking in different languages?  God, in a miraculous way, created a buzz throughout the community through this miracle, both relationally and attractionally.  There was so much buzz that it caused a reaction in people.  The crowd asked three questions and made one accusation:

  • “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?”
  • “Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”
  • “What does this mean?”
  • “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’”

Here is an essential principle that most churches don’t understand.  If you are going to have a major growth thrust, you must, in a big way, gain the attention of your community in such a way that it causes people to react. They will respond out of curiousness, out of sincerity, or even out of anger or jest.

When was the last time your church caused a community reaction that led to redemptive activity?  Many churches are great at creating buzz in the Christian community but struggle with creating buzz among the unchurched or even de-churched? It’s like the church that only promotes its events through Christian media.  Who are they trying to reach? Learning how to grab the attention of your community at large will be central to launching or relaunching your church.

7. Have bold, relevant preaching of God’s word.  Acts 2:14-36

I remember a well-known pastor say that 85% of the people stay in a church because they made some type of connection with the person bringing the message that day.  We can have all the latest technology, the most inspiring music, the warmest people, the best children’s ministry, but if people don’t connect with the message and the messenger, they will move on.  Many a pastor has spent hours preparing the service and outreach strategy but only minutes on developing their message, which is to their detriment and is dishonoring to God.

Two things we learn from Peter’s sermon 1) He responded to the questions and reactions of the crowd. The bulk of the sermons preached in the book of Acts are responses to people’s questions. If we are going to do an adequate job of touching the hearts of people outside the church, we must address the issues they are facing. We must understand their “heart language.” We must understand what moves them.  Do you know the primary heart language of your community?  2) He boldly proclaimed the word of God in providing an answer to their questions. Paul writes to Timothy, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  The foundation of any church is built on strong biblical preaching, not motivational speaking.  Every pastor must be gripped with an undying commitment of bringing the unshakable Word of God to a world that is falling apart.

8.  Ask for a commitment to Christ.  Acts 2:37-41

The key to getting commitment is clarity! Peter’s conclusion to his message was crystal clear, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (vs. 36). His call to action was specific and realistic, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vs. 38). His appeal was filled with passion and urgency, “With many other words, he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'” (vs. 40).

Remember that this launch or relaunch, at its core, is evangelistic in nature.  Our preaching must be evangelistically focused.  David Murray describes evangelistic preaching as plain, simple, and clear. He writes, “Evangelistic preaching will be plain. If we love sinners and we are anxious for them to be saved, we will be clear and plain in our structure, content, and choice of words. If we can use a smaller word, we use it. If we can shorten our sentences, we do so. If we can find an illustration, we tell it. Everything is aimed at simplicity and clarity, so that, as it was said of Martin Luther, it may be said of us, ‘It’s impossible to misunderstand him.'”

At some point during this relaunch, we must passionately lift the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We must challenge our audience with the implications of His claims as Lord and Savior.  We must make it clear on how one becomes a true follower of Jesus.  How one experiences the merciful forgiveness and the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

9.  Call them into the community of faith.  Acts 2:42-47

When Peter called the crowd in the temple area to “Repent and be baptized…” he was not just calling them from something (sin, corrupt generation) but also to something (to Jesus, a new community of faith and a new mission).

Peter’s words give us a beautiful picture of the “church.” The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which in its base form means “to call out.”  Isn’t this what Peter was doing?  Calling them out to repent, changing their minds on who Jesus was and what He had done for them.   He called them out to be baptized, to be dipped underwater before the crowd, as a symbol of personal identification with Jesus and His followers.   He called them out to be marked by forgiveness and to receive the promised Holy Spirit.  He called them out from a corrupt generation that offered nothing but hopelessness.  In response to his calling out, they gathered together in complete devotion, filled with awe and wonder, sold out to the God that saved them and to each other.  They had a clear sense of mission, which was seen in their ability to add people to their numbers daily.

As pastors and church planters, we have this same incredible privilege as Peter.   As we launch or relaunch our churches into our communities, we have an opportunity to call people out to something greater than themselves. The Church. The Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ. God’s agent of change and hope for our world today.

How do you do that practically?  What are the pathways of discipleship and involvement in your church?  Would a new Christian know what the next step for them was in the life of the church?  Would a returning believer know where to go to re-energize their relationship with Christ?  Would a growing believer new in town know how to get connected onto a path of service and multiplication?

Clear pathways of discipleship are critical for having a successful relaunch. George Barna, in his book “Growing True Disciples,” writes, “Offering programs is not the issue. We discovered that surprisingly few churches have a well-conceived model of discipleship that they implement. The result is that churches feel they have fulfilled their obligation if they provide a broad menu of courses, events, and other experiences. Still, such a well-intentioned but disjointed approach leaves people confused and imbalanced.”

Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, in their book “Simple Church,” articulate that for a church to have functional pathways of discipleship and involvement, there need to be four elements: movement, alignment, focus, and clarity.  As you consider what you are calling people to, the following questions will guide you in simplifying the process.

•    Movement: How would you describe the “ministry or discipleship flow” that exists in your church right now?

•    Alignment: What type of alignment exists between your ministries to achieve your vision?

•    Focus: How do these ministry opportunities help achieve our missional outcome?

•    Clarity: Do those who attend our public worship service understand our process and the next steps they need to take?

10.  Mobilize missionaries to serve the world, not just members to serve in the church.  Acts 2:47

The new term for assimilation is mobilization.  In the book of Acts, we see that Peter not only called the crowd into the life of the church but also called them to be engaged in the mission of Jesus.  This is how “…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Several years ago, I wrote on the differences between church-centric and mission-centric philosophies of ministries. For years the church has practiced a church-centric philosophy of ministry where the goal was to create healthy members for the betterment of the church.  But in recent years there has been a paradigm shift where churches are embracing the need to be mission-centric, in that the goal for the church is to create missionaries for the betterment of society and cultural transformation.

Churches are in the sending business. One of the questions we must ask in evaluating a church’s health is, ‘How many people are being mobilized for the Great Commission?'” Reggie McNeal reinforces this paradigm shift in his book, “The Present Future”, when he writes, “The first Reformation was about freeing the church.  The new Reformation is about freeing God’s people from the church (the institution).  The original Reformation decentralized the church.  The new Reformation decentralizes ministry.” The only way we can decentralize ministry is by seeing each member as a missionary to be sent by the church into their personal mission field.

The critical principle I take away from Acts 1-2 is this: “Missionally focused leadership will lead a church towards missional evangelism by engaging them in missional edification. Both are key to seeing the church fulfill God’s redemptive purposes in their communities.”

Conclusion

Fellow pastors and church leaders, the opportunity is ripe for you to relaunch your church this fall. Don’t miss this opportunity to envision your people, equip your leaders, and expand your reach deeper into your community for the glory of God and the good of all people.

Spreading the Message through Technology

I was raised in a Christian family with strong values and ethics.  My father owned an auto parts store as I was growing up.  Mom was always at home raising my sister and me.  Many times when I was at my dad’s shop I witnessed the pleasant interaction of his customers and himself. 

I’m very happy to say that my dad was very well respected in business, life and most importantly our church.  It was my father who inspired me to become a small business owner.

Through a series of numerous life experiences, I created Copier Consulting, LLC out of the 15 years’ selling copiers and printers coupled with my late father’s business influence.  I wish he could see me now!

As a child, I was taught by my dad a lot about standing up for the ‘underdog’.  I guess it was a sports metaphor mostly, but he truly embraced making sure people were treated fair and reasonable.

His roots go back to the 1920s and as child growing up in the Great Depression he instilled many of my conservative values today as well as small business practices. It is this core value system that I decided to embrace wholeheartedly with what I knew the most about, which – although it may sound crazy – was in the copier industry.

From 1992-2007 I sold copiers. From 2010-present I have worked only for the buyer, educating and training them on the negotiating processes of today’s copier selling strategies. 

Most times we discover confusing terms and conditions in the copier contract, service arrangements and on-going invoices. It really doesn’t have to be that way but it often is. Contracts are designed that way to benefit the seller. Enter a technical term:

Asymmetric Information

What is that?

Asymmetric information, also known as “information failure,” occurs when one party to an economic transaction possesses greater material knowledge than the other party. This typically manifests when the seller of a good or service possesses greater knowledge than the buyer.

Copier Consulting, LLC’s™ founder and president Al Kietzmann transitioned after 15 years as the seller. Today we only work for the buyer and are an independent and vendor-neutral consulting firm to help you make the best decisions while purchasing or leasing copiers and printers. We will discuss your current copier and printer situation, work toward reducing costs in the purchase or lease process while saving you time when researching and acquiring your best options, all without sacrificing user needs. Please note they do NOT sell or service copiers and/or desktop printers.

The result of working with Copier Consulting is an improved contract, waste exposure, and spend reduction. Collaborations historically average 33% financial savings for our clients.

A.R.E. Process™ will:

  • Assess your current contract(s), costs and needs
  • Research market opportunities, vendor omissions and preferred financing
  • Evaluate all future contracts to ensure most favorable terms and conditions

 

Imagine finding out that you were paying thousands more than you had to. What would you use the money for?

Contact me at al@copierconsultingllc.com for a free assessment and review of your current contract and future options. 

We work remotely and nationally via phone, email and Zoom video conferencing.

Ten Biblical Principles for Healthy Relating

Overview

Our mission is a relational mission.  Doing mission with others involves trust.  Building and maintain relational trust is critical for any church to succeed.  Gary Rohrmayer walks us through ten of the ‘one another’ scriptures to lay a biblical foundation for healthy relation in the local church.  Extras include how to do a solemn assembly.

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God at Work in our Churches in the midst of COVID-19

Let’s celebrate together the ways that God is at work in our churches! Check out these awesome stories from Converge MidAmerica churches.

Chicago Delivers

Chicago Delivers is a partnership of local churches (including our very own Compassion Baptist Church) working together to provide food delivery and encourage vital social distancing in lower-income, at-risk neighborhoods of Chicago during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Community Church, Dolton, Illinois

At New Community Church the vision is to have a passion connection with God, one another, and the community. Currently the church has a partnership with several community organizations, and because of our work in the community we received a call that a local business would like to donate $25,000 in order to assist with healthy Meals and Mask.

Redemption Bible Church, Mount Prospect, Illinois

Pastor Ashley Herr said his team knew they weren’t emotionally prepared to lead an exciting, energy-filled worship service like a normal year. Instead, the church focused on The Hope of Holy Week, starting with peace as The Hope of Palm Sunday.

Then each afternoon, the church hosted an interactive service of shared reading and prayer over Zoom, concluding with its Good Friday service. Sunday’s theme was the hope of life and freedom we find at the empty tomb in The Hope of Easter.

Herr said the church spent much of the week talking about how we are all grieving the loss of various things and stressing how we should acknowledge and talk about those emotions rather than hide them.

Grace River Church, St. Peters, Missouri       

Six people texted that they said yes to Jesus during Grace River’s online Easter services, and the church had its highest online attendance ever.

“We are connecting with an atheist, a universalist, former Jehovah’s Witnesses and so many more people than ever before,” lead pastor Chris Highfill said. “We feel that the COVID-19 crisis has given our church for more influence in our community than ever.”

Grace River is also meeting needs in its community. So far, the church has helped 30 people with food and other items.

Heartland Church,  Indianapolis, Indiana

Heartland Church and 16 other Indiana churches have partnered to purchase 200,000 N95 masks for hospitals, first responders and long-term care facilities in Indianapolis.

“We love our medical community and thank them for their tireless service in this crisis,” Heartland pastor Darryn Scheske said. “Because of the giving of people at Heartland Church, we were able to step up immediately and provide $50,000 to fund these needed masks.

“I think that now is the greatest opportunity for us to be the ‘big C’ church. We all sit in different buildings, but now we’re all at home. There’s a chance for us all to come together and do something compassionate.”

We want to hear from you!

Have a story to share? Let us know!

Hacks for Improving your Online Services

Maybe you’ve been hosting online services for ages now, or maybe (like many others) you’ve been forced into online church by COVID-19 restrictions. Either way, we want to help you create the best online church services you can. That’s why we put together this list of hacks for improving your online services. 

Keep to a routine.

Continuity communicates stability. Find elements that can stay the same every week, and make those elements the best they can be. In this time of uncertainty, people are craving consistency. If your in-person services included the Lord’s Prayer every week, keep including the Lord’s Prayer! Help give your congregation the stability they’re craving.

Aim for simple excellence.

Keep things as simple as possible so that the end product is excellent. Here are a few ideas to bring simple excellence to your services:

  • Create a graphic that appears before and after every service. This could be your church’s logo, a welcome slide, or a short countdown. Keeping this element the same every week adds a level of professionalism, and it’s easy for your staff to incorporate.
  • There are two options for online services: live and prerecorded. Both are great! Choose the option your team can accomplish best.
  • Don’t break the bank on new equipment. Your personal iPhone is simple and can record excellent footage.
  • Film in a place with great natural lighting, like near a window. Natural lighting always looks better on camera.

Post to multiple platforms.

You’ve done the hard work to create an excellent service; post it Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, and anywhere else that will reach your congregation. If you’re posting a premier or livesteam, be sure to have pastors and/or volunteers manage the chats live so that you can welcome new people and create community.

Make it shorter.

Attention spans for online services are much shorter, so your service elements should be shorter too. A 5-minute pre-service countdown might make sense in person, but 5 minutes watching from home is more than enough time for people to get distracted and navigate away from your page. Your congregation may love 45 minutes of worship music at the beginning of service in person, but they likely won’t have the attention span for it at home.

Ask for help.

Reach out to other churches for help! Even if you think you don’t need help, you never know what ideas other churches have that would be great for your congregation. If there’s a church whose online services inspire you, reach out to them and ask for advice. We are better together!

Be you.

Most importantly, don’t try to be something you are not. Create online services that are true to the culture of your church. Do what you can, not what everyone else is doing.

Churches, we’re praying for you, and we’re here to help in any way we can.

Steps to Licensing Guide

Overview

Prior to granting a license, a church should establish policies regarding the licensing procedure.

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Steps to Ordination Guide

Overview

Because of the growing number of Converge MidAmerica churches, there is a need for a guide that will assist churches in evaluating potential candidates for ordination and a suggested procedure for the ordination process. While the following recommendations are not binding, they will be conducive to good order and effective service. 

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Spiritual Warfare

Overview

Argentinean leader Ed Silvoso said, ‘The Church in the West today presents too easy a target for Satan. We do not believe we are at war. We do not know where the battleground is located., and, in spite of our weapons, they are neither loaded nor aimed at the right target. We are unaware of how vulnerable we are. We are better fitted for a parade than for an amphibious landing.’

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth,’…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes’ (II Corinthians 2:11).

This ebook provides fourteen devotionals built around the tactics the enemy uses to attack the church and provides the scriptural antidote to overcome them. Could your leadership team identify how the enemy is seeking to attack the church?

How to use this ebook

This ebook is designed to be used in a leadership setting with your church board, church staff, ministry team or even in a small group setting. Our prayer is that God will build up the church to stand strong together in the Lord.

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Ten Marks of a Coachable Leader

Overview

This ebook is designed to be used in a leadership setting with your church board, church staff, ministry team or even in a small group setting.  Our prayer is that God will strengthen your relationships throughout your ministry.

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Nine Prayers for Missional Leaders

Overview

Prayer is more about bringing our desires, passions, needs, concerns and circumstances into missional alignment, rather than for our own personal fulfillment. In this short book on prayer our desire is to help you as leaders to pray more missionally. The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we will be moved to align our hearts with his mission. As Henry Martyn wrote, ‘The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.’

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Lessons We’re Learning During the Coronavirus Quarantine

It is surreal to think that we are approaching the end of the fifth week of the Covid-19 quarantine. In fact, some of us have been in this longer than that, and some a bit shorter. I think we can all agree that we want this to be over! I’ve heard this many times, “I just want to get back to normal!” I have certainly found myself resonating with that thought. However, what if God is challenging us to NOT get back to normal? What if He’s calling us to a “new normal?”

I am firmly convinced that God wants to use the Covid-19 pandemic to wake up His church to be His bride in ways we have not been as the church in America. Might this even be part of His answer to our prayers for revival and spiritual awakening that we have so longed for? I remember Pastor John Piper writing during his bout with cancer several years ago, telling us that he didn’t want to “waste his cancer.” He saw his cancer as a “gift” that God was giving him to reach new levels of devotion and commitment to Christ and the gospel message. Brothers and sisters, what if we each committed to saying, “I don’t want to waste the Covid-19 pandemic.” What lessons does God want to teach us as leaders and churches, so that we too will reach new levels of devotion and commitment to Christ and the gospel message? I for one, don’t want to ever go back to normal again! This week, I have attended several of the breakout calls, and I am hearing this same desire shared by so many of you. It has been such a blessing to hear your hearts, and to begin the process with you of discerning what God is saying.

Zoom Schedule

In light of that, we are shaking our Zoom schedule up again. I want to keep you on your toes! We will be returning to our full group Zoom meeting on Tuesday, April 21 at 2pm CST. Here is the link: https://zoom.us/j/613566293. We are also going to provide breakout rooms during that call as we did a few weeks ago. This will allow us to gather initially for some encouragement, and then break out to share together in smaller groups our responses to the following questions:

As a church:

• What were you doing before this all started that you can’t wait to get back to when this is all over?
• What were you doing before this all started that you can’t wait to NEVER get back to when this is all over?
• What are you doing currently that you want to make sure to continue doing when this is all over?
• What are you doing right now out of necessity, that you can’t wait to NEVER do again?

As a leader:

• What has God been teaching you during the Covid-19 quarantine that will forever change the way you lead?

 

I am trusting that God will use this time of sharing together in smaller groups to speak to us His answers to these questions. I also pray that we will find affirmation, confidence, and even be challenged by each other. In light of this format, we will NOT be offering the small group breakouts during the week as we have done up to this point. So please don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to share together. As has been our pattern, we will keep the call to one hour in length.

“Dear Lord, we continue to pray that you would heal, restore and protect your people and your church during this pandemic. We also pray that you would speak to our hearts through your Holy Spirit, that You will encourage us to follow you with more passion and obedience. We ask that you would use us to lead your church more effectively for the sake of the name of Jesus. We pray this in His matchless name, Amen.”

As always, we love you, and stand ready to serve you in any way we can.

This Week’s Zoom Links

We are offering 7 different breakout opportunities throughout the week. You can jump in on any of these Zoom calls for an opportunity to encourage each other, share ideas and pray together. All times are central time zone.

Please be encouraged to join any call. You might even choose to join more than one during the week to glean from others. 

Top Ideas from Week Four of Coronavirus Quarantine

In just a few days, we will be celebrating our first “virtual” Easter Sunday in our churches. I’m pretty sure it is accurate to say that none of us have ever done this before.  It will no doubt be a day filled with mixed emotions. I like the quote my boss shared, “This is The Superbowl of Christianity”. It is the day we all come together to worship and celebrate the risen Savior! It is the Sunday that reminds us in an amazing way what our faith in Christ is all about. So, it will for sure be weird to not be together to shout in unison “He is Risen! He is risen indeed!”

I know you know this, but please don’t forget to remind yourself over and over that the tomb is still empty, and Christ’s church is still full, just in a scattered sort of way. Please know that you are being prayed for as you embark on Easter. We pray that through your message of the Resurrection, that many will not only tune in, but will accept the Gospel for the first time. Wouldn’t it all be worth it to see hundreds come to Christ because of your faithfulness to the Gospel message this Sunday? May it be so Lord!

Webinars and Zoom Calls

On Tuesday, we had another wonderful Zoom call with a presentation by Pastor Nate Wagner on the “Psychology of Crisis”. For many of us, it was like drinking out of a firehose of amazing information. My “ideas” for this week will be resources that came out of that talk, including a recording of the call and Nate’s slides.     

This next Tuesday, we will NOT be having our full group Zoom call. Instead, we are focusing heavily on the breakout calls throughout the week so that you might have an opportunity to debrief with one other about how your Easter Sunday went and help each other answer the question “Now what?”

I know that one of the breakout Zoom codes has not been working and I apologize for that. I trust that this week, they will all work as advertised. Please be encouraged to join any call. You might even choose to join more than one during the week to glean from others. 

                                                                  _______________________________________________                           

 

Resources from Tuesday’s Webinar

CMA Webinar “Psychology of Crisis” Zoom Call Recording

CMA Webinar Psychology of Crisis Webinar Slides by Nate Wagner 

Henry Cloud’s Webinar “The Psychology of Crisis”

Tim Keller’s Zoom Webinar

“Congregational Leadership In Anxious Times – Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What ” by Peter Steinke – This is a book I have recommended for quite a while. The principles in this book are very helpful, not only through this particular crisis, but during any difficult season in a church.

 

We love you all and stand ready to serve you during this time! 

Pastoral Leadership in the Midst of a Crisis

Ed Stetzer recently made a passionate appeal to church leaders saying, “This is not the crisis, we are weeks away from the real crisis.” The crisis is not that we cannot meet for worship or small groups—the crisis is not that our churches are losing revenue or our church mortgages cannot be paid. The crisis is quickly becoming a life and death situation that must be taken with the utmost seriousness, courage and faith that is fused with undeniable hope in the love of God.

So how should we respond as Christian leaders?  

I think we need to address the why’s before we figure out the how’s in order to have a clear biblical framework to guide us through this unprecedented season. Once we understand the nature of our calling as followers of Jesus and our duties as leaders, then we will be better able to perform the responsibilities God has set out for us.

Paul speaking to Titus, a regional leader whose task was to strengthen this growing yet fledgling movement of churches on the Island of Crete, writes, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished” (Titus 1:5). The term “put in order” or “straighten out” comes from the same word that we get the words orthodontics and orthopedics. The orthodontist puts braces on your teeth to straighten them out. The orthopedist puts on a cast or a brace so that your bones will heal, mend, and be strengthened.  

Titus was to provide braces that would strengthen this immature movement of churches, which could, at that time, be up to one hundred churches on this island.  

Paul gives Titus three braces that he was to provide to strengthen the churches in this movement: 

  1. Appoint qualified leaders in every town (Titus 1:5-15). 
  2. Promote sound doctrine (Titus 2:1-10) and gospel-centered living (Titus 2:11-14).  
  3. Remind people how to live missionally in this world (Titus 3:1-15).

Titus’ commission involved re-establishing the basic foundations of the church to gospel-centered churches that saturate the Island of Crete and beyond. Grasping this context helps us as leaders in this pandemic crisis wrestle with ways to promote responsible citizenship through our churches. 

Seven Qualities of a Remarkable, Gospel-Centered Citizen.

Paul writes, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

First, Paul addresses the importance of this subject by using words of urgency. He writes, “Remind the people…” (vs 1). To paraphrase Paul, he is saying, “Pastor, this means you must keep on continually reminding your people of the principles and qualities of what it means to be a remarkable, gospel-centered citizen in a pagan culture.”

Let consider Paul’s seven virtues of a remarkable, gospel-centered citizen: 

  1. Submissive in attitude. He writes, “to be subject to rulers and authorities.” We voluntarily subject ourselves to government authorities because we believe that they are put in place sovereignly by God (Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:11-17). Understanding that the Island of Crete was under the ruthless rule of the Roman Empire, they were to submit to the reasonable and responsible rule of the government as long as it did not cause them to violate the laws of God. Peter and John refused the order of the Jewish officials to stop teaching in the name of Jesus by stating: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Here is where ‘the great commandment and great commission rule,’ helps discern when civil disobedience is necessary. You may ask yourself: Is my government asking me to reduce my love for God and my love for my neighbor? Or is my government asking me to stop proclaiming the good news of Jesus? In this pandemic crisis, I see neither. So, I would encourage us to do all we can to submit to the guidelines of social distancing while looking for more ways to connect with neighbors to share the hope of Jesus in this challenging season.

Question: Are your church members fighting or submitting to the guidelines proposed by the federal, state and local authorities?

  1. Obedient in behavior. Paul writes, “to be obedient.” We are not only to be submissive in attitude, but we are to be obedient in our actions. Paul writes, “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:6-7). The Apostle Peter offers these same thoughts, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:16-17). We, as Christian citizens, should be the highest examples of responsible citizenship because we want to point people to the true King, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, and Only Savior.

Question: Do you agree with the statement that Christians should be the highest examples of responsible citizenship?

  1. Benevolent in spirit.  He continues, “…to be ready to do whatever is good.” It is interesting that three times he repeats this charge (vs 1, 8, 14). Paul moves our responsibilities from a passive posture (submission and obedience) to a proactive position of blessing the world around us. Peter, in the context of believers submitting to authorities, writes, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…For it is God’s will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (I Peter 2:12,15). Being right in line with the teachings of Jesus: That we are to be salt and light in this world, “…that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-15). May the world see the beauty of Jesus through the scattered church, and may their heart be captured by the goodness and greatness of our God.

Question: How are you as the pastor promoting responsible benevolence to the needy in your community?

  1. Speaks well of everyone. Paul continues, “to slander no one…” (vs. 2). Paul expands his instructions beyond our relationship with the rulers or authorities to be all-inclusive by using the terms “no one” and “everyone.” The word slander here is the same word for blasphemy. The Bible is very serious when it comes to speaking evil of or maligning God (Leviticus 24:16; Numbers 15:30; Mark 3:29). It is just as serious about speaking evil or contemptuously of people created in the image of God. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). The terms’ Raca’ and ‘you fool’ were slanderous and contemptuous words against another human being that bring with them the judgment of God. It is interesting that the scriptures teach us to remove all evil slander from our vocabulary (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8) and to replace them with holy and godly prayers for all people. Paul writes, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:1-4).

Question:  How are you encouraging responsible rhetoric and focused prayers for leaders, authorities and all people?

  1. Is peaceable.  Paul writes, “…to be peaceable” (vs. 2). Interestingly, the actual translation is negative, ‘don’t be a brawler’ or ‘cease fighting.’ I am sure just as in Paul’s day as well as our own; there was a lot of anger stirred up while living in an unjust pagan culture. The human cruelty and blatant disregard for justice is so unnerving. The lack of common sense and the neglect of true wisdom can drive followers of Jesus mad at times. Yet the Bible instructs us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). To live at peace means to be at peace. Peace is a settled confidence that comes from being right with God (Romans 5:1), which leads one to experience inner tranquility, relational poise, and a profound sense of being protected (Philippians 4:8). As followers of Jesus, we must refrain from adopting “the arts of the agitator.” [1] Yet from a position of inner peacefulness, we should bring words of peace into our conversations that deescalate the situation while seeking ways to present the gospel of peace to an unsettled world. In a day when conflict and controversy are leveraged to sell anything, we as followers of Jesus should rise above the fray and be reasonable and peaceable people.

Question:  What are you as a pastor doing to promote peace in the midst of all this crisis?

  1. Practice consideration for others.  Paul uses the word “considerate” (vs. 2). This word is the outward expression of gentleness. When we put the concerns for others above our own rights we are being reasonably forbearing, patiently kind and sweetly considerate. This is very personal to the Cretans, who were described earlier as “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). They were known as being uncivilized barbarians, who exhibited the unrestrained indulgence of wild and ferocious beasts. Yet as new followers of Jesus they were to take on the gentle character of their Savior (Matthew 11:29) and follow his example of relinquishing their personal rights for the betterment of others (Philippians 2:5-12). The Bible appeals to us, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). We are not to respond as evil brutes always fighting for our rights but as respectful, considerate, and gentle people. The Apostle Peter says this demeanor is what makes our testimonies attractive. He writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). The message of the gospel becomes more apparent when the power of the gospel comes alive through our firm convictions and sweet consideration of others.

Question: How are you as a pastor encouraging considerate behavior for the purpose of making the gospel attractive to your community?

  1. Humble in attitude.  Paul finishes this list, “and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Whereas consideration is the outward expression of gentleness, here it speaks of the inward attitude of humility, which is the foundation of all our behaviors. Andrew Murray wrote, “The root of all virtue and grace, of all faith and acceptable worship, is that we know that we have nothing but what we receive, and bow in deepest humility to wait upon God for it.” [2]  To reinforce this posture of humility, Paul reminds them of where they came from and how God’s mercy alone saved them. He writes, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3-4). One historian used the following words to describe the Cretans, ‘a turbulent race,’ ‘fighting amongst themselves for generations,’ ‘whose rebellious propensities seemed to be unquenchable,’ ‘always producing disorder’ and possessing a ‘factious and seditious spirit.’ Yet this is where the gospel met them. Paul continues, “But when the kindness and love of God, our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). In Paul’s mind, there is no room for pride in our lives, only room for humble gratitude.

Question: How are you as a pastor modeling and promoting a spirit of humble dependence on the Lord during this crisis?

Why are we called to be remarkable, gospel-centered citizens?

Paul answers that question, “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:8).

Our beliefs should always impact our behavior. As recipients of God’s mercy, we are called to be merciful to others. As followers of Jesus, we should be taking the lead in doing good to others and not dragging our heals while others take the lead.

Paul wants Titus “to stress these things.” There is a heightened level of urgency in Paul’s words that we read earlier. He wants him to courageously and confidently teach this immature movement of churches not only to proclaim the gospel but to live out the gospel for the benefit of every person on the Island of Crete.

Pastors, church leaders and every follower of Jesus, this is our time to shine, this is our time to stand out, this is our time to be kind, merciful and fearless all in the name of Jesus the Risen Lord and only Savior.

So, let us all be remarkable citizens!  Let us be humble, considerate and peaceable! Let us be live, breathe and speak the gospel! Let us lead the way by being eager to do good!

[1] Hiebert, D. E. (1981). Titus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 443). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Murray, Andrew. (1997). Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (pg. 29). Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publication.

Never Preach to an Empty Room

I never thought the day would come, that due to COVID-19 every pastor in America would be forced to do what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. You see, early on when Grace Church decided to go multi-site, we also decided to take an unconventional approach to video preaching. We chose not to record the sermon at a Saturday night service in front of an audience, instead, I would preach on Wednesday mornings. And yes, aside from a small crew of one or two people, the room would be completely empty.  But, I learned an important lesson early on in this process. NEVER preach to an empty room. Instead, I always preach to the REAL PEOPLE on the other side of the camera.  I found it too frustrating and too fake to try to hold the illusion that I was preaching to imaginary people in a cavernous room.  Instead, week after week, I stare down the lens, looking into the camera and into the faces and souls of my congregation.  I also understand that each week there is an internet audience and individuals who will watch the archive version of the message months and maybe years after I deliver it.  Since we have a preaching team, I have developed a list over the years of 10 tips and tricks for preaching through the camera that serves as a resource for everyone who preaches at Grace.  Since all pastors across the country are now in the same boat, I thought I’d share it with you!

10 Tips for Preaching THROUGH the Camera:

  1. Talk faster than you think you should. A quicker delivery helps to hold people’s attention. 
  2. Voice inflection is particularly important. You can be more passionate and animated than feels natural. 
  3. Keep your eyes on the lens as much as possible – don’t look around at the imaginary crowd. 
  4. Utilize visual aids whenever possible. Pictures, video clips, full screen quotes all help break it up and keep it interesting. 
  5. Explain all personal/geographical references: ie. Instead of “Kim and Caleb,” say “my wife Kim and my son Caleb…” instead of “We went to 1201” say “we went to a local restaurant called 1201.” 
  6. Briefer is better.  There is a limit to how much preaching people will endure on screen.  The standard at Grace is a 30-minute video sermon. 
  7. If you are using notes on a podium or an iPad – the camera shot should be wide enough to include those things so that people can see what you’re looking down at.  The use of a teleprompter is preferred so that eye contact can be maintained with the camera. 
  8. Nervous gestures and body language are amplified on the screen. 
  9. Pause for expected laughter. It’s a little risky (especially if you aren’t as funny as you thought you were going to be), but when you keep chugging along with your next point while people are still laughing at your last one – it is a stark reminder that you’re on a screen. 
  10. Imagine specific people.  Both as you are preparing and as you are delivering your sermon to the camera it’s helpful to remember specific people and their anticipated reactions and questions to what you are saying. 

I’m praying that the word of God goes forward in unprecedented ways during these unprecedented times!

Fasting Resources

Fasting Definition

Fasting is deliberately abstaining from the normal routines of life for the purposes of spending focus time in prayer and the study of God’s word as we seek to align ourselves with God’s purposes.

Articles

Prayer and Fasting in the Pastors Life – Ronnie Floyd

Revival & Fasting – John Piper

Why should I Consider a Social Media Fast? – Kevin DeYoung

Quick Study on Fasting – Gary Rohrmayer

Eight Basic Guidelines for Fasting  – Gary Rohrmayer

Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer – CRU

Being in Tune with the Supernatural though Fasting – Ronnie Floyd

Strengthening our Prayers through Fasting  – Gary Rohrmayer

Bill Bright’s Fasting Testimony

David Brainerd’s Fasting Testimony

21 Classic Fasting Quotes

Sermons

John Pipers Sermons on Fasting

Tony Evans Sermons on Fasting

  1. The Importance of Fasting
  2. Fasting For Deliveranc
  3. Fasting For Burden
  4. Fasting For Protection
  5. Fasting For Needs
  6. Fasting For Mates
  7. Fasting For Marriage
  1. Fasting For Healing
  2. Fasting For Guidance
  3. Fasting For Revival
  4. Fasting For Ministry
  5. Fasting For Intimacy
  6. Fasting For Justice
  7. Fasting For Power

James McDonald – Video

Fasting For a Spiritual Breakthrough – Elmer Towns 

Breakthrough – NorthBridge Church

Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough – Gary Rohrmayer

Power of Fasting Together – Mark Albrecht

Readying Ourselves for a Breakthrough – Mark Albrecht

First: Priority Determines Capacity – Heartland Church

Start Now! – Darryn Scheske

21 Days Of Prayer & Fasting – Darryn Scheske

The Power Of Priority – Darryn Scheske

What Really Matters? – Darryn Scheske

Nothing To Lose – Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr.

Seminars/Campaigns

Hunger for God Seminar – John Piper

The Daniel Plan – Rick Warren

Interviews

What is the Purpose of Fasting? – John Piper

How Can I Conquer Gluttony? – John Piper

Celibacy and Sexual Fasting – Tim Keller

Reading Plans/Devotional Guides

7 Basic Steps to Fasting and Prayer  – Bill Bright

Fasting: A 30 Day Guide – Gary Rohrmayer

21 Days in the Gospel of John

21 Day Fast

21 Day Challenge: Made to Crave

Books

Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough – Elmer Towns

Fasting for a Financial Breakthrough – Elmer Towns

Hunger for God – John Piper

Hunger for God – John Piper (Free pdf)

God’s Chosen Fast – Arthur Wallis

The Power of Prayer and Fasting – Ronnie Floyd

The Daniel Plan – Rick Warren

Top Ideas from Week Three of Coronavirus Quarantine

It is surreal to think that we are finishing up week three of the Covid-19 quarantine. Nothing is normal for any of us. To be honest, I’m starting to forget what “normal” even looked like. Our work week has changed, our sleep patterns have changed. I even had someone share the loss of a commute to and from work each day. Here’s what I know hasn’t changed. We still serve the same God today as we did yesterday. We still have the greatest message to share that has ever existed on our planet. And we still know the end of the story! Please know that you are loved by the team at Converge MidAmerica and we are praying for you.

Weekly Webinar

On March 31, we had another wonderful Zoom call with 44 people who got some clarity around our online streaming presence. This week, our topic is “The Psychology of Crisis.” It has been eye opening to learn the real psychological effects this season is having not only on our church members, but on us as pastors as well. Pastor Nate Wagner, pastor of Sparta Baptist Church in Sparta, Michigan is our presenter. Not only is Nate a fabulous pastor, he is a licensed counselor, and I know you will be blessed by what he brings to us.

Click here to watch a recording of the “Psychology of Crisis” webinar.

Psychology of Crisis Webinar Presentation Slides by Nate Wagner

 

Once again, we are offering 6 different breakout opportunities throughout the week.

You can jump in on any of these Zoom calls for an opportunity to encourage each other, share ideas and most importantly, pray together. All times are central time zone. I know last week a couple of the numbers weren’t correct. I trust that this week we have resolved that issue. Sorry about that.

                                                                      ___________________________________

This week, I thought we’d change it up a bit.

I have been hearing amazing ideas coming out of our office staff in relation to how churches can minister to and help families enjoy their kids during these days. Following is a “best of” list of those ideas. I trust you will be able to use them personally and share them with those in your circle. Special thanks to Kirsten Andreson, Eileen Herrera and Yahaira Landaverry for the ideas.

If your church has a RightNow Media account, share the login with your congregants

Encourage Christ-centered cartoons for downtime.  Encourage family devotional and worship time using included resources such as Theo and Seeds Worship (for elementary-aged kids). If your church does not have a RightNow Media account, the church can enroll in a free trial that is shareable with your congregants. 

Host a weekly storytime over Zoom.

You can very easily read a book that you have a copy of while sharing the digital download onscreen, providing a good quality story experience.  Check out The Good Book Company, as they have some Gospel-focused storybooks and are currently offering free digital downloads of the illustrations.  Also include a music video for worship (look up Yancy, she’s great for young kids!) and ask the kids for their prayer requests.

Host a watch party of the new Pilgrim’s Progress. 

This new animated version of the movie is free to watch online, just sign-in here to watch.  Take it a step further and challenge your youth to read through the book with you over the course of the next three weeks, hosting a weekly mid-day gathering to discuss, share what you are learning and pray.  There are a number of free modern-English Kindle versions of the classic by Paul Bunyan or you can recommend your students listen on Audible using their free 30-day trial.

Encourage the entire family to “attend service” by providing ways to engage the kids that may be accustomed to attending children’s church instead of the main service.

Parents may all too easily allow their kids to disengage and go play during service time.  Send out an email with a simple Bible-themed craft or activity for younger children to work on while their parents participate in your streamed Sunday service.  It need only be a simple attachment that parents can either print off or create on their own with supplies that many have on hand at home.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Plan unified Easter lessons for all age groups utilizing The Gospel Project curriculum.

It’s currently free when you start a free Ministry Grid account. There is age-specific content so the entire family can learn at their age/reading level.  They provide two weeks of Easter lessons, so it is perfect for use this weekend (Palm Sunday) and next (Easter)! Click here to sign-up.

There’s another really dynamic youth Easter curriculum available for free download from The Action Bible (just scroll to the very bottom of the page to download a Zip file). 

Create an online art gallery on your church Facebook page where families can share photos of their kids’ artwork created during this time at home.

Each week, you can post a “schedule of art themes” for them to follow along with. This will encourage a sense of community and allow kids to see photos of their friends that they are likely missing.

Utilizing their preferred social media platform, provide your youth with a challenge or talking point each day to keep them engaged and in fellowship.

Give them a question to ask of a specific person, to keep them engaged with their family and to ensure they have to come back to post their answer.  Maybe you can all start memorizing a passage of scripture together, each student assigned a verse to creatively record and post on their assigned day. Check out a posting site like FlipGrid which is great for elementary-age students. 

Host an online game night for your students.

It could be a virtual nerf gun fight, online games (ask them, they know which platforms to utilize), or turn them onto the simple joys of charades or Pictionary over Zoom!

Host or encourage a family worship night, a hymn-sing or a family dance party.

Provide the playlists by recommending music such as this kid’s playlist put together by The Gospel Coalition, available on Spotify. 

Start introducing a new online-based curriculum package.

Free trials are available for all age groups at Think Orange

Commence an evangelism and missions focus, instilling an understanding of the global Church and the reality that this pandemic is affecting each corner of the globe.

Teach your students about different cultures, contexts and ways to share the Gospel.  Create a daily prayer schedule for specific Converge missionaries, highlighting the countries, cultures and church partners they each serve. 

Here are some more great missions and evangelism resources by age group:

  • Elementary Aged KidsCompassion International has a number of online devotionals, lessons and activities to help you learn about “the least of these.”  Maybe come together and sponsor a child during this unprecedented time. 
  • Youth/StudentsDare2Share has free resources for both the youth pastor and the teens, including free apps for both.

 

We love you all and stand ready to serve you during this time! 

Legal Opinion: Illinois’s Stay at Home Executive Order

In reviewing Illinois’s Stay at Home Executive Order 2020-10, it is my understanding that church gatherings of more than 10 persons is expressly prohibited by this order (See Clause 3). The Order requires all individuals to stay home in their place of residence, except for essential activities. In my reading of the order, church services are not exempted as essential, and the Illinois.gov COVID-19 FAQ’s specifically say that church services “will be cancelled.” Additionally, this Executive Order may be enforced by state and local police.

Social Distancing is required during essential activities (See Clause 15).  Here are a few essential activities which are identified in the Executive Order:

– Clause 12.c. Organizations that provide charitable and social services, such as food, shelter, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;

– Clause 12.q. Residential facilities and shelters;

– Clause 12.w. Funeral services.

Regular church services are not exempted.  Additionally, educational institutions and restaurants shall not operate classes and meals on premises through April 7, 2020.

Executive Order 2020-10 is in effect Saturday March 21, 2020 at 5:00 pm through April 7, 2020.

I am providing this as a legal opinion. Please see below for links to Executive Order 2020-10 and related FAQ’s, which are both available at Illinois.gov.

https://www2.illinois.gov/Documents/ExecOrders/2020/ExecutiveOrder-2020-10.pdf

https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Documents/Stay%20at%20Home%20EO%20FAQ_.pdf

God bless,

Victoria D. Pipkin, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Converge MidAmerica Executive Board Member

Top Ideas from Week Two of Coronavirus Quarantine

As we enter week two of the Coronavirus quarantine one thing is clear – the “novelty” has worn off. In some ways, last week was filled with our pastors operating in crisis mode with endorphins creating an almost frenetic energy to get this all figured out. This week, many are clearly struggling from exhaustion, increased anxiety as to how long this will last and what will be the lasting effects for our churches. Zoom has become a lifeline for so many of our pastors. On Tuesday we offered a Zoom call for our pastors and had 46 join! I heard from many how encouraged they were to actually see each other and know that we’re in this thing together.

We are changing the format up for next week:

We will still be having the full group Zoom meeting at 2 pm CST on Tuesday.  This week will function in more of a webinar format. We will be having an expert share with us for about 20 minutes on the topic of “How to maximize live streaming without breaking the bank”.  I know you might think that this is last week’s news, but I think it will be important now that we’re all doing livestream, to evaluate our own livestreaming, and see how we might maximize our effectiveness in the weeks to come. The presentation will last 20 minutes, and I will be compiling questions you ask through the chat feature to ask our presenter after the presentation. The entire call will last about 45 minutes.

Instead of the breakout rooms that we offered last week, we are offering 6 different breakout opportunities throughout the week. You can jump in on any of these Zoom calls for an opportunity to encourage each other, share ideas and pray together. All times are central time zone.

 

This week, I have once again been so encouraged with all the great ideas coming from our Zoom calls, so here is a sampling of this week’s best ideas.

1.   There is not one “right” way to stream your service

Some churches are really enjoying the look of the pastor at the pulpit in the empty worship center while others are finding the more casual perspective of sitting on a couch in their home or office more effective. Some find keeping their format exactly like a normal Sunday works best and others find that the format has to change. Some do live worship and others record ahead of time.

Know Your Audience!

You have more visitors to your church online than you ever have in your building on a weekly basis. Make sure your style and format connects with these online visitors as well as your regular attenders.

Check your Facebook Live analytics. The average “attender” will stay on your stream for 25% of the total stream. If you get 50%, you are doing great. Make sure your format is conducive to keeping people watching. The longer they stay connected, the more good news they hear!  Consider that a plug for next Tuesday’s Zoom call at 2pm CST.

2.  Make sure you are landing the plane in regard to the Gospel

Eaglebrook church in Minnesota saw 450 people make first time commitments to Christ through their online service last week. Are you sharing the simple plan of salvation each week as part of your service, and as people respond to the gospel, how are you following up with them?

3.  Exhaustion is Setting In

Most pastors are exerting an incredible amount of energy to get all this figured out in their churches. There is and will be an exhaustion that will set in that many have not experienced before. This can lead to depression, anxiety and even physical health problems. On Tuesday, April 10 at 2pm, our Zoom call will be dealing with this very subject, so plan ahead.

4.  Be measured in your communication with people, specifically online

Be careful how much time you are watching the news and reading articles on Covid 19. Be careful what we choose to share from the myriad of opinions and thoughts coming out of the news and even by respected Christian leaders. It is clear that this virus is bad and has potentially long term affects to our culture. It is also true that we can and should communicate hope in the midst of this reality, so measure your words carefully. When is joking appropriate and when is it not? When is concern and warning warranted and when is it too much? etc.

We are NOT medical experts. Stick to our lane. In one county, a Zoom call was held with community, medical and pastoral leaders. The statement made by the health providers to pastors was that our people will listen to us before they listen to their doctor. That is astounding and should make us think very carefully about what we are communicating and the tone in which we do it.

5.  Who is our main responsibility pastorally?

The answer is that it is the same group that was our responsibility before this all happened. Never has Jesus’ reminder that we are a hospital for sick people been more appropriate. We need to continue to equip and unleash our people now more than ever to show the love of Christ so that we might see people transformed from spiritual death to life. A friend of mine sent me this quote (Sorry, I don’t know the author). “The spiritual crisis that church leaders are dealing with right now is not a crisis of streaming weekend services. The crisis that many churches are facing is that they have not adequately equipped men and women to lead the people in their homes and in their neighborhood.” May it not be so with us!

“Dear Lord, thank you for our pastors. Thank you that we can link arms as we seek to see the gospel transform our neighborhoods and cities. Grant our pastors sabbath rest, even in the midst of a season of incredible busyness. Protect their marriages. Give their families amazing times together that center on Christ. Holy Spirit, grant them messages to share each week that clearly remind them that it is you speaking through them, and not themselves. Be glorified Lord in these days and continue to build the church into the beacon of hope and light you created it to be. In Christ’s name, Amen.”

We love you all and stand ready to serve you during this time. 

Top Ideas from Week One of Coronavirus Quarantine

This week we began offering Zoom calls for our pastors to come together to share ideas, encourage one another and pray for each other. We have had at least six of these calls this week, many through our Together Groups, and I have been furiously writing all the amazing ideas I have heard. Each week I will share some of the best ideas so that we can all be encouraged. Along with the Together Group calls, we will also be offering a Pastor Zoom Call every Tuesday at 2pm CST for all of Converge MidAmerica. Just follow this link to join us: https://zoom.us/j/613566293

Online Streaming of Worship Had Significant Impact

One church of 25 had 290 views. Another church of 200 had 1300 views. A new church plant that has an existing online strategy, went from 75 regular views to 500.

Many of the anecdotal statistics is that our church members were inviting their friends to check out their services and they did!

Many streaming services and platforms are being used. Along with Facebook Live, services like Sling Studios, DaCast and LifeChurch were all mentioned.

The Way We Stream Our Services Is Already Shifting

Many are finding that using the worship team for music does not necessarily translate well online. Using a Spotify playlist, YouTube worship videos, or simply having one song to open in a more acoustic format seems to be as or more effective.

A live sermon from an empty worship center may not necessarily be the best format. Pre-recording your sermon and making it more relaxed from your office or other location and moving from a preaching style to a more teaching style is gaining some good traction.

We were all taught to think of our sermons not as a monologue, but a dialogue. Pastors are using that concept to actively engage with their people in their sermon. Assign someone to handle the comment section from their streaming to keep prayer and conversation going. One church had 200 engagement comments last Sunday and are going to encourage families to take selfies and post them in the comment section so that they can engage even better (and take attendance ).

Online Giving Is Not Nearly As Costly As Not Giving

Churches that have been practicing online giving are finding that their church’s giving has remained pretty stable. One church had their top donor begin to give electronically!

Pushpay, Tithely, Givelify, Paypal are just some of the companies to investigate. Each have similar cost structures and are easy to integrate.

Caring For Your People During the Quarantine Looks Different

Unleash your small group ministry to care for people in their groups and beyond. (This obviously needs to be carefully thought through).

Some churches are splitting up their congregation, calling it a “Care Network” and calling each family once a week to check on them and to pray.

Many churches are calling their local school districts, food pantries and government agencies to see how the church can help. They are seeing great receptivity.

One pastor is doing “Chipotle on the Porch”. He is inviting two to three men at a time do have Chipotle lunch with him on his porch.

Churches have set up a “help” page on their websites where people can connect with practical help. One example can be found on https://villagepoint.church/help

Other Great Ideas

Beginning Sunday, it will be 21 days until Easter. Using one of Converge MidAmerica’s 21 Day books, or other prayer tools like Seek God For the City are ways to focus your congregation’s prayer times.

Don’t forget that you can always have online prayer meetings!

Do a daily check-in (devotional) video with your church. This need not be over 4-5 minutes.

Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. to bring your children and youth ministries together. Have your kids’ Sunday School or Awana leader do a Zoom call with their class. Tell me kids wouldn’t LOVE that!

Quotes From Week One

“When we pray for revival, are we really ready for what that means?”

“What if Easter ended up being on May 3?”
(We need to prepare for unprecedented numbers at our churches once the quarantine is lifted.)

“The church is not a building we go to, but a movement we are a part of.”

I believe we are being given by God an unprecedented opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in these days. Don’t forget, we are the church, and we carry the only true hope of this world, the gospel of Jesus! Let’s pray that through the churches of Converge MidAmerica, the gospel will go out with increased power and fervency!

Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not forsake meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage each other, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.”

We love you all!

Bryan Moak

Projects for Churches in Spring 2020 (in response to COVID-19)

In light of the CDC’s recommendation that all gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next 8 weeks, your church staff may have some free time on their hand. If this is the case, here are a few projects you could (and should) dedicate that extra time toward.

Make a website

Now is the time to make a website for your church. Churches shifting from analog to digital is no longer a trend but a necessity. Your church will not be able to gather in person for the next several weeks, and that’s okay!

Here are a few resources for developing your church website:

  • The Church Co is designed to help churches create functional websites. 
  • Squarespace is an easy do-it-yourself platform for building simple websites. 
  • Fiverr and Upwork are great platforms for finding freelancers to help with your projects. 

 

Online giving

For many in your congregation, not meeting weekly likely means not giving weekly. Take this opportunity to set up online giving and help your congregation learn a new culture of generosity.

Here are a few resources for setting up online giving:

 

Rethink Congregational Care

If your church’s congregational care looks like home visits and nursing home trips, now is the time to reinvent this ministry. The people in our congregations who need our care the most are also the people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and at risk of infection. Even if you seem healthy, coming into contact with at-risk members of your community puts them in danger of infection.

Brainstorm new ways to care for your congregation over the next couple of months. Ask nursing homes if they have a video chat platform set up for residents. Teach elderly members of your congregation how to FaceTime. Schedule 90-minute phone calls instead of 45-minute visits. Get creative!

 

21 Days of Prayer Campaign

Now is a great time to start a 21 Days of Prayer campaign with your congregation. Not meeting weekly could feel isolating and lonely. Starting a church-wide prayer campaign will unify your congregation and ignite passion in the midst of an otherwise trying time. Read more: 21 Days of Prayer Resources.

 

Let’s work together to reframe this pandemic as an opportunity to better reach our community. What problems are you ready to solve over the coming weeks?

Living Missionally in a Crisis

I have chosen to use Titus 3:1-2 as the guiding biblical principle for our churches as we face this unprecedented shut down of our country due to the dangerous spread of the coronavirus.

Paul writes, 

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

Here are some notes and observations that I hope will help you navigate this crisis from a biblical perspective.

How to Promote Missional Living in a Crisis – Titus 3:1-15

We need to Remind Churches of their Mission. vs. 1-2

Reminding the church of its purpose in the world is critical for church leaders.  Missional drift occurs quicker than we all realize.  Paul charges Titus to the hard work of developing a missional culture throughout the island of Crete.

Missional living starts out of a submissive spirit.

Submit. The word denotes that kind of submission which soldiers render to their officers. It implies “subordination;” a willingness to occupy our proper place, to yield to the authority of those over us. The word used here does not designate the “extent” of the submission, but merely enjoins it in general. The general principle will be seen to be, that we are to obey in all things which are not contrary to the Law of God (cf. Romans 13:1) (Barnes)

“Leaders who have trouble submitting to authority, will usually have trouble exercising spiritual authority.  This challenge occurs throughout their ministry, becoming more subtle as leaders mature.” (Clinton)

Missional living flows out of lives that seek to be a blessing.

Three times in this chapter times Paul calls the church to good works.

  1. to be ready for every good work…” vs. 1
  2. “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”  vs. 8
  3. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” vs. 14
“Good Works”

 “The ‘good works’ here refer not merely to acts of benevolence and charity, but to all that is upright and good – to an honest and holy life.” (Barnes)

“The Christian must not adopt the arts of the agitator.” (Hiebert)

“So far Paul has been concerned with the internal arrangements of the Cretan churches and the duties of their members to one another. Now he comments briefly on their relationship to the civil power and their pagan environment generally. The point he makes is that they should be models of good citizenship precisely because the new, supernatural life of the Spirit bestowed by [Spirit] baptism finds expression in such an attitude.” (Kelly)

“People who are ever fighting are wretched citizens and neighbors; people who are willing to yield in gentleness are admirable, especially when they follow the gentle spirit of Jesus.” (Lenski)

Missional living builds rapport with the community.

“The question that comes to mind as one meditates on this passage is how can a leader like Titus actually bring about the notion of a Corporate testimony — Christians as a whole on the island of Crete. In this small island culture, Christianity would be branded and known and watched and evaluated by those in the culture. So the corporate nature is there. But how to motivate groups so that their corporate testimony depicts the wonderful character qualities — that is the challenge of leadership. Today in most western societies the challenge is even greater — how to get the sense of corporate Christianity and how to get a corporate testimony”. (Clinton)

The leader reminds, calls and exhorts the church to reflect the beauty of Christ and his message to the world.

We must motivate others towards mission through the centrality of the gospel. vs. 3-8

The gospel is not only the key motivational ingredient that calls us to living missionally but it also has a continued transformational effect on the church as it seeks to be a blessing in the world.

The church has been transformed by the gospel and is continually being transformed by the gospel.  This is what makes it missionally effective.

Centrality of the Gospel

“The gospel is not the most important message in history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experience the joy of living their lives by it.” (Bridges)

“This is the whole point of the good news – God forming a people for His glory and the good of the world.” (Wax)

The leader calls the church to a deeper dependence on the gospel as it seeks to further the gospel throughout a known area.

We must deal with the distractions swiftly. vs. 9-11

Paul charges Titus strongly to deal with the distractions to the mission head on.  He knows how much emotional, mental and relational energy it takes to deal with difficult people.  Every moment spent in arguments are wasted moments in furthering the gospel.  

“I have learned that professed Christians who like to argue about the Bible are usually covering up some sin in their lives, are very insecure, and are usually unhappy at work or at home.” (Wiersbe)

Paul’s basic approach to confronting a heretical problem is twofold: 1) correct the damage of the heresy in the church by presenting the truth and/or modeling it; 2) confront the divisive person with the truth and give a chance for change. Give a reasonable time for the person to respond and make sure the person has understood (second time). If there is no positive response, then the person should be avoided by all in the church. The Amish and early Mennonites had a term for this — shunning. To be a part of a community and then to be ousted from it can have a powerful effect — maybe even redemptive.” (Clinton)

We must remind churches to treat the workers of the Gospel with generosity and care. vs. 12-15

Paul encourages Titus to teach the people of God how to treat workers of the gospel.  In these generous acts they are reminded that the mission is bigger than themselves and beyond their local concerns.   His encouragement to devote themselves to good works drives home the idea of being a blessing to their family, to the community and to the spread of the gospel.

“Two positive benefits of leading productive Christian lives are: 1) Christians provide for the necessities of life in their own setting and are not a drain on society; 2) there is the availability of resources to support the advancement of Christian work elsewhere. Paul is certainly implying that here. Productive lives involve support of God’s work in the world.” (Clinton)

Reflective Questions:

  1. How are we protecting the church from missional drift? Local, Regional and International?
  2. What are some of the ways a church can drift missionally?
  3. What are some of the root causes for missional drift?
  4. How are we being a blessing to our society?
  5. How can we protect the church from drifting into practicing only a social gospel?
  6. What or who are distracting your church from the mission of God?
  7. How is your dependence on the gospel helping your church further the gospel in your region?
  8. What percentage of the church’s resources are used in blessing workers of the gospel?
  9. Where do you see church planting in Paul’s letter to Titus?
  10. How do we use our mission support to reinforce a missional lifestyle?

How Your Church Can Leverage Social Media in light of COVID-19

With the unprecedented state of our country right now, many churches are navigating the transition to online church. Whether your church has been streaming Sunday services for months now or you’ve never considered it until yesterday, this can be an intimidating time for your church leadership. Here are a few ways your church can leverage social media to reach your congregation.

Stream Sunday Services from Home

The CDC has recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled for the next 8 weeks. This likely means your church will be canceling Sunday gatherings for the next 8 weeks, along with any other gatherings your church may hold. While you may see this as discouraging, it is in fact an incredible opportunity for your church to find new ways to meet people where they are. And right now, where they are is at home.

Don’t feel the pressure to keep on having church as usual and stream a professional-quality service. People will likely be at home on the couch in their pajamas participating in online church services. Embrace this fact! Have your pastor preach in pajamas. Show your worship leader’s kids running around the living room. Make your online service as informal as your congregation.

Here are a few free resources for streaming Sunday services:
  • Facebook Live – Go live from your church’s page or your pastor’s profile using your smartphone. Read: How To Go Live on Facebook
  • OBS – Go live on Facebook with a multicam setup using OBS. (Note: this is not recommended for churches with no live stream experience.) Listen: How to Setup OBS for Facebook Live Streams.
  • Instagram Live – Instagram lets you add another user when you go live. This is a great feature if your pastor and worship leader are in different physical locations; one can go live from his or her own device and then invite the other to join the stream. Read: How to Go Live with a Friend on Instagram.
  • Facebook Watch Party – With Facebook’s Watch Party feature, you can pre-record your service and start a watch party for your congregation to tune in together at a designated time. Read: How To Host a Watch Party.
 
A few things to consider when streaming Sunday services:
  • It’s not all about the video. Make sure your staff and leadership are online and ready to moderate and respond to comments during the stream. This is how your congregation will feel connected in an otherwise impersonal situation.
  • Keep it simple. If you’ve never done an online service before, stick to Facebook or Instagram live. There’s no need to pay for a live stream service; prioritize relationship over professionalism.
  • Read More: Why Live Streaming is not the Full Answer.

 

Start Google Hangouts instead of Home Groups

Your church may also be considering canceling any home groups for the next 8 weeks. Don’t let this be discouraging! Use this as an opportunity to reinvent home groups for your congregation. Consider meeting via video chat or conference call, instead.

Google Hangouts is a great resource for this because it is free and simple to set up. You can start a hangout with video call, phone call, or messages. Read: How To Start a Google Hangout.

 

Host Prayer Meetings via Facebook

Consider making a Facebook post weekly or daily asking your congregation to pray for one another. Encourage people to post prayer requests in the comments, and to type out their prayers for other congregation members. This is a great way to teach your congregation that prayer is communal and accessible.

Practical tips for starting a Facebook post prayer chain:
  • Respond to every comment. Yes, every single one! Thank them for their prayer request, write out a prayer for them, and encourage them to reach out if they need more prayer. Asking for prayer puts people in a strange, vulnerable state, so be sure to honor their request by acknowledging and caring for them.
  • Open up about your own prayer requests. Show your congregation that your Facebook post is a safe place to ask for prayer; so safe that even you are asking!
  • Make your post private. This protects the privacy of everyone participating. You may also need to take some time to add your congregation members as friends on Facebook; this is a great opportunity to do so!  Read: How to Change Privacy Settings for a Facebook Post.
  • Offer an alternate channel for those who desire more privacy. Some people may not feel comfortable posting their prayer requests in your comments. Be sure to make it known that anyone can message you privately if they would prefer. And again, respond to every message with gratitude and prayer!

 

Start a Group Message or Facebook Group for Your Community.

Now is a great time for your church to start a Facebook Group for your congregation to communicate with one another. Facebook Groups are a great way to get conversations started online that are searchable and accessible. Groups also allow users to set their notification settings so they are more likely to see what is posted in the group. 

Here are a few conversation-starters to post in your Facebook group(s) this week:
  • What are you anxious about? How can we pray for you today? 
  • What needs do you have that our church family can meet? Are you running low on any essentials? 
  • How is your family coping with the uprooted routine? 
  • What is your “new normal?” 
  • Who in your community are you praying for today? What friend/neighbor/coworker/acquaintance needs a little extra love? 
Resources for Facebook Groups:

 

People at home = People on Facebook. Post more.

If you have developed a plan for what and when to post to social media, now is the time to throw that plan out the window. The state of our world is completely different today than it was a week ago, so our churches’ social media presence needs to be different, too.

People in your congregation will be on social media even more over the next 8 weeks. Business will be slower, people will be working from home or not working at all, and the lack of physical connection with others in the midst of social distancing will drive people to seek online connection more and more. So meet people where they are!

Consider posting 2-3 times per day. Post content related to COVID-19 as well as content not related at all. Share posts from other churches that your congregation may appreciate. Take the time you would have used planning in-person events to instead plan online content to share with your congregation.

Resources for what to post:


Share relevant information without creating anxiety.

As your church takes to the web over the next 8 weeks, do not feel the pressure to be your congregation’s sole source of COVID-19 information. Direct people to reputable sources for information. Instead of sharing a step-by-step guide to keeping the virus from spreading, share a word of encouragement to your community in this season of anxiety. Use your social media platform to ask questions and open dialogue around what concerns your community has. And don’t be afraid of changing the subject every now and then; not every post you make needs to be focused on COVID-19.

What else?

As we enter into this unprecedented season, what questions do you have about your church’s social media presence? What steps will you be taking this week to better connect with your congregation online? What concerns do you have about this analog to digital transition? How can we help you make this transition as smoothly as possible?

The Unprecedented Circumstances of COVID-19

Dear Converge MidAmerica Pastors and Church Leaders,

“Unprecedented” is the word that is often heard regarding the COVID-19 virus pandemic that is globally affecting all of our lives.

It is at unprecedented times like these that we need to heed God’s word on how we, as God’s people are to respond. Paul’s words to Titus I believe are very timely.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

As leaders, we are living through a unique event in history that requires clear and patient pastoral leadership. The purpose of this letter is to give encouragement and to share resources that can assist you in leading your congregations throughout the pandemic. During this unprecedented season, let’s practice the following:

GLEAN FROM OTHERS:

If you have not yet read Converge President Scott Ridout’s letter to all Converge churches then I would advise you to do so. In it, he references some Converge Northwest District church responses that may be helpful in addressing your congregation. Many godly people, beyond our churches, have also been seeking the Lord’s guidance in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic and our congregations can benefit from their efforts. Here are some of those resources.


SHOW RESPECT TO CIVIL LEADERS:

Please walk in solidarity with your local and state officials and do your best to align your church leadership and communication with their formal recommendations. Among the wide variety of responses that we are experiencing, a clear pattern of increasingly collaborative, proactive and preventative care measures is emerging at local, state, and federal government levels. This is a time to be praying for our elected officials, their appointees, and their staff to have great wisdom in the execution of their civil leadership responsibilities and communication. Here is the Federal Government website also check your state, county and city website for updates because this situation is very fluid.

COMMUNICATE WELL:

Please communicate well with your congregation. You and your leadership may unexpectedly find yourselves cancelling activities and services. If you are to do this please make sure that you are communicating through email, texting, phone calls and personal conversations to ensure your congregation is getting the message. Please take special care to connect with the homebound and elderly in your congregation. Here are three COVID-19 communication examples from Heartland Church in Fishers, IN; Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, IL and Immanuel Church in Gurnee, IL

LEVERAGE ONLINE ACCESSIBILITY:

If people are discouraged from public gatherings or if you must cancel your services, how will you continue to shepherd the flock and how will people worship through tithes and offerings? Do you livestream or record your church services? How easy is your online giving access? Now is the time to make sure that your congregation is aware of where and how to find your online messages and giving options. If you do not know how to set up a livestream of your sermons or how to set up online giving then here are some tutorials for low-cost solutions.


Please do not hesitate to contact me or the Converge MidAmerica Office staff with any questions or for any assistance.

Finally, one of our Converge MidAmerica Pastors Adam Groh of Berkley Community Church, Berkley, MI posted a section of Martin Luther’s letter to a fellow pastor in how he approached the spread of The Black Death plague.  Luther’s wise words can help inform the way we approach things happening in our world right now.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated, and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash, no foolhardy, and does not tempt God.”

Thank you for your partnership and prayers,

Gary Rohrmayer
President
Converge MidAmerica

Tornado affects 4 Tennessee Counties

As Tennessee joins together to recover from Tuesday’s tornado, Converge MidAmerica is seeking to empathize with and aid our district churches who were affected. 

Preston Sharpe, pastor at Sacrament Church in Nashville, TN, helps us understand the affects of the tornado on Nashville and surrounding areas. 

Sumant Joshi helps clean up rubble at the East End United Methodist Church, March 3.
Mark Humphrey / AP

Our Context

Our church is in Downtown Nashville.

Early Tuesday morning, an EF-3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph tore across the Nashville area, killing two people in East Nashville.

North Nashville, Hermitage, The Five Points area of East Nashville and other parts of those neighborhoods were hit hard. Many of the popular restaurants, bars, and music venues were affected drastically or are just gone.

My family and I used to live in East Nashville, and it is so weird to see so many of the places where we walked in the early days of our church plant just completely destroyed. In Germantown, there are trees and powerlines down making it nearly impossible to get around. But tornadoes are weird in that they hit so directly. Some people in Germantown and East Nashville lost their homes; others were barely impacted.

Tens of thousands of residents are currently grappling with the lack of electricity and utilities.

Putnam County

The hardest-hit area was in Putnam County, where the town of Cookeville is located (two hours east of Nashville). At least 18 were killed, five of them children under 13. There are over 20 people missing in Putnam county, including small children.

Many of the schools are closed due to damage or lack of power. Many churches were also damaged.

State of the City

Nashville was the victim of major tornadoes in 1933 and 1998 and a flood in 2010, all of which devastated the city and hit some of the same areas.

Right now, everybody feels super vulnerable. This is particularly true for those who have experienced loss, but everyone feels really raw right now. However, Nashville (and all of Middle Tennessee) does have a lot of civic pride and there are a lot of helpers. We are hearing some wonderful stories of people feeling embraced by their community. So many people have jumped in immediately to make a difference. We are trusting for healing and restoration for our city and our region.

5 Things Every Church should be Posting on Social Media

Social media can be overwhelming, especially when it’s not our first priority. If you’re trying to come up with something to post to your church’s social media but find yourself stuck, check out this list of 5 types of posts every church should be posting on social media, plus examples from Converge churches.

Just a note: To make your post more algorithm-friendly, always include 1. a photo and 2. a caption.

1. Inclusion 

Everyone wants to belong somewhere, and you can use your church’s social media to show your followers they are Posts in this category tell your followers they are included in your church community. Captions like “You belong here!” and “Don’t go it alone.” are great ways to let your followers know they are included in your church community.

2. Identity 

So much of what we see online is companies, brands, and influencers trying to tell us who we are and influence our identity, but our true identity is in Christ. Our churches’ social media should be a reminder of that. Posts like “You also are complete through your union with Christ.” and “We are made in his image” remind followers that in the midst of the scrolling, their identity is found in Christ alone.

3. Invitation 

Social media is a great way to invite your congregation and community to events and services at your church. A photo of Sunday morning, a postcard for an upcoming event, or a link to your church’s live stream all make great invitation posts.

Just a note: Many churches use their social media exclusively to invite people to attend their Sunday services; while this is definitely something we should be posting, it’s not the only thing we should be posting.

4. Interaction 

The great thing about social media is that it’s social! Don’t let your church’s feed become a one-way stream of communication. Invite others to interact with your posts! Post a conversation starter, encourage followers to tag a friend, or ask a question in the caption to encourage people to interact.

P.S. SundaySocial provides thousands of social media graphics for your church for just $9/month!

5. Stories 

Was someone baptized at your church? Did someone serve as a greeter for the first time? Did someone accept Christ? Share their story! These examples of life change, big or small, are awesome social media content because they show followers that God is working in your church and community. Snap a picture, get permission, and share that story on social media!

Have questions about social media? Let us know!

5 Reasons People Are Not Giving to your Church

It is a fairly common statistic that 80% of funding for your ministry comes from 20% of the people in your church. Though some experts are seeing the trend move to 90/10 ratio in giving. The startling statistic for me is that the rest of the funding comes from only 30% of the congregation.  Revealing that 50% of the people who call your church their home church and receive spiritual nurture and care don’t contribute anything to the ministry. Dave Ramsey reinforces this by asserting that 53% of Christians have not given to their church in the last month. Click here. 

Why is this?

Here are a few reasons I have discovered:

1) People are in financial bondage.

The reality is that most of your congregation is up to their eyeballs in debt.  According to a recent study conducted by the Black Rock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent. Your people have no margin to give anything.  They can’t see beyond the bills, late notices and creditors. Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.

Larry Burkett wrote, “Over the last decade, giving overall in Christianity has increased about 20% — but recreational spending increased almost 125% and debt spending increased 550%.”  Click here.

How are you going to address the financial bondage people are facing in your church?

 

2) People don’t know how to invite God into their financial life.

The lack of understanding on why’s and how’s of financial management and generosity can be directly traced to the fact that two-thirds of churches have no written biblical generosity strategy.  In the latest research it was discovered that only 31% of churches said they had a written strategy for inspiring people in biblical generosity. A surprising 58% said they did not have a written philosophy for teaching people what the Bible says about money and possessions. The church needs to think though and document how they will educate and inspire their congregation through the pulpit, seminars, small groups, and one on
one mentoring. 

Who could help you in putting together a comprehensive plan to accelerate generosity in your ministry? 

 

3) People don’t know why they are to give to the church.

Show me a church where there is no vision and I will show you an underfunded ministry.  Most churches think the vision is achieving the mission of God.  This is true but I think it is a secondary vision. The primary vision of the church is to promote love for God, worship of God and honoring God in our lives as followers of Jesus. Do we clearly present a vision that promotes our giving as a personal act of devotion?  Paul praised the Macedonian churches in that “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (II Corinthians 8:5). They gave out of love first then mission second.  Developing disciples who understand that their dealings with money reflects their relationship with God.  As Billy Graham say it, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.”  

How are you going to encourage your church to become worship givers? 

 

4) People don’t see a big enough need.

If a congregation can’t see the needs in your community, country and world it reflects a small and ineffective vision. Is your vision big enough to inspire your people towards sacrificial giving?  Is your vision deep enough to grab peoples hearts?  Is it broad enough to expand their horizons? Doing a year-end giving campaign is a great place to start in casting a broader vision for your congregation.  If your church has done year-end giving campaigns well, it might be time to think about doing a 3 year capital campaign to expand your vision and release a spirit of generosity. 

How do you determine if your vision is too small or too big? 

 

5) People don’t think the church cares about their gifts.

Recognizing and affirming the giving of your people is critical to the health of your church. Two things pastors can do to show people they care.  Thank you notes and quarterly updates make a big impact.  I really believe that the best thing a pastor can do to increase the giving of their people is to write a personal thank you at least once a year to every giving family in the church.  I also believe that a vision letter accompanied with their quarterly giving report sent April, July and October as well as their year-end tax letter can make a huge difference showing people your care and concern for them. 

What steps can you take this week to show people that their giving matters? 

 

Finally: Remember Billy Graham’s insightful challenge, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.”

Strengthening Your Prayers through Fasting

Strengthening our prayer life through fasting helps us align our lives and our churches in what God is doing around us. There are several biblical reasons why one should engage in a personal fast. One of those is to strengthen our prayer life. Ezra says that the people of God, “…fasted and petitioned God…” (Ezra 8:23) to overcome the challenges that they were facing.

Nehemiah testifies to the fact that he “fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4) as he responded to God’s call on his life.

Daniel also strengthened his prayer life as he devoted himself to God “…in prayer, petition, in fasting…” (Daniel 9:3).

How does fasting strengthen our prayers?

Donald Whitney writes, “Fasting does not change God’s hearing so much as it changes our praying.” I believe it changes our praying in several ways:

  • It brings us to a stronger sense of humility & dependence on God and God alone to provide.
  • It heightens the seriousness of our prayers.
  • It creates a new level of urgency for prayer and God’s answer.
  • It brings a greater sense of focus & clarity to our prayers.
  • It removes all the fluff in our prayers.
  • It can lead to a deeper level of community with those who join us in our fasting & praying. Arthur Walls writes, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly in earnest.” (God’s Chosen Fast)

For guidance through prayer and fasting, check out our 21 Days of Prayer resources. 

3 Indicators of a Healthy Church

My bookshelves are filled with books on church health. Most claim to hold the key to seeing your church break the “code” for effective ministry. There is not one pastor I talk to in Converge MidAmerica that doesn’t want their church to be all that God has called it to be. So what is the key that unlocks the church health door? I don’t want to disappoint you with the “Jesus answer”, but the truth is that the church is a living, breathing organism that is sustained, grown and unleashed thru the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18). God has built, is building, and will build His church! Do you really believe that? As we become more and more confident in this truth that God is building His church, we will increasingly recognize that our role is to simply remove barriers in our little “c” part of the big “C” church movement that God is already building.

What are indicators that help us to know that we are removing the barriers to a work of God in our church?

First, we need to understand both the vision that God has given us, as well as the unique DNA he has built in our church. We talk a lot about vision, having a dream that God has given us to see His kingdom expanded through our church. But we don’t often realize that he has also given us a unique DNA. Simply put, there are 10,000 churches that are seeking to be faithful to the Great Commission. The question we need to ask, is what is the unique personality, giftedness and culture that God has placed within our local body to see God’s Kingdom expanded? We often look at 1 Corinthians 12, and the description of the parts of the body, representing our particular church and its people. But, in a larger sense, it is also speaking of your local church body in relationship to the larger church body of Christ. He has put your congregation together as an important part of the whole. Quit worrying about the church down the street that has ministry and staff you don’t have. Quit worrying about the church plant that started 2 miles from you and are supposedly “stealing” all your people. Be what God has called you to be. Be clear about who you are AND where you are going, and trust that God will do “immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine”. 

The second critical indicator of a healthy church is that healthy churches are willing to take an honest assessment of their current health, and diligently plan to improve. Much like the person who refuses to go to the doctor to discover why they aren’t feeling well because they’re worried about what might be revealed, we often cover our eyes as pastors and leaders, hoping that by ignoring our situation, everything will somehow turn out, and it never does! Or, we know that something is wrong in our church, but think the solution is to do the same thing over and over, thinking this time we will see different results. It is critical that if we want our church to be healthy, we must take heed to what is our current reality, and do whatever it takes to dream about a more fruitful future.

I believe the last indicator might be the most important. Healthy churches have strong, healthy pastors. Pastor – How healthy are you? Are you maintaining your physical health by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep? Are you maintaining your emotional and relational health by regularly dating your wife? Do your kids always know you are there for them, or do they see you treating the church as more important? Most importantly, how is your spiritual health?, Do you talk a good game, but inside, you are wasting away because you are not nurturing your spiritual relationship with the Father? When’s the last time you took a spiritual retreat? When’s the last time you fasted? When’s the last time you recognized that the evil one is trying to destroy you, your family and your church, and the only hope you have is to stay connected to the one who is greater than the one in the world?

So how are you doing?

Do you have a clear sense of who you are (DNA) and a clear sense of where you are going (Vision)? Are you taking an honest assessment of where you are as a church and working thru a plan to remove barriers to a preferred future? And are you taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritual? We stand ready to serve you in a variety of ways that will help you on the journey to answer any of these questions.

Does Your Church Need to be on Social Media?

For many churches, the last priority is having an online presence. We often focus on our weekly services, outreach ministries, and small groups until our energy is spent, and posting to social media gets put on the back burner week after week.

Does your church even need to be on social media? Can’t we just focus on these face-to-face encounters and set our online presence to last priority?

Here’s the short answer:

Yes, your church needs to be on social media! 

I know it can be stressful, daunting, overwhelming, discouraging, and everything in between. But I promise that your church’s online presence is worth your time. 

While I’d love to go over the ins and outs of WordPress, Squarespace, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok with you all in this post,  I think it’s important we dive into the why of social media before addressing the how and what

Why should your church be on social media? 

1. Reach your congregation

If you took a poll of your congregation, I guarantee most (if not all) of them are avid users of at least one social media platform. The average user spends about an hour each day on Facebook. Your congregation is already using social media platforms, so the church should be using those platforms to reach the congregation.

Posting to Facebook or Instagram is a great way to reach your congregation with announcements, encouragement, conversation starters, and pray requests. Many people want to stay involved with their church community throughout the week, but they don’t know how. Social media can serve as a way to keep congregation members connected to your church and to one another throughout the week. 

P.S. While it might be tempting to use your social media accounts exclusively to promote face-to-face events, keep in mind that your followers want more engaging content than constant promotions. Consider posting photos of Sunday services, blog posts of the sermon, encouraging Bible verses, and other content that isn’t trying to rope people into your building. 

2. Reach your community 

Of the 247 million Facebook users in the US and Canada, how many do you think live, work, and study in your community? Social media and online presence is a great way to reach your community. Posts about service projects, outreach events, or encouragement to teachers or first responders show that your church is for your community. 

Your church’s social media is also a great tool for those in your community who are considering visiting your church. Most people do at least some research on a place before visiting it. Common questions might be: What does the building look like? What kind of people will I meet here? What do people wear at this church? Is there a place for my kids? Who will I hear from at this church?

To find these answers, maybe they do a quick Google search, check out the church’s website, or scroll through the church’s Instagram. Maintaining an online presence makes sure those potential first time guests have an accurate idea of what to expect when they walk into your church. Post pictures of your services, quotes from your pastor, information about your kids ministry, and more so your community can get a glimpse of what your church is like before ever visiting. 

3. Reach beyond your community 

Your church’s online presence also has the potential to reach beyond your community. Sharing recordings of sermons, photos of your parking team, or stories of life change helps people beyond your community see the impact your church is making. 

Not on social media? 

Start with Facebook. Making a Facebook page is fairly simple and can help your church reach your congregation, community, and beyond. 

A month-long celebration for Grace River Church

This story has been reposted from Converge’s Newsline. Subscribe to Newsline here

Grace River Church, St. Peters, Missouri, celebrated the grand opening of its new location on December 8, with 410 people in attendance.

After starting in 2013 in founding pastor Chris Highfill’s living room with about a half-dozen people and eventually meeting at a local elementary school and YMCA, Grace River now has a permanent 16,000-square-foot facility of its own.

The church is already using the new location to help people meet, know and follow Jesus. On December 15, the church saw 20 people take the next step in their faith journey by being baptized. And 465 people attended the church’s three Christmas Eve services. 

“One of the most amazing things that has happened is the eagerness that everyone has to invite,” Highfill said. “There is just something about having our own place that makes people want to invite their neighbors, coworkers, friends and family.

“We are super thankful for the Converge Cornerstone Fund for helping make this possible and for the great capital campaign coaching that Converge MidAmerica offered to help make this opportunity to have a building possible. Our new space is just a new tool that God has given us to help people in our community find and follow Jesus.”

Minister’s Assistance Program

Fourteen years ago, our family decided to use the Ministers Assistance Program (MAP). Our daughter Kallie, who was a teenager at the time, was struggling emotionally with a tragic event that happened to a close friend within our church’s youth group.

Gary and I thought it would be best to find a counselor through Converge MidAmerica MAP that specifically worked with adolescents. After a year of godly and professional counseling, our daughter was able to process this tragedy in a healthy way. In May of this year, we celebrated Kallie receiving her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary, which is due in part to the influence and healing she received through her MAP counselor.

Because of the generosity of Converge MidAmerica Churches and private donors, we are able to commit $50,000 a year to the care of pastors and their families through The Minister Assistance Program (MAP) as well as our Pastoral Benevolence Fund that are touching the lives of many of our pastors and their families throughout our churches.

Here are a few anonymous testimonies we received this past year from Converge MidAmerica pastors and their family members who have richly benefited from our Ministers Assistance Program this year.

  • It has given me peace in my current tension. It helps having an objective listener. I am grateful for our donors providing us a resource to unload, unpack, and process. Ministers need to be ministered to. (Pastor)
  • I have been able to experience healing and a freeing perspective in an area that caused great pain. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The counseling sessions provided by MAP were transformational for me in a difficult season. I truly believe the help I received not only benefited me; but my husband, children, and church as well. (Pastor’s spouse)
  • I am more joyful and secure. I feel like I have the resources I need to get better. Whether you feel you are having an impact or not my family feels it. In many ways, this program has been life-changing for us, even at times potentially life-saving. It means so much that people care about pastors and their families getting counseling, because it’s one of the most important resources. (Pastor’s child)
  • Less anxious, more patient, less burdened, healing from grief. Thank you so much for making possible what otherwise wouldn’t have been had this program not exist. I already had enough excuses for why I should just “push through” my grief into counseling. I really needed it and your generosity gave me the counseling assistance I needed to continue to heal. (Pastor)

 

Can we count on you and your church to help us this Christmas season to continue giving this gift to our pastors and their families?  

Thank you and may God bless you deeply,

Mary Rohrmayer

Introducing: Barr 3M Solutions

Hello! We are Philip & Betsy Barr, Converge entrepreneurial church planters in Knoxville, TN. We were inspired by The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and founded Barr 3M Solutions as a way to support our efforts at Knoxville International Church. As we’ve talked with other church planters and executive pastors from around the country, we were excited to realize that Barr 3M Solutions is at the forefront in the innovative field of Creative Church Economics!

We lived in Beijing, China for almost 7 years and were exposed to the practice of using a business platform to break down barriers of entry for ministry in closed countries. As God led us to start this business as a platform for our church, it was exciting to watch Barr 3M Solutions break down numerous barriers we encountered…and so the way was paved for the launch of Knoxville International Church in terms of a physical location, financial support and status within the local community!

We are honored and thrilled to be a part of Converge MidAmerica and hope that Barr 3M Solutions can serve to creatively strengthen the financial foundations of CMA churches as they reach out daily in the name of Jesus.

Our specialists work with churches to identify the resources that God has provided in and to the congregation. Then together, specialists and church leaders explore how these can be maximized in order to provide additional streams of income for your church so you can increase your effectiveness for the sake of the Gospel. Connect with Barr 3M Solutions today for a no-cost, no-commitment consultation to see how your church could pay off all your debts, increase your budget and multiply your eternal impact WITHOUT needing to increase your giving levels.

We look forward to connecting with you individually, in Together Groups or at the Unleash Conference to see what solutions can be provided for you and your congregation!

Blessings!
barr3msolutions.com
admin@barr3msolutions.com
865-438-4772

What Does it Mean to Adopt a Church Planter

I believe every healthy church can play a role in church planting. I believed this when I started this job a little over two years ago, and I believe it now. 
 
I’ve found that many churches don’t think they can be part of church planting because their misconception is that you need oodles of money and a large congregation to participate. If you have money and/or people to give to a new church plant, that is great, let’s talk!  However, I’m also looking for some of our Converge churches to adopt our up and coming planters.  Especially as we are now getting more planters in our southern states, they are greatly desiring to be connected within Converge MidAmerica. 
 
Yes, even if you are a church in Michigan or Illinois you can adopt a church planter in Tennessee, Arkansas, or Kentucky
 
Here are ways that adopting a church plant helps them:
  1. The Parent Church allows the plant to reference them to gain credibility as they build a launch team.
  2. The Parent Church pastor can serve on the temporary church plant board for accountability.
  3. The Parent Church can pray for the church planter and his family.
  4. The Parent Church pastor can provide a confidential ear to listen and even a shoulder to cry on.
  5. The Parent Church pastor may (doesn’t have to be) be a coach to the church planter. 
  6. The Parent Church may send a youth group or missions team to help with an outreach or large scale program. 
  7. The Parent Church may send cards of encouragement or celebration of certain milestones.
  8. The Parent Church can invite the church planter to their mission’s weekend. 
  9. The Parent Church can invite the church planter to come preach.
  10. The Parent Church pastor may come and preach at the church plant or speak to the launch team.
Here’s the other cool thing: when a church adopts a church plant and the congregation starts getting involved, it fans the flame of missions and evangelism in the parent church.
 
So, if any of this piques your interest please contact me. I have planters waiting to be adopted! 

Residency Reflections – Joseph’s Story

Joseph Taylor is a church planter in Chicago, IL. As he is finishing up his residency at Missio Dei Chicago, we asked him to share about his residency. 

Why and how did you and your family choose to do a church planting residency?

I was familiar with church planting residencies from previous ministry contexts and had come to believe in residency’s singular value as a context for hands-on learning and growth, as opposed to the more theoretical and detached environments of seminary. Having previously served almost exclusively in worship ministries, I knew I needed additional ministry experience to prepare me for church planting, and a residency in a church-planting church context made a lot more sense than going back to school to get another degree. The recommendation from Converge assessors and the invitation from leaders at Missio Dei to do a residency sealed the deal for us!

What were your thoughts/feelings going into the residency? How did these evolve over time?

I was pretty excited about the residency going in, and super grateful for the opportunity. My wife Maria and I had been on what felt like a winding road through a spiritual wilderness as we pursued the call to church planting, with several points at which the next steps were not clear AT ALL. 5 months living with my folks in rural Wisconsin made us question whether we were on the right path at all, so the opportunity to continue pursuing that calling at a church planting church in the city that we loved was amazing! I knew residency was something I needed for my own leadership development, and what we knew about Missio Dei made it seem like an amazing place to continue exploring church planting. Plus, we had previously thought we were going to be leaving Chicago for California to pursue a different residency opportunity, so when the invitation came to do a residency AND get back to Chicago, we were elated!



For the most part, those feelings of excitement and gratitude never subsided, though they were certainly tempered as we got into the nitty-gritty of church life and ministry in a difficult, secular urban environment, and as our residency experience turned out quite different than what we had expected. Significant leadership turnover and organizational transition right in the middle of my residency meant that we were now learning in a destabilized environment. It was very confusing at times, and fear darkened our path as we walked with the church we had grown to love through significant challenges. Honestly, it caused us to question whether we had made mistakes or whether we were on the right path.



But when we went back and recalled the ways that Jesus had led us in bringing us there, it restored our confidence and hope – He had brought us to this place, and He was going to see us through! Plus, the circumstances we walked through with the church gave us a unique window into the challenges and joys of that kind of unique season in a church’s life. From that vantage point, we have learned invaluable lessons that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

During your residency, what did a typical work week look like?

My “typical work week” has definitely evolved over the last 10 months. Early on, it was pretty much all support raising, all the time! Tons of communication with would-be supporters, traveling all over the city, the region, and even the country in order to make face-to-face asks, and constant follow-ups and updates. The schedule was nuts. As my support base stabilized, my work schedule shifted to a mix of staff meetings, one-on-ones with fellow staff members, coaching sessions, music rehearsals, strategic planning, and TONS of reading. In the last third of the year, it has been a lot more one-on-ones with potential launch team members, and networking and developing relationships with other pastors and non-profit leaders.

How did you grow during your residency? What did God teach you?

I bet that I won’t really be able to ascertain with clarity what I’ve learned or how I’ve grown during my residency until I have more of the benefit of hindsight. But there are a few thoughts that have settled deeply into my soul over the last 10+ months, including:

  • “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!” -Thomas Merton
  • “There are two ways of being a prophet, one is to tell the enslaved that they can be free. It is the difficult path of Moses. The second is to tell those who think they are free that they are in fact enslaved. This is the even more difficult path of Jesus.” -Richard Rohr
  • The church…is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. -Eph 1.23 (msg)

A bit more personally, God has been reminding me again and again to lighten up, have fun, and pursue joy!

After the residency, what’s next for you and your family?

After residency, our plan is to move into our planting neighborhood in Chicago, get our family settled there, and devote 10-12 months to doing the hard work of “cultural exegesis” of the neighborhood, in order to learn the major opportunities, needs, and driving narratives, questions and strongholds for the people there. Trusting that Jesus has already been there doing his good work, our hope will be to discern where and how he has been working, and join with him in that work. And we’ll begin down the runway towards launch by pursuing conversations, relationships, and open doors, sowing “kingdom seeds” wherever possible!

Creating a Culture of Generosity

If you are going to grow a church significantly one of the skills you are going to need is to learn how to create and shape the culture of your organization. When we speak about culture, we are referring to an organization’s “values, beliefs, and behaviors. In general, it is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups.” (HT) Building and shaping an organizations culture is not something that happens overnight, it takes time, relentless focus, consistent practices and inspirational leadership.

So how does one build a culture of generosity?

1. Pray for It!

Generosity is a spiritual issue. It is natural to hold on to things! It is supernatural to give away things. Generosity is a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Church cites the true motivation for the overwhelming generosity of the believers in Macedonia, “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (II Corinthians 8:5). When the Lord truly has our hearts, then he has our possessions. Asking our generous God to reign in the hearts of our people is the first act a leader needs to take in building a culture of generosity.

2. Model It!

Leaders set the pace of an organization. One of the nine prayers of a missional leader is “Father pour out a generous spirit in my life.” Generosity is a fruit of the spirit. Paul lists kindness as one of the by-products of being in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Like the word love (agape), kindness (chrestotes) is closely related to hesed in the Old Testament, which stands for God’s covenant love. Commenting on hesed, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, “loving-kindness — is not far from the fullness of the meaning of the word.” (HT) So loving-kindness is the practical out workings of love in our lives. Thus we have the biblical definition of generosity. As a leader am I generous with my time, my words and my resources and how is my family, leaders and church witnessing that in my life? Generous living leads to generous giving.

3. Teach It!

Teaching generosity principles is critical to the spiritual formation of an individual and for a church, yet we shy away from teaching these financial principles. Brian Kluth writes, “We need to teach people to be faithful givers, not because the budget says so, but because the Bible says so. Our focus needs to be to teach people to be faithful givers to God, not to the church budget. Our goal is that our people please God, not the church finance committee. Church budgets are spending plans, not the giving goal. It is the Scriptures (all 2,350 verses on finances, generosity, and material possessions) that will help people become faithful stewards and givers.” (HT) I would add to this that we help them to be better lovers of God and followers of Jesus. Over 20 years ago, I did my first series on giving. I was afraid, timid and concerned that everyone was going to leave my church because I said that dreaded word in church: MONEY! The surprising thing was that many people began to experience the liberating joy of knowing Jesus. When I go back to my first church, many people comment on that sermon series and the impact it had on their lives.

4. Reinforce It!

Learning to say thank-you well is one of the ways for reinforcing position behavior. Expressing thanks is not optional for believers. Paul’s letters are filled with gratitude on many levels, even for financial support (Philippians 4:14-18). Your people deserve to have their generosity acknowledged for several reasons:

To know that you received their gift, especially for first time givers.
To know how their gift is being used, this is a vision casting opportunity.
To reinforce your relationship with them.
And finally, to reinforce the work of God in their lives. Generosity is a by-product of the work of God in people’s hearts.

5. Celebrate It!

Vince Lombardi once said, “Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale.” Celebrations have a great way of keeping churches and organizations mentally alert. In Encouraging the Heart, James Kouzes & Barry Posner write, “Celebrations—public statements by their very nature—give expression to and reinforce commitment to key values. They visibly demonstrate that the organization is serious about adhering to its principles. So it is important to be clear about the statements you’re making. What are you reinforcing? What are you saying is significant about this moment? Parties are fine, but celebrations are more than parties. They’re ceremonies and rituals that create meaning. When planning a celebration, every leader should ask, ‘What meaning am I trying to create?’ Public ceremonies crystallize personal commitments, binding people together and letting them know they’re not alone.”

Someone once said, “You are what you celebrate!”

Reflective Questions:

How often do you pray for a spirit of generosity to fall upon the hearts of your people?
How are you and your leaders becoming models of generosity?
How is generosity being taught throughout the church? In public worship services, affinity gatherings, small groups and one-on-one mentoring?
How are you specifically reinforcing vision, generosity principles and the generous acts of individuals with in your church?
How strategic are you in planning and creating the celebration of generosity within your church?

The Number One Reason We Are Sold Out for Church Planting

I am passionate about church planting for a number of reasons:

  • Church Planting is the main vehicle for expressing God’s mission.
  • Church Planting is a key strategy in fulfilling Jesus’ great commission.
  • Church Planting is the most effective means for making disciples.
  • Church Planting is necessary for the transforming of cultures and societies.
  • Church Planting is the most cost efficient means of evangelism.
  • Church Planting is critical to establishing ongoing mission posts throughout the world.
  • Church Planting is a natural by-product of a healthy church.
  • Church Planting is needed for the survival of the church in America. 

Every one of these reasons motivates me in some way or another, but the number one reason church planting inflames my heart is because God has captured my heart. God revealed his truth about his Son deep within my soul over 34 years ago and continues to reveal himself to me every day. I am passionate about church planting because I am passionate about God. Because I am zealous about God, all I want to do is to be a part of what he is doing in this world.  If God is on a mission I want to be on a mission. If God chose another vehicle for fulfilling his purpose throughout the world, I would be just as passionate about that vehicle.  

One of the foundational motivations for church planting is the glory of God. One author describes the glory of God as the afterglow of God’s holiness. Because man cannot stand in the presence of a holy God, God gives a glimpse of himself through his glory and through his supreme plan chose to use the church as his chief instrument whereby his glory is manifested throughout the world today. Three times in Ephesians 1:3-14 we see the phrase “the praise of his glory” 

“…to the praise of his glorious grace…” vs. 6 

“…might be for the praise of his glory…” vs. 12 

“…to the praise of his glory.” vs. 14 

Through the church, whether in a primitive village in Papua New Guinea or the rural hamlets in Eastern Europe or the mega churches in the sprawling suburbs of major cities in America, they all have one thing is common…they are bringing praise to the glory of our God. 

We also see in Ephesians 3:10 that this is not just limited to God’s mission here on earth, but that through the church God chooses to reveal his glorious wisdom throughout the entire spiritual realm. 

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rules and authorities in the heavenly realms.”  (Eph. 3:10 NIV) 

Therefore, the planting of new healthy churches is a means of seeing God’s glory spread throughout the earth.  John Piper in his book “Let the Nations be Glad!” reflects on the significance of God’s glory in relationship to all missionary endeavors. 

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.”  (pg 17) 

“Worship, therefore, is the fuel and the goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. ‘The LORD reigns, let the earth, rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!’ (Ps. 97:1). ‘Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!’” (Ps. 67:3–4).  (pg 17) 

Every new church planted is a new lighthouse of God’s glory where the afterglow of God’s holiness is reflected, manifested and ultimately enjoyed! 

Let our passion for church planting be driven by a passion for God!  May our zeal for church planting be consumed by a zeal for the glory of God!  

The glory of God is not only the motivation but the goal of God’s sovereign work among men. There is no more majestic theme, no more noble pursuit than the glory of God.

  • Moses’ highest ambition and most noble request was to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:17–18:8).
  • The first coming of Christ was a display of the glory of God (John 1:14; see also Matthew 16:27–17:8).
  • The Apostle Paul was encouraged and sustained by his awareness of God’s glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; 4:3-6, 16-18).
  • The apostle Peter found the revelation of the “Majestic Glory” of our Lord a witness to the truthfulness of the prophetic word revealed through the apostles (2 Peter 1:16-19).
  • Our Lord’s second coming will be a revelation of His glory, and the cause for the saints’ rejoicing (1 Peter 4:12-13).
  • Every supreme goal of our every action is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). (HT

At Converge MidAmerica we are sold out to church planting for the #1 reason, because we are sold out to God and his glory! 

“To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

6 Tips for a Year-End Offering

December is the largest giving month for most churches and non-profit organizations.  Early in my ministry, I learned that most non-profits see 25% of their giving revenue come in during the last month of the year.  I thought, “Wow. We must be doing really well our giving is spread out pretty much evenly across the year.” Then I realized that we were missing an opportunity to expand our vision, increase our giving units and unleash a spirit of generosity.

 

1. Start earlier.

Start earlier so that you can get your administration team excited about this opportunity to cast a meaningful vision and create an opportunity to expand the churches giving. Start earlier so that you can capitalize on individuals’ year-end giving planning. One thing I realized is that those who make large contributions to non-profits typically make their year-end giving decision in November. 

 

2. Pick your 3 giving projects.

This is an opportunity to share your church’s giving is impacting your community and people outside your church and around the world. We encourage you to pick one that will enhance your local ministry and two that will expand your vision for church planting and world missions.

A few years ago one of our church planters had three projects:

  • Local Evangelism (they expanded their evangelism budget significantly)
  • Regional Church Planting (they blessed Converge MidAmerica’s matching grant fund)
  • World Missions (they raised a full year of support for a missionary who came out of their church)

 

3. Develop a communication plan.

 

November

  • Three November Notices before Thanksgiving
       – One mailed letter from Pastor with a giving envelop 
       – E-Newsletters pointing to online giving
       – Build a Year-end giving webpage and use a Facebook and Twitter Campaign         
         to drive people to the website
  • One Announcement in the bulletin and from the pulpit on the Sunday before Thanksgiving 

 

December

  • First Sunday – Promote Project #1 through a video/personal testimony
  • E-Newsletter – Promote Project #1 – pointing to website/online giving
  • Second Sunday – Promote Project #2 through a video/personal testimony
  • E-Newsletter – Promote Project #2 – pointing to website/online giving
  • Third Sunday – Promote Project #3 through a video/personal testimony
  • E-Newsletter – Promote Project #3 – pointing to website/online giving
  • Christmas-Eve Services – Include a brochure highlighting all three projects with a special giving envelop after Christmas
       – Send out email-blast celebrating the progress and inviting people to give
       – Send out one last appeal on December 31st

 

January

  • Announce the results via pulpit, e-news and letters
  • Send thank you notes to all who participated
  • Share the “thank yous” you have received from the organizations that were touched through the campaign

 

4. Celebrate progress.

Saying thank you well is critical to the health of any ministry.  It is important for you to say thank you personally to individuals and publically through updates.

Here are a few things to celebrate:

  • Amount given
  • Impact the funds are making 
  • Number of families giving to the campaign
  • Number of first time givers to the church as a result of the campaign

 

5. Push it to the very end of the year.

Send out updates and appeal emails up to December 31st. One article cited that 22% of all donations to charities occur the last two days of the year!  They even go so far as encouraging ministries to send out one last appeal on December 31st at 2 PM EST. Why then? Studies have shown that 2 PM EST is the most effective time for an email donation request. HT

 

6. Embrace the benefits

  • Number #1 – God is blessed through our giving  
  • Number #2 – Those who give are blessed in participating (Both individuals and churches)
  • Number #3 – Lives will be impacted for eternity
  • Number #4 – The church’s vision will be expanded and celebrated
  • Number #5 – The church will discover first-time givers through this process 

 

Conclusion:

Remember there is a difference between a last minute appeal and an emergency appeal. Emergency appeals are understandable just by the nature of them, but last minute appeals always feel last minute!  If this is important, then take the time to make your year-end giving campaign feel important, special and needed.  

 

Reflective Questions:

  • Who can help you in planning and executing your year-end giving campaign?
  • What percentage of your offering comes in during the month of December?
  • What ministry in your church needs a boost of funding?
  • What regional partners can you bless and recognize though this offering?
  • What world mission partners could you bless and recognize though this offering?

 

Additional Materials

Four Ways to Boost Year-End Giving

4 Steps to Increasing End of Year Giving

6 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Year-End Giving

3 Tools for Self-Knowledge

I recently returned from a conference in Nashville where several hundred church employees gathered to become better at their craft, and a common theme I heard throughout the week was know yourself

We live in an age where every other link on our feed is some personality quiz or #relatable meme. But is knowing yourself really as simple as taking a Buzzfeed quiz about which Disney princess you are and joining Pottermore to learn all about you Hogwarts house? 

(If you’re not Gen-Z or Millennial, I may have lost you with that last paragraph… just bear with me.)

A while back I was talking to a friend about identity. There are so many stories lately of people making public statements proclaiming they find their identity in “_________.” Maybe it’s their sexuality, their race, their occupation, their neighborhood, their politics, or any other number of things that the world deems important. Through the conversation we realized that while all of those markers may be a part of who we are (and many of them are a small part), where we should really find our identity is in Jesus. 

So before I dive deeper into self-knowledge and self-discovery, I want to lead with this: Let your identity be found first and foremost in who Jesus says you are. The rest is just flavoring. 

If you’re on board at this point, you know your identity is found in Jesus, but maybe there are other aspects to who you are that seem to be a mystery. Ian Morgan Cron said, “We are fundamentally mysteries to ourselves.” We know who we want to be, and often what’s standing in the way of becoming that person is, well, ourselves. While Buzfeed quizzes and Facebook groups can tell you something about yourself (well, maybe), I think there are better tools. So here they are. 

1. APEST

APEST is an inventory that categorizes your gifting as one of these five: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher (APEST). Brad Brisco has a great article about APEST and Church Planting, explaining that each of these gifts is vital to the health of the church, so it is important to recognize your own gifting as well as empower others in their gifting. 

Brisco writes this:

Ephesians 4 is not the only passage APEST is mentioned. Apostle (“sent one”) is used over 80 times in the New Testament. Prophet is used nearly 800 times in Scripture, over 150 times in the New Testament. Evangelist is also used in Acts and 2 Timothy.
Shepherd is used 23 times in the New Testament. Teacher is used 129 times in the New Testament. Compare that with the use of the word Pastor (which we have no problem using as the catch-all word for leadership) is used once.

As pastors and church leaders, our tendency is to settle for categorizing our leadership as just that–leadership. APEST breaks it down, helping you navigate your own gifting, and freeing you up to do what you do best, allowing others to do the same. 

How are you working within your gifting? What things are you doing that you could release to someone else so you can focus on what you do best? What steps can you take to grow in areas in which you are not naturally gifted? 

If you’ve never taken the APEST, you can do so here

2. Love Languages

I remember sitting in counseling as a teenager, having required reading assigned to me. I thought, Why are you giving me homework? This isn’t school! But there’s a reason my counselor and so many others recommend 5 Love Languages. Learning how we (and others) give and receive love allows us to better understand our relationships and grow together. But this starts with understanding ourselves. 

If you’re unfamiliar, the 5 Love Languages are these: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Do you feel loved when someone hugs you, or does it sort of make your skin crawl? Do compliments make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or super uncomfortable? Do you find it easy or difficult to pick out a gift for someone?

To learn your Love Languages, take one of these quizzes

3. Enneagram

While the Enneagram is not a new concept, it recently gained popularity, especially in Christian circles. 

Enneagram is made up of 9 distinct personality types. Unlike DISC or Myers Briggs which explore behavior, Enneagram explores core motivations and fears. So rather than looking at what you do, Enneagram looks at why you do it. 

Reading about your Enneagram number can be challenging, and even scary. The system points out all of your flaws with terrifying specificity. But, as Relevant Magazine puts it, “the Enneagram makes sanctification specific by giving us a roadmap to where we most need God’s healing.”

What are your fears? What are your motivations? Do you feel the need to be perfect? To be needed? To be successful? To be special? To understand everything? To be safe? To avoid pain? To hide your weaknesses? To be at peace? These needs drive us, motivate us to act the way we do. If we gives these needs over to God, we will grow closer to him and to who he desires for us to be. 

It can be tempting to use Enneagram as an excuse for why we are the way we are; instead, use it as a tool to be transformed, as Paul calls us in Romans 12:2. 

You can take the Enneagram test here, but the best way to find your type is to learn about all 9 and test each description against yourself (I recommend The Road Back to You). You’ll be amazed at what you discover. 

Now What?

Take time this week to look back at how you acted and reacted in various situations. Were you operating in your gifting? Did you show love the way others needed it? Were you motivated by fear? 

Make a plan for how to improve next week. Then go back and do the same. Use tools like APEST, Love Languages, and Enneagram to articulate, understand, and transform what used to be mysterious.  

Experience, Humility and Growth: A Church Planting Residency Story

When the thought of doing a residency was first proposed to me I was certain my family and I were not going to do it. I had already taken a year off from vocational ministry to rest and rejuvenate for the church planting season of my life. In our minds, my wife, Kayleigh, and I were eager to move and plant with no more delays. However, we humbled ourselves before the Lord, prayed about the residency being proposed to us, and I called the pastor of the church offering the residency. What was supposed to be a 15 minute phone conversation turned out to be almost two hours long and when we finally hung up, I realized God was redirecting us. Within two days, Pastor Corey Johnston of Heights Church already had a plan for our 9 months there and a couple inexpensive options for our living situation (turned out a family let us stay in their guest house for free). We had specifically been praying that wherever God wanted us to live next, He would provide affordable housing. We thought it would be in Manistee, Michigan where we originally thought we would plant a church. Turns out our next nine months would be in Troy, Illinois. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

The reason we chose a residency with Heights Church all the way in Troy, Illinois is because my regional Converge Director, Norm Byers, had searched out Converge churches whose model of ministry fit closest to what Kayleigh and I are called to do with our church plant. We are very passionate about the Missional Community model that Soma Family of Churches does, and Heights Church was planted to follow this. Interestingly, when Norm first mentioned Heights Church to me, I knew of it because Pastor Corey’s philosophy of ministry paper was previously one of the examples Danny Parmelee emailed to me the year before to refer to as I wrote my own philosophy of ministry for my Converge Church Planting Assessment Center. Heights was the perfect fit for my family and I to do our residency.

Once Kayleigh and I knew God was calling us to do a residency with Heights, we knew we had to raise money fast and do a lot with our current house to get ready to leave for 9 months. We reached out to friends, family, and our local church where I had been a youth pastor for five years, and they stepped up in a huge way. Every month God provided exactly what we needed. The family that hosted us was incredibly generous, and I was thankful that I could use some of my landscaping experience to do a great deal of work on his yard to make it suitable for them to do foster care in the future. God knows exactly what He is doing and he put us in a situation where my “tent maker” skills and experiences played a huge role in being an alternative way for us to pay back some for our living space that was generously provided. We became great friends with the family as well. It’s too long and too wonderful to explain it all here, but every little detail God provided for our residency to happen proved over and over that God knows exactly what He is doing when He calls us to follow Him. His grace abounds abundantly where He directs our steps.

The residency didn’t just give us exposure to the Missional Community church planting model; we lived it! We really came to understand Missional Community as synonymous with Church. The Church by definition is a community on mission with the gospel of Jesus Christ, so really living week in and week out with people who genuinely believe that and are very gospel-fluent was refreshing and extremely exciting. We were part of one Missional Community at Heights for the first 5 months of our stay then the final four months we visited all the rest of them twice each, going to one or two a week while still visiting our own as time allowed. It was amazing how unique they all were and yet unified under the vision and the gospel. It takes about 3 months to really shift in mindset from Church as programs and events to identity through intentional gospel rhythms of life and mission but once that shift happened for us, everything we had researched and studying about missional community before came alive and made a lot more sense.

...the model of church we are passionate about wasn’t just theory anymore. It wasn’t just a great idea on paper for us anymore. It was real and we were living it.

A couple months in the realization hit both Kayleigh and I that the model of church we are passionate about wasn’t just theory anymore. It wasn’t just a great idea on paper for us anymore. It was real and we were living it. The gospel centrality, gospel unity, and gospel fluency we read about, wrote about, and craved so deeply was happening around us, in us, and through us. Words cannot express how much of a game changer our residency was for us. I had studied Soma Family of Churches and Jeff Vanderstelt’s ministry work for 3 years prior and even helped start a hybrid version of missional communities for a large church in transition, but the pieces I didn’t realize I was missing because I hadn’t lived it yet were significant. I thought I got it. I didn’t really get it until I lived it. And now Kayleigh and I feel so much more in tune with our vision and how the Lord has shaped us for the church we are called to plant.

Of course there were definitely humbling sacrifices we made. Firstly, having waited a year already to plant only to be led by God to take another year of preparation was particularly humbling for me, almost humiliating at times since the expectation around us was that we were launching soon. But it’s not about what others expect of you, it’s about where God is leading you and He knew we needed more preparation when we thought otherwise. Moving five hundred miles south to another state was also extremely humbling and overwhelming, especially since we went from living in a full size home that we own to a one room studio apartment above a garage with a kitchenette and small bathroom downstairs. My wife, my two year old daughter, and I along with our dog and cat all lived in one room for nine months, most of which were snow/rain winter months where we were stuck inside a lot. It was very hard but a blessing all the same. We realized how much stuff we had back home that we really don’t need, so the donation pile is growing each day now that we are back. Life was tight during our residency but it recalibrated our minds toward simplicity, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the breath of fresh air that is in a day burdened by possessions.

We weren’t the only ones impacted by the residency; Pastor Corey and many others told me how much of a blessing it was to have us there. Since Heights is a young church with Corey as the only seasoned preacher, having me preach gave Corey some breaks he really needed. I also met with Corey every single Tuesday morning for a couple hours just to talk, learn from, and sharpen one another in Christ. He has great elders and staff, but he told me my outside perspective helped him see many needs and changes to make Missional Communities better. We were able to serve our Missional Community, children’s ministry, and so much more during our time at Heights.

There are many forms of important training any church planter should invest in before being sent out to plant. Jesus’ disciples, although they had no formal training, basically did a residency with Jesus before He commissioned them. Whether you have formal training through seminary or, like me, have a wide variety of experiences under the leadership of others who trained you in ministry and in the Word, doing a residency specific to the model of church Christ is calling you to start is priceless and I highly recommend it.

A residency isn’t just a time to learn more about a certain church model you are passionate about. It is a time to grow spiritually and in the kind of character you’ll needed to plant a church. It’s a time to realize once again that apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, your vision is blind, your strategies are total garbage, and your mission will fail – or worse, it will succeed through carnal means and self-driven ambitions and lack of genuine spiritual vitality.

Looking back, it was mostly my pride that was initially against a residency. I was done waiting and thought I was as ready as I needed to be, that I really understood my vision, and that I didn’t really need to live it out before I planted a church. But I was wrong, and God knew there were things I needed to learn in my residency. Make no mistake, you are more prideful in yourself and dependent on your church planting ideas than you think. A residency isn’t just a time to learn more about a certain church model you are passionate about. It is a time to grow spiritually and in the kind of character you’ll needed to plant a church. It’s a time to realize once again that apart from Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, your vision is blind, your strategies are total garbage, and your mission will fail – or worse, it will succeed through carnal means and self-driven ambitions and lack of genuine spiritual vitality. From a spiritual perspective, if you are absolutely opposed to doing a residency before you plant like I was, you need to spend some time with the Lord and ask Him to search your heart for why you are so opposed. If the answer is your pride then chances are you probably really need to do a residency or some kind of season of repentance and renewal from your idolatrous view of yourself and your ideas. Peter reminds us that “…God detests a prideful heart but gives grace to the humble…” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

One of my other prideful fears was that our residency may cause us to lose the wind in our sails and fall behind all of our assessment center friends who have since gone out and started planting already. Truth is, church planting is not a competition and we didn’t lose any wind in our sails. We are far more passionate and far more confident in God’s calling on our lives. It wasn’t a 9 month set back, but a leap forward. God will use our residency investment to multiply our ministry efforts in the future. That’s who God is. He is the Multiplier.

From a practical standpoint, if you are setting out to plant a church with a model you have never lived before under the leadership of another then I strongly recommend you find a church body that is doing what you want to do really well and go spend time with that church and immerse yourself. Your church planting dreams cannot just be a good idea on paper even if you’ve heard of other’s successes with it. It can’t just be something someone else you trust and admire has lived and done. It is invaluable for your vision to be something you’ve lived and done with others in some context. If you love Jesus and are a church planter, there are few things more encouraging than seeing what you’ve been praying about in action before you’ve even broken ground on your future church plant. It’s priceless and it’s precious. You also get to have a few good laughs as you see how some of your ideas were just plain stupid and, dare I say, unbiblical.

There are many ways God shapes a man and his family to be fruitful church planters; doing a residency is not the only way to go, much like going to seminary is not the only way to go. God trained me through other means, and one of those was a robust residency with a church five hundred miles from home and six hundred miles from where my family and I eventually want to plant a church.

Finding Rest in Busyness

EXHAUSTION

I am a married pastor with six kids. Life is busy with vehicles breaking down, house projects never-ending, deadlines needing to be met, and to-do lists filling my time while dreams of leisure fill my mind. I am exhausted. Where is margin and balance in life? Where is there rest in busyness?

INVITATION

In Mark 6:31, Jesus invited his followers to rest. “‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Doesn’t Jesus’s invitation sound delightful?

The context tells us that the disciples returned from ministering in pairs. They went out telling people to repent, cast out demons, and anoint the sick with oil. Some people received them, and some people rejected them. What a tiring day of ministry. In verse 30, they came to Jesus, and he instructed them to come away and rest.

What did they do? They got on a boat and set out for a secluded place. I picture a favorite spot in the house, a quiet place, with a book and a cup of coffee. Maybe your resting place is a beach, mountain top, or stream. Come away and rest awhile. Do you long for a vacation from the frenetic pace of life? Do you long for rest?

INTERRUPTION

Jesus’ invitation results in the opposite. Outsiders saw Jesus and his friends. They raced to meet them. Jesus was intoxicating and electrifying. He was a miracle worker. The masses were hoping that he could offer what they wanted. They want a rest in a way too.

I envision the disciples seeing the growing crowd thinking, “Let’s turn around!” or “Let’s get out of here!” It may have been like waking up in the middle of the night, after a back-breaking day of work, hoping your spouse gets up with the sick kid. You pretend to sleep. Your body aches. Someone else can do it. The immediate thing before us sometimes is the least appealing. Where is the desolate and restful place Jesus promised? Must they dock with all those people right there?

COMPASSION

Jesus didn’t see it that way. “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was human and divine. He embraced the limits of his calling. He tired, hungered, and needed rest. However, he chose compassion.

Why then would Jesus make this invitation to rest before they got in the boat if they were landing to work? Jesus was taking his followers on a journey that was not predictable or easy. Why does he keep teaching instead of start resting? Maybe Jesus had another lesson that didn’t involve words.

Day ended, and night fell. The disciples saw an opportunity to bring Jesus’ conference to a close. They were done. What did they do?

… his disciples came to him [Jesus] and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

Have you ever gotten to the end of your rope, tired, and hungry looking for an escape? I wager many of you have. I bet the disciples had. It was time for rest. Bodies need it. Rest is biblical. Send them away.

How did Jesus respond? Did he go along with their suggestion? “… he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat’” (Mark 6:37).

What! Jesus commanded the impossible. These spent disciples, with only five loaves and two fish, couldn’t possibly feed everyone. There were 5,000 hungry mouths to feed. What was Jesus thinking? You give them something to eat. He knew they couldn’t. Impossible!

You get up and deal with your sick kid in the middle of the night. You help the person broken down on the side of the road. You stay late at work to fix the broken machine. You do it.

Jesus knew what he was saying. He knew they couldn’t feed them. Why would he say that? Maybe it was this lesson without words.

Jesus was teaching. Times like these show desperation. When we are young and rested and full, we believe we have something and are something. We have the truth. We have power. We have vitality. We have answers. Then, we get to the end of the day, energy, and life, pondering if we have anything at all. In truth, all we have is Jesus. I think that was a central point of Jesus’ ministry.

What happened next is familiar. Jesus didn’t send the crowd away as the disciples suggested or split the paltry food and offer crumbs to the hungry. He took the meager rations and miraculously multiplied them. Everyone had their fill and leftovers to boot in the end. Jesus did what his followers couldn’t.

CONCLUSION

The night is upon them. Time is up. We get to verse 45, and Jesus finally sends the crowd and disciples away. They are done with this desolate place. The disciples go to the boat to cross the sea, while Jesus stays to pray.

How restful was that next boat ride? It wasn’t. Their progress was painful. The wind buffeted them. Where is the rest that Jesus invited? Mark recounted,

And about the fourth watch of the night [3-6 am] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. (Mark 6:48-51)

What a man. When Jesus instructs rest, his disciples sought it. Instead, they found work. Night came. They hungered. He issued more work by calling for the feeding of the people. He provided what he demanded. He instructed the disciples again to cross the lake in their boat. The winds rose, disrupting rest. Near morning, quite casually, Jesus walked on water, told the disciples not to worry, and the wind stopped—what a man.

DESTINATION

When they get to their next destination, people recognize them and ran from all over for more healing. The cycle recycles.

This brings us back to the beginning invitation. Where is there rest in following Jesus? Where is balance and margin in the Christian life? Certainly, we need to rest. Sabbath is good. At the same time, Jesus invites us to something better than a 40-hour work-week, an eight hour day with breaks, or a vacation. Fatigue, hunger, and brokenness can present opportunities for Jesus to demonstrate his all-sufficiency. Don’t miss the blessings of interruptions, accidents, and late-night disruptions they can drive you to meet the savior. Jesus invites, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When we have nothing left, we can rest in him.

Are you spent with busyness? How do you think Jesus felt serving the masses? Are you willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads? Where can God enter and offer to supply your want? What does it look like for you to follow Jesus’s leading today? Rest in him.

How to Get the Most out of Connect

You may be wondering what to expect at Connect, how to take full advantage of the conference, or why you should even attend. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of Connect.

1. Pastors and Planters Dinner & Orientation

If you are a new pastor or planter with Converge, you don’t want to miss our New Pastors and Planters Dinner Wednesday night and Orientation Thursday morning. These will be a great time to get to know Converge, as well as meet other new pastors and planters.

2. Networking Luncheon

Connect won’t just be providing lunch on Thursday; we’ll be providing a Networking Luncheon. Meet with pastors, planters, or youth ministers just like you. Build new connections and strengthen existing friendships with others in ministry. After all, we are better together.

3. Breaks with Your Team

If you are coming with others from your church, take time during the break to talk about what you’re learning and what action steps you will take home with you. Consider these questions with your team:

  • What stood out to me about the last session?
  • What have I been doing well that was affirmed today?
  • What do I need to improve upon? What measurable action(s) will I take to improve?

 

4. Breaks with Vendors

We have tons of amazing sponsors at Connect. Be sure to stop by and say hi at each booth. Click here for a full list of sponsors.

5. Connect Book

Your Connect book will be your guide to the whole conference. Find speaker bios, session descriptions, venue information and more in the book. Use your Connect book to take notes on each session, and then refer back to it throughout the year.

6. Social Media

Follow Converge MidAmerica on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with us during Connect and throughout the year. Take pictures at the conference and tag us so we can follow you back, and tag #CMAConnect2019 to connect with other conference-goers. Staying connected through social media lets our community stay in touch even after Connect ends, because we are better together.

Haven’t registered? What are you waiting for?

Make Kingdom Memories at Connect 2019

You probably have a lot of family and ministry memories in your office; here are a few of mine. One of my favorites is my bobblehead of Henry Aaron. He was a baseball hero of mine. Another one is a baseball I caught at 50-something years old at Yankee stadium; it was a home run! I also have family pictures of precious moments in our family’s life. I’m sure all of you have these types of memories in your office, as well.

Our family gathering is coming October 24-25 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Heritage Church is going to be a wonderful host and is anticipating all of us joining them there. It’s events like these where we make movement memories as a family of believers. Do you know that God is using our churches to do great things? We are one of the few growing fellowships of churches in the United States. I’m looking forward to seeing you and making some kingdom memories this fall. We’ll see you at Connect 2019!

Is Your Church on Social Media?

When part of your job description is managing social media, you tend to get a lot of questions about how to use Facebook or Instagram; at least that has been the case for me over the past 2 years. No matter who I talk to about social media–pastors or ministry leaders or congregation members–there are a few questions I’m always asked. 

Why should my church be on social media?

Your church likely sponsors the town high school’s sports teams, attends local festivals, and supports businesses in the area. We do all of these things and more because we want to reach new people, and we want to meet people where they already are. The same can be said of social media. People in your community are already scrolling through Facebook on their lunch break and checking Instagram before bed, so why not meet them where they are? 

Establishing a Facebook page or Instagram account for your church puts your church’s posts in your congregation’s news feeds. It gives you a new platform to communicate announcements, invite prayer requests, and further connect with your congregation throughout the week. Your congregation is already on social media; meet them there. 

What should my church post to social media?

Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church as being devoted to the apostles’ teaching, coming together to break bread and pray, giving to anyone who was in need, meeting together every day, and praising God. Your church is likely trying to accomplish many of these qualities, as well, through gathering for weekend worship, sharing in communion, and taking up an offering. 

Have you considered using social media to do each of these things, as well? Use social media to help congregants devote themselves to teaching by sharing scripture, sermon quotes, or devotionals. Create a Facebook group and post there often to bring people together daily. Post a link to your online giving website and share a story of how your church’s giving has impacted a member of the community. Ask people to comment with their prayer requests and pray for the comment above their own. Share stories of what is happening in and around your church, and praise God on social media for all He is doing in your community. Be the church beyond the four walls of your meeting space. Use social media to connect with your congregation constantly. 

For more concrete examples of what to post on social media, check out SundaySocial.tv, CRTVChurch, and churches like Elevation, VOUS Church, Legacy House, Crosspoint, and others. 

How do I get more people to interact with our church’s social media?

If you are already on social media, you may have trouble getting many people to see the content you are posting. There are tons of tips and tricks online for how to get more interaction on social media, but these are my go-tos:

1. Consider your audience.

Make sure that when you post, you understand who you’re posting to. Any post you make will only be seen by people who already like your page. Don’t post something to social media that’s meant for people outside your church, because people outside your church don’t follow your page. Instead, post content intended for your congregation that is also understandable by guests. If someone who has never been to your church scrolls through your Facebook page, would they want to visit your church based on what you post?

2. Don’t use social media as a bulletin board. 

I see too many churches that only use social media to encourage people to show up to in-person events. If your entire social media presence is an advertisement for events at your church, you’re missing the point. Use your church’s social media to foster community and encourage interaction, not just to advertise events. 

3. Build social media into your culture. 

The Facebook algorithm is a jungle, but you can learn how to navigate it to your advantage. Teach your congregation to always like and comment on your church’s posts; this will tell Facebook to show these posts to more users. Figure out a way to build social media into your church’s existing communication platforms. Maybe your pastor leads the whole congregation in checking in on Facebook at the beginning of service each week. Maybe when you create a Facebook event you take 60 seconds out of service to walk your congregation through inviting their friends to the event. Maybe you print an announcement in your newsletter or bulletin about following your church on Facebook and Instagram. Create a culture in your congregation of utilizing social media. 

Should I pay to advertise on social media?

Obviously a post that you pay for (called a Boost in the Facebook world) will get more views, likes, and interactions. However, whether or not you pay to boost posts is entirely up to you. In July my church hosted a Vision Night for our community. We are a church plant hoping to launch services in November, so this event was to share our vision for the church with community members and leaders in hopes that they would want to get involved. We created a Facebook event and invited everyone we knew, and we boosted the event for $100 to the zipcode of our church for two weeks leading up to the event. We had 2 people attend this event without a personal invitation because they saw the event on Facebook. One was connected to someone else in attendance, and the other was new in town and had been looking for a church home since moving to the area. Both people joined our launch team and are now active members of our congregation. It is certainly never necessary to pay to boost Facebook posts, but if a boost is done well, it will pay off. 

So what’s next for your church? Do you need to create a Facebook page? Are you ready to branch out into Instagram? Will you boost your first post or share brand new content today? Whether your church has been on social media for ages or you’re just getting into the game, take a moment to assess your current social media presence and develop a plan to use social media to point more people toward Jesus. 

 

*

Kat is a dangerously outspoken, bluntly honest, fearlessly loving follower of Jesus. Before moving to Chicago in February of 2019 to plant a church with Missio Dei and Converge MidAmerica, she worked for a multicampus church in Florida as a social media director, worship leader, media producer, and graphic designer. For more from Kat, check out her website

Death, A Letter, and 7 Reminders about Pastoring the Dying

Death is certain.

On April 17th, 1790, in Philidelphia, a famous statesman, philosopher, printer, scientist, and abolitionist died at the age of 84. His impact on America lives on today. He invented flippers, the flexible catheter, bifocals, lightning rods, and the first library and hospital in America. He was known for his sayings popularized in the Poor Richard’s Almanac. One of his most famous sayings we find not in his almanac but a letter six months before his death. He wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I think Benjamin Franklin was right: Death is certain.

How do we as pastors and elders and church leaders shepherd through death and dying?

This last winter, I had the privilege to officiate two funerals. They were quite different. One was for a young man who had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After three years of battling, God took him home. He frequented church and professed faith. The other was my 78-year-old neighbor, Ed. Ed had prostate cancer, usually treatable, yet his cancer spread to his bones and died within a short time. Ed was not religious. He never went to church and did not profess faith. I shared Christ with him a couple of times this year. Days before he died, he confessed to believing the truth about Jesus.

No matter the age, I think death is exhausting and so is saying goodbye. Even if you didn’t know Ed or this young man, it would be hard to have a dry eye spending time with them in their last days. Cancer didn’t discriminate. Death comes to all.

Death is certain.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 states, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.” Why is that? The verse continues, “for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Death is certain. It is the end of all mankind.

How do we care for the dying? As pastors, elders, and church leaders, we have a passport into the private lives of people, especially at death. Some seek counsel, pursue confession, and want hope from us in moments like those.

What do we say to a person in the emergency room? What kind of ministry do we give the parent who suddenly loses a child? How do we care for a wife who wants to know where her husband is after he passed? How do we navigate a person saying something off base at the funeral? After the tragic loss of most of his family, Job stated, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). He was correct. However, why does He? Why do bad things happen to good people? Loss can present a real crisis of faith. As shepherds, how do we respond? We need wisdom.

Here are 7 reminders:

1. Visit the sick.

Jesus met the sick. We are to care for those in our congregation. Shepherds should smell like sheep. Take a break from sermon prep, programming, bulletins, and emails. Visit the sick. Visiting can be hard with a busy schedule. Take an elder or spouse or staff member with you. Maximize your time. Sit with the dying. Be available. Acts 5:42 states, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” The early followers of Jesus went from house to house, sharing the good news. If the Apostles made a practice of going from home to home, why not we? Visit the sick.   

2. Listen.

James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.” Ask open-ended questions like: “How are you doing, really? What are the doctors saying about your health? How can the church help you?”, and  “Where are you at in your relationship with God these days?” Take time to be quiet and truly listen.

3. Pray with the suffering.

James 5:13-15 states, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Whom are you praying with? Don’t go it alone. Grab your leadership team, and pray with the suffering.

4. Share the gospel.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the fact that Jesus died for our sins is of utmost importance (1 Corinthians 15:3). He understood that the gospel was primary. Our flock needs to know this. It is a matter of eternal life and death. There are plenty of resources out there on how to share the gospel. Gary Rohmayer, the President of Converge MidAmerica, has spent much of his life discipling and evangelizing those around him. He gave a lecture a while back saying something like, “How can we as pastors ask our people to share their faith and make disciples if we are not doing it ourselves?” I have been encouraged by his example and teaching on exploring the spiritual journey with my neighbors. Gary created a resource to help make sharing our faith a conversation, not a sermon. I like his relational approach. People want care and concern, not a lecture. I know we can’t make people believe, but we can and must share the gospel. Be bold. Share the gospel.

5. Serve.

Once someone has passed away, there are many ways to serve the grieving. A significant way to help is to offer your building if you have one. Don’t let your space sit empty. Recently, the senior pastor of Converge Community Church Jeff Dryden did just that because the family did not think the funeral home down the street was large enough for the service. That was brilliant. It got people in the door who would never have attended on a Sunday or haven’t been to church in a long while. 60% of our population does not affiliate with a Christian congregation. Increasingly, we are living in a secularized society and need to think about how can we be a light in the darkness. Using the building is only one example of how we can serve the suffering. Seize the moment and serve.   

6. Lead the funeral or memorial service.

The 9Marks podcast called Pastor’s Talk spoke on the topic of funerals a while back. One take away for me was to open up the service for anyone to share their memories of the loved one. Personally, I enjoy hearing stories of the deceased at services. Memories allow those familiar and unfamiliar the chance to recollect and mourn. I admit an open mic is a bit risky. However, Mark Dever recommended that the pastor concludes the service to be able to bring gospel hope and do clean up. That made sense to me. Lead the service.  

7. Follow-up.

Finally, I would encourage following up with those who have lost their loved one. Grief is a process. Continue to care for the families through the difficult days ahead. Ask how they are doing. Encourage the church to continue to care. Check-in, don’t check out. Holidays and birthdays and anniversaries can be agonizing. Everyone moves on except loved ones. No one wants to make the sorrowful feel awkward, uncomfortable, or bring up painful memories. However, sometimes, all the loved one wants is to talk about the deceased and remember. Don’t be afraid to follow-up. Mark events on your calendar and follow-up.

How are you preparing people for the certainties ahead?

Death is certain.

I hope you can see that it is better to go to a house of mourning than feasting. May God help you as you care for souls facing their mortality.

Seven steps to empowering people in their giftedness

Did you ever watch Scooby-Doo? I did. I still remember the rerun of the 1972 episode with Jonathan Winters (1925-2013). Did you see that one? Jonathan Winters played himself as a guest on the cartoon show as well as Maude Frickert. Maude’s late husband had invented radioactive chicken feed that would increase the size of chickens to giant proportions. Maude hoped that they could improve their production of fried chicken to take over the market. Unfortunately, Mr. Frickert hid the secret recipe before he died and didn’t tell his wife where it was. Shady characters were snooping around the farm, and Maude needed help. The gang joins Jonathan Winters to save the day in this episode of Scooby-Doo.

Are you hungry for radioactive fried chicken? Yummy. Sounds like a show from the ’70s, doesn’t it? The reason it came to mind was because of Jonathan Winters played more than one role. Not only was he Maude’s voice, but he also pretended to be the National Guard. As gifted as he was, he couldn’t save the day on his own. Church leaders are not that different. Leaders often play multiple roles. We are teachers, event planners, managers, repairman, cooks, designers, tech gurus, janitors, and office administrators. We can’t do it all alone.

Have you heard to the 80/20 rule? 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Maybe you feel like 1 percent of the people do 99 percent of the work, and you are the 1 percent. We don’t have to function that way. God’s Word encourages us to think of the church in broader terms. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-19)

Paul was dealing with a church that didn’t value every member of the Body. Paul’s concern relates to us.

We need to appreciate each other. We are a community, a spiritual Body. We are better together.

In small groups, it is good to have lots of people serving. We can use someone to record prayer requests and communicate them. It is good to have someone help with fun activities, and someone to remember birthdays and anniversaries. Someone must host. Someone should facilitate discussion; perhaps you like to have someone do worship, or provide food. We need help. We are better together.

For church services, we have worship leaders, ushers, greeters, sound techs, projectionist, bulletin work, cleaning, maintenance, and loads of people helping with children. Every person has a role. Can we get by with less? Sure. However, what we must do requires more than us. We need help. We need teachers, welcomers, encouragers, givers, servants, and prayer warriors. Even the one who is bound to a wheelchair has a place in the Body of Christ. She can pray. She can intercede. She can petition. She can praise. She can thank God. We need prayer warriors. Everyone is important. We are a faith community.

We can’t do this alone. We can’t just hire another person. The church is not a building, concert, rally, or social club. God tells us we are the Body of Christ on earth. He has arranged the members. He gives people different gifts, abilities, interests, experiences, and personalities. There are many parts, yet one body. No other group is like this one.

Imagine going through life without an arm, leg, or ear? Some of you don’t have to imagine; you know what that is like. God tells us we need each other. He has uniquely arranged the members of the local church to represent Himself to the watching world. Let us not function like we are all the same, or there is only one important role. It is our job as leaders to encourage, equip, and help people discover and exercise their diverse Spirit-empowered gifts for the betterment of the whole. We are better together.

How? How do we help people do this? An easy answer might be to find a spiritual gifts assessment, administer it, and tell people to find a place to serve. Put the burden on them. Wash our hands of responsibility. Check it off the list. Is that what God wants? How do we effectively encourage, equip, and help people find their place? Our answer should include some assessment, but addressing this issue is more than a survey.

Here are seven steps to effectively encourage, equip, and help people discover and exercise their diverse Spirit-empowered gifts. 

  1. Pray about how people can function as the Body of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. Teach on the nature of the Body of Christ.
  3. Plan. Have a plan to help people find their fit in the Body.
  4. Communicate this plan to the Body. Where will you communicate that plan, at your welcome center, in membership class, or on your website?
  5. Know. Get to know each member of the Body of Christ. You have to know your sheep to help your sheep. What is happening during the week? What are they reading? How is work? What is their marriage like? How are their kids doing? Are they introverts or extroverts? Do they seem to like to teach or not? Perhaps you have people take a class or an assessment tool to help them identify their gifting.
  6. Inform. Inform the community of opportunities for people to serve in various ways. People can’t read your mind. If you need someone to help with technology, ask. Have conversations with specific people on how they can participate in the Body of Christ. Let them know your needs.
  7. Thank God for the diversity of your body of believers and His empowering Spirit. Also, don’t forget to thank those who do serve using their gifting.

I enjoy doing impersonations. Do you? They are funny and fun. Yet, we can’t be in more than one place at a time, we only have 24 hours in a day, and ultimately, we need other people. We are better together.

If you want to find out what happened to the radioactive chicken feed, you will have to watch the rest of the episode. If you want to experience the joy of 1 Corinthians 12, know this, we were made for community. God meets that need by putting us into the church and gifting us in unique ways. Isn’t that Great! Imagine if we all functioned in our God-given roles in the Body!

Let us do our part to help the church function as a healthy interdependent spiritual Body. We are better together.

The art of neighboring

What would it mean if we actually loved our neighbors? I mean really loved them the way Jesus mandates: to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

To be sure, the definition of neighbor is actually far bigger and more inclusive than just our literal neighbors. However, it doesn’t make the person you see when taking out the trash any less your neighbor. Unfortunately, we don’t always live that way. We pull into our garage and close the door behind us, never taking the time or opportunity to truly get to know and build meaningful relationships with our neighbors.

The biblical story of the Good Samaritan reminds us of what it takes to love our neighbor as ourselves. To simply say animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ time would be an understatement. Religious and historical differences had driven a relational wedge between the two groups. God’s people knew the commandment of loving God with all their being and to love their neighbors as themselves. Yet, they chose to interpret the commandment of loving their neighbor as limited to those who were of a similar background.

The parable of the Good Samaritan comes out of a teaching moment Jesus took advantage of to challenge the attitude of the day. In the story, the Samaritan demonstrates what it means to love our neighbor. A man was beaten and left on the side of the road to die. While he lay there helpless, others, including some of the religious elite of the day, continually passed him by.

It was the sympathetic Samaritan who saw the victim’s situation and responded to his needs. While others went out of their way to avoid him, this Samaritan was a loving neighbor personified. He showed mercy, compassion and generosity to a person with whom he had no similarities and from whom he would receive no benefits by helping.

I have heard it said that sometimes Christians aim to love everyone and, as a result, end up loving no one. We may not have an opportunity to have meaningful relationships and love all our neighbors. But we can be intentional about neighboring.

For much of my life, I have found a unique way of redefining or expanding the term and meaning of “neighbor.” And I encourage you to try these few things I’ve learned. They made a big difference for me when it comes to knowing and loving my neighbors well. And they may do the same for you.

1. Identify your neighbors

Begin by drawing a map of your neighborhood and plot out who you know and what you know about them. This will begin to create and lead to more intentionality when it comes to knowing and loving your neighbors.

2. Call your neighbors by name

Take time to learn, retain and use your neighbors’ names when talking to them. Nothing is quite as sweet to a person’s ears as his or her own name. Consider writing your neighbors’ names on a piece of paper after the first meeting and then place the list on your refrigerator. Seeing their names on a regular basis will make it easier to know them and will also serve as a great reminder to pray for them. It is hard to love someone when you don’t even know his or her name.  

3. Spend time in the front yard

It is easy with our fenced-in yards to hide away in the backyard. Most, if not all, meaningful interactions with neighbors, however, happen in the front yard. Find any chance you can to be in the front yard, whether it is to play catch with the kids or to wash the car. Simply making a conscious decision to hang out in the front yard can open great opportunities to get to know your neighbors. If you live in a condo or an apartment, spend time in the complex’s shared spaces.

4. Free up your schedule

Learning to say no in order to free up your schedule creates the space to spend more time in your community. We live in an incredibly fast-paced world in which it is easy to run past and overlook the needs of others. Clearing your schedule allows you to slow down enough to live aware of those who are around you. Love requires an element of being proactive. What can you do to be more proactive in showing love to your neighbors?

As Christians, we have no choice but to love those around us, even when they have harmed us. We can love people and not love God, but we cannot love God and not love people. The two go together.

The best way we can show love to our neighbors is to share the good news of the gospel with them. God has placed you where you are and given you circles to influence. Don’t let the next opportunity slip by without rising to the challenge of investing in someone’s spiritual journey.

Will you be the one God uses to bring someone to life in Jesus? It’s a question only you can answer.

Converge responds: El Paso, Dayton tragedies

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (Col. 4:5). 

Lisa and I were looking forward to quiet first weekend of August. We had experienced a busy summer of travel, including ministry trips to Minnesota, Canada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and a great time with our missionaries from Europe and Africa in Germany, followed by a week of vacation in Virginia. It was good to finally be home. Our only responsibilities this weekend were serving at church and helping prepare for our first “Back to School” event – a “drive-in” movie (kids make cars out of cardboard and watch a movie in the car – yeah, you can steal that one!).

On Saturday morning, I had a small window of time to do work on the roof before the rain came…again (I live in the “Sunshine State” – which to me is more of an aspiration than reality in the summer here).

It was Lisa’s birthday weekend, so we went out to dinner to celebrate and went home to relax. 

That’s when I heard the news…

Twenty people were killed and dozens more injured on Saturday morning in a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that was packed with back-to-school shoppers, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.”*

It was discovered later that the shooter had written a personal manifesto. He told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

I never know what to think when I hear things like that.

“Why?”

“Who thinks like that?”

“Why would you want to shoot someone based on their country of origin?”

“Are people really that sick?” 

I thought about all my friends from Mexico and Texas. I thought about my church and our sister congregation, Harvest in Español, and made a mental note to talk with the pastor, Ramon Garcia, to get his perspective. Being truly vulnerable, I was a little upset with myself that I was not more broken up by the news. Yet it has happened so often recently, it has begun to feel like a new normal – unacceptable, but normal.

Later Saturday evening I got the chance to watch a little of the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I turned on the set when Champ Bailey was talking. I had great respect for him as a player and I loved watching him play. My heart sank as I heard him give an impassioned plea:

The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer or a husband or a father. They view me first as a black man. So, on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there who’ve had the same experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please don’t get caught up in how the message is delivered.

I found myself tearing up as I heard him speak. I realize that while it is impossible for me to feel the fullness of the pain of his personal journey, my hope is that I am becoming more aware and compassionate toward the challenges to people of color and minority cultures in our country. I was also grateful for the journey that God has our movement of churches on in this area. No doubt, we have a long way go…I have a long way to go…but we are willing to go on the journey.

Sunday morning, I woke up to the news: “In a second mass shooting in less than 14 hours, at least nine people are dead and more than two dozen were wounded early on Sunday after someone opened fire in downtown Dayton, Ohio.”*

Again? Two times in one weekend? What is going on?

I began to reflect in my mind… Columbine, Redlake, Virginia Tech, Foot Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, D.C. Navy Yard, Charleston, San Bernardino, Pulse, Dallas, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks… and now this. And, yeah, I know there are dozens more that aren’t top of mind and don’t even include the ones that came to mind from around the world.

I grieve over so many common ground issues in these scenarios. Deranged thinking. Devaluation because of color, class and culture. Senseless actions. Helpless victims. Tragic loss. Ripple effects for generations. Families and communities full of grief, pain and fear.

No doubt we will have outrage, posturing and blame-casting in the political arena. Hopefully we will have robust discussion that results in needed change and meaningful preventative action in the local arena. I ask you to pray that God will lead our leaders to live on the “solution side” of these issues and make godly, right judgments resulting in meaningful progress.  

But you do realize that the only lasting hope for our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ, right?

When the gospel is planted in the life of a new believer, it is joined by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of the word of God and surrounded by the encouragement of God’s people. As more and more individuals are changed by the gospel, it transforms communities. As communities are transformed, it transforms regions. As regions are transformed, so are countries…and so on.

Transforming the country seems too big a task for any one of us to take on. But throughout the centuries God has been transforming the world…one life at a time. And he asks us to join him in this work.

In our country, the Back to School season is one of the most likely times for people to consider visiting a local church. Many are getting back into their life routine after a restful but less than routine summer schedule. Wouldn’t it be great if church became a part of their new routine?  

We as believers recognize that the work of the church is absolutely essential in our world. Hope, help and healing come from Jesus – Jesus changes everything! He is the one who transforms people. And the church (the people, not the programs) is God’s means to get the message of Jesus to those who so desperately need it. Every individual in our communities deserves to hear about and needs to experience the transforming power of the gospel.  

I have four things that God has put on my heart to do with what happened this weekend. I’d love for you to join me in taking next steps in these areas:

  • Take a moment and pray for our country, our communities and our churches. Commit to keep them in prayer on a regular basis.
  • Think of a few people outside the faith and commit to invest in friendship to model the hope of Christ in their lives in hope that they would one day meet Jesus.
  • Invite someone who doesn’t have a church home to join you next weekend at your house of worship.
  • Take the next step to get deeply involved BOTH in the life of your community and your church. Serve with your time, talent and treasure in your local congregation. If possible, reach across a racial, ethnic or cultural divide in your community to listen, learn, lament and love.

 

I sense that these are the first steps we need to take to keep our hearts soft and our lives and churches on mission. I pray that this might be a very fruitful season of ministry in your personal circle of concern as well as your community. May we be prayerful in our hearts, joyful in our posture, winsome in our witness, engaging in our connections, hopeful with our words, bold in our invitations, God-honoring in our lives and effective in our mission to help people meet, know and follow Jesus as we start and strengthen churches together worldwide.

Better Together,
Scott

*News reports from ABC News

Story of hope from R Church

Lupe came into our church less than a year ago during a very tough time in her life. Her marriage was struggling, her brother had committed suicide, her parents had gotten a divorce after her brother committed suicide, and her dad had attempted suicide as well.

She was lost and without hope, but decided to try not just R Church, but Jesus!

The day that she walked through our doors, she felt hope and peace. She decided to give her life to the Lord, and shortly after, her husband did as well.

Lupe quickly started telling everyone around her about what God was doing in her life, and in response to that, many people started coming to church. She went through our discipleship process (Growth track), got baptized and is now serving in the welcoming crew. Her husband is leading the security crew and over 25 people from her family are now a part of R Church!

And her dad, who at one point felt hopeless and wanted to end his own life, gave his life to the Lord this past Easter!

To God be the glory for what He is doing in Lupe and at R Church. 

Passing the baton

Paul had Timothy.

Moses had Joshua.

Bilbo Baggins had Frodo.

Brett Favre had Aaron Rogers. (Maybe I lost you on that one. I am not a Packer fan. Go Vikings! It illustrates a point.)

Throughout history, from secular to sacred, there have been leaders who raised up assistants to pass on the mantle of leadership. They passed the baton. 

In high school, I ran track and enjoyed relay races. One thing we practiced over and over was the simple handoff of the baton. Why? Why practice something so easy as the transfer of one section of pipe to another? The reason was that it was harder than it looks.

The baton gets dropped. It happened in track, and it happens in life.

  • Sometimes leadership is passed to a family member who squanders decades of hard work and ingenuity. The son may have trust, familiarity, and time, but not have the other attributes necessary to be a great leader.
  • Sometimes the leader is too afraid of giving up control, so it takes an emergency for the baton to pass. In such cases, the board or people below are left trying to pick up the pieces.
  • Sometimes the leader is too confident, thinking they have this. They don’t see how raising up a leader can help them and those around them.

 

In ministry, it is critical that we raise up leaders to pass the baton. We need more small group leaders, directors, deacons, ministers, elders, missionaries, and pastors. Why? Here are five reasons to raise up leaders.

  1. It helps us remember our goal. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Our goal is to make disciples of all nations. We can’t do that alone nor does the message end with our making disciples. We need to raise up people to help people know our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
  2. It provides support for us when we are weary. “Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12). We are better together than alone. In leadership, we need others. Raising up leaders is work, but in the end, it will help. 
  3. It allows the group to build resilience and health apart from us. “Appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Paul encouraged Timothy to appoint elders, plural. He saw the value in not having a CEO, but a team of leaders to care for the congregations.
  4. It utilizes someone else’s talent that is different from ours. They have strengths we don’t have and can build our groups in ways we can’t.
        • I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
  5. It can extend the ministry beyond us. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We must not let our ministry die with us. If we are in the ministry for a longer season, don’t inhibit the growth of other ministries by holding on too tightly to those under us. Let us pass the baton to the next generation or next ministry. Raise up a leader. Prepare to pass the baton.

If you agree with me, then whom are you raising up? Can you name a person you are pouring your life into, who can eventually take on leadership? If you can’t think of anyone, whom might you approach this month about a mentorship relationship? Why not take a moment to think about that right now?

So, you have a person you are thinking of as a potential leader, who else comes to mind? Maybe you are at a loss of who would be another possible leader. How can you identify potential candidates? What type of person should you look for? The acronym FAT helps (faithful, available, and teachable). You likely have heard of that. Those are critical attributes of an assistant and any future leader. I would add one more quality that must be present, in some form: skill. They have to have some ability to lead. They must be faithful, available, teachable, and possessing some degree of skill. Perhaps the acronym would work better moving the letters around to FAST (faithful, available, skillful, and teachable).

Unfortunately, the process can be anything but speedy. An assistant may never rise to the skill level necessary to lead a group. He or she may be the best assistant but an ineffective leader. That happens. God made all types of people. Another reason the process may take time is the person you give your time to may not want to lead. He may need to be motivated to take on leadership, or she may be in a season that is not conducive to leadership. Another thing that may slow the process down is disqualifying behavior. The person may lack the necessary character to take on that next role. Thus, you have to go back to exploring who may fill your shoes when you are gone.

Whom can you raise up to extend what you do? Raising up a FAST leader is slow, but good. Don’t drop the baton—be prepared to pass the baton.

What I like about these FAST qualities is the accent on character. The individual is not going to be perfect. No one is. But they must have some degree of humility and integrity. This is not only sound advice from social scientists or people who have gone before us. I think this wisdom is grounded in scripture. Paul talks to Timothy and Titus about finding leaders and key servants for his church. The qualifications are predominantly character. The only skill he notes that elders must have is the ability to teach. So skill is important, but it is not ultimate.

Whom do you see as FAST?

      • Whom do you know that keeps their word?
      • Whom do you know that has some bandwidth to come alongside you for a season?
      • Whom do you know that has a measure of promise?
      • Whom do you know that is open to hear what you have to say?

Those are the ones whom you can bring up and disciple to take your place or extend God’s work beyond you.

We have looked at why this important and whom we are looking to as candidates. Once we identify the person, how do we develop them?

Here are five ideas that come to mind.

  1. Have your assistant lead. Disappear for an event. Have them take over. Ask them how it went.
  2. Praise and thank them when you see them spread their wings in leadership and do well.
  3. Read a book on leadership together and talk about it.
  4. Go to a conference together and discuss leadership.
  5. Meet over coffee to pray. Build your relationship. That relational capital can make those difficult conversations easier and those encouraging conversations more meaningful. 

My favorite resource on discipleship over the years has been Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism.

Regardless of the resources you use, trust me, raise up an assistant. You won’t be around forever. Our message is too important for it to end with us. You won’t regret it. Pass the baton.

Creating spiritual momentum in your church

“Momentum… it’s God’s work. Spiritual leaders can neither create a movement of God’s Spirit nor control it. But a leader should build an atmosphere charged with a desire for spiritual momentum.”  – Wayne Schmidt

As we embark on a new ministry year, all of us will be seeking a unique breakthrough whether personally, or corporately as a church to move us to a new level of impact and fruitfulness. 

God’s people have been seeking spiritual breakthrough for generations through the practice of prayer and fasting. Some examples are Moses, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and Barnabas just to name of few. Yet our supreme example is our Savior. He set the example by fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and also through his clear instruction on the subject.

Here are five reasons why pastors should call their church to a corporate season of fasting that will create an atmosphere of spiritual momentum.

1) It’s a biblical practice.

Jesus did not say to his disciples “if” you fast but he said “when” you fast. (Matthew 6:16) ‘If’ is optional but “when” assumptive. Jesus assumed the continued practice of fasting with their prayers. It is a spiritual discipline to be employed by the church as a regular practice. When fasting is a regular habit it keeps our hearts tender towards God.

2) It creates community.

As a community of believers, we need to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. When we do, there is spiritual bonding that takes places which strengthens our sense of community. Public fasts were declared under great times of stress and need by Samuel (1 Samuel 7:6), Ezra (Ezra 8:1), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:1) and Joel (Joel 1:14). The leaders in the Antioch Church worshipped, prayed and fasted together in seeking God’s leading (Act 13:1-3). Paul and Barnabas continued this practice as the appointed elders in the new churches (Acts 14:23). When it is a regular part of the church’s calendar, it births deep connections in God’s family.

3) It reinforces spiritual disciplines.

When in your preaching calendar do you take people deeper in their relationship with God? One of the marks of a missional Christian is that there is evidence of craving and experiencing spiritual intimacy with God through the practice of spiritual disciplines. When fasting is addressed from the pulpit it reminds disciples of their need to be disciplined in their daily walk.

4) It generates spiritual dependence.

It is too easy to do ministry in our own strength but in doing so we will only achieve results that will impress the man and not God. Crying out for God to do the spiritually impossible is the key to experiencing spiritual breakthroughs. Fasting is a physical activity that keeps us focused on the spiritual. When fasting is regularly practiced, it reminds us that spiritual victories are fought and attained in the heavens first. (Psalm 20:7).

5) It produces humility.

Pride is an infectious problem that spreads through the hearts of all men. Pride produces a strong reaction from God. He will directly and firmly battle against the proud (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:4). King David used fasts to humble himself before God the true King (Psalm 35:14). When fasting is a practice, it can lead to a humble soul who experiences the favor of God (I Peter 5:5).

Will you join us? Pastor, will you lead your church to join us as we kick off the year with a prayer and fasting emphasis?

Check out our resource pages to help lead your church through a 21 Day Prayer Emphasis. 21 Dangerous Prayers21 Courageous Prayers and 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. Each of these has a resource page to help you plan a comprehensive campaign.

Building a Vision through Faith: Grace River Church’s Story

Many church plants start off by meeting in a shared location, but when is the right time for them to find a permanent home?

Grace River Church in O’Fallon, Missouri has been asking itself this very question. As a church plant that started four years ago in the living room of founding pastor Chris Highfill, moved to a local elementary school, and now meets in the O’Fallon YMCA, Grace River started looking again for their next move last summer. But this time, they wanted somewhere they can stay for good.

As a young church plant, at first it seemed impossible that Grace River would be able to have its own building. But as Highfill got more connected with Converge leaders, Converge MidAmerica President Gary Rohrmayer starting planting the seed about a capital campaign. Highfill was initially reluctant to start because he didn’t feel that it was the right time. But during June of 2018, Highfill felt God’s prompting, and they started planning the campaign.

All summer long Highfill met with other leaders from Grace River and together they planned their vision for the capital campaign. They held meetings and focus groups to make sure they were heading in the right direction and in September held a fundraising dinner for church leaders. After months of groundwork and prayer, Grace River Church launched its capital campaign in October of 2018.

During the campaign, Highfill often spoke from 2 Corinthians 8, where the Macedonian church gave generously out of poverty, and not out of wealth. He emphasized how the fundraising is not just about the building, but about helping people become the men and women that God desires them to be. The building is the tool to ultimately help reach more people for Christ.

At the time of the capital campaign, they didn’t have a specific building they were aiming to purchase. They didn’t have a plot of land in mind for construction. They didn’t even have blueprints for the congregation to visualize what a new building could look like. They simply asked people to give toward a vision.

Highfill knew that when God’s people would take a step of faith toward the vision, God would provide for their needs.

Despite still not having a building or property in mind, the capital campaign ended successfully with a celebration during the first week of December. The very next week, Highfill drove by a building off the interstate that was for sale and felt that God was nudging him to take another look. It had previously been out of their price range, but he decided to call the real-estate agent about it anyways. As it turns out, the building was bank-owned and had dropped in price by $400,000. And not only that, but it had a built-in tenant that would pay off almost the entire mortgage.

The people of Grace River Church took a step of faith in giving, and the Lord provided almost immediately. After finding out about the property last December, they worked hastily to acquire it, and just closed on the building last month. And while there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of renovation and preparing it for church use, they are confident that the Lord will continue to provide. Their current goal is to start holding services at the new building this December.

The capital campaign process unleashed a surge of generosity among the congregation and ultimately brought them closer together as a church. “Our church became a church because of this campaign,” Highfill said. “We were weak before, but the capital campaign increased our passionate spirituality and increased our faith in a great way.” Highfill is excited to see how things progress as they continue to go all-in together. This campaign has been such a beautiful part of the story of Grace River Church, and now is only the beginning.

As Grace River Church continues to grow, they ask for your prayers in the following way:

  1. Pray that construction costs for the build-out stay low.
  2. Pray that they don’t go over budget.
  3. Pray that through this process, they continue to be the people that God desires them to be.
  4. Pray that the building will be used as a tool to help people find and follow Jesus.

If you and your church are on the fence about starting a capital campaign, Chris Highfill would love to talk with you about his experience.

If you are ready to get started with a capital campaign, contact Bryan Moak, Vice President of Church Strengthening, for more information.

Newest Church Planters – 2019

We have a new wave of church planters!
Have you met them yet?

Danny and Ibeth Flores R Church, Elgin, IL

R church is a church plant in the city of Elgin, IL. We exists so that those who don’t know Jesus can come to know Him! We are a place where people can restart and be restored. We want to help people not only find Jesus but also their God given purpose and fulfill their potential.  We believe that God has called us not to change our city, but to serve it, and if we serve it well, our city will change. We are passionate about reaching the lost and sharing God’s love with those who are hurting.

Greg and Keyonna Payton – Chicago, IL

Rev. Payton is presently a member of New Beginnings Church of Chicago under the pastorate of Rev. Corey B. Brooks, where he serves as an Elder and as a Christian Education Instructor.

Rev. Payton’s goal in ministry is to engage and humbly serve the body of Christ, to lead lost souls to Christ, and to make disciples of Christ. Rev. Payton hopes to accomplish these ministry goals through church planting.

Badr Rhomri and Elsy Afif Real Hope Church, Skokie, IL

Planters of Real Hope Church which exists to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to Arabs in the North side of Chicagoland, to multiply through evangelizing, discipleship and training, to worship the Lord and live in fellowship as members in God’s family.

Kody and Jessica Woodard Renovation Church, Gallatin, TN

Gallatin is one of the fastest growing cities in Tennessee, with a projected growth of over 40,000 people within the next 5 years. It’s our prayer that as people are moving to Gallatin, that Renovation Church would be a place they can call Home. 

Our mission is really simple. We want to help people Follow Jesus, Grow Together, Discover Their Purpose, and Make a Difference.  

Greg and Kate McKinney Glory Church, Kansas City, MO

At Glory Church, our mission is to declare God’s glory among the nations in Kansas City and across the world. We long to be a bridge, connecting the diverse districts of Downtown Kansas City and equipping people to know God, find real and abiding freedom, discover their purpose, and make a difference in both their homes and throughout their spheres of influence. We are working to launch a life-giving church that gathers together weekly to worship in a central location and then scatters in community groups throughout the various districts of the city.

Brady and Ashley Gray Grove Church, Bardstown, KY

Bardstown (Nelson County) is a growing, rural community with a current population of 45,640 people, but it is expected to see significant growth in the next 10 to 15 years.

For over a year, God has been increasing our love and desire to see the people in this community meet Jesus Christ and fall madly in love with Him. Our hope is that the Grove Church offers people a place that will be a refuge of rest who anyone can find the hope, love, forgiveness, and grace that only come from the blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Our mission is simple and yet monumentally important. We want to cultivate followers of Jesus Christ who pursue Him daily, worship Him endlessly, and live life in authentic community with one another.

Charley and Nichole DeverHope Church, Knoxville, TN

Knoxville is a growing city with a young, vibrant, and creative community. Many people in the city are burnt out by religion and have given up on the church. While over 70% of people in Knoxville self-identify as Christians, recent studies reveal that only 15% attend a church.

That is why God is calling us to plant Hope Church, a place where people can find rest, find hope, and find purpose in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will do this through multiplying disciples, groups, and churches in and beyond the city.

Nick and Hannah Brzozowski Anchor Church, Champaign, IL

Champaign is the home of the University of Illinois and is young, educated, and diverse. Our hope is that we can make an impact in Champaign that will be felt all over the world.  We will do this through leading people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. Having grown up being exposed to poverty, addiction, and brokenness, I (Nick) have come to discover that our best hope is in the one true Anchor, Jesus Christ. 

Joshua and Cheri Gutteridge – Chicago, IL

We are excited to plant a church in the heart of Chicago. The city of Chicago is populated by 3 million people and organized around 77 culturally unique neighborhoods. The nations live on the doorstep of Chicago! And yet evangelicals comprise less than 6% of the population in Chicago. Every week one church closes down within the city limits. Chicago is a real mission field for the gospel of Jesus!

Our vision is simple. We want to Rescue neighbors in crisis, Rebuild them on the teachings of Christ, and Return them to bless the city through compassionate service, church planting and the integration of work and faith.  

Joseph and Maria TaylorMissio Dei, Chicago, IL

The call to church planting has in many ways been a growing part of Joseph and Maria Taylor’s entire 13 years of marriage and ministry together. While serving in a number of ministry roles on church planting teams in Atlanta and Chicago, the vision and imperative for the planting of new churches in cities around the world has become clear to them. But over the last 6 years, as they have observed the heartbreaking needs of the City of Chicago in particular, and as they have grown to love their neighbors, colleagues and friends who call Chicago home, the need for new, healthy churches in Chicago has become an undeniable and compelling reality. They as a family, with Mia Jane, 6, and Silas, 2, along for the journey, are excited to partner with the Holy Spirit to start a church whose mission is practicing the way of Jesus for the renewal of Chicago. They hope to plant in the fall of 2020.

Five ideas for beating the summer giving slump

“God never estimates what we give from impulse. We are given credit for what we determine in our hearts to give; for the giving that is governed by a fixed determination.” – Oswald Chambers

Helping our people experience the timeless truth of moving from impulse and haphazard giving to systematically and joyfully giving is a continuous process.  

We see this in Paul’s writings:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:7)

“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (I Corinthians 16:2)

Summer is an excellent time to reinforce this principle in the hearts of your people in a way that is inspiring and instructing. Here are five ways to leverage the summer slump to train and motivate your people in the area of consistency in their giving.

1. Get better at vision casting on all levels.

Kennon Callahan writes, “A clear vision of mission will be decisive in fostering your congregation’s capacity for giving.” Vision is always asking the “whys” not the “hows.” A compelling vision moves people on a heart level as well as makes sense on a head level. Crafting your vision through multiple mediums is critical to the process. 

  • How are you at telling your vision?
    • Preaching
    • 2-minute giving talks
    • State of the church talks
  • How are you at writing your vision?
    • Newsletters
    • Membership letters
    • Leadership briefings
  • How are you at showing your vision?
    • Video
    • Testimonies
  • How are you at celebrating your vision?
    • Give and serve moments
    • Testimonies
    • Leadership celebrations

 

2. Manage your cash flow properly. 

Learning the giving rhythms in your church is critical and maintaining 120 days of expenses in your reserve account is important for peace of mind. Stressful appeals very rarely produce the results you desire. You don’t want to create a culture that the only time the church speaks about money is because they are in need. Need-based appeals reduce your vision to paying bills and not changing lives. Making mid-course corrections and spending freezes is a better use of the leader’s time than spending energy on need-based appeals. This will give you the freedom to deal with the money talks as an issue of spiritual formation rather than “help we are in trouble!”

3. Send out quarterly giving reports.

The whole purpose of sending out quarterly giving statements is to create a deeper vision of ownership throughout the church. This giving letter should include a well-written vision letter and thank you. It should include a giving statement and some type of teaching on tithing, generosity or ways to give to the church. 

 

4. Spend focused time with the 20% who give 80% of your budget.

Too many pastors are afraid to give focused attention to those carrying the bulk of the financial burden of the church. The stated reasons I have heard are: 1) I don’t want to be charged with favoritism, 2) I don’t trust my own heart, 3) I’m intimated by people of means.

My response to this objections is: grow up, pastor! Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote “act like men” (I Corinthians 16:13).

Investing time in people who are generous to your church is not favoritism — it’s wisdom. One pastor I know spends time with each of his core givers to assess that they are serving in the right areas to maximize their giftedness. If you don’t trust your own heart then, deal with it by confessing it and submitting to accountability over the issue. People of means need shepherds too. I remember visiting a couple in their home one evening (he had one of the top fifty salaries in our state). As we chatted over the evening, the wife said to me, “Thanks for coming. You are the first pastor to ever step into our home.”

  • How can you invest in your leaders relationally this summer?
  • How can you invest in your leaders spiritually this summer?
  • What could you do this summer to deploy or re-deploy them into service?

 

5. Help people automate their giving.

If your church does not have online giving, you are already 10 years behind. The failure to offer automated giving through online giving or electronic fund transfer (EFT) will hurt you in reaching and capturing the next generation. Every first-time giver should be given a “Ways to Give” document. One month a year could be an opportunity to promote “Let’s Go Green in our Giving” through emails, letters, announcements and giving talks.

 

Bonus: Don’t give into the summer slump mentality in your church. Keep the vision and mission red hot through strategic and creative outreach opportunities. Every summer, our church held a “Friends Sunday” which at times surpassed our Easter attendance for that year and propelled us to record attendance in the fall. Remember: a vision slump will always lead to a giving slump!


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Additional Resources:

Church health is a serious issue

We are serious about strengthening our churches!

Why? Because scripture mandates it.

The Apostle Paul in his letter (actually a field manual) to Titus, who was serving as a regional leader on the island of Crete, charged Titus with the task of strengthening the churches there. He writes, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” Titus 1:5. Some commentators say that Titus was working with 100 churches or more on the island of Crete during his time there.

The phrase ‘straighten out’ (NIV) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. “It means, properly, to make straight upon, and then to put further to rights, to arrange further.” (Robinson)

“‘Set in order’ (NASB) is an interesting Greek word, epidiorthoo. The first two, epiand dio are prepositions. The word orthoo is the word from which we get orthodontics, orthopedics and all of those mean straightening. When you go to the orthodontist, he straightens your teeth. When you go to the orthopedist, he straightens your bones. That’s what that means. So what he is saying intensified by two prepositions is ‘thoroughly and completely and fully straighten out what still isn’t straight.’ In ancient times that word was used by secular medical writers for the setting of bones or the straightening of bent limbs. So he says I want you to completely set things straight.” (MacArthur)

Titus’ commission was to establish and re-establish the foundations of the church in Crete for the purpose of seeing strong, gospel-centered churches that are missionally engaged.

How was Titus to strengthen the churches on the island of Crete?

  • Appoint leaders in every town (Titus 1:5-16).
  • He was to set forth the qualifications of healthy leaders (vs 5-9) and to deal decisively with the unhealthy ones (vs10-16).
  • Teach sound doctrine throughout the church (Titus 2:1-15).
  • He was to promote healthy thinking as well as healthy living (vs 1-10), which is found in the power and motivation of the gospel (vs 11-14).
  • Remind the people how to live out the gospel in this world (Titus 3:1-14).
  • He reminds them to “be ready to do good” (vs 2); to “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (vs8) and “to learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (vs 14).

 

In light of this scriptural foundation, we see church strengthening as a serious issue.

So what is a healthy church?

  1. It is led by healthy leaders who are examples to follow.
  2. It deals with rebellion quickly and courageously.
  3. It promotes sound doctrine (Strong Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis).
  4. It is intergenerational and branches beyond social structures.
  5. It promotes the centrality of the gospel as the fuel for sanctification and mission.
  6. It does not talk about mission, it fulfills the mission of God.

One of our core convictions is that no leader should lead alone. I believe this also translates onto a corporate level that no church should attempt to achieve that mission alone. Our desire is to walk alongside churches and to be a voice of encouragement, just as a coach calls out the best in them, or a friend is there to lean on.  

We are committed to starting and strengthening churches.

Reflective Questions:

  • How are you measuring the health of your church?
  • Do you know how to establish an annual church health rhythm?
  • How do you gather the opinions, feelings and attitudes of your people in a constructive way?
  • How do you use your annual ministry plan to improve the quality of your ministry?
  • Who do you trust to help you in evaluating the health of your church?

Three benefits for taking the Natural Church Development survey

May is “Church Health Month” around here at Converge MidAmerica.  It is a season in our calendar where we encourage churches to take a close look at both the quality and the quantity of their church’s ministry through taking the Natural Church Development Survey.  Here are a few quick reasons for you and your church to embrace this church health process.

1) It is based on the most comprehensive church health research ever done. 

Over 90,000 churches have completed NCD surveys around the world. Over 47,000 churches have completed NCD surveys in the USA. Dave Wetzler, the USA Director of Natural Church Develop, reports that when churches have completed 3 surveys and two full cycles of addressing the weak system, they have discovered through the process that they see 85% of them improving in quality and quantity both globally and here in the USA. 

They have also discovered that churches that plant daughter churches – they have an overall average score of 55 or higher. When a church has a score at 50 (average) or less, they are still very inwardly focused on their church, their health and their ministry programs. Once a church reaches a healthy average of 55, they become more outwardly focused in reaching other segments of the community or multiplying through church planting and mission efforts. Conversion growth increases and church planting increases. 

Every time a church takes an NCD Survey, it adds to the research and moves us from guessing to assessing. 

2) It separates fact from feelings

So many decisions are based on feelings rather than facts. The NCD survey takes all those feelings that are running through the minds and hearts of your people and quantifies them. 

Church Health is measured through hard data as well as soft data. The hard data is the key statistics you track as a church: attendance, offerings, new visitors, members, baptisms, small groups and leaders. So every church has its own dashboard of stats that they are looking at frequently.  

The soft data is the quality side of your services and ministries. It is people’s attitudes, feelings and perspectives towards the programs, process and the personnel of the church.

People’s real attitudes, feelings and perspectives are hard to determine at times, especially in a church. So how do you get below the surface of what people are thinking and expecting in your community of faith? 

The NCD Survey does this in a very positive and detailed way. It gives you an overall morale number for your church and then drills down in revealing what your people feel are the strengths and weaknesses of your church at this time. 

3) It provides a focused pathway to strengthen your church.

Once the feelings and perspectives of your people have been quantified, now the church can, with laser-like precision, focus on the systems within the church that are weak and need some attention.

All too often church leaders are guessing rather than assessing. They are going on a hunch rather than accurate data. This will always lead to a backlash against leadership initiatives and possibly leadership itself.  

When you listen to your people’s feedback, you honor them and create a deeper level of ownership in the ministry of the church.

Focusing on the feedback of your key leaders helps you develop an annual ministry plan – a plan with clear goals, deadlines and delegated assignments to improve the area your people identified as needing strengthening.

A little focus can make a lasting impact. For example, developing a 12-month ministry plan that focuses on raising the temperature of evangelism throughout every level of the church helps shape the culture and raises the effectiveness of the church.

This month, we have a special promotion for any churches registering for the Natural Church Development survey! Please contact Bryan Moak, VP of Church Strengthening, for more details.

What Are Together Groups?

When we say we are better together, we really mean it! Last year, a group of churches in Michigan was looking for opportunities to connect with each other, but in a way that wasn’t only geared toward fellowship. They wanted a missional gathering where they could work together to advance the vision of Converge MidAmerica and its leaders.

To put that into practice, this past January our district started a pilot program called Together Groups. These groups have enabled us to encourage our pastors of church plants and established churches to connect with and learn from one another. Our Together Groups meet for the purpose of seeing Christ’s kingdom expanded in their area of the region and to move toward our collective goal of seeing 400 strong, reproducing churches by 2027.

Since January, we’ve expanded from six to nine groups and have over 70 total attendees. Each group is comprised of seven or eight Converge MidAmerica pastors from the same region. Our nine regions are Mid-Chicago, South Chicago, Western Illinois, Indy, Greater Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Northern Michigan and St. Louis.

Each Together Group is facilitated by a regional leader who helps ensure that the discussion is broken down into the five predetermined sections.

  • First, pastors check in with one another to hear about the “heartaches and hallelujahs” of their ministry.
  • Then, they pray together with praises and requests, especially focusing on how God is moving in their region.
  • Next, they have a time of teaching, which could be discussing a book, watching a video or having someone share about his area of expertise.
  • After that, the discussion turns toward our four “Each One” statements: Each One Reach One, Each One Raise One, Each One Start One and Each One Send One. This is the heart of the time together and focuses specifically on encouraging each other and partnering together to see Christ’s kingdom expanded.
  • Lastly, the group wraps up by talking about action steps and creates a clear plan in order to move forward with purpose.

In order for everyone to be on the same page, group members agree to a covenant ensuring their commitment, confidentiality, authenticity, value of the overall agenda and promise to work toward advancing the kingdom together. This allows all participants to be striving toward the same goal.

We have seen the Together Groups empower and encourage our pastors over the past few months. A participant in our St. Louis group said, “You can go further in every area of life with a team. Together Groups equip you and your ministry to take the next step as you lead your church to greater effectiveness for the kingdom cause!”

Shane Prewitt, the leader of the Grand Rapids group, said, “While we are still learning many things about how to maximize the missional aspect of our group, the friendships that have been born and the coaching and encouragement that we have received have been life-giving. No matter how busy my schedule may be, the two hours I spend with my Together Group has become sacred territory that I do my best to protect every month.”

Our Together Groups are heeding the challenge of Hebrews 10:25 to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” We are excited to see how the kingdom is impacted as our Together Groups continue to meet and encourage one another.

Four things you can do to keep your Easter crowd

Every church has a First Impressions Team — those who welcome greet and serve all who attend your public gatherings. But how many churches have a Second Touch Team — those who are responsible for following up and seeking to connect those new attenders into the life of the church?

Every pastor gets frustrated with the lack of retention from the Easter outreach. The development of a Second Touch Team can help reduce that frustration. Here are a few things you can do to ramp up your game in following up on your Easter guests.

1. Touch your guests within 36 hours of their visit in a meaningful way.

How will you WOW them? When you wow your first-time guests you communicate that you are serious about the mission Jesus has called you to and that people are important to you. The difference between growing churches and declining churches is in how they treat the first-time guest.

Think about how you will respond to the following people individually and personally:

  • Those who fill out the communication card — how will you WOW them?
  • Those who fill out a prayer request — how will you tell them they have been prayed for?
  • Those who want more information on a certain ministry — how will they be contacted?
  • Those who gave their first gift to the church — how will you thank them and encourage them in becoming regular givers?
  • Those who register their children for children’s ministry — how will you recognize the children? What could you send them to WOW them and their parents?

Thom Rainer writes, “If a person visits your church for the first time, the probability of their returning a second time is considerably higher if you make contact with them within 36 hours of their visit.” Herb Miller takes it to another level, “When laypersons make 15-minute visits to the homes of first-time worship visitors within 36 hours, 85 percent of them return the following week.” 

What are you willing to do to see people come back again and again?

2. Offer next steps or come-back activities for guests.

Make sure you clearly and passionately communicate the “why” behind the next steps as well as the “what.” Here are a few next steps or come-back ideas.

  • Announce a new message series that will inspire them to come back.
  • Announce a family friendly event that is fun, creative and connecting.
  • Hand out the Spiritual Journey Guide so they visually see the next steps in discipleship.
  • Offer a newcomers luncheon or dinner.
  • Offer a seeker study such as Bible 101 or Christianity 101.
  • Offer a serving opportunity within a church-wide community service project.

Remember the difference between leaders and followers is that leaders know the next steps. For good retention you will need to embrace the next steps principle.

3. Think about the next 30 days, not just the next seven days.

Allen Ratta writes, “The research shows the more a visitor visits a church the greater the odds are that they will eventually become a part of that church. Yet, churches consistently behave in ways that ignore this critical fact. For example, churches often place all of their efforts in the first-time visitor. Reality is that churches will receive a far greater return on investments that they make in second and third and subsequent visitors. What is lacking in many visitor assimilation efforts is the ability to direct and mobilize key resources to repeat visitors. Sustained follow-up is essential to effective visitor assimilation.”

  • Second visit ideas
    • Personal invitation to a family friendly event.
    • Handwritten invitation to newcomers luncheon.
    • Phone call by a volunteer asking, “How can we pray for you and your family?”
    • Help them connect with a small group leader in their area.
  • Third visit ideas
    • Invitation to spiritual formation retreat or seminar.
    • Invitation to attend a membership seminar or class.
    • Invitation to Bible 101 or Christianity 101 small group.
    • Send a brochure on the ways you will help them grow spiritually and serve in the church.
    • Phone call from a staff person to help them take the next steps into the life of the church.
  • Fourth visit ideas
    • Set up an appointment to discuss where they are on their spiritual journey.
    • Invitation to dinner with other newcomers at the pastor’s or staff member’s home.
      What we measure reveals what really matters to us. 
    • Invitation to serve on a ministry team.

4.  Measure the effectiveness of your retention process.

Gary McIntosh cites the following research:

  • A church must keep about 16 percent of its first-time guests to experience a minimal growth rate of 5 percent a year.
  • Rapidly growing churches keep between 25 and 30 percent of their first-time guests. Declining churches keep only about 5 to 8 percent of their first-time guests.

Do you know how you are doing in retaining your visitors? The churches that track attendance, visitors and visitor retention are statistically the churches that are growing.

Conclusion

Take time this week to focus in and develop a plan for getting your Easter crowd back. This preparation will pay rich dividends not only for Easter but also for the rest of the year as you apply these practices to every Sunday worship experience.

Additional resources

David and Goliath: Are we teaching the wrong lesson?

A few years ago when I was in Israel, we drove to the Valley of Elah where David battled with Goliath. People wanted to get off the tour bus and collect pebbles to commemorate the battle. A Moody pastor turned to me and whispered: “Those pebbles aren’t really from here. So many tourists take pebbles that the Israeli Board of Tourism sends a truck down to the coast at night to haul in more pebbles.” So Christians were leaving with a pocketful of pebble fueled inspiration based on a wrong belief. 

I wonder if we do the same thing with the story of David and Goliath – we collect inspirational pebbles based on wrong beliefs.

We have all read the story, heard children’s Sunday School lessons, watched videos, and preached sermons on it, right? But are we teaching the correct lesson? 

Often the lesson sounds something like: “You may be small and weak like David, but if you use whatever insignificant pebbles you have, and trust God, you can defeat the giants in your life. God can do a miracle.”

Have you preached that? I have. Sounds great. It’s very motivational. “With God’s help I can defeat the giant problems in my life – financial, marital, parental, occupational, you name it. With God on my side and a little bit of faith I can’t lose!” That will sell books! 

But is the lesson of David and Goliath really about fighting my giant enemies or is it about fighting God’s enemies? What if the lesson is about spiritual warfare for the kingdom of God, not about achieving my best by beating my personal giants?

What if the pebbles and slingshot are not to teach us to trust whatever limited resources we have, but to teach us to be so intentional about developing our spiritual skills, strength and courageous faith, that when spiritual attack hits, we can stand and fight for the Lord? 

What if David’s lack of armor is not to teach us we don’t need armor (“God is our armor”) but to teach us to use spiritual tactics – to stay us outside of Satan’s reach while we fight him and to stay on 
the offensive?

Why do I raise those questions? Well, let’s look at them one at a time and see what the text says. 

First, David was not fighting his giant personal enemies, he was fighting God’s enemy. Goliath was not standing in the way of David reaching his full potential and living an abundant life. He was challenging the God of Israel.
David: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 
(1 Samuel 17:26)
 

David wasn’t fighting his giant enemies. He was fighting God’s enemies. David wasn’t even supposed to be in the battle. He was just delivering supplies. Goliath was challenging God’s honor so David stepped forward to fight for God’s honor.
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (46-47)

Can I say it again: David was fighting God’s enemies, not his enemies. He was fighting for God’s honor, not for his well being. David had faith that God would give him the victory because he was fighting for God, not fighting for his own benefit. Can we really assume from this story that God will give us the victory when we are fighting our personal giants? I don’t think so. Look at David’s life. David didn’t defeat all his personal giants and neither will we.

Second, David probably was not bringing his personal weakness, limited resources (5 pebbles), and inferior weapon (slingshot) against Goliath’s strength, weapons and armor, trusting God to show up with a miracle.   

What makes us think David was weak or small? He told Saul:
“When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;” (34-36) 

Chasing a bear or lion and killing it with his bare hands? Seriously? Picture how you do that without any weapons. Does that really sound weak or small to you? You need big hands and very strong arms and legs to do that. David was a very powerful man, even if he was the youngest brother. 

And what about the slingshot and pebbles? Were they a weak or inferior weapon? Maybe not. Malcolm Gladwell in “David and Goliath: Underdogs and the Art of Battling Giants” (Little Brown and Company) provides a different perspective. He points out that armies at that time had 3 kinds of warriors – the cavalry on horseback, the infantry with swords and spears, and what we would call artillery: archers, and a group called slingers. “Slingers had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long strand of rope. They would put a rock or lead ball into the pouch, swing it around in increasingly wide and faster circles, and then release one end of the rope, hurling the rock forward.” 

These professional soldiers sound a lot like David don’t they? How effective was this weapon in the hands of a man who had practiced diligently, as David had? It was devastating. 

“Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in midflight. Irish slingers were able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and in the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a ‘hair’s breath.’ An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. The Romans even had a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded into some poor soldiers body by a sling…  Eiten Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces, recently did a series of calculations showing that a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five meters would have hit Goliath’s head with a velocity of thirty-four meters per second – more than enough to penetrate his skull… In terms of stopping power, that is equivalent to a fair sized modern handgun.”   

So maybe David’s slingshot and stones were not at all inferior to Goliath’s weapons.  Maybe the point is that like David perfected his fighting skills by practicing day after day during the boring job of protecting the sheep, we need to hone our skills at spiritual warfare in the slog of everyday living. Be faithful in the little things. Make warfare prayer a way of life. Only then will we be prepared to fight God’s enemies when we face a giant. 

Another reason David beat Goliath was because he didn’t conform to Goliath’s battle plan. David used different tactics. Goliath, with his sword and armor, needed close range, hand to hand fighting, so he called David to come to him. David refused. He launched his artillery from outside of Goliath’s reach. While the range of a spear was only as far as the arm could throw it, a sling was lethal at distances of over one hundred yards.  Goliath didn’t stand a chance. David used a missile against a rifle. He stayed out of Goliath’s reach. 

I wonder if the lesson on tactics is for us is to stay out of Satan’s reach. Don’t fight by his rules. Don’t try to reason with the Father of Lies or you will lose. Like Adam and Eve lost. Don’t see how close you can get to temptation without sinning but keep as far away as you can. Flee from temptation. 

Ok, let’s summarize these lessons. Since I am a preacher I’ll package them as Training, Tools, Tactics and Trust. 

Training: Day after day back in the sheepfold, David did the hard work that prepared him to face Goliath. Because he was diligent in the farm field he was ready for the battlefield. He trained for battle by the way he lived out his daily responsibilities. In the end, Goliath was not nearly as dangerous as bears and lions.
Question: Are you constantly training in spiritual warfare, in everyday life, so you can fight for God’s honor and kingdom when the big crisis comes?

Tools: David trusted the natural abilities God gave him, and honed them into powerful fighting skills. He knew his weapon, trusted his weapon, and used his weapon, instead of trying to borrow weapons from someone else.
Question: Are you developing your spiritual strength and courage as intentionally as you work on developing your physical strength or mental power? Are you developing your skill in using spiritual weapons? 

Tactics: Can you fight Satan while staying out of his reach? Are you usually on the offensive rather than the defensive? Do you fight spiritual warfare smart?

Trust: David said, The Lord will rescue me…the Lord will deliver you into my hands…the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s.” David wanted to be prepared by training hard, bringing the right tools, and using the right tactics. But trust in the Lord is what inspires courage and fuels victory. Because the battle is the Lords, not yours. 

You ask, “But sounds like David won the battle, not God. How can God get the credit if we do all the training, bring the right tools and use the right tactics?” The answer is — same way he does in our life and ministry. God gave David (and us) the natural ability. God gave David (and us) the opportunities to train and develop them. God gave David (and us) the wisdom to choose the best tactics. God gave David (and us) the courage. Remember David’s confidence was in the Lord, not himself. Finally, military history teaches us that the best training, tools and tactics do not always win the battle. Plans and people fail. Leaders sometimes snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Battles are often determined by intangible factors. So in the end, after we do all we can to be prepared, the battle is the Lord’s. It is God who gives the victories in our life and our ministry.

Lynn Anderson, in “Finding the Heart to Go On” (Nelson, 1991, p. 38-45) says, “Training and tools without trust equals pride. Naïve trust with our counting costs in terms of tools equals resumption. Training, tools, and tactics combined with trust results in contagious courage.”

So let’s not confuse fighting our personal giants with fighting His enemies, make promises He never does, or depend on him to show up with a miracle whenever life or ministry is tough. Let’s fight God’s enemies. Let’s fight for God’s honor. Let’s train hard. Let’s be skilled with our spiritual tools and wise with our tactics. Let’s trust that when we fight for the Lord, in the Lord’s name, depending on him, the victory will be his and the glory will be his.