Sunday, February 28, 2010


A new web site has been set up by a colleague, Dan Masshardt. He first hit me with a comment by Dave Kraft of "Seven Habits of Ineffective Leaders." One of the important decisions a church must make is to cooperate with a pastoral leader to allow him to develop a leadership effectiveness that enhances their fruitfulness as a church in mission. Check out this site and see how you fare on those habits.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Heather Berkshire is a United Methodist pastor in Indiana. She is one of my ministerial children. Some day, with her permission, I will share the story of her personal redemption on call. She recently sent this article. Here are some highlights from this article by Joey Butler in the United Methodist reported, initially quoting Jamie Dunham of Nashville TN:

"For many years, Mr. Dunham says the dialogue has been about “what type of music was played in the worship service and what type of clothes you wore. The real discussion is what place does church have in our culture and community. This younger generation is looking for things that allow them to get outside the church to do things.

“The churches that I think have the healthiest approach today put emphasis on the actions that show they are people trying to solve problems in the community rather than trying to insulate themselves,” Mr. Dunham says.

Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, co-authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics, call Generation Y “the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and 1940s. . . . This is a generation of activist doers.”

The more opportunities Millennials have to get their hands dirty, the better. Churches need to look into their communities and see what needs are there—perhaps a pancake breakfast for the homeless, a Habitat build or a community cleanup.

When designing ministries, remember young people in entry-level jobs and paying college loans often don’t have as much money to contribute as older members."

I encourage you to go to this link and read the full article:

Friday, February 26, 2010


Today Scot McKnight posted an important observation from elder statesman and translator of The Message, Eugene Peterson. So often Peterson's perspective has kept me personally rooted in the reminder that the church is a supernatural organism. - Steve

Scroll to the first comment and you can see my particular response to Peterson.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I cannot understate the importance of cross-cultural partnerships for a missional congregation seeking to develop an outward focus. When I first arrived at Landisville in 2001, a group of persons were already preparing to undertake a mission work team trip to Haiti. They were bound for our Pierre Payen Clinic which was building a hospital across the street. 10 of my people (most of whom were over the age of 60 at the time) were going to help with electrical work and other "finish work" jobs so that the hospital could be opened.

Later that year, I answered a request from our Commission on Missions to have Landisville enter into a sister church arrangement with our Navajo congregation located at Tsaile AZ. In 2003 we sent our first Vacation Bible School team to work at Tsaile. We made this a "family mission trip" taking 35 persons (age 10 through 80) to staff the VBS. In 2005 we sent an "encouragement team" to spend some time with the Tsaile Church as it had just lost a Beleganah missionary pastor and was transitioning to a new pastor (ultimately their first Navajo pastor, Everett Teller). We also went to plan a 2006 VBS trip, trying to incorporate the Navajo leadership in our planning and decision-making instead of a parachute dropping a team into their midst. 25 people went the next summer (older teens and adults). We saw a tremendous evangelistic result - 25 Navajo youth and adults became Christians - which sparked a spiritual renewal back home. We also coupled that with a work team which built much needed showers and a new porch to handle drainage for the church itself. In 2007 Pastor Everett and his wife Mary visited us. Two Christmases we assisted them with an outreach to their community families by providing Christmas gifts. Then in 2009 we took another 18 people to do still a third VBS.

The result has been that between Tsaile and Haiti, plus smaller groups going to Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Mexico - more than 20% of our congregation has now been on a cross-cultural mission field.

People who have taken this step are never the same - and the church has moved even further into a passion for outreach as a result.

In an upcoming blog I will share more on what God has been doing to shape my own congregation because so many people have found their way to a mission field on these short term assignments.

Monday, February 22, 2010

And God Created Football - Books & Culture

A fair amount of recent scholarship argues that American football—and perhaps American sports in general—has become a religion. What's interesting is that the very people who have a vested interest in this issue seem uninterested, or at least unconvinced. A recent article in Books and Culture by Mark Galli has some interesting thought about the past time that seems to have such a powerful draw on our culture and which Christians sometimes see as a rival to be excoriated instead of understood. For the full article, I would encourage you to read: And God Created Football - Books & Culture

Two quotes from the article, I believe help us learn about reaching out to our communities and still maintaining our integrity and witness as the Body of Christ.

"Miracle and Rees quote anthropologist Clifford Geertz, who believed that religion acts to "establish powerful, persuasive, and long lasting moods and motivations" by "formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the morals and motivations seems uniquely realistic." They conclude, and Hamilton seems to concur, that "Sport has done this for American culture in a way that traditional religion could not."

Galli concludes: "Some Christians do practice civil religion, and for some, football has become an idol. Such is the nature of the human heart, that desperately wicked thing (Jer. 17:9). But one reason many Christians are not concerned about football as religion is that what seems to make it a religion to some scholars is precisely the thing that makes it another sign of God's presence in the world, a sign that comes in the most mundane ways—through ritual, physical sacrifice, a sense of brotherhood, shared joy and despair over little things (like if our team wins or loses).

This is the reason Christians participate freely and fully in all of life. For we, of all people, have eyes to see and ears to hear God's elusive presence, to discern his handiwork and love everywhere. The clearest revelation of God's love comes to us in the preaching of the Word and the sharing of the sacrament, but it is precisely because we've learned to make out the outlines of the God-man Jesus with repeated participation at these specifically religious events that we can spot him in a glass of fine wine, in the startling lines of a skyscraper, in conversation with friends, in a timely block or a well-executed screen play.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Steve Sjogren is one of the high impact leaders for the whole concept of the Outward Focused Church. In particular, Steve, then Senior Pastor at the Vineyard Fellowship in Cincinnati, popularized the concept of Servant Evangelism. We continue to use his classic Conspiracy of Kindness in the School of Evangelism of our Eastern Regional Conference. Recently Steve posted an article at on-line site of LEADERSHIP JOURNAL.

Steve writes: "There's an upward spiral effect, an enthusiasm that builds. People start laughing and telling stories and evangelism becomes easy because the courage is contagious. I think in our day there's a chronic shortage of joy in evangelism. The whole idea of having fun and high-fiving each other is almost completely foreign to us. But it is out there. We just have to find people that are willing to go out with us and find joy in doing these things together."

For the complete article you can visit: Courage is Contagious |

As my own Church of God of Landisville began looking at an outward focus, we found that making OUTREACH our brand through servant acts to the community, created a tremendous springboard for connecting people to Jesus Christ.

In my first summer at LCOG, I offered the training class Becoming a Contagious Christian At that point we were averaging perhaps 165 people in worship, but 14 of them signed on to participate. Armed with the understanding, tools, and passion to build redemptive relationships (Mittelburg and Hybels approach to evangelism), servant evangelism became the vehicle to get people out of the "box" (literally) and into the community in practical ways. As those ministries created relational intersections, it became possible for people to actually begin building redemptive relationships and introduce their new friends to Jesus Christ in an effective way. Outreach partnered with building redemptive relationships helped make evangelism both contagious and a joy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I received an email encouragement today from Rick Rusaw, who two years ago shared a powerful time of teaching on the Externally Focused Church at the sessions of our Eastern Regional Conference. He was very supportive of the Servant Church Conference that my congregation attempted offer (unsuccessfully) to our area churches. I thought you'd benefit by his reminders. - Steve


Recently Dan Masshardt, the Associate Pastor of our Fairview Bethel Church of God posted this video on the blog CGGC IN THE EMERGING WORLD. This is a great description of the paradigm shift that traditional and inward focused churches must make in becoming outward-focused ones.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Does your church have a winter weather plan? Better yet, does it have a severe weather policy? Some churches' policy is "if it's snowy or icy," we cancel. It's convenient for the staff and comforting to those who would really rather not venture out at such times. The pleasant cocoon of a warm fire, a well-stocked refrigerator, and cable TV are preferable to the effort to be present to worship or to participate in a Bible study. (And thank goodness if I was assigned to lead the Junior Highs.)

But outward focused churches never let it be that simple. Why? Because they have an upward focus. Some churches are so focused on numbers that they forget that some of the best work of the Spirit is done in intimacy of a smaller setting. I once was forced to cancel worship but did not get the call out early enough. I received a call from a missionary on furlough who was living across the street, asking if he could go ahead and have a service. There was no organist, no choir, no Sunday School, no preacher - but there were fifty people who still came to worship. Which is what they did - and they prayed for those in spiritual need who were isolated by the storm and for those road and emergency crews who were on duty.

Or here's another thought - cancellation policies usually derive from our inward focus. What opportunities for ministering beyond the church's programs and building could present themselves at such times?

Just a thought, but winter storms which cancel church as usual can still have a powerful potential for ministry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


An outward-focused church has a theology as well as a strategy. In many ways, good theology is a strategy. Howard Snyder and Daniel Runyon wrote an excellent book in 2002 called Decoding the Church--Mapping the DNA of Christ's Body, which provided my own congregation an important theological framework from which to design and communicate our strategy as a congregation in mission. They are called the "Four Greats."

According to Snyder and Runyon the church has:
A Great Confession
A Great Identification
A Great Communion
A Great Commission

Based on the reflections of Snyder and Runyon, I explain these Four Greats in this way to the people I pastor.

Our Great Confession is "Jesus Christ is Lord." The church begins when it acknowledges "Jesus is Lord." It is the foundational reality that identifies us as Christians. It is the Truth that not only sets us free. It is the Truth by which we live. It is our unique and essential message.

Our Great Identification is "We are the Body of Christ." We are the supernatural organism which continues the work of Jesus today. Often traditional or inward focus congregations have a mindset of "our church" in their perceptions and proclamations. No, we are the Church of Jesus Christ. It is God's church and we are all an interdependent and interconnected part of it (see I Corinthians 12).

We have a Great Communion. We are united together to equip one another and to support one another, to be empowered to do the work of Jesus Christ in the world. The church is not a bunch of individuals doing their thing for Jesus, it is a community doing the work of the Lord. (Ephesians 4)

Finally, Matthew 25 teaches that we have a Great Commission Our purpose is to go and make disciples. A church must turn its focus outward and embrace the mission of reconciling people to God. It is not a safe haven for the saved or a fortress against the world, it is a missionary movement to reach the lost and to bring them into the Kingdom of God.


This video is from the web site of Glenn Smith, a church planting consultant from Houston TX, who works with my denominational group, the Churches of God, General Conference. I have seen on it on at least one another blog and played at a recent leadership retreat for clergy types.

Effective ministry in 2010 requires effective communication tools. Tools that allow you to "listen" and then connect. The social media is the 2010 form of "Go ye into all the world ..."

Do you have a website? Do you blog? What are you doing to connect with the unchurched? This video which can be found on You Tube says why.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This You Tube video was made in March 2009. That morning in the Antwerp, Belgium Central Train Station, a sound track of Julie Andrews singing "Do Re Mi" began coming through the loud speakers. Then 200 dancers (who had just two rehearsals) began this demonstration of joy.

Dan Kimball notes that too much of the world has never met a true biblical Christian because so often we live in our Christian bubble with little regard for touching the lives of the world around us. In fact, we are more concerned about not letting their lives touch (and corrupt or trouble ours). When we do come out of the bubble it is like Jonah, angrily pronouncing judgment on the world. The world things of us as negative, angry people. Christians are not associated with joy.

An outward focused church wants to share the joy of Christ. It things of concrete, visible, irresistible ways to share the Good News. Maybe it's time for us to have a strategy for sharing the joy?

By the way - enjoy the video.