Monday, July 26, 2010


Wayne Cordeiro and Robert Lewis. along with Warren Bird have written an excellent book called Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series). In it they speak of the pastor (or lead pastor) as the chief “cultural architect” of a church. The concept reminds me of several deep truths about the church, but particularly the church that seeks to be a “bridge to the Bridge (Jesus Christ).

1.Every church has a culture.

2. Our culture naturally shapes the way we live.

3. If we don’t shape our culture, our culture shapes us.

Most of the churches in existence today were born into a culture where the institutional church had a significant place at the table. There was a certain synchronicity between the values of the general American culture and the values of the church. The church had a fairly simple task to make disciples because the culture provided a certain amount of elemental support to the mission of the church.

Culture has a powerful shaping influence. Despite the presence of the church at the table, our culture has developed a strong consumer mindset rather than a servant one. A consumer mentality seeks first and foremost to meet the felt needs of the consumer.

Religious satisfaction (read, religion that meets my felt needs) was often the first order of business for most churches and most church people. That tended to give churches a strong inward focus, rather than an outward one because the incentive to meet the needs of the already persuaded often used up most of the resources, leaving little for persuading others to become reconciled to God. The prevailing culture (which was less and less influenced by the church) made most Christians at the end of the 20th century more consumers of religious services than servants of the mission of Christ.

Bridgebuilding requires first a culture that values bridgebuilding. That means a church must intentionally be structured around a mission to reach and reconcile lost people to God. It must be a culture that sees itself as missionary in nature and to intentionally imbed the values needed to be on a mission from God.

That begins with the pastor–the person responsible for equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. That also means that the pastor must be committed to the missionary nature of the church. That, of course, means that the pastor must be intentional about helping shaping the lives under his care with the values of Christ.

Those values come the Word, from scripture. Part of the reason the church has been so often been shaped by the culture is that the values of the church were more religiously cultural than biblical. The cultural architect must first start with the blueprint of his Architect (the real Chief Cultural Architect) lest he try to design the unique expression that is his congregation that is disconnected from the power and blessing of God.

And the cultural arhitect must be sure that he is being shaped by his Arhitect. That means that the cultural architect (pastor) must himself first be led by the Spirit so he can do his part in shaping a culture (a church) that is led by the Spirit.

This article originally appeared on the blogsite BRIDGEBUILDERS

Friday, July 23, 2010


Evangelism Today is the official blog of the Commission on Evangelism for the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God. It is moving to a new blogging engine, in order to give us more flexibility and accessibility. We will not immediately shut down this blog site but are beginning the process today of double-posting. Note, however, that some items that WordPress permits we cannot duplicate on this current site. We encourage you to visit our new EVANGELISM TODAY blog site and set up a subscription there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The Outward Focused Church invites persons to contribute article, suggestions, questions, images, videos to this discussion on how churches take on the mission of reconciling people to God by being the best church for the community. Email you articles or materials to and we'd be glad to consider them.


Interesting little video from the Missional Outreach Network (the link is in BLOGS WE FOLLOW)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Nick Francis is the pastor/cultural architect for Mosaic Lancaster, a new kind of church community for the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God, General Conference, They have their own video "company." This is a recent presentation.


Pastors George Jensen and Jim Klock at the Enola First Church of God (near Harrisburg PA) serve a traditional church trying to intentionally develop an outward focus. They have a new ministry called OPERATION LIFE BOAT.

Pastor Jensen writes:

By now many of you have heard my message on July 18 concerning Operation Lifeboat and Pastor Jim's message on July 11 from Nehemiah 1. I truly believe that God is calling us to send out "Lifeboats" to reach lost people in our area who will never darken the doors of our church.

Right now no one knows what these Lifeboats will be or when they will be launched. However, to give you an idea what these Lifeboats might look like, I have thought of a few possibilities:

1. New small group Bible studies meeting in people's homes
2. Acts of service and kindness similar to last year's "Rake and Bake"
3. An additional worship service off site (like at a school auditorium or hotel meeting area)
4. Planting a new church

NOTE: These are only ideas that I have thought of. God may lead us to send out Lifeboats that are completely different from the four mentioned above. Also, we will be wise to send out one Lifeboat well rather than several haphazardly. God will guide us!

On July 11, Pastor Jim mentioned several things we can learn from Nehemiah's adventure: prayer, planning, flexibility and perseverance. Let's take the first of things from Nehemiah and apply it to Operation Lifeboat: prayer. I believe we need to pray and ask God's guidance.

Their blog link is LIFEBOAT


Thursday, July 15, 2010


Missional Small Communities from Ed Stetzer on Vimeo.


Part of the vision that God has given us at the Church of God of Landisville is to be a safe place for people in need. Stephen Ministry has moved to center stage in our church's vision to allow us to accomplish that.

Our connection with Stephen Ministry began almost eight years ago when one of our then elders Bob Crosby (back row, 1st person on left) first named it as "something that might help us." Then about three years ago the elders began exploring the idea prayerfully. Early in 2008 we determined God wanted us to proceed, but a severe budget deficit and some vision problems within the church caused us to take it off the table for a time. But at the same time we sent two elders and the lead pastor to a Stephen Ministry workshop. This confirmed it to be God's will. However, Stephen Ministry emphasizes quality and training and we determined that God was telling us to wait--commit but go slow as He worked on some issues.

In 2009 we selected our first Stephen Leaders: Barb Sutton (middle row, second from left) and Associate Pastor Barry Sellers (back row, last on right). Barb had recently retired from the Social Security Administration and was seeking God's direction for a new ministry for herself. Barry is the pastoral staff member who oversees our visitation program and bereavement support team. They spent a week in training under the guidance of the trainers from Stephen Ministry. Then they took three months to prepare, two months sharing the vision with our people and interviewing those who responded. In January they began meeting with the Stephen Ministers of a weekly basis for 2 1/2 hours of training. A total of 50 hours was invested in training before we commissioned the class pictured above.

Too often ministry in traditional and inward focused churches is placed almost entirely on a pastor's shoulders. In addition, people are not empowered and equipped to carry a ministry that God is calling them to. We just "hope it will happen.." And too often we rush into ministry, without proper commitment and preparation and those ministries fail. Stephen Ministry now gives Landisville a tool and a model - with the primary blessing of bringing someone the love the Christ in s practical way. Stephen Ministry helps us break of the clergification of the church and to raise the level of discipleship in the Body.

For more on STEPHEN MINISTRY click the link below.


Sunday, July 11, 2010


Church Executive recently published an interview with Rick Rusaw, Senior Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont CO and co-author with Eric Swanson of The Externally Focused Quest. Here is an excerpt from that interview which you can read in full by clicking the link at the beginning of this post:

What inspired you to encourage churches to be more externally focused?

I think what happened was we had a sense that even though our church was growing and we were doing a lot of good things inside the church, we were not really making much of a difference in the community.

We realized that we weren’t engaged at the root level of a lot of issues. So we got asked to start a school, and I said maybe we shouldn’t start a school, maybe we should just get more involved with public schools. So we started volunteering and helping out. For years we just did service projects, such as raking leaves, and we looked for ways to connect. We raked a lot of leaves first before we got invited to do bigger things.

So you started developing relationships with people in the community.

Yes, with public schools, nonprofits and government agencies, and over the years our involvement grew. Now we are involved in 54 partnerships in town. I think one of the things that happens is that a church feels they want to help the homeless and they start a homeless ministry, but those who are already doing that see the church as a competition. So what we did was find out who were working with the disenfranchised kids or single moms and we came alongside them. We create relationships, and the more relationships we have, the more we can speak into how they do what they do.

Building relationships takes years, definitely not the easiest route to reaching people for Christ.

My advice to churches is if you’re going to be externally focused only for a day, maybe you shouldn’t do anything. Don’t just show up for one day and say you want to be helpful, but then you’re not there the rest of the time. At our church we look for ongoing ways with which we could serve. We have teams of people who help the facility staff at various schools, and what we find is they open the doors for more opportunities. They say, “We have this problem, will you help us?” But it takes some time for people to trust that you’re really going to be there and keep doing what you’re doing. So again back to that line, you rake a lot of leaves and eventually you get more opportunities.

Were people in the public schools and community agencies suspicious or resistant at first?

Yes, very much so. We went to the school district and asked if there was anything we could do to help, and they said they couldn’t really see what that would be — the whole church thing — they were not sure. But now they meet with us and give us a list of things to help them, and not just to fix broken things or paint walls, but they give us opportunities to help them with programming, resourcing, tutoring and after-school programs. I think if we do service for the sake of growing our church, we’ll miss out on its real value and power. What we create are relationships. Eventually, we get asked why we do what we do, then we get to talk about God’s grace and why we care.

Sometimes people in the church are not encouraged to do things for the community unless what they want to do aligns with the “vision” of the church.

One of the things we do is encourage all of our ministry areas to do something that’s externally focused. We don’t want to have a Department of Externally Focused. We want community service to be a part of who we are and what we value. We encourage people to find a place where God can use them to make a difference. Of course we can’t do everything, and in those cases we redirect them to similar kinds of things. And a lot of times people come with great ideas about what we ought to do, but they don’t really want to get involved. I’ve actually gotten better at saying “why don’t you make that happen and let us know how we can help you.” Whatever vision gets set for a local church, unless the leaders care about becoming connected to their community and becoming a part of the solution, the church is not going to have an impact.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


This article about the cancellation of a volunteer-driven event in our community prompted quite a few thoughts about the relationship between volunteers and the organizations with which they serve. - Tammie Gitt

For organizations

Communicate the need for new volunteers long before there’s a crisis.

Communicate that need in variety of media.

Know what you need from volunteers.

Be prompt in returning inquiries from potential volunteers, offering specific information about what they will be asked to do and when.

Don’t be so desperate for volunteers that you say yes to anything.

For potential volunteers

Don’t wait for announcements. If you support an organization by attending its activities, see how you can be involved.

Be patient when waiting for responses from the organization.

Know what talents/skills you can bring to the organization.

Don’t be so desperate to serve that you say yes to anything.

I’m sure there’s more. I’m sure I could go into a little more detail about some of these and I might do that in future posts. What tips do you have for organizations or for potential volunteers?

Tammie Gitt is a youthworker for the Churches of God serving in Cumberland County PA. She writes an excellent blog called living3368

Thursday, July 8, 2010


"80-20 is not a principle, it's a sin." - Ed Stetzer, addressing the Churches of God General Conference, June 26, 2010

"The opposite of hate is not love, it's indifference." - CSLewis

"We talk about the Second Coming: Half of the world has never heard of the first." - Oswald Smith


James Nored writes a number of blogs related to missional church outreach. Here is a recent posting.

In Defense of Missional - Why Is this still an important term?

So what is the big deal about "missional"? Why is this term even needed?

The term missional was not coined by marketers trying to sell religious books. While there were forerunners to the missional concept such as Leslie Newbigin and David Bosch, the seminal work that introduced the term was Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. In this work, written by the Gospel and Our Culture Network, the authors were seeking to describe the fundamental sent nature of the church, particularly in light of what the church in North America had become-a vendor of religious goods and services.

The term missional is from the Latin word, missio, which means "sent." From this term we derive the words "missionary" and "missions." While these terms are not translated as such in English Bibles, they could be, for they are roughly equivalent to the generic use of the term apostolos, or apostle, which also means one who is sent. See Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Silas (1 Thes. 2:6), and Andronicus and Junias, who were “outstanding among the apostles” (Rom. 16:6). All of the gospels and the book of Acts have versions of the Great Commission, in which the disciples, which represent the church, are sent into the world (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:8; Lk. 24:45-48). John’s gospel particularly brings out the concept of sending.
  • 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn. 20:21)

  • 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt a in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn. 16:7-8).

The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and the Son sends us. Thus, mission is rooted in the very nature of God. God is a sending God, and we are a sent people. The authors of Missional Church state this: “’Mission’ is not something the church does, apart of its total program. No, the church’s essense is missional, for the calling and sending action of God forms its identity.” –Missional Church

What are we sent to do? Well, Jesus, of course is our model for mission. And from Jesus’ own words, he came to do at least these three things: 1) seek and save the lost; 2) serve and give his life for others; and 3) proclaim the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God. The church is missional when its life and mission is modeled after the life and mission of Jesus Christ and does these things. There is much more, of course, to being a missional church, but this is a starting point.

So why is this such a necessary concept? Well, for centuries the church failed to see itself as being in a mission context. Under Christendom--where there was a blending of church and state and everyone was viewed to be Christian--churches were not set up aroudn mission. Their structure, budget, etc. was set up to be religious vendors, serving existing Christians. In the 18th century and on, there was a revival of "missions," but this was relegated to reaching the lost overseas.

In 20th century, the number of Christians and church goers began to shrink. With this environment, churches began to market themselves to Christians, seeking to attract more “consumers” (who were already Christian) for their product. Reaching the lost and serving the community was forgotten or relegated to a small sub-section of the church. Meanwhile, America became more and more unchurched.

The writers of Missional Church saw this environment and what the church had begun and wrote this work. They saw the need to “send” people across the street, as the US is now the 5th largest mission field in the world. By using the term missional church they wanted to help reshape people’s imagination from what the church had become—an inward-focused, vendor of religious goods and services to consumeristic Christians—to what God had intended for the church—to be a people whose purpose was to fulfill the mission of God. They write:

'Mission' means 'sending,' and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God's action in history . . . It has taken us decades to realize that mission is not just a program of the church. It defines the church as God's sent people. (p. 4-6)

So why keep the term?

  1. It helps people to check their idea of what church is. It does not exist for itself, but for God’s purposes for the world.

  2. It helps reshape the imagination. There is incredible power in language, which postmodernism has taught us. This term helps people imagine what the church is supposed to be.

  3. It provides an opportunity for teaching. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it provides a teaching moment to share God’s original vision for the church.

  4. It challenges the status quo. People may be comfortable with what their experience of church has been. They may not want anything to change in the church, because the rest of their lives have so much change. But change is absolutely necessary. We now live in a world in which for the first time in modern history we have 6 generations alive at the same time. The amount of information in the world doubles nearly every years. If we are to stay current, we must change. And God’s people have always grown the most when they have gotten outside of their comfort zone—when they are in the desert or facing persecution.

  5. It puts up front and center what the church is called to be—the people of God on mission. By referring to ourselves as a missional church, there should be no ambiguity as to what our central purpose should be. Those who are most excited about mission will get this. Those who are most consumeristic or believe that the church exists to serve itself will be the most resistant.

I recognize that missional church is a conceptual thought, and those that are intuitive, conceptual thinkers will be most drawn to it. Those that are more concrete thinkers will need to have more explanation. But this is good, as it provides a teaching moment. As I give Missional Outreach seminars around the country, I encourage people to use the term, as it is helpful, but to also explain the concept in many different ways. Always, of course, we should point people back to the life and mission of Jesus.

For myself, this is a profound part of my journey. I can remember reading Missional Church in 2000 as a part of, of all things, a congregational ministry class. Having grown up going on mission trips with Let’s Start Talking, it struck me, that this was exactly what the church was supposed to be. That we must see North America as a mission field, and all that we do should focus upon this mission. I know others that were struck by this as well.

Are some people jumping on a missional bandwagon and using the term in ways that they do not understand? Sure. But whether the term itself does or not, missional is a profoundly biblical-theological concept that will stand the test of time. And as for me? Well, I was missional before missional was cool. And as one who has led two churches directly in becoming outward-focused, and as one who gives missional outreach seminars around the country and attend conferences on this around the country, I can say that it is a term that helps reshape the imagination and motivate many people towards mission. It is not the only way to get across the concept, but it is a helpful term.

We absolutely cannot stay with the status quo. Church attendance in the US is 18%-20% and falling. Read my last blog post for additional stats. If we keep people in their comfort zone, we will continue to fail to reach the world for Christ. And our own children will suffer for it.

Go missional!

For more from James Nored go to NORED

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Will Mancini in The Clarity Coach web blog shares a letter from a pastor to his church that was seri0us about exegeting their culture.

Dear Co-Workers in Christ,

As an officer of the church your primary directive is to make disciples and to make decisions that make disciples. In other words, officers empower the congregation to look more to Jesus for guidance and more like Jesus in ministry.

Given that understanding, I want to invite you – challenge you, really – to join in an experience to which I have committed myself and the entire staff. Between now and the first Sunday in August, I want you to use one hour each week in a discernment project. I want each church officer to join our staff members in taking one hour each week to meet God at Wal-Mart.

That’s right. No joke. You are assigned to meet God at Wal-Mart. Here are the details.

Once a week, go across the freeway to the Wal-Mart. Spend an hour roaming the aisles and watching the shoppers and employees. Do not go in to shop. Do not get your groceries during that time. This is about people, not merchandise or purchasing or recreational browsing.

I want you make note of the people – their culture, socio-economics, dress, expressed values, perceived attitudes, what they seem to be interested/disinterested in. I want you to imagine what their lives are like leading up to their Wal-Mart visit and returning from their shopping.

As you observe the people, seek God out in prayer, asking, “God, what in the world does our church have to offer these people? What do we have to offer them and how would you want us to do that?” Then listen, and take note.

If the assignment is too confusing or complex, then do this – ask, “Where do I see Jesus today here at Wal-Mart?”

My hunch is that some of our assumed values and valued programs don’t/won’t play the same in that context. God might have something to say about that. We may get some reality checks, with may receive some insights and inspirations, we may even meet God at levels/dimensions where we have not before.

If you get bored with Wal-Mart or feel going there is too repetitive, I offer some alternatives. You are welcome to try the same thing at one or more of these places – Goodwill Industries Store or the nearby bowling alley.

You may want to take notes, keep a journal, or simply e-mail me as you have discoveries.

Hoping you see Jesus anew, Your Pastor