Here, There & Everywhere

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As a Director of Missions, I’m often asked the question, “Why should we engage in missions in other parts of the country and world when we have so many needs at home?”  Maybe you’ve been asked that question.  Maybe you’ve asked that question.  Let me just say that I love this question.  Because it gives me an opportunity to talk about God’s love for the whole world, not just my little part of it.

As I think about ways to respond to this question, I often think about verses like Psalm 96:1-3: “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”

I think about verses like John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I think about verses like Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

I think about verses like Romans 10:13-17: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

I think about verses like John 20:21: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’”

I think about verses like Luke 24:47: “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

I think about verses like Matthew 28:18-20: “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

But if I only have time to share one verse, I usually respond with Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

In this one verse, Jesus provides the church with our “missions roadmap.”  In other words, we are to be His witnesses here (locally), there (state & North America), and everywhere (all nations).  Notice that Jesus did not say that we are to be His witnesses in Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria or the ends of the earth.  No, He didn’t say or; He said and.

Which means that the answer to the question as to why we should engage in missions at home and in other parts of the country and world is because Jesus has commanded us to do so.  It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

Besides, if God so loved the world, His church should too.

Creating An Outward Focus For Your Church

What is the mission of the church?  That’s a big question, and it’s one that I won’t even attempt to fully answer in this post.  After all, entire books have been written on that topic!  But a quick summary is that the mission of the church should focus on the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ who can multiply themselves by making more disciples of Jesus Christ.  In other words, the church should exist to make disciples who make disciples.  And that mission applies both locally and globally.

That’s the heartbeat of most pastors and church leaders that I know.  But, it’s not necessarily the heartbeat of most churches.  In fact, it’s a common observation that churches tend to drift from an outward focus toward an inward focus over time, unless intentional steps are taken to maintain an outward focus.

So what do you do if you find yourself in a church that has experienced this “mission drift”?  How do you help change the culture slowly back to an outward, missional focus?  Consider some of these ideas to help get you started:

  1. Pray for a missional focus. We often have not because we ask not (James 4:2).  Spend time begging the Lord to stir the hearts of your church members toward a greater missional focus.  Use part of your weekly prayer meeting to specifically pray in this way. Consider sharing missional opportunities (both locally & globally) to pray for during these times.
  1. Assess your church’s current missional focus. Ask good questions.  What are some of the missions activities in which the church has had direct involvement during the past few years?  What percentage of the church’s budget is being spent on evangelism and/or missions?
  1. Rediscover your church’s mission (if necessary). Get a group of leaders together and talk about the mission of the church and how the church has been engaged in that mission in the past.  It’s probably the case that the church once had a very active missions/evangelism ministry.  Learn those stories, retell them to the congregation, and rediscover together what God has called your church to be and do.
  1. Continually raise awareness of lostness, both locally and globally. Share lostness stats and stories as often as you can and in as many settings as you can.  Make sure to describe the numbers in terms that are easily understood.  For example, instead of saying that your community is 92% unchurched, you could share that 11 out of every 12 people don’t go to church on any given Sunday.  You are saying the same thing, but in a way that is easily understood.
  1. Make organizational changes as necessary. Notice that this isn’t step #1, but it may be necessary to make some organizational changes.  Don’t make these decisions on your own, but build consensus that these changes are necessary to help accomplish your church’s mission before actually making the changes.
  1. Start small & create some easy wins. If you are not already doing so, involve your church in local missions projects.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter or pregnancy care center.  Pass out free bottles of water in the park.  Contact the local schools to see if there are any needs that you can help with.  Start small and build some momentum for missions!
  1. Develop strategic missions partnerships. Take Acts 1:8 as your missions roadmap and develop local, state, North American, and international partnerships.  Lead the church to pray, give, and go.
  1. Publicly recognize and celebrate members engaging in mission. I have heard it said that what gets celebrated is more likely to get emulated.  If you know of church members that have actively been engaged in missions & evangelism, make sure to tell those stories to your whole congregation!
  1. Anticipate opposition. Not everyone in your church will be happy when you begin to move from an inward to an outward focus.  Don’t be surprised when the opposition comes.
  1. Keep moving forward. Don’t be resistant to make changes or adjustments to your missions strategy if one particular missions initiative doesn’t produce the desired participation levels or faces significant opposition.  But, also don’t give up either!  Keep praying!  Keep sharing about the needs!  Keep providing opportunities to engage in mission!  Keep moving forward!

As Far As The East Is From The West: A New Study on Lostness in Kentucky

In December 2012, the Kentucky Baptist Convention released a report titled Lostness Indicators For Kentucky.  This report revealed that “many Kentuckians are unclaimed by any religious group, and most of those who identified with a religious group don’t attend services of any sort on a regular basis.

The report included a breakdown of all 120 Kentucky counties, using three metrics:

  • Percentage of population which self-identify as religious “Adherents”.
  • Percentage of population which self-identify as “Members” of a specific religious congregation.
  • Percentage of population which self-identify as regular “Attenders” of religious worship services.

The results from the report indicated that only 51.6% of Kentuckians are identified with any religious group, and only 13.9% of Kentuckians attend a religious gathering on a regular basis.  While these results were troubling enough, the county-by-county breakdown revealed that the percentages in some Kentucky counties were far worse.

Over the past few years, the findings from this report have been used by local pastors, Directors of Missions, as well as KBC leaders to raise awareness of the great spiritual darkness that still permeates the state.  And it served as a catalyst for the new study that I am releasing today.

The new study is titled “As Far As The East Is From The West”, and it expands the 2012 report in 3 significant ways:

  1. This new study examines the spiritual differences among the 6 geographic regions of the state identified by the Kentucky Baptist Convention as the “consultant regions.”  (See map below.)
  2. This new study takes into account not only the percentage of lostness in the 6 regions and the 120 counties, but also the population of lostness in the 6 regions and 120 counties.
  3. This new study identifies the regions and counties in Kentucky that are in most desperate need of intentional evangelism and church planting efforts.

You can read the full report here, but a quick summary is provided below.

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Population:

  • The Central region has the most people (1,303,806) while the South region has the fewest people (388,048).
  • The East region has the most counties (29) while the Central region has the fewest (15).

 

KBC Churches & Church Plants:

  • The West region has the most KBC churches (506) while the East region has the fewest (247).
  • The North Central region has the worst KBC church to population ratio (1:2886) while the South region has the best (1:888).
  • The Central region has the most KBC-funded church plants (20) while the East region has the fewest (1).

 

Lostness Indicators (By Percentage):

  • The East region has the lowest percentage of religious adherents (34.2%) while the West region has the highest (65.0%).
  • The East region has the lowest percentage of members (25.8%) while the West region has the highest (48.4%).
  • The East region has the lowest percentage of attenders (10.0%) while the West region has the highest (19.4%).
  • Nineteen out of the top 25 most lost counties (based upon percentage) are located in the East region.

 

Lostness Indicators (By Population):

  • The Central region has the most religious non-adherents (611,505) while the West region has the fewest (166,444).
  • The Central region has the most non-members (902,291) while the South region has the fewest (225,343).
  • The Central region has the most non-attenders (1,152,492) while the South region has the fewest (329,497).
  • The Central & North Central regions have the most counties (7 each) in the top 25 most lost (by population) while the South and West regions have the fewest (2 each).

 

Based upon all of this data, I developed a “church planting priority index” to be used to help identify the regions and counties that are in the most desperate need for intentional evangelism and church planting efforts.  Here’s what the data said:

Church Planting Priorities – By Region

  • Priority #1: East Region
  • Priority #2: North Central Region
  • Priority #3: Central Region

Church Planting Priorities – By County

  • Priority #1: Campbell County (North Central region)
  • Priority #2: Jessamine County (North Central region)
  • Priority #3: Bullitt County (Central region)
  • Priority #4: Rowan County (East region)
  • Priority #5: Pike County (East region)

Obviously, there is much more detail included in this study; this post is simply meant to be an introduction to the study.  I will publish several subsequent posts to discuss some fascinating observations from the report, but feel free to go and read the full report now:

New Report on Lostness in Kentucky

2012 Report on Lostness in Kentucky

Every Church On Mission Locally

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending an event at the North American Mission Board with approximately 100 other Directors of Missions from several states.  During our time together, I was reminded of the vision of this great missions organization: “Every Church On Mission”.

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It’s a simple, yet powerful statement.  The goal of the North American Mission Board is that every Southern Baptist church will be actively engaged in the mission of God through praying, giving, and going.  While I haven’t officially adopted this vision statement for the association that I serve, that is the goal that our association’s leaders have for the churches of the Pike Association as well.  In fact, I would hope that this would be the goal of every pastor: every church on mission, and ultimately, every believer on mission.

Being on mission can take several forms.  It may be local or global or anywhere in between.  Currently, our association is preparing for our second annual LoveLoud event, a local missions event in which individuals from our local churches take a week to blitz our communities with the love of Christ both in word and deed.

If you are looking for a great first step in leading your church to be on mission, local mission projects with other churches from your area is a great place to start.  Here are six benefits to partnering with other churches in order to be on mission locally:

1. Your church will experience an evangelistic spark.  When a church develops or regains an outward focus, good things usually happen.  By design, local mission projects are outward-focused.  If you need to become more evangelistic and outward-focused, local missions participation will certainly help!

2. Your church will develop a greater kingdom mindset, both locally and globally.  When local churches work together on different projects, folks begin to see that we are all in this together.  In other words, churches begin to see that we are in cooperation with sister churches, not in competition with them.  This is the greater kingdom mindset on a local scale.  On the global scale, as your church engages in mission locally, they will probably develop greater appreciation and support (in all of its forms) for our full-time NAMB and IMB missionaries as well.

3. The kingdom of darkness will be pushed back.  Just a little bit of research will reveal vast amounts of spiritual lostness right around your community.  The darkness is everywhere, but when local churches work together throughout a specified time frame, there is no doubt that the kingdom of darkness will be pushed back as the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in deed and in truth.

4. Your community will take notice.  Random acts of kindness certainly make an impact. No matter where you live, your church has tremendous opportunities to make a tangible impact on the people that live right around you!

5. Your church will gain ideas about projects that can be brought back and implemented in your church throughout the year.  Almost all mission projects can be reproduced as often as you like in your local church.  If you need ideas right now, click here.

6. God is glorified!  The Great Commission is not an optional endeavor for you or for me.  God has commanded us to live on mission for Him, both locally and globally.  As we do so, we proclaim the fame of Jesus’ name, and God is glorified.  There is no greater benefit than this!

Engaging in local missions is a great way to jumpstart (or restart) your church on its missions journey.  How have you partnered with other churches in your local area to be on mission together?

Praying For An Eastern Kentucky Harvest, Pt. 2

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Note: In Part 1 of this series, I briefly described 3 different components that should be present as we pray for a spiritual harvest in eastern Kentucky.  Part 2 deals with the first component: praying with the proper motivation.

As Jesus went about his ministry, crowds flocked to him.  In Matthew 9:36, we read how Jesus reacted to the crowds: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The term “shepherd” is frequently used in the Bible to describe spiritual leaders.  In fact, the Greek word translated as “pastor” in Ephesians 4:11 is translated as “shepherd” every other time that it appears in the New Testament.  And the crowds of Jesus’ day were supposed to have spiritual shepherds: the scribes and Pharisees.  However, these “shepherds” were anything but shepherds.  They were uncaring and unloving, and they spiritually abused the people with heavy burdens and rules that they could not keep.  Indeed, the crowds were sheep without a shepherd.  So, Jesus sees their helpless condition and he has compassion on them.

And just as Jesus’ compassion led to his command to pray, that same compassion is what must drive our desire to see a great spiritual harvest take place across eastern Kentucky.  But that will only happen when we begin to see the 781,000 unchurched people in our region the way that Jesus sees them.

And yet I have a confession to make.  I am often tempted to view the lost around me not with compassion, but with contempt.  In other words, I’m tempted to view them as my enemy.

In this political season, it is tempting for me to view those of a different political persuasion as my enemy.  It is tempting to view those who practice and promote an unbiblical view of marriage as my enemy.  It is tempting to view those who sacrifice their family to feed their addictions as my enemy.  And when I view them as my enemy, I’m not seeing them the way that Jesus sees them, and it will be very difficult to have compassion for them.

And yet the Apostle Paul identifies my true enemy in Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  In other words, the lost around us are not our true enemy; our battle is against the spiritual forces of evil.

But the sad reality is that all unbelievers have been blinded by our true enemy: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  If you were to see a blind man or woman about to step out into oncoming traffic, I’m sure you would do everything in your power to prevent them from doing so.  Why? Because you would have compassion on them because they could not see where they were going.

And Paul says that unbelievers today have been spiritually blinded and brutalized by our true enemy.  In a very real sense, they are casualties of war, harassed and helpless.  This is true for every lost person in eastern Kentucky and around the world.  They are headed down a path to destruction.  If they do not repent, they will perish.

And when we begin to see our lost friends and neighbors this way, we will begin to see them the way that Jesus sees them.  And when we see them the way that Jesus sees them, we will have compassion on them.  And when we have compassion for them, it will drive us to our knees in prayer.

That’s what it means to pray with the proper motivation.

In Part 3 in this series, we will examine how to pray with the proper understanding of the needs in eastern Kentucky.  Until then, please continue to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Praying For An Eastern Kentucky Harvest, Pt. 1

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Two months ago, I was invited to write an article about the church planting needs in eastern Kentucky for kychurchplanting.com, and I was happy to do so.  (You can read it here.)  I freely confess now that I have been amazed by the response to that article.  Since it was published, I have been contacted by church planters, pastors, missionaries, and others who share a common desire to see a church planting movement spread across the region.  And for that, I praise the Lord!

So, now that folks are starting to learn about the spiritual landscape in eastern Kentucky, where do we go from here?  As I mentioned at the end of the article, I firmly believe that a church planting movement will spread across the region only after God’s people fervently and frequently pray for such a movement.

However, as much as I want to see a church planting movement in eastern Kentucky, such a movement is severely deficient unless it coincides with a great spiritual harvest of souls.  But the good news is that if we witness a great spiritual harvest, I believe that we will also witness a church planting movement throughout the region.  In other words, I don’t believe that we will see one without the other.  Therefore, I want to spend the next few posts describing how I believe that God would have us pray to that end.

In Matthew 9:35-38, we read: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’

 In this familiar passage, I believe we can see 3 different components that should be present as we pray for a great spiritual harvest in eastern Kentucky:

  1. Pray with the proper motivation.
  2. Pray with the proper understanding.
  3. Pray with the proper goal.

I will cover each of these in greater detail over the next few posts, but here is a brief summary:

Prayer Component #1: Praying with the Proper Motivation

Jesus saw that the crowds were spiritual orphans.  Because of this, he had compassion on them.  As you and I pray for a great spiritual harvest across eastern Kentucky and beyond, we must do so because of our love and compassion for our lost neighbors.

Prayer Component #2: Praying with the Proper Understanding

Jesus states the situation very well: “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  That was true in the first century and it is certainly true today.  I’ll share more about the vast amounts of lostness throughout the region in a later post, but according to Census Bureau data and the Glenmary Report, approximately 781,000 of the 872,000 Kentuckians who live east of I-75 are unchurched.  The fields truly are white unto harvest.  Therefore, we must pray with this understanding in mind.

Prayer Component #3: Praying with the Proper Goal

Because of his compassion and his proper understanding of the needs, Jesus commands his disciples to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  That’s the goal: more laborers to be sent out into the harvest throughout eastern Kentucky.  As these laborers are sent, our current churches should become healthier and more evangelistic.  But many of these sent ones will also start new churches, and these new churches have the potential to reach many people with the gospel as well.

My heart still aches for the people of eastern Kentucky, and I now know that many others share that burden as well.  May we unite our hearts in prayer to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest on a daily basis!  Will you pray with me?

Note: Part 2 in this series will be coming soon.

A Wordless Gospel?

Have you ever heard the old saying, “Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words”?  It’s a catchy phrase that has been quoted in churches and small groups for many years.  While I understand the point attempting to be made that Christians need to walk the walk if we are going to talk the talk, this catchy saying needs to be retired.  Permanently.

In his book Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear explains why:

Our ministry begins with, and focuses on, testifying to what Christ has done.  Any “service” to our community that does not make that message clear disserves them. Acts of kindness apart from the gospel only make people more comfortable on their way to hell.

Maybe you’ve heard the old adage attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words.” Quaint and tweetable, but very wrong. You cannot preach the gospel without words. The gospel is an explanation about an act that occurred in history once and for all. We testify through words that Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves by living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died, in our place, so that others can believe that message and trust in it. Saying, “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words,” is like me saying, “Tell me your phone number; if necessary, use digits.”  Apart from digits, there is no phone number. Apart from words, there is no gospel.

Amen!  If there are no words, then there is no gospel.  That’s basically what Paul said in Romans 10:13-17: “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Amen! Faith comes from hearing words.  In particular, the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, you cannot preach the gospel without words.

Still, we cannot ignore the intention of the saying above.  We must preach the gospel using words, but our lives must reflect the message that we proclaim to others.  It’s not either/or, but both/and.  We must proclaim the gospel AND live a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).

The best definition of evangelism that I have ever heard comes from my former seminary professor Chuck Lawless, who said this: “Evangelism is being, doing, and telling the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is never less than the telling of the good news, but assumed is a lifestyle that supports the message.”

Preach the gospel; words are necessary so use them as you live your life on mission for Him!

Engaging Your Church in Local Missions

LoveLoud 2015

In my role as a Director of Missions, I work to engage the churches of my local association in an intentional Acts 1:8 missions strategy.  Recently, we conducted a local missions event called “LoveLoud Pike”, which included 3 days of missional service by members of our local churches serving our local communities.  Our projects consisted of 3 types:

  1. Evangelism & Outreach
  2. Community Service
  3. Construction

Our biblical motivation came from 1 John 3:18, which states “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.”  In other words, we did not just want to say that we love our local communities, but we wanted to prove it by our deeds.  I have listed below some of the projects that our teams participated in.  All of these can be easily reproduced in your church or local association:

  1. Light bulb giveaway – It’s probably a safe guess that you have at least one blown light bulb in your house. The same is probably true for your neighbors as well. Purchase some light bulbs and pass them out to folks, free of charge.  It may just open up an opportunity for you to tell them about the light of the world as well!
  1. Water bottle giveaway – This is especially effective on hot, summer days. Go to a local park or any place where people are gathered outdoors and pass out free bottles of water.  And look for an opportunity to tell them about the One who can give them Living Water!
  1. Free car wash – Grab a bucket, some sponges, a water hose, and some signage, and get to work. This project takes very little prep work, but can be very effective, especially when people find out that it’s free!  People will ask you what the catch is, and they will all but throw money at you, but do not accept money under any circumstances.  Simply explain that God’s grace is free, and so is the car wash!
  1. Community service projects – Contact your local school board or government officials and ask if there are any projects that you can do around their schools, businesses, or parks. Our teams painted, cut weeds, filled potholes, and did lots of landscaping, simply because we asked how we could serve our neighbors.
  1. Neighborhood landscaping – Grab some weed killer and start walking through neighborhoods. Once you see a home that could use a little help, simply knock on the door to ask the homeowner if you can spray or pull up their weeds.  Again, do not accept payment!  (Note: we ran out of weed killer on other projects before actually engaging in this project, but we look forward to doing it next time.)

The possibilities are endless, but these are just 5 examples to get you thinking about ways that your church can engage in local missions.  It’s not rocket science; it just takes a little gospel intentionality!

What are some ways that you or your church engages in local missions?  I’d love to hear from you!

Cultivating A Culture of Evangelistic Prayer in Your Church

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Making disciples.  That’s the Great Commission in a nutshell.  And yet while it can be summarized in two simple words, countless books have been written to describe the many facets of the Great Commission.  It’s not my intent to address all of those facets in this post however.  My purpose in this post is to address what I believe to be one of the Great Omissions of the Great Commission and that is compassionate, intentional, evangelistic prayer.

In Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus sees the crowds all around him, and he has compassion for them for they are like sheep without a shepherd.  His compassion for them is what leads him to say to his disciples in verses 37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Commenting on this verse, David Platt says:

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Here’s the harvest, now go!’ Instead, He says, ‘Here’s the harvest, now pray.’ Jesus will eventually get to the ‘go’ part, but first His followers must be on their knees, asking and pleading with God to send out workers.  This is precisely what we should be doing in our churches as we seek to send people out regularly into this dark world to proclaim the gospel.

And yet this type of prayer is often missing in a typical church prayer meeting.  I’ve heard it said that churches often pray more to keep saints out of heaven than to keep sinners out of hell.  So, the question is how can you cultivate a culture of evangelistic prayer in your church?  Here are some quick ideas to get started:

  1. Teach on the topic of prayer. Specifically, teach on the need for compassionate, intentional, evangelistic prayer.  Use passages like Matthew 9:35-38 or Luke 10:2.
  2. Model evangelistic prayer for your church. Your church members will follow your example.  If they hear you regularly praying with an evangelistic emphasis, they will be much more likely to do so as well.
  3. Be disciplined in your prayer meeting. Set aside a portion of your regular prayer meeting to pray specifically for the lost by name.  Stay disciplined and do this before allowing anyone to share “normal prayer requests” such as health, financial, or emotional concerns.
  4. Conduct a commissioning service. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, every member of your church is “either a missionary or an imposter.”  Indeed, God’s people are a sent people (John 20:21).  With that thought in mind, consider holding a special commissioning service for all of your church members.  Pray over them and send them out into your community!
  5. Utilize technology. Technology is your friend. Part of NAMB’s TenTwo prayer initiative is for believers to pray Luke 10:2 at 10:02 each day.  Utilizing your smartphone, you can set a daily reminder to help you to remember to pray for more workers.  You can also utilize social media to periodically remind church members to pray evangelistically as well.

These are just some ideas to get you started.  What are some other ways to cultivate a culture of evangelistic prayer in the church?

Does Your Church Pay, Pray, and Stay Out of the Way?

Is your church missions-minded?  If you are part of a typical church, the answer may very well be that your church is more missions-minded than you think, but not in the way that you think.

In his book The Sending Church, Pastor Pat Hood said this about his church:

We were missions-minded because missions was on our mind, but that was about it. We thought about missions, but we didn’t do missions. We became painfully aware of the fact that giving money so others can do missions is a good thing, but it’s a bad thing if it becomes the only thing…somewhere along the line, many churches basically abdicated their responsibility to do missions to a mission sending agency. The churches responsibility was reduced to “pay, pray, and stay out of the way.”  (108-109)

Does this sound like your church?  If so, you’re not alone.  Most of the churches that I have worked with find it much easier to pay, pray, and stay out of the way rather than personally getting involved in the mission.  The church that is actively engaged in praying, giving, and going is certainly the exception, not the rule.  But my prayer is for a few more exceptions, and I hope that is your prayer as well.

So, how can you lead your church to pray, give, and go?  Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it?  (Some of you may get the reference; I had to look it up!)  The fact is there is no easy answer to this question.  But, one of the goals of this blog will be to revisit this issue again and again in order to start a dialogue among pastors and church leaders.  My hope is that as others share, you may learn something that may help you in your particular ministry situation.

This is certainly not the silver bullet, but here are some quick recommendations.  (After #1, the rest are in no particular order.)

  1. Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers from your church into His harvest (Luke 10:2). Start here, but don’t stop here.  Keep praying!
  2. Begin to cast a vision in your church for the lostness in your community, town, city, or state as well as North America and the world. Utilize any available denominational resources as well as Census Bureau data to help discover these numbers.
  3. Identify church members who are passionate about doing missions. Find these people and get them in a room together.  Amazing things just might happen!
  4. Start small. Consider involving your church in a local ministry such as a homeless shelter, pregnancy care center, or food pantry.  Just give your members the opportunity to go outside the four walls of your church building, and see how God stirs their hearts for something greater!
  5. Be patient. The culture of your church won’t change overnight. Be patient and celebrate the small victories!

What would you add to this list?  How have you led your church to pray, give, and go?