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Evangelism 101: The Power of Questions

1409010_84143580Our church is finishing up a sermon series called “Wildfires.”  The purpose of the series was to light a fire inside of Christians and motivate them to go out into the world and win people for Christ.  It was incredibly inspirational and convicting to me.  So I wanted to take a few posts and hit on some of the highlights of the series and present them here for you, as I believe these are some great points that all Christians should think about.  From a recent sermon comes a quote from my amazing pastor, Darrin Ronde.  “You need to know what’s in people’s hearts before they know what’s in your head.”

This statement was made to emphasize the power of questions in evangelism.  Sometimes, we as Christians, and I especially mean myself here, come with prepared sermons that we have just been waiting for a chance to preach.  So instead of listening to people and meeting them where they’re at, we tend to launch right in to the gospel message, usually leading off with the fact that everyone is a sinner and in need of a savior.  But in Acts chapter 8, Philip to a different approach in his witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch.

“Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  The man replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30-31 NLT)

Philip didn’t just launch into a pre-made evangelistic approach.  He didn’t recite anything from a script.  He simply asked a question.  The eunuch was already reading from the book of Isaiah and Philip simply asked if he understood what he was reading.  That simple question helped him to see where the eunuch was at that moment in time.  This has such an important application in our lives.  We need to take the time to find out where people are.  We need to discover what questions are in their hearts and then take it from there.

For example, if a friend of yours comes with you to church, after the service you could start with a questions like, “So, what did you think of what the pastor preached?”  Or if your friend or acquaintance is commenting on the sad state of the world with all the crime and corruption, maybe you could ask a question like, “Why do you think there’s all this crime?” or “What do you think the solution for all the crime is?”

I’m sure that you can tailor your questions based on your friends and their reactions to certain topics.  But the point is, don’t just launch into a sermon.  Ask questions.  Find out where people are and the questions on their hearts and address that.  They don’t care how many Scriptures you have memorized and how much stuff you know and how many random Bible facts you can spout.  But if you take the revelation that they’ve given you and meet them at that spot, then you have a chance of connecting with them on a deep level and a realistic chance of leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Don’t underestimate the power of questions in your evangelistic efforts.

 
 

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Wash Your Mouth Out!: What You Say is Who You Are

77711_7264“You brood of snakes!  How could evil men like you speak what is good and right?  For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34 NLT)

Harsh words.  Perhaps what makes it worse is that Jesus is actually speaking to the spiritual elite, the Pharisees.  These are people who know all about the law of God.  In fact, they know it so well that they devised more laws just to keep people as far as possible from breaking the original laws.  Yet still there hearts were not right and Jesus points this out to them by showing them their speech.  The words they spoke were hateful and condemning while they professed to love God.  The thing is, it can’t work both ways.  I’m discouraged to see how some Christians are living their verbal lives.

I was recently encouraged by my friend and mentor Matt Ross (worship pastor at Pike’s Peak Christian Church) to be bold for Christ.  So, to put his advice into action, let me make a bold statement:  What you say is a direct reflection of what is in your heart.  (Not my words, Jesus’, again see Matthew 12:34)  I know that it’s not easy to reign in your tongue, especially if foul language was a big part of your speech prior to coming to Jesus.  But as Christians, we are called to watch what we say.

As far as I can tell, there’s three main areas where we fall short as Christians in regards to our speech: Complaining, Cursing, and Crassness.  Some people only struggle with one or two of these, some with all three.  Either way, I want to show you a couple of verses regarding these.  Remember, I am not condemning, in fact, I struggle with one myself: Complaining.  That’s why I put it first on our list.

Complaining

I’ve written about this subject before and my struggles with it.  I find myself complaining sometimes about the most insignificant of things.  I allow myself to get overwhelmed with life and then I can do nothing but complain about everything.  Paul talks about his in his letter to the Philippians.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)  It’s pretty clear in this verse that we are to be thankful for everything God has done in our lives.  But the opposite of thankfulness is complaining.  You can’t do both at the same time.  Try it!  There’s no possible way to earnestly thank God for something while at the same time whining about it.

As I have said before, this is my biggest area of struggle.  There’s nothing easy about it.  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try.  I often fail and find myself whining or complaining about something, but the Lord is faithful to convict me and bring me to a place of repentance.

Cursing

I am shocked and amazed at how much foul language has polluted our Christian culture.  It’s gotten so bad that there are some pastors who openly curse from the pulpit just to be more relatable to the culture.  Here’s a news flash for you: “DON’T COPY THE BEHAVIORS AND CUSTOMS OF THIS WORLD.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)  Are you kidding me?  God calls us to be holy and separate from the world and Christians are trying to do everything they can to blend in with the culture.  Christianity is not guerilla warfare!  We are called to be a shining light, an example of His glory.  (Matthew 5:14)  We are told to be the city on the hill that can’t be hid.  We shouldn’t be slinking down into the background, hoping to not offend people by standing up for God.  But are we just offending God by standing up for our rights to be a part of this wicked world?

“Sometimes it (our tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”  (James 3:9-10 NLT)

How can we fulfill the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving others if we are cursing others and speaking against those who God created?

“Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

Remember the old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?  I wish that more Christians would heed this advice.  If you spew curse words and demeaning speech from your mouth, polluting the air with the words of the world, are you building people up?  Are you encouraging those around you?  If not, then keep your lips together.  How can you claim to spread the Word of God out of the same mouth that sprays filth?

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, (or say) do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

Crassness

The dictionary defines crassness as: so crude and unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility.  When we hear or see something crude are we drawn to it?  Do we then turn around and share it with our friends?

What we really need is a filter.  Not a moral filter, not an ethical filter, but a Jesus filter.  We are called to have the same mind as Christ.  (Philippians 2:5)  If Jesus wouldn’t say it, then neither should we.  Remember, it’s our job to build others up with our words, not lead them into temptation and cause them to sin by forcing them to hear the evil that comes from our mouths.

I realize that this post sounds harsh and I’m sure that there are those of you who agree whole-heartedly with what the Bible tells us to do.  But I am just as sure that there are those who will read this and feel as though I am trying to infringe on their Christian liberty to speak how they wish.  Either way, your actions are accountable to God, not me.

What I have provided here is not my opinion, but the very words of God regarding how we are to speak. So it is my fervent prayer that all Christians will heed this article and begin to change what they say, so as to constantly bring glory to God and stand as a shining light for all the world to see, and bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. Amen.

 

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Is Serving God Really A Privilege?

1411635_57097477I find myself praying every week before I go out on stage to sing and play with the praise band.  Praying itself is not what I’m second guessing right now; it’s the content of my prayers.  You see, I pray every week and thank God for the privilege to serve Him.  I thank Him for using me and letting me be part of the ministry.  I thank Him for letting me lead others into worship and for the chance to share my faith with those around me.  But I began to think recently, is it really a privilege to serve God.

Now, before those of you who are Christians get defensive on me and flag me as a heretic and blasphemer, let me explain.  I don’t think that serving is a privilege, I think it’s a requirement.  I came to this realization when I was listening to a Joyce Meyer session in which she said that she was handing out job applications for God.  That hit me pretty hard.  For the longest time, I had been living like salvation was just something that I got.  I received salvation, I believed in Christ, my job was done.

But in fact, my job is just beginning.  Salvation isn’t a word or a promise or a prayer.  Salvation is a lifestyle.  I know, I know.  I can hear you now saying that if salvation is a lifestyle, that means that I believe in a salvation based on works.  Again, let me explain.  The Bible says in numerous places that our outward actions are a reflection of the great work that Christ has done in us.  (James 2:14-17; James 2:26; Matthew 7:21-23)

The Bible also says that even if we profess to be Christians but don’t have the fruit to show for it, then we are actually dead and should be cut from the vine.  (Matthew 7:17; John 15:1-27; Galatians 5:22)

So I am not saying that you must have good works to be saved, but I am saying that good works is the outward proof of the change that is in you.  If things don’t change on the outside, there has been no change on the inside.  Both cannot coexist in the same body: works of the flesh and works of the spirit.

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NLT)

As Christians, it is our responsibility to live differently from the rest of the world.  We are told to let our let shine.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NLT)

Ok, so now that you can see that we are supposed to be different from the world, what does that have to do with serving in the church?  Good question.  As you can see, I’ve been using a ton of Scripture here to back this up because I don’t want anyone to think that I’m preaching some agenda or ulterior motive.  This is a revelation that came to me.  If you wish to heed this, then that’s great!  But if you want to ignore it, then that is between you and God and not for me to judge.  I will love you as a brother or sister either way.

So here’s my conviction.  Peter says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT)  What I didn’t see from this verse, or any of the surrounding verses, is an exclusion clause.  Peter is saying that God has given each of His children a gift, and that we have a responsibility to use that gift to the glory of God.  I believe that this doesn’t just imply, but commands us to serve in the church in some capacity or another.

I truly believe that if you show up every Sunday, sit through the service, and then go home, and this is your routine week in and week out, then you’re probably not using your gift to its fullest potential, if at all.  Each of us should be serving in some capacity.  I will leave it up to you to decide the gifts that God has given you and how best to use them.

Before I sound ungrateful, let me say that I do count it a privilege to be able to serve my Lord on a weekly basis.  I am completely humbled that God would use me in a way that would bring glory to His name.  I do believe that I am called, as a child of God, to serve Him, but I also count it a privilege to be able to do the work of the Father in the capacity that I do.

I have no idea whether this will help anyone or not, but in my mind, I have begun to look at my service in a whole new light.  It’s not that I’m volunteering to serve or just serving to fulfill some sort of spiritual requirement, I do it because it is my job as part of the family of God.  And I’m honored that He has given me the privilege to spend my days serving and worshipping Him!

Lord, please help me to have a grateful heart of a servant.  Help me to view my service as more than a volunteer position for my resume, but as a responsibility that I have to serve you and to serve others as well.  Continue to humble me as I strive to live each day in service to you.  Amen.

 

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My Redeemed Personality: The Two Sides of Me

858531_45466427At a recent church retreat, after a whole weekend of great teachings and in-depth prayer times, all of the attendees gathered for the final session.  The worship was heart-felt and the prayers were sincere.  The teaching was inspired.  At the end of the session, everyone bowed their heads in silent prayer while the teacher stood at the front, coaching those who might not know how to pray or what to pray for.

He would throw out suggestions like praying for those who are unsaved in your circle of influence.  Pray for missionaries who are risking their lives to spread the Gospel around the world.  Pray for those running our country.

Then he made it personal.  He asked everyone to pray for forgiveness for being angry with people.  Pray for forgiveness for envy, for strife, for un-confessed sins that maybe have been forgotten or excused away by rationalizations.

While I don’t disagree with asking for forgiveness for those things, I began to think back to my Bible reading.  I remember reading how Jesus got angry at Peter.  (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33)  I know that I’ve read, on several occasions about the wrath of God.  (Ezekiel 25:17)  God even referred to Himself as jealous. (Exodus 20:5, 34:14)  But how is this possible?  How can God declare Himself to be something that I am told to pray forgiveness for as it is unholy?

The answer lies in redemption.  “And through Him (Christ) God reconciled everything to Himself.”  (Colossians 1:20 NLT)  I emphasize the word ‘everything’ because it is an all-inclusive term.  When we receive Christ, there is no part of us left untouched by that redemptive work.

Rory Noland, in his book “The Heart of the Artist,” points out that we often categorize people by personality traits.  “That guy is a hot-head,” or “She’s so emotional,” or “I can’t believe how stubborn he is.”  In each of those three examples, the connotation is obviously negative.  But aren’t those traits also exhibited by Jesus when he walked the Earth?

Anger: “Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple.  He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.” (John 2:15 NLT)

Emotion: “He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44 NLT)  John also accounts, in chapter 11, verse 35, that Jesus wept over the death of His dear friend Lazarus.

Stubbornness: “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you.  And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”  “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”  (Matthew 4:3-11)  Even through hunger and exhaustion, Jesus was able to stubbornly ward off the Devil’s attacks

So, how is this possible?  Because when Jesus redeemed us, He redeemed ALL of us, including our personality.  Is anger a sin?  Not if it is done within the holy context of Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 4:26 tells us that anger becomes a sin when we let it control us.  How could anger possibly be a sin if: a) Jesus Christ was angry at many people during His Earthly ministry, yet He never sinned; b) we inherently have within us the propensity towards anger in regards to things that offend us.  Isn’t that what angers God?  Isn’t sin that offends Him?  If we are like-minded with Christ, then the things that offend Him will offend us.

Although I feel it is important to keep emotions such as anger in check, I do not believe that we should write them off completely, throwing them into the sin drawer with the rest of the forbidden transgressions.  Instead, we should take stock of our feelings and measure them up against our ultimate examples: God the Father and His perfect Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

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The Helpless Christian: A Believer’s Response to Tragedy

458794_72242887It was just days ago that a terrible storm ripped through parts of Oklahoma, sending tornadic tentacles down to Earth to destroy everything they could reach.  Over twenty people lost their lives, many of them children.

Just a few weeks ago, a friend and co-worker of mine from a couple of years ago was murdered in her apartment.  She was just twenty-years-old when someone, in a fit of rage and senseless violence, decided to take her away from this world.

It was almost one year ago that a giant wildfire blazed through the west side of Colorado Springs, killing two people and destroying over three hundred homes.

Tragedies are real.  There is no use denying it.  Jesus confirmed this when he said, “Here on Earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.” (John 16:33 NLT)  There are many different articles and schools of thought that ponder the origins of tragedy and why we must endure them.  Although I will be happy to lend my voice to this conversation, the purpose of this writing today is to ask, what is in my opinion, a more pertinent question: What are we, as Christians, suppossed to do in the wake of tragedy.

Before moving on to the meat of this post, I feel as though I should at least address the elephant in the room.  Why would a good God allow tragedy to happen?  While I cover this in more depth in my forthcoming book The Great God Deception, I will try my best to simplify it here.  But be warned, if you are looking for a comprehensive response as to why God allows tragedy and sorrow into our lives, you are going to be disappointed.  There is not enough space in this post to fully discuss that topic plus give the attention necessary to the main point of this post.

So, why does God allow tragedy into our lives?  The short answer: sin.

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.  Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.”  (Romans 5:12 NLT) Without sin, there would be no tragedy, no death.  That passage goes on to say that death spread to everyone, whether they knew about the law or not.  Tragedy is not a respecter of persons.  It does not see race, religion, or gender.  We are all afflicted by the terminal condition of sin.

How could death and tragedy be a part of God’s will?  The short answer: it’s not.

God tends to become the world’s scapegoat when things go awry.  Why else would natural disasters and lightning strikes be deemed “Acts of God”?  Aethiests and skeptics often use tragedy as an attempt to discredit the character of God, proclaiming that a God that proclaims to be love would never let such horrible things happen to good people.

Even Christians jump on the bandwagon, using phrases such as: “Praise God, anyways” or “It was the will of God.”  To those Christians I must firmly say, “STOP TALKING!”  How can, as children of God, possibly think that it was God’s will that bad things happen?  2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to perish or be destroyed, but that He wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of Him.

We all know John 3:16, but if we read down one more verse, we learn that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, the but to save it.  So please, please, please, please stop telling people that their tragic loss is a result of the perfect will of God.

Now, that being said, God does have the ability to use tragedies to work out his will.  A perfect example of this is in the story of Joseph.  In Genesis chapter 50, Joseph reassures his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (vs. 20 NLT)

People have free will.  God allows us to make our own decisions about our lives, even though they often go against Him and His plan for us.  It was not God’s will for Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, that would mean that God planned out an evil act.  But God was able to use that situation to bring Joseph to a position of authority, allowing him to save many lives during the famine.

So what, then, should we as Christians do in the wake of tragedy?  

There is no right answer as each tragedy, and the people involved, will require a different and unique response.  But there are a few things that we need to keep in mind as we deal with those who have just gone through a tragedy, or as we try to reconcile ourselves with a terrible incident.

Jeff Miller, in his post 9/11 article, advises us that we need to be humbled before God, standing in awe at his mighty power.  “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”  (Psalm 8:4 NLT)  This statement by David was made after he looked up to the night sky and was in awe of the fact that he served a God who not only created every star in the sky, but also kept them in place.

In the grand timeline of history, we are nothing more than a pin prick.  The great oceans, the Rocky Mountains, the great sands of the Sahara: all these were created by God for His glory.  We should be awestruck every day that the same God who made everything that ever was and ever will be wants to have a personal relationship with us.

He is not the cause of tragedy, but He will be there to comfort us when hard times fall.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1 NLT)  Don’t be afraid to call on God when you need Him.  There is only one who can comfort us, only one who truly gives peace. (Philippians 4:7 NLT)

As far as how we treat others who are in the midst of tragedy, honesty is always the best policy.  It’s ok to admit that you don’t know why God allowed this into their life.  It’s ok to say that it doesn’t make sense to you either.  Christians are not robots.  We feel.  We hurt.  Putting on a brave facade, pretending that we are above that pain thanks to our faith,  is a disservice to God and the church.

Some Christians even come across as flipant, declaring that we should expressively praise the Lord right at the time of suffering.  Not only is this insensitive, but it is also warned against in Proverbs.  “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar on a wound.”  (Proverbs 25:20 NLT)  While it’s true that God will eventually bring about blessings from this pain for those who love Him (Romans 8:28 NLT), it’s not always easy for people to see that in the midst of their pain.  We need to be sensitive to people and their needs during hard times.

Everyone is different, so they way they handle trials will also be different.  The best thing we can do for people is to pray for them.  “Are any of you sick?  You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, annointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.  Confess your sins to eachother and pray for eachother so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  (James 5:14-16 NLT)

Prayer is the only thing we can offer those who are suffering.  Our words, our actions, our comfort will always fall short.  Only God can comfort, only He can provide peace.  We must put ourselves aside and give God a chance to shine through the pain of tragedy.  For it is only through Him that glory can come from pain.

 

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Reaching out with social media: The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Church Marketing

1383208_93464262While doing some research on church marketing, I’ve come across a surprising number of articles condemning the practice.  To say that I’m shocked about this would be an understatement.  Any church that thinks it can just sit there during the week, then open its doors on the weekend can somehow change the community and throngs of thirsty seekers will eagerly beat a path to the altar, are arrogant beyond words.

The fact is, every church does marketing, whether intentionally or not.  A church who sits idly by, waiting for people to come to them , is marketing the impression that they don’t care enough about people to go out and bring them in.  Conversely, a church that goes too far, and misrepresents their church and their ministry just to get people in the door, is marketing itself as a place that cares more about butts in seats than it does actually reaching the lost.

Regardless of what you do, or do not do as a church, you are marketing.  Doesn’t it then make sense that you do everything in your power to make sure that your church is being represented in the best way possible?

Why should the church focus on marketing?  Because if we don’t focus on it, then we will be misrepresented by it.  Brad Abare and Kevin Hendricks hit it on the head: “Sadly, one of the church’s greatest shortcomings is failure to market itself authentically and effectively. You’ve read the bulletin bloopers. You’ve seen the typos, bad clip art, poor layouts, a sense of superiority. It’s easy to do marketing badly. But there’s also the tendency toward airbrushed perfection, pressed suits and coiffed hair and multicultural pictures that don’t match the Sunday morning reality.”

If the church doesn’t care whether or not words are spelled correctly on a bulletin or on the website, why would anyone assume they care about much else?

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10 NLT

This is not just a good rule that we as Christians should live by, but it is a nugget of common sense that even the most devout hater of God can apply to their lives. Meaning: if an unbeliever can’t trust the church to put out grammatically correct and truthfully representative materials, then why would they trust the church with their souls?

I know that it sounds like this is a pretty negative post, but I really want to drive the point home.  A church must make every effort to manage and maintain their appearance in the community, both physically and digitally; because, in the end, we are not representing a church, we are representing God.

Now that we know that the church should be marketing, how do we go about it?  There are so many tools available to churches these days.  Facebook, online blogs, forums, websites, newsletters, podcasts, are just some of the avenues in which a church can get involved and get the Word out.  Let’s look more in-depth at a couple of these options.

Facebook

with over one billion users on Facebook, it is pretty safe to assume that most, if not all of your congregation is on there too.  Creating a fun and interactive Facebook page can be a great way to keep in contact with your members.  Posting frequently can keep people up-to-date on what is happening at the church, provide a forum for prayer requests to be shared, allow people to share their testimonies, and even provide people from outside of your church the ability to catch a glimpse of the community of believers.

But as much as a wee-managed Facebook page can help reach out to church members, a poorly updated and hard to navigate page will deter people, even your own members, from wanting to get involved.

Blogs

I have seen many pastors starting to do this and I think it is a wonderful tool.  It gives the pastor a chance to share what’s on his heart on a regular basis.  My favorite thing to see on a church blog is the transcript of the prior weeks sermon.  It is nice to be able to see what others are preaching about.  I have also used many sermon transcripts for research in some of my writings.  They provide a powerful learning tool.  And a pastor who updates or comments on the blog will be able to keep the message in front of people for the entire week.

Websites

Googling “bad church websites” will give you over four million results.  Needless to say, the church has become synonymous with tacky, poorly done, and just plain bad websites.  Justin Wise breaks down four of the biggest mistakes of church websites:

1. The website is a ghost town.  This is where the basics are left off of the site. e.g. contact information, email address, service times, etc.  They aren’t always left off, sometimes they are just well hidden amongst the plethora of pages one can choose from.

2. The website is an eyesore.  With inexpensive templates and free WordPress programs, there is no excuse to have an unappealing website.

3. The website is a bottleneck.  This occurs when information is difficult to find or lost in the infrastructure of the site.

4. The site in an ‘American Idol’ contest.  I’ll just let Justin say it, “Out of all the foibles we’ve mentioned so far, I think this one might be the most painful. Your living, breathing organizational representation trots out onto the world’s stage, only to get pummeled critics and congregation members alike. Why? Because no one on staff thinks the website is ‘that bad’.”  Well said, Justin, well said.

So what now?  Now you fix it!  If you look, it shouldn’t be too hard to see where the troubles lie.  Most of these programs like Facebook and WordPress are fairly intuitive and can be learned by most people.  If there are neither the time nor resources to do it yourself, there are some people who could do it for you. Outsourcing your writing needs is more economical than hiring a new staff member or taking time away from an administrative assistant just to have them work on something they may, or may not be good at.  In the end, how you deal with these deficiencies is up to you.  But please don’t wait!  Let’s join together in taking pride in how we represent ourselves, our churches, and our God.

 

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Reaching out with social media: Who the church should be targeting

reachingIn a recent post, I talked about the reasons why the church should be involved with a well-organized social media campaign. It dawned on me after publishing that article that I could, and should, delve a little deeper into the three areas that I addressed in that post. So, here it goes.

The first thing to identify is: Why should the church be involved with social marketing, and who should they be trying to reach?

Ron Edmondson talks about the importance of an online presence when he says, “Seriously, I don’t see how a church can expect to meet new people without a Web site. The majority of people these days will check out a church’s Web site before they ever visit the church. If there is no Web site…no visit.” Although I think that this concept can be assigned to blogs and Facebook pages as easily as to websites, the principle remains the same: the church must remain relevant in today’s society. Christians and non-Christians, churched and un-churched, everyone uses the internet and social media. If the church fails to develop an online presence, then they are failing to allow Christians seeking a home church or non-believers who are seeking answers the opportunity to find what they are looking for.

This leads us to the second part of our question: who should the church be trying to reach with social media? The short answer: everyone. A church has the unique position of being able to reach a lot of people with minimal effort through the avenue of social media. This position comes with an extraordinary responsibility. As God has allowed social media to become the preeminent means of communication in the world today, the church has the responsibility of being a good steward of that technology.

That being said, let’s break down the three general groups of people that the church should be trying to reach with social media. The first group is the members or active attendees of the church. How many times have you organized an event, announced it from the pulpit, and even put it in the bulletin for consecutive weeks, yet, when the day of the event arrives, it seems as though all your announcements have mysteriously slipped the minds of your congregation.

A well-planned social media campaign can keep your events in front of those who need to see it on an almost constant basis. Organization becomes easier, as does event planning, as you now have an easy way to track RSVPs. Aside from keeping the congregation connected to the church, social media also provides the opportunity for your members to stay connected to each other. A Facebook page would give the congregation an opportunity to share prayer requests and praises and lift each other up before the Lord.

The second group to reach out to is the global church, believers from around the world. A pastor’s sermon may not just be intended for his particular congregation. Perhaps there is a bigger audience in need of last Sunday’s message. Sharing the sermons and what God is doing in your church can be an encouragement to other believers who may be unable to attend services at your church. Even locally, those who are bedridden or ill would still be able to read the sermons, as well as give and receive encouragement.

The final group is the non-believers and the un-churched. As stated in the quote at the beginning of this article, the vast majority of people, saved and unsaved, are online. If the church doesn’t have a website, or some sort of professional looking online presence, then the chances of it being found are almost nil. That being said, the purpose of reaching out to unbelievers should not be to simply bring them into the church building, but to connect with them on a personal level. Un-believers don’t need a church, they need a Savior. Social media, if used effectively, can help the church connect with un-believers and show them how they can have a personal relationship with God.

Social media is not just for the crafty with excessive time on their hands or the serial tweeter with too much to say. It can also be used to bring glory to God by uniting His church, both locally and globally. It can be used to bring people to Christ and to help Christians find a church home. Don’t discount social media, instead, embrace it and use it to bring glory to God.

 

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