Thursday, February 18, 2010

Church Planters Are My Favorite People

Sandy and I just got back from a trip to Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. We thought it would be nice and warm to go south in February. We were wrong. It was cold and snowy. But the people we spent time with were warm. I know - that sounds corny. But it is true. As I travel among Free Will Baptist churches, I meet a lot of salt of the earth people. Many times the saltiest are the church planters. They have to be prayed up or they can't stay encouraged. They have a heart for God; they have a heart for people; and they have a heart for getting God and people together. Almost all of them are humble. (Yes, I said almost)

Chad Kivette is a former church planter and now a pastor in Pensacola, Florida. Sandy and I spoke about marriage and I preached. It was good seeing them. He said as we left, "I miss being a part of Home Missions." I said, "You are still part of the Home Missions family." Again, corny, but true.
Here is a picture of Chad and Paula and us.

While we down in that area, we got to see two present home missionary families. Tim and Angie Riggs are ministering in Mobile, Alabama. Here are two pictures of his church:

They have 3 sons - Stephen, Andrew, and Caleb. Stephen is graduating from high school this year and heading to college. We went to the mall together and Tim and I got something for our sweethearts for Valentine's Day. (We also went to the Bama Fever store) Tim wanted to get the picture in front of the Alabama sign.

We also stopped by Meridian, Mississippi on the way home to see Larry and Sherry Reynolds. Their children are grown and they have 4 grandchilden, including one little girl born just last month. We took pictures of Sherry, too, but only this one came out:

Here is a picture of Larry on stage in their church building:

The Riggs, the Reynolds, and the Kivettes are all friendly and easy to like. But they are also people of faith, courage, and determination.

They are my favorite kind of people.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I still think Christians inviting others to church is a great way to evangelize. A lot of churches have seen growth through this. But many churches hardly have any visitors week after week. Some pastors even nag their people at the end of every service – “Now go out and invite someone to church this week.” But they don’t. Why is this?

I can think of a few reasons.
1. Some people hardly have any friends that don’t go to church.
Some ideas
· Think harder. Most people know someone who isn’t saved or in church. Family members, coworkers, neighbors, facebook friends, the person who cuts your hair, etc.
· Build relationships with unsaved people. Take time to get to know them, listen, share funny stories. Look for a chance to tell your story of God in your life.
· Remember that some people may be interested in God or church, but don’t know where to go. They may be glad to get an invitation.
· Start sowing thoughts about God: give tracts, let them know about something good in church recently, thank God for good things, let them know you’ll pray about their problems.
· Go around doing good (Jesus did - Acts 10:38) People will be more open to talking to you about God and church.

2. Some people don’t want anyone else in church.
They may not admit it, even to themselves, but they like the way things are now. More people might bring – less room for parking, more crowded auditorium and they would have to sit in front, not a family feel, new ideas, new people in leadership.

3. Some people feel their church is okay for them, but not excited about how an unchurched person would feel about it.
What The Church Can Do To Make It Easier For People To Invite
· Start on time and end about the same time each week.
· Help people find their way around – signs, greeters, signs, welcome centers, signs.
· Welcome people, but don’t overdo it by hugging strangers or having 10 minute long greet one another times.
· Periodically have a big day or special event where everyone is inviting their friends. Have food. Don’t go too long. Announce a new sermon series starting next Sunday. Find a way to follow up.
· Don’t embarrass guests by having them stand or tell their name or wear a visitor badge.
· Put yourself in the place of a visitor. How would you like to be treated? Do that. Brainstorm with your people how new people would like to be treated.
· Plan the service with the goal of a worshipful atmosphere.
· Preach truth with love, passion, illustration, and application. Don’t be boring! Aren’t you sick of boredom in churches? So is everyone else!
· Fight for unity in your church. Nobody wants to invite people to church if there is division and strained relationships.
· Have a plan to help people build friendships in church.
· Give everyone a card where they can list 3 to 5 friends who aren’t in church. Ask them to pray for them, do good and build relationship with them, and invite them.

People invite their friends to parties, to watch the Super Bowl, to go play golf, to go out to eat. If they think it will be a good experience for their friends, they will invite them to church, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


A friend of mine recently wrote a blog talking about the purpose of church. He asked whether we should invite unsaved people to church. Here’s a link to that blog:
His basic thought was that he had been taught all his life to make the service appealing to unbelievers so we could reach them. But he was afraid this was not Biblical and would hinder Christians from witnessing outside the church.

Here is my comment:
I'm glad you brought this up for a couple of reasons. This is very important and we need to be talking about it. And I'm glad you are willing to separate tradition from the Bible. Tradition is not always wrong, but let's be willing to ask why we do something. However, I don't see most churches really changing their services to reach the unsaved. I know some churches do things like leave out a cross or some songs for fear of offending people. But I've never been to any of those. I'm afraid that most churches aren't really thinking about the unsaved at all. Or at least not very much. I've got so many thoughts on this that I'll probably write a blog about it myself. I'll send you a link. This is an important issue for the home missionaries that I work with. Personally, I want to get more unsaved people in church and want to see us all to a better job welcoming every newcomer. I think we can do this without compromising. Thanks again for your good thoughts.

That’s the end of the comment that I posted. I have other thoughts on the purpose of church. But I want to say a few things specifically about having unbelievers in our services.

I do believe it is Biblical to invite the unsaved to church as a way of evangelizing them. Psalm 40:3 says “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Seeing our praise of God can be a testimony to unbelievers. In I Corinthians 14 we see that the unsaved can come to God through preaching: “24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” When Jesus tells His followers to love one another, it is a testimony to all. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Hopefully, the people we invite to church can see this in our church.

I can see a couple of dangers associated with this. One is pragmatism. The dictionary defines pragmatism as
a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

Pragmatism = whatever works.
That philosophy could lead to appeals to the flesh that gather a crowd, but don’t build a church. We could be tempted to change our message for fear of offending someone. (I believe that many people want to hear the truth preached. Mainline, liberal denominations are hemorrhaging members. Who wants to waste time being a part of something that isn’t real and doesn’t matter? I think a lot of people in America are tired of cotton candy and want some meat.)
But you can make people feel welcome without compromise. When my wife and I have someone visit our home, we don’t compromise what we believe. For the last two years, we have hosted a Christmas dinner for students at the local International English Institute. 25-30 students show up along with the teachers and a few people from our church. Several of these students are Muslim. We sang Christmas carols, prayed before we ate (in Jesus’ name), read the Christmas story, and gave them a Christian tract along with some goodies. We hope that we sowed good seed into their lives.

Another danger of relying on inviting people to church as a means of evangelism is that Christians won’t obey the command to preach the gospel. My friend fears that we’ll just let the preacher evangelize. I don’t believe it should be either “Come or See” or “Go and Tell”, but both. All Christians should be involved in outreach. Preachers should be teaching people ideas on how to sow the seeds of the gospel in people’s lives. When people do speak to their friends and family, it will usually progress naturally to an invitation to church.

I don’t see churches changing their services that much for the unsaved. What I see more is churches not reaching sinners at all. Many churches haven’t baptized anyone in a year or two or three. Why not? Why don’t Christians in many churches invite their friends and family members to church? That is the subject of my next blog.