A few years ago Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger wrote a very helpful book about a clear path of discipleship called Simple Church. Many churches today could write a book called Busy Church. Maybe you have attended a Busy Church or you lead a Busy Church.
At Busy Church there are a plethora of programs, ministries and events. The place is buzzing. Groups are competing for space. One family can spend the every night at the church doing some thing. This is a church on the move, or at least, that is how it seems. When I first started off in ministry at two sleepy little country churches I was determined to have a church that “did stuff.” So we scheduled, planned, met, “put on” and all the above. While I must admit that this brought some vitality to these churches it also wore people out (including me).
When you dig under the surface of Busy Church what you might find is that all of the programs, ministries and events may just be a whole bunch of distractions from the central mission of the church. Busyness in the church does not necessarily equate to effectiveness and health in the church. Even if Busy Church is doing many good things the question is are they doing the one thing. Have their many good things become the enemy of great things for God.
Busy Church in many ways has become a last ditch effort by the church to reclaim the importance the church held during the Christendom era. There used to be after all, only two social things in a community, the school and the church. This is not so today. Today’s family has a smorgasbord of opportunities and choices and church is just one of them. Sadly, many times the church seeks to replicate the same programs that are done better out in the community and the church comes off as irrelevant.
One of the other difficulties for Busy Church is is Busy Church runs the risk of being inwardly focused. Instead of freeing up their parishioner’s schedule to go and serve in the community wherever they are doing life, there is one more church event, program or ministry to be tended to at the club.
While the church that does nothing may not be healthy, a Busy Church can also be harmful to the church’s health.
What are some of the other unintended consequences of Busy Church?
We in the church, by and large, are an impatient bunch. We want stuff to have happened yesterday. We want things done quickly. We hate to wait.
This is the culture that has developed in most of the world. We now have instant news at our fingertips with a few key strokes and mouse clicks. When something like an earthquake happens you are more likely to get the latest news from Twitter or Facebook than turning on the television or radio. We do not wait for food to cook, it is already cooked and we enjoy our “fast food” as we race to the next thing. When students take a test they do not have to wait for a teacher to grade it or for a scan-tron machine to work its magic (remember those) they have instant feedback if they have taken the test on the computer. While the pluses and minuses of our “gotta have it now” culture can be debated, one thing most would agree on is that all of this taken together has made us an impatient people.
This impatience caused by an expectation of immediacy becomes dangerous when it bleeds into ministry. I for one have been and continue to be in large part susceptible to this danger. It is the difference between microwave ministry (where we want instant results) and crock pot ministry where sometimes things just have to simmer for a while before they are done. Fruitful ministry, in most cases, does not happen overnight or even in a year. Ground work has to be laid, prayer needs to soften fallow ground for the seed of God’s love to be planted, and sometimes years of bad theology must be overcome. My friends and I in ministry though become impatient. We become frustrated with the pace of change and before you know it we find ourselves saying “I have done all I can do here.” This is the danger of a microwave ministry mentality.
We know from the Bible that many times leaders of God’s people waited many years before they saw God work in their setting. Most of what happened in the Bible in the way of ministry was crock pot ministry, not microwave ministry.
Are you doing ministry with a microwave mentality or with crock pot patience?
Easter Sunday is a great time to start a new message series.
Most churches will experience a larger attendance on Easter Sunday than most other Sundays. If you start the first message in a new series on Easter and invite people back to hear the rest of the messages then you give the persons attending a reason to return. You may pique their interest. For example, let’s say you were doing a series on “Miracles.” You might start on Easter with the “Miracle of Resurrection” and then in subsequent Sundays offer messages like “Turning Water into Wine” or “Opening the Eyes of the Blind.”
In addition to simply announcing this is the first in a series of messages on Easter and inviting persons to return, you might also include a series postcard in the worship program or promote the new series with a video introduction.
As you follow up with guests from Easter Sunday whether it be by email, handwritten note or letter you can be sure to mention the next message in the series.
Starting a new series on Easter Sunday is just one way to use this important holiday to seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
I like to say that there is nothing done inside the church that can’t be better done outside the four walls of the church. This is true of so many things but especially about egg hunts sponsored by churches. Egg hunts represent a wonderful opportunity to interact with the community.
Many churches are content though to just have their egg hunt on the church lawn. Yes, many will put out a banner advertising the event to the community, put the event in the church section of the newspaper (only read by other Christians btw), or maybe even pass out some door hangers. This is well meaning. What usually happens is that all the kids whose parents already attend the church have a wonderful time at this event. Maybe even a few guests from the community come out as well.
What if…instead of doing the egg hunt on the church grounds the church took the egg hunt on the road to a subdivision playing field, a local park or a community center and invited not only the kids whose parents went to that church but everybody from that community. It does take a bit more in the way of planning and logistics but now the church has the opportunity to bless and impact 200 more kids and their families than if they had settled for an egg hunt on the church lawn because many of these kids would never have come to the church location but will come when the event is in their neighborhood. It is called being incarnational or “sent outside the church.”
Be sure to give something away to bless people when they leave whether it be candy or a small craft for home with an invite to Easter worship. Collect attendee information through a give away that persons have to register for and where you have a check box on the registration “Is it OK to send you information about our church?” Then follow up.
Most importantly, bless your community.
Easter is not far away. Here are some last minute resources for effective ministry as we approach Easter gathered from different places around the web.
God’s grace is constantly at work drawing people into relationship with him. God’s prevenient grace has been in operation from the creation of the world. There are times, due to life circumstance, when persons seem to be more open to beginning a life of following Jesus.
These three times include times when people are:
1. Under tension.
2. In trouble.
3. In transition.
If you believe these are times when persons are most open to beginning a life of following Jesus, then you must ask how the church is being “wise as the serpent and gentle” as the dove in cooperating with God’s grace to share the good news of God’s love with such people.
For example, every neighborhood has people who are in transition. They just moved in. How is the church reaching out to these persons who are open to hearing good news and getting connected to a local church? Or, parents of teenagers are often under tension- how is it that the church speaks good news into the lives of parents struggling with teenagers? Or, what about people in trouble? How is the church sharing Christ’s love with people in trouble.
God’s work in people’s lives is far beyond our comprehension. However, it does seem that even in the difficult times of life (tension, trouble and transition), God is working in people’s lives and God is calling the church to speak and be good news to people in the community who need a word of hope. Local churches do well to recognize such times as these so that they can truly be God’s hands and feet.
Can you think of creative ways to share Christ with people under tension, in trouble or in transition?
Just as persons in the church have different spiritual gifts so they have different styles of evangelism.
- There are some people who have no problem going door to door on a Saturday morning and passing out information about their church.
- Others prefer a servant evangelism project.
- Still others would prefer praying for those Jesus loves who are not yet a part of a community of faith.
The Ten for Jesus Project is an evangelism project that the most introverted person in the church can participate. Here is the basic idea of the project.
- The church gathers the addresses of those in a particular subdivision. The church can buy a zip code of addresses from Melissa Data and then cull down the list to the streets in a particular subdivision. Or, you can do it the old fashioned way and drive through while someone records the addresses for you.
- You would then need to purchase greeting cards. The best time to do this is for Easter or Christmas when you can by cards in bulk. Buy enough to give to the folks who will sign up to help.
- Advertise the project in the church using whatever means possible asking persons to write ten cards inviting persons to Easter services or Christmas Eve.
- The week before Christmas Eve or Easter put packages together for those helping. These packages will include an instruction sheet, the list of ten addresses, a sample card, the ten cards themselves, perhaps an invite card to put in the greeting card. You can put ten stamps in for the cards or ask people to send using their own stamps.
- Be sure to give the persons writing the cards a deadline to send the cards so they hit inviting people before the Christmas Eve or Easter services. Also, be sure to bathe the project in prayer and ask the persons writing the cards to pray specifically for the people who will receive these cards. Be sure the addresses are handwritten (who receives mail with a handwritten address anymore!).
- Let God work.
You may or may not have someone come to services because of this but you will be blessing your community with the love of Christ.
What are you doing this Easter to invite persons to connect with Christ?