Why does it take so long?

By Scott Linscott

We all love to get a piece of mail from the child we sponsor. I love it like Christmas morning!

But it doesn’t happen very often … sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Why is that? Is the child that I’m sending money for even real? How do I know?

Robin and I have three children that we sponsor. Well, one is not much of a child anymore – he just turned 20. We are helping him to complete University so we have him for a couple more years. One is sponsored through Compassion International and the other two are through AMG Ministries. Our Compassion child is in Ghana and our girls are in Guatemala.

We hear from Vincent quite often. But that’s because his situation is entirely different. Most of our contact with Vincent comes by way of the computer. The Compassion office in Ghana is setup to scan correspondence from the children and then electronically send it to sponsors. I get a notification in my inbox to sign into my account to see a letter from Vincent. It’s cool, but if he was 8 and coloring pictures I would still prefer an actual piece of paper.

I have been to the center in Oratorio, Guatemala where my girls are from. “Fancy” is not a word that we would use to describe their situation. In fact, for my Guatemala girls it might even be more of a challenge to have markers and crayons and paper to color on.

So how does the letter writing process work? When you write a letter what do you do? You put it in an envelope, pop a stamp on it and go to the mailbox, right?

But the problem is in Guatemala, at least this past fall, that there was no National Postal Service. That’s right, because of crime and corruption the post office was SHUT DOWN. A shipping company? It costs about $100 for a 10 lb package to Guatemala with no guarantee it will make it! Crazy, right?

My point is that it’s easy for us here to communicate. We even overnight mail but that doesn’t exist in other parts of the world … especially third-world parts!

So, picture a hundred and fifty to 300 kids coming to school for letter writing day. That picture you have in your mind? It’s totally off-base. I’m sure you’re picturing our schools and our students sitting at nice desks, in well-lit classrooms, with everything they need to complete the project. Maybe a few students are missing with a stomach bug but their parents have taken the time to let the administration know that they would be absent.

Now let’s go to Guatemala. You’re never quite sure how many students are going to show up on any given day. It depends on what’s going on in the household; perhaps mom got a job as a day laborer and couldn’t manage walking the children to school. (I know, I know, you’re thinking of school buses, cars and ride shares, right? Nope, not an option there.)

Maybe 80 or 180 show up for letter writing day. You never know what you will have. But, you do your best to track who has written and who has not and try hard to track down the students who missed today to get their letter done by the end of the month.

At the end of the quarter, you take your stack of letters to the AMG Guatemala headquarters 2.5 hours away. There, they get added to a stack of 8000 other pieces of correspondence to be translated by a single office worker who also has receptionist duties.

Do the math … 8000+ children writing two letters a year is 16,000, right? They need to be translated, sorted and packed for the next part of their journey. That means the receptionist/translator has 64 letters a day to handle! Would you like her job?

Taking all that into account, I am amazed and thrilled if I get one letter a year! Still, I go online at the start of each month and write to my kids on the Internet. I know my messages and attached pictures normally reach them in just a month or two. I’m more interested in making sure they know they are loved and prayed for than I am in getting a letter back.

If you sponsor a child in Oratorio, come with me on my next trip! Meet your child. We’ll be like the Pony Express and deliver messages and goodies. 😃

#missions #childsponsor #missiontrip @fbcwestbrook

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Ten things we REFUSE to have describe us at FBC Westbrook! Right, church?

millTen Reasons Churches Are Not Reaching Millennials

By Frank Powell (reblogged form here)

I am very passionate about the Millennial generation. I know much has been said pessimistically about this generation, but I hold to the belief that the Millennials are poised to change the culture for the good in this country and impact the world. But for many churches and leaders, Millennials are (to steal from Winston Churchill) “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” I would agree with this on some levels, but I also believe the riddle can be solved. Millennials are a unique generation, but once you find out what makes them tick you realize they are not that puzzling. They just have a unique set of passions, interests, and viewpoints on the culture and the world.

The problem is I believe the church has largely failed to take stock in this generation because they are different. A lack of knowledge breeds fear, and this is true of the church in relation to the Millennials. Many churches do not take the time to know the next generation, so they are stuck with attaching stigmas (many untrue) to them. This is problematic. There are churches, however, that are thriving with Millennials, and if you did some investigation I believe you would come out with similar results, regardless of the church locale.

So, what differentiates a church culture that attracts Millennials and one that repels them? There are many factors, but I want to highlight ten really important ones. If you are a church that has been asking why it is so hard to get the next generation to become part of your culture, the following reasons might shed some light on your struggle.

1.) There is a strong resistant to change

This generation does not understand a refusal to change a program, activity, or even an entire culture if it is not working. Traditions are not something most Millennials hold close to their heart. In fact, for many (myself included) traditions are often seen as the enemy because many churches allow their traditions to hinder them from moving forward at all. Is this right? Maybe not, but it is a reality nonetheless. One that must be understood.

Millennials are removed from the era of doing everything because “this is how we have always done it.” That answer is no longer acceptable. A very strong value of this generation is changing the world. Many times traditions hold them back from doing this. In addition, the next generation understands change is necessary to remain focused on the vision and being externally focused, among many other things.

2.) Compelling vision is lacking or non-existent

If your goal is to create an environment that is totally void of the next generation, especially those with any initiative and talent, refuse to cast vision in your church. That will drive Millennials away faster than the time I saw a rattlesnake in the woods and screamed like a little girl (don’t judge me…I hate snakes…and cats). It always baffles me when a church does not place value in vision and planning for the future. There is virtually no other arena of life where we refuse to vision and plan, but for some reason the church is different.

 

If your vision doesn’t compel, move or stir people, your vision is too small.  -Craig Groeschel

Millennials will not invest in a church that refuses to dream big because they see example after example of an infinitely powerful God doing amazing things through normal people. You might think they are naive, but most Millennials do not believe they have to wait until they receive a certain degree or reach a certain age to start non-profits, plant churches, or lead businesses.

So, go ahead and believe “the Spirit is supposed to guide us, not a man-made vision” or just allow sheer laziness to lead the way, and your church will continue to be void of the next generation.

3.) Mediocrity is the expectation

Quite simply…the next generation is not content with mediocrity. They are very optimistic about their ability to excite change in the world. Good or bad, they have a strong desire to do something extraordinary. Failure is not going to drive the train for most Millennials. This also seems like a foreign concept to many in previous generations, but Millennials are not scared to fail and they believe churches should operate with a similar mindset. They hold to the mentality that failing and being a failure are mutually exclusive. Failing is not viewed as a step back. They dream often and dream big because they understand we serve a God who works beyond our ability. The Millennials have a collective concern for making the world a better place, and mediocrity fits no where in those plans.

4.) There is a paternalistic approach to leading Millennials

This is one I have experienced personally. If you want to push the next generation away from your church, refuse to release them to lead. Simply giving them a title means absolutely nothing. Titles are largely irrelevant to the next generation. They want to be trusted to fulfill the task that has been given to them. If you micro-manage them, treat them like a parent, and refuse to believe they are capable of being leaders because of their age and lack of experience, wisdom, etc., they will only be at your church for a short season.

Millennials will not allow age to keep them from leading…and leading well. If you refuse to release them to lead, the next generation will quickly find another church or context where they can use their talents and gifts to their full capacity.

5.) There is a pervasive insider-focused mentality

Traditional or contemporary worship? High church or low church? Plurality of elders or board of directors or staff-led church? While generations past invested a lot of time and energy in these discussions, most Millennials see these conversations as sideways energy. There might be a time and place for talking about acappella versus instrumental or high church versus low church, but the time is very rarely and the place is not from the pulpit or small group.

What is important to Millennials? How a church responds to the lost in the world, both locally and globally. How a church responds to the poor, homeless, needy, and widowed. If you want to ensure your church has very few Millennials, answer the questions nobody is asking, spend most of your resources on your building, and have a lot of programs that do little to impact anybody outside the church walls.

When the faithful saturate their schedules with Christian events at Christian venues with Christian people, the world has a hard time believing we hold the rest of the world in high esteem.  -Gabe Lyons

Millennials are not going to give their time and resources to a church that turns around and spends massive amounts of money on programs and events that are inefficient and ineffective. The reality is most of the next generation has a very pessimistic attitude towards institutions…the church included. Church leaders can get mad or frustrated about this reality, or they can change some things. The churches who value reaching the next generation emphasize the latter.

6.)  Transparency and authenticity are not high values

Despite what I have often heard, I believe most Millennials value transparency and authenticity. If your church portrays a “holier than thou” mentality and most of the sermons leave everyone feeling like they are terrible people and the preacher is perfect, your church will be largely void of the next generation. Why? Because they know something the church has largely denied for a long time…church leaders are not in their position because they are absent of sin, temptations, or failures. Millennials have seen too many scandals in the church (i.e. Catholic church scandal) and witnessed too many instances of moral failures among prominent Christian leaders. Millennials are not looking for people to be perfect…Jesus already handled that for us. Millennials are looking for people to be real and honest about struggles and temptations.

7.)  Mentoring is not important.

This is a common misconception about the next generation. While they do not like paternalistic leadership, they place a high value on gleaning wisdom from generations past. I have a good friend who lives in Jackson, TN and he occasionally drives to Nashville (about two hours away) to sit at the feet of a man who has mentored him for years. He does this because this man has some knowledge that my good friend values highly. He is not an exception. I have driven as far as Dallas to spend a weekend with a family that I love and respect. I had no other reason for going than to watch how they parent and let this man give me nuggets of wisdom on following Jesus and loving others. Many might think this is ridiculous, but this is what makes the Millennials unique. We value wisdom and insight. We see it as a valuable treasure, and we will drive any distance to acquire it.

The Millennials are not standoffish towards those who have gone before us. They place a high value on learning from people who have a strong desire to be a sage instead of a dad. If your church is generationally segregated and refuses to pour back into the next generation, you can be sure your church will not attract Millennials.

8.) Culture is viewed as the enemy of the church.

I have so much to say on this, but space will not allow (lightbulb moment…maybe my next post will be on this…boom!). Anyway, Millennials are tired of the church viewing the culture as the enemy. Separationist churches who value creating “safe” places for their members and moving away from all the evil in the city are highly unlikely to attract the next generation. The next generation is trying to find ways to engage the culture for the glory of God.

The next Christians believe that Christ’s death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people FROM something. He wanted to save Christians TO something. -Gabe Lyons

Millennials are increasingly optimistic about the surrounding culture because they see Jesus loving all types of people, loving cities, and engaging culture. They also know the church does not stand at the center of culture anymore, and reaching people only comes through engaging culture. In generations past, preachers could stand in the pulpit and talk about the evils of the surrounding culture because the church was the shaper of the culture at large. Today, this is not true. The church needs to stop believing the goal of Christian living is to escape the evils of culture and finish life unharmed and untainted. To reach people in 2014, the church must be immersed in the community for the glory of God.

9.) Community is not valued

This might be one of the greatest values of the Millennials. Community is a non-negotiable part of their lives. And they are not looking for another group of people to watch the Cowboys play football on Sunday or play softball…the next generation desires a Christ-centered community. They value a community that goes beyond the surface and yields transformation. Community keeps Millennials grounded, keeps them focused, and challenges them to reach heights never imagined alone. They see Jesus living in community with twelve men for most of His earthly ministry. They see Jesus spending much of His time pouring into people and initiating transformation. Community is not a passive, optional part of a Millennial’s life…it is essential.

Personally, I have seen the value of community on so many levels in my life. Without authentic Christian community, I would not be in full time ministry today. I would not have overcome some serious sins and struggles. I would not have been challenged to live fully for God.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly independent and disconnected, I believe the Millennials are modeling something important for the church. There is power in numbers. As an African proverb states,

 

If you want to go fast, go ALONE. If you want to go far, go TOGETHER.

 

Millennials want to go far and want their life to have meaning. In their minds this is not possible without deep, authentic, Christ-centered community. I agree.

10.) The church is always a source of division and not unity

Nothing frustrates Millennials more than a church that does not believe unity should be a very high value. Jesus’s final recorded prayer on earth in John 17 is one church leaders have preached on for years. What many churches miss is one of the central themes in that prayer…unity. On four separate occasions, Jesus explicitly prays for unity. It was important to him. He brought together tax collectors and Zealots (read about both of these groups if you want to know how difficult it would have been to bring these two together). He talked to prostitutes. He brought people together. This is why places like coffee shops are grounds (like my pun?) for scores of Millennials. They provide an atmosphere for all to come and feel welcomed and accepted.

Churches that value racial, generational, and socio-economic unity are the churches that are going to attract Millennials. Why? Because most next gens believe the gospel is most fully reflected when all of these groups are brought together, and most of them are just crazy enough to believe the power of the Spirit is sufficient to make it happen.

___________________________

I know there is a lot to digest in this post, but I believe it is vitally important to understand the Millennials. They are unique and different from generations past, but the next generation has a lot to offer the church and the world today. I also believe the generations that have come before us have much to offer.

Some churches and leaders do not see the value of changing to reach this generation, but the sad thing is once they realize this mentality is wrong it will be too late. The Millennials constitute a huge part of the population today (about 80 million strong), and if your church is serious about the Great Commission, your church also needs to be serious about understanding this generation.

Who is Frank Powell? (click)

Are We Making It Hard(er) for People to Meet Jesus?

After our series on the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen atmosphere, this blog post on the Exponential Blog struck a chord with me. – Scott

Download the E-book

Download the E-book

By Arron Chambers

Some things in life are more complicated than they need to be.

Like turning on the television. Remember when you could turn on the TV by just urning a single knob? Now, you need a degree from MIT to navigate the remote control. Or like ordering coffee–an infinite number of coffee options, but most of those options change with each coffee shop. I love white chocolate-flavored coffee in a medium-sized cup or mug, which at my favorite coffee shop, is a 16-ounce (not medium) white chocolate mocha. But when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, the closest thing I can find to that same drink is called a medium (not 16-ounce) Dunkaccino, which is always difficult for me to order because I have to pay for it with my man card.

Or becoming a Christian. Remember when becoming a Christian was as simple as hearing and responding to the gospel? Now, too many Christians and churches have made it so complicated to find Jesus. Put yourself in the Toms, Skechers, Vans, Doc Martens, or Birkenstocks of a lost person with me for a moment and realize what they have to be willing to walk through to actually hear the gospel.

They have to walk through the stereotypes that Hollywood and the media project of Christians as not being very nice or normal. I spoke for an event in Tennessee where I heard a heartbreaking story. A local church youth group ate at a local steakhouse, made a huge mess and left a note instead of a tip. The note to their server: “Repent or you’re going to hell.” The server burst out crying and left work. That story so enraged me that my wife and I made plans to eat at that steakhouse the next night with my in-laws. We asked for that server and left her a huge tip. My in-laws resolved to do everything within their power to build a friendship with that young woman with the hopes that she’ll meet Jesus along the way.

They have to walk through the well-documented hypocrisy of some of our biggest celebrity preachers who have sinned publicly and scattered their golden house fixtures, jewels and fur coats as they fell back to the earth.

They have to walk through our denominational division and find the “right” church with the “right” version of the gospel.

They have to walk through our undocumented and unspoken yet highly unbending dress codes, which clearly prohibit tattered jeans, skinny jeans or saggy jeans and T-shirts advertising beer, pot, the Oakland Raiders, Obama, or ‘80s big-haired rock bands.

And then, if lost people can clamber over, around and through those obstacles, they have to walk through our doors … where the fun really begins.

None of this is a surprise to Jesus. Remember what He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).

Yes, the way is hard, so why would we make it even harder? I’m convinced and convicted that it’s time we simplify evangelism, focusing on three key areas:

1. Relationships

Let me put it simply: Relationships are the key to reaching lost people.

I define evangelism as “an intentional relationship through which someone is introduced to Jesus Christ.” Healthy relationships are essential if we want to have the kind of life God intended for all of us. And they are also essential if we want to reach lost people like Jesus did. A few years ago, the Institute for American Church Growth (today known as Church Growth, Inc.) asked more than 10,000 people, “What was most responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Seventy-nine percent responded, “A friend or relative invited me.”

Which is why a man who was at one time the leading abortionist in the country came to Christ. I’ll call him Richard.

One day a preacher (I’ll call him David) met Richard and started a conversation with him. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, both unaware of the other’s profession until after a relationship had already come to life.

Richard, a recently retired abortion doctor—at one time performing more abortions than any other abortion doctor in the United States. David, a presently employed preacher—at no time thinking he’d become friends with an abortionist.

Over countless breakfasts and cups of coffee, they forged a strong friendship. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but in real life it did. David told me that Richard used to hate Christians, especially the ones who yelled at and picketed him and his office. He said that their anger only made him more resolved to keep doing abortions.

Interesting.

Well, David didn’t yell at Richard. Instead, he ate with him, loved him and rejoiced with him when Richard gave his life to Christ, repented of his sins and was baptized. You see, it’s really not that complicated.

Let’s just love people, intentionally.

2. Resources

I don’t know how Peter did it.

How did he convince about 3,000 people to give their lives to Christ without handing out even one fake $1 million bill with the steps to receiving the “free” gift of eternal life detailed on the back?

Where did we get the idea that gimmicks, pamphlets and direct mail campaigns were the best way to lead people to Christ?

What if we set aside the gimmicky resources and simply just told people the true story of what Jesus has done to transform our lives?

What if we removed the gospel from all of the impenetrable packaging so that lost people didn’t have to work so hard to receive and enjoy truth, grace, forgiveness and life? What if we embraced every opportunity to develop intentional relationships with lost people through which we can introduce them to Jesus telling them true stories of transformation?

Seeing this through the paradigm of The Golden Rule, I’d much rather you give me a true story than a fake $1 million bill.

3. Responding

At Journey Christian Church where I pastor, we’re big on taking away people’s excuses for not coming to church. So we’re intentional about creating an environment where truth can be proclaimed in a relevant way, where it’s okay to not be okay, and where grace always wins.

We want to take away their excuses for not being the church in the community, so we’re intentional about creating regular opportunities to serve our community in significant ways.

We want to take away their excuses for not responding to the gospel, so we’re intentional with how we present the gospel and how they can respond to the gospel each week. I’m surprised by how many churches are no longer publicly calling people to make decisions for Christ, and instead are leaving the presentation of the gospel for a more appropriate time, such as the quarterly New Members’ Class. We’ve intentionally designed our weekly services to include a lengthy time of commitment during which someone can take communion, pray in one of our prayer rooms, be prayed over by a church leader, give his or her life to Christ, and be baptized.

And when it comes to baptism, we’ve gone to even greater lengths to take away their excuses. We baptize people in their street clothes (I do the same, so I need three sets of clothing ready to go). We have large black T-shirts they can put on over their clothes, plenty of towels and plastic trash bags to protect their car seats on the ride home. And our worship center seats are plastic and thus waterproof. In the past 12 months, we’ve baptized 205 people. We see people submit to baptism almost every single week.

It’s amazing how such a simple act can have such a significant impact on a congregation and how a congregation who witnesses transformation on a weekly basis can have such a significant impact on a community.

Yes, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. Let’s resolve to not make it any harder than it already is.

Questions to consider:

What is one thing you can do this week to help your children or grandchildren to either find life in Christ or grow in their relationship with Christ?

What is one thing you can do this week to help someone who is “far off” find the narrow way?
__________________________________________________________

This article was excerpted and adapted from the new eBook Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism … & The Golden Rule by pastor and author Arron Chambers. 

About Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers, author of six books, including Eats With Sinners and Devoted: Isn’t it time to fall more in love with Christ? (NavPress October 2014), is also the pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colo., an inspirational speaker, a marriage coach, husband of a lovely wife, and the father of four beautiful kids. For more information, visit his website.

WANTED: Can kickers

canBy Scott Linscott

Do you remember that feeling as a kid playing Kick the Can when you would watch someone sprint toward the can to boot it and set everyone free? I remember the anticipation, the laughs and the chaos as everyone scattered. I loved the times I was the guy who got to kick the can and initiate all that. We played for hours.

I think the church in America needs some can kickers. Me, you, someone in your pew.

Can kickers are driven by the desire to scatter. Can kickers don’t mind risk. Can kickers like a good dose of chaos.

The church in America has gone through at least three decades of making self-preserving moves working to ensure everyone is comfortable and getting their needs met. In the meantime, fewer and fewer people have been hearing about Jesus outside the church walls. We’re so busy at church we just don’t have time for relationships.

Everyone is gathered around the can. We talk about Jesus, we sing and we throw around words like “evangelism” and “outreach.” But mostly, we just stare at the can. In this church game, most of us have even forgotten why the can is there.

And then it happens. Some wild one comes sprinting in and kicks the can. He comes in, kicks it and says, “Let’s get outta here! Run!” But he’s not running away from God. He’s not setting people free from Jesus. He’s calling them to risk, chaos and bringing Jesus to people outside the church. He’s yelling, “Go! Go and make disciples! Run!”

A bunch of like-minded, daring disciples are immediately and instinctively into it. They are the ones who make others in the church uncomfortable because they dare ask Jesus to heal people, do miracles and answer prayer. They talk about following Jesus with everything and they don’t think faith is a private thing.

Cans are being kicked all over the United States. For the first time in decades more new churches are opening than old ones closing. Urban centers, universities, neighborhoods, suburbs, theaters, pubs and schools are seeing people excited about Christ starting new works that don’t look much like the churches they have seen.

Studies are showing that 50 percent of the people attending these new faith communities are exploring Jesus for the first time. That’s what Jesus was talking about! That’s what we’re supposed to be doing – starting new communities and revitalizing old ones.

I see the can. I feel the adrenaline building. I’ve got the urge to make a run at it and give it a good punt. I want to hear the laughter, sense the  anxiousness and revel in the chaos of doing the crazy thing.

I feel alive. I want to equip a generation of can-kickers …

Eph 4: 11-13 He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher  to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church,  until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 

Time to make the donuts?

By Scott Linscott

Imagine that you work in a donut shop. You arrive with the staff at 4:00 AM for your first day on the job. You are expecting to be elbow deep in flower but the owner gathers everyone around a dvd player and monitor and hits play. For the next two hours you sit and learn about the history of donut making. After a “discussion” which is actually mostly just filling in blanks in a workbook, you stand with your coworkers for a quick summary and then head home. No donuts are made.

The next day you come ready to bake but end up in the donut classroom again. On day two the focus is on ingredients. No donuts again. Day three is about donut making equipment. Day four is variety, day five oils and day 6 discusses the purpose of donut making. No donuts still.

By day ten you stop bringing your apron. The theory and practice of donut making is fascinating to study. On day 21 you get a different workbook and see that you will be talking about famous donut makers around the world. You even drop a few bucks into the collection for bringing donuts to new areas. Then there’s the discussions about the future and what will come, talk of serving donuts to the donutless and even discussions about what to study next.

You ask the long-time employee next to you, “have you ever actually made donuts?” He hasn’t but he tells you about a day before his time when this place produced piles and piles.

You’ve already surmised that im not talking about donuts at all. Im talking about the church of Jesus. We sure do like to talk, debate and study. We major in the minors while no one makes any donuts.

Throughout my ministry career I’ve noticed that we Christians tend to spend a ton of time majoring in the minors rather than focus on that which is clear. Some want to take class after class about dragons and beasts and endtime prophecies  while others love to study angels. Some want to talk about heaven and where it is, what it is like and what we will do when we get there while others love studying a new earth, new bodies and the second coming. Jesus told us to bring Good News to people but we seem more concerned with where the ark is now and what happened to the dinosaurs.

The excellent thing is that today you can Google all these fringe issues to your heart’s delight. You can spend hour-upon-hour researching aliens and the wheel-in-the-middle of the wheel. Or, you can study the depth of moon dust and use it to support your dedication to young-earth perspectives.

Me? I prefer to focus on the things that are clear and direct in Scripture. I’m not a big mystery chaser and I’m not interested in spending my time searching for secrets between the lines. I’d much rather spend my time focusing on the clear teachings of Christ rather than spend my time chasing mysteries.

If I were a donut maker, I’d want to make donuts. As a disciple of Christ I want to be a disciple maker.

“It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul when he begins to put the second things of religion in the first place, and the first in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. There is something sadly wrong when it is more important to us whether others are of our denomination and ceremonies rather than whether they repent of sin, believe on Christ and live holy lives.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Only sheep make more sheep.

shiftBy Scott Linscott

Statistics tells us that the church in America has been in decline for more than 30 years. Even while the number of mega-churches has enlarged, the church has shrunk.

I came across this cartoon that seems to sum up the American Church phenomenon fairly well…

True evangelism efforts focus on reaching unreached people groups whereas sheep shifting increases attendance by recruiting Christians from other churches.

Imagine an area where 10 shepherds watch over ten separate flocks of 100 each. The area has 1000 sheep. If the shepherd in pasture #1 manages to attract 20 sheep from the other 9 flocks his flock grows to 280 and is easily the largest flock around. Without the sheep doing their job and making other sheep, the number of sheep in the area remains at 1000. Shepherd number 1 could build his flock to 500 by offering more perks to attract more sheep at the expense of the other flocks. Is shepherd number 1 a success? If the goal is to have the largest flock he is a tremendous success but if the goal is to increase the number of sheep overall? No, nothing has changed.

My understanding of what Jesus has called us to is not shifting sheep but multiplying sheep. As God revitalizes our body and brings new life to our gathering one thing is for certain, we will see faces that are new to us. We’ll see some sheep wander into our flock attracted by the preaching style, the format of our services and the flavor of our music. Some sheep will find greener grass with us while some of our sheep simultaneously head for the greener grass of the pasture in the next town over. We’ll be excited about the faces that are new to us and we will give a warm and genuine welcome.

But what should we really want? We want to bring in faces that are new to Him!

We can focus on attracting sheep with a rocking worship team, cool mission trips and we can do all the stuff Christians are shopping for. We can invite our Christian friends to check out our new pastor or come hear the big speaker we are bringing in. We can build an event-driven, attractional ministry with a great show week after week complete with all the hype we can muster. But one thing to remember? Attracting sheep is not what Jesus has called us to. Jesus called us to make sheep.

The Great Commission doesn’t to go to Christian friends with, “come see what we’re all about.” Instead it tells us to go to those who don’t know. We are to go, live in the culture, rub shoulders and share life in Christ and invite. Shepherds don’t make sheep. Only sheep make new sheep.

As I wrestle with church revitalization and planting, I’m not really interested in spending big bucks to send out glossy mailers, put out lawn signs, hang invitations on doorknobs and hype up a big show that attracts Christians. I’m more interested in building a community of people loving and serving the people around them, praying earnestly to reach unreached people for Jesus.

Let’s not put on a show. Let’s follow after Jesus with everything we have and invite people along for the journey. Only sheep make sheep.

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One of my favorite songs based on Amos 5:21-24.