A Modern Parable for the Church

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A Modern Day Parable

There was a man who invested in a small farm of about 300 acres. He bought a brand new John Deere tractor with all the necessary implements. He built a nice barn, and had enough seed to plant his crops in the spring. However, he didn’t plant anything. He would go out and ride his tractor through the field, occasionally dropping the plow into the dirt, but he didn’t sow any seeds. The bags of seeds sat in the barn, safe and secure. Some of the seeds were eaten by rats and birds so in a natural way, seeds made it to the field. At harvest time, the man went out into the fields and then bemoaned his lack of vegetables to harvest. He consulted with the experts at the agricultural colleges. They told him to sow more seeds, but he never planted the seeds.

The above story is ridiculous. What kind of farmer would invest so much of his life in a farm and not sow seeds? Yet this is what is happening in churches all over the United States. We have churches that have adopted an attractional model of evangelism, but they are not attracting anyone. We aren’t even trying to be engaged in the community with the gospel.

It is Campus Revival this week at NOBTS, and Dr. Tommy Green has already preached a wonderful message in chapel. Tuesday’s chapel message was based on the Matthew 13 parable of the Sower. As he preached, Dr. Green stated that the problem is not with the seed, it is with the sower. I agree. I don’t think we are doing our part. But we still can. Commit to be a sower who sows the gospel abundantly.

Five Suggestions to Be a Better Gospel Sower:

  1. Be intentional in meeting people. It’s too easy to stay in our rut of work, church, home, work, church, home. Find a consistent place to engage in your community. Meet people.
  2. Transition to the gospel quickly. Often we get nervous about someone’s response to our questions about Christ and let the moment pass. A great way to overcome this is to jump in before over-thinking the situation.
  3. Build relationships with people and share the gospel. It’s important for others to know that you care about them, but don’t fall into a paralysis of friendship. Love the person enough to share the most important message in your life.
  4. Be less discriminant about with whom you share the gospel. It doesn’t really matter whether or not you know someone. It’s more important that they hear the gospel.
  5. Commit to follow up with the people you talk to. An invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to relationships. Yes, they need a relationship with Jesus, but they are also going to need a relationship with a local church. Do your best to get contact information so that you can connect the people you meet to a local church. Better yet, invite them to be part of your church or to meet with you personally for discipleship.

What suggestions do you have? Answer in the comments below.

 

Hospitality in the Church

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“Hello Dr. Farmer. It’s great to see you back again.” Becca the restaurant manager greeted me on Saturday evening. I had eaten dinner in the hotel restaurant the night before and decided to eat there again. After all, they had elk jerky.

Julia, my waitress, also remembered me. “A cup of coffee and a glass of water? How would you like to try the meatloaf sliders?”

In the first three minutes of sitting down in the restaurant, I felt welcomed and cared for. Is there any wonder why I returned for dinner? Hospitality is important in the service industry. It’s more important for the church.

Hospitality in the Church

The Caskey Center, in partnership with Lifeway Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, conducted research on small churches and personal evangelism last year. One of the interesting insights discovered was that though all churches in the study used greeters and encouraged members to be friendly with guests and non-Christians, the most evangelistically effective churches (Top 20% of churches who retained new commitments to Christ) placed a high value on hospitality.

Hospitality inside the Church

Hospitality inside the church refers to welcoming and loving guests who attend your church’s services. This means more than just holding the doors open and greeting people. It is more than handing out bulletins. A proper greeter will be smiling, friendly, and will anticipate any needs the guest may have. A well trained greeter understands that visiting a church can be very intimidating and will strive to allay any fears.

Hospitable churches go beyond the greeter. The more effective churches also teach church members to be friendly to guests every week. An attender would expect the church staff to be friendly. The attender would appreciate a group of volunteer greeters. But when the attender sees that the whole church body loves him/her that makes a big difference. When the whole church body is friendly, caring, and concerned, it communicates the love of Christ. This is what the guest has been searching for in life.

Hospitality outside the Church

Hospitality is not just something we reserve for when people darken the doors of our churches. It is an extension of the gospel. It is about showing the love of Christ to those who are estranged from God. As Willis and Clements noted in their book, The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life, “At its core, the practice of biblical hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to ‘welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.’ It’s receiving others into our lives—into relationship and, yes, even into our homes.”

Hospitality outside the church requires us to be friendly to non-Christians we meet. Missional hospitality teaches us to utilize the relationships we inevitably build from our friendliness as a way to share the gospel.

 

Implications

In light of the findings, the best way to prepare for guests to your church is to be hospitable outside the church and to treat guests in your church as you would guests in your home. Here are five practical tips for exercising hospitality in your church:

  1. Learn first names quickly and use them often.
  2. Have greeters in the parking lot to welcome and guide guests to where they need to go.
  3. Have large golf umbrellas on hand for rainy days. Walk guests to and from their vehicles.
  4. Ask ice breaker questions to find out something about the guests. If they don’t know anyone in the church family, introduce them to someone with something in common.
  5. Have church members prepared to invite guests to lunch (either at home or in a restaurant).

What practices of hospitality would you add to this list? Comment below.

Getting Small Churches on Mission, Part 1

My friend, Ed Stetzer, wrote a chapter in our book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry. Today he posted a blog  reflecting four big-picture ways for smaller churches to begin moving toward mission.

Be sure to read his blog today and part 2 tomorrow.

Top 10 Factors Predicting The Most Converts

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In March 2017, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence partnered with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Lifeway Research to study the personal evangelism habits of pastors serving in small churches. The study involved a survey of 1,500 smaller membership church pastors serving in Evangelical denominations across the United States.

Once the data was collected and analyzed, we discovered that there were 10 factors that contributed to greater numbers of people making first time commitments to follow Christ. These factors are descriptive. They reflect the methods and makeup of the churches who effectively reached lost people with the gospel over the past year. However, some of these factors may be prescriptive. If you are serving in a church, particularly a smaller membership church, you may want to consider these factors. Create an environment for personal evangelism.

1. Higher percentage of unchurched attendees: The pastors/churches who effectively reached lost people with the gospel were the ones who connected with unchurched people. Those who focus on reaching “church folk” just don’t have the exposure to lost people. We must be incarnational. Go into the unchurched world. Have gospel conversations. Create a welcoming place where unchurched people feel loved.

2. Higher percentage of Hispanic attendees: This is certainly a descriptive factor. Hispanic churches are effectively engaging with the lost world. Can your church begin an outreach or mission to Hispanics in your community?

3. Lower Church Attendance: Small churches are great places to engage in Gospel conversations with the lost. As worship attendance increases, it can become difficult to have personal interactions. I think that many people crave family connections, and smaller membership churches are able to provide that environment.

4. Pastor asks for personal commitment more often: It is certainly true that people cannot know Christ unless someone tells them the gospel. It follows that those who hear the gospel will not make a commitment unless they are invited to do so. We must invite people to make a commitment to Christ.

5. More Training Events Attended by Pastor: When a young man learns to be a carpenter, he begins with one tool, then adds others as he becomes proficient. Before long, he is a master carpenter with many tools in his tool belt. For pastors, ministry training (evangelism, missions, preaching, teaching, leadership, etc.) is how we add tools to our tool belt. Evangelistic pastors are evangelistic because they seek to become proficient with evangelism tools. The more tools you have, the more versatile you will be.

6. More Classes Offered for New Attendees: These churches were prepared with classes to teach foundational beliefs to new attendees. This gave new disciples a jump start on how to be a disciplemaking disciple of Jesus.

7. More Frequent Ministry Opportunities Outside the Church: Evangelistic churches are ones that are in the world, not withdrawn from the world. We must love people where they are in order for them to know the love of Christ. We cannot wait for them to come find us.

8. More Reports of Members Evangelizing:  Evangelism and ministry is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor. The most effective evangelistic pastors are the ones who create an culture of evangelism within the church.

9. More Time Dedicated by Pastors to Evangelism: Evangelistic pastors are intentional about being in the community and sharing the gospel. Church members see the importance of evangelism and follow the pastor’s lead.

10. Higher percentage of church budget spent on evangelism: Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, we budget for what we value. If you are passionate about reaching the lost in this world with the gospel message, then you will devote financial resources to reaching the lost in this world.

Simple Evangelism Presentations

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There are many personal evangelism presentations available for believers. I was recently asked what was my personal favorite approach to personal evangelism. After I gave my answer, I began to think about why it was my favorite and if there were others that met the same criteria.

  1. Based on the Bible

The first criterion for my preferred personal evangelism presentations is that it must be based on scripture. Paul stated in 1 Cor. 15 that the gospel he preached, we must also preach. That gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to Scriptures.” As he continued, he was adamant to point the Corinthians (and us) back to the Scriptures. The Bible says that in order to proclaim the Word of God, we must use the Word of God.

  1. Easy to Learn

The second criterion is that the presentation must be easy to learn. I believe that teaching a new believer to share his or her new faith should come early in the process of disciplemaking. In fact, I think a new believer should be encouraged to share that faith within the first hour. The simplest way to do this is to have the new believer share the gospel presentation that was shared with him/her. Therefore, it must be easy to learn.

  1. Easy to Teach

It’s not enough for a new believer to learn the gospel, the new believer must also be confident enough to teach others to share the gospel. Therefore, the presentation must be easy to teach.

Resources

There are a number of great, simple gospel presentations. Here are some that are available online:

One Verse Evangelism This presentation is available from the Navigators. It was written by Randy Raysbrook. The presentation is based on Romans 6:23, and utilizes the bridge illustration.

https://www.navigators.org/Tools/Evangelism%20Resources/Tools/One-Verse%20Evangelism-%20How%20to%20Share%20Christ-s%20Love%20C

Steps to Peace With God This resource was created by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It was originally developed as a tract, but is useful as an outline to a gospel presentation.

Step ONE: God loves you and wants you to experience peace and life- abundant and eternal.
Step TWO: We choose to disobey God and go our own willful way. This results in separation from God.
Step THREE: Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave. He paid the penalty for our sin and bridged the gap between God and people.
Step FOUR: We must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by personal invitation.

https://peacewithgod.net

John 3:16 One Verse Evangelism This presentation is similar to the Navigators presentation in that it utilizes a version of the bridge illustration. This version uses John 3:16 as the basis of the gospel.

http://gbcchurchplants.com/pdfs/One%20Verse%20Evangelism%20(John%203-16).pdf

Wordless Book This resource is great to use with children or anyone who is an oral learner. It uses five colors to communicate the gospel:

GOLD God wants us to be in heaven with Him.
BLACK Our sin separates us from God.
RED Christ died on the cross as the only payment for our sin.
WHITE Accept God’s forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life.
GREEN Grow closer to God every day.

http://www.cefonline.com/download/wordless-book-pdf/

Four Spiritual Laws This is better used as a tract, but it is possible to learn the four laws as the basis of a gospel presentation. Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) developed this approach.

1. God loves you and created you to know Him personally.

2. Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love.

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love.

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.

http://knowgod.com/en/fourlaws/?utm_source=4laws&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=4laws-visit&utm_content=english

 

Gospel Appointments Resource

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I had the pleasure of meeting with the Baptist Collegiate Network this evening. This is a network of leaders in Baptist Collegiate Ministries. These guys are passionate about making disciple-making disciples on the nation’s college campuses.

While meeting with them, I learned of a great resource for evangelism. It is the Gospel Appointments website. Be sure to check out this website which details a very simple approach to meeting people and sharing the gospel.

The Gospel Appointments approach was designed to help college students meet and share the gospel with other college students. However, it is not limited to just college students. Check out this resource, set up an appointment, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.