Tag Archives: evangelism

A Dead Calm

I look at what is happening to the Church these days and wonder: Where is God? New churches have become a rarity. A growing congregation celebrates if it can merely keep pace with the growth of its community. Many congregations see their membership numbers decline and especially the number who attend worship each Sunday. More and more churches have closed and others contemplate how many months they can eke out an existence.

Today the church does not face violent persecution as it had in the first century, but a dead calm. Increasingly events are scheduled on Sunday mornings ignoring the spiritual needs of those who attend worship services. The result is the same.

Backhuysen, Ludolf - Christ in the Storm on th...
Backhuysen, Ludolf – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee – 1695 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
— Mark 4:38 (NRSV)

Mark’s Gospel tells of Jesus calming a storm while the Apostles attempted to cross a sea by rebuking the wind, by ordering it to be silent. Now many individuals perceive they can weather life’s storms by themselves without a church family, without a caring community of believers.

Or perhaps the Church has busied itself with internal controversies and neglected to communicate the story entrusted to it. Have we too long enjoyed the calm waters? Neglected to communicate how worshiping God positively affects our daily living? Neglected to communicate the importance of setting aside a day to connect with one another and with God?

How have you helped the church put its oars in the water so that it might continue to effectively communicate the love of God in the dead calm that culture provides?

I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, June 21st, 2015.

Ministry as Sales

As a pastor I do not have to worry about how prayers will be answered. I am confident that Jesus can manage the production process without my input. Similarly I do not have to fret about who will answer prayers. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will coordinate personnel connecting those who can best advance the Kingdom of heaven. And best all I am confident that God the Father will manage the heavenly host bring everything together at exactly the right moment.

My part in ministry is sales, telling people about the greatest product in the universe: forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting!

This week I put my pastoral skills into material sales, selling coupon books to raise funds for a mission project that our congregation supports. In two hours I learned much about ministry as sales. In this practical experience, we had a great product, for a mere $5 the coupon book contained a $10 coupon, an instant 100% profit, plus several other savings opportunities.

Let Some People Go

As much as I might like to talk with everyone who walked past the door where I stood, some people were too wrapped up in their own thoughts to even acknowledge that I had said good afternoon. Their eyes remained focused beyond where I stood. At most they would acknowledge me with a wave of a hand, gesturing for me to stand aside.

I’ve been in those shoes; rushing to accomplish a few errands between appointments. If anyone had even slowed me down, I would have been furthered biased against whatever they might have said.

Someone else might be able to reach those people at a different time with a different approach more suitable to their personality. Let them go.

Make Eye Contact

Before beginning my spiel, as the next person approached, I would look them in the eye and smile. When I could get to the door, I would open it for them.

The written word can communicate much information to many through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and newsletters, but personal contact conveys more than words. Increasingly I hear that in the not too distant future a few super preachers will present all sermons. These specially gifted and talented individuals will have time and resources to present exceptional media savvy sermons. But I have learned that preaching is best received as a performance art in close communication between the preacher and the congregation. When I preach I watch for changes in body language —arms crossed, smiling, nodding, frowns— and adjust my presentation as I speak.

Making eye contact gave me a few more seconds to deliver the message about what I wanted to sell.

Walk with People

As people walked past where I stood, I did not expect them to instantly stop and listen to me, instead I walked beside them while I told them about the coupon books we were selling.

Walking with people is the essence of ministry. I would like people to believe that I have seen every problem and have all the answers, but I too walk  the path of life, struggling with my faith and its intersection with life. My hope is that I will have something to teach from my experiences and that I will learn from the experiences of those I walk alongside.

Walking with people showed them that I was interested in them and opened a possibility for them to be interested in me and what I had to say.

Know Your Product

The first few times I tried to pitch the coupon books I stumbled over my words and could not find the page with the $10 coupon. My first few attempts were unsuccessful.

Every now and then I look at an old sermon (fortunately I have none on tape) and thank the congregations who listened to me and said they appreciated me. Practice has improved my preaching. Reading a few lines of Scripture everyday continues to improve my familiarity with God’s salvation and presence in life.

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture,
he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.
—Acts 8:35 (NRSV)