Three Critical Questions for Effective Outreach

Three Critical Questions for Effective Outreach

Most Christians want to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Most Christians want to be part of a church that is drawing people to God through the good news of Jesus.
And most Christians wish their church was more effective in its outreach efforts.

In Organic Outreach for Churches, Kevin Harney asks three questions for churches that desire to grow in outreach effectiveness.

  1. Does your church believe, honor, and follow the teachings of the Bible?
  2. Does your church love people and long for them to know Jesus?
  3. Are the people in your church willing to sacrifice to the point that they will joyfully embrace change?

If you can give an enthusiastic yes to these questions, says Harney, your church is on the verge of seeing an explosion in outreach effectiveness.

However, if you cannot give an honest yes to any of these questions, it will be very hard to develop a culture of effective outreach in your church.


Praying for The Supreme Court

Praying for The Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments on cases related to gay marriage. Our country is deeply divided on this issue, and this has the potential to be a landmark, and contentious, decision.

I invite you to join me in praying for our Supreme Court Justices today. How should we pray? Perhaps this prayer from the Book of Common prayer will be helpful.

Almighty God, who sits in the throne judging right: We
humbly beseech you to bless the courts of justice and the
magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth,
and impartially administer the law in the fear of you alone;
through him who shall come to be our Judge, your Son our
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We need another Lincoln. Here’s why we can’t have one.

We need another Lincoln. Here’s why we can’t have one.

389px-Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863Today is the 150th Anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865. Lincoln died the next morning in the Petersen House.

Lincoln was a great president – a great man – who lead our nation during its darkest days. His enduring legacy is as the Great Emancipator, freeing the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Many consider Lincoln to be the greatest president. Both Republicans and Democrats claim the Lincoln Legacy.

Yet, Lincoln would not be considered a great leader today.

His great strength, that lead to his enduring legacy, is today considered a weakness among those in politics.

Lincoln changed his mind.

Lincoln opposed slavery throughout his life. However, unlike commonly held assumptions, Lincoln did not enter politics or run for president under the platform of freeing the slaves. In fact, Lincoln was no friend to the abolitionists who called for the immediate ending of slavery. Lincoln had no intention of ending slavery.

Here are Lincoln’s own words on the subject.

I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be no inclination in the people of the free States to enter into the slave States, and interfere with the question of slavery at all.
– Speech at Chicago, Illinois, July 10, 1858

I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists, because the constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so.
– Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio, September 17, 1859

Even in Lincoln’s first inaugural address, March 4, 1861, he confirms that he has no plans to end the institution of slavery.

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.

In an August 1862 letter to Horace Greenly, while the Civil War is in full conflict, Lincoln affirms that his role in the conflict is not to end slavery, but to preserve the union.

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.

Yet, only a few months later, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.

What led to this shift? Lincoln assessed the situation, and with great thought, in response to the realities facing him, realized that freeing the slaves was the right corse of action. Lincoln changed his mind.

Lincoln’s great strength was his ability to change his views and political direction when it was right and necessary.

Today this ability is considered a weakness, not a strength.
And our country is weaker for it.

Lincoln today would not be praised for his leadership, but dismissed as a “flip flopper” who cannot be trusted.

And it saddens me.

The 2016 Presidential Election cycle is just beginning, but I already see it. Potential presidential candidates, from both the left and the right, are called out as chameleons, liars, or dangerous if they have changed any views over their years of service. We aspire for candidates who hold fast to their beliefs under pressure. We want an unchanging cornerstone who can champion our views with strength.

Yet, we live in rapidly changing times. Adaptability is as important as resoluteness. The ability to assess changing situations and adjust long-held positions when necessary and good is a crucial leadership strength.

I’m afraid of leaders who have never adjusted their opinions when presented with new facts or changing situations. The candidate I would support must hold steadiness and adaptability in equal measure. Like Lincoln.

It is a sign of maturity to put earlier beliefs behind you when necessary. The apostle Paul says it this way:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
-1 Corinthians 13:11

We need a new Lincoln in our country. But, unfortunately, we will not accept one.

5 Ways to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day Without Beer and Brisket

5 Ways to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day Without Beer and Brisket

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Many cities will host large celebrations to celebrate Irish heritage. These celebrations often involve parades, brisket, and lots of beer.

Our American St. Patrick’s Day festivities have very little to do with the life of St. Patrick.

Here’s 5 ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, without beer and brisket.

Our typical St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Our typical St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

1. Celebrate as a Family
Patrick was kidnapped as a teenager. Removed from his family in Britain, Patrick was forced into slavery in Ireland. Honor the years Patrick was forced away from his family by doing something creative and fun as a family. For our family, this always includes a very green meal. Besides being lots of fun, it creates great family memories.

2. Work to End Modern Day Slavery
Patrick lived as a slave from age 16 until he escaped at age 21. It’s easy to think that slavery is something that used to happen, but slavery is still an evil in the world. 29 million people live as slaves today. We can honor St. Patrick by working to abolish modern slavery.

Learn about the evils of Modern Day Slavery at International Justice Mission.
Pray for God to change the heart of traffickers and for the release of slaves.
Purchase goods from rescued slaves to help support their new life. Check out the Fields of Hope store.
Give to support the mission of organizations who are rescuing and healing slaves. A few suggestions: International Justice Mission, On Eagle’s Wings, Stand Against Trafficking.

3. Pray
Patrick became a person of prayer. A great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to spend time in prayer. St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a beautiful prayer attributed to Patrick. Why not pray it today?

Kilbennan_St._Benin's_Church_Window_St._Patrick_Detail_2010_09_16Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

-From St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Find the full prayer at Seedbed.

4. Write a Letter to Missionary
After escaping from slavery in Ireland, Patrick returned to Britain. However, he believed that God was calling him to return to Ireland to share the good news of Jesus. Patrick may have been the first cross-cultural missionary. He returned to Ireland and shared the love of Christ with people who knew nothing of Jesus. His mission to the Irish people was so successful that he became the patron saint of Ireland.

Honor Patrick’s missionary work by writing a letter to a missionary. Tell them thanks and let them know you are praying for them. The encouragement may mean more to them than you know.

Don’t know a missionary? Here’s a few.

5. Love Your Enemies
Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies. Patrick lived this command. Though forced into slavery in Ireland, Patrick did not grow to hate the Irish people. Rather, he loved his captors. He invested his life among his former enemies, reaping a harvest of love. Patrick reminds us that loving service is more powerful than vengeance.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by living as St. Patrick. Show love to your enemies.
Do you desire vengeance because you were wronged? Pray and release the situation to God instead.
Are there people you just don’t get along with? Seek their good.
Have you been taught to hate a group of people? Serve among them and learn their stories.



Feel free to pinch someone who isn’t wearing green today. But let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in ways that honor Patrick’s life and ministry.

Now, please excuse me. I have to go finish wishing some missionaries a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.