The Problem with Rebirth is YOU (and Me)…-And The Journey There-

The night had grown dark as the shadows fell upon the buildings of Jerusalem like thick blankets, cool and sleepy. Creeping along the side roads and alleyways, Nicodemus made his way to the house where he knew Jesus was staying. He did not want to be seen, after all, as a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, he had a reputation to uphold…and yet he felt compelled to seek out this Rabbi.

Perhaps Nicodemus witnessed Jesus, red faced and angry as he cleansed the Temple when others had turned it into an ancient Walmart; Or perhaps he had witnessed or even heard through second-hand knowledge of Jesus’ miracles. Regardless of the ‘why’, Nicodemus had to seek Him out.

Nicodemus stands sheepishly at the door momentarily seconding guessing himself before finally knocking. He hears someone stir from within, and the voices that had been loud and jovial only a moment ago, quiet down as if to wonder who could be at the door at such a late hour. Wide eyes peer out as the door cracks open, for a moment there is silent, shell-shocked surprise as the homeowner recognizes Nicodemus standing there. Why would a Pharisee come here, and why so late?

As if in reply to the silent question, Nicodemus asks politely, “Is the teacher Jesus here?

I can almost envision a flurry of questioning and worried looks from within. Questions like, ‘Is this Pharisee here to harm the Master?’, and ‘What could he want?’, or even, ‘What can we say to make him leave?’ Finally the owner leads Nicodemus to the roof, where the cool breeze of the evening makes this space the most desirable place in the house.

Jesus is seated there, perhaps looking out upon the city, pondering…or perhaps He knew Nicodemus would come and so he was simply waiting.

Nicodemus, nodding gratefully to the owner seats himself beside Jesus. In a way of greeting, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law and Rabbi in his own right calls to Jesus, ‘Rabbi’ in a manner of respect.
Rabbi, we know that you are a teach who has come from God…”
-(John 3: 2)

Such a public declaration in the daylight would most certainly have tarnished his reputation or worse, and yet here in the privacy of the dark Nicodemus pours out his heart and speaks plainly to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Imagine the scene, as Nicodemus declares that which is nearing blasphemy to the ears of his fellow Pharisees, and yet here in this quiet evening space, he speaks to what He knows in his heart is true. He has arrived at “God must be with this man – Jesus”…and Jesus is about to take him to the very feet of God himself. For a moment there is a pause in the conversation as Jesus collects himself and then looks at Nicodemus with the wisp of a smile, and he says, “This is the truth that I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

For a moment this puzzles Nicodemus.
What could that even mean? How can one be physically born again? It is not possible! A Rabbi who is used to telling stories to teach a point is completely lost when Jesus uses a very similar method. Nicodemus finally speaks and asks his question, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!

Then Jesus looks at Nicodemus as if he can see into his very soul…and perhaps he could. Perhaps in all of his many years as a Rabbi and religious law enforcer, Nicodemus has never seen or heard of such wonders from one man. Perhaps somewhere in his heart and soul, the words of Jesus are being heard in a much different frequency. It is the frequency of truth, life and the source of all love. Perhaps in this very moment the creation has caught a glimpse of the Creator and there is a skipping of a heart beat and an inward ‘leaning in’ as if in response to a hunger that has been reignited once more that was only known in his younger, more eager days.

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, and this time Nicodemus physically leans in, as if to catch this moment and words with his hands, mind and heart. Jesus speaks of the heavenly things and Nicodemus barely grasps the earthly ones, and yet from this night on, he will never be the same. Soon, the truth of Jesus’ words will reverberate in his mind as he witnesses Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The truth has set Nicodemus free this night. Where there was once doubt, certainty begins to grow. Where there was once earthly wisdom, heavenly wisdom is now craved. Nicodemus may have come under the cover of night, but will soon perhaps declare in the daylight his new found hope.

I wonder where we are in all of this.
Do we have all of the head knowledge the earth can give us and yet we come up short when it comes to grasping this faith that Jesus offers to us? How do we comprehend so new life? Is there room in our understanding of faith to find rebirth?

Perhaps some of us are still figuring things out.
Maybe others have begun that late night stealthy walk towards Jesus, hoping no one will see us as we explore. Still, perhaps others have met Jesus and have put their trust in Him.

Wherever you are on this journey, please know that Jesus is waiting patiently for you…but don’t wait too long. Don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate…because one day it will be too late. Grace truly does have an expiration date.

So where are you on your journey today?

Something more to ponder today.

A Pastoral Pondering on Life, Death and Hope…

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The telephone rang in my office. It was a darkening, rainy afternoon. The billowing clouds hung ominously outside, and in my heart there was also a tempest that was threatening to spill out into my life. It had been a hard couple of years in the ministry, and I had been contemplating my resignation as a pastor. I was frustrated, hurt, and very ready to pack it all in and call it quits. It was with a heavy heart that I picked up that ringing telephone and answered.

Little did I know that the prayer that I had been repeating in my mind and on my lips was about to be answered. – A local pastor was calling to donate some food to our corps because we had a large soup kitchen and we could always use the extra meals. I politely told the pastor that I would drive over to his church right away and collect the food. Isn’t it interesting how God knows just what we need even before we recognize it?

I made my way to his church and pulled into the driveway. The church was an older gray stone building with a traditional cross at the top, and the customary blue and red stained glass window that faced the busy street. I parked at the adjacent gymnasium structure and knocked on the front door. The pastor ambled to the door and upon seeing the uniform, welcomed me in. He led me to the kitchen where the food was all nicely wrapped and ready…but something truly remarkable happened. I had come for food to feed others, but the Lord had other ideas in mind. I needed nourishment of the heart – for I was worn, weary and at the end of my rope.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit, but I am certain that the Lord had given me a divine appointment that day in order to help heal my wounded heart. The pastor began to talk to me about his ministry, and gave me a brief tour of the building. He described the basketball program and the youth ministry. We chatted for a few more minutes and then it all spilled out…It felt like I was in a safe place, far away from judgment and ridicule…and so I shared with him my hurt. It was like unloading a burden I had been carrying around for far too long. I told him about my heartache I had experienced in the ministry, and the wounds that had been inflicted while on the pastoral battlefield. He understood. He didn’t say, “well you just need to try harder“, or “perhaps you just aren’t walking with the Lord enough“; or even “maybe you’re just not cut out for ministry.

No, rather, he just listened.

He let me expose the festering wound of my heart that refused to heal. I had not been able to articulate it, let alone face it before. But here in a gym kitchen, I felt led to bear the wound and let the infection be seen.

Finally after I had finished talking, the pastor told me about his own hurt. How years ago he had moved to this town. He had left another ministry that had been difficult and it too had wounded him. Leaning on a stainless steel island in a small kitchen, he then prayed for me, and the power of the Holy Spirit began working in my heart. I can’t tell you that I was miraculously healed in a single instant, but the pain, bitterness and hurt started to be addressed by the Lord. I was a broken vessel in need of repair, and the hands of God were more than willing to remold me again. Dare I say that the Pastor was only being faithful to the Lord, while the Lord applied the much needed salve to a wounded life. Isn’t it funny how God has a tendency to do that – use the faithful at the most unlikely of places, and just the right moment?!

After the Pastor prayed with me, he asked me if it would be alright if he contacted a couple of other pastors that he knew, and if we could all meet over breakfast sometime soon. I accepted the invitation and promptly left with the food in my hands. Again, I had come to receive food for people in need, when I was also in need myself – in need of spiritual nourishment and hope. I walked away from that encounter a little lighter.
I told my wife about my time with Pastor Steve, and explained that I felt the Lord had placed him in my path.

A little while later I received a phone call from Pastor Steve, and true to his word, he was inviting me to a breakfast with his group of pastors. I had been in other pastor groups before, and sometimes it felt like it was a forced fellowship. I went to the first breakfast with that thought in mind, but I was extremely surprised to find a group of guys who loved being with each other. The laughed together over coffee and toast. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a fellowship I didn’t deserve…and yet here they were warming my heart.

Over the course of the next few months I met with this pastor group. We met every couple of weeks, and there wasn’t any agenda except to encourage one another, to pray for one another and share the in the journey. I came to pick up food only to be fed…

Pastor Steve helped to pick me up, a wounded pastor, on the way while traveling on the same journey…and I am forever grateful for that divine appointment. It was just before Thanksgiving last year that Pastor Steve went in for a routine gall bladder surgery only to discover that it wasn’t gall bladder at all, but rather terminal cancer.
I recall the sheer shock of that horrific news. Yet, through it all Pastor Steve remained a faithful servant of God.

Just today, mere weeks before Thanksgiving – almost one year to the day – Pastor Steve went to be with the Lord. I mourn the loss of such a man of God. This world is better because he walked it. My life is better because he journeyed for a time along with me. He shared in my hurt, and helped to heal the deep wounds of my heart. I know that I will always be thankful for his ministry in my life…even though it was for but the briefest of times. Just like markers in life – where we remember the turning points and milestones – Pastor Steve stands there on one of those points in mine.

I came to pick up food for others only to be fed…and that was a divine appointment designed by the Lord and enacted upon by a faithful servant…thank you Steve! And now while I continue to travel this path, may I too faithful recognize those divine appointments that must enter and help those who walk behind me.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis.

10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth

The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)

Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable is a link to a few that we have done over the years – Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Why We Should Get Rid of “Church”…

The primary purpose for our founders in creating The Salvation Army was to be a Lighthouse, a beacon to the lost.  We were founded to help the lost, the drowning the marginalized in society…those who were not welcome in Church.  We are a holiness movement, and our origin story is all about gap ministry.   We go to places that the Church has forgotten or, in some cases, refused to go.
Why then do we make it such a focus to emulate or replicate the Church?
I do not wish to disparage any church but as a practice, many times Church (big C) gets it wrong.  The Salvation Army was created to be a “door-opener”  – a ministry in which people felt comfortable with, where lives were being touched because the physical needs were met first.  But over time, I feel that we started looking around at the explosive growth of churches and mega churches and longed to be like them…when our mission and vision is nothing like them.   It’s like this:  We are all a member of the Body of Christ, some are the hands, some are the feet…but what happens when the hands look over and see the feet and they begin to try and act like feet?  What happens is we have a polarizing body that is not functioning as it was intended to function.  This is what I believe has become our downfall as an Army.  We were called to be the hands of Christ to the unchurched, to the depraved, to the marginalized of society…but we are trying to act and look like another ministry.

Getting Rid of “Church”
1.  Stop labeling “Worship” only what we do with music…
worshipWe need to rid ourselves of the Church of the worship of music!
Worship is so much more than music on Sunday mornings.  Worship is not just your praise band or your brass band and special music.  Worship IS holistic and it encompasses every aspect of who we are as Soldiers of this Army, just as Holiness is our aim in every facet of life!  Worship is the response to God’s wondrous love for us.  We worship in the van as we pick up people for Holiness meeting.  We worship as we go to midweek bible study or other such programs.  We worship as we clean the corps bathrooms (this might sound funny, but we once had a blind janitor who could be heard singing hymns of praise while he clean the toilets and washed walls – he taught me a lot about worship).  brass

2.  Stop thinking Church as only what we do on Sunday…
This notion of “Church” really should be eliminated so that we can get on with going for souls and going for the worst!  Church is NOT what we do on Sundays!  We worship the Lord on our Sunday Sabbath day.  We collectively get together on this day and sing, pray, encourage one another and hear a message…but Church is not only a Sunday thing.  We we have this mindset that Sunday is separate from the rest of the week, and that “Church” should only occur on Sunday then we have lost our mission as an Army.  Getting rid of this notion of “Church” will open up the possibilities that our Soup Kitchen days, and our Food Pantry days, and our youth program days…IS ALL MINISTRY!!  Every facet of these vital “soup, soap, salvation” elements is another opportunity to share Christ, disciple lives and encourage the downtrodden.  This is what Church should’ve been…and what we ought to strive to BE.    Your congregation is NOT Sunday, but everyday – everyone who comes to your corps, who receives services, who asks for help, They are your congregation!

3.  Create Community Not Programs!
programsWe as an Army are so good at creating programs.
We have programs for everything – we even have programs for programs.
It is not the Army’s mission to create more programs, it is our mission to create community and save souls in Jesus’ name!  When we aren’t engaging our community with the elements we are using, perhaps it’s time to rid ourselves of the Church of Programs!!
Programs can become our Church and we are so caught up in our program bubbles that we cannot see what families and individuals are truly in need of.  We think, we’ll just start a new program to reach them, when in reality what every person craves is a place to belong and to find encouragement and feel that they are a member of the community.

4.  Create an Environment of Ownership!own
Lieutenants, Captains, Majors & perhaps a few Colonels & Commissioners – We must stop trying to run everything ourselves.  Stop micromanaging.  The Army, at times, worships at the Church of the Micromanagers and we must rid ourselves of this Church!!  What we do by micromanaging is create a corps of dependency.  By this I mean is the attitude or belief becomes “since the Officer runs keyeverything, we can sit back and watch since they don’t need me anyway.”  If you have doers in your corps, they will quickly become frustrated and perhaps seek somewhere else that they will be used.  Stop micromanaging and start delegating leadership and other duties to others in your corps!  Begin to create the environment of ownership.

Do you remember what Jesus did when they were facing a mass feeding problem of about 5,000+ people?  He didn’t immediately take charge, instead he went to his disciples and said, “feed these people”.  Of course the disciples were in shock and did not know how to proceed, the cost was too high and they only had five loaves and two fish.  But do you remember what Jesus did with their effort?  He multiplied it.  

In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit will do that in our corps too when there is an investment and ownership by others.  We as officers and leaders have to relinquish our drive for perfection and our grip on authority and allow others to be discipled and in turn they will own their shared portions of responsibility.

I know there is much more to cover on this topic.
What other Churches do we worship at that we should rid ourselves of?
We are a gap ministry, a safe harbor for hurting people to come and find a home.
The Salvation Army needs to rid itself of Church so that it can fully embrace its Holiness as a Movement of Christ.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
What do you think?  Tell us by commenting, offering your thoughts and opinions.

*Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are the thoughts and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.* 

Messy Church Outline: Abram/Sarai

Below is a workable outline for a Messy Church Event that you are welcome to use!
We adapted this idea, and obviously we made it our own.
There is a section for each table called “Talk About It” in which we try to get the “journeying groups” to engage in discussion and to really think about the theme and lesson of this specific “Messy Church”.  We did add additional questions and I would encourage you to do so as well…this is just a primer, but this teaching method has a lot of potential.

Opening & Worship:
Started with some songs and a video:
Kids Tell: Abram & Sarai Story

Scripture Reference: 

Genesis 12-21
Main points:
*  God calls Abram & Sarai to go on a journey with him.

  • His wife Sarai can’t have children, this makes them sad.
  • On the journey God promises Abram that he will have more children than there are stars in the sky or grains of sand in the desert.
  • We are all members of this family.
  • God’s promise starts with small things but can become incredibly massive (stars in the sky)!
  • God calls us on this journey as well!Time to Depart On Our Journey!  (Go to stations!) 

5 Stations:
#1 Camp Tent – S’mores
#2 “Stars” Table
#3 Postcards to Family table
#4 Edible Pyramids
#5 Family Portrait Table

#1.  Camping Tent – Make S’mores
Need:  Graham Crackers, Marshmellows and Chocolate.
Instructions: Make s’mores while talking about camping…
Talk About:  The travel must have taken a long time, and they had to endure a lot out in the wilderness.  Food wasn’t always so easy to come by, but Abram and Sarai still traveled and did what the Lord instructed of them while on this journey.  Have you ever gone camping?  What types of items do you need in order to successfully camp?  What’s the longest that you’ve ever had to sleep in a tent and on the ground?  How do you think this journey felt to Abram and Sarai who were well over 70 years of age at the time?  Do you think they always had a good meal while traveling?  How do you think they slept each night?  Would this journey have been easy on Abram and Sarai?

Scripture Verse:
“…So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” –Genesis 18:6
#2.  “Stars” Table – Need:  Black or dark paper, a bunch of star stickers
Instructions:  Create a starry sky on your paper with the stars provided.

Talk About:  While Abram and Sarai were on this journey, God promised them that they would have more children than there were stars in the sky!  As you create your starry sky, imagine being Abram and Sarai as they have yet to experience the completion of this promise.  What must they have felt?  How would they have dreamt this promise would be fulfilled?  Would this journey be easy for them?  How many family members can you count in your family?

Scripture Verse:  “He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:5

#3.  “Postcards to Family Table”
Need: Post card/Cue Cards & Pens, Crayons & markers, coloring pencils.
Instructions:  Design a post card to give to someone you love in your family, maybe someone living near you or maybe far away.  Use the materials here to make it look beautiful.  IMG_1174.JPG

Talk About:  Families all have ancestors and extended relatives right?  Sometimes families can be traced back for hundreds of years.  Do you have any royalty in your family tree?  Any ancestors who were criminals or famous?   We may not don’t always get along, and sometimes we do.  But family is family.  And we are given time to connect and love each other.  Imagine how Abram and Sarai must have felt when they went on this journey and had to say goodbye to their families?  Do you think it was difficult to leave everyone behind?  They couldn’t write postcards like we are doing right now, but I am sure that they treasured precious memories of the family as they hoped for the vast family God had promised to them in the future.

Someone Read Scripture Outloud:  “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.

2-3 I’ll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you.”

(Genesis 12:1-3)

#4 Edible Pyramid – Table
Need: Bread, Lunch meats, spreads, peanut butter, jelly
Triangle mold to cut the bread or knife (adult supervision please?!).

Object: Make pyramid sandwiches but cutting triangles of bread in ever-decreasing sizes with different fillings until you have made a pyramid-shaped structure.  Only make sandwiches that YOU WILL EAT!  img_1178

Talk About:
The ancient city of UR, was a strange place.  There were people there who worshipped nature gods in buildings called ziggurats – they looked a lot like the pyramids that we have seen pictures of in Egypt.  Despite all of their strange practices, these people never had an encounter with a god.  Abram, however didn’t need a pyramid dedicated to a god to meet the real God.  Instead Abram first encountered God out in the desert.

Scripture Passage To Read Outloud:
“Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. TheLord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.” – Genesis 12:6-9

#5 Family Portrait Table
Need: Paper, Outlines of Cars, Trains, Camels, horses, RV’s.
Poster paints, jars of water, paint brushes.

Instructions: Using the paper with the outlines of transportation (1 per) everyone can paint their family on a journey.  Add extended family, church family and even friends.  Think about who you will add to your vehicle.

Talk About:  Abram and Sarai didn’t journey alone.  Some of their family actually came with them.  Abram actually had quite a large caravan of livestock, servants and family with him and Sarai on this trip.  Do you think they always agreed while on this journey?  Do you think it was always easy traveling with their family?  What sort of challenges do you think they had along the way?  Tell us about some of the trips you have made with your families?  How long have your road trips been?  Did you always get along?

Scripture Reading To Read Out loud:
So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.” Genesis 12:4-6


Closing Time:  Move to another location or gather in a central place in the same room:
Suggestion – hang stars in the room…finish your celebration there!
Sing a couple of songs (if you have time)

Final talk: Highlight our time, celebrate their accomplishments
So how was your journey today?
Were you able to glimpse a little of what Abram and Sarai must have gone through as they went on their faith journey with God?  Abraham was very, very old, and he was married to Sarah.  They were very, very sad because they had no children.  But, as we have discussed while on our journeys today, God made Abraham a special promise.  God said to Abraham, “Look up and count the stars – if you can.  That’s how many people there will be in your family one day…

Ask – “How many stars can you count?”  God told Abraham that his family would be so large that they would be as numerous as the stars above us…wow!  That’s a lot of family!  And you know what?  God keeps His promises doesn’t He?  Look around the room at all the people here today.  Just take a moment and look.  We are all a part of Abraham’s family.  Does that surprise you?  God told Abraham to go on that journey to an unknown place, and because Abraham and Sarah were obedient, God kept His promise to them.  This family of God is vast isn’t it?  Think about all of the Christians throughout the world both living and dead.  That adds up to be millions and millions of people, and guess what?  We’re all family because of Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness.

Prayer Response (Option)
Encourage everyone to think of something to thank God for.  Ask them to put up their hand to say what they are thankful for.  As people give their responses, repeat it and invite everyone to say outlout “Lord God, We Thank YOU!”

Final Blessing/Benediction:
“Lord, thank you that we are one big family of your people throughout the world and throughout history.  Help us to live as one family, loving each other through thick and thin.  Amen.”

(Adapted and Used – Source: Messy Church: Fresh Ideas For Building A Christ-Centered Community.  Unit 1) messy-church

Dear Salvation Army, 4 Proven Ways To Evangelize

Dear Salvationist,
How does evangelism work?
Does the word “Evangelism” turn you off?
Does that word evoke in you some sort of imagery of phoniness and deceptive means to introduce people to Christ?
Is there a proven method to reaching people?
Is that what we’re called to do – to “reach people”?
What does “Evangelism” look like in our world today?
Obviously it differs from culture to culture.Photo Mar 10, 9 27 12 AM

You’ve seen them before in your neighborhood.
Is it dishonest to NOT answer the door when the Jehovah’s Witness knocks on it?
You keep telling yourself to be polite, yet you’re still in your pajamas and your hair is a mess, you can’t help but feel embarrassed and that your personal space is being invaded.

Have you been here before?
Most of us have.

Is this the proper way to evangelize?
Is there really a blueprint to evangelism?
Do you have to rehearse cue cards and scripture passages, until you’re polished and prepared to really “sell it”?  Is that what evangelism is – selling a product, selling Jesus?
I don’t think so.

Photo Feb 24, 1 29 59 PMThere’s something harsh these days about cold calling and neighborhood canvasing.
Don’t get me wrong, perhaps in some ways it can be successful…I’ve just never seem much evidence to that fact, instead quite the opposite.  People are put off by it.  Most want to have nothing to do with what “you’re selling”.   I’m not proposing we stop evangelize, I just think that perhaps we’re going about it all wrong.

Dear Salvation Army, Here are 4 Proven Ways To Evangelize:

1. True Evangelism Happens Organically.  Photo Mar 10, 9 28 31 AM
Genuine evangelism happens naturally and because the sweet aroma of Christ is evident in our compassion for others.  This isn’t a forced, “cold-call” or a cue card session.  This is Christ being seen in us, spontaneous and real – no pretenses, no ulterior motivations, just a Christ-follower wanted others to experience the free of grace and love.

2.  Relationship Building
handsTrue evangelism and even discipleship takes place when we care more about the person than we do a “pew-filling”.   Relationship building costs more in us, perhaps that’s why people are less inclined to invest in relationships than they are in the door knocking type of evangelism.  When we intentionally seek out people, befriending them, caring about them, showing up for them – we will see a deeper type of compassion and love in us.  We will want to fully commit to sharing Christ.  We will take the time to be the very reflection of Christ.  Relationship building, to me, carries the most authenticity when it comes to evangelizing to people around us.

3.  Coffee Shop/Bar Gimmicks
Pastor Offers “Free Prayer”… 

I cringe at the word “Gimmick” but it means more than just phony pretenses and cold

Isn’t all prayer “Free”?  Who’s paying for prayer? 
approaches.  If we have this desire to win souls, and we are brave, we can put ourselves “out there”.  This won’t drive the masses to your corps (church), but this is a different type of statistic – one that carries compassion to the need.  Set up shop in a cafe’.  Place a card that says “free prayer” or something like that.  Go to the local Bar (gasp) and sip a coke-cola while you offer yourself to meeting people with Christ on your mind and heart.  (** I would caution you, with the latter approach, that if you have or had a drinking problem – I would advise against going to the bar and sitting.  The temptation might be all to real for you.**)  There is something about getting into the community and being a beacon of hope where perhaps someone is searching for a voice of encouragement and care.

4.  Finding YOUR Groove!
grooveDon’t be someone you’re not.  Don’t be fake.  Don’t put on a show – Jesus isn’t a show, or a facade, and I wonder sometimes how God-honoring some of these evangelistic methods truly are.  Does God need us to sell Him to the masses?  Is that what we do?  Is that in the job description?  I mean, sure, we need to be intentional, we need to care about others, but do we have to go door to door?  Do we have to pass out tracts at a sporting event? – No.  I think that REAL evangelism looks nothing like that – I think it can present itself as hateful instead…and people are so turned off by it, that no one pays attention to it.
I believe God has given all of us unique gifts and abilities – perhaps within those gifts and abilities lies this sweet-spot.  It’s our groove.  It’s the place where we thrive and where God thrives with us.  Perhaps, it is in this groove that our true abilities to evangelize really takes wings.  Within our groove we find balance and commonality with others.  Within our groove God brings people to us through the path that we’re on.  Within our groove true passion and genuine love is evident.

So what’s your groove?
Where has God led you?
How has He used you to bring others to Him?
What are your proven means to evangelism – not cold-calls and passing out tracts, but real, tangible relationship building, loving, caring compassionate, authentic evangelism?

Dear Salvation Army…what is your groove?
Dear Salvationist – Where is God leading you?
Who is He leading you to?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, 10 Evangelistic Ideas For Your Corps

Today’s pondering is a slight deviation from the normal format…sorry.
With that said, however, I would like to offer some realistic evangelistic outreach ideas that could (emphasis on could) revitalize your corps’ ministry.  Please recognize that these are merely suggestions and they may not all work in your specific location.  It should also be noted that true evangelism must be a passion that your corps has before you can actually go out and reach into your neighborhoods and communities.  Also, as far as I know, some of the best forms of evangelism happens on an individual basis not so much the “event” oriented methods.  With that having been said, don’t simply replace your individual/personal evangelistic attempts with these suggestions.  The idea today is to provide you with some unique and creative means of sharing the gospel with your community…so here goes.

1.  Prayer Walksprayer
This evangelistic idea is probably the least invasive idea for evangelism and involves your current soldiers and adherents.  This notion literally is what it says…go out and walk your community and pray for specific people as you go.  These prayer walks are generally done in pairs or “prayer teams”.  Walk the streets around your corps.  See specific homes and families and pray for those homes and families as you walk by.  This type of personal evangelism allows your corps members to truly SEE the people living around your corps and community.

Before starting, make a plan.  Don’t just go out.  Instruct your corps members how this should be done.  There are numerous resources online for this type of evangelism.  Help them catch the vision and then ask them for a commitment to walk and pray.  Assign, if needed specific times for these prayer partners to walk.  Perhaps it can be done during the lunch hour once a week, or after work for just an hour.  Never underestimate the power of prayer!  Mighty things can and will come if we would just cover our community in fervent prayer.

fam12.  Family Movie Nights
Understandably you might run into copyright issues with this one, so be careful!  Creating family times together can be very rewarding for your corps.  I know of some corps who started a Wii bowling league a few years ago and people thoroughly enjoyed that type of event.  Casual events where we aren’t trying to “sell” Christianity but rather allow our Christian relationship be seen tends to make new comers more at ease.  Sometimes I think we try too hard to impress the guest that we come off as phony or a group with ulterior motives.  Pick movies that are kid friendly and not overly saturated Christian films.

3. Block Partyparty
The block party idea has been around for years…so it’s not a new one, but with some fresh paint it can be a healthy way to get to know families in your neighborhood.  These events can lead to some wonderful connections while over the barbecue grill or around picnic tables.  Plan it wise, make sure you have plenty of time to send out invitations and remember to engage and enjoy this family fun event!

4. Art Showart show
Bring some culture into your corps buildings or local park venues by hosting an Art Show.  These art shows could be individuals from your corps, a local college or high school in your area or even elementary school age children.  Parents will want to come out and support their children along with the rest of the family.  Plan to meet people at the door, welcome them, prepare of invitations to worship, and provide an atmosphere of welcoming and family friendliness.

5. Parents Night OutBlack family relaxing on sofa together
If you have been or are currently a parent you will understand the necessity to just get away from the crew for a while.  We all need to unplug, unwind and go out with our spouses for a date that doesn’t include highchairs and making huge messes in public (been there have the stains to prove it).  Set up a babysitting event in your corps where corps members will come and host a kids friendly event while Mom and Dad enjoy a night out.  Understandably ensure contact numbers are exchanged and parents understand that the event is NOT A SLEEPOVER for their children.  Set the hours, assign the volunteers and staff for child care and invite the parents out.  This could be a wonderful followup after a block party or another event listed here.

mom26. Mom’s Night Out

There are many single parents out there, including many in our corps.  Host a similar event to the one above for the purpose of Moms (as well as single Dads) to enjoy some time away without having to worry about their children.  If you host this sort of part for single parents in your community, you might be surprised at the response you will get.  Again, it does depend on the community that you live in.

7. Free Finance Classes or other free educational offeringsmoney1
One of the biggest challenge in marriage and life in general is how to manage your money.  Create a six week (or less) “how to manage your money” workshop to help families learn about personal finances.  Make it fun, because 9 times out of 10 these workshops can become boring and labor intensive.  Get the word out, this could be an opportunity to help a parent, family or individual struggling right now with this physical need.

8.  Specific Need Based Ministry for Your Communitycommunity
Do some research.  Ask hard questions.  Study your community and discover what needs people around your community currently without.  Can you meet these needs?  Do you have the resources or personnel to help assist you?  Is this a short-term or long-term “need-based” ministry?  Perhaps you have a lot of single teen moms in your community that have no where to go to connect with other single teen moms.  Perhaps there’s an educational need like a GED program for graduate certificate curriculum you could offer.  Find what’s missing in your community and try to fill that gap and meet that specific need!

baby9.  New Born Gift Ministry
Perhaps you have elderly men and women in your corps and they feel that they can no longer contribute or be useful anymore.  Here is an opportunity to engage an elderly crowd.  Have them make blankets for newborns at the local Natal/Maternity wards at the hospital.  Make little stockings or a simple “New Mom’s” care package with thoughtful gifts and cards of encouragement in them.  Make it a clear ministry that involves praying for the new moms and dads.  Some new parents may not have thought of church before or currently have family to encouragement them.

10.  A Community Day of Caring (I’ll Fight Day)
This is an up and coming event each year in December here in the United States…but it could be done any time during the calendar year.  Get out with your corps people and help neighbors by cleaning their homes, raking leaves, help elderly people with groceries and many other community caring events.  Be strategic.  Plan and inform the neighborhood of your caring event.  Take time to show the community how much you care for them through works of kindness and charity.  Be mindful that not everyone will be receptive to your acts of kindness, but think of the seeds you might plant when getting out of the corps building and into the community to offer such acts of love?!

These are just ten evangelistic ideas to help you dear Soldier in this fight for the spiritual lives of many.  Use them if you can.  Devise some authentic, caring moments to reach out to people in need.  Get out of the corps.  Learn who lives around your corps.  Be aware of the needs of your community…and get on with loving the least of these!

Just another thing to ponder for our Army world today!
To God be the glory!

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