In case you have wandered into this blog post wondering what Live2Serve is, a big part of reaching others for Christ and discipling them so they become more like Jesus is learning to serve. Humbly. Effectively. With others in mind.

Live2Serve is the annual training conference for Seacoast Vineyard Church in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’s one of the reasons that this church has 60% of its adult membership volunteering on any given Sunday. We’re aiming for 110%.

Inviting others to join in the fun, use their gifts, passions, experiences and time, and they helping them do it well…well, it makes a difference in how church is done.

Two highlights I want to note:

1) The volunteers that helped make this event happen (along with the staff), were awesome. The registration, program, food, break-outs, and now the follow up all made it worth the hours invested in Live2Sere 2016.

2) Jeff Skelley did an excellent job challenging us to serve with joy, passion and the fulness of the Holy Spirit (yes, the illustration about the Holy Spirit being like chocolate milk – it has to be shaken up to be really experienced – will stick with me awhile!)

Two requests I’d make:

1) Respond to this blog – tell us what we need to change, what worked, how you are serving now that you’ve attended, and what we can do to reach even more for serving and training in 2017.

2) Watch the attached video presentation Jeff Skelley sent me (this is what he wanted to close with.) Let me tell you, it is worth the few minutes to get an up-close perspective of missions in Brazil. Get the kleenex! (Click Missions in Brazil for the video.)

I’ll watch for you replies. See you Easter!

Keep Pursuing Christ Together,

Rick

Small Groups continues to be a cornerstone to the infrastructure of growing churches. At some point (around 200, give or take) the pastor can’t know everybody’s names. At another point (400 or so), he or she loses track of where most people are in their spiritual maturity. And, after about 60, it can be hard to help friendships form. After all, on Sundays, we are all interacting with the pulpit and not each other.

Enter Small Groups.

Group leaders who’ve “done it” for a while know the potential for discipleship, pastoral care, and relationships. Groups aren’t perfect at all three roles, but with intentionality, they can be catalysts for care, growth and friendships

I’ll talk about discipleship (missing in way too many church plans) and pastoral care (often relegated to the “pastoral care guy”) later. But what about creating a place for relationships to begin and grow?

Here are five ways to make your Small Group “friendship friendly.”

  1. Chill – Schedule time during each group meeting to talk about stuff (the game last week, hobbies, projects, etc.) Eventually, the convo will move toward kids, family, and stuff that matters more. Laugh a lot. Guard your Group’s “chill” time. The “hang out” time at your Group may not seem spiritual, but the friends made at Group are the ones who show up at the hospital bed or the baby shower.
  2. Mill – This one goes along with the “chill-time” principle. Make sure you mill around the during this relational time. I know you got your peeps, but drop in on each conversation you can. Find someone who hasn’t “connected” yet. Drag them along into a conversation. Introduce them, so your peeps will become his/her peeps, too.
  3. Grill – This isn’t “grille” as in pound them with questions. This means that you find your “personalized” way to meet outside the Bible Study time. Have a cook out and call it a “bonus meeting.” We build a fire pit in the back yard (I’ll send you my plans if you need them, but don’t hold me liable if you flame on one evening.) Sitting around the fire has been our best icebreaker.
  4. Quill – I know this one’s a stretch (but it does, at least, rhyme.) Write notes to your group members. Not just emails or texts – of course, you are doing this already. Send a card every few weeks and share a verse or word of encouragement. Do this with new and not-yet-connected members more often. And, share the list of names and contact info for your group and encourage them to stay in touch. They will if you will.
  5. ’til – One final way to create a place that encourages friendships – hang in there and keep doing Group until it happens. A four-week study will help with discipleship, but not so much for friendships. I am grateful for leaders who lead short Bible studies, but the group leader who stays in it regularly and consistently will see the disconnected embraced, the lonely befriended, and the newcomer connected.

Keep doing Group!

Rick

 

 

My life was overtaken by mail, email, texts, notifications, social posts, and the occasional fluttering slip of paper. It drove me to research what the experts say can best push back the tide, and even tame the surge of information that, left to itself, will take over our space and consume our time. This and the next posts will, if you will give it two minutes, help you manage your time and space.

Giving up ground to mediocrity isn’t an option. Letting another’s urgency rule my day isn’t either. Here is the first of ten ways to reclaim your time and space (you may already use some or all of these, but thanks for reading through:

#1 Write It Down – Seems obvious, but too many of us ignore this and let other’s agenda’s rule us!

Think about this – in leadership or ministry, people who bring us their tasks, ask our help with this or that, or “delegate up” as one leader puts it. When Jesus said we are to be “servants to all” I don’t think he had being “bondage to the urgent” in mind. When a new task, large or small, comes your way don’t let it take you off the agenda God has you on for the day (unless He definitely speaks “yes.”) Write it down. Have a To-Do list.

This one rule, by the way, is in the top three of all the lists I reviewed.

Making it Work:

  • Figure out a “real time” way to capture the job, task, or idea for later. Then, list it.
  • Invent a system that gives some items priority over the others. Number your list after you finish it, #1 will be the most important thing to do for the rest of that day, #2 is next, etc. Use stars, arrows, color coding, or smiley faces.
  • Maxwell suggests four prioritizing categories:
    1. HI/HU – High Importance/High Urgency; these get your attention first. You are the one to do these.
    2. HI/LU – High Importance/Low Urgency; give these deadlines and make a part of your day-to-day work.
    3. LI/HU – Low Importance/High Urgency; since they are yours, find the quickest fix; if possible, delegate.
    4. LI/LU – Low Importance/Low Urgency; like filing or cleaning out email boxes; give only a certain block of time each week until it’s managed, delegate it, or reevaluate it.
  • Move things to the next day when you feel you have run out of time. Leave no less than :15 at the end of the day for closure and breathing space. Leave nearby what you want to start with the next day.
  • Combine this with your calendar and revisit it often each day.
  • The thinnest line of ink is stronger than our best memory.

Time & Space Hack:

  • Use a tool like FollowUp.cc and send yourself timely “consider this” or “tackle this” notes. Easy to use with your phone; send it and forget about it until followup.cc emails you.
  • Carry a pocket sized notebook and pen. Write it down and forget it until later when you can engage it effectively.

I do both.

Next Time,

Rick

Discussing Heaven:

Here are Opening and Take it Deeper Questions to use before or after the study guide:

1. What has your tradition of faith or experience growing up told you heaven is?

2. Do you believe in heaven?

3. Does heaven start and end? When do you believe it starts?

4. What is one thing about heaven you want to understand?

5. Do you think it’s possible to know if you are going to heaven or not?

Ten Questions You Might Have About Heaven:

  1. Can we know each other in heaven? How will our family be related in heaven? Yes, by what we read in the Bible, we will know one another in heaven. In fact, indications are that we will have a far greater knowledge in heaven and will know people we didn’t know on earth. We will know each other and treasure that knowledge, but our past will not drive us in heaven (ref Jesus and Saduccees arguing about marriage in Luke 20:34-39) Will we be related? Yes, but not just to our families. We will be all related as His, that is God’s family (ref. Eph. 3:15)
  2. Can we know our lost friends and relatives in heaven? Most scholars take the Rich Man and Lazarus as a glimpse into the working of eternity though it is told in parable style. Though the rich man could see there with rest and paradise around him, Lazarus couldn’t see hell’s residents. There is not a strong Bible reference to heaven’s residents being aware of those whom we lost to hell. (ref. Rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19ff)
  3. Do we have the same needs – hunger, thirst, etc. in heaven? Revelation tells us that hunger and thirst will be no more. Though this passage is a direct reference to the treatment of the martyrs during the Tribulation, another reference to similar treatment of heaven’s residents occurs later, saying “the old order of things has passed away.” (ref. Rev. 7:16-17, Rev. 21:4) This doesn’t mean that we won’t enjoy food and drink. In fact, Rev. 22:2 points to fruit trees bearing different kinds of fruit each month – the assumption is that it would be edible and enjoyable.
  4. Are we in heaven the second we die? This is one of those tough questions that Christians have simply agreed to disagree on. Whether it is heaven and all heaven offers, it is agreed upon by most Bible scholars that Christians go somewhere that is far better and in the presence of Jesus. And that sounds like heaven to me (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, and Luke 23:43 – Thief on the cross)
  5. Are there tears or suffering in heaven? One very clear promise is that God will wipe away the tears and pain and mourning and suffering from the lives of the residents of heaven. (ref. Lk 20:36, Rev 21:4, Rev 7:17)
  6. Is heaven a physical place? Some would make heaven into a metaphor and certainly the descriptions and attempts to wrap our frail words around what heaven is really like seems to fall short. But it is always portrayed as a place with physical properties populated by residents reunited with perfected physical bodies. The word “heaven” occurs more frequently in Revelation than in any other New Testament book. The most popular passage dealing with heaven is Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5. In this passage, heaven is portrayed in three different images: (1) the tabernacle (Revelation 21:1-8), (2) the city (Revelation 21:9-27), and (3) the garden (Revelation 22:1-5). The image of the tabernacle portrays heavenly life as perfect fellowship with God. The symbolism of the city portrays heavenly life as perfect protection. The image of the garden shows heavenly life as perfect provision. (Holman Bible Dictionary) It’s physical, but the bonds of earth will be done away with.
  7. What does it mean when Paul was caught up to the third heaven? This is a mysterious, brief passage that Paul hesitates to even talk about. God apparently gave Paul a glimpse of the paradise of heaven and heard what heaven is like. (ref. 2 Cor. 12:1-4)
  8. What will we do in heaven? The following is a compilation of what the passages seem to say and a small attempt to describe what we will be active in doing. We will be perfect and free from sin, but we will mature. We will be eternal, but experience time in some fashion. We will be in relationship with our friends, our family, and far beyond since our depth and breadth of knowledge will be greater than on earth. Our relationships will be right, not bound by the selfishness, the hurts, hangups, habits, etc. of earth’s relationships. Our family relationships (and all others) will fade into the light of our new relationships within the family of God and in the light of our rich relationship with Jesus unhindered by what we are on earth. We will be busy – in worship (we will see Jesus as He fully is), in service (using what God has equipped us with), in resting (some parents of pre-schoolers pray for the Second Coming just for this part), in maturing in our perfection (learning, discovering, appreciating, etc.), in enjoying what we are given as inheritance (home, and more), and in having some responsibilities of leadership under Christ’s authority (somehow we will have some kind of authority even as we are under authority.)
  9. Where is heaven? UP? Always spoken of as up, as in above and beyond the known heavens of our universe (no, heaven is probably not behind that black hole discovered years ago.) For the writers of the Bible, way up meant beyond our reach, or unattainable without God’s help.
  10. Who is heaven created for? This is the hardest answer. Heaven is created only for those who are entirely perfect, righteous and holy. No one else can enter heaven.
  11. Bonus Question: Are pets in heaven? The Bible doesn’t specifically address pets in relation to heaven; however, when the discussion of the Bible turns to eternity, eternal life, and the eternal soul, it always is in relation to humans. The assurance we have is that whatever grief we experience from loss, whether friends, family, or furry friends, God will wipe the tears and make all things right. You may find comfort in the fact that there are animals in heaven however. After all, the Bible says Jesus shows up riding a white horse!

Definition of Heaven:

Old Testament Words translated “heaven:”

Galgal – whirlwind, swirling area – what Ezekiel experienced as whirling wheels within wheels

Ma`al – upward, over, greater than – usually as in someone is over or greater than, but translated four times as heaven

Marowm – the high places, translated once as heaven

Raqiya` – the firmaments or expanse of heaven above

Shachaq – the clouds of heaven

Shamayim & Shamayin – 436 times translated the heavens, highest heavens, etc. As the place from which God rules and involves Himself in the lives of His people

New Testament Words translated “heaven:”

Diopetes – as in “something fell from heaven” from the physical up there heaven – 1 time in Acts 19:35

Mesouranema – the midpoint in heaven, when sun is brightest, and actions can be seen by all- 3 times in Revelation

Epouranios – things that happen in heaven or come from heaven (20 times in NT)

Ouranos (and two other variations of “ouranos”) – Can be translated sky or upper regions of the universe; also translated as region above the upper regions where all that’s perfect dwells and God and His angels live – 295 times in the NT

The biggest question left unasked and unanswered is:

How do I make it to heaven if only completely holy, righteous and perfect beings can enter heaven?

The answer is, you can’t… by your own efforts, desires, hopes and passions get there. The only way you can be allowed the gift of eternity in heaven is by asking Jesus to forgive your sins, turn from a life apart from Him and toward a life that He leads, and allowing Him to exchange your sins for His righteousness. Let Jesus be your Forgiver, your Leader, and your God.

(A sample outline of a Tough Questions Small Group might be: 1) Reinforce why you are here – talk about the group purpose, covenant, etc.; 2) Open with a couple of questions (save the “out loud” prayer for the end); 3) Talk through the “Ten Questions List” – ask the each time to read the question “Have you ever wondered this?” to keep them on your page. 4) Briefly talk about the Bible words and what they mean; 5) Ask two more questions from the list of Group Questions; 6) Read through “The Biggest Question;” Ask has this ever happened to you? If not, would you like to pray and ask God for this gift for you;” 7) Close in prayer; 8) Refreshments. Remember: many you have in the group are pre-Christians with questions. Have fun with the study. Pause for responses, questions, comments, etc. Make sure you and the leaders are prayed up.)

Resources:

www.probe.org

Heaven: My Father’s House, Anne Graham Lotz

From Heaven’s View, T.W. Hunt

Heaven: Your Real Home, Joni Earekson Tada

Heaven, Randy Alcorn

Tough Questions_Heaven

Who thought an International English Cafe would be such a hit! There are a lot of models and plans for church-based Outreach floating around cyberspace. Some sap energy and use up people-hours; others pour energy into the people.

Here’s what we imagined: a cafe set up with free wireless, music, movies, free good, stress good, coffee, cappuccino, and espresso, and opened in the evenings for internationals to come and meet and talk with English speakers. Since we’re in a very cosmopolitan location (Myrtle Beach SC has approximately 8000 international students who move here for the summer to work) we dreamed it out, promoted it well, and here’s the most recent story to come out of the outreach. Plans are being written as we go, so look for a model plan for starting your own soon!

Wednesday night we had cooked up about 36 hot dogs in anticipation for the students coming to the cookout at the cafe. It was 6:30 (we open at 5) and there were no students. There was a group of about 5 or 6 of us sitting outside, including Richard A. and Vera G., talking about how to love on the kids in Myrtle Beach this summer. At the same time there was a group of 4 faithful prayer team members in the auditorium. We had sought God, we felt it was the time, and we were waiting. Actually, I think a few of us (yes, me included) were doubting we had made a good choice having the cafe open this summer.

Then they came: 4 Ecuadorians. They were hungry and lived on 29th Ave. They went back and got 3 more friends and brought them to the cafe. Then in walked 3 life guards: 2 from Czech Republic and 1 from Poland. We turned around and there was a family from the ESL classes at the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center. Nelson M. came in ready to teach the SELF DEFENSE CLASS and introduced himself to the Ecuadorians. Honestly, after that, I lost count of how many students and volunteers were there. My best estimate is 30 students and about 20-something volunteers. Praise God! We all feel this is just the beginning!

The volunteers were from our Seacoast as well as Impact Ministries at the cafe. We had been waiting. We were prepared. We were ready to see God work. They drove in on their bikes. Many had Seacoast bags and all had the cards we had distributed at the Orientation Meetings weeks before. I’m not much of a believer in “if we build it they will come” as much as a “Is God up to something here? let’s get in on it” kind of person. God is definitely up to something.

Please continue to pray for the students in our area. We had great “God conversations” with them. Almost all asked us “Why do you do this?”. We simply got to say “To share the love of Jesus in a practical way.”

If you have not joined us on a Tuesday or Wednesday and still would like to, please pop in. We’re open from 5-10pm through August. (Oh, by the way I think we went through 80 something hotdogs, slaw, potato salad and a killer bowl of banana pudding!)

This snapshot at Week Four of a Twelve-Week outreach project captures only part of the energy in the room. The most heard questions? Why would you do this for me? The most popular answer? This is the best way we could think to show you God’s compassion in practical ways.

Much prayer. Hard work. Occasional disappointments. A good plan to get the word out. AND DID I SAY MUCH PRAYER?

Here’s to reaching the nations … in our own back yards!

RH

Guidelines for Easter Basket Business Give-Away

Overview: The purpose of this outreach is to create evangelism bridges in your relationships in the community surrounding your church. Businesses often display candy at their counters or in their break rooms. This connection between your church and each business is quick and simple, but continues to give throughout Easter week. The object of this outreach is to place Easter baskets full of candy with church connect cards. Preparation time depends on how many baskets (from just one to many) you intend to give away.  It only takes a few minutes to drop off a basket and explain what the gift means and can be done by a person, a family, a Small Group or a church. If your church has a special Easter service, you may want to print enough connect cards that invite the business staff and customers to Easter services.

Step One: Four Weeks: As with all successful outreach events, this one begins with prayer and with a vision of how to connect believers with their neighbors and create evangelism bridges the good news can cross over. Identify the businesses and organizations and how many baskets (and what different sizes since some businesses are bigger than others) you will give away. Recruit your serving team and assign the preparation. You will need baskets, cellophane, ribbon, Easter grass, pre-wrapped candies and “connect cards for each candy pack. You will also need a list of businesses to assign to each serving team member.

Step Two: Two Weeks: Prepare your baskets for the outreach. Have them available for pick up by the serving team at a specific time in the week at the church office. If this is a big church event with a lot of baskets, you can assign them on Sunday morning prior to Easter to be delivered that day or Monday morning at the latest.

Step Three: One Week before Easter: Deliver the baskets to the businesses. Explain that you want to present this gift basket to their business to use however they like as an appreciation gift for being an important part of their community. Suggest they leave it on the counter to treat their customers, or place it in their employee break room to treat their staff. Give the owner a connect card and thank them for allowing you to serve them.

What to Expect/What to Say:  Expect the unexpected with this outreach. Remember that businesses are used to being “tapped” for donations by churches a-l-l t-h-e t-i-m-e! You giving them something is novel, to say the least. They may or may not place the basket on their counters, but they will very likely accept it and thank you for it. If you can speak with the owner and thank them for being such an important part of the community, do so. If not, thank the employee you leave it with.  Let them know that you and the church want to give back to the community like this because God has given you so much! Ask if they have plans for Easter Sunday, and invite them and leave a connect card in their hands. If you see the conversation going in a spiritual direction (a createvangelism moment) ask about their faith; find out how you can pray for them and listen for questions they have about God and church.  Be ready to explain why we serve like this for free (God gave us His free gift of Jesus, so we give ourselves away, too.)  Don’t be surprised if someone you serve shows up for church next weekend.

Guidelines for Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt

Overview: The purpose of this outreach is to create evangelism bridges at an event in your neighborhood or the area surrounding your church. In this event, you will hold a party for children outside (yard, park, etc.) that will allow you to serve your neighbor families and share the Good News with their kids.This is a very personal touch that offers an extended time to build friendships and often leads to longer term relationships. This outreach is done on the Easter weekend, Easter Sunday or Saturday and lasts around 2-3 hours. Add extra time for clean up if it is at the church. If the event is a “big church” outreach, begin planning six weeks out so you can have all the people and resources in place for Easter. If you choose to do a “festival” event in conjunction, see Createvangelism’s “Festival Outreach” plans.

Step One: Four Weeks: As with all successful outreach events, this one begins with prayer and with a vision of how to connect believers with their neighbors and create evangelism bridges the good news can cross over. Identify the park, yard, lot or area of your neighborhood that can host the Easter Egg Hunt and Party. Recruit a few families to assist. If you are doing this as a “big church” event, this will be the time to initiate your promotion. Send flyers home with your children on Sunday morning and they can invite friends in their neighborhood or school. Advertise in other ways appropriate to your church.

Step Two: Two Weeks: Plan your activities with your team. You can have a craft or two (age appropriate) and refreshments to give away. Prepare plenty. A game before the egg hunt builds excitement for the main event. If you want to color eggs before hiding them, plan on extra time in the kitchen. Most use plastic eggs and include prizes like candy or coins. You can even have prizes for each winner in each age category. For smaller events, now is the time to begin promotions. Post a flyer in common areas of you subdivision, and hand out flyers to friends and families in the area.  Kid-to-kid promotion is most effective. (You can even ask the kids to bring their own basket.)

Step Three: One Week: Prepare all of your craft resources and assign tasks (leading game, using the empty egg to tell the story of the Resurrection, bringing refreshments, etc.) to yoru team. Take a moment to pray for the children and families coming and for any names you might have missed inviting but need to be there. Remember: resurrection life is offered to all through Christ Jesus!

Step Four: The Event: Have the serving team meet a half hour early to pray and set up. Greet each family and invite them to join in for round one of refreshments. Have tables set up for crafts, and make this your first project. Take time to help, compliment, and relate the crafts to Easter. Take time to build friendships as the kids work on crafts. Move toward the game(s) and celebrate with the winners. While this game is going on, have adults and older kids hide the eggs. At the end of the game, gather in a circle, hand out baskets, and send them out. (Our kids always liked hunting them again and again. So plan for two or three official hunts,) Award prizes each time for each age category (1-3, 4-6, 7-9). On the final hunt, gather the kids again and tell the Easter story (ask all the parents first if they would allow their kids to participate; if not, have a special craft they can work on during the story.) Have a last round of refreshments, and thenk them for coming.

What to Expect/What to Say:  Expect conversations with parents to ge to know them better. Relax and enjoy friends and be sure to spend time with each parent. Talk about the neighborhood and what you can do together to help make it better. Plan on a future time to have coffee or another event (Fourth of July, cookouts, kids day excursions, etc.) Redirect conversations that become critical; show much grace and wisdom in your words.

As you connect, be sure to ask questions about their family, activities, faith; find out how you can pray for them and listen for questions they have about God and church.  Be ready to explain why Easter is so important to you (God gave us His free gift of Jesus, so we give ourselves away, too.)  Don’t be surprised if someone you serve shows up for church next weekend.