These Letters and Text Messages Don’t Belong In Church!

textingWhat’s better than a form letter signed by the pastor? A form text…or so say the church growth gurus. If preacher upfront hopes to see those smiling guests become well worn church members, the he should embrace a strategic digital communication plan consisting of prewritten and formulaic texts and emails. The growth gurus promise that their well-timed communication will be perfect remedy for indecisive guests.

The concept is well-intended. I want Amissville Baptist Church  to grow. I want your church to grow too. And by way of full disclosure, I use a texting program at ABC to send out alerts and other information. Texts can be sent quickly, can be easily received, and seamlessly responded to during working hours. I’m all for texting, for church wide texting, and for welcoming new technology into the church. But churches should not employ employee form texts and highly detailed communication programs as their main means of visitor follow up.

To begin with, the 65 year-old woman has vastly different concerns than the 18 year-old college student who has vastly different concerns than the 35 year-old working mom. While the bombardment of form emails and texts may appeal to the subconsciouse elements of  their brains which have been heavily influenced by America’s advertising culture, the form texts do not ministry to the souls listed above. By nature, prewritten communication communicates a lack of care.

And when we use communication  tools to manipulate guests into attending our congregation, we hide from guests the beauty of Christ’s loving community. Moreover if the texts convince the visitors to return again and again, their coming reveals that the have a desire to be served. And if these visitors make the transition into the church body we have to ask why. Did they join us because we manipulated them more than the church down the street did? Did they come because we told them about all the things that we can do for them and showed them a willingness to make church all about them? Or did they join us because they want to worship God and because they want to show others the love that they have experienced while in our midst? Did they come because they saw the same Holy Spirit that is in their heart in our church?

The attraction of the gospel consists of real, meaningful, and sincere relationships. Notice how Paul describes his interactions with the people of Thessalonica:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us (1 Thess. 2:8).

To win guest to our congregations and more importantly to the gospel, we do not need form text messages or form letters. We need men and women who are willing to join with Paul and with Jesus by sharing both the gospel and their lives with anyone and everyone who walks through our church doors. That is one compelling outreach ministry. That is what I aspire to. That is what I encourage ABC to aspire to.

If you want people to join our church, we should invite them to lunch, take them out to coffee, and let their kids jump across our living room floors after the service has concluded. We should not come to church, wave, exchange a few pleasantries, and then fill the rest of the week with prescheduled texts, emails, or letters. We should spend time getting to know the the visitors at church, at Burger King, and in our home. And then, we should fill the week with personal notes, texts, and phone calls that reflect our real and ongoing relationship. If we care for people like Jesus does, we will do life with them…not prewritten texts.

Do you agree?

Do you want an impersonal form letter, email, or text from the various people at church? Or do you want a relationship?


When Evangelism Is More Than A Tract

tracts“Are you giving out tracts,” was the question of the concerned volunteer. We were busily working to bless some of the families associated with our local church during the holidays. The volunteer presumed this would be one of few if not the only interaction our church would have with these families. And he wanted to make sure they heard the gospel. The volunteer’s heart was in the right place, but the person’s methodology of evangelism was sorely off.

The church was not blessing random families. That should not be the church’s focus. The church was targeting men, women, and children who had a relationship with the church we attended. We were ministering to them precisely because we had taken the time to get to know them. We did not have to give them tracts and perform the classic bait-and-switch evangelism techniques that dominate the Southern Baptist Convention. We were simply loving them as Christ loved us.

And as we loved them through meeting needs, through preaching the gospel, and through hearing their concerns, we had countless opportunities to share the gospel. We shared the gospel when we dropped off the gifts. We shared the gospel when they came to our Wednesday night church service. We shared the gospel with these families all the time because we were with them all the time. They did not need tracts because they had us. We were the testimony of God’s grace

We should not be afraid of tracts. We should not be afraid of sharing the gospel with the local server or auto-mechanic.

But, I believe the best and most effective way to do evangelism is to love people in our sphere of influence. We have to get to know people. We have to be willing to work with the broken and messy as long as they will let us. We have to be willing to be taken advantage of. We have to be willing to be mocked, to get lice, and to be robbed. We have to be willing to be disappointed. We have to be willing to do life with people inviting them into our churches and our homes happily enduring the earthly cost.

The apostle Paul summed up these thoughts in 1 Thessalonians 2:5 writing:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Love should always to be tied to proclamation. We have to use words. We have to share the gospel. We have to call men and women to repentance. We have to love others in word and deed. And as we love people in action and in words, I believe the gospel will go forward. I believe lives will change if we will eat with sinners, and talk to women who had seven husbands.

In the cooking world, chefs talking about flashing food. You heat up an oven or grill and quickly stick a filet or some other food on the extreme heat for a few seconds. While the technique is used to seal in flavor, it is not a great technique for cooking your food from start to finish. It gets things ready in a hurry but loses all the wonderful flavor of the steak.

In much the same way, flashing people with an evangelistic track hurriedly brings a persons to the point of decision. But the processes loses all the relational aroma of love, compassion, and care. The beauty of the gospel is diminished. When and if we have the opportunity, we should take the time to get to know people. We should do life with them. We should open our churches and our homes so that we can talk about the whole counsel of God. We should move beyond flashing and start spending time with people so that the gospel can go forward.

Are you ready to get messy with people?

Back To School Connection Recap

back-to-school-recapGod has done amazing things in and through our church over the last few weeks.  I want praise him for everyone who made our Back To School Connection a success and for George Smith’s vision for the Back To School Connection. By God’s grace, our church donated hundreds of backpacks, pencils, crayons, folders, and glue. And when we asked for additional supplies this past Sunday, FBCE responding by bringing the supplies needed to fill an additional 85 backpacks.

I also want to praise God for the numerous people who counseled with our guest this past Saturday and Monday. Together, we got to share the gospel with hundreds of men, women, and children. Together, we were able to show the families of Eastman that God cares for them and loves them. Together, we got to live out the gospel.

And our friends and neighbors responded. We had initially prepared 480 backpacks, anticipating a slight
increase from last year’s event where we handed out 350 bags. But by 11:15AM, we were out of backpacks. Desiring to help as many people 20160730_085448as we were able to, we invited our guests to come back on Monday. And they did. We gave out the additional 87 backpacks. In total, we have handed out 566 backpacks over the last few days! In other words, we were able to outfit almost an entire school’s worth of children! To God be the glory!

There are many things wrong with our world, our nation, and our county. But it is events like these – it is intentional, sacrificial gospel outreach, empowered by the Holy Spirit – that brings change. It is service attached to the proclamation of the gospel that causes Christ to shine brightly in dark and depressed places! I praise God for all that he has
accomplished through us this past weekend. I praise God that our church dreamed big and fulfilled its promise to serve the people of Eastman.  

But, the work is not done. Ministry, service, and sacrificial love are bigger than an amazing event. They are a lifestyle. Going forward, we 20160730_090145must continue to invite our community to church, we must continue to meet the needs of our neighbors, and we must continue to preach Christ crucified. And we must continue to do so, expecting God to work, expecting God to seek and save the lost! Are you ready to keep sharing the hope of Christ with our community? Are you ready to keep seeing God do amazing things?