My Seminar Notes from Exponential: Engaging Your Community (Pt. 1)

Engaging Your Community

    • Good afternoon! So excited you’ve joined this conversation and that’s what I hope this will be. So, pipe up at any moment, throw in ideas. I hope that this is a think tank for you and I hope you will walk out of here with tons of ideas!
    • I’ve been serving as a Pastor at local churches since 1995. I was in youth ministry, well, I still am, but I served as a youth pastor for 17 years. I started a nonprofit to speak in public schools and then my wife and I planted Thrive Church on October 6th, 2013. We are 184 weeks old.IMG_9996.JPG
  • It has been the GREATEST journey of our lives. Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of paint and lots of joy and everything in between!
  • So, this conversation we’re having, I’m going at it from the perspective of a church plant that’s in the preplant days. Now, if you’ve already planted, I think we’ll have some ideas to help you to continue engaging with your community. But, I wanted you to know that.
  • In a nutshell, if we’re going to really engage with our communities, I really believe our philosophy and our focus has to be rooted in this idea:

Big Idea: Be a Church FOR your Community, not just IN your Community

  • Thrive, after 3.5 years, still doesn’t have a building of our own. That helps us a little with this mindset. But, it’s super easy to slip into the philosophy of…well, people just need to come to us. It’s easy once you’re up and going to just take your foot off the peddle a little bit.
  • At Thrive, we set out to reach people who had given up on God and church. We want to create irresistible environments for people who have given up on God and Church. That’s our context.

Story: This is a great F’ing Church

  • We were like 2 months in, and this giant guy, came up to me after church. Like, he’s a massive man. We’re in the hallway and he grabs my shoulders and he says…I LOVE THIS F’ING CHURCH! It was awesome! A few older ladies sprinted out of there!
  • That to mean was an indicator that we were reaching people who hadn’t been reached!
  • But, if even before we launch and plant, this idea of being FOR the community is front and center, that will keep us moving in the right direction.
  • I love what Andy Stanley says about a Church being a movement:

“The church at its inception was essentially, a movement…a movement built around conviction that Jesus had died as the only Savior for sinners and that he had risen from the dead proving he was who he said he was; that he was the rightful Lord of the earth and all people everywhere were now commanded to repent and invited to come home to him.” ~Andy Stanley

  • If you haven’t had a chance to read Deep and Wide by Andy, oh my goodness, do it immediately. The book continues to blow my mind and is so powerful!
  • In it, he really breaks down this thought process of…is the Church a Building or a Movement?

The Church? Building or Movement [From Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley]

  • This will be a refreshers course, but I think it’s helpful to lay this foundation out before we get to 10 really practical steps to Engaging your Community. So many people, when they hear the word church, immediately think of what???
  • A Building. A Place.

Story: Planting Thrive in a Rural, predominantly catholic area

  • So many people thought I was crazy when we announced that we were going to plant a Church. And they just couldn’t wrap their minds around not having a building. To them, the church was a place they went to a few times a year, wore their Sunday best and it was a building.
  • So, to some in our area, we were a cult. We started in a bar (some people seemed to dig that, hah!), then a movie theater and, wow, the very traditional crowd thought that was crazy.
  • In our first year and a half we started this annual giving campaign called the SHOE PROJECT. Schools and supporting them has always been on my heart. We found out that shoes was a very real need. So, we raised $15,000 and bought 425 brand new pair of shoes and gave them out in a school!
  • It was like a giant foot washing!
  • And, then we cancelled a Sunday pretty early and started a ‘Church has left the building’ day where we served schools.
  • We want to teach very practically early on, that the Church was both a gathering and a movement.
  • That’s exactly what Andy Stanley teaches in Deep and Wide. He takes the world Church and teaches that in the Greek, it’s translated, Ekklesia, it literally means…

‘Ekklesia’ = [‘ek’ = ‘out of’] [‘kaleo’ = ‘called out’]

  • So, it’s an Assembly of people called out around an idea, a movement
    • But over the years, a terrible thing happened. People began to think of church as a place that you went to for religious services.
  • Our English word “church” comes not from the Greek ekklesia but from the German word kirche, which meant “a sacred place where you gather for religious purposes.”

‘Kirche’ = A sacred place where you gather for religious purposes

    • That shift in thinking changed the fundamental way people related to the church. Throughout the Dark Ages people went to church; it was a place you attended or sat through, rather than a movement you were part of.
    • And the church became an institution that essentially provided services for people and was controlled by powerful people who used it to serve their own interests.
    • But then something awesome happened. God raised up a group of people called the Reformers. One of the main ones for the English speaking world was William Tyndale.
    • He came to the conviction that Christianity was essentially a movement, and that if people were going to be devoted to the movement they had to understand the message and so his life’s work was to produce the first translation of the Bible into common English.
  • And every time he came to this word, ekklesia, he translated it ‘congregation’ instead of church, because he was trying to emphasize that the church was not a place you went to, but a movement you belonged to.
    • You church history buffs know that infuriated Church leaders because it undercut their authority. Eventually Tyndale was tried as a heretic, hanged and burned at the stake
  • During his trial, right before he died, he said, ‘If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more Scriptures than you do’.
  • As he was being burned his last recorded words were, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes’. If you’ve got a copy of the King James Bible, you can see that God answered that prayer.
  • But, the Church is an assembly built around a movement.

Illustration: Cruise Ship or Coast Guard

  • It’s easy to have the MOVEMENT and ENGAGING YOUR COMMUNITY mentality in the beginning. But, trust me, you can slip into the safe, no risks, pleasing the Church people mentality very quickly.
  • There is a GREAT Church in Rapid City, South Dakota and the Pastor, David Kinnan, uses this illustration.
  • Are you a Cruise Ship Church or the Coast Guard?
  • Cruise Ship Churches are obviously ‘kirche’ kind of Church! A place you go. And, it attempts to meet your every need! You are pampered, stuffed at buffets and everything is about you.
  • Unfortunately, that mentality cannot slip into Churches. We have to Be the COAST GUARD! An ekklesia that moves throughout our communities and saves drowning people!
  • So…

Is our GOAL to just launch a SERVICE and find a BUILDING … or create a MOVEMENT and ENGAGE your Community?

  • I know this is probably a crazy way to start out, because if you’re planting, you are in the thick of being a movement.
  • But, I know so many planters that just work so hard to get to a service or a building. You work so hard just on details!
  • Details are fine! Details are important, they’re necessary. It’s one of the reasons I planted through STADIA CHURCH PLANTING. They provided me a Project Manager, really an Ex. Pastor for the first 10 months to handle the details.
  • That freed me up to ENGAGE with my community!
  • The big question to ask is…

“A movement is something that is usually marked by three things, or it’s said it’s marked by three things. First of all, a movement is something that’s united around a common, compelling vision. It’s got a broad base of involvement and participation, which is very broadband and spontaneous. And it’s energized by a power that leads to innovation and sacrifice.”  ~Tim Keller

Big Idea: Are you a Church FOR the community, or just another Church IN your community?

  • Acts 1:8 reminds us why this is all so important!

Acts 1:8

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • We have to MOVE. We have to ENGAGE.
  • This has got to be one of the strangest scenes ever, doesn’t’ it? He gives them the largest assignment you could ever imagine…and then…with hardly any explanation, or plan of action, he leaves.
  • They are like, what? The whole world? As he is ascending, they are like, ‘Jesus, do you realize how big the whole world is? Jesus is like, ‘Yup, I can see it from here suckers! And, you have no idea how big it really is!
  • This is where it all began. 2000 years later, here we are, with more Christians on the planet than any other religious group, all stemming from a group of 12 fisherman, carpenters and tax collectors.

The Question to ask before you launch?

‘If our Church disappeared someday, would anyone in our community even notice?

  • When we planted Thrive, we said that this question would be one that we would come back to all the time.
  • Our area is smaller, its rural. We have 26,000 people in our town, about 130,000 in a 30 mile radius. Lots of traditional churches.
  • So, we just keep asking ourselves, if Thrive goes away, will anyone notice?
  • We ask that, because we want to make a big impact in our area!
  • And the way to do that is by Engaging with our community.
  • So, here is a step by step to do just that. To be FOR the community, not just IN the community.

Step by Step Plan to Engaging Your Community

  1. Remember that you CARRY the most important news ever.

And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere’

  • Yes, of course we remember this, that’s why we’re doing this. But, we get so busy, again, with the details. The pressure of Launching Large, or getting Missional Communities going, or building a launch team.
  • So, a good question to ask is, Do you really know the Gospel Message?
    • I Love the Gospel Message. But, if I’m being honest, it was years before I really could articulate it in a way that an unchurched person could understand.
    • Todd Clark: How to lead a person to Jesus on a napkin
  • Do you know what you believe about the essentials?
    • People will ask. Be ready.
    • And, they will want to know what you believe about Homosexuality.
    • I got the most emails about that before we launched. We’re in a college town. I got emails from parents asking if there kids would be accepted at Thrive. Broke my heart.

Story: Cornered by a Grandma on Child Dedication Sunday

  • This grandma cornered me and drilled me. You a real pastor? Where’s your robe? Why don’t you baptize babies? What’s this child dedication?
  • What are your non-essentials?
  • What are your Core beliefs?
  • Are you passionate about sharing Jesus?
    • Are you more passionate about the idea of starting and growing a church, that about sharing Jesus with every person you come into contact with?

Story: Panera Bread: You’re a Pastor?

  • I worked at Panera Bread my first year at Thrive! Hundreds of meetings, coffees, thousands of study hours, phone calls.
  • I got to know the staff very well. The manager would let me clean up tables.
  • Staff would talk to me on their breaks!
  • One day a young lady who I was getting to know sat down and rather rudely said, I just found out you’re a Pastor! Is that true? Because what I know of Christians, they hate everything and everyone and you just don’t seme that way!
  • Remember that you’re a carrier!
  1. Learn how to be an AMAZING story teller.
    • Study how to ‘Cast a Vision’ from both in front of people and face to face with people
      • Read Visioneering by Andy Stanley and then read it again!
      • Watch GREAT vision Casters
        • Greg Nettle
        • Albert Tate
        • Bill Hybels
        • Andy Stanley
    • Learn how to share the story of your church in under 5 minutes
      • What makes you different?
      • Read everthing you can from Will Mancini and get CLARITY.
      • Do you have a tag line? Thrive’s is NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED.
    • Practice, practice, practice.
      • Ted Williams, I believe was the greatest hitter of all time. Played for the Red Sox in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. He swag a bat 1000 times a day!
      • Practice like that.
      • Charles Swindoll has a full length mirror in his office and he practiced in front of it.
      • Actually be compelling
    • Do you know how many stories (or parables) Jesus told?
      • 58! Fifty-Eight!
  • Stories are powerful!
  • I love this quote by Eugene Peterson…
    • “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.”
  1. Build a team of storytellers.
  • Teach them the Gospel [How to share the Gospel in 2 minutes]
    • Have them watch Todd Clark’s…How to share the gospel on a napkin
  • Remember that vision leaks, so teach them the vision over and over
    • Figure out how many 1 on 1’s you can emotionally process in a week and then set a goal. Meet for early breakfasts, coffees, lunches, walks in a park. Every conversation bring up the vision.
    • Ask the tough questions.
      • Are you praying for anyone to share the Gospel with?
    • Create a facebook private group and share vision stories
  • Show them how and when to share stories of your church
    • Our society is not very keen on Emotional Intelligence. Read everything Daniel Goleman has written on it!
    • Teach your people Self Awareness, and Relational Awareness
  • Resource them with your Church Swag
    • People love free stuff. We didn’t send mailers, we didn’t spend a lot of marketing dollars. But, we provided COOL SWAG.
      • Make T-Shirts
        • Cool T Shirts. Sweatshirts. Great designs, Quality Designs.
    • Lawn signs that don’t look Churchy
    • Invite Cards. Business card size.
      • Ours say…Not your mama’s Church, unless of course, your mom goes there.
    • Car Decals
    • Door Hangers
    • Facebook Page
      • Use this primarily for INSPIRATION not INFORMATION. Tell the story of your Church online.
      • Turn them into Online Evangelists
        • Teach them how to share online
        • Use hash tags
        • Use great photo’s
  1.  Really get to KNOW your community.
  • Be the expert
    • I grew up in the city of Detroit, I planted in a rural area. I had a lot to learn.
    • Stadia helped me with this as well. Provided reports for me. Information.
  • Do the research
    • Go to your cities websites.
  • Build a database of the who’s who
    • I created a google doc with everyone!
  • Drive around it, walk around it and pray for it
    • Prayer Walks are HUGE for me.
    • We didn’t launch with a ton of resources, so prayer was all we had!
  1. Meet with as many Community Leaders as you possibly can. 
  • Police, Fire, Mayor, City Manager
    • I remember meeting with the Police Chief and he said at the end of our conversation, I wish I wasn’t Catholic, this Church sounds awesome! I drag myself to Church!
  • Principals, Teachers, Superintendents, PTA’s
  • Pastors, Clergy, Chaplains
  • Nonprofits, Business Leaders, Chamber of Commerce
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