Five OLD Innovations for Our NEW Day

It’s a new day. New normals will emerge. Our churches are picking up new technologies and new innovations to help us continue to deliver the gospel. In this season of new, of change, of adaptation, there may also be some OLD innovations that we need to circle back to. As we reset our churches over the coming days, consider resetting these five practices and attitudes:

1. The Prayer Chain – Principle: Mobilize Prayer for the Church and the Lost.

Growing up Southern Baptist, every church my family was a part of had a prayer chain. The prayer chain was a phone network built to mobilize prayer quickly when need arose in the congregation or community. How can your congregation be more effective at mobilizing prayer for one another, for the lost, for the community? Today, we have technologies available to us that can greatly enhance the impact of prayer mobilization. We all encourage prayer. How can we move from encouraging prayer to mobilizing prayer? What innovative approaches to prayer can we develop in the new normal?

2. Discipleship Training – Principle: Train the Faithful to Train Others.

The creativity of churches has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. Graphic design, stage design, sermon series design. We have to ask the question: Are these innovations actually helping us make disciples and train the faithful to disciple others. Discipleship Training, or Training Union, was designed to deliver the core truths of Christianity to the faithful. Now is a great time to assess our churches effectiveness at training disciples. A disciple is trained when they can train others. How did that go while the church was scattered? How many of your members were able to train their families, neighbors, small groups while the church was closed? How can your church be more effective at disciple making and training?

3. The Prospect File – Principle: Help People Identify the Lost Around Them.

We often bemoan the fact that people in yester-years were more apt to attend church than they are today. However, we could also argue that churches of the past were more aggressive at pursuing their lost friends, family and neighbors than we are today. Visitation night was common for churches in past decades. Visitation night was driven by the Prospect File compiled by people in Sunday School classes in the church. Prospect lists were a way for churches to identify lost people in their church field and in the lives of the congregation. Today, the Who’s Your One? Campaign has been a new innovation in this regard. How can your church be more effective at helping people identify the lost around them? As we’ve grown more inward, focusing programs on the already saved, the lost have become more distant from our churches, but also from our minds. It’s time to revive the Prospect File.

4. Soul-Winning and Personal Evangelism – Principle: Every believer is an evangelist.

Remember the soul-winning rally? I attended several of these as a young person in a Southern Baptist Church. This emphasis helped rally people to the cause of leading others to Christ. There were concerted efforts to help people know how to share their faith and understand the urgency of sharing their faith. Over the years, innovations like Evangelism Explosion, Share Jesus Without Fear, FAITH Evangelism Training, and our own One to One Evangelism, have helped believers in this regard. With less than 10% of believers testifying that they share their faith regularly, and baptisms down another 20% in 2019 across Louisiana, it’s time for every church to train and emphasize personal evangelism for a new era. How can your church reset the idea and the effort to make every believer an evangelist? More than inviting people to church, we need a revival of inviting people to Jesus through personal evangelism.

5. Start New Units – Principle: The Kingdom Expands through the Multiplication of New Groups and Churches.

For Southern Baptist in the highest growth days of our Convention, a new unit was a new class or congregation birthed through and for evangelism and disciple making. New groups and new churches lead to new people and different types of people being reached. This needs to be a mindset and a practice. The opposite mindset is institutional thinking. This mindset makes us more concerned about available space, protecting inside opinions, and self-preservation. Multiplication and new unit thinking puts reaching the lost through any means necessary and the growth of the kingdom above all else. We have over 2.5 million lost in Louisiana. Their eternity is in the balance. Consider the possibilities for reaching them in your community. How many new groups are possible in your current space? How can you create more space for new groups? Are there areas, people groups, population segments in your community that needs a new church that can communicate the gospel to them?

Mobilizing Prayer, Training Disciples, Identifying the Lost, Winning Souls, Starting New Units. Old Innovations that are desperately needed for this new day. May they be part of our new normal.

Primal Reactions

When times get hard we often return to our primal instincts. Primal means by nature or instinct. It may also refer to the earliest form of something.

Some of our Primal Instincts:

  • Survival and Reproduction are often called the most basic instincts. Revealing themselves in most of the others.
  • Food or Desire to Eat. Hunger.
  • Fear. The Fight or Flight response to events.
  • Breathing. The body has primal reflexes to try to secure air ways.
  • Health and Wellness. When we get sick we have a drive to diagnose and get well
  • Addictions can become primal instincts, taking over our brain and hijacking our desires.
  • Love and Family. Nature calls Mom to care for the family and Dad to provide for the family.

So what did you do? How did you react when uncertainty and difficulty and pressure came? Our primal reactions to difficulty tell us about ourselves and may highlight area of spiritual immaturity. So did you… 

  • Choose Fear or faith?
  • Choose Division or unity?
  • Hoard or give?
  • Demonstrate Anger or joy?
  • Create Tension or peace?
  • Lash out or Encourage?
  • Hide out or stay connected?
  • Pray or Worry?
  • Obey Jesus or Obey your lust?
  • Witness or Complain?
  • Depend on God or handle it yourself?

Your primal reactions will show you some areas of potential spiritual growth. The good new is, Jesus is in the business of transforming our nature, our instincts. Check out some of favorite verses on the subject of transformation: 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

Ephesians 4:22-24 

22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

2 Peter 1:4

By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.

Jesus gives us a new nature when we put our faith and trust in him. Do you need to start there and ask Jesus to enter your life and give you a new nature, replacing the corrupt, basic instinct of this world with his presence and transformation? “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13. Saved from the old nature, to put on the brand new. 

When we do that, some of our old nature may hang on and not let go. As we submit to Jesus everyday, we can gain the advantage in that area. Is there an area of your life that does not line up with the divine nature? Did our current crisis reveal areas of weakness in your faith? Maybe you need to seek God today, repent, and ask him to empower you in that area.

This is true for the church as well. We need to return to our Primal Roots to be fruitful and effective in this culture. And that, we’ll uncover later this week. 

Good Fruit comes from Healthy Roots

  • FRUIT – “Daniel distinguished himself… he had an extraordinary spirit… he was trustworthy and no negligence or corruption was found in him.” Daniel 6:3-4
  • ROOT – “three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed and gave thanks to God.” Daniel 6:10

The fruit of distinction, spiritual power, depth of character comes from the root of consistent, disciplined time with God.

To Make Disciples, Share Your Story

We tell stories all the time. What was the last story you told about your life?

Last week, I told my kids a story about when I was a pre-teen. A best friend and I were playing in the woods near my grandmothers home and disturbed a yellow jacket nest. We were soon covered and ran screaming to the house, where my grandmother realized what was happening. She then had us strip all our clothes off and sprayed us down with a water hose until all the yellow jackets were gone. True story.

My kids were prepared for this story, because we were talking about bees and wasps stings. We were also on our way to my Grandmother’s funeral, and were telling stories about her life. I’ve already heard two of my kids retell that story to their friends. One of them came to me to confirm a piece of it – “Was it hornets or bees?” and “Do we have yellow jackets around here?”

This is exactly how sharing our story of faith should work.

  1. We should be very familiar with our story of when we put our faith in Christ and its impact on our lives.
  2. We should tell the story as often as we can, but being particularly ready when people are prepared for it, being Persons of Peace (Link).
  3. Those interested in the story will want to know more and will retell the story to others.
  4. We should pray for opportunities and for persons of peace to tell our story to.

How do I tell my faith story?

One tool that you can use to develop your story is the 15-second Testimony (VIDEO HERE). Here’s the pattern:

  • Come up with two words or short statements that describe your life before you became a follower of Christ. “There was a time in my life when I pursued worthless things and lived selfishly.”
  • Come up with two words or short statements that describe your salvation experience. “Then I received Christ’s forgiveness and began following Him.
  • Come up with two words or short statements that describe your life now. “Now my life is filled with purpose and peace.”
  • Come up with a transition statement to help the other person consider their own story. “Do you have a story like that?”

Your personal story is compelling. Spend some time working on your personal story this week.

The goal is that people will hear our story and respond to Jesus with faith. Like the woman at the well in John 4. She experienced the person and grace of Christ and told her story liberally, resulting in others wanting to meet Jesus as well. They told her – “We no longer believe because of what you said, since we heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.” 

May the testimony of our friends be the same.

Resources:

Who Can I Reach? Discovering New Persons of Peace

You have a network of people that only you can influence for Christ. The term used for these people is Persons of Peace. A person of peace is someone who:

  • God is drawing to Himself and opening their heart to the Gospel. (see John 6:44; Acts 16:13-15).
  • Is open to hearing your story, God’s story and the Gospel.
  • Welcomes you. Invites you in to their life and relationships.
  • Has an interest in spiritual things and / or are interested in your life as a believer.
  • Opens doors for you to meet others and gain more opportunities to share your faith.

At any given time, we all have in our network persons of peace that we can share with and lead to next steps in their faith. These should be our first priority because we already know them and have a relationship with them. We can also DISCOVER NEW Persons of Peace around us. God is in the world reconciling people to himself (2 Corinthians 5:15-20). He’s always at work around us drawing people to himself (John 6:44). Here are some ways to Discover New Persons of Peace:

1. Pray expectantly to meet persons of peace throughout your week. When we’re praying for opportunities to be a witness, our eyes are more open to the opportunities around us. Pray everyday for God to show you where and with whom he is working.

2. Initiate relationships with new people. Study after study show that people are lonely. Most people want relationships and appreciate kindness. In line at the store, walking around the neighborhood, wherever you are, take the time to initiate relationships. Stop. Ask questions. Invite people into your life. You’ll discover persons of peace by being a relationship builder.

3. Learn to fish for spiritual interests. Develop a way you explore peoples spiritual interest. Questions may include: Do you have a church you attend? Do you have a spiritual background? Or just being a good listener can clue you in to spiritual interests in peoples lives. Listening for change talk (“I need to make some changes in my life) or for first steps of interest in spiritual things (“I’ve been reading the Bible lately” or “I’m looking for a church”).

4. Observe people’s behavior. In Acts 8, Phillip saw the Ethiopian Eunoch reading the scroll of Isaiah. Along with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Phillip used this behavior as a springboard for spiritual conversation. We can discover people of peace by observing unusual kindness, observing someone reading a sacred text, overhearing a conversation about spiritual things.

5. Serve with the purpose of finding Persons of Peace. Every outreach effort of a local church should have as one of its goals, discovering persons of peace. You can also discover persons of peace by serving in your local community. Often, God’s work in our lives leads us toward generosity. Like Cornelius in Acts 10, who was a God-fearer and was known to be generous, even helping the Jews with synagogue building projects. Get involved in volunteer opportunities around the community and discover persons of peace.

6. Proclaim the Good News. We should use every means necessary to boldly proclaim the good news of Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. As we actively share about our faith in every conversation, on social media, and with our actions, we will find that Persons of Peace will find us. And today, more than ever, people are looking to discover truth, not in a building or through an institution, but through a relationship.

Don’t get discouraged with those who lack spiritual interest. Keep looking. Keep waiting. Keep watching. That’s what Jesus instructed his disciples to do (See Matthew 10:11-14). Be confident that God is working. Connect with people. Get their info and get ready to help people with next steps in the faith. Which is where we’ll pick up next week!

Who Can I Reach? Discover Your Persons of Peace

Evangelism in the early church was not propelled by the attractional worship venues, great music ministries, or interest piquing events of the churches. Evangelism and disciple making was propelled then, and can be today, by the personal networking of ordinary believers who faithfully shared the gospel with those they knew and those they met.

You have a network of people that only you can influence for Christ. That may include inviting them to church. It’d be better, and more effective today, if it included you actively witnessing to them, teaching them to obey, and leading them to reach THEIR network as well.

Identifying Who I Can Reach

Have you thought about who in your network of relationships are open to spiritual conversations? You probably have someone right now who is a neighbor, a family member, or friend on a social media platform, who is open to learning more about Christ. Think about it and write down a few names.

The term used for these people is Persons of Peace. A person of peace is someone who:

  1. God is drawing to Himself and opening their heart to the Gospel. (see John 6:44; Acts 16:13-15).
  2. Is open to hearing your story, God’s story and the Gospel.
  3. Welcomes you. Invites you in to their life and relationships.
  4. Has an interest in spiritual things and / or are interested in your life as a believer.
  5. Opens doors for you to meet others and gain more opportunities to share your faith.

Who do you know right now who is a possible person of peace? Who has reached out to you and asked spiritual questions? Who has ask you about your church? Who has commented or liked your post about spiritual things on Social Media? Is it possible that God may be preparing that person for reconciliation and salvation? And is it possible that he wants to use you to lead this person to know and follow Him?

One of my favorite person of peace experiences was when Heather and I were trying to start a church in a rural area. The only potential gathering place was an old fire station, which was also used for community events. We were praying for persons of peace and finding none to this point. I mustered up the courage one day to stop by the fire station to ask them about using the old station for Bible Studies. I met the fire chief and within five minutes he had asked me questions about God and church, asked me if I would be the chaplain of the Fire Department, and offered me the use of any of the department facilities for church events at no cost, without me even asking. He was one of our first persons of peace. Over years of friendship, the chief has opened up many doors of ministry for me and most importantly, committed his life to Jesus Christ as well. God was preparing him and me for that moment in time. What a rush to see God working and drawing people to himself.

God is preparing people around you as well. Think about who they may be right now.

A few other resources on Persons of Peace: 

  • A Person of Peace and How to Find One – Video
  • A Person of Peace is Receptive – Video
  • Children can be Persons of Peace – Video

Mobilizing Prayer through Prayer Partners

img_6973Being on mission to make disciples will quickly bring us to the end of ourselves. We need divine help and resources. The pathway opened up for us to request and receive them is prayer (Matthew 7:7-8). Getting more serious about making disciples, should include getting more serious about prayer. Disciple makers create a culture of prayer around their life through personal habits (like with daily prayer prompts), including diligent intercession (like with a prayer calendar), and humbly seeking the prayers of other like minded believers. Do you have a prayer partner or a prayer partner network? You can build these relationships and increase the capacity of prayer for those you desire to reach and disciple.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Make a list of people you know that have invested in you, prayed for you, and will be interested in your efforts to share the gospel and make disciples. These may be people in your church, people you grew up with, people who discipled you. And these are people who should have a heart to see people saved and discipled.

2. Reach out to them and invite them to be a prayer partner with you in making disciples. Consider this approach: “You’ve been an important part of my spiritual life to this point. Thank you! I’m getting more serious about my life as a witness and disciple maker. Would you be willing to pray for me and with me on this journey.”

3. Communicate with your partners regularly about specific people that you’d like them to pray for. Email or text message are great tools to mobilize prayer. The more specific the prayer requests the better. Consider names and stories of lost people that God is bringing to your mind. You may want to brand your communication around a favorite verse or aspect of your personal calling.

4. Keep communication brief. These are most likely people who are busy and active in other spiritual endeavors. They’ll appreciate brevity and respect for their time.

5. Celebrate the stories of life change through prayer. And when God’s people are mobilized to pray specifically and according to his heart for the lost, there will be life change!

Years ago, I was a prayer partner with a young lady who wanted to see a friend saved. She invited everyone she knew that prayed and had a heart for the lost to pray for him by name. She sent reminders everyday for three weeks. Dozens, if not hundreds prayed for this man for three weeks.

I was then part of a team from our church that went to his house specifically to share the gospel with him and his family. After small talk, we asked him, “Have you ever thought about your relationship with God? about heaven and hell? about eternal life?”

He said, “Are you kidding me? That’s all I’ve been able to think about for the last three weeks!

He gave his life to Christ right there and was soon baptized and dozens of people who prayed were able to celebrate the life change in this families life.

Creating a culture of prayer can increase the potential and capacity for fruitfulness in our lives and praise to God as he is glorified through answers to prayer. Get started by making your list of potential partners.

Mobilizing Prayer with a Prayer Calendar

Church leaders are known for encouraging prayer. Encouraging an action is not as effective if the person is not actively involved in it. Encouraging works best from alongside or behind, when you’re observing an action. I’ve recently been inspired by a prayer mobilization tool called the Prayer Calendar. This tool and the habits that go along with it, go further than personal prayer, but are meant to draw other people into your life of intercession and create a culture of prayer around your life.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Make a list of 30 to 90 people who you know that need prayer. 

2. Focus first on those who are lost or whose spiritual condition is unknown to you. 

3. Put these in a spreadsheet numbered 1-30. So if you have 60 names, you will make two columns. If 90 names, 3 columns. I’ve made a template for you HERE.

4. Pray for the names on the corresponding day of the month that you’ve written or typed in everyday. So the names in row 1, you’d pray for every 1st day of the month. The names on row 25, you’d pray for every 25th day of the month.

Other tips here:

      • You could organize the columns if you’d like into Lost, Unknown Spiritual Condition, Family, Church Family, Missionaries or whatever.
      • I have about 150 people in my Prayer Calendar, so 5 columns of 30. Which allows me to intercede for 5 people each day.

How does this draw people in and create culture? It seems pretty individualistic at this point. 

5. Call or text one or more of the people you pray for everyday and let them know you are praying for them. Ask them if they have any prayer requests. Pray with them on the phone if the occasion is right for that.

Disciple Making Tip:

      • If they are already believers, tell them what you’re doing and ask them if they’d like to join you in making a prayer calendar for themselves.
      • If yes, set up a time to meet with them to go over the plan for a prayer calendar.
      • A yes, and a follow up here may tell you that this is a person ready to say yes to obedience and becoming a disciple maker. This may be someone that you can train and mentor and partner with.

What does this process do? 

  • It helps you organize the intercession part of your prayer life, which is essential to the life of a Disciple Maker. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus talked about three key habits of kingdom people: Giving, Praying, Fasting. Why were these three, so important? Lots of reasons, but one is: YOU HAVE TO BE ORGANIZED TO PRACTICE THEM. If you don’t set a budget, you probably won’t give. If you don’t set a time and place and make a list, you probably won’t pray. If you don’t plan your meals and make a commitment, you probably won’t fast. Intercession requires organization. The Prayer Calendar has worked to establish intercession for me.
  • It helps create a culture of prayer around your life. When you call or text people and let them know you are praying for them, you are letting them know what your life is about. You’re establishing yourself as a person they can call with needs or problems. Those people that have called me through the years and ask how they could pray for me are all close to my heart. They are unforgettable. They are now on my prayer calendar and will be getting calls from me as well.
  • It helps you find persons of peace. Those who are excited about your efforts to pray for them and who may say yes to establishing their own prayer calendar are people God has prepared for this time. Your prayer for them and your call to them may very well be a divine appointment that propels them into spiritual maturity and binds the two of you together as partners in disciple making from now on.

Get Started Mobilizing Prayer!

Take some time this week to make your list and start your prayer calendar. If we want to make disciples, we must do what Jesus did, and he prayed regularly and consistently. Go beyond encouraging prayer. Mobilize prayer and expand the kingdom as Jesus did.

For more information on this process check out these resources:

7:14 – 10:01 – 4:02

Establishing prayer as a priority and rhythm of life is about being intentional. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your private room, shut the door, and pray to Your Father who is in secret” Matthew 6:6. Three intentional acts in this one verse – “Go…shut…pray…” We see the intentionality of Jesus, as he often withdrew to quiet places to pray. Developing intentional rhythms for prayer and communion with God must be a priority for the believer.

One intentional step that has helped me prioritize prayer is using technology to remind me to pray regularly throughout the day. My smart watch buzzes everyday at 7:14am, 10:01am, and 4:02 pm. These times are reminders of three key verses for prayer and intercession.

7:14am

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

This is my usual devotional time, and this alarm reminds me to pray for humility, desire, forgiveness, and healing for our nation and the nations of the world. I’ll usually pull up the Unreached People of the Day during this time and pray for them as well.

10:01am

Romans 10:01 is the Apostle Paul’s heart for his fellow country men – “my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.”

This is the normal break time for my work, so it’s a great time to pray. This alarm reminds me to spend some time praying for people I know who are far from God. You can develop an active list using a process called Oikos Mapping and pray for those people everyday.

I usually also pray the 10:02 prayer for laborers at this time as well –  “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. 

4:02pm

James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives.”

This alarm, toward the end of the day, gives me an opportunity to stop and ask –

  • What have I needed today, that I haven’t asked God for?
  • What or who have I thought about today, that I haven’t prayed about yet?
  • Where have my motives been selfish?

These three prayer prompts have helped establish times of prayer throughout the day. Consider setting alarms for yourself for 7:14am, 10:01am, and 4:02pm and join me in prayer.

  • How have you established rhythms of prayer?
  • What verses would be prayer prompts for you?

Considering the Cost of Disobedience

David’s disobedience to God cost his family peace (2 Samuel 12). Solomon’s disobedience to God cost his sons a united kingdom (1 Kings 11). Adam’s disobedience cost humanity fellowship with God (Romans 5:19). Our acts of disobedience may not be as earth shattering as these, or will they? We never know the cost of disobedience to God. Thinking about the cost of disobeying Christ’s command to “Go… make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). What if my neglect to be a faithful witness and disciple maker cost someone a place in eternity? What if my neglect to be a faithful witness to someone in my neighborhood that moves to another country and doesn’t have a faith to pass on to next generations and unbelievers?

Considering the cost of disobedience, makes me want to obey. And in every act of obedience is the potential for more growth as the risk leads us to trust God and experience God and display our love for God (John 14:21, 23).

The cost of disobedience may never be fully known, but it will be high.

Lord, make me an obedient, willing servant of your will.  

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