Category Archives: Faith In Action

7 Reasons to Make Ramp Building Part of Your Local Ministry

IMG_6723One of the first projects our church did together when we got started was build a wheelchair ramp. We’re blessed with men with the tools & know how & opportunities for this work is plentiful in every community. Here’s 7 reasons why I love Ramp Building as part of a church’s local ministry:

  1. Access & the Gospel. There are elderly & handicapped people who feel like captives in their own homes due to lack of access. We’ve even had several people in our community that couldn’t get out of their homes without help from the Fire Dept. What a great way to be good news & share the good news with a family & neighborhood. Access to God was built through Christ (1 Peter 3:18).
  2. Send the carpenter types. “I never knew I had anything to offer to the church” – a carpenter type after completing a ramp project through our church in 2010. If you’re thinking about Creating Sending Capacity & Sending the Whole Church, you must think about projects for the construction gifted men in the congregation. And some men in the community jump on these projects before jumping into attending church.  
  3. Stimulate the local economy. Ramps cost approximately $25 per foot. $800-$1,200. Buy local. Don’t ask for a discount. But be thankful & promote the business when they give it.
  4. Projects for Real Men. What was the last thing your church did to promote authentic manhood? Construction, Power Tools, Sweat, Rescuing the Helpless, etc. Ramp & light construction ministry bring out some of the best in men & gives them great opportunity for fellowship around a challenging mission.
  5. Father & Son Projects. Looking forward to my boys being a little older so they can get more involved in ramp building, but I’ve enjoyed seeing a few Father & Son moments on ramp projects through my church. Also, have had great opportunities to explain the why behind church & ministry to my boys through describing the life situations of people we have served through construction ministry.
  6. Partnerships with local agencies. Your local Council on Aging, Easter Seals, Parish or County Social Services Dept., local Fire Depts. & others can give you a list to get started on. Also, chances are, your church has elderly, widows, people with handicaps, with access issues in their homes now. “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” Galatians 6:10.
  7. Monuments to a Caring Church. Ramp building makes for long memories in a community. “That church came and built that.” Memories that make it harder for people in neighborhoods to say that nobody cares about them. That means we’ve brought hope & made ourselves available to meet other needs.

Here’s some good tips on doing construction as a ministry & how to get started from our 2012 Faith in Action Roundtable.

A few ramp projects completed this summer by the men of Bridge Church & our partners. The first was for an elderly deaf man in a wheelchair. The second was for a member of a sister congregation who had fallen & broken her leg & now faced some disabilities.

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Why is Local Outreach So Hard? 20 Reasons:

As church attendance declines, we must look at our communities as a mission field. Why don’t we? Here’s some reasons, assumptions, & excuses I’ve heard, said, felt as a church leader:

  1. As churches, we have turned inward & focused on campus.
  2. As churches, we have “hired it done” by church staff instead of equipping people for the work of local outreach.
  3. Witnessing means inviting people like me to my church.
  4. The compelling call to “Go” (Matthew 28:19-20) begins at the borders of our own country.
  5. Assumption: “Everybody has a church already.”
  6. Assumption: “They know where we are if they need us.”
  7. Assumption: “The needy around here get plenty of help from the government.”
  8. Assumption: “We don’t have enough money.”
  9. Assumption: “The city won’t let us share the gospel.”
  10. As church leaders, we feel tension between “Go. It’s about the people out there” & “Come. What’s going on in here is vital.”
  11. It takes a lot of energy to maintain the on campus ministry.
  12. If we challenge people to reach out & serve in non-traditional ways they may go to another church.
  13. Local outreach = Advertising.
  14. Excuse: “Our area has some dangerous neighborhoods.”
  15. Excuse: “We will one day.”
  16. Excuse: “We tried that already.”
  17. Excuse: “We might get taken advantage of.”
  18. Excuse: “My people are not ready.”
  19. Sinful unspoken assumption: “We don’t really want ‘those people’ coming to our church.”
  20. Sinful unspoken assumption: “It won’t help our bottom line.”

What other reasons, excuses, assumptions could you add to this list? How does your church reach out to your local community?

“Fatigue is the price of leadership. Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired.”

Tired from another great week of Faith in Action. Being tired is something culture teaches us that we need to avoid or escape. But without exertion of energy their can be know real fruit or growth. Paul told Timothy, “…endure hardship… fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). And God gives His servants His energy for the task. Colossians 1:29, “That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

Making a difference in the lives of people is costly and exhausting. That’s the price we pay. Almost every Monday, I think about this quote from Oswald Sanders: “Fatigue is the price of leadership. Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired.”

And Jesus promises rest to the weary (Matthew 11:28). And heaven is described as rest in the book of Hebrews. So heaven can be seen as a place for those who pay the price for the mission of God and are rewarded with rest.

“Bringing the gospel community presence of Jesus into a non-gospel community”

ImageThis is one of my favorite definitions of Church Planting and this is what Bridge Church will be doing today as we move our Worship Gathering to Oak Villa Mobile Home Park  one of St. Tammany’s largest multi-housing communities. Worship, Fellowship, the Spirit’s gifts, the passions and skills of his people will be at work for some people to see for the very first time today. Praying for impact on our Faith in Action Sunday.

  • 9:30am – Breakfast
  • 10am – Worship, Devotion, Baptisms
  • 10:30am-12noon – Faith in Action: Wheelchair ramps, tree trimming, kids club, food distribution
  • 12noon – 2pm – Lunch & the Big Kahuna Water Slide

Definition is from the book Church Zero by Peyton Jones. Great read!

World Changers on the Northshore Is a Wrap for 2013

IMG_6696Over the last two weeks the Northshore was blessed to play host to World Changers in Tangipahoa & St. Tammany Parish. 35 home repair projects were completed and dozens of local churches as well as youth groups from around the country, who paid their own way, partnered to make real change happen for elderly, disabled, disadvantaged families in our region. Thanks to FBC Ponchatoula and FBC Covington for hosting. Couldn’t have happened without them. They mobilized dozens of volunteers to prepare meals and make 100’s of volunteers comfortable on their campuses. Also, dozens of local churches prepared and delivered lunches for crews serving in the community. Dennis Ellzey, Youth Pastor at FBC Ponch and Abe Haley, Student Ministry Associate at FBC Covington did great jobs as Project Coordinators. Also, couldn’t have done it without Agency Reps who raised money for materials and provided coordination: the Fuller Center for Housing in Hammond led by Tamara Danel and St. Tammany Parish Governments Social Services Dept led by John Tobin. Construction coordinators were Tom Rabalais in Hammond and Adam Martin with Kent Construction’s Faith Division in Covington.

World Changers is a great partner for community revitalization and for cultivating a region for gospel penetration and church multiplication. It’s also a great way to bring Associational churches together for good in the community. I think every association should see if World Changers would be a fit for its region. Our National Staff rep in Louisiana is Bill Kisner – bill.kisner@lifeway.com. Get in touch and find out more about World Changers.

LaborProvidedbyWorldChangersNext year we’re hoping to pull off four World Changers sessions on the Northshore: Spring Break at Camp Living Waters and Summer sessions in Hammond/Ponchatoula, Covington, & Slidell. I’ve been saying it would be neat if World Changers could do 75-100 home repair projects on the Northshore and then our local churches could match it with 75-100. 150-200 home repair projects on the Northshore in 2014! Let’s do it!

Being On Mission Stinks

On of my favorite Proverbs is Proverbs 14:4, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

In other words, if you don’t have livestock, you don’t have any poop that stinks up the place & has to be scooped, but you can’t expect to have a great farm without hardworking animals.

This is true of life on mission as well. Me centered Christianity has taught us that God wants us to be happy, to give us a peace-filled life, safe from danger, & being nice & making it to church to support the pastor, cause he’s working so hard for God, is our role in the kingdom. That attitude is just like being without livestock on a farm. Don’t expect fruit, don’t expect a harvest. When people get on mission for God together it will not always be neat, clean, or smell good. It will be messy.

Life on mission will be messy, because sin is messy. And if you’re in the business of rescuing sinners, expect a foul smell. Addictions, foolishness, pain, abuse, poverty, broken relationships, hopelessness. Those are the things you’ll find out there on mission for God. Stay away & you’ll have a cleaner, neater, smell good life, but don’t expect as much spiritual fruit.

Life on mission will be messy, because relationships are messy. We will have differences of opinion & awkward moments & bad days among us. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” and iron on iron creates sparks. If you avoid deep, gospel centered, mission driven relationships, you might have a cleaner, neater, smell good life, but don’t expect as much spiritual growth.

Life on mission will be messy, because of the cost. You will get taken advantage of. You will find yourself outside of comfort zones. You will have seasons of fruitlessness. You will experience rejection. “All those who live godly in Christ Jesus WILL BE persecuted.” Christianity that cost you nothing is a mission-less Christianity that doesn’t find its root in the way of Jesus & the Apostles. Stay away from spending yourself for Jesus & His mission & life may be cleaner, neater, & smell better.

If you want to pursue God’s mission & produce fruit for His kingdom, give up on having a clean, neat, smell good life all of the time. It may require a shovel, old clothes, lots of hand soap, etc. But you can expect the joy of the Lord, the provision of strength from His Spirit, the promise of hearing him say “well done,” the fruit of lives changed, growth & maturity, & the peace of knowing God is using you for His purposes.

What does your stable look like? Our communities desperately need On Mission Christians that don’t shy away from the messiness of sin, relationships, or sacrifice if we’re going to have a harvest of souls.

Faith in Action Weekend: Where is the Church Not?

In 2008, we were assessing the need for a potential new church in West St. Tammany Parish. One of my favorite questions in assessing the need for a new church is, “Where is the church not?” Meaning, is there places in this community where the Gospel & the body of Christ are not represented to a population segment or people group? And then, can sustainable ministry be developed through an existing or new church?

Image 7As part of this assessment, we came across Oak Villa Mobile Home Park in Covington. 150 lots, 450 people living there, 75-100 under the age of 18, 25% of the households are elderly, many with no local family, many in transition – lost job, recently divorced, just got out of jail. This became the first place of engagement for a Bible Study group that was meeting to form Bridge Church. We started by building a relationship with the management & meeting the immediate needs that she recognized, which was six households that needed food assistance. That led to ministering to one of those households in another practical way. A bed ridden elderly man was overrun with cock roaches. So our Bible Study group made the very spiritual decision to purchase him a year’s worth of pest control.

Since those first projects we’ve built porches, steps, handicap ramps, conducted regular kids activities, block parties, How to seminars, pressure washed trailers, etc. We’ve also served as Shepard to a shepard-less group of people – conducting funerals, counseling, benevolence, etc.

Image 9Then in 2010, with the help of Fairview Baptist Church, Coushatta, LA & the Louisiana Baptist Convention we were able to get our own Mobile Home in the park where today we have a Food Pantry, weekly Bible Studies, & we can call ourselves neighbors to the largest multi-housing community in West St. Tammany. 

This weekend will be Bridge Church’s Faith in Action Sunday, where instead of gathering we scatter & serve our community in a variety of ways. We’ll be focusing on the needs of Oak Villa MHP. Projects will include building a couple of wheelchair ramps for elderly residents, trimming trees in the park that could damage trailers if we have a high wind event, activities & Bible stories for kids, Outdoor Worship & we’ll close out with the Big Kahuna water slide. We’ll also be baptizing several residents of the park who are ready to follow Christ.

Faith in Action Sunday is about going where the church is not. Less than 2% of multi-housing residents attend church & in low income areas like Oak Villa, many of them cannot due to lack of transportation. This is an opportunity for us to take church to them & show them the body of Christ in our area cares. And ongoing ministry demonstrates we love them because we care enough to come back.

Ask, “where is the church not?” about your community. Is there ministry that you, your small group, your church could do? You can also join Bridge Church for Faith in Action Sunday, June 30th, 9:30am at Oak Villa Mobile Home Park, 15455 Ronald Reagan Hwy., Covington.

Click here for a few shovel ready Multi-Housing Ministry Ideas. Click here for some info about starting Faith In Action as a ministry in your community.

“caring for orphans AND widows in their distress”

Much attention is being given to the orphan crisis in the world and rightfully so, with 147 million orphans worldwide. I’m excited  that our family is participating in several fundraising projects for orphan causes currently. But let’s not neglect the second part of the admonition in James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans AND WIDOWS in their distress” (NLT).

In my community we recently found out about a widow that has been without refrigeration or hot water for 7 months. There are widows whose yards are overgrown because they can’t afford lawn care and have no nearby family. Our church is helping a widow who’s still displaced from her home due to hurricane damage with no flood insurance or government help to make repairs. And it’s a global crisis, just like with orphans. A church in Zimbabwe that we’ve partnered with hosts a regular widows meetings with over 400 in attendance that lack the ability to care for themselves. The stories of grief, loss, and suffering from these meetings are shocking and heartbreaking.

Before & after a ramp was installed for an elderly widow in my community.

Over 400 widow gather for prayer in Mbare, Zimbabwe.

God’s heart in James 1:27 is that we take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. In every community there are opportunities. Here’s some ways to get started:

  • Open your eyes to those around you that may be home bound, unable to care for themselves, or whose properties are showing signs of neglect. Don’t do like some in my community, who recently called the Parish reporting code violations at area shut ins homes, leading them to extra unneeded stress as they faced fines until getting it cleaned up.
  • Ask your church secretary for a list of homebound, shut-ins, widows & challenge your small group or Sunday School class to get involved in some way.
  • Contact the local Council on Aging and ask about needs of widows and disadvantaged elderly. Partnership with our local COA has opened doors for different kinds of light construction projects for the men in our churches, connecting the elderly with community resources they did not know existed, and they have assisted with purchases of needed appliances for widows like the one mentioned above.
  • Go by the local nursing home and ask if there are any residents with no family locally. Their walls will be bare and simple things to help them maintain physical and emotional health are not available. Love them.
  • I heard of one church that does a widow’s banquet around Valentine’s Day, serving a meal for widows in the community and making a list of how the church can help around their properties.
  • Cook a hot meal. If you’re cooking a big pot of something. Make sure you have enough for the elderly widow or couple in your neighborhood.
  • Partner with those in your small group or church to spend a few days per year helping the elderly with yard work, food needs, etc.

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    A Small Group with Bridge Church recently took a Sunday afternoon to pressure wash & spruce up the homes of two elderly neighbors.

There’s no earthly glamor in widow ministry. Their needs persist. They don’t have much to contribute to you or your church. But if we want to be God-like and we want our churches to fight God’s battles in our community, we will be about this important work.

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” Psalm 68:5 ESV.

What are other ways to minister to widows? What other groups “in distress” can we serve as ambassadors for Christ?

If you’re in West St. Tammany Parish and looking for opportunities or have one to suggest. Please let me know.

Sending the Whole Church

“He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship” Exodus 35:31 NASB.

We know God gives power to preachers, worship leaders, teachers, and missionaries. BUT do the people in the church know that their skill, whatever it may be, can be used to fulfill God’s purpose. Bezelel was a carpenter/craftsman and filled with the spirit to craft instruments for God’s glory.

“I never knew my skills could help the church” said one craftsman we utilize to build wheelchair ramps for the handicapped in our community.

How does you church make a way for those God has filled with his spirit for craftsmanship, carpentry, sewing, scrapbooking, flooring, arts, trimming trees (like in the picture of tree surgeon Mark Johnson taking trees off the house of an elderly widow during a recent Faith in Action weekend with our church), landscaping, etc. etc.? Sending and equipping the whole church means realizing the Spirit empowers for all kinds of ministry.

 

 

A Weird Sunday

When normal isn’t working, doing something weird may be necessary. Today, our church is defying normal in several ways.

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Hurricane Isaac damage to an elderly widows home.

Instead of doing the normal Sunday morning routine – dressing up, singing, telling everybody we’re fine, etc. – we’ll be out serving neighbors who have normal’s that are not working for them. We call it Faith in Action Sunday.

Like a 97 year old Madisonville resident. Normal for her has meant since Hurricane Isaac she’s lived with a gutted house, no doors, no insulation, and no help or resources to get these things fixed.

Like a family of four with disabilities in Madisonville, who’s normal has become holes in the floor and a lot of unsafe conditions in their home.

Like several elderly widows on fixed incomes around Madisonville. Normal means having no man around to take care of little things, so they become big things. And now they’re facing fines from local government until they are repaired.

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Madisonville residents.

Like inmates and their families at our local jail. Normal is wondering about what happens when they get out, will family forgive them, does God care, does anyone care.

So, let’s be weird. Let’s create some new normals. For these individuals and for how our community thinks about Christians. That’s what the Gospel is all about isn’t it? I think when Jesus (who people identified as weird) announced, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” Matthew 4:17, He was saying, “There’s a new normal coming to earth.” When He prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10, He had a new normal in mind. When he taught, healed, had compassion on the crowds (Matthew 9:35-36) He was displaying what the new normal should look like for every Christian. And He ask us to pray for more weird people, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field” Matthew 9:38.

And let’s face it, normal Christianity is not working for many in our world. And many times, Biblical Christianity seems weird to us, because we’ve created a normal that depends upon our disobedience. Because to obey would be weird.

Pain. A local inmate in Celebrate Recovery attending a Family Day Event. He's ready for change.

A local inmate says the tears represent the pain his kids feel.

  • Normal Christianity sets out to serve instead of be served (Matthew 20:28).
  • Normal Christianity sets out to take care of widows and orphans in distress (James 1:27).
  • Normal Christianity puts others ahead of self, to a fault and no matter what (Philippians 2:3-8).
  • Normal Christianity means sharing the Gospel, not just hearing it on Sunday (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Normal Christianity means churches SEND, not just sit (Romans 10:14-15).

How does your community need you to be weird? Who in your community has a normal that’s unacceptable? Have you allowed normal to be about what other people think instead of what God says and people need? What would people in the community say if you asked them what the normal member of your church looked like?

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