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In Matthew 28:20, Jesus finishes the Great Commission with this challenge –
“teaching them everything I have commanded you.”Jesus, Matthew 28:20
Did you catch it? Do you see what’s missing? Left out of this quote is that we are to teach them “to obey” or “to observe” everything.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”Jesus, Matthew 28:18-20
If you did catch it, does your church and your ministry obey this command? Are we teaching them “to obey everything” or are we teaching them everything we know in 30-45 minutes blocks and hope they learn or eventually know enough to become disciples who make disciples? Didn’t work for the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Doesn’t seem to be working today. Knowledge doesn’t always lead to maturity or multiplicative disciple making.
How do you teach to obey?
Jesus modeled this for us by teaching PLUS answering questions and responding to concerns PLUS modeling PLUS sending PLUS debriefing. There cannot be teaching to obey without –
- Q and A for understanding,
- opportunities to practice what’s been taught,
- ongoing coaching and debriefing,
- accountability to keep practicing.
How does your church make room for teaching to obey? Where are the opportunities to understand, ask questions, process concerns? Do you give opportunities to practice what’s been taught? Is there ongoing debriefing and coaching? How do you hold others accountable to obey Jesus?
Yes, Jesus taught crowds in rows. But more frequently he was on the go, demonstrating what he taught; or around a table, teaching them to obey with Q and A and responding to concerns in the context of relationships. More than just teach the crowds everything we know. Let’s teach them obey in discipling relationships.
The Jews didn’t like being forced to carry a roman’s bag one mile. Jesus said, carry it two (Matthew 5:41). No one likes being backhanded on one cheek. Jesus said, let them right cross you on the other also (Matthew 5:39). No one would like having a shirt taken in a lawsuit. Jesus said give them your coat as well (Matthew 5:40). Persecutors? Pray for them. Enemies? Love them (Matthew 5:44). Insults? Don’t return them (1 Peter 2:23).
Jesus wanted above all to REACH people. To seek and save them (Luke 19:10). We cannot do that from an adversarial posture. Jesus’ commands remind us that our posture toward society, even an unchristian society, should be loving, humble, self-sacrificing, and even radical in its actions.
There are people who can and will fight for the legalities of a thing. We have opportunities to support them as we feel led through civic means. Let the disciples business be about following Jesus into a life of loving, seeking the lost, and making disciples, PERIOD. I’m afraid that arguing, quarreling, disparaging others over a piece of cloth will prove to be a hindrance to that mission and a triviality in eternity. Let our passion be for the gospel, for the kingdom, and for the lost.
What does it say about my heart if wearing a mask or not wearing a mask is of greater concern and riles more passion in me than the lostness and brokenness of people in the world? or causes me to disparage fellow believers? The mission of God, sharing the Gospel, healing hearts and lives is too important at this moment in history to be passionate about anything else.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
Prayer walking has been defined as “Praying on site with insight.” While you walk you can pray for what you observe. You can pray for God to give you insight into your community. You can pray specifically for your neighbors and the needs around your community as you see them. This is a great way to obey God’s command to pray for others. Prayer works every time it’s tried. Here is a printable guide to use while Prayer Walking – PDF.
There are at least five ways for people to be regular, sacrificial, and cheerful givers to your church, no matter what.
- Give at a Sunday Worship Gathering. Placing an offering in the plate, basket, bag, or box is the most traditional way believers have given for generations.
- Give Online. By connecting with a few outside partners, online giving can be done safely and easily today.
- Text to Give. By connecting with a few outside partners, members can text in a gift to your church.
- Give through a Bank’s Online Bill Pay System. Many people are paying bills online. If they have your church’s mailing address, they could include their regular giving through their banks bill pay service.
- Give by Mail. With a mailing address, giving can still be received through “snail mail.” You could even provide a stack of pre-addressed and already stamped envelopes to make it easy.
Notice, only one of these paths to giving requires the church to be gathered. So, when crisis or disaster strikes, limiting the gathering capacity of your church, YOU CAN be ready by offering pathways for continued generosity.
Getting Started with Online Giving
To get started with online giving, you will need to set up an account with one of many online giving platforms. It’s possible that your church already has an account with one of these. If you have a Church Management System, like PlanningCenter.com, FellowshipOne.com, Shelbysystems.com, ACStechnologies.com, or others, you simply need to add the capability. There are also church partners like Tithe.ly, EasyTithe.com, and PushPay.com, that focus on helping churches with online giving. Lifeway also offers a service called Generosity – https://lifewaygenerosity.com/ – that provides opportunities for online and text to give for churches. Paypal.com also is often used by churches for online giving and other transactions. These services will have small transaction fees and possibly monthly membership charges. However, churches that utilize these, usually see a 25%-40% increase in giving, making the fee and charges worth the cost.
Communicate the Pathways to Giving
The church that my family attends communicates the Five Ways to Give regularly. Here is a letter sent out with contribution statements each quarter. There are also flyers placed in foyer areas. Five Ways to Give can be a convenient provision for people during busy seasons, but a lifeline during crisis or disaster when the church can’t gather.
Ever thought about taking your churches Kids Ministry to the streets? I think we should. Most children’s ministry is focused on reaching/teaching/discipling kids that show up at my church on the weekends or midweek. Some of the questionable outcomes of this:
- Are we teaching kids that church is all about them and most importantly, about them having fun, falling just short of disciple-making?
- In wanting to grow our churches, are we talking about kids as only hooks to get their parents “butts in the seats” (to quote Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act)? “If the kids have fun, the parents will come back” ~ church growth quip.
- Children’s facilities can cost mega bucks. No matter how hard we try, we CAN’T out Disney, Disney.
- Are we cutting the rug out from under parental responsibility for discipling kids as they become more and more dependent upon the “professionals” down at the church?
AND the big one: WHAT ABOUT THE MAJORITY KIDS THAT ARE NOT COMING TO THE FULL COLOR KIDS MINISTRY EVENTS AT OUR CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
In my region of 345,000 people, demographic reports show that around 21% of the population is age 14 or below. That’s around 69,000 kids!!!! In my denomination, which is one of largest in the region with 11,500 worshipers on any given Sunday, approximately 18% of that number are children under 14. Meaning on any given week only 2,500 or so kids are attending. Which is only about 4% of the population in the 14 and under age bracket. We average about 7,000 each year for Vacation Bible School, which is a 1-week, 4-hour overdose of Sunday’s Kids Ministry. That gets us to 10%. Add the other evangelical groups to the mix and best figures, after consulting with other church leaders, give us a number of 4,500 kids in an evangelical church each Sunday for faith and fun. That’s only 7% of the kids in our community. And many of these kids are growing up with absolutely no or very little Gospel story or Christian witness in their lives. Are we losing a generation as we strategize on how to improve our children’s facilities? and preach loudly about God being taken out of schools? and continue to think of kids ministry as a facilities focused ministry? and considering the # of kids that need to be reached, can we even build a big enough facility to do what’s needed?)
A New Vision for Kids Ministry
What if we began to consider the 93% in our Kids Ministry strategy? Not neglecting the 7%, providing faith and fun on Sunday’s as we are, but also thinking of new ways to get God’s story into the lives of kids in our community. When you think of it like this you’ll realize there are more opportunities then you might imagine. Here’s a few ideas:
- Encourage your congregation to get involved in schools on their terms, not yours. There are a variety of mentoring, tutoring, encouraging opportunities that will equal relationships with unchurched families in the community and opportunities to invest in kids. Our church recently provided free popcorn for an area schools open house and met several families in need.
- Partner with local kids organizations that are serving children and asking (if not begging) for volunteers. In my community, there’s the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, local multi-housing complexes, private schools. And we’ve found many of them are open to you sharing THE story as part of your work.
- Get involved in local recreation and sports leagues by encouraging adults to get involved in coaching kids. Volunteer coaches are usually desperately needed, especially in inner cities. Provide some training on how to be a character building influence on kids and keep relationships going. These opportunities can lead to lifelong relationships of encouragement and mentoring between a child and an adult, who will forever be know as “Coach” to the kid.
- Multiply what you do on-site, off-site. You’ve made great backdrops and costumes, produced cool videos and posters, you’ve bought expensive curriculum, and prepared awesome crafts. And you’ve trained volunteers who are loving it. Why not look for an avenue to multiply that in the community? Do the VBS at a local multi-housing complex or another church that would not be able to do it for the kids in their neighborhood. Do a one day kids ministry event at a local park or multi-housing complex utilizing all the stuff you’ve done over the past few months. One church in our state, extends their VBS every Summer to a private daycare with over 200 kids, multiplying their efforts to reach more kids.
- Local Festivals provide opportunities to show kids and families that faith is fun by providing some of the crafts or games or other elements you do each week. This is a great way also to build trust with community leaders and parents. And you can say, “if you like what we do here, you’ll love our Kids ministry at ______ Church on Sunday.” Our local associations have Block Party Trailers with many of the supplies you’ll need for this type of outreach.
- Get the Kids involved. Instead of seeing them as hooks to get more “butts in the seats.” See them as missionaries who can invest in their friends and demonstrate that faith is fun and meaningful in the community. Teach kids that it’s important to serve and that faith is not just about them but others, by taking them on a local mission trip to the park or festival or multi-housing complex for Kids Ministry Day.
- Start or get involved in a mentoring program for children without dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children, etc.
- Instead of VBS. I heard of one church that instead of VBS they encouraged neighborhood Bible Clubs during the summer and trained and empowered people to reach the kids and families around them, utilizing the same curriculum sets and production quality, but in yards and subdivision common space all around the city.
- Other ideas?
We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep preaching about culture decay, how God has been kicked out of schools, and bad parenting. We’ve got to get involved. The doors are open in our communities. It won’t be easy, but salt is no good left in the salt-shaker.
How could your church take kids ministry to the streets?
This year, our Louisiana Baptist Missions and Ministry Team held 10 weeks of Summer Network gatherings across Louisiana, and we tried to hit some of our more rural areas and associations. Though 75% of Louisiana is considered Urban by the Census Bureau. A few observations about ministry in Rural Louisiana in 2019:
- There is a growing shortage of pastors. There are associations in our state with 20-25% of their churches without pastors.
- There are more retirees entering the ministry. We met several amazing men who had retired from secular employment and are now pastoring churches! We also have several planting churches! How about ministry as an ENCORE career.
- Rural Pastors are finding innovative ways to meet the changing ministry environments they are in. Addiction, homelessness, poverty are major issues in rural areas, just as in urban areas, and on the minds of pastors. Churches are finding ways to address these. Encouraging.
- Rural Pastors are heroes. They do it without fanfare or abundant resources. I have been inspired by the enthusiasm of young and old pastors in rural areas this summer. Their church of 40 people may seem insignificant, but in a community with 600 people, they are a mega church!
- Relationships among churches and among pastors are lifelines for the stresses of ministry in rural areas. Associational coaching networks are forming. Pastors with education are mentoring pastors who did not have the opportunity. Encouraged by the kingdom mindset across our state.
- Smaller, rural churches have suffered from transfer growth as many older Christians choose to drive out of their community to a larger church in another town. Heard this observation several times from rural pastors this summer in relation to the struggle to find mature Christians to lead. There are seasoned Christians giving up on the small, local church.
- Rural communities are attractive to families and are growing in population and income level. From younger retirees to families that want more space and don’t mind a 45 minute to 1 hour commute daily, demographics are changing in many of our rural areas.
I am a product of rural churches. These churches gave me a great foundation of faith. Ministry looks differently, may move slower, but continues to be fruitful for life change and making disciples. Praying for our Rural pastors and churches.
For most leaders, including me, that moment when a complaint or criticism arises is like a cloud moving in and potential storm rising. Many church leaders have post-traumatic stress that paralyze us whenever complaints and criticism arise. While complaining is condemned in scripture (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9) and many complaints are selfish and from power seeking, disgruntled, hurting people; leaders must learn to see the opportunity in every complaint. That’s what the early church did in Acts 6. When “there arose a complaint,” they mobilized people to meet the legitimate need. The result was “the word of God spread”! Conflict is inevitable in relationships, on teams, and in churches. Don’t miss the opportunity!
- Mobilize gifted people to meet the legitimate needs that complaints may reveal.
- Sharpen the mission of sharing with your community through re-prioritizing ministry resources and gifts.
- Make room for new people that God will add as more people are mobilized for ministry and more needs are met.
- Correct, rebuke, teach, and train if complaints reveal prideful, competitive, divisive spirits in the church. 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15
- Say goodbye gracefully to disgruntled, negative influences that refuse to work for unity and solutions and may hold back the mission of the church. Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10. It’s not about who you keep, but who you reach.
- Be thick skinned. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. Don’t get distracted from the mission of spreading the message of Jesus. Proverbs 15:31-32
- Don’t try to do everything or feel like you must answer everyone’s complaints or try to make everyone happy. Gospel first – Acts 6:2. A clear conscience before God is our first responsibility – Acts 24:16.
- What Louisiana city was first named Tiger Island?
- What Louisiana Parish is home to an ancient people group that still resides on its aboriginal lands?
- What Bayou was formed by a 10 mile long snake?
If you know the answers to these questions, you might be from St. Mary Parish. St. Mary Parish includes the cities of Morgan City (formerly known as Tiger Island because of rare cats spotted there by the first surveyors in the late 1700’s), Franklin (the Parish Seat), Patterson, Berwick, and the Chitimacha Indian Reservation (home of the Chitimacha Indian, who were once one of the strongest tribes in North America). Chitimacha legend has it that the ancient tribe fought a war with a 10-mile long snake and on its defeat it squirmed to its death and its remains formed Bayou Teche. Today Bayou Teche is 125 miles long and includes the beautiful Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in St. Mary Parish.
St. Mary Parish is also home to the Gulf-Coast Baptist Association. A group of 15 southern baptist churches that partner together for the gospel in this coastal community. Today, they are in need of our partnership and prayers as economic downturn and declining church attendance has greatly impacted this association. Here are some fast facts about Gulf Coast Association:
12 Quick Facts about St. Mary Parish:
- It is located “right in the middle of everywhere” – about 50 miles from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
- It is part of the Gulf Coast Baptist Associaton. Associational Missions Strategist is Steven Kelly. He is also the Pastor of Bayou Vista Baptist Church near Morgan City.
- 54,650 residents. 59% White, 33% Black, 5% Hispanic, 3% other.
- 14 Southern Baptist Churches. 1 church for every 3,904 residents. (Our state ratio and goal for each association is 1 church for every 2,850. Gulf Coast Association needs 5 more churches to get to that ratio).
- Only 1 African-American church and only 1 Hispanic church.
- Gulf Coast churches have averaged between 900 and 1100 in total worship attendance for the last 10 years, with a total of 1,019 in 2018. That’s only 1.9% of the total population.
- Bible Study or Sunday School attendance was at less than 1% in 2018 with 506 attendees.
- “Well, most people are Catholic in South Louisiana.” Not so fast. The ARDA reports that there are 24,662 nones in the parish, or religiously unaffiliated. That’s 45% of the population. 17,834 are Roman Catholic, or 33%. 9,885 evangelicals, or 18%.
- Crime is 26% higher that the state average and 48% higher than the U.S. average.
- Poverty is at 21%, which is 1% higher than the state and 6% higher than the U.S.
- Greatest needs according to Associational Missions Strategist Steven Kelly, are for an African-American congregation in Morgan City. A new Hispanic congregation may be needed. RePlanting and Revitalization partnerships are needed across the Gulf Coast.
- Also needed are Bivocational or Covocational Pastors and Planter who will plant their lives in these communities and see them reached for the gospel.
Pray for Tiger Island and the surrounding communities of St. Mary Parish.