Monthly Archives: July 2011

Quote of the Week

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Know Your Neighbourhood with Mappage

My friend Eric Love has developed a really – really – useful site called Mappage. Eric is a brilliant Sacred Agent operating in Adelaide’s North-West, and a first class geek-for-the-gospel. Let’s hear from him about Mappage and its usefulness for churches and church planters…

Eric, tell us briefly about the Mappage web tool – what does it do?

Mappage does a range of different things on a Google Map:

  • Shows a map of the schools, churches etc in an area, and you can click on them for more info
  • Colours in the map according to 2006 census statistics
  • Allows me to add labels to one of these maps and print out a PDF so someone can look at these things without having to navigate the website

What it does not do: Work in Internet Explorer :(

There’s plenty more explanation on the site, whether you just want to look at the PDFs I’ve made or whether you want to look at lots of details.

Can you give an example of how it might be useful to a prospective church planter?

You can look at the map and see what existing churches are in an area, (although I don’t have 100% coverage) and demographics such as what nationalities are represented.

Or how might it help an existing church to know its context better?

You can see how many children at the local schools. Mappage also shows some census statistics (and a link to where you can get more).

How did Mappage come about?

I was sent to gather info on some local schools for a schools ministry team. I found myself interested in the details on the education department website and wrote a program to collate the details from each individual school into one spreadsheet. Then someone said “you should plot those on a map” and this led to a spreadsheet that would produce a Google Earth map with all the places marked…

The ABS site supplies lots of census data for any area in the country. I had a particular interest in comparing particular things across many different areas (in particular the proportion on Christians) so I created a system in Excel to download the data in bulk and set it out in a way that let me compare many regions at once. Then I wrote a program to draw a map of it…

Later I discovered that you could incorporate Google Maps into a web page and do the above things more easily. And after moving house, I found that my new ISP would let me run a website with a database…

Have you discovered any interesting things about particular parts of SA?

The middle parts of Adelaide, both rich and poor, have people born in many different countries, while the outside parts, whether hills, beach or humble outer suburbs, have few non-English-speaking background residents.

My examination of where the Christians live in Adelaide showed a divide between outer and inner Adelaide, and between east and west, but the divides are not so marked as in Sydney and Melbourne.

Though north-western Adelaide has a relative lack of Christians, there’s a big concentration in Queenstown & Alberton.

What does it tell us about how the gospel is going in SA overall?

Maps and stats only show the surface. We see that there are about 1200 churches in the state, with a church with 1km of most populated places. SA has a highest “no religion” percentage than the other states but they’re still in the minority although the weekly church attendance rate is only around 8%.

The most Christian towns include Victor Harbor and Balaklava. In Adelaide, it’s the middle-class outer suburbs with the most believers.

Is Mappage free to use, or do you need to sign up to something?

Mappage is all free to use and no account is required, even to add or edit data on the map. Having checked it out, if there’s anything you’d like to see on a map, whether places, stats or something else, let me know and if the data is available I’ll put it on there. Just today (Monday) my friend gave me addresses of the playgroups in the western suburbs and I’ve put them up.

Thanks Eric – I hope to have you back sometime soon as a guest blogger!

Here’s the link again: Mappage

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Kids

This is my final post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing pools” that a church interacts with – Friends, Neighbours and Kids. “Friends”  are those people with whom we have an existing relationship. “Neighbours” are those people who live in proximity to your church’s meeting place, but whom you don’t know personally. Now about evangelism with our kids.

To say that we need to evangelism our children is to invite the wrath of the blogosphere. I’m not trying to saying that they’re not saved. I am saying that these are a significant group to whom God sends us, with whom we have (some!) influence, among whom we have the challenge of making disciples. They are right there under our noses!

And yet we can neglect to ‘count’ children’s and youth ministries as mission! It should not be so. Young people are open to the gospel (most adult Christians first responded to the gospel in their childhood). They are incredibly valuable to God. And incredibly important, because they have a whole life ahead of them for good or evil. Win a person on their death-bed to the Lord, and you’ve saved a soul. Win a child, and potentially you have saved hundreds, millions. “We see the apple in the tree, but do we see the tree in the apple” and all that.

The idea of identifying “fishing pools” or mission contexts is just a suggestion to help churches more clearly (less fuzzily) identify where they are putting their efforts, and where they might want to put more or less effort. If a small church were to do only one thing, then it’s hard to go past children’s ministry. Famous evangelist D.L.Moody said “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”

In fact, it’s not so much that we should add “Kids” to the bottom of the list of pools, as that we could model more effective mission among Friends and Neighbours on what we already do with our kids. Ministry to young people is the one area of church life that got “missional” – was approached in a missionary manner – decades before the missional church discussion bloomed. We instinctively knew that kids were “particular creatures” who needed to be reached in particular ways, and so we looked for the right language, the right time of week, the right physical spaces to bring the gospel to them. (Even those who most fear and decry contextualization as “watering down the gospel” don’t read to their kids straight from Calvin; they think nothing of Bible story-books with pictures of Noah’s ark with mandatory giraffe’s head poking out the top, no sign of dead bodies floating in the water, and less than the full Biblical text in them.)

We have acted as missionaries to the next generation for a long time, and may it continue with increasing excellence. Those who serve in youth and children’s ministry in our churches are worthy of honour as well as police checks. These ministries are worthy of significant amounts of a churches resources, and we should consider it good mission.

Church Planting the Nike Way

[Robin Carter passed on to me this article from Evangelical Alliance blog - thanks Robin!]

The plans for planting Northside Evangelical Church gained serious momentum in September 2006. Several highly recommended books on Church Planting were read, leaders who had church planting experience were consulted and a very fancy looking strategic plan was developed. To be honest it all looked very complicated and difficult, especially because we seemed to lack three key ingredients: – people, time and financial
resources.

As we were deciding how to deal with these complications and difficulties, we met with a couple of church planters who challenged us to use the Nike method of Church Planting—JUST DO IT. This challenge forced us to seriously face three questions: -

How many people does it take to start a church?

In our case it was 8 adults, 3 teenagers (my daughters), and a baby. We just started meeting, praying, inviting, serving, sharing and trusting. We deliberately made the Gospel central to all we did and God brought the increase.

How much time does it take to start a church?

All of us had full time jobs, and there were no paid workers. Yet when you stop and analyse how much time we actually spend on frivolous and meaningless activities it is amazing how much time you can “find” for serving God.

How much money does it take to start a church?

Our expenses for the first 12 months were $9000 which is an investment of $22 per adult per week – hardly a budget breaker. In fact it could be done for less because we decided to spend $5500 on new sound and visual gear. The rest was spent on room hire and community events.

Currently our church community consists of 60-70 adults, teenagers, and children. Our annual costs have gone up, we have expanded our ministry into the community, and we are just beginning to pay a part-time wage. I have no doubt we would have seen much greater growth if we had a full-time paid worker right from the beginning—but if that was a criteria for starting we would never have started.

So this is the challenge:

There are plenty of people and groups who have more of the key ingredients then we had:- more people, more time and more financial resources. If you have a heart to plant a church don’t let what you lack become an obstacle to getting started. Instead use the Nike method of Church Planting.

JUST DO IT

By Allan Quak, Church planter, Northside Evangelical Church, Queensland
(March 2010)

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Neighbours

This is my third post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing pools” that a church interacts with simultaneously – Friends, Neighbours and Kids. “Friends”  are those people with whom we have an existing relationship. We discussed evangelism with them in the previous post. By “Neighbours” I mean the people who live in proximity to your church’s meeting place, but whom you don’t know personally. (So I am not talking about each of our next-door neighbours – those I include under “Friends”, even if they’re enemies!)

If your church is an average suburban church, then there are about 3,000 people living within easy walking distance of your place of meeting. Chances are, yours is the most near-by Christian church to them. But is it really “near-by”? Are they aware of your existence, or are you invisible to them? Do they feel they could approach you as they might the local library or medical centre? Or do you seem inaccessible? And the reverse question must also be asked: Is your church aware of them? For many suburban churches, the disconnection is so strong that the church and its local neighbourhood are essentially invisible to each other. What might be done about that?

(1) Increasing Awareness

Your church leaders, or entire church, could be encouraged to walk the neighbourhood, or be taken on a tour of it. Walking is good exercise, a simple map could be printed and space given for people to write down what they notice – What schools, businesses and other clubs or institutions are there? What kind of houses? What does this tell us about the people? Interviews with church members or people you know who have lived in the neighbourhood for many years can also bring out insights. Who are these people? What makes them tick?

(2) Focused Prayer

Prayer for the neighbourhood street by street, suburb by suburb, business by business, school by school is a great way to step forward into local mission. Much of this can happen through prayer walking, but the importance of praying for the local neighbourhood during the church’s main weekly meeting shouldn’t be underestimated. It signifies that this is core business for your church. Unfortunately, a great many churches go week by week barely ever mentioning their local community. If you gave me a transcript of all that is said at your worship meeting, would I be able to tell where your church is? Or might it just as well have come from the other side of the world?

(3) Being Present

Much of what I’m about to write is presently very out of favour, and easily labelled “attractional” rather than “missional”. Knock yourself out. But as your church takes a missionary stance towards its local neighbourhood, it will know that being present is important, that first impressions count, and that it does no good to put unnecessary stumbling blocks in front of people. What do the locals see of you? They see your place of worship, they see your signage, and if interested, they see your website. This is your public face, and it’s worth paying attention to.  A good-looking website (like this one!) can be put together for free and in just a few hours. Don’t pay thousands. Do keep it up to date and fresh. The web is the natural place for anyone interested to check you out. Once you have it functional, put your web address on your signage. Try to read your signage and look at your buildings with the eyes of an outsider – or even ask someone who’s never been to come and have a look and tell your their first impressions. You’ll be surprised! They will point out things that have become invisible to you.

Another, and perhaps even more important way of being present in the local community is to be personally present. Is there a local sporting club? Are any of the members participants in it? Or could the church sponsor the club? Similarly with local businesses – members could be encouraged to shop local and take time to get to know people in that way. And schools are perhaps the most important of all. They can be a real hub of the local community. Even if the church doesn’t have any kids in those schools, there are lots of other ways for the church to show up and serve and get involved. If the school has a CPSW (chaplain), a conversation with him or her is a great way to start.

(4) Letterboxing and Door-knocking

In Australia door-knocking should be done with extreme care as it is not appreciated by many people. Still, there are circumstances and styles through which it can be effective. Letterboxing, on the other hand, is quite acceptable so long as you respect the people who label their letterboxes with “No Junk Mail”. Much care should be given to what it sent, though. I don’t actually recommend the purchasing of generalized evangelistic material which is then overprinted with your church’s details. Better, I think, is something clearly produced by your church, even if it is of lesser quality, with a warm invitation, and information about what you are on about and what your church offers. Be unashamedly Christian. You’ll find that people respect a church being open, honest, sincere and friendly.

(5) Including the Community

Too often a church can see itself as having it all and the local having nothing. An “us and them” mentality can be pretty strong. So when we think of putting on events, we often immediately think of “us” doing stuff for “them”. A church might have a jumble sale and do an enormous amount of work, and only invite the local community to be customers. What if, instead, the church organized a community jumble sale – where locals are invited to come and sell, and bake, and participate – all raising money for a unquestionably good cause? Look for things you can do with your community, not just for them. It shows respect, when too often Christians come across as “acting superior”.

(6) Visit Your Local TAB

There – I said it! Years ago I wrote a note on the agenda to an upcoming leaders meeting at our church: “In the week leading up to this meeting, please spend at least 20 minutes either at the Adelaide Casino, or at the local TAB [betting agency].” When the church leaders turned up at my house, I asked them about their experiences. Sure enough, fully half of them had not done it, ostensibly because they thought surely I wasn’t serious. Another third of the leaders knew they should, but just couldn’t bring themselves to go and do it. One said “I just couldn’t go through that door.” Another said “I was afraid that someone I know might see me.” And there were just a few who managed to do it. All I said on reflection was this: “That’s exactly how hard it is for people to come into our church for the first time.” Many local people are positively inclined towards your church. Some are outright curious. But there’s a lot of fear. It’s up to us to take the steps to signal “Fear not! For we bring good news that will be of great joy for all the people…”

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Friends

This is the second post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing pools” that a church interacts with simultaneously – Friends, Neighbours and Kids. Of course you may discern more or different “pools”, but I do recommend keeping it simple.

I defined the “Friends” pool as people whose names we know. People with whom we have an existing relationship. So “Friends” is a broad category that includes family, colleagues, acquaintances and even enemies! And it includes local neighbours in your street whom you know.

Evangelism with friends needs to take a different approach to that with strangers. In Acts 17, Paul does some magnificent evangelism at the Areopagus. As a newcomer to their setting, he brought good news in a way they could relate to. But should we then do the same thing among our relatives at Christmas lunch, or in the staff room at work? I think not. So here are some suggestions. They are by no means exhaustive – in fact barely scratching the surface. I am really just suggesting a framework with which real, tangible, practical conversations can be had that will lead to more fruitful mission.

1. Exemplary Life

The people we know also know us. They see us at our best and also at our worst. So the message, the impression they get from us is more action than words. Now, none of us are perfect. But that shouldn’t stop us from (a) being open about our struggles and failures, (b) being quick to apologize when we hurt or let people down, (c) thinking back over the history we share with people and making right, where possible, wrongs from the past, and (d) pressing on to live lives that are really worthy of the gospel. Putting off sin, putting on righteousness. “Live such good lives among the pagans,” writes Peter, “that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Let your light shine. Go that extra mile. Turn the other cheek. Love the people you know with the love of God.

I’d like to give three easy steps to this. But there’s every chance the easy steps have already been taken. It’s hard. All I can say is that in the ongoing pursuit of a godly life, don’t compare yourself with the people you’re sent to, or even with your fellow sacred agents. Fix your eyes on Jesus and press on into the transformation he wants to work in you by his Spirit. And spend time with heroes who will spur you on. I can’t read Peter’s “Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong…” verse without thinking about Daniel in Babylon and the practices that sustained him (prayer 3 times a day etc, but that’s for another post).

2. Prayer By Name

It’s a powerful thing to name people before God in prayer. And in this pool, you at very least have that advantage – you know people’s names. A church can hardly help but be fruitful evangelistically if it forms the habit of interceding for the thousands of people in its personal network by name. I just can’t see God letting it happen.

In my early days as a youth pastor we had the grand idea of forming the youth into a “Prayer Force”. In typical OTT style, we divided everyone into “squadrons” and each group was to pray for friends by name, a few blocks of the neighbourhood specifically, and an overseas missionary. Well, designing the logos and everything was fun, but putting into practice – well, it fizzled. My particular group met for a few weeks, gradually decided that “prayer-walking” our few blocks was less boring that sitting around praying. But even that didn’t last for long. I put it down as being an “odea” instead of an “idea” and moved on. But about a year later, our list of people to pray for turned up somewhere, and we were stunned to realize that fully half of the people on the list had come to know Christ! We were hopeless, but God wasn’t!

3. Literature Evangelism

Literature – in which I include video and other media – is a greatly under-utilized tool in evangelism. Too often when we think of evangelism we picture ourselves doing all the explaining – at least I do. But there are others who do it particularly well. Like CS Lewis. In the 60-second window of opportunity when my friend is open and interested, I could fumble my way through an overview of 2 Ways To Live or Bridge to Life or Four Spiritual Laws – but it’s likely to end up with what my friend YanYan calls “massive awkies” (significant awkwardness). Alternatively, if I use that 60 seconds to say “I think you might be really interested in this book – it’s by CS Lewis, you know, the guy who wrote the Narnia books and all that.” Well then, if my friend takes up and read, instead of 60 awkward seconds from me, they are likely to spend hours hearing from one of the most eloquent advocates of Christianity history has known. And the further advantage is this – the message is coming from CS Lewis, not me. I can have a safer conversation about my friend’s response simply by saying “Well, what did you think of that?” My existing relationship with my friend is not compromised – and if they are not receptive, the friendship lives to fight another day.

Churches could invest so much more in this. It does take preparation – that is, buying up great books (and videos etc) and having them handy to give away. Search them out. Apart from Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I have seen Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz be well received. The trick is to have a stash, a supply of a range of the best stuff. Any other suggestions or recommendations?

4. Invitational Evangelism

The same benefit applies to inviting a friend to an event that will feature a gospel presentation of some sort by someone else. You get to be the supporting friend, the beggar helping another beggar find food, rather than playing the soup kitchen to your friend – a power imbalance they would no doubt sense. Of course, it’s a bigger thing for a person to come to a Christian event with you, than for them to read a Christian book you lend them. So be wise with this.

5. Sudden Opportunites

Be on the look out and indeed pray for these! You never know what they are going to look like, but every now and then you’re with a friend and that window opens up. They might voice a deep wonder about the meaning of life. Or have a sudden emergency. Or be particularly cruel to you. These are powerful moments where your response is likely to get past their exterior defences. We all can think back over such opportunities missed. The trick is to be ready – somehow – for them. With experience and growth in Christian character it perhaps happens more naturally. But it doesn’t hurt at all to ask the Holy Spirit to help you spot the moment and be used powerfully by him in it.

OK, so that’s just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Leave a comment to fill it out some more. But this can be a great exercise to do in a group with a whiteboard.

Next post in this series will be on Evangelism with Neighbours… …stay tuned!

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