Christian Community is the Final Apologetic

So many people believe they have the cure for the common sinner; that the truth will set them free from unbelief. That may have worked in a modern, rational world, but the climate has changed from rational to relational. People need to first experience faith, hope, and love from Christ-followers who are living a radical life. It all starts with a verbal witness with no words and that provides the relational status from which to share the Gospel when that person is ready to listen.

This next generation needs Christians to do their homework and discover that in context the truth does set you free – free to love. The most amazing apologetic is our love for one another. That is how Jesus said the world would identify us over 2,000 years ago and it is still true today. In fact, the first century church is very similar to today’s church. The difference is that the church described in Act 2 was gaining favor and we are losing favor in a post-Christian world.

The late, great Francis Schaeffer said something similar: “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful – Christian community is the final apologetic.” People are determining if Christianity is valid by how it impacts your life and mine. What a tremendous responsibility we have! What a tremendous opportunity we have!


Prime Kobe (Bryant) Stakes

If you haven’t heard Kobe Bryant has requested a trade. I can give you a million reasons not to trade Kobe Bryant while he is in his prime, it doesn’t matter what the stakes are. And if the Lakers organization decided to attempt to trade him to another team, who in the world could match his value? You would have to trade your best 2-3 players and a few draft picks just to make it even close to fair and that would not line up with the salary cap based upon the four years left on number 24’s seven-year, $136 million dollar contract. Some would say Kevin Garnett; but honestly, who else on the T-Wolves are even worthy of mentioning? So that leaves the Chicago Bulls and a combination of young talent that could help the Lakers secure the 7th or 8th spot in the Western Conference Playoffs next year. The only problem with that is the Lakers are all about stars, as half of the courtside seats are occupied by the blockbuster actors and hip hop artists. They need a super-star or they will not be gazing. In the words of Stephen A. Smith, “And that’s all I have to say about that…period!”

Location, Location, Location

I subscribe to Entrepreneur magazine. Each issue is full of stories of successful businessmen and women and how they achieved their success. The magazine hopes that entrepreneurs might find a spark from the methodologies and angles that led to product or profit or both. As I read, I can often apply some of these ideas to ministry, but I always remember to copy principles and not programs. I constantly remind myself that ministry measures are consistent, but ministry practice is custom. If you try and apply the latest hyphenated church model by the book you will only be frustrated. What works in California will not always work in the “Bible Belt” and vice versa. A pastor and the church staff must know their congregation and their target audience in order to make informed strategic decisions on the best means to minister effectively in their context to their people.

In Frisco, Texas we have 3 going on 4 sports teams. What a great place to have a Sports Outreach Ministry! Even better, the average age of a Frisco resident based upon the fact that most residents have kids, is 7 years old. What a great place to have a children’s summer sports camp! This means that how we do Sports Ministry in Frisco will most likely look different than how you would do sports ministry in your area. But you can be creative in your context and understand that things like the core values that are listed in the bottom left hand corner of the navigation column are consistent regardless of context. Are you the sportspastor at your church? Do you wish your church would start a sports outreach ministry? Either way, send me an e-mail. I would love to hear what you are currently doing to reach your community through sports or even what you are planning to do in the near future. You can find my e-mail address on the Sportspastor about page.

Ministry Measures

When I was a child my parents would keep track of my height by placing a book or ruler on my head and marking a line with a pencil on the doorframe of our kitchen. They would write the date next to the measurement. Churches have doorframes, but all that they seem to measure is the size of their congregation. I challenge all church leaders to somehow measure your effectiveness as a church by something other than the number of people that show up on Sunday morning. It would be interesting see what various church leaders would choose as alternative benchmarks for accomplishing what they believe to be the purpose of the church. I would be quick to say that many church leaders would be perplexed by that challenge.

How about you? What are your ministry measures? Take the evangelistic temperature of your church. Count the number of people that have joined your church by conversion in the last year. Or count the number of people who have trusted Christ after hearing the Gospel shared through one of the minsitries of your church. If you can count that number on your right hand, we need to talk.

Finally, anytime you get a chance, talk to other pastors about their ministry measures. It would be refreshing for the first conversation between two random pastors at a church leadership conference to be about the purpose of the church and not the size of their congregation.

Unchurched Entry Point # 2 – Outreach Events

The worship service may be the main entry point into the church for those who are unchurched, but church outreach events are a close second. We have talked in detail about how sports outreach events are one of the most effective ways for a church to reach out to their community. Sports serve as the means to build a relational bridge to families in your neighborhood or workplace. Other options for a church trying to implement relationship-building opportunities with the unchurched include holiday outreach events, outreach small groups, and music productions. And as always make sure that your church body knows that these events exist for them to have an opportunity to invite an unchurched friend in their sphere of influence. People will visit an outreach event that would never consider visiting your church on a regular Sunday morning. Because of this fact, the Gospel should be shared at these outreach events. If you host a concert, have the lead singer or have a pastor share the Gospel. If it is a Christmas or Easter event, well…duh! If it is an outreach small group, share the Gospel every time a new couple joins your group.

Due to the fact that many Christians do not have significant relationships with those outside of their Christian bubble; as a church, give them a head start by making outreach events a priority in your planning and in your budget. I could take one glance at your budget and tell you what your priorities are as a church and you can, too. And remember, outreach should be more than a department in your church; it should be a core value that finds expression in a majority of your church programming. Don’t be an inwardly focused church! Knock out the stained glass windows that keep you from seeing those outside of your church! Go beyond the walls of your church and live the Great Commandment while fulfilling the Great Commission.

A Place Where Community is the “NORM”

OK, so you have your morning coffee in hand and have found your way to the Sportspastor blog. There is a twenty percent chance that you have remained at Starbucks, though eighty percent of caffeine gulpers get their coffee to go. But there are a growing number of people that bring their computers and find a comfortable chair in which to take advantage of the free wireless internet access. Maybe they like the chairs or maybe they consider Starbucks their second office. Regardless, they have a 21st century “Cheers”. Sing it with me, “You wanna go where everybody knows your name dah… dah dah dah dah… dah dah.” In 2007, Sam, Woody, and a bunch of coffee beans would greet the character “Norm”. Maybe that is why Frasier moved to Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, a place where community is the “Norm”. Could Starbucks be replacing the neighborhood bar? Maybe so…

Two generations ago, the neighborhood did not need a bar to create community. But in 2007, according to George Gallup, only 3 in 10 people in America actually know their neighbors. Based upon his findings he declared that Americans are among the loneliest people in the world. It is not good to be alone. God said these exact words in Genesis 2:18. Everything that God created up until this point was good, but after God created man in His own image he concluded that something was not good. The problem was aloneness. God solved that problem with the creation of Eve and Adam was no longer alone. Now think about all of the preachers that preach and all of the artists that sing, “All we need is Jesus!” Is that correct? Think about it: Adam was alone though He walked with God in the garden. So what does that mean? It means that God designed us to live in community. We not only need God, but we need each other, as well. As the body of Christ, we need to function in community in order to meet the need of aloneness for a believer and for an unbeliever.

A Cup of Community at Starbucks

Looking for a good job? Allow me to give you three good reasons to work at Starbucks. First of all, part-time workers get benefits. Did you hear that college and grad students? The second reason is the fact that you can walk to work. There is a Starbucks on every corner these days. In fact, I once heard that there are two Starbucks on opposite corners in Los Angeles that amazingly enough attract different generations at each store. But the third reason to work at Starbucks is the focus of the blog today. Starbucks is serving more than a cup of coffee; they are serving community, as well. Check out this excerpt from the company job description at Starbucks: “When you work at Starbucks, you can make a difference in someone’s day by creating an environment where neighbors and friends can get together and reconnect while enjoying a great coffee experience.” That sounds like a mission statement of a church that I want to attend. A welcoming church ethos is about more than just a 7th inning stretch prior to the sermon. Creating a warm environment is about more than socializing during the call to worship. In addition, anyone who finds the solution by putting a coffee shop in your atrium is borrowing from the nostalgia that Starbucks has already created. So what is the solution? How can the church meet this need for community that exists inside of believers and non-believers alike? We must major on relationships. If you have read my blog for very long you will know that I see sports outreach ministry as one of the greatest opportunities we have to build relational bridges mostly between the church and unchurched. It also naturally provides an opportunity for relationships among the fellowship of believers. It is a win-win operation.