Thursday, December 15, 2011

Compassion by Design

As a pastor, I believe the role of the church is to make a positive and lasting impact on the community in which it resides.  I believe the church should also operate with a missional approach in the way it functions.  Recently, I was asked a question that has inspired me in deep way.  The question was “If my church disappeared would anybody notice?”  In other words, what type of impact is my church having on the people in the community?  Are we producing something that is of genuine value to the people around us?  

My final assignment of the semester was to gain a true perspective of the community in which I live.  Strategically I surveyed key members of the community, people who are directly involved with the way it functions (i.e. Teachers, doctors, community service employees, local government employees etc.) The purpose was to compile their responses and identify the specific needs of the community.  The results were very interesting.

The graph below illustrates the areas in my community that present the greatest challenge.  The evidence is clear.  According to my research, the biggest challenges that exist are directly related to family life.  The sampling of this survey was limited, yes; however, 80% of those who were surveyed alluded to the fact that the future of family life is a concern. 

             It is interesting to note that the next three high-percentage variables in this graph; stress, financial pressures, and resources for teens may all be contributing factors to the success or non-success of a healthy family life. 
            Through the eyes of the world, it is difficult to see any immediate relief in the areas of stress and financial pressures.  Although, there is a solution.  Jesus teaches us in Matthew 11:28 to find rest in Him. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This passage is the formula for living a stress-free life.  This truth also provides a peace that eliminates financial pressures because we are told to trust Christ with everything in our lives and depend solely on Him.

This message is what the church believes.  The question is, “what are we (the church) doing to inform others of this truth?”  There is an old African proverb that states “In the desert there is a sin greater than murder.  It is knowing where the water is and not telling anyone.”  As a pastor this resonates strongly within me.  I believe that as a follower of Christ I have an obligation to ensure that the message of peace and hope in Christ is not only shared verbally but displayed through my life as well.          

As the church we have been shown the mysteries of how to livea life with purpose and meaning.  Developing strategies with a foundation of love is absolutely necessary for breaking through the obstacles that threaten a healthy family life. 

With the diagnosis of the survey it is clear that something needs to be done to help resolve the problem.   There is no time to sit back and wait for others to come up with a solution.  I think maybe our mindset should be “if we don’t do something about it, who will?” The second part of this assignment was to identify three possible community outreaches that will serve the community and make lasting impact.  
              First, we know that the future of a quality family life is a major concern in the community.  Interestingly enough my church is in the developmental stages of launching a family bible club called “Re-Fuel”.  The objective of this outreach will be to provide an environment that will help parents and children to re-focus, re-charge and re-connect.   Additionally, the motive is to bring families together not only to enjoy their time together with games, snacks and crafts but also to help them grow together spiritually.  We believe that God developed the family model and He desires to see it operate in mutual love and respect for one another.  Unfortunately, many people were never taught these fundamental life principles.  “Re-fuel” will aim to do just that.

                Secondly, the research indicated the need for teenage resources.  This is a difficult task, but one that is very much needed.  It is no secret that teenagers are living in a critical time in history when moral standards are becoming obsolete.  Sadly we are seeing more and more that the main source of entertainment for teenagers becomes experimental drug use and sexual promiscuity.  I don’t have the answer to seeing a dramatic shift in this dilemma, but what I can do is provide a place for young people to come and hang out.  This outreach would essentially be a place where teenagers can enjoy everyday activities like playing basketball or hosting a video game tournaments etc.   The purpose of this outreach will be to intentionally build relationships with these kids and to provide a positive influence in their lives.  My heart’s desire is to see a new culture established in this community; a culture of young people who are set out to be positive leaders for Christ among their peers.

                Finally, I discovered that a major concern for people in the future is the state of their financial situation.  There are many people who have not been taught the fundamentals of managing their money.  Over time the result of this lack of education is the uncertainty of how they will make it through another year financially.  I believe that we can serve the community in love by providing a free class that would teach individuals the basics of money management.  I know that if I was unaware of something that could truly benefit my family and someone found it in their heart to show me; I wouldn’t reject that.  It’s a biblical principle applied in a practical way.  Treat other as you would have them treat you.

This assignment was an eye opener.  So much so that I plan to execute this type of survey once more on a much larger scale of this community.  I believe that it is the role of a church to love and serve the community in which it has been placed.  It’s a simple yet vital part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  If our desire is to be more like Him, then action is needed.  This reminds me of line from the band Coldplay which asks “am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?”   Chew on that for a while.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Building Upon Your Strengths

What would it look like if we moved from a remedial world to becoming a strength-based world?  In other words, what if everybody discovered their strengths in life isolated them and found a way to build upon them?  I believe it is a recipe for success.   If we understand that a person’s strengths are their greatest assets then it seems almost obvious that improving on those strengths is vital for producing a better “you”.

Recently I took a strength finders test to identify the areas that I’m strongest.  Here are my top 5 strengths in which I should work to build upon.

Connectedness (80%):
People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Developer (80%):
People strong in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.
Adaptability (80%):
People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to 'go with the flow.' They tend to be 'now' people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

Maximizer (80%):
People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Self-Assurance (75%):
People strong in the Self-assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

I believe my responsibility now is to ensure that I excel in these areas.  Becoming a stronger and more effective product of what I already have within me.

I encourage everyone to take this so that you can begin to enhance the qualities within you.  Take it for free at

Are you catching what I'm throwing?

Here’s the thing about casting vision.  It’s never a guarantee that what you cast will be caught.  The tricky thing is getting the vision to stick when it is prone to leak. 
As a leader, you are the keeper of the vision.   It is your responsibility to ensure that the vision that has been embedded into your heart makes its way into the hearts of your followers.  Therefore, if the followers aren’t getting the message, then the leader isn’t giving the message effectively.

In order to help people embrace and remember the vision here are 3 techniques necessary to ensure that what you cast will stick.

  1.  Cast it Strategically
A.      Define the problem.  What problem needs to be addressed?  How can we be a vital part in the solution to that problem?
B.      Offer a solution.  Your vision is the solution.
C.       Present them with a reason.  Why must we do this and why we have to do it now

2.        Celebrate it Systemically
A.      Make celebration part of your culture.  Build into the schedule times that are set aside to celebrate the success of your vision.  Celebration puts skin on the vision.  It demonstrates “that’s what we’re talking about”.

  1. Live it Continuously
A.      This provides credibility. Essentially, leading through influence.  It is a demonstration of your willingness to impact.  You can't ask people to do something you are not doing! 
B.      If you lose your passion you'll lose sight of your vision. 

It is proven that the  implementation of these components are the formula to make sure that the vision     you cast will be caught and treasured by those who are catching.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reach Out With Intent

                In class the other night we had the privilege of listening to a group of men who are currently in the process of planting churches around the country.  After hearing some of their creative and strategic ideas for outreach one thing was evident with all of these men; their church’s mission would encompass a very intentional approach.  

                We were able to pick their brains for a while and as a result we gained some knowledge, insight and wisdom on executing outreaches that make an impact.  Here is what we learned.

         When developing an outreach think strategically

             - Discover what your strengths are and work in that direction.  
             - Attempt to partner with other city events.
             - Don’t compete with the city your church is in, but get involved with what the city is   already doing. 
             - Tie in your outreaches with the community calendar
             - Focus on pasturing the community, not just pasturing the church.
             - Define what “wrecks” you (i.e. poverty, illiteracy) and work to be a part of the solution.   

                The most important piece of advice that I acquired from these men was to ensure that the foundational purpose of planting a church is to have an intentional mindset of spreading the love of Christ.  This has proven to be a formula for success.

A Culture Shift

        I heard someone once say that the indigenous missionary is the best missionary.  I don’t know about ranking the abilities of missionaries, but I do believe that God has placed each and every one of us in exactly the position we are in right now.  Whether you are currently working a tedious 9 to 5 job, in particular level of school or even in a life transition; God has appointed you to be a witness for Him in that specific area.  In other words, he has appointed you to be His representative within your circle of influence (friends, family, co-workers).  

        Missionary Lee Rodgers is taking this principle to the youth of America.  It’s no secret that the culture of today’s youth is in desperate need of positive change.  Rodgers sees this as a perfect opportunity to rise up leaders for Christ among the youth.  The intent is to establish a change in culture; for kids to stand firm in what they believe and to express it vocally with a missional approach.  The ministry is called “youth alive” and according to Rodgers the core value is to develop missional students; students who live intentionally for Christ.

        I believe as a Christian we are called to be environment changers, to be leaders in the initiative of changing the culture that surrounds us.  We have all been placed in the positions we are in for a purpose; to represent and model the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

Hope 4 Philly

               Check this out.  The city of Brotherly Love is being impacted by a love that comes from the heart Christ.  An organization called Hope4Philly is pulling together resources within the surrounding region of Philadelphia for one purpose; “to bring hope and healing to the at-risk families and communities in our region”. 

                For the past couple of years, Hope4Philly has teamed up with churches, organizations and other community leaders with an intentional approach that aims to make a difference.  Director Jason Tourville is the key man behind the scenes and is responsible for the complete operation of this outreach.  His passion to reflect the heart of Christ is the driving force behind every aspect of this ministry. 

 One of the most compelling aspects that Jason holds as extremely important to this outreach is the need for “follow-up”.  It is one thing to serve people and their needs.  It’s another thing to make an intentional effort to continue the relationship with every person that was served.  For Jason and his team, following-up with the thousands who attend is absolutely vital for this mission.  
As a Philadelphia native, it brings me joy to know that there are people who care to see an improvement in this city and sacrifice anything to see that happen.  I just have to be a part of this.  I hope you see the importance of it as well.  If you do I encourage you to join in the initiative this coming year.  Find out how you can help at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Community Compassion Organization 3

It’s sobering to think about how easy it is for people to become homeless these days.  It’s almost as if losing everything has become a nationwide epidemic without a definite cure.  By the grace of God over my life I have an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

                This is my third and final blog on compassion organizations within particular types of community.  The organization I chose is an outreaching ministry that flows out of my church as well as a few others that target the needs of the homeless.  It is called Kingdom Seekers.  The man I had the privilege of interviewing, Andy, has been a committed representative from my church for a number of years. 
                When the conversation began, Andy made it very clear that “this organization is not a homeless ministry…it’s Kingdom Seekers.”  This set the tone for the interview because it removed any predispositions I may have had about how a homeless ministry operates.

                Andy proceeded to share with me the way in which Kingdom Seekers goes about their ministry.  On a typical Saturday there is a group effort of 5-6 churches in the community pitching in to provide a setting that is warm, inviting and engaging.  Attendees first walk into this atmosphere and are lvingly greeted and offered coffee if they so desire.  After a while, everyone sits down for a short church service.  They are introduced to worship, personal testimonies, and then a message of truth from scripture.  Following the abbreviated service, attendees are blessed with a meal that is made with love and excellence.  Andy concluded that “the purpose of this ministry is not only to provide their need for physical food, but to provide their need for spiritual food as well.”  

As we wrapped up the interview I asked Andy one last question.  I asked “What impacts you the most about serving in this ministry?” With tears in his eyes he replied honestly and said “It could be me.  I’m grateful that I can be the one to serve instead of the one being served.  I keep that very fresh in my mind.”
                It is evident that this ministry of Kingdom Seekers is motivated by the heart of Jesus Christ.  Their mission statement sums it all up and reads, “The heart of the Lord is to help those in need.  We hope that through this outreach our guests become convinced of the Father’s love for them.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


            I had the opportunity to sit-in on an interview of a pastor who helped plant a church near Pittsburgh.  Pastor Rich Jones was a man who spent years searching for the exact setting that would inhabit his calling to be a pastor.  Through trial and error, he discovered the setting was to be established by himself.  Essentially, that he was to be a part of planting a church designed to incorporate all that he had been searching for in a pastoral role.  Creating the atmosphere that he wanted to see in a church.  

            Something interesting that he touched on was the influence his church had in the community.  Rich expressed to us that the Element Church had gained influence within the community over two years simply by reaching out with a heart that reflects Christ. 
            With an objective to lead people into a relationship with Christ, Rich and his team have put themselves in a prime position.  John Maxwell says “If you can influence people, you can lead them.  Or in other words, if you have the ability to influence people, then you have already begun to lead them.”

            I believe that Pastor Rich and the Element Church are on the right path for accomplishing the task of Matthew 28:18-20.  I also believe that if a church is able to influence the community with a passion derived from the heart of Christ, then it will make a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God.