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The Only Evangelism That Works: Be An Imagebearer

Has God called you to Change The World? Maybe you should go plant a church!

Church Planting Ipad

Let me first explain the picture. It was drawn by a great friend of mine, her name is Donna Godwin. Donna is a pastor in the UMC and she is an outstanding artist. You can check out her heart and her artwork here http://godw1nz.wordpress.com/

I asked Donna to draw the picture because there was nothing available like it. There were pictures of a plant growing up out of a leather bound book, the Bible in print form, but I wanted a plant coming up out of an iPad. The rest of this post should explain why.

In today’s world, 2013 it seems extremely difficult to share our faith in Jesus Christ in a way that is meaningful to people, or at least we have been told that it is. The problem is we are trying to tell people about Jesus Christ in an older, traditional, way and in many cases, that just won’t work. Take note that I did not say we can’t reach people in traditional churches anymore, it is still being done quite well by some. Studies show however, most vital churches are doing things that speak the never changing gospel in the language our culture is speaking today.

I doubt there is a denomination today that hasn’t at least started looking at the need to plant churches. I am in the United Methodist Church and the church planting arm of the UMC is Path1 http://path1.org/

Many of the major denominations now have a church planting department and there are many non profit, non denominational church planting networks. There are numerous books now available on the subject of church planting. I have posted notes here on this blog about several of them and at the end of this post I will recommend a few. I could write my own book about church planting and especially the dynamics of planting one as a daughter church.

It is my belief in 2013 that a new church plant is one of the most if not the best way of reaching people with the gospel of Christ. As with any endeavor, planting a church comes with many giants to battle. I have been doing the work of a new church plant for 26 months now. Let me share a little of our story.

I am part of a UMC that has been growing for several years and has been very effective in making disciples. It is because of this DNA that our conference, The Holston Conference of The UMC decided to encourage and support us in planting a new local church. http://holston.org/

We started with 37 people who said they would be willing to go a half mile away and help start a new congregation. They would actually serve as home missionaries, they would worship at the new location but they would also work in the ministry. We started the first service better than we had imagined, with 118 people in attendance on Christmas Eve 2010 at 11pm. We were amazed and in awe of what we knew God was getting ready to do. The following Sunday we again had 118 people. The location we had chosen is a downtown storefront that we renovated and can comfortably seat 160 people. By the 4th or 5th week we knew that we were going to have to make room for more people and by mid March we started a 2nd Sunday morning worship service. We now have a 9am and a 1030am worship service with approximately 250 who worship with us each week and more than 350 people who consider Out Of The Box Worship Center their home.

Before I explain the 350 people I want to address a few items of interest.

We have now been meeting as a local church for 26 months without a permanent sign, we have a paper sign that was printed cheaply when we started 26 months ago and it is taped in the window. After we had been there about a year we placed a flat screen TV in the front window and that serves as a scrolling, modern sign for a small price. The great thing is the sign can change on a daily basis at no cost.

When we first started the church we purchased a full page ad in the local newspaper at a nominal cost, it was full color and was done very well. After that, our advertising has been done through Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. The majority of our promotion is done by the members and attenders who consider OOTBWC their church home. It amazes me each week to read the posts of people who attend and even those who visit the church and then to see their friends visit. All of this is done again at no cost. It is OK to have a church sign, I am certainly not against signs but I am convinced that when people are being fed spiritually, a sign is not necessary. It is much like the best restaurants in town, I will find them based on happy customers.  By the way, the happy customers will be your walking billboards.

I recently heard someone say that billboards are no longer effective anyway because people are too busy texting to see the billboards. Sad but true, there is too much distraction in 2013 for people to even notice most billboards. I seldom read one myself but occasionally I will.

What about the 350 people? In 2013 we are dealing with people who are busier than people have ever been before in the history of our world. Technology that was supposed to cut our workweek in half just a few years ago has in reality made us workaholics. We are connected 24/7, there is never a time when we are away, never a time when we can disconnect. Leonard Sweet says we live in a T.G.I.F. world. Twitter, Google, Ipad, Facebook. Add to this, people working with teenagers and even younger children who are busier than they have ever been before. Kids are on traveling ball teams that many times are on the road on Sundays. Many of our professional and volunteer people are called to do training on Sundays. There is a plethora of things going on Sundays that just 10 years ago wasn’t happening. We live in a different world and as the church we are going to have to learn to meet people where they are, rather than being angry that people are not committed enough to be in church every Sunday. I don’t like it but I am mature enough to know it is the way life is today. “We are called to serve the culture and century we find ourselves in and not the one we wish we were in.” Leonard Sweet

Moving on…

We actually impact the lives of many more people than the approximately 350 people that consider OOTBWC their church home. I personally have more than 2500 people as friends on facebook, twitter, and the blog that I maintain. The imagebearerblog http://imagebearerblog.com/ averages about 100 views each day, many days going much higher. Add to this the many individuals who consider OOTBWC their home who post regularly about their church. They post comments about the worship services and other activities they attend, they post invitations to their friends to attend services, and they post quotes form the sermons. All of this combined amounts to several thousand people who are exposed to the information being posted about Out Of The Box Worship Center, on a daily basis, and all of it costs the church no money.

I credit the success of our church plant to God. Without God blessing the work that is being done we would never be able to pay the bills and accomplish what is being accomplished. It is a modern day miracle. Beyond that, we are following God and meeting people where they are. We made the decision from the beginning to reach people in this century in ways they understand. Leonard Sweet says in Aqua Church 2.0, “We have to learn to discern what is tradition and what is bad habit.” Everything we do in church is based on somebody’s culture. The problem is, we are in the church today, trying to reach people the way people have been reached in the centuries and cultures for the past 2000 years.

People in traditional churches have spread rumors that we don’t use a Bible at Out Of The Box Worship Center.  The fact is, I carry my Bible with me everywhere I go. I carry the Bible in many different translations and in Greek and Hebrew. Matter of fact, I carry the Bible and hundreds of commentaries, Greek and Hebrew translation tools, dictionaries, popular Christian, Non Christian, Fiction, and Non Fiction books and newspapers with me at all times. These tools are never more than a foot or so away from my side and can be accessed at the touch of a button. I have accumulated a print library of more than 5000 books over the past twenty-five years and that library is impossible to carry with me. Over the past 10 years I have accumulated as many books and tools that are digital and all of them are at my fingertips at all times.

When I preach at OOTBWC, I read my Bible from either an Ipad or my Android phone. I encourage the people in the congregation to tweet and post on Facebook the things they are learning in the service. It really bothers me in 2013 to go to a meeting or event and someone gets up and tells people to turn their cell phones off. AT OOTBWC we ask people to silence their devices but then we encourage them to use them to tell the world where they and what they are experiencing. It is the way this culture communicates and lives life. I no longer carry a legal pad to make notes, I take notes on an electronic device. There was a time when I had dozens of legal pads full of notes, now I have multiple files, filed away on my computer and they are accessible again, at the touch of a button.

When I preach at OOTBWC, I typically wear jeans and a t-shirt, or a shirt that isn’t tucked in. I do this because it is how the people dress for most occasions in this culture. We have a dress code at OOTBWC, “Wear Clothes.” People wear almost everything, from jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops  business suits, and dresses. It isn’t about what a person wears on the outside, it is about what is in the heart. We are long past the days when people are going to be won to Christ if we tell them there is a dress code of suits and dresses. Many people don’t even own clothes like these. There was a time when I was certain that I would be buried in a suit and tie but I can assure you now, if my death takes place before Jesus returns, I expect to be be buried in jeans and a shirt that isn’t tucked in.

Music at Out Of The Box – We have a full band, guitars, keyboard, and drums. We occasionally have banjos, fiddles, violins, and occasionally a drum-line. The music team often leads with hymns that have been redone in a contemporary format. We do mostly popular contemporary Christian songs, and on occasion we will do a secular tune that goes with the theme of the service. We use music to drive home the point of the message for that day. Most recently we received a call for more when the group performed a hip hop tune, it was a lot of fun and again drove home the point of message for that day.

What I am trying to say is this. Statistics show that the most vital and growing congregations today are those who are doing things very different than the traditional past 200 years. They are not changing the unchanging message of the gospel but they are changing the way they get that message out. If God is using you in a traditional setting then win people for Christ but if you and or your church have stopped reaching the lost, if you are reaching one or two a year, then find a new way to get the greatest story ever told, out there. Maybe you need to go plant a church.

Let’s change the world!

Ronnie

out of the box logo

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March 4, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. love

    Comment by godw1nz | March 4, 2013 | Reply

  2. So true, I’m with you!

    Comment by robin | March 4, 2013 | Reply


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