Recently, I was helping take care of some extended family affairs after my father-in-law received word that space was now available in a nearby veteran’s retirement community. While working around my father-in-law’s home, I borrowed the keys to unlock the shop so I could stow some items there. Later that day, I realized that I had lost the keys! Sadly, forgetting where I put things is not all that uncommon – ha!
I thought that I had given them back to my sister-in-law, but I could not be certain and she said that she did not have them. I had taken care of so many projects around the farm that I could not remember what I did with them! If it was just a key to the shop I could have replaced that easy enough, but this key ring had ALL the keys to every lock on the property. I was really starting to sweat and initiated a hunt to find the keys. I retraced every step I had taken that day and even went back over the same territory again with a flashlight as evening approached.
I finally came to the resolve that I would just have to replace all the locks…and there were quite a few. All of the family came together the next morning and went over every place I had worked the day before to no avail. The keys could not be found. Then, the girls came out of the house and shared that the keys had been found…in my sister-in-law’s coat pocket! I had actually given them to her after opening the shop. But, when she went back into the house, she switched coats. She felt terrible about the incident, but I was elated! What I thought was lost had been found.
Can you imagine how much more valuable you are to your Creator than a set of keys? All through the ages God has been trying to restore a right relationship with someone so precious to Him—you! The Scriptures tell us in Romans 5:8 (KJV), “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s why the Bible reveals God’s joy when someone finds their way back to a right relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals this in his stories about the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7, the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10 and the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-24. So today, let Jesus Christ take his rightful place in your life and let the rejoicing begin!
Dr. Marshall M. Windsor, D.Min.
I recently had the privilege of helping a church with some outreach events. The schedule included a time of encouraging those participating in the outreach (about a dozen) on Friday evening, a breakfast and teaching session Saturday morning, followed by our outreach event. This was the first time that this church had conducted an outreach like this so everyone was wondering how it would turn out (would anyone actually come to the event?!).
First of all, I was so encouraged by the number of folks coming together to help with the outreach! Having a dozen-plus folks show up for outreach in a smaller community is huge. The event was held in the church parking lot and included free hot dogs (cooked onsite) with all the fixings, chips and drinks; as well as some prize drawing giveaways—all while the church’s worship team played and testimonies were shared. The outreach schedule started at 11 a.m. and began wrapping up at 2:30 p.m.
Initially, the pastor wasn’t too excited about this first time event. But, I brought several things to his attention. First, the community was more aware than ever that a church existed in their community that cared enough to offer some hospitality to their neighbors. Second, approximately seventy (70) visitors wandered through the festivities, which was great for a first-time event like this! Third, consistent events pay off. Don’t make pass or fail judgments on the turnout of one event. Word will spread and the community just may begin looking forward to a church’s annual event if it’s done with excellence in the right spirit of ministry.
The pastor agreed that this would be something worth continuing and that the event was as good for the church family as it was for the community. As a matter of fact, at one point the pastor stated, “If this outreach was for nobody else, it was for us.” That’s one of the paradigms of working with God and obeying the Great Commission: when we are obedient to take the gospel to our communities, God actually does a work in us and in our church family as well. How ironic, that we truly receive something new and refreshing from the Lord when we work to give away that which we already have—the hope of Christ. So celebrate the little things and watch them grow!
Recently, I chatted with a local pastor about his evangelism efforts in a smaller, rural community. His church isn’t that large so finding volunteers for any kind of outreach initiative is challenging. The larger churches in town seem to have most of the popular holidays—like July 4th—wrapped up with all their resources. This pastor tried many things that just did not seem successful over the years, except for their live nativity scene at Christmas that usually garnered around seventy or more cars. He was at his wits end and more than happy to visit about possibilities.
In talking with this pastor I sensed his discouragement, frustration, and hopelessness all at the same time. It wasn’t like the church wasn’t interested in evangelism, or had not tried to reach their community. They had tried numerous things to seemingly no avail. So what is a church leader to do in that kind of situation? When it seems as though you have tried it all but the fruit is missing?
The first thing I encourage any pastor to do is “Don’t give up!” When so many things go wrong or seem unfruitful, it’s easy to get discouraged and quit doing even those things that have been fruitful for your ministry. Step back and prayerfully consider what has provided even a slight reward. Repetition is often a church’s best avenue of bringing awareness to a community and the live nativity was a prime example. Seventy cars is a great number for a smaller community!
The second thing I encouraged this pastor to pray about was their web site. Since over eighty percent of first time visitors explore a church’s website it should be easy to navigate and up to date. Too much flash (small videos) on church websites can actually be a turnoff to many people, so keep it simple. Although difficult to believe, not everyone has high-speed Internet.
Lastly, for now, see what’s important to your community and become involved. Most smaller communities—and even larger ones—value authentic relationships. That means visibly building relationships one at a time in that community and finding out where there are needs that your ministry could help with—from adopting school playgrounds to the volunteer fire department. So don’t give up! As St. Augustine once said: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”