5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

In my last blog I challenged church leaders that we need to change our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are to reach this generation for Jesus. I shared with you the first of five shifts we must make—“We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.”

The second shift that must take place is this:

 

2. We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism.

When people think of the word “evangelism” there are typically two strong responses. Some people get super excited and are passionate about evangelism while other people try to avoid the topic and are greatly turned off when evangelism is mentioned.

I suggest to you that people avoid the subject and get turned off because typically when we preach and think about evangelism we often just think of the final step in conversion—helping someone step across the line to faith in Jesus. We can’t blame our people for thinking evangelism is just this last step because this is how many of us leaders also think about evangelism.

Evangelism is so much more than helping someone cross the line to faith in Christ. Yes, it includes this vital step and, in fact, evangelism is not complete until that person has heard and understood the gospel and been invited to respond to Christ … but it’s also so much more.

Evangelism is the relational journey believers go on with unbelievers until they respond to faith in Jesus!

Here is the reality. When people who came to faith in Christ are asked, “What is the primary factor that led you to put your faith in Christ?” the vast majority reply, “It’s because of a relationship I had with a Christian.” Just think of your own journey to Jesus. How would you respond to that question?

Yes, people may have made a decision at an event or church service, but we must recognise that the major factor in someone turning to Christ is a relationship with a real Christian.

As I work with believers of all different kinds of churches and hear their stories, I consistently see that their journey towards faith in Jesus started when a Christian began a real relationship with them. Even if the gospel isn’t mentioned immediately, that person’s journey towards Jesus is accelerated when a believer becomes their true friend. From that point on, everything else is a natural progression toward them encountering Jesus for themselves.

Wouldn’t you agree that as leaders we struggle in building real friendships with non-churched people? Our people struggle with that too. It’s not natural to spend relational time outside our Christian circle of relationships. We have secular acquaintances, but our friends are believers. This is a huge problem we must address!

What would it look like for you to cultivate an environment in your church where there is an expectation that your people will build relationships with non-church people?

Let me be real with you—it will never happen unless your people see this in your life. As a leader you must become what you want to multiply.

When you look at Jesus Christ, what do we see him doing when he called his first disciples? When they were called, we immediately see him in their homes building relationships and reaching out to unbelievers. He was known as “a friend of sinner”. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for spending time with unbelievers and yet he says to them, “It’s the sick who are in need of a doctor.” Jesus explains that he is the shepherd searching for lost sheep and the woman looking for her lost coin. “This is who I am”, Jesus was saying to them, “and all who follow me will become as I am.”

Even when Jesus’ team of disciples grew and he was surrounded by followers, what do we see him doing? We see him intentionally carving out time in his schedule and prioritizing relational time with unbelievers.

We will never reach this generation unless it’s through the relational connection believers have with people in their lives who don’t know Jesus.

We need to SHIFT from event-driven evangelism to relationship-driven evangelism. This is another one of the shifts that we help churches take through the journey of EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

5 SHIFTS needed if our churches are going to reach this generation for Christ

It’s easy to be discouraged when it comes to thinking about evangelism in our churches. As leaders we are committed to the Word of God, we know the Great Commission contains our marching orders from Jesus himself, and we are convicted that “being the church” means leading people to Christ. So, what do we do? We work hard. We teach the word faithfully. We have a smorgasbord of activities to connect with the community. We put on events and preach the gospel, inviting people to come to Christ. We do all this good ministry but it’s just not translating to people coming to faith in Jesus.

All this effort with few results leads to more frustration. We hope things will change eventually. We pray for revival to take place in our churches and we persist in working hard to reach our communities. The cycle begins again.

As church leaders we must change our thinking when it comes to evangelism in our churches if we are ever going to reach this generation for Jesus! If we keep doing what we are doing, we will continue to get the same results. We must rethink how we engage our people for evangelism.

In reality, few truly non-churched people even attend our evangelistic events. We will never reach this generation for Jesus through relying on lost people coming to our events. Rather, we must activate the believers in our churches to effectively live as witnesses in their everyday encounters. They are rubbing shoulders with hundreds of non-churched people every week.

If we can activate believers as effective witnesses for Jesus Christ, just think what God might do!

Over the next five blogs I want to share with you key lessons we have learned in EvangelismSHIFT and suggest five SHIFTS that need to take place in our approach to evangelism.

 

The first SHIFT that must take place is this:

 

  1. We need to SHIFT from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism.

What do I mean by leader-owned evangelism? Well, when you hear of a church that is very active and is an ‘evangelistic church’, what this typically means is that the leadership are committed to evangelism and they put on events where the gospel is preached, and people are coming to faith in Christ. When you belong to a church like that, you praise God for those leaders and you love being part of a church whose leaders are committed to evangelism.

If I’m part of this church and an evangelistic men’s breakfast is coming up, I think, “That’s right! Men’s breakfast is this Saturday, who can I invite?” because I want to support my leaders in evangelism.

But notice the difference if I, as a church member, own evangelism. It changes my thinking. When that same men’s breakfast comes up, now I think, “Fantastic! Men’s breakfast is on this Saturday. I have two guys I have been journeying with and I need something to help them cross the line to faith! I’m not an evangelist and this event can help me in my evangelism with these guys.”

Can you see the difference? As leaders we must generate a culture where our people see themselves as sent ones from God, living as his witnesses, viewing church evangelistic events as serving them in their efforts to reach their world for Jesus. This culture shift changes everything!

It even changes who joins your church or how new believers see themselves when they come to faith in Jesus. When this is your church culture and a new person comes to your church, within a very short time I recognise that if I am to be a part of this church, I will need to live as a witness for Jesus and this church will help me do that.

We need to shift from leader-owned evangelism to congregation-owned evangelism. This is just one of the shifts churches experience through EvangelismSHIFT.

 

You can learn more about EvangelismSHIFT at www.evangelismshift.afci.com.au .

 

Mother’s Day 2019

The Bible gives us a beautiful picture of the impact a mother has on her children and on generations to come:

 

2 Timothy 1:4-7

I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Think of Lois in this passage, deciding to put God first in her life, trusting him through the difficult times, learning to build her life around God’s word and, as a result, watching her own faith grow. Think of her teaching her daughter Eunice to not just have religion, but a sincere faith in God based first on his word and then on her own experience of his faithfulness as she trusted him in the experiences of life.

The Apostle Paul knew both of these women, knew that their faith was sincere. As he got to know Timothy, he saw a faith that was familiar to him. Timothy had absorbed from his mum the same approach to God that she had absorbed from her mum.

Today, honour your mother for the sincere faith that she has passed on to you. Let her know how she has impacted your life. If your mother didn’t model that kind of sincere faith to you, then make an absolute commitment before God that you will be like Lois to your kids.

Your sincere relationship with God, putting him first in all things, openly lived before your kids, will have a huge impact, not only in their lives, but the lives of their kids and generations to follow. You will never be sorry you paid the price to put God first in your life and in your family!

 

Thank you for praying!!!

God is at work through EvangelismSHIFT!!

Thank you so much for praying with us! No one can deny the fact that God has been seriously doing his business of activating his people to live as witnesses in their daily lives through EvangelismSHIFT! It is really thrilling to think that since EvangelismSHIFT was launched in 2015, leaders from our pilot church became Facilitators of EvangelismSHIFT in other churches, and then leaders from those churches joined the growing group of Facilitators taking time out of their crazy schedules to take yet other churches on the 2-year EvangelismSHIFT journey! EvangelismSHIFT Is beginning to multiply through denominational and geographic networks.

John recently spoke with the senior pastor of a church halfway through the EvangelismSHIFT journey. John asked him if he was interested in being a Facilitator of EvangelismSHIFT in other churches as he continues his ministry. He immediately said, “Yes, I definitely am. As I’ve experienced EvangelismSHIFT, I’m convinced that this is the only way to create an evangelistic culture in our churches.”

EvangelismSHIFT was first launched In Perth, followed by our next batch of churches in the year 2016 in Raymond Terrace, the NSW North Coast and Northern Sydney.

Our current and third batch of churches are from Melbourne, Southern Sydney, Western Sydney, and another group in the NSW North Coast. It is not yet half-way through the year, but there is already growing interest from churches in New South Wales, Adelaide and in Perth to embark on the EvangelismSHIFT journey next year, 2020!

And the growth is also international. John North recently wrote, “I see capable leaders from five nations (USA, Fiji, Philippines, Canada and Australia) stepping out in faith to join our team full-time to launch EvangelismSHIFT in their own nations; as I witness the same multiplication happening in those nations that is happening here in Australia—it is no longer crazy to me to think that God is going to use us (you, me, AFCI, our growing network of Facilitators) to, yes, change the world!”

Last month, Bill Hodgson and John North led interaction on movement building from the life of Christ with AFCI leaders from Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania. These AFCI Leaders set a goal of being ready to launch EvangelismSHIFT in 2021 in their nations.

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ANZAC Day: “Lest we forget..”

Today is ANZAC day in Australia. It’s the day we set aside to honour the Australian war veterans and acknowledge their contribution to Australia, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a day where Australians celebrate their identity as Australian citizens—what it means to be a part of the country. The ideas of mateship, sacrifice, courage and everything that the ANZAC soldiers have stood for. In many ways it’s a more important day to Australians than Australia Day (our national holiday) because it was on April 25th 1915 that many people believe Australia really found its identity as a nation rather than looking to England for that identity.

On this day where we think about our citizenship here on earth, it’s a good reminder that we also have a citizenship in heaven. As Paul says in Phil 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does this heavenly citizenship mean? When you accepted Jesus as your Lord, you no longer find your identity only in your culture, but even more so in Jesus. So, in the same way that our Australian citizenship is reflected in the values we have and the way we live, our heavenly citizenship and identity should be reflected in the values we have and the way we live for the Lord.

What does that look like? Well, Jesus is the perfect example for us to follow. He is the example that God sent to show us how to live our lives—the way he related to others and therefore the way he wants us to relate to others, the way he modelled how he wants us to treat others, the way he was all about his Father and his Father’s agenda in every situation rather than his own agenda, and how that should show up in our lives too.

Think about how he used every encounter he had to draw people closer to his Father. How he was constantly in prayer asking the Father to use him in the lives of people around him. How he constantly spent time with those who needed God, not just with those who already knew God.

Jesus was ALL about his Father’s agenda here on earth. Everything he did and every encounter he had with people he had that uppermost in his mind. Can you say the same? As you go about your daily life, are you ALL about God’s agenda?

What do we mean when we say this?

As you interact with people—whether it be one of your friends at a BBQ, or your neighbour as you mow the lawn, or even at the checkout at your local grocery store—be aware that God has a plan for that person. He has put you into that person’s life right at that moment for a reason. You are part of God’s plan to draw that person closer to him. It may be just to give them a smile and say thank you, but it may be to start a conversation that will lead to them joining God’s family.

So today on ANZAC day, remember that we are no longer just citizens of our countries, but as Paul says, “…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Easter Sunday: “This is the day that changed the world”

Blond hair… blue eyes and a smile that lit up the school yard.

The day I met the young woman… who is now my wife and mother of our three children… changed my life.

But as much as I say meeting her changed MY life… I admit… that day had little impact on the whole world.

However there is one day that changed the world like no other… one event when history changed in an instant.

That was the first Easter when Jesus rose from the dead… appearing to hundreds of people over the next several weeks.

On this day Jesus proved He is who He said He is…
on this day… God did what He said He would do.

Jesus died for us and was buried… but God raised Him from the dead on Easter Sunday… the day that changed the world.

And that means today… you and I can know Him personally.

He’s changed my life… what about yours?

Good Friday: “Jesus paid the price – we keep the change”

A special thing we do on family holidays is “ice-cream o’clock” … it’s a time each afternoon when we grab an ice-cream from the local store.

It doesn’t matter what’s happened throughout the day… “ice-cream” o’clock is a time when all is forgiven and we enjoy each other’s company.

It’s a significant cost buying all those ice-creams and my daughter loves to see if there is any change she can keep…

But relationships are worth the cost.

Do you realise that Jesus Christ has bought you something special?

He paid for it in full… and it’s sweeter than any ice-cream.

By giving His life on the cross He has bought you forgiveness and restored your relationship with God… Jesus paid the price… we keep the change!

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in life… God loves you and can change you when you place your trust in Him.

That’s when you can experience life with God… and that’s a change worth keeping!

How Christmas motivates us to live as witnesses for Jesus—Christmas celebrations that ignore Jesus miss the whole point

I love Christmas time. In fact, for me, Christmas would have to be the highlight of my year. I love the anticipation leading up to Christmas. I love spending time with loved ones. I love catching up with people I haven’t seen or spoken to all year. I love the carols and get togethers. I love the food and festivities. I love the spirit of generosity you see among people. I love that on Christmas day shops are closed. I love the break in normal routine. I love that the world seems to pause for a short while. I love the warm Aussie summer days. I love the late night conversations and early morning surprises. I love the joy. I love the excitement. I love the fact that Christmas its all about Christ … Jesus Christ!

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How Christmas motivates us to live as witnesses for Jesus—God so loved the world that he… what about you?

If I were to pick one verse out of the Bible that expresses the message God was communicating through sending Jesus into our world at Christmas, it would be John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That verse really challenges me about reaching out to people with the message of Jesus Christ this Christmas.

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How Christmas motivates us to live as witnesses for Jesus—When we receive a gift, we want to show and tell others about it

“WITH THE FESTIVE SEASON JUST AROUND THE CORNER, LET THE BUDGETING BEGIN!” I saw this quote somewhere, written in bold letters. True enough, this is the period of the year when people all over the world are spending a lot of time to find the perfect Christmas gifts for their loved ones. It made me recall a moment as a child when my mother gave me a CD cassette player. I immediately clasped my mum with tremendous affection and expressed how grateful I was to receive that gift. I hastily tried it out, my face beaming with delight!! Next thing, I transformed into a deliriously elated kid dancing and singing all over the house! Out of uncontainable delight, I even hurriedly brought the CD cassette player outside our house to share my amusement with my cousins and friends. I also brought it to school, parks, the school gym and every place I went to! That memory contains a fundamental truth about our nature as human beings: when we receive a gift, we love to share it with others!

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