The Bible, Church, and Sanctifying Grace - Pastor Jerry Carter - December 13, 2018

The Bible, Church, and Sanctifying Grace

Last night my class was discussing the premises of Dan Boone’s (President of Trevecca Nazarene University) book, A Charitable Discourse; Talking About the Things That Divide Us. One premise in particular dealt with the biblical understanding and use of the word authority, as in the authority of scripture.

Dan Boone writes, “The word ‘authority,’ as used in scripture, does not mean being right or wrong, winning an argument, or proving a point. ‘Authority’ in scripture has to do with God’s power to create, save, forgive, heal, and raise the dead.”

In other words, our Bibles should be used to save and heal, not beat down, judge, or force folks to agree with our opinions.

In a letter from Paul to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul describes the authority of scripture within the church;

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Hold on to these thoughts for a moment.

We then spun into a short discussion on why God desires our attendance at weekly worship services where we worship Him and Him alone. Critics fairly ask, “Is the God of the Bible that egotistical or insecure that He demands the total obedience and worship of over 7 billion lives?”

Actually, no. The power and purpose of the body of Christ gathered (the weekly worship service) to worship God and God alone is revealed in a slightly different question, “What might it look like if everyone were free to worship something or someone else? Genesis 6:5 describes a culture without a weekly worship service worshipping God and God alone and without holy scriptures to guide them;

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  Genesis 6:5

Northwest Nazarene theology professor Brett Petersen writes in Created to Worship that worshiping God and God alone is really a means of sanctifying grace. When we are reminded weekly that God loves us even when we fail spiritually and that if we continue to repent (turn away from worshiping ourselves and back to worshiping God) we actually move closer to being beautiful and loving human beings. This process of becoming fully human is called sanctification and it happens in the divine-human event known as the Christian communal worship service where God offers transformation and healing to help people become more fully what God created them to be and do.

Here’s my point. Last night a loving member of our church was able to gently speak words of rebuke and correction into my life because both of us are committed to regularly worshiping God and God alone and to being transformed and healed in the ensuing sanctification process. I have been and continued last night to address a part of this spiritual family as the “old people” as if that title was the sum total of their lives and contributions to Richland Nazarene. For this I am truly sorry. There is no excuse.

Now consider the alternative. Not being transformed by attending weekly worship services as a means of sanctifying grace and not allowing the authority of scripture to renew my mind. Over time, I would become blind to the use of mean words. Eventually my worship would shift from God to self. At that point everyone around me loses as I use them for my own glorification.

Now multiply that by 7 billion and reread Genesis 6:5. See you next Sunday!

What Is Advent All About? - Pastor Andrew Hickman - December 4, 2018

What Is Advent All About?
December 4th, 2018

When I was younger, I never understood what Advent was; seems strange that I’ve grown up in the church and never quite understood what this Christian event is surrounding Christmas. As the years have passed, I never wanted to ask what it meant for the fear of seeming ignorant, stupid, or foolish (Yes, I tend to care about how others perceive me…). So I did the research and tried to find the answers on my own. Now, if you look up the word “advent” in the dictionary you will probably find a definition similar to this one found at, “advent: noun the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” continues with definitions for the church celebration of the proper noun: “Advent: the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays…” as well as, “the coming or second coming of Christ.” After doing the research, I felt a little foolish for over thinking the whole idea of Advent, because it boils down to celebrating the gift of God’s Son, in the form of baby Jesus some 2,000+ years ago, as well as, hopeful expectation of the return of Christ. 

However, I was not satisfied with the basic understanding of this season, so I proceeded to continually watch and observe how other Christians celebrate this time of year. I was not looking for how they celebrated Christmas, but how they celebrated Advent. Through my observations I have noticed that a lot of focus is put on reflection of Jesus’ first coming to the earth as a baby boy born in a manger, and not a whole lot is focused on hopeful expectation of Christ’s return.

Before I continue, let me preface by telling you I do not find anything wrong with quiet reflection over things that have already happened, in fact, I myself, find quiet reflections with God one of best ways in which God speaks to me. What if we change the way, we as Christians, celebrated the Advent season? What if we put more emphasis and energy into waiting in hopeful expectation for Christ’s return to this earth? Now, hear me out; we should be celebrating with as much enthusiasm, joy, and excitement the return of Christ as we do the birth of Christ. Shouldn’t we be living and celebrating Advent everyday of our lives in hopeful expectation of Christ’s return? We are charged by the words of Christ to live our lives in such a way that others around us want the joy, hope, and peace that comes from living in a relationship with God. Yet often we quickly forget as soon as the holiday season is over because we go “back to the grind of work” or “back to reality” once Christmas and New Years are over. Believe me this is a difficult task, and I am just a guilty as the next person; because it is so easy to be distracted by our everyday lives that we lose sight of the hope of Christ’s return. 

So through this Advent season, as I think and reflect on the precious gift of Jesus that God blessed us with so many years ago, I am also preparing myself to come out of this season kicking and screaming with hope, joy, and excitement for the second coming of Christ; just like the shepherds who were greeted by angels that night Jesus arrived once they saw Him they believed and began sharing everything they had witnessed (Luke 2:8-20). I want my life to be a reflection of Christ in this world not so I will be remembered, but so others can see Jesus through me and my testimony. 

-          Pastor Andrew

Abstinence in New Wine Skins - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 29, 2018

Abstinence in New Wine Skins

I began following Thom Schultz some 20+ years ago. I subscribed to his youth ministry publication,Group Magazine, and soon found myself ordering nearly everything from Group. While not Wesleyan, Group provided (and still provides) the very best in Sunday School curriculum, VBS programs, online resources, trainings, retreats, and mission trips. I read his Holy Soup blog regularly.

Group’s stuff is the best because “learning by experience” permeates everything they do. They hold tightly to their R.E.A.L. philosophy of learning;

Relational…learner to learner interaction enhances learning and builds Christian friendships.

Experiential…What learners experience through discussion and action sticks with them up to 9 times longer than what they simply hear or read.

Applicable…The aim of Christian education is to equip learners to be both hearers and doers of God’s Word.

Learner-based…Learners understand and retain more when the learning process takes into consideration how they learn best.

But, in his 2013 book,Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, Thom concludes something is a-miss with several startling questions that must be faced head-on;

1. Even though more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, why did most of them avoid church last weekend?

2. Why are nearly one in five Americans checking “none” for their religious affiliation-the fastest growing, highest-ever documented segment?

3. If 88 percent of adults say their faith is important to them, why do the majority of them choose not to grow their faith in church?

4. Why are nearly two thirds (64%) open to pursuing their faith in an environment that’s different from a typical church?

5. Last weekend most people in America avoided church. And a sizable portion that did make it to church wished they were somewhere else. Why?

While their work revolutionized Christian education for the better, Thom and Group Publishing concluded they had missed the boat! Their laser focus on education was a distraction. That’s because faith is not a subject to be studied as much as faith is a relationship. A relationship with God, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Which means as disciple-makers we need to discuss and explore new educational practices that focus more on learning the lost art of Holy Conversations that build relational bridges with unbelievers with common ground rather than propositional and normative statements that draw doctrinal and theological battle lines in the sand and divide us from each other and the lost.

Ed Stetzer from Lifeway Research and The Billy Graham Institute writes…Some of our inherited evangelism paradigms don’t serve us well in this moment we find ourselves in. We need to ditch reductionist sales pitch approaches to evangelism.

The gospel could never be tidily reduced to four or five propositions. At best, these approaches were guide rails or perhaps coat hooks on which a thorough, thoughtful exposition of the gospel could be hung.

These approaches shrunk the gospel down to a commodity for mass distribution. Evangelism as per Jesus and his primitive movement was messier and more fluid and adaptive than that. We need to move towards evangelism as an encounter with Jesus.

Over 20 years ago the late Stan Grenz advocated a “post-rationalistic gospel.” He contended that,“We must make room for the concept of ‘mystery’…as a reminder that the fundamental reality of God transcends human rationality.” Grenz argued that the heart of Christianity is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and that an experience of Jesus is recounted by propositional categorization. However, “propositions…have a second order of importance…Our goal in proclaiming the gospel should not merely be to bring others to affirm a list of correct propositions.”

I hope you caught that. Propositional truths are simply a way to explain what happened but do a poor job of explaining what is happening right now. Propositional truths are static but my faith is incredibly dynamic and messy. I always wondered how the encounter with Jesus might have continued on Monday morning or next week had she gone back to prostitution or the prodigal son had taken off again or the once lame had returned to their crippling additions?

In other words, how do we have holy conversations with wine connoisseurs, evolutionary biologists, and other “open-minded” folks with radically different worldviews?

I don’t claim to have the answers for all this but I’m excited to be traveling this road with such passionate people! Together we are going to renew our love and understanding for what the church-the bride of Christ-can really be. We have a choice. We can stay the course and cling to the status quo…or we can choose to do something.

Let’s have fun, continue to think outside our “box” and do some amazing things for God’s glory!

Thanksgiving Traditions & Thankfulness - Pastor Bri Hickman - November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Traditions & Thankfulness

           It’s Thanksgiving Day morning as the sun peeks through the blinds and hits your face, bringing a slight warmth to the chill of the air. You get out of bed, hop on down the stairs and walk into the living room where the TV is playing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You sit on the couch with a warm cup of coffee or cocoa and watch as the sesame street float goes by, a marching band from some random high school somewhere, and then you see the massive turkey float. All while watching, there is bustling in the kitchen of your mom and grandma making some of the traditional Thanksgiving menu items. Peeling potatoes, prepping the turkey, yeast rolls under the heater vents to help them rise, the smell of the rolls is FILLING the house. Your grandma then starts to make the homemade noodle recipe that has been in the family for years that only 2 people know the recipe for. This scenario is what every Thanksgiving Day that I can remember was like. Traditions filled with family, yummy food, and thankfulness.

          Maybe I am being nostalgic because we are currently flying to Michigan to be with family for Thanksgiving, or maybe I am a sucker for family time and traditions, but either way, traditions mean the world to me. Routine of something special that maybe just your family does, or maybe a new tradition you are starting this year!

          Other than those memories and traditions that I mentioned above, my favorite tradition my family had was to sit at the table when Thanksgiving Dinner was ready and go around the table and list off things that we are thankful for. We would thank God for the blessings He gave us throughout the year and thank him for the family that He placed each and every one of us in. When it was my grandpa’s turn he would thank the Lord for every person in our family, every opportunity that he had the past year to share the gospel with unbelievers, for the hardships that he faced through the year, and would thank Him for another year of blessings and hardships ahead. When he was finished, he would sometimes break out in singing the doxology (my grandpa sang ALL THE TIME). We as a family would join him with harmonies that were beautiful and the sound of family joining together to thank the Lord for what He has done filled the house. Sometimes He would lead our family in prayer instead, but either way this was a huge blessing for me and my family to be raised around someone who literally thanked God for EVERYTHING he had.

          Sometimes I think we forget how to thank the Lord for everything. It’s so easy for us to thank the Lord when good things happen to us, but do we thank Him for the hardships we may face? Do we thank Him for pruning us like he prunes the branches? Do we thank Him for truly everything or just the good things? This year for thanksgiving, it is my desire to be able to proudly thank Him for absolutely everything… including the tough times.

          I challenge you to do the same with me. Try to think of the times that may have been tough for you this year, and thank Him for walking through those times with you and for never leaving you. Thank Him for the blessings, the good things, and even the tough things. So I leave you with this…

What are you thanking God for this year?

1 Chronicles 29:10-13
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

Continuing the Party - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 14, 2018

When we think about our time, or our money, our talents, or even our lives, our natural inclination will always lean to a scarcity model.“I don’t have that much, and if I share it with you, I won’t have any left…”

Specific to Richland Nazarene this model plays out in our decision to tithe or not, to serve or not, to participate in a class or life group or not, to pray or not, to share our faith or not.

In business speak each is an investment or a hope in things unseen. In Christianese it’s called faith.

For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

In John 6, we have the feeding of five thousand. Understanding that with John, there are nearly always two meanings, physical and spiritual, Christian theologians have long posited the miracle was relational as much as it was physical.

Consider that each adult male would have had a pouch-like basket around the waist holding enough food for his family on a day out listening to traveling preachers. Apparently they had been out a bit longer than anticipated. Jesus and the disciples now had two choices; send them home or pool the resources to extend the party.

Enter a small child with the fish and bread his mama had given him that morning. Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment of every man in the crowd when by simple faith and generosity a small child offers to feed five thousand people? Funny if it weren’t so sad because each man in the crowd knew they still had enough in their travel satchels to also share.

Business writer Seth Godin calls what happened next the magnetic generosity of the network effect. I still call it a miracle as each man discovers he just might have enough to share and does. Call it the first potluck if you like but it was a miracle none the less.

Seth writes that if you share a pizza with a large crowd, no one will be very satisfied. But if you share an idea with a group, it creates cultural impact and becomes more valuable as it spreads, not less. The tragic fires in California and the communities’ response proves this principle to be true in material goods (pizza) as well.

Most of the time, we adopt the scarcity model of pizza. But in fact, the useful parts of our life are better characterized as, “If I share it with you, we’ll both have it.”

An idea shared is more powerful than one that’s hidden. A technology standard outperforms a proprietary one. A community is stronger than divided individuals ever could be.

When we give away our time, or our money, our talents, or even our lives, by building the network or the community around us, we’re not giving it away at all. The party just gets better for everybody!

"Those Foolish Israelites" - Pastor Andrew Hickman - November 6, 2018

“Those Foolish Israelites…”

            As I was going through the Sunday School lesson for the teens on Sunday morning we were reading out of the book of Exodus in chapter 14 where the Israelites were on the run from the Egyptians and come face-to-face with the Red Sea. They begin complaining about being taken out of Egypt and into the wilderness to die. They were afraid that they fled safety and oppression to only be slaughtered by the hands of their previous captors, and they cried out to the Lord and Moses in Exodus 14:10-12,

“10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

The lesson we were working through is found in Carl Leth’s, “A Holy Encounter,” and Leth writes the following commentary on the actions of the Israelite’s in the above passage,

“Those foolish Israelites! How quickly they forgot God’s faithfulness and care. They are barely out of Egypt, and they complain at the first sign of trouble. They have already forgotten God’s mighty acts of power performed to free them. Oh, those foolish Israelites—how like us they are.” (Leth, pg 31).

As I read those words aloud, I almost felt a physical slap across my face. As we read the Scripture verses my thoughts were, they are so stupid to be complaining after God just brought them out from the oppression of Egypt. These words from Dr. Leth (who was a professor of mine while I was at Olivet) were so profound and real to me this week, because I am just like the Israelites in this story. When things are going well; I am rejoicing and praising God, however, the moment things take a turn for the worse I go right back to complaining saying “Woe is me!” or “Why are you doing this to me God.”

As we read scripture it is very easy to fall into the trap of removing ourselves from the reading and casting judgement on “Those Foolish Israelites” forgetting that we often act just like them in our own lives, yet God loves us anyway. I was thankful for the proverbial slap in the face that I received that morning when reading the words of Dr. Leth, and I encourage you to allow God’s Word to shape your life by not casting judgement on the characters your reading about but allowing their stories shine on the areas of our lives that need improvement. We are reminded of the importance and usefulness of God’s Word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

In Christ,

-Pastor Andrew

Discipleship or Outreach is the Wrong Question? Part Two - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 1, 2018

Author of “Reckless Faith,” “Empowered by His Presence,” and the “Organic Outreach” series, Pastor Kevin Harney describes three stages most churches will go through as they wrestle with choosing best practices in the evangelism/outreach or going part of their discipleship programs. As I summarize his findings, please understand each step as progressive, building on the gains of the previous stage.

Push Pin Missions. The first stage he calls the “Push Pin” stage. Visualize a large bulletin board in the lobby or foyer with a world map and push pins or little flags indicating places supported by the congregation. These displays serve to remind the people of a world in need of Jesus. Additionally, these hallway “Missions” boards encourage the essential monetary gifts and prayer so crucial to those on the international frontline.
The only drawback if we remain at the Push Pin stage, is the ensuing belief that money and prayer ends our obligation to the Great Commission. Money and prayer easily quiets our nagging conscience and justifies not sharing Jesus with our neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.

Committee-Based Evangelism. If done well, the Push Pin stage inevitably leads to conversations about local outreach. This is good. At this point many churches form a local outreach team or committee to compliment the focus internationally. About a dozen people with hearts for the lost and/or the spiritual gift of evangelism are gathered and given a budget to;

1. Plan outreach events to mobilize the church people to reach the community.
2. Plan training opportunities for church members to be equipped for personal outreach/evangelism.
But, here’s what happens. On the weekend of the big event, the __________ ministry planned an over-nighter and the ___________ program planned their annual parking lot sale.
Didn’t they know?! YES, THEY DID KNOW!
Were the outreach events sub-par? NO, THE EVENTS WERE GREAT!

Turns out, it wasn’t about bad communication or even bad feelings between ministry leaders (as if that could happen in a church!). It was all about choice. Other ministries saw the event(s) as the Outreach Committee’s event to which they had the option of jumping in or not. Without any sense of ownership, a pat on the back for “owning” evangelism for the church was all the outreach committee ever received from other ministries and programs. With their own events to plan and worry about, other ministries saw the outreach committee events as 2nd or 3rd on their list of priorities.

Organic Outreach. While the committee-based outreach team brings excitement and energy, it fails to draw the entire congregation. A big step forward is when a congregation decides to involve the key influencers and leaders of every ministry and program in the church. The Outreach Committee is then transformed into the Outreach Influence Team, a group of people with the influence to set the direction of the entire church!

At this third stage, outreach becomes the shared vision, passion, and driving force of every ministry and program rather than the responsibility of a handful of passionate lay leaders and the assigned staff person. Much like prayer, outreach becomes a shared focus of activity and practice throughout the churches discipleship program.

Understand, this is a strong de-centralizing move. Ownership of the vision will necessarily pass from clergy to lay leaders. Yes, this is you, class teachers and life group leaders but no need to panic. Your church staff has been praying and seeking God’s direction and guidance and sense doors and opportunities opening in the elementary schools of the Richland School District. We are currently seeking out and developing small group serving opportunities that are relational, repeatable, and joinable (as much as possible). Additionally, there are things our groups and classes can do at their regular meeting times and places and/or at an actual elementary school site. Sky’s the limit if we get love right folks! 

One last warning; all this means if you aren’t plugged into a class or group, you will miss out on the synergy and excitement being created. You will still be able to serve but you won’t experience the joy of serving side-by-side with Richland Nazarene family members and the power of the mentoring relationships that develop and deepen at these serving opportunities. If you aren’t happy with our current slate of classes and groups, please see me about launching a new one or two!

Discipleship or Outreach is the Wrong Question? Part One - Pastor Jerry Carter - October 24, 2018

Our denominational mission statement, “To Make Christlike Disciples in the Nations,” highlights a biblical truth many in the pulpit miss. When we get it wrong, a chain reaction of frustration and confusion follow. I recently realized I am guilty of causing this kind of frustration and confusion and I apologize. Even more embarrassing, this truth is highlighted in The Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20; 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore,go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Of the four verbs or actions we are called to do, three are subsumed under one. Don’t let the order of the verbs confuse you. The key verb is actually to make disciples. In order to do this, we must first go, then welcome folks into our fellowship(baptism),and then begin the life long process of teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.

The second thing to notice is all the verbs are continually being done. None are one and done. To make disciples we must continue to go, continue to baptize, and continue to teach. Part of learning or becoming a disciple necessarily involves continually going, baptizing, and teaching.

The third thing to notice is just as God is sender (God, the Father) and sent (God, the Son), we too are both sender and sent.

Which means…if we aren’t constantly going (serving and sharing our faith), then becoming a disciple will be unnecessarily difficult, frustrating and confusing because part of the process of becoming a disciple is going (learning to serve and share your faith).

Here’s the kicker;Do our current practices make disciples who continually go so the body can baptize and teach?

And, if we aren’t making disciples, continually going so the church can baptize and teach, what are we teaching? This is a challenge to me and every teacher or leader at Richland Nazarene to rethink how we teach.

The mistake we make is in talking about evangelism/outreach and discipleship as if they were two separate subjects to be taught and learned or two different activities in which the church should be involved. The truth is they aren’t even two sides of the same coin as I’ve often stated. The better way is understanding evangelism/outreach is as one of the essential practices in making disciples alongside the practices of baptism and bible study.

So how does a church move from evangelism/outreach as one of many choices that few choose, to a church where outreach is an organic part of the very fabric of the discipleship program? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments providing they aren’t profane or unnecessarily mean. I cry easy.

I will share my thoughts in Part Two next week.

Carousel Ride - Pastor Lisa Roberson - October 10, 2018

Life is like a box of chocolates…..not really Forrest, it’s more like a carousel ride.  Carousels are much more reflective of life than chocolates.  On the carousel/life, a ticket master/Master decides when we may climb aboard the ride, how long our ride will be and only he/He knows when and how we will exit.  As we embark on our adventure there are two riding options, a stable bench where we sit passively watching life pass by or the traditional carousel horse with its ups and downs. 
Choosing the bench is like choosing plain oatmeal for breakfast, its blah flavored, no risk and easy to endure.  The carousel horse is different story.  It takes us down low, to the darkest part of the trip, where there isn’t much to see but the worn shoes of the other riders and a scuffed up, dirty floor.  Then comes the awesomeness of the upward rotation.  The brightness of the day shines forth and joy radiates from the faces of other riders.  A reward is offered as well.  A hanging brass ring begs to be snatched from its resting place by those who are willing to keep their eye on the prize, willing to take a risk, willing to step out in faith.
Our God given dreams are that shiny brass ring.  We know our dreams are God driven when they are in line with His will, His commandments and are a blessing to others and the Kingdom.  My God given dream is to pastor my own church and to do good Kingdom work “so that none should perish”.  What are your God given dreams?  What would it mean to take a risk and reach out for those dreams with gusto and flare?
We have so loved serving with, and alongside you.  We are beyond thankful for the kind words and many blessings you have poured over us the last several weeks.  We may no longer call Richland Naz home but there will always be a home in our hearts for you.  God is loudly calling us to follow the dream He placed in our hearts and we pray, as God begins to call Richland to a new dream, that you will grab that brass ring with all you have and may good Kingdom work be done.

Till we meet again~ Blessings
Pastor Lisa and Ed         

Two Month Progress Report Part Three - Pastor Jerry Carter - October 4, 2018 

Part 3 of 3

In the first post of this Two Month Progress Report series, we looked at the need for a strong, biblical understanding of the power and purpose of prayer. Nothing will happen without this foundation.

If a lost-centric prayer life doesn’t permeate every ministry, group, and team of the church, the church will not reach out and it will die. Prayer is not a supplement or “healthy choice.” It’s the only choice.

In the second post we looked at the need to “clean house.” By eliminating programming complexity and confusion we could clarify spiritual Next Steps and provide a strategic, graduated purpose for each of those spiritual Next Steps.   

To this end, Judy Bacon (your SDMI Chairperson) and I have assembled the various groupings and ministries of Richland Nazarene into four broad categories or levels of discipleship that create a natural progression of purpose and spiritual significance in a growing believer’s life.

Information-centric Classes are a low-risk,Next Step for those wishing for a relational, “toe in the water,” experience before stepping up to a more immersive Life Group. Also ideal if you’re just thirsty for God’s Word!

Relationship –centric Life Groups are an ideal,Next Step if you’ve decided to plant roots at Richland Nazarene and know you’re ready to invest in deeper relational connections and community.

Service-centric Ministry Teams are the essential Next Step for those ready and willing to serve and love like Jesus.

Companionship-centric FELLOWSHIP GATHERINGS are the easy, “no pressure”Next Step for those just wishing to share a meal with friends, new and old. No membership required…just show up!

In this final post of the series, we will address the need to challenge/leverage every ministry, program, class, or group towards outreach/evangelism by discovering the power of Cheap, Easy & Fun,and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable.

To fully appreciate the power of Cheap, Easy, & Fun and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable, the leaders at each STEP must embrace the power and significance of that step while consistently encouraging the deeper Next Steps necessary in every believer’s spiritual journey.

Cheap, Easy, & Fun describes the type of activities each class, group, and ministry should be hosting in order to both invite friends from outside the church and to draw up from the previous STEPS.

For example, a Sunday morning CLASS might host a breakfast to draw up from those attending Sunday services but not yet connected to any group. A Men’s LIFE GROUP might host a Saturday Caregiver’s Breakfast for the community and draw up from those attending Sunday morning CLASSES but not yet a part of any LIFE GROUP. A MINISTRY TEAM such as the Worship & Arts Team might host a community choir for the community and draw up budding artists from our CLASSES AND LIFE GROUPS.

Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable describes the best possible attributes of any given servant-evangelism effort.Repeatable and relational are either side of the same coin. Both are premised on the ideas that evangelism works best when it’s relationally-driven and relationships form with repeated exposure.  Therefore, Adopt-a-Highway is repeatable but not very relational and Trunk-or-Treats can be fairly relational but aren’t repeatable but for once a year. The goal of Repeatable & Relational is to keep coming back to the same ministry opportunity regularly enough (weekly/monthly/periodically) to establish the relationships necessary to share Jesus.

Joinable describes outreach and service efforts for which the community has a passion and would likely join any effort promoted or advertised. Think of hosting Caregiver’s Seminars, Foster Parenting Classes, Youth Sports, First Responders' Appreciations, Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Park, etc.

Joinability is premised on evidence that people today are finding faith through a desire to significantly belong rather than correctly believe. We might not like it but correctly believing is an afterthought. We’ve said it several times now, people don’t care what we know until they know that we care.

The goal then is for every CLASS, LIFE GROUP, MINISTRY and GATHERING to creatively use the concepts of Cheap, Easy, & Fun and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable to raise the evangelistic temperature at Richland Nazarene several degrees on all fronts and to begin turning our focus from the 99 to the 1.