Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with a bus driver. I was on the MetroWay bus from our house into Crystal City and struck up a conversation with the driver about the weather and how I almost froze at the bus stop. Ultimately, he asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was the pastor of a church in Crystal City. His reply? “Are you the chapstick people?” I almost fell out of my seat!!
Here’s the backstory. The week before Restoration City launched in October, we spent one evening at the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations handing out chapstick and invitations to come to our first gathering. This guy got one, has been thinking about us ever since and is still thinking about his chapstick three months later! By the way, I’m not sure if he’s going to come to Restoration City any time soon or not. He didn’t seem to hate the idea but he also didn’t make any promises. So, this is not leading to some great, “and we’re baptizing him on Sunday!!” moment.
Here’s where it is leading: we never know the way God is going to use the little seeds we plant. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul is writing about his ministry and the way he partnered with another Christian named Apollos when he writes this, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Don’t miss the big picture: God is the One who builds His church, calls people to faith and changes lives. Sometimes he works through a number of different people along the way. Sometimes He even gets the process started with some chapstick. Growth belongs to God but you and I have a role to play in His work. We’re the seed planters. We’re the ones who are here to open our mouths and let people know there is a God who loves them, forgives them and calls them to a whole new life.
Simple question for the day: Where are you planting? Are you scattering any seed for someone else to water? What are you asking God to grow? Our city is in tremendous need of hope and you and I have the answer!! People need Jesus. How could you leverage your life today to reach out to someone, have a conversation and see what God will do with it? You never know what He will do with it. Rise up, Chapstick People!
This past Sunday, we wrapped up the sermon series “Our House” by looking at the third component of our mission statement, “Live For Restoration.” I had been looking forward to this talk for a long time and love being part of a church that seeks the welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7). At Restoration City, seeking the welfare of our city is something we do in partnership with other local organizations. We’re not trying to build our own outreach ministries. We’re trying to connect people from Restoration City with existing organizations. Put simply: we build partners, not ministries.
That’s a pretty big paradigm shift for many who come to us from a churched background so I wanted to lay out the rationale for why we build partnerships instead of ministries. The argument boils down to five essential benefits.
- Leverage The Expertise Of Our Partners. The decision to partner is rooted in humbly admitting that we don’t always know what’s best and there are others who do. I’m trained to preach, develop leaders and make disciples. I don’t know the best practices for serving a teenage mom or immigrant family. Partnership is about putting the needs of our community ahead of our need for control.
- Focus On Our Mission. This is closely related to #1. If we spent all of our time trying to replicate what others are already doing well, we wouldn’t have enough time to focus on the things God has called us to do. Partnership is about creating margin for a healthy discipleship culture.
- Keep A Leaner Staff. Churches can tie up a lot of money paying people to reinvent wheels. I would rather free up resources to invest in our mission and in our partner organizations. Partnership is about good stewardship.
- Stay Kingdom Focused. Working with others is the most tangible way to remind ourselves that the Kingdom is more important than any one local church. Restoration City isn’t the hope of Washington; Jesus is and He’s building His church in wonderfully diverse and interconnected ways. Partnership is about leveraging our church for the benefit of the Church.
- Double The Impact. By serving through partnerships, we’re able to minister to both the people served by a ministry and our co-laborers. The relationships we build with co-laborers are as significant as the relationships we build in the communities we serve. Partnership is about exponential impact.
Every church needs to follow the leading of God in how they love and serve their communities. For us at Restoration City, that means a deep commitment to building partnerships instead of ministries. You can learn more about our partner organizations on our website: http://restorationcitydc.com/dosomethingdc/.
I got this text from someone at Restoration City the other day:
“I may or may not have loved our uber driver so much he heard us talk about church and asked where we went. I keep a stack of RCC cards in my wallet and gave him one and hopefully he will come. Clearly I have your excitement bug!”
That story is as awesome as it is simple. On one hand, it’s really not that big a deal – two people in a car talking about church, answering a question and giving out a card. For the record, I have no idea if the driver has come to church or not. I have no idea if he’s a Christian or not. This isn’t building up to some amazing “and we’re baptizing him this Sunday” moment. It’s really just a story of handing out a card.
On the other hand, it’s a great reminder of how faithful God is to open doors when we live with joy and are not ashamed of the gospel (Rm.1:16). Stressed out, aloof people who are way too busy to even talk to their driver don’t share the gospel all that often. Neither do people who aren’t filled with excitement for their Savior and their church. But doors seem to open in the presence of joy and love for Jesus.
My point today is not to guilt all of us into giving away inviter cards. But I’m wondering if our conversations and life prompt people to ask us questions. Remember 1 Peter 3:15, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” When Christ is foremost in our hearts, we’ll live with hope and people will ask questions. It really is that simple.
So much of the current conversation about evangelism in the church seems to center on techniques, strategies, and methods. Seminary students can fight all day about whether the church should be missional or attractional. Pastors are quick to share their latest tactics: it’s all about inviter cards, or Facebook ads or going to the same coffee shop every day or getting congregants to write the church’s website on their restaurant checks or just about anything else you can imagine. No joke, I honestly got an email the other day offering a great outreach idea centered around duck calls!!
I wonder if all the focus on technique has caused us to lose sight of the role of prayer in sharing the gospel. Is it possible that what the church needs is more prayer and less technique?
Don’t get me wrong – organized outreaches, evangelistic campaigns and tools that make it easier for a congregation to have gospel conversations aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, they can be really helpful. But they need to be balanced with what Jesus says in John 6:44:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
It’s the Father who draws people to the Son. There’s nothing you and I can do to argue a dead man into life. God does that. Yes, we’re called to be ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and witnesses (Acts 1:8). Yes, we’re called to give an answer for the hope that’s within us (1Peter 3:15). Yes, God told us to go into all the world making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). But the work of conversation is a supernatural work of grace.
Do we pray like that’s true?
If we believe the Father is the One who draws people to the Son, our evangelism must be preceded by, accompanied by and rooted in fervent prayer. Do you pray regularly for the people in your life who don’t know the gospel? Do you pray for opportunities to share the gospel? Do you pray God would make you effective when sharing the gospel? If not, your prayer life needs a make over before your evangelistic effectiveness is going to increase.
I’m pretty sure those prayers would yield a lot more fruit than the newest evangelism craze.