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Posts Tagged ‘funding’


The first section of Organic Outreach for Churches by Kevin Harney covered motivation: love for God, the world and the congregation. He calls this the heart of the congregation. In the second section he addresses the mind of the congregation. The focus is on the administrative structure expressed by the heart that seeks to reach out with God’s love to the world around it through the congregation. Put another way, the first task of leadership is to cultivate love for God, the lost people around us, and our congregation. Until this is done, the administrative structure should not be changed. To borrow terminology from another book on ministry, there needs to be a vine before you put up the trellis.

“When our hearts are filled with love for God, for our community, and for the church, we are ready to strategize about outreach.”

This is one of the positives of his approach. He is talking about outreach as a (church) community project rather than focusing on preparing individuals to share their faith.

The first step in this process is the mind-shifts Harney believes need to take place so we can be productive. Here they are:

  • From random to strategic outreach
  • From famine to funding (making money available for LOCAL outreach)
  • From believing to belonging (as the first step in the process)
  • From us to them (regarding focus)
  • From programs to praying
  • From mush to clarity (regarding your beliefs)
  • From fatalism to faith

These are important shifts, though I would be hesitant to fully embrace the 4th one (us => them) for reasons I will develop below.

I will throw out a reminder. This all takes time. This morning I read about the building of the temple by Solomon. It took 7 and a half years. Just as the temple wasn’t built in a day, neither will a congregation’s outreach ministry. People are often harder to mold than stones. This is about cultural change, and that takes time, and undetermineable period of time.

He then develops the idea of from famine to funding, because you’ve gone from random to strategic outreach. Many churches provide money for missions, elsewhere. By someone else. Funding missionaries is a great thing. The point is not to eliminate funding to foreign (and even local) missionaries and ministries. The point is to add funds for your congregation to reach the people around you.

This also means that everyone is getting involved instead of paying surrogates to do the work for you. Not everyone will have the same role; the different gifts of God’s people will be engaged. This is one of the mind shifts he neglected: from them to us. No longer should outreach be the work of a chosen few who work on behalf of the rest of us (surrogates). An outreach committee would lead the strategies that involve everyone in various ways (even if all you can do is pray because you’re home-bound).

One common problem Harney experiences is that ministry leaders see outreach as an optional thing that competes with their ministry instead of being something that their ministry also participates in. As a result, they can ignore events, schedule competing events etc. The goal is for each ministry to see their place in outreach. To see it as part of their mission. The Outreach Team is then viewed as influencers. He finds it most helpful if all the ministry leaders comprise the Outreach Influence Team.

Harney then moves into the 6 Levels of Influence. It all starts with God. As a loving, eternal community (Trinity) God is a missionary God who has been sharing His love with people since the beginning of time. Between God and the world, Harney lists the Outreach Influence Team Leader, the Outreach Influence Team, ministry workers, and ministry participants.

To put it simply, the team leader encourages the team to maintain focus and develop the ways their ministry participates in outreach. The team provides training for workers in outreach, which helps instill the vision for outreach to participants so they begin to engage in praying for others, inviting people to events or ministry functions etc.

Then he moves into raising the evangelistic temperature utilizing the one degree rule. This is about accountability. And while it can be helpful, knowing the perversity that remains even in Christians, it can easily lapse into legalism and self-righteousness (self-condemnation if you aren’t doing enough). It is here that he starts to sound more seeker-driven than seeker-sensitive. It was here that I began to grow frustrated.

Why was I frustrated? The easy answer would be my flesh is resisting the call of God to engage in this process. I don’t think that is is (though he did talk about lots of meetings and I’m currently have meeting fatigue).

The other answer is a glaring lack of ecclesiology in the book. It is assumed, and you know what happens if you assume. Part of ecclesiology is the mission of the church. When there is no clearly developed mission of the church, an author’s emphasis becomes the mission of the church. There are subtle statements in this section that indicate that he thinks outreach trumps the rest, shapes the rest. Like most books on a particular goal of the Church, it becomes out of balance and begins to veer down dangerous roads.

Let me explain. I take a tri-perspectival view of worship (and most things, to be honest). I express this as worship is intended to exalt God, edify the Church and evangelize the world (in terms of unbelievers present). Worship cannot focus simply on evangelism as in the seeker-driven model. I think we should be sensitive to “seekers” (I don’t really like that word). By that I mean we explain things. We periodically explain some of what we do in worship. In preaching we explain “big words” and call people to faith for both conversion (justification) and sanctification.

Our mission, as expressed in the Great Commission, is not to simply make converts but disciples. We are to present people to Christ in maturity. Yes, you have to start with conversion but that is not the end all and be all of church life. Outreach is a part of our mission, not the mission.

If we are asking about outreach temperature, we should start asking about your marriage (if you are married), parenting, sex life, work life etc. because all of these are about being faithful to Christ in our context. Suddenly we have a long list, and even more opportunities to become self-righteous Pharisees boasting of our outreach righteousness, or parenting righteousness.

Taking part of the mission as the mission is just plain dangerous. No one comes out and says that, but it is expressed in terms of the “most important” part of our mission, or main emphasis requiring “inordinate amounts of time”.

So, while I agree that outreach should permeate all of our programs so it is an organic thing for the congregation, I don’t agree that it supplants or overwhelms all of the other ministries of the church. Our discipleship ministries should be welcoming to outsiders (and people should invite others as well as pray for the lost), should connect everything to the gospel (including calling people to faith as well as expressing that faith) as well as prepare people to share their faith (preferably in a tri-perspectival way, which is a separate blog post). Our worship should not be reduced to altar calls, “love songs” to Jesus with a great beat etc. I’m still a “Word & Sacrament” guy. Evangelism as well as exaltation and edification take place as we sing the Word, pray the Word, listen to the Word (preaching) and see the Word (sacraments). God works in that to bring people to faith as well as build people in their faith. We explain things, we don’t eliminate them precisely because worship is also for God and His people, not just the people who don’t believe yet.

Precisely because there is no explicit eccesiology, Harney is beginning to slip down this road though he may not realize it. There are some things that slow it: being clear about what you believe. He hasn’t gutted the faith like some do. But I find him beginning to move out of balance in this second section. In the third section, we’ll see where his trajectory leads us.

 

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unPlanned is the story of how Abby Johnson went from being the director of a Planned Parenthood (PP) office to being an advocate for the pro-life movement. It is a story worth reading as she tries to fairly assess both sides of this controversial issue. She has seen the issue from both sides and hates the extremes of both sides.

In an earlier post I mentioned the disconnect. Her story begins with disconnect. Her life and doctrine were disconnected. She believed one thing and did another. This led her to have secrets. She makes an interesting observation about secrets.

“Once it had taken hold within me, my secret had the power to shape and influence my reasoning, my perspective, my conscience. Years later, I would discover that the box in my soul wasn’t sealed as well as I’d thought. It was releasing undetectable yet poisonous fumes that wafted through my soul in silence and contaminated my heart.”

Her secret was that before her first (ill-advised) marriage she had her first abortion. She now understands more of the implications. She had to face not only the killing of her child, but depriving her parents of grandchildren. We don’t live on an island. And those secrets leak out. They shape our decisions and our perspective on the world.

Her secret made her an easy recruit for PP in college. She rightfully wanted to help women but her own baggage had to be justified. She heard the talking points about wanting to make abortion rare, and feeling guilty wanted to defend herself and others from the perceived condemnation of the pro-life movement. She is honest about the power of self-deception. She started to tell herself little lies, and then bigger lies, to justify her increasing role within PP.

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28

She speaks of her spiritual struggle during those years. God seemed so far away from her. She didn’t understand why. But she did experience rejection from one church when they discovered where she worked. She and her husband were denied membership and encouraged to move on. Later, after her “conversion” she was essentially told to leave the “pro-choice” denomination with its liturgy that slowly reshaped her heart. Strange how pastors can allow such issues to keep them from ministering to people. I may have denied her membership, but invited her to stay and “see what happens.” That might not have been welcome words. But God can change hearts.

13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28

She shares her perspective on the pro-life movement as an outsider. She entered PP thinking they were mostly extremists. Dhe did  meet some extremists. at the fence which while literal also functioned as a metaphor throughout the book. But she also met compassionate, caring people at the fence too. There were more of them, and they worked to get rid of the crazies. Slowly her misconceptions about the pro-life movement were being challenged. She struggled with the paranoia of PP’s leadership and yet found it a safe place to hide due to her own guilt all at the same time. She also came to see, slowly, that the talking points were just that- talking points that really didn’t reflect the decisions being made by those in power.

She does not get into the “politics” of the issue. There is no mention of a politician. But as I ruminated on the book and the time frame of the events I noticed something. Senator Obama’s talking points on abortion during the Presidential election (which duped so many evangelicals) sounded remarkably like Planned Parenthood’s talking points, including making abortion rare. Yet, it was during his administration that PP lost their grant money for birth-control. This meant that more children would be conceived in less than desirable circumstances so women sought divorce, and PP needed to perform more abortions to pay their bills. That was the money-maker and they pushed directors to perform more, and were contemplating doing late-term abortions.

Abby was caught in the middle of this change by what was happening inwardly. The rules had changed on her and she was asked to go beyond her comfort zone. It seemed increasingly less about helping women and more about ideology and making money. And then came the fateful day.

The title is a double entendre: she was “removed” from PP, and this was not her plan. But it was someone’s plan: God’s. Many of the pro-life leaders in her community had been praying for her for years. Those prayers began to be answered as she was forced to participate in an ultra-sound guided abortion. She saw what actually happened inside the womb during an abortion. She could not prop up her shaky convictions with the well-intended lies anymore. Now she knew she had to get out.

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Proverbs 28

The continues her story as she finds help from her former “enemies” and betrayal at the hands of “friends.” It moves into the injunction PP sought against her (without grounds) and her “coming out” to the media.

This book is a quick read. It moves along fairly well, though there were times I did want her to move faster. It comes across, to me, as an honest, humble read. It is, at times, an emotionally difficult read. There will most likely be tears. It tries (and mostly succeeds) to be a fair read. She doesn’t demonize PP though she is honest about the actions of some people in PP. She does see a difference between the average volunteer and those higher up in the organization. She was wronged by them as they turned on her for leaving. She made no public statements until after they made a press release. It is important to know that there is often a big difference in motive between PP and many who volunteer or work there. Her unspoken lesson is that we need to win them to “our side” in a way similar to how she was won over: prayer while you wait for God to act.

Copernican revolutions are never easy. In this case she had the support of her husband and family who never wanted her working there in the first place. She found newer, truer friends among many of those who had been praying for her for years. They loved her even when she was on the other side of the fence. She lost many “situational friendships” when she left PP. They didn’t love her despite their differences of opinion on this ethical matter: She was seen as betrayer and persona non grata.

On the flip side, she found forgiveness as she admitted her own sin. She experienced freedom from condemnation for her own abortions, and the many she had participated in. She wants people to hear the offer of grace, not the words of condemnation. Those of us who are pro-life need to be reminded all too often.

It is a book I wish more people would read because it is honest about PP. The good, and the bad. It gets past the talking points and propaganda we hear. It is like something of a cult in many ways. They have a doctrine that is disconnected from practice, an outward face that hides the inward reality. They are afraid of those “outside” and paint them in the worst possible light. They turn like rabid dogs on those who leave. Yeah, perhaps we need to talk about the cult of Planned Parenthood and its child sacrifice.

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