Archive for the ‘Church Planting at Sojourn’ Category

EvangelismWe want you to be involved in sharing the Gospel but the unfortunate truth is that most believers will not.  The reasons are usually related to fear or ignorance.  We launch new programs and campaigns and offer training in our church and we still have the same results; those people who are predisposed to sharing the gospel do  and all others have just add another area of their spiritual life where they feel failure.

I want you to be a success in your journey with Jesus. I want you to be able to think about the Gospel, about missions, about soul winning without feeling like a guilt-ridden failure.  I want to show you how believers can freely and enthusiastically be involved in evangelism.

Two Observations about Evangelism

  1. When Jesus and the Apostles talked to people about the Gospel they were often in a large group but sometimes in smaller groups and one on one.  In each of these groups, they were invited to speak about the Gospel.  The group expected to hear it, the group came for that purpose, or the group asked a leading question.
  1. In our culture, the people reject any effort to impose the Gospel on them.  They will resist an unsolicited presentation. However, if they initiate the conversation about Jesus, they will freely talk and listen.

You are at this moment freed from ever having to interrupt a person’s day with an unsolicited Gospel presentation.

 At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison, – Colossians 4:3

How can we all be involved in evangelism in the local church?


As the text tells us, pray that God opens a door for the message.  In 1 Timothy 2 we told to pray for everyone because God’s wants to save them all, in Luke 10:2 we are told to pray that God will send workers into the field.  The Bible is clear that God wants us to pray and to pray for people to hear the Gospel.  The movement of a non-believer to believer is a supernatural event that requires a supernatural force. We ask God to do the work in preparing the non-believer and the believer.

If you don’t do anything but pray you are heavily involved in evangelism.


Then we wait. John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to the Father except the Spirit draw him.  So we must wait for this drawing to take place.  We must wait on the Spirit to prepare us and to prepare others.

This is evangelism you can do every day for as long as you want.  You haven’t spoke to a soul yet you are still involved in the ministry.

While you are in Pause, you could still Pray.


Now, this is where we could have a break down but we won’t. See, we are waiting for the invitation.  When you are “prayed up” and watching for God’s movement, you’ll also be ready.  Someone will say something to you that indicates they are ready to hear from the Lord.  You are not going to miss it, they will ask you a question and all you have to do is answer the question.  I don’t know what they’ll ask, but if you have  a good handle on your own salvation story and a good handle on Jesus’ story you’ll be able to answer those questions.

I  was working  in a “serving” type ministry one day when a person who had been watching stopped me and asked “Why do you do this?”  This is a clear invitation to speak.  I simply answered the question.  “I like people.  I became a follower of Jesus Christ and He lead me to this job to help people.”  They person continued, “what does following Jesus have to do with this?”  I said,  “When I heard the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, was buried and rose again on the third day and is alive today and that I can be forgiven and changed, I became his follower and have been in this process of becoming like Him.  He has put into me this desire to love people as He does and to serve them as He does.  I wouldn’t  be able to do this without Jesus Christ.”

It was that easy.  I just answering a question.  The fellow was not offended  and didn’t yell or argue or do anything negative.  He said, “Interesting” and wandered away.

You might not get an opportunity everyday, but you’ll get them. You’ll be able to enthusiastically talk about your faith because someone asked you a simple question.  You’ll be involved in the ministry of evangelism every day and we’ll be fulfilling the Great Commission of “as you go make di
sciples… “


I read a blog this week where the writer said we shouldn’t try to be the church down the street, or the awesome church in the news, but to be the church that does what we do well.  We should find out what we do well and do it.

We asked this morning what we (sojourn) do well.  Using our poor grammar, we asked, What are we good at?  Here are our answers.

We are good at;

Growing beards

Potluck Dinners

Hanging out

Eating Ice Cream

We also discovered that we are really good at meeting people, loving people, making people feel welcomed and accepted, and sharing the Gospel.  We are good at reading our Bible, praying, and obeying Jesus.  We are good at worshipping.

So, the goal isn’t to try to do something that we are NOT good at, but to “play to our strengths.”

Sojourn is good at reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Let’s keep it up.


As we’ve discussed in our sermon series on Identity, people struggle almost constantly with these feelings of fitting-in and acceptance. They are unsure and insecure.  When the come to sojourn they are taking a huge risk.  They have plenty of reasons to NOT go to church and that fear wells up inside of them.  We must help them to visit us.  We can help them by making them feel totally accepted and welcomed.  This is not easy when their natural disposition is the opposite.  Here are some steps.

The Arrival

A person’s first encounter should be with a smiling and welcoming believer.  This means that there must be someone at each door looking out for them (much like the father of the prodigal son).  We’ve done a good job at making sojourn warm and welcoming but people need that friendly face to greet them and reassure them that it is ok to be there.  If their biggest reason for not coming to church is that they are afraid, this is the greatest ministry we can do.

1.  Look for people.

2.  Smile and greet warmly.

3.  Stay with them.

Be Hospitable

Let’s treat them like they are in our home.  We wouldn’t just expect them to walk around and find everything themselves and help themselves to everything.  We must stay with them.

1.  Give them a tour of the spaces.

2.  Offer a snack and drink.  Take them to the snack spot.

3.  Take them to a seat

4.  Introduce them to a few people.

Be attentive

They have come to check us out.  But they are also looking for a connection. We do a lot at sojourn about connecting.  Let’s include the new person.

1.  Include the new people in your conversations.

2.  During the welcome activities, seek out the new person and engage them in the activity.

3.  During anything interactive, attend to the new person.  Help them out.

4.  When they leave make sure you say good by and invite them back.

Fixing Something I’ve Left Out

There are a few areas in church life which I feel I am not doing a good job in leading.  One of those areas is in our commitment to Christ and one another as a local body.  As you know, the Bible mentions the word ecclesia (church) 114 times.  The vast majority of these mentions is in relationship to a local body of believers.


Check out Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”  Here we have the word and even a description of the organization of that local church; overseers (pastor), deacons,  and saints (believers).  This, and many of the other 114 times show that believers joined together and met regularly as a church.  The many uses of the plural “you” and the Greek preposition “sun” (together with ones – remember the Dr. Pepper analogy) indicate that believers were together, unified and committed to one another.  The Bible clearly teaches that we should join with a local body of believers and commit to them. (see below “Biblical Basis for Church Membership”).

I’ve not done a good job of teaching this or of encouraging you in this area. So, let me encourage you to keep reading and to join Sojourn Church

Cultural Issues
Cults:  I know that some groups mess this up; that there are rules and requirements and lots of controlling (cult-like).  We don’t do that.

Institutions: I also know that culturally people don’t like institutions.  Let’s move beyond that; Jesus established this institution.

Commitment: I also know that culturally we have difficulty committing; we don’t want to get hurt and we always want to keep our options open.  Let’s move beyond this, also.  We’ll have to take a chance and trust Jesus, He’ll not let us down.

PS. Requirements for Membership

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ (a biblical salvation story)
  2. Baptism by immersion after your conversion experience.
I’ve copied the following from

Three Reasons to Join a Local Church

Join a church for the sake of non-Christians.

Church membership helps make the gospel clear to non-Christians by providing a unified witness of what it means to be a Christian.

Membership provides this unified witness by implementing a statement of faith, encouraging unity in doctrine, and a church covenant, encouraging unity in lifestyle.

Join a church for the sake of weaker Christians.

God is not merely concerned ab

out our own private piety, but also about our care for the other sheep.  This is a whole aspect of godliness that privatized Christians ignore.  If we don’t love God’s people, then John says we have reason to question our love for God Himself (1John 4:8).

God wants us to encourage weaker Christians and run the race with them.  Don’t leave it to other people to care for those outside your circle of friends.  This is your responsibility.

Members should see themselves as providers – coming to serve others, not to be served.

Join a church for the sake of the church leaders.

If regular attenders don’t eventually make themselves known to the pastor as members of the church, then the pastor cannot take responsibility for them as part of his particular flock. Pastors need to know for which sheep God will hold them accountable so that they can tend to them most responsibly and effectively (Heb 13:17).

If regular attenders don’t join churches, then pastors cannot be freed to do what they do.  Pastors can only devote themselves to the ministry because they are set free to do so by members who fund their work.  Regular attenders benefit from the commitment of other people who have become members and who give and serve and pray regularly.

Biblical Basis for Church Membership

  1. Jesus established the church to be a public, earthly institution that would mark out, affirm, and oversee those who profess to believe in him (Matt. 16:18-1918:15-20). Jesus established the church to publicly declare those who belong to him in order to give the world a display of the good news about himself (John 17:2123; see also Eph. 3:10). Jesus wants the world to know who belongs to him and who doesn’t. And how is the world to know who belongs to him and who doesn’t? They are to see which people publicly identify themselves with his people in the visible, public institution he established for this very purpose. They’re to look at the members of his church. And if some people claim to b
    e part of the universal church even though they belong to no local church, they reject Jesus’ plan for them and his church. Jesus intends for his people to be marked out as a visible, public group, which means joining together in local churches.
  2. Scripture repeatedly commands Christians to submit to their leaders (Heb. 13:171 Thess. 5:12-13). The only way to do that is by publicly committing to be members of their flock, and saying in effect, “I commit to listening to your teaching, following your direction, and to submitting to your leadership.” There’s no way to obey the scriptural commands to submit to your leaders if you never actually submitto them by joining a local church.


This is a note of encouragement.  We are doing well growing as a church. If there is “metrics” for church growth, we can say that we are right on track.  Most church starters I know are not as far along as we are at this point in the life of their new church.

Let’s remember what we are doing.  We are the children of God on a daily, interactive life-changing journey with Jesus.  As such, we are on a journey, discovering Jesus and becoming more like Him.  Your day-to-day activity should be centered around this journey.  I know you are going to work and taking care of the daily grind of life, but on your way, you are reading the Bible, praying, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and obeying God.  As I said earlier in the week, here is a list of what this looks like, sort of.

What do you need to do this week?

1)      Continue your spiritual growth in Christ.  Pray and read the Bible.

2)      Contact people who have visited sojourn or have shown interest and reinvite them.

3)      Take every opportunity to minister to people.

  1. Pray for them (our prayer worship station Sunday was really great)
  2. Be a warm, accepting and loving face for them to talk
  3. Help someone.
  4. Talk about Jesus with someone.

This journey also involves inviting others to join us along the way.  God brings you in contact with people each day who He is working on and drawing to Himself.  Listen to the Spirit’s leading and engage these people in a conversation.  Invite them to join us.

Now, in practical behavior, let me tell you that any church plant is successful when people meet together for worship, prayer and Bible study.  We want to meet together often.  In our eyes we see growth and “success” in that we are meeting together with new people joining us.

So, make it a point to meet with the body of Christ on Sunday mornings at 10.30 and on Wednesday evenings at 7.30.  Make an attempt often to bring new people to these gathering times.  This is the hard part of a church plant; the gathering and meeting. It is work and often filled with disappointment.  Let’s work through it as we are doing God’s work and living in obedience.  Just keep on.  Don’t give up doing good.

Bottom line:  Church Plant, personal journey with Jesus, invite others along with you, meet together often at sojourn.

Quality chek'd ice cream

Ice Cream

There is much fear related to sharing the Gospel.  We all struggle with the fear of rejection.  We also fear we’ll blow the opportunity.  We fear being embarrassed.  The receiver (person hearing the Gospel) fears that someone is trying to scam them, sell them something, push something, manipulate, or embarrass them.

An environment to hear the Gospel.  How do we negate all these fears and share freely?  Let’s first, remember a major social rule in the USA.  Don’t shove your religion down my throat!  This means don’t talk to me about religion unless I want to talk about religion.  Most people will throw up the “walls” as soon as you bring up the subject, however, if they bring up the subject they will let you talk with them all day.  So the secret obviously is to create an environment where they can bring up the subject.

We built “Ice Cream and Answers.”  A real ice cream kiosk in the Mall of the Bluffs (we’ve since closed it down and made a mobile version).  We’ll call it ICA in this blog.  We gave away free ice cream and answered questions.  Now, this was quite a curiosity for people since nothing is truly free.  We gave away the ice cream with no strings attached at all.  This caused people to be curious and ask questions.  A typcial encounter went like this.  Them: “What are the answers?”  Us:  “What are your questions?”  Us:  “we know stuff” “We are really good at relationship issues; how to raise children, how to understand teenagers, how to fix your marriage, etc”  This usually sparked something that was on their mind and they would ask a question.  “What do I do if my wife doesn’t trust me?”  “How do I potty train my child?”  We would talk (I really do know  a lot of stuff) and I would simply answer their questions.  Sometimes I would ask probing questions to clarify their question.

Where is the evangelism in this?  Since most of our problems are generated from our sin nature (or someone else’s sin) then it is natural for the topic of spiritual things to come up.  I would just let this happen.  When they brought up religion or anything spiritual I was free to discuss Jesus.  More on this later.

Now, remember, you must create an environment where people can feel free, welcomed, accepted, and not pushed.  If you let the Spirit of God do they work inside the person and just wait, they will bring up the issue and you’ll be free to speak.  Patience is important.  We never brought up church, Jesus, God, religion or anything spiritual until they did.  Even when they asked who funded ICA, we would say “A few national organizations, local groups, a couple of churches and several rich friends.”  More on this later.

Union Pacific museum in the former Carnegie Li...

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This summer, I came in with a lot of expectations. I expected certain things to happen based on past ministry experiences that I had and what I selfishly wanted to happen. Well, to put it quite bluntly, this summer didn’t go anything like I wanted or expected it to. These five things were my biggest expectations that just didn’t end up happening.

1. There would be a lot of tangible results.
I knew that I would be working at an ice cream shop where I would be talking to people all the time. I expected that people would come up and be eager to ask me for advice or ask me about Jesus, even though Jim warned us that the people in Council Bluffs weren’t too open to hearing about Jesus without bringing it up themselves. After the first few weeks without any deep conversations, I became frustrated. Why weren’t people asking me questions?! The point wasn’t just to give out ice cream, but that was all that I seemed to be doing. After watching Jim in action and observing how he related to people, I realized that I am not a very open person.. I’m quite shy and reserved until I get to know someone and that makes people not want to open up to me so quickly. As I go back home and talk with nonbelievers, I will keep this in mind and work on trying to be more personable.

2.  I would be constantly sharing the gospel.
I thought I would have more people who would be willing to talk about Jesus with me. Many people in Council Bluffs don’t care to hear that they are sinners and that they need help. Most other ministry experiences I’ve had have measured success by how many people heard the gospel and how many responded. Well I’ve learned here that sharing the gospel is important but when you push it on people, they don’t listen to you, so it’s almost shared in vain. Loving on people first and genuinely being their friend will bring about so many more opportunities to share the gospel than just making them listen to it when they’re not ready to hear it.

3.  Our group would work perfectly together.
I didn’t have any contact with the girls I would be working with this summer before I arrived here. Even after the first week, we didn’t know very much about each other. As the summer progressed, it became easier for me to pick out the things that I liked and disliked about people and hold that against them. I think maybe some of the other girls may have done the same thing. We weren’t working very well as a team because we didn’t really know what each other was going through or thinking about or struggling with. We sat down a couple times and tried to grow closer together and open up about how we were feeling, but our group just didn’t have the chemistry that I was expecting. I’ve learned that it is very hard to work in a group without this chemistry but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Everyone just has to try a little harder.

4. I would be constantly uplifted with biblical truths.
This expectation sounds as if I was not shown or given any biblical truths while I was here this summer, which is far from true. I heard biblical truths at least twice a week from Jim’s teachings and was given Bible verses by my roommate, April. This expectation was crushed because I was not uplifted by these biblical truths, not because of the lack of encouragement around me. I wanted to rely on others to keep up my spiritual life without taking care of it on my own. I didn’t take charge of my own life but instead expected others to prompt me to do so or hold me accountable.

5. There would be very little or no problems.
I don’t know where this expectation came from because nothing ever works out exactly the way we want it to. I guess this goes along with our group not working perfectly together, Shannon having to be sent home early, Jim’s car overheating often. There were just more obstacles than I wanted to face this summer.

This summer was not at all what I expected it to be. I feel like it was a challenge for me emotionally and spiritually. But I’ve learned so much from this experience. I feel like I’ve seen more of what real ministry entails. It’s not always pretty. There are going to be some things that don’t go the way you want them to. And having experienced them early, I’ll have a better understanding of how to deal with obstacles in the future. I’m glad that I was able to spend my summer with Sojourn and I’m leaving with more than I came in with.

BART: Safe area

Connecting with people and telling them the good news of Jesus Christ is difficult.  The problem we face is that the world, the flesh, and the Devil have successfully put people on alert to “religion” and they are on guard against “pushy” religious folks.  However, we know that people are interested in spiritual conversations and that they seek to be right with God. How do we get past their shields in order to communicate the good news?  How do we share the Gospel without sounding crazy, religious, pushy, or like a salesman?  How do we effectively reach people with the Gospel?

The following is a quick summary.  I’ll blog more details in the near future.

1.  Create the Environment. In order for people to hear the Gospel they need to feel welcomed and comfortable.  We don’t want to seem like we are “selling” them or being pushy.  We want to convey that they are real and important people to us and that they are safe and free to be who they are.  This is created both in the safe area in which you speak (like a fast food restaurant) and in your body language. If you truly love people like Jesus loves people your body language will show it.  Regardless of the energy you spend hiding it, a judgmental or hypocritical attitude shows in body language.

2. Create the Opportunity.  We must figure how to connect with people without being a “creeper.”  Having some attention getting device helps.  Your clever and “not lame” t-shirt, a copy of a current best seller, a really cool car, or a sign “ask me about _____”. Also, a few interesting conversation starters would work fine. Complimenting something about them is always a great way to start a conversation as well as a comment about something you are both experiencing.

3. Get Approachable.   You need to be and look friendly, but not crazy and eerie.  Ask your friends how you look sitting there in McDonald’s.  A friendly face is very approachable.  A smile is invaluable, but insanity and psychotic is not.  Find a good balance.  Be prepared to talk about topics that are relevant to non-believers.  Make sure you are living in the same reality as they are living.  Be real.

4.  Eliminate conversation killers.   People carry with them a stereotype of what they expect Christians to be like.  Let’s not act the negative way they expect.  Do not verbally condemn anyone.  Keep all your negative opinions to yourself.  Don’t tell the a bunch of rules about following Jesus, don’t tell them what they “ought” to do, don’t lecture, don’t drop cliches, don’t correct their opinion, don’t speak poorly about anyone.  These behaviors do not help you share the truth of Jesus Christ nor do they help you get closer to the person.  Also, plan to listen a lot more than you speak and keep your comments to under 40 seconds at a time.

5. Connect their story with Jesus’ story.   This is a challenge.  You’ll need to listen to the people speak while constantly praying and an thinking of where this person’s life intersects with Jesus.  If you are having a healthy back and forth conversation you’ll be able to quote someone or tell a story about Jesus during the conversation.  Your comments must fit the context.  God is always at work and if He has worked out this encounter He’ll move the person in the conversation to a connecting spot.  You have to be ready.  Then you simply make the connection in your conversation.

If the person is listening and feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit he’ll connect with your “Jesus comment” at which point they will ask a question or two about Jesus or church or salvation.  Now, you can share your story or answer their question with a simple Gospel presentation.

walking man too

Yesterday a young man came up to Ice Cream and Answers.  I was engaged in a conversation with a fellow about his new job and our dodge ball program.  Amanda (one of our summer missionaries) was handing out ice cream and the young fellow spoke with her.  Here is Amanda’s account of the story.  The guy actually came right up and said, “I think I need to pray and ask Jesus to be my Savior.” How often does that happen?! I was so excited. 

In talking to him, I found out that he had prayed at a  Billy Graham conference before, but started to fall away from God when some of his friends and family died. I questioned him about the Gospel and stuff (to see what he knew). I asked him what he thought of Jesus and he said that he believed He had come down to earth and died on the cross. And then I recapped WHY Jesus had to die (to be sure he understood).
Then I explained how once you’ve truly accepted Christ, you can never lose your salvation. But I said that it was GREAT that he wanted to recommit his life to the Lord (a term he had actually used himself earlier in the conversation). And I gave him some steps on how to get back in an active relationship with God. In the end, I ended up praying for the guy aloud. Right there in the mall. 
The fellow then left as abruptly as he arrived.

>We have a very good day of ministry yesterday at the Mall.  The really good part was the interesting way in which God was working on those of us serving.  First, in my early morning study time/planning time God impressed on me to 1) give the summer missionaries a new focus and 2) analyze the work from the month of June.  When I arrived at Sojourn the summer missionaries were having a little private prayer time, individually in the room.  I was meeting with our music minister and told them to meet me in the food court when they were finished.  As I was heading to the food court God impressed upon me to ask them what He had told them.
When they arrived at our table at the food court I asked, “What did God tell you in your prayer time?”  They each had a different focus but they common trend was they were frustrated and losing the vision since it seemed they were not having any success or seeing any progress.  (Keep in mind this is a difficult ministry that in no way resembles their previous experience).  Amazing!  This totally fit with the two ideas God gave me that morning which I promptly shared with them.  First, since they are females and most of the mall employees are female, it would work well to have them focus and connect with the mall employees.  There were to divide the stores, then begin ministering to the people in the stores.  (Previously we were working Ice Cream and Answers and connecting with people through it, a good ministry for me but not easy for others).  They seemed to encouraged by the idea that they would have their own “territory” and specific people assigned to them.  This would give them 14 stores and approximately 40 people each.  Second, we would analyze our note book or connections through June and get a good picture of what God has been doing.

Then God gave me another challenge; have them pray and walk around the mall and He would tell them which stores were “theirs.”  So we made a list of all the stores, gave three of the four a copy (number four was working another project) and sent the girls out.  Now, this is a difficult task, they would have to discern the will of God without imposing their own desires (some like to shop and have favorite stores).  I don’t know what the statistics should be on this.  Theoretically they would all have different stores with no duplicates, this would assume that they all heard the will of God perfectly.  Two of the girls had six stores in common and one girl had three stores in common with the other two.  All three girls had three stores in common.  I didn’t think that was too bad for hearing the will of God on this project.  We were pretty excited about the results.  Interestingly, the girl who did not go out, who was getting the “left overs,” got six stores in which she had already developed relationships with the people.  This was a good sign that the girls had listened to the will of God.  We were quite excited.

We then analyzed out notes from the month.  This is always a good idea to get a clear indicator of your actual progress rather than your perception of the progress.  I did not record my regular contacts with people, this was their contacts and a few of my new contacts.  In all, we ministered to 40 different people (some multiple times) and had 15 substantial spiritual conversations with them.  That is not bad.

Bottom Line was that God really excited the summer missionaries, fired up our vision and gave us a great new purpose.  Today we begin our personal store to store ministry.  Amazing!