Book Review : How to Pick Up a Stripper

stripperWhen it comes to ministry carried out by the local church, the most important element is the people outside of it. While churches are careful and intentional in ministering to those who are in the local body, there must be an equal concern in reaching those not in the body of Christ. The key to reaching those outside the body is to communicate to them that they are loved and they matter. In their new book, “How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness” Todd and Erin Stevens have written about the importance of showing people the love of God instead of only telling them of God’s love.

Todd Stevens is the pastor of Friendship Community Church in Nashville, TN. His wife Erin is the founder of Nashville Strip Church, a ministry that reaches out to the employees of strip clubs (hence the name of the book). The premise of this book can be summed up in two words: be kind. Using the ministry of Friendship Community and their own personal generosity as a backdrop in kindness, the Stevens give numerous examples of how serving people with no expectation of return best demonstrate the love of God. Examples of lives changed are given throughout the book. Woven throughout the book is the ministry that Erin started after being led to reach out to the women in the local strip clubs. The Stevens not only highlight the importance of a servant lifestyle, they also deal with topics such as having a good reputation in the community, sacrificial service, being a generous giver, and praying for those you are attempting to reach.

“How to Pick Up a Stripper” is a good book. It is written in an easy-flowing conversational tone and is a very easy read. The Stevens do a good job of mixing personal stories and biblical admonition. The major problem with the book is that we have heard this before. As a pastor, I see nothing new in the overall message of the book. We know that we should be serving people. We know that we have been commanded to do so. The examples of service projects and ideas for outreach the authors gave include, but are not limited to gas buy-downs, block parties, easter egg hunts, and moms night outs are ideas already being employed, although maybe not as successfully as Friendship Community , by many other churches. “How to Pick Up a Stripper” gets lost in the crowd of other “serve your community” books.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Missional Monday : Lessons Learned Through Community Ministry in 2013

My first pastor, Lamar Anderson, whom I was called to the ministry under used to say, “It is a sorry frog that won’t croak over his own pond”. So, let me croak. At Port Royal Baptist Church we place a high priority on community ministry and missions. The reason: God’s Word teaches that we are to care for and serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. I must say that our people take seriously the missions mandate given to the local New Testament church. They are compassionate, generous, and caring. When presented with a ministry opportunity, they always rise to the occasion. I have at times challenged our people to invest more in current ministries and add new. I have never been disappointed and our community has been the beneficiary of their love and care. I appreciate Port Royal Baptist Church greatly for placing such a high priority on the care of our community. Your commitment to minister to all people, regardless of their race and economic background, surpasses any place I have ever been a part of.

We have had a full and fulfilling year in 2013. We have been able to touch our community in many, many ways. From mentoring elementary school children to assisting families with staying in their home, we put them first. From helping a sister church minister to migrant workers in VBS to serving lunch to state park workers just to say thank you, we put them first. From assisting families provide Christmas gifts for their children to food baskets for nourishing meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we put them first. From community improvement projects to giving out free cold water in the summer, we put them first. From giving and going to meet the needs of those in the mountains of Kentucky to giving the most basic needs such as laundry detergent to our partner apartment complex. We have used these opportunities, along with others, not to make our name known, but to foster relationships and build bridges for gospel conversations. Through all of this, I have learned two lessons this year that I would like to share with you here.

Lesson #1. Be Open. You must be willing to be taken advantage of in order to reach your community. I have often shared with our people that we must give to our community with no expectation of return. Many find this troubling. There are those who believe that everyone we help during the week should be in church with us on Sunday. That would be nice. The hard truth is that most of those we serve in our community will not attend Port Royal Baptist for one reason or another. What really matter is the opportunity to minister to them where they are. If our willingness to serve is taken advantage of, so be it. In the course of this year’s ministry opportunities, has our giving been taken advantage of? I know it has. In the course of this year’s ministry opportunities, have we suffered offense through the actions and responses of those we were helping? Absolutely. In the end, I have learned that we are only responsible for why we do ministry. If we give and serve with the sole motive of being obedient to Christ and a blessing to our community, we have nothing to worry about. The possibility that we may be taken advantage of is real, but it should not stop us from serving our community.

Lesson #2: Be Intentional. You must plan and prepare. Life-changing ministry doesn’t “just happen”. I am proud to say that our missions and ministries leaders see the value of being prepared. Some ministry opportunities require very little planning while other opportunities require a great deal of planning. Nothing could be more counterproductive than to arrive at a ministry site and not have the food, the supplies, the craft, the gift, the lesson that is needed to be a blessing. Being prepared shows the community we care. Being prepared shows the community that we have thought about them in advance. As I said earlier, our ministry calendar was very full this past year and I expect it to be the same this coming year. I have learned that without planning we would be far less effective than we were. I am so thankful that our people are opposed to flying by the seat of their pants. I am a firm believer in the old adage that says “when you fail to plan you are planning to fail”.

Missional Monday : National Night Out

nno2013Last August, Port Royal Baptist Church had the privilege to participate in a community event known as National Night Out. National Night Out is an initiative to develop and promote crime-prevention programs in neighborhoods involving watch groups, law enforcement agencies, churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals working toward one simple goal: safer and stronger communities. Our church had been seeking a way to gain entry into the multi-housing community that adjoins our property. We approached the property manager with this initiative and were welcomed with open arms.

This is how it works. A church, business, or non-profit organization identifies a neighborhood to “adopt”. Local law enforcement and fire departments are brought in to share the anti-crime and safety message. Through this initiative, foundational partnerships are formed that lead to future opportunities of ministry and involvement. Port Royal Baptist will host a block party (bounce house, popcorn, sno-cones, etc.) including a cookout. The property manager will provide the space, power, and internal promotion to more than 100 family units. Port Royal Police Department, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, and Beaufort County Fire Department will provide staff and resources from their departments to communicate their anti-crime message, while showing a side of their work that most of the communities never get to see. On August 6th, 2013, we will all come together again to do our individual part in collectively making sure our community knows that we care about them.

Earlier I mentioned foundations for future involvement. From the church standpoint, we have had the privilege to minister in other ways. Because of a “non-church” event, we have been allowed to come back to host “church” events including those related to Easter and Vacation Bible School. I believe we were able to carry out the purpose of the church because we built trust and earned the right to minister. How did we do this? How can you do the same thing?

1. We took advantage of a secular event in order to lay the groundwork for ministry. Check your community calendars and involve your church in those events. I wrote about the importance of merging church and community calendars. You can read that post here.

2. We earnestly believe that our community is our responsibility, not someone else’s. Remember, missional is not about doing. It is all about being. Don’t allow someone else to be the missionary to your community.

3. We were not afraid to be told “no”. You should not be either. Pray, identify, and ask. We were told “no” in this particular multi-housing unit once before.

Missional Monday : MissionsFEST Atlanta

atlanta-skylineIn October of this year I, along with two other member of Port Royal Baptist Church (Joyce Bunton, Judy Greenlee), will take part in MissionsFEST Atlanta. This trip is the result of a partnership between South Carolina Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization, National WMU (Women’s Missionary Union), Georgia WMU, and the UACP (Urban Atlanta Church Planter’s) Network. The UACP is a cooperative effort to engage lostness through the planting of intentionally reproducing churches with the I-285 perimeter of Atlanta. Individuals and churches who participate in MissionsFEST work alongside church planters who active in reaching neighborhoods with the I-285 loop where over 100 different languages are spoken. Events and projects are designed to demonstrate the love of Christ in real and tangible ways that allow bridges to be built for future gospel conversations. Some of the week’s projects include block parties, service ministries, prayer walking, and light construction work.

We are looking at this trip as more than just an opportunity to help church planters with the enormous task of reaching their community. We are viewing this time in Atlanta as a vision trip for Port Royal Baptist Church. Every spring we sponsor a state-side mission trip for our congregation. As we seek the Lord’s guidance as to the coming year’s destination, we are praying He uses this week to open doors for future ministry. As in any trip, meeting, or conference I attend, certain hopes are always present. My hopes for this trip are as follows.

1. It is my hope that we will create partnerships for future service. As I mentioned above, we hope to be able to discern the needs of the church planters and determine if our congregation would be a fit in Atlanta.

2. It is my hope that I will be personally challenged. I believe that many of us minister within a bubble of safety. That is not always our fault, just a result of where we are. I hope to be stretched and challenged to do ministry that I never have and among people I never have.

3. It is my hope that we will learn new methods and practices for our own local ministry. Our church is very active and present in our community. I am hoping that some of what we experience in Atlanta will give us fresh ideas for reaching Port Royal.

A Pastor’s Take on Vacation Bible School 2013

ccwColossal Coaster World Vacation Bible School has pulled into the station for the final time this year. Our theme park inspired adventure is complete. The screams and shouts of kids running through down the hallways and in the sanctuary are now a distant, but treasured memory. Decorations have come down and the once vibrant and colorful rooms, hallways, sanctuary, and common areas have now been returned to their traditional look. Sadly, it looks as if Vacation Bible School never happened. Vacation Bible School makes for a very long week around the church. If you take into account the weeks leading up to the actual teaching week, many long, long hours have been logged over the past three weeks. I am a huge fan of Vacation Bible School and am sold on its ministry value. As a pastor, I fully understand how important this week is in the life of the church. Now that Vacation Bible School 2013 is over, I have a few observations that I would like to offer here.

1. Attendance: For better or worse, this is often the criteria by which Vacation Bible School is judged as a success or a failure. I am not completely sold on this marker of success. Our average attendance for the week was approximately 115. As far as the numbers go, our attendance was down slightly from last year. I was encouraged by our attendance this summer. My reason for being encouraged is not so much about how many, but who was here. It is obvious that our people were active in inviting others this week. We did something different this year with our teenagers. Instead of Youth Vacation Bible School occurring the weeks before the children’s, our youth met the same week as everyone else. This was a success and we averaged 8 teenagers nightly. This does not count the high school students who were assisting in other areas. We had the expected students who were members of other churches. That is perfectly fine. We are happy to have them for a week. We also had students who were unchurched and not affiliated with a local church. This is one of the markers by which I judge success. We averaged 53 elementary aged children this year. I was further encouraged by our Adult Vacation Bible School class. We had an average this week of 30 adults. Our adult class was not only made up of our own church members. One of goals in Adult Vacation Bible School is to give parents who are not involved in a local church a place to go instead of dropping their children off and going home. We accomplished our goal here. Parents had the opportunity to interact and meet other people in a non-threatening manner and be exposed to the gospel message. I believe this was a success.

2. Volunteers: I am thankful to all of the volunteers who worked this week. As I mentioned earlier, it was a long week. It was also very hot. I am especially thankful and grateful to all of our teachers who worked full-time jobs who left work and came straight to church for five straight days. I want to especially mention and thank those who worked in the kitchen all week. During our Vacation Bible School, we skip the Snack Rotation. Instead, we choose to provide a meal for parents, children, and workers every night. Our kitchen workers came out early, set everything up, served the kids, and stayed until all was cleaned up. Thank you. I also want to thank the summer student missionaries who are a part of the Savannah River Baptist Association Low Country Ministries who came out and helped with our big kick-off event. To all those who worked so hard, your pastor wants you to know that you are appreciated.

3. Ministry: Any time you have kids on campus you have an opportunity to be engaged in real, one-on-one, life-changing ministry. I believe with all of my heart that is what happened this week. During our Worship Rally, our students take up an offering each night. There is anticipated and spirit-filled battle between boys and girls to see who can raise the most money for our designate ministry cause. This gives us an opportunity to further educate our students on the importance of missions. I am excited to report that this year we raised $510.00 for the Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. Vacation Bible School is intentionally evangelistic. We are diligent to make sure that we communicate the gospel message all week long, not just on the night of the “evangelistic” lesson. With that being said, we did not have any public professions of faith (to my knowledge) this week. I can’t explain it in human reasoning. For many who read this, the assumption will be that we failed as a church in Vacation Bible School. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are here to share a message and plant a seed, understanding that it is God who gives the increase. We trust God’s Word knowing that it will not return unto Him void. Real ministry takes place when you take time to listen, talk to, and show love toward a child in the name of Christ. This is what we did this week. If down the road a year or two or five, in God’s timing, a gospel presentation is given and a child responds because of something that was planted in their heart this week, then we were faithful to have done our part.

4. Sharing: Once again this year we had the opportunity to share and pass on the decorations and other resources we used to another church that was in need of them. The bulk of our props, supplies, and decorations will be utilized by at least two additional churches before the summer is over. I believe this is a stewardship issue. Lifeway Vacation Bible School material is not inexpensive. It does not make sense to spend all of that money and then store everything in a closet. I am pleased that we were able to help others in this way.

Overall, we had a great week and look forward to what comes out of the efforts of this week. Again I want to thank every teacher, worker, and parent who allowed their child to be a part of our Vacation Bible School. We are eagerly looking forward to Lifeway’s VBS 2014; “Agency D3: Discover. Decide. Defend.” After all, it is only 11 months away.

Location, Location, Location

Port Royal Baptist Church is uniquely situated for ministry opportunity. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with chance. I believe the placement of our church has nothing to do with luck. Instead, I believe that we are where we are for a reason. I believe that we have been planted and given a certain responsibility for the care of this community. If you’ve never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, allow me explain a little bit about our location.

Stepping out of the front door and looking to the left, there is a major highway connecting the town of Port Royal with the city of Beaufort. Across that highway are two apartment buildings. The first is a senior adult community that we have just recently been able to involve ourselves in. The other, next door to the first, is an apartment building with a mixture of singles, families, and seniors. Our church has had a presence here for over five years and continues to be active here to this day.  Stepping out the front door and looking to the right, there is Naval Hospital Beaufort. Aboard this military base you will find housing for both singles and families. At times in the past, our members who are in the military have lived here. Stepping out the front and looking directly to the front, you will see a park that is maintained by the town of Port Royal. There are two things worth mentioning about this park. First, a skate park was built here several years ago that gives  kids who enjoy skateboarding a place to go. There are always kids there. We are expecting a door to open to be able to reach them. Second, this park hosts a farmers market that runs year round.  Every Saturday morning vendors set up in the park and sell everything from vegetables to fresh shrimp, bread to plants and flowers, barbecue to olive oil. Our church has been able to be establish a presence here during the summer months giving away free cold water to both vendors and customers. This farmers market draws a large crowd every week.

The exciting part is that all of this takes place at our doorsteps. Literally. Our parking lot serves as parking for the market every Saturday. Directly behind the church is an apartment complex in which we have been praying for an opportunity to establish a presence and a witness of the gospel. Our prayers have been answered and we have been able to host a block party here recently and meet the residents and their families.  Also, within a half-mile of the church, there are at least three other multi-housing units. Port Royal Baptist Church is just over a mile from the front gate of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island. We are praying for an opportunity to open up to that would enable us to minister to the families aboard the depot.

I said all of that to say this. It’s all about placement. Boundless opportunity surrounds us. Our mission field is right here. I believe that God has uniquely positioned us here to significantly impact our community. If you have never been to Port Royal Baptist Church, I hope this helps you understand where we are. If you have been to Port Royal Baptist Church, have you noticed what is around you? When you drive to the church building for scheduled services, do you realize that you pass through a mission field on your way in? Do you notice the potential that the Lord has laid at our feet? We have a people to reach. I am excited about the potential. I am excited about the opportunity before us. I love this town. I love this church. I love these people. May God enable us to reach them.

A Month of Ministry

I love the community I which I live. I love the community in which our church has been planted. I believe with all of my heart that the best years are before us and that we are going to make a difference in our Jerusalem. God is giving us at Port Royal Baptist Church some new and creative opportunities to minister to the people of Port Royal. For this, I am thankful. Two such opportunities come our way in the month of October: the Festival of the Sea community festival in Port Royal and our annual Fall Festival and Trunk-or-Treat.

October 16th brought the Festival of the Sea in Port Royal. The purpose of this festival was to highlight and bring attention to the businesses located in the old village section of Port Royal. There was food, music, a car show, and local business vendors lining Paris Avenue. We had the opportunity to set up a booth and introduce our church to the people who stopped by. We gave away cold water and popcorn, along with information about our church and its ministries. Face painting and balloon animals were a big hit with the children. I am proud of the 27 volunteers from PRBC who gave their time during the five hours we were there. I want to also thank Larry Leming, Missions Ministries Director from the Savannah River Baptist Association, for spending the day ministering with us. It was a great day of meeting people, building relationships with people and businesses, and sharing the gospel as allowed. Below are a few pictures from the day.

   

   

  

   

October 31st brought our annual Fall Festival and Trunk-or-Treat. Halloween brings with it the carnival-type atmosphere of fall festivals and similar events. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to provide a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. With food, games, prizes, fellowship, and conversation, we were able to bridge the gap between entertainment and outreach. It was a real privilege to spend some time with the people of Port Royal. We had approximately 150 people on campus Sunday night. I want to thank all who made this year’s fall festival a success. You are appreciated and you labor was not in vain. Below are a few pictures from the night’s activities.

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

   

Worth Repeating

“Before anything that is truly of God can be born, your own preferences have to die. Your desire to lead a contemporary / emerging / casual / formal / whatever church has to be laid on the altar and sacrificed in order to receive Christ’s call and mission to this community. That is what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples in Luke 9:23, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ Are you willing to die to your preferences so the people in your community can be reached with the gospel? Is your church willing to move out of its Christian subculture and relate to its community? Is it possible that you and your church are missing out on some of the blessings of the gospel because you have been unwilling to die to yourself and your preferences?”

Ed Stetzer, from his book Breaking the Missional Code

Survivor : Port Royal Baptist Style

Most everyone has seen the cultural phenomenon that is Survivor. This television reality show puts two teams against each other through a variety of physical challenges. The goal is to outwit, outplay, and outlast your opponents. Today, we had our own version of Survivor at Port Royal Baptist Church. Monday is back-to-school day so we hosted a Survivor Back-to-School Fun Day for our kids and guests. We divided our kids into two teams and they competed in four team challenges for points. After all the competition, everyone was rewarded with an all-you-can eat ice cream bar. Here are some pictures from today.

     

    

    

    

I would like to thank all of our parents and everyone involved in our children’s ministry for their hard work in providing our kids and guests a fun and relaxing day. Your dedication and positive attitude is much appreciated my me, your pastor. Job well done.

A Little Water Goes a Long Way

Today, Port Royal Baptist Church had the opportunity to minister to the people of Port Royal and Beaufort at the Farmer’s Market across the street from our church. This is the third time this summer that we have ministered there. Our goal in this project is simple: introduce ourselves to our community through servant ministry. We have chosen to give away free water. Through this approach, we as a church have been able to satisfy a need (thirst, who doesn’t like cold water on a hot day), while at the same time showing the love of Christ in a real and tangible way.

Opportunities have presented themselves to not only invite the community to our worship services, but also to just talk, and listen to them. I am thankful for the chances that we have had to hear their questions and their prayer concerns. It is true that a little water goes a long way. A little effort on our part has gone a long way toward building bridges of trust and friendship. As a pastor, I am extremely proud of our people and their willingness to move beyond the comfort of the church walls and meet the people where they are.

  

 

      

Days like  today excite and encourage me. Although it was a hot and tiring day, I believe God was honored by our efforts. I am excited to see the Lord work in the lives of our people. I am further encouraged that when future doors of ministry open, our people will ready to walk through them. Thank you Port Royal Baptist Church.