I took the #My500WordsChallenge

I Took the Challenge

I love a challenge. I became a man by challenge. Challenge is one of my favorite words. The word challenge means, “a call to take part in a contest or competition, especially a duel.” Ok. the idea of a duel made me laugh. Challenge is also defined as “an objection or query as to the truth of something, often with an implicit demand for proof.” When I think of a challenge I define it like this: getting the wings.

The Challenge to Climb a Rope
aa-1I joined the Army when I was 21 to get off the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. I was a suburban bum with no direction in life other than “what beach should we go to today?” Once in the Army I had a rude awakening. Military life was not beach life. So I went to basic training. Just days before I graduated, I broke my wrist. A 3 month basic training turned into 5 months. I overcame the challenge of having to retake a physical fitness test after rehab of the wrist. Fast forward 9 years. I was then at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I was a leader and needed to get the “coveted wings.” When in the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division, you have to pass the Air Assault School. It would have been unacceptable for me to lead in the 101st without getting wings. So I got into the school. On day one there is an obstacle course that has to be passed for entrance into the school. Bottom line: I could not climb a rope on an obstacle. I was smoked physically from the exercise they give you before the course. Then as big as I am I did not know that I needed to use my legs. It was bad going back to the unit that day. What did I do? I learned how to climb a 20 foot rope using my hands and legs. I overcame the challenge. I went back a week later and got in. Graduated 10 days later. I took the challenge. I got the wings.air-assault

#My500Words Challenge
I’m taking the #My500Words challenge from Jeff Goins. Here’s why?

  • I like to write but have never mastered the discipline.
  • I have two or three eBooks started but have not finished them. I want to finish a few books.
  • I speak often and know that preparing a manuscript is the best way to internalize and clarity content.

I have a doctoral degree from Gordon-Conwell. I did write a dissertation project on sermon-based small groups. I finished because Jeana told me “God is going to do something when you finish the writing.” I hope that God will do something in me again. He did move when I finished and graduated. May He do it again after I write 500 words a day for 31 days. I already write. I just need to let the challenge define my discipline to write. Do you need a challenge? Whatever that challenge is, take it. Get to the gym. Make the budget. Balance your eating. Read that book. Write that book. Take the #My500Words challenge.

How to Give an Effective Altar Call on Resurrection Sunday

Easter is the big day. It’s an opportunity to share the gospel and see results. How will you reap the harvest? Have you thought about what you will do?

I want to make a suggestion I’ve used for the past few years. It works.

Scrap your traditional altar call. Ok, now that I have your attention and you have fainted, let me explain. I’m not saying you should totally do away with it. Although I have learned that to ask people to come forward on Easter Sunday (And Christmas) with such a large crowd is not the best way to get people to Christ. Here are some facts I have learned from experience.

The crowd is too big. Most will not move from a seat to an aisle to come forward. Some will. Evan many. Most will not. With a traditional altar call, you will need to have an adequate number of decision counselors on Easter to correspond to the harvest you expect. If you have three counselors, you will be saying, “I expect three decisions.”
Our culture does not ask anyone to come forward in public for anything. People who have not been in church in a while see it as embarrassing. I have known church insiders who are scared of the aisle. Try a 21st century altar call. Here is how you do it.

Use a card. Give EVERYONE card and a pen. Use it as a welcome card and a decision card for everyone.
Welcome. The welcome is an important time of the service, especially on Easter. When you welcome people on Easter, ask them to give you a prayer request. Provide a prayer request space. Provide a time right then in the welcome moment to write. Have a musician provide “writing music.” Amazing grace is a great song there in that moment. Everyone knows it. EVERYONE fills out the card, not just guests. Have them hold onto the card.

OR, just use the card at the end of the service if the prayer request angle does not fit.

End of service. When you get to the end of the sermon, do this. Share the gospel clearly. Preach, but also be the “decision counselor.” Do not put yourself in a position where you do not have enough decision counselors on a big day. You will hate yourself after the service.

Ask. Ask the people to make a commitment by turning from sin and by faith receiving Jesus Christ as savior and Lord.
Build an altar. Give a strong gospel presentation. No milking it down. Yet then give the people a prayer that solidifies the commitment. Give them time to pray on their own in their own words in the silence of their seats. Yet give them a simple prayer start. I got this prayer of commitment from Evangelist Michael Gott:

“Lord, come into my heart today. Come into my heart to stay.”

Let me be clear. A prayer does not save. Repentance and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ saves. But building an altar is a good thing. Gott shares the gospel very clearly and strongly before the prayer. He makes sure “a choice is made or not made.” Clarity is important. You could change the prayer commitment to this:

Lord Jesus Christ, come into my life today, come into my life to stay. I repent of my sins and believe you died in my place and rose from the dead to give me new life. I receive you right now as my savior and Lord.”

Card. After the gospel is shared and after a time of commitment, then keep the moment spiritual by asking them to mark their decisions on a card. Many people will do this. You will see more decisions on Easter if you do this. You are not getting cheap decisions. You are giving more people a way to make the life changing decision of receiving Christ as Savior. You are the one man decision counselor. Each person is given the decision card. It is a legit method. I remember the late Dr. Roy Fish, my evangelism professor, telling us of this model. Many churches have used them for years and have been effective. Rick Warren has mastered this.

Hybrid. You could have people “fill out the card” yet then give a challenge to bring the card to the cross. I’m not planning on doing this, but you can. I’m not doing it because it will be “too many people” to have an altar call. We have 400 to five hundred more people on Easter. I prefer the follow up after the service.

Follow up. The key to this model is using the card is follow up. The more you can follow up, the better your results will be in baptisms, increased attendance, and spiritual growth. Get a team ready to make visits. Have an email ready to go out on Monday or even Easter Sunday. The follow up is the hardest part. Well there could be one other thing harder.

Prayer. You need to get a prayer team praying for Easter decisions. You need to mobilize your church for praying. You need to get them asking (Acts 1:4) for the power (Acts 1:8) that brings spiritual results. The card should have options on the back. Receiving Jesus. Baptism request. Membership. Renewing (rededicating). More questions. Include on the card what you want from people spiritually. Then have them leave the card on their seats or have them give the cards to ushers at the door.

There is much more you can do for follow up. You can give a Bible or book. You can also state to the people that you will follow up on their prayer requests and spiritual decisions. Then within 2-3 days, follow up.

What do you think? Be honest. How will you give the invitation for people to know Jesus Christ?