February 21, 2024

Mobilizing Your Church to Reach New People – Episode 336 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

mobilizing your church to reach new people episode 336

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Reaching & Connecting New People (Part 3)

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Our job as church leaders is not to do everything ourselves, but to empower and mobilize our church community to make the mission their own and to do the work of ministry.

That’s why, this week, we’re going to talk about how leaders can encourage and mobilize their congregations to reach and connect others.

In this episode, you’re going to hear a conversation I had with Jon and Dave Ferguson, who have created an outreach and evangelism strategy called the B.L.E.S.S. model, which is designed to do exactly that.


We’ve had Dave on our podcast before to discuss B.L.E.S.S., but I truly do think it’s an effective way to get your church involved and on mission. It’s really about building intentionality around the things you’re already doing everyday—praying, eating, meeting new people—and making it a way of life.

Listen in as we discuss what the B.L.E.S.S. model is, what makes it distinctive, and how Jon and Dave have successfully implemented this model at Community Christian Church.

  • How the B.L.E.S.S model was created
  • What makes B.L.E.S.S unique
  • How to implement B.L.E.S.S in your church

Reaching & Connecting New People in 2024

At this free webinar, the Unstuck team & special guests will walk through proven strategies and best practices for creating intentional weekend services that reach and connect with new people.

"B.L.E.S.S. is really not even a method or a model as much as it is a way of life. And it truly is how Jesus lived day in and day out." [episode 336] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "B.L.E.S.S. is about building intentionality around the things you’re already doing everyday—praying, eating, meeting new people—and making it a way of life. And it starts with you as the leader." [episode 336] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "Prayer is not the least we can do or the last thing we should do. It's the first and most important thing we can do. And prayer is an actual missional practice." [episode 336] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet We talk a lot about creating an invite culture… but we can’t expect our church body to be inviting their friends and family if we as leaders and staff aren’t doing that. [episode 336] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Certainly, every pastor would like their church to be more invested and more on mission together, but engaging busy people in the work of the Great Commission is a challenge that many pastors find tough. So the question is, how do we help people live on mission within their typical rhythms of life? On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on reaching and connecting with new people with a conversation with pastors Jon and Dave Ferguson on how you can help the people of your church be a blessing to their friends and neighbors. Before we go there, though, if you’re new to the podcast, go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.

Tony (00:58):

Giving presents challenges for growing churches. Cumbersome donation forms and dated administrative features of most giving systems leave you lacking the tools you need. But SecureGive’s 7-in-1 system makes donating easy and secure and provides in-depth analytics and management tools for your team. It also integrates with your church management system. It’s a system that scales to fit the needs of growing churches. For our Unstuck listeners, SecureGive is offering six months of free software to get your church started. You can visit securegive.com/unstuck to learn more.

Amy (01:40):

Well, welcome back to all of our listeners. We are now in week three of our series on reaching new people and connecting them to your church. And in today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about how leaders can encourage and mobilize their congregations to reach and connect others. But, Tony, before we do that, I don’t know. Where have you been these days? How, how has life been for you? I think you had a marriage again in your family.

Tony (02:02):

Yeah, we’re having weddings all the time around here now at the Morgan household. But, on top of that, life has been just fun because I’ve been to Austin working with a couple great churches there. I’ve been to Asheville working with a couple great churches there, and I feel like I’m on the Keeping Things Weird tour. So if you’re in Portland and you lead a church, just let me know because two great communities: Asheville and Austin. But they’re both a little bit weird, so it’s been fun.

Amy (02:36):

They’re a little different. Yeah, I was just down in South Carolina and came back to my first Minnesota snowfall, really, of the year. So, now I feel like life is evened out and we’re all back to normal now that there’s just white surrounding my house. Well, anyways, like I said, today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about how leaders can encourage and mobilize their congregations to reach and connect with others. Because after all, that’s really what our job as leaders is, right? It’s not to do everything ourselves, which can be hard for some of us because that’s why we got into ministry. We love to do stuff, but at the end of the day, our job really is to empower and mobilize our church so that they make the mission their own and that they are doing the work of the ministry.

Tony (03:21):

That’s exactly right, Amy. And today, we’re going to hear a conversation with Jon and Dave Ferguson. These, Jon and Dave are brothers, by the way, but they also pastor a great church in the Chicagoland area. And they’ve created an outreach and an evangelism strategy called The Bless Model, which is designed to do exactly that. We’ll discuss in this conversation what The Bless Model is and what makes it distinctive, and how Jon and Dave have successfully implemented this model at Community Christian Church. So with that, here’s my conversation with Jon and Dave.

Tony (04:02):

Dave, let’s dive right in. Let me have you start by unpacking what Bless is for those who might not be familiar with the model.

Dave (04:09):

Yeah, I’ll, maybe before I do it. I, I think part of it for us, and, you know, writing this book and the book really came out of us actually implementing this at our church, was, I think there’s just a lot of confusion. And I’d say even increasing confusion about how to love your neighbor and how to share the love of God with other people. I don’t know if you saw this, Tony. You, you probably have ’cause you’re on top of all this stuff, but we’ll share it again. But Barna came back with some research, and they said that nearly half of practicing millennial Christians say it’s wrong to evangelize. And specifically, it was 47%, so almost half. But what’s kind wacky about this, okay, is that at the same time they said that two outta three practicing Christians believe being a witness about Jesus is part of their faith. So it’s kind, hold it. So it’s wrong to evangelize, but it is a part of my faith. And I, and I I think people are, I mean, if it sounds confusing, I think it’s ’cause people are genuinely confused about, yeah, how do I love my neighbor and how do I share the, the love of God? And I mean, you got it. I mean, in the Bible too, I mean, you know, love your neighbor, love your neighbor. I think it’s like eight times, you got love your neighbor. And I mean, Jon and I can go back and forth and tell you a lot of different ways that we tried, especially in the early days of our ministry that didn’t work. But one of the things that we discovered along the way is it felt like the way that Jesus actually loved his neighbors was by being a blessing.

Tony (05:42):


Dave (05:43):

And well, that’s when it was really out of the Gospels and seeing what Jesus was doing, we kind of compiled these different consistent practices he had. And then, we tried to put it in a, a way that was memorable. And, and it comes across as bless. And these are the five practices: B, begin with prayer; L, listen; E, eat; S is serve; and S is story. So, begin with prayer, listen, eat, serve and share your story. And, and we will, I think, elaborate more on those later on. And I’ll throw one more thing out there. One, one of the things I think that really put us over the top, you know, ’cause you got it in the Bible. You got that Jesus was doing it. But we ran across this study called Blessers versus Converters. And this was buried in a doctoral thesis that we found. A, two teams of missionaries went to Thailand, and actually, one team went just as what they were kind of known as converters. They were gonna win souls. Okay? And the others were blessers, saying, “Hey, we’re just going to be a blessing, whoever God sends us.” And they followed these two teams of missionaries for two years. And what they found out is, they found out with the converters they actually had only two people became Christ followers over those two years. And it had zero kind of impact as far as socially or community building, making the place a better place where they lived. But what they discovered with the blessers they researched that is they actually saw a hundred converts, a hundred people said yes to following Jesus, but it actually created significant kind of social capital along the way as well. And so, the, the irony was that the blessers were actually the better converters. So, one of the things that we kinda came to the conclusion is like, maybe we need to stick closer to Jesus’ model of how do we actually, you know, bless people. And, and that’s what we’re talking about.

Tony (07:42):

Yeah. Alright. So, Jon, Dave kind of started down this path, but as you think about where you were a number of years ago, by the way, how many years ago when you rolled this out to your church?

Jon (07:53):

I think initially probably as many as what, 12 to 15 years ago when we first started, Dave, would you say?

Dave (08:00):

Yeah, I think about 12 years ago. Yeah.

Tony (08:02):

Yeah. So, what would you add to what Dave shared about what really prompted you to develop and share this model with your church?

Jon (08:10):

Yeah. Good question, Tony. I mean, I, I, I think really what prompted us was, kind of our own frustration, you know, that we experienced, and then also the frustrations that we saw in the lives of the folks who would consider Community their church home. You know, Dave and I were fortunate enough to grow up in a Christ-following home. Pretty much our entire lives, we, we knew, you know, what it means to experience and the hope and purpose that can only be found in a relationship with Christ. And naturally, when you experience that, I mean, you want to share it with people. And, I think the sad part is that most of the ways we were taught to share it often kind of felt, I don’t know, like forced or, you know, maybe we were trying to get somebody to do something that they didn’t seem like they really wanted to do. And I, I think most Christians probably have had that same experience. And so, we felt it personally, but then, we also saw it in the lives of the folks who were a part of our church and other churches, too. And, and, and through New Thing, our our network of, of churches across the globe, you know, people knew the mission. I mean, our mission at Community is, you know, helping people find their way back to God. And I think if you talked to the majority of people at Community, they would be able to state that mission. And, and I think that it actually kinda does something inside of them. They’re passionate about it. They can repeat it. They could tell you about it. But the truth is many of them still felt a frustration about how to actually live it out. And so, you know, it really was our own frustration, I think, along with what we saw in the lives of the people that we lead that led us on this journey of discovery, which ultimately led us to, like what Dave said. It’s the life and ministry of Jesus, where we discovered these five everyday ways that he loved people and, and ultimately changed the world. So, it really was. It was our own personal frustration with our own attempts at evangelism and reaching people and then also what we saw in the lives of folks that we were trying to lead and who were, were really compelled by the mission but just didn’t know what, what does that really look like practically. How do I do this without, you know, turning people away? Which is the last thing anybody wants to do.

Tony (10:10):

Right? Yeah. And I think it’s the practical nature of it, which we’ll get into more in our conversation that really distinguishes the, this encouragement around Bless. Dave for years, along those lines, I think many churches have, embrace that invest and invite model when it comes to engaging people outside the walls of the church. And I’m curious to hear from you. How is Bless similar to invest and invite, but, and then how might it be distinctive from that approach?

Dave (10:41):

Yeah, I think it’s an important question. I, I’m not against invest, invite. But I think when it becomes your only or your primary method of trying to reach people and how to try to, you know, love your neighbor, it’s gonna fall way short. And, and part of it is, ’cause I mean, the invest, invite approach is, is is very, kind of pastor-centric. I mean, most of the ownership for evangelism is on that one person, that person delivering that message and hoping it connects with that person. And, and in some ways, you might even say it’s presentation specific ’cause you’re counting this one moving event. But I think maybe even more important critique of kind of solely, again, I just wanna stress that, solely leaning on just invest, invite is that you’re kind of assuming that people are at a certain point as far as being pre-evangelized. Do, do you remember the, gosh, there was a guy at a Wheaton, called had the, the Engel Scale.

Tony (11:38):

That’s right.

Dave (11:39):

Do you remember that, Tony?

Tony (11:39):


Dave (11:40):

So the Engel Scale, basically, and, and correct me if I’m wrong ’cause I’m kind of trying to remember it all here. Basically, there were a lot of steps that they said led up to the point where you became a Christ follower, and they actually had a, had numbers, like, you could be one step away or two steps, or five steps or eight steps. And then, there were steps on the other side. I think the invest, invite assumes you are right there just ready to take that step and say yes to Jesus. The thing I love about the Bless practices is number one, where the ownership is really on you just to be a friend. I mean, Jon and I kind of joke sometimes we’re training people in this. It’s like when you teach people the Bless practice, it’s like a remedial course and how to be a friend.

Tony (12:23):

It really is. But you know, Dave, I think our culture, we need that in in today’s world. Because it’s the craziest thing, especially with social media, we’re probably connected to more people than ever before, and yet we probably, if we’re honest, have fewer friends than we’ve ever had. It’s the craziest thing. And so I, I think it’s, it’s good to think about Bless in those terms because it’s almost as if we, our culture, we need this.

Dave (12:55):

And, and if you, and if you think about it, I mean, what was Jesus? His earned nickname was friend of sinner. And so maybe, you know, maybe he got it right. So, I think I like that part is like, “Hey, let’s just learn how to be a, a genuinely good friend like Jesus was.” I like that. It’s also process oriented that kind of takes people where they are, and it allows them one step at a time, like we were talking about that Engel Scale, to get to the place where they’re going like, “You know what? I think Jesus was who he said he was.” And, and the other thing, and maybe we’ll get a chance to touch on this too, some of the programs that maybe were popular in the past are things you had to add to your life. You know, you gotta show up on a Tuesday night. You have to do this thing. Where with the Bless practices, these are things you’re already are probably doing. And it’s how do you actually integrate these and be intentional about those in your life? So, that’s some of the stuff. So, I’m not really against, you know, kind of the invest, invite. I just think when it becomes the only thing you’re counting on, that’s a silver bullet there and hmm.

Tony (13:58):

Yeah. So I mean, yeah, still wanna be prepared on Sunday to make sure we’re welcoming people that may be there for the first time and, and giving them an opportunity to hear the good news in our, in our messages on Sunday morning but complementing that. Yeah, absolutely. Jon, similarly I think, you, I think, you would say Bless is, is different. In fact, Dave actually acknowledged this upfront, compared to traditional evangelism strategies and programs that we’ve seen churches engage in the past. Would you agree with that? And how would it differ from some of those traditional evangelism strategies?

Jon (14:39):

Yeah, I mean, I think Dave touched on it really well in that this, this really is about how to be a good friend. And I think when you combine what, what you all mentioned, the fact that we’re, you know, we’re more friendless than we’ve probably ever been as a culture. And then, when you look at the reputation that that Christians have among non-Christians, I mean, we have a long ways to go. We we’ve got to be better friends. I, I, and I think what, what Dave said, too, is that Bless really, I don’t, it’s really not even a method or a model as much as it is a way of life. And it, and it truly is how Jesus lived day in and day out. He just went about blessing the people in places he came across every single day. I mean, if you look at, you know, the B in bless, it’s, it’s begin with prayer. You know, when Jesus started his earthly mission, what did he do? He first went out into a mountainside, and he prayed. And I think over and over again, we see Jesus first retreating to pray. You know, you, you could say that prayer preceded and permeated his mission, you know, throughout his time on earth. If you look at the L in listen, you know, which is listen and bless, you know. No question that asking questions and then listening to people was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. You know, you you think of the story of, of Bartimaeus, the man who was blind crying out to Jesus for help. And you know, instead of coming to him immediately and asking or healing him, what did Jesus do? He asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Well, why do you think he asked him that question? Well, I think it was ’cause he wanted to offer him the dignity of stating exactly what he wanted and then to have the chance to confess his faith in Christ right then and there. And so over and over again, you see Jesus just living these things out. Eating, I mean, good night. So much of Jesus’ ministry was centered around eating meals together. He, he performed his first miracle at a wedding feast. You know, one, one of his most well-known miracles was feeding the 5,000, right? The night before his crucifixion, he brings his friends together for a meal. So, every one of these, and then, you go to serve. Well, you know, Jesus couldn’t have been more clear when he said the son of man did not come to be served, but what? To serve. And he, and he showed that over and over again. So, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re talking about something that really is an expression of how Christ lived and which is what we as Jesus followers are intended to do anyway. And it’s just an attractive way of living that I think has a way of drawing people closer and closer to Jesus as you, as you live this out.

Tony (17:00):

Dave, just to help, for folks that are listening, I think pastors and church leaders are gonna be intrigued by this. If you could share how you’ve seen Bless change people’s lives in your church, and then, even more broadly, how it has impacted the health and growth of your ministry.

Dave (17:20):

Sure. I mean, one, one of the things that Jon and I are both, you know, big believers in is you reproduce who you are. And, I’ll, where’s my, yeah, my, I got my journal, anyway. My journal, I don’t have near near me here, but like, even this morning, I’ll write the word bless, and I write like there’s five different couples that are in my neighborhood that, that I’m praying for every day. And one of the stories I love to tell, because this is, this is one of those times where, for me, it was gonna kind of, it kind of. And again, I know this is gonna sound bad to your listeners because I, I think I started with, “Jesus did it, but I needed a doctoral thesis to prove it to me.” You know what I’m saying?

Jon (18:06):

Tony, you might not know this, Tony, but Dave reads doctoral thesis just all the time. He’s got a stack of ’em on his nightstand. He’s, he’s remarkable about that.

Dave (18:16):

Well, the only thing I was gonna confess to is, I mean, you know, Jon just went through and talked about how Jesus did all these Bless practices, but there was a part of me that was kinda like, “You know what, maybe it’s a good way to love people, but am I really gonna see anybody become a Christian?” I’m just keeping it real. And for me, I think what put me over the top was my friend Michael. I had a, I had a friend Michael, who, I mean, I was praying for him every day. And he was a guy that I knew through my son’s cross country and track team. And so, I started doing the Bless practice. So, I’m praying for him every day. And you have to know a little bit about Michael. He’s, he’s a kinda a hard-nosed skeptic. And I remember the first time we even started talking about anything to do with church, and, and he, I won’t use the language he used. But basically, he’s like, you know what? I don’t want anything to do, have anything to do with that B.S. And but he kinda liked me, and I liked him. And so, I’m praying for him. And every time we’d go to a cross country or track meet, we’d always hang out there cheering for our boys. And we would talk. He would talk, and, you know, and I would listen to him. And at some point, actually, he initiated,” initiated with me. He said, Hey, you know what? I got some questions I’d love to bounce off you.” He said, “What have, what have we got together for breakfast sometime?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And so we started eating breakfast together. And then, sometimes, he also, he had a knack for finding new restaurants, and he always liked to introduce these new restaurants to me. So, then, we’d, we’d go out to these new restaurants, you know, do that kind of thing. And so, now I’m praying for him. I’m listening to him. We’re, we’re doing meals together. And again, kinda like we joked before, I’m, I’m just. We’re becoming like friends. And I remember we were at a breakfast place Experience Cafe in the corner booth. And he’s told me, he said, “You know what Dave? It was 20 years ago today.” And I was like, “What?” And he started. He’d already hinted at some of the stuff, and he began to unpack that it was 20 years ago. And that was actually anniversary day where he’d been in a car accident with his best friend Jay. And his best friend Jay died in that car, and Michael survived. And actually, Michael was found negligent. And he said, “I have to tell you. For, for 20 years, I felt the burden of trying to live two lives, one for me and one for my friend Jay.” And basically, he was, he was at, he was going like, “Where do I find forgiveness for that?” And it, that, and I got to, and he knew I was a Christian by that point, of course. And, and, and I got to share, yeah, here’s how I’ve found forgiveness. And not only forgiveness, but then also like redemption. Like he can take the, the crappiest stuff in your life and actually end up using it for great good. And I got to see him say yes to Jesus. So, I’m sharing the story then, right? And I got a, and I got a chance to baptize him. And whenever I get a chance to tell that story, to me, you know, as pastors, if you’re in a pretty dynamic church, you’ll see people come to faith. And you see, you get a chance to baptize people, but they’re not always your friend. You know what I’m saying?

Tony (21:28):


Dave (21:30):

But in that case, that was like, it was like my friend, and it was just, it was just really cool to be able to, you know, get to, you know, I think be a good friend to him. And ’cause I think a lot of people, and here, here, maybe I’ll broaden it now. ’cause I think, I think our people in our churches are going like, “Okay, how? Give me the how, how do I love my neighbor?” ‘Cause I don’t, I think most people that are coming to our churches, they want to. They just don’t know how. And I, and that’s one of the things I’ve appreciated for me personally and I’ve seen in the life of our church, it, it gives us real clear handles on here’s how you can do this in a way that fits who you are. So, that’s kind of how it’s impacted me and, and our church.

Tony (22:14):

Yeah. So, Jon, on that note, let’s get practical here, and maybe if you can, kind of go back in time a little bit. When you first began to introduce Bless to Community Christian Church, how did you encourage folks in your, in your ministry, your in your church to begin to engage this and to begin to bless others practically? What did that look like?

Jon (22:36):

Yeah. Good, good question, Tony. And, you know, I mean, we, we really do encourage people to wake up every day and begin with prayer. You know, just start right there, and ask God maybe even before your feet hit the floor when you’re getting out of bed, “God, who do you want me to bless today?” And I love how Dave, you know, talked about that journal that he’s keeping where he is, got that list of people, you know, I’ve got it on my smartphone, too. Same thing: I’m praying for certain people, but then, I’m also saying, “God, you know what, there might be serendipitous opportunities throughout the course of the day, too, that I’m not even aware of yet, where you are gonna gimme a chance to bless somebody. And so, it’s really twofold. It’s like what you’re planning to with a certain list of people, but then, there’s also those opportunities that the Holy Spirit, you know, gives me throughout the course of the day when I’m really on top of things. Those are, those sometimes are even the most fun. And so I, I think it starts there with just encourage people to make this a part of their, their life. You know, we also encourage people, if you look actually in our book B.L.E.S.S. And at the end of chapter three, there’s a graphic that asks you to fill out a who is my neighbor map. And then, there you can list as many as eight people that you’d like to bless. And then, and it can be people that, you know, live nearby. It can be people you work out with. It could be people that you work with. But, I think the point is to get super intentional. And like Dave said, that along with like the journal and then in small groups, we’re encouraging people when they show up, we ask our leaders to make that an intentional part of the conversation. So, you’re asking the people in your group, “Okay, who did you bless this week?” And guess what, if you say, “Well, you know, I began with prayer, and I’m praying for Joe, Susan and Sam.” That counts. You know, I mean, I, and that’s one of the things I love about the Bless. I think it elevates prayer, and says, “No, prayer’s not the least we can do or the last thing we should do; it’s the first and most important thing we can do.” And that’s an actual missional practice. That’s a way that you’re friend, befriending people and hopefully helping them find their way back to God. So, in small groups, in addition to that, you know, we do message series, you know, every year, multiple message series on Bless. It’s also sprinkled out throughout other messages on the weekends. And then, we have classes where we’re training on an equipping field that wanna take a deeper dive. I, I will say this, though, and I think one of the mistakes a lot of churches can make is they’ll wanna dive into a message series first as a way to implement Bless. And I think David would agree with me. We always say, “No, no, back off. You first, you know, you first take it. You make your list. Read the book, you know, and start living it out yourself.” So, you’ve got, I mean, what Dave shared, that’s, that’s priceless, right? For him to be able to get up and actually say, no, I’m not just asking you to do this. This is a part of my daily life already. Then, circle up with your leadership, team and you start living that out, as well. Do that before you train your staff and before you do the message series. So, you can genuinely create like a, a culture of Bless throughout your entire, your entire church.

Tony (25:32):

Dave, as we’ve talked about earlier, I mean, this is something that Community Christian Church has been engaging for now more than a decade. How do you keep this fresh, especially for folks who have been around your church for many years?

Dave (25:47):

Yeah, well, I mean, Tony, first of all, to be, to be intentionally redundant. I mean, I’ve said it. Jon said it. But I’m gonna say it again. As a church leader, you have to do it. And I go, that may not, you may like, “Okay, how does that keep it fresh?” Well, it keeps it fresh because you are a culture creator, and when you do it, you’re, you’re gonna, the, the, the behaviors that, that you bought into and the practice that you bought into are gonna get, are gonna get reproduced in the life of your church. So, if you want to keep it fresh, you keep doing it. And then, you’ll keep talking about it, and you’ll keep having stories. In addition to that, one of the things, I mean, Jon touched on this, too. I mean, we do. We have a series we’ll do on it almost every year. We drip it into different teachings throughout the year. We have training that we do. We, we also, on Sundays, we do something a video every week called Be the Church. And it’s usually kind of an update on some exciting thing that’s happening in the life of Community Christian Church. And about once a month, we try to introduce also a Bless story so they get to hear a story from someone on that.

Tony (26:51):

That’s awesome.

Dave (26:52):

But I think one of the things that Jon and I are probably most excited about, it’s gonna be new, is we’re, we’re partnering with the Bless Every Home app. And I dunno if you’ve seen that or not, but.

Tony (27:02):

I’ve heard about that. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Dave (27:05):

Yeah, it is a great tool, and it’s been around for a little while. But we’re just really kind of starting, surprising it hasn’t happened before now, a partnership with them. And they’re, we’re gonna completely redo it. But if you log into this app, and I would, for people listening, it’ll be, at least the next version will be available sometime in March. It actually has, it’s, it’s got a, a really robust database behind it, so it actually will tell you the names of your neighbors. And so, then outta that, you can make a daily prayer list, and you can pray for ’em. And then, it’ll actually, in time, what we’re working through is, so you’ll actually, it has some kinda almost like gamification to it. So that you’re going, hey, yeah, I prayed for that person. I listened to that person. I ate with that person. I served that person. I shared my story. And so, you can really keep track of. And for church leaders, the thing that’s gonna be really cool is you’ll actually be able to, you know, like say, Tony, you got a church of a hundred folks. You get a look, and go like, hey, look, 75 of my folks are using the Bless app, and 50 of them prayed for people this week. And 25 of ’em listened, and 10 of ’em had meals with people. And you could bring that every Sunday and really celebrate, hey and catch ’em doing it right. Here’s what we’re doing. And I think, I think that’s one of the ways it’s gonna keep it really fresh. And Jon and I, I are both very pumped about that.

Jon (28:20):

I could just chime in real quick.

Tony (28:21):

Go ahead.

Jon (28:22):

I was gonna say, Tony, one of the things that’s cool about that, too, is I feel like so often the only way we’ve been able to measure our evangelistic efforts is when someone commits their life to Christ and in a lot of churches through adult baptism. And let’s face it, I mean, like, you know, scripture talks about what Paul plants the seed Apollos water. We don’t, we don’t know how our efforts are gonna reap fruit down the road. Now, we get to actually, I think in a, in a really cool, sort of helpful way, an encouraging way, give people the opportunity to kind of measure the fact that, yeah, they’re actually making efforts evangelistically in a number of different ways that will eventually contribute to somebody you know, placing their trust in Jesus and committing their lives to Christ. And they can measure that. And I, I’m just hoping that that’s gonna be an encouragement to a lot of folks out there, too.

Tony (29:08):

That’s good. So, Jon, just tell me with Bless is that your only strategy at Community Christian Church for reaching new people? And if not, what are some other strategies that you’re engaging to reach new people who are currently outside the church and maybe even outside the faith?

Jon (29:24):

Yeah, I mean, you know, Bless again is the primary way we’re training and equipping individuals to, to live out their faith. But, you know, everything, hopefully, we do at community revolves around this idea of helping people find their way back to God. And, you know, like many churches, we’re seeing more and more people online, you know, at communityonline.tv. We’re seeing, you know, thousands of people engage with us digitally through that platform. We’re seeing God do some really incredible work, Tony, right now through our micro churches. Dave probably has the latest number, but I think we have close to 3,000 people locally and globally that are now engaging with us through these smaller churches that are led by people who wanna reach people who we normally wouldn’t be able to reach. You know, we also know that, you know, God reaches people as the church goes about the work of restorative justice. And so, our community cares ministry and our church multiplication work through New Thing in the city and in other places, local and globally is also reaching people who don’t know Jesus. And so, yeah, there’s, there’s probably a lot of different ways, but in terms of like.

Dave (30:32):

You know what though? We, we gotta, we, you gotta, we gotta give a plug for Alpha, though. Alpha’s been a huge help to us, as well. And, and if it’s interesting if, I dunno, how, how much have you ever, have you ever done Alph,a Tony?

Tony (30:45):

I have not personally, but a lot of the churches that we’re working with are engaging with Alpha. Yes.

Dave (30:51):

I, I mean, again, I got nothing. I got no stake in this game. But I think the two best evangelistic tools in a, in a, in a post-Christian era that we’re living in right now is, is I would say the Bless practice and Alpha. And if you look at Alpha, too, I mean, it’s, it, it is, it’s very much, it’s kind of like a concentrated version of the Bless practices. ‘Cause I mean, there is, you’re praying for people before you invite them. You show up, and they, and they, they create a community where there’s no wrong, there’s any questions could be answered any, I’m sorry. Any question could be asked. You’re, you’re there really just to listen to people’s questions, their doubts. The ones that do it right, they also have a meal. So, they’re eating together. So, they’re developing real community, and you get a chance then to serve them by responding to their questions, and, and they always share the gospel story. I mean, it’s, I, I, I think those two things, if you do wanna centralize a program around it, I think Alpha’s great, and it works hand in glove with your people using the Bless practices.

Jon (31:49):

Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up.

Tony (31:51):

That’s good.

Jon (31:51):

I’m actually in an Alpha, Alpha group right now. Yeah. I’m a huge, huge fan of Alpha. It’s, it’s such, such good stuff.

Tony (31:59):

Well, I think it’s just, it’s just good for pastors to hear, too, that there are many strategies that we can be using to share the good news beyond the walls of the church. And it’s good to be thinking about maybe multiple ways to connect with people, rather than just a, a strategy. But it’s also good reminder, we have to have this framework, this focus around how we’re encouraging people, though, to engage with people outside the walls of the church, as well. And that’s where Bless can come in. We alluded to this a little bit earlier, Dave, but I also know you have some great Sunday services at Community Christian Church. So what, what role do you think the church’s weekend services should have in reaching new people?

Dave (32:45):

We, we touched on a little bit. I do think, I mean, what you’re really wanting to create is the evangelistic culture, where everybody, that becomes the norm. And I think you can do that through your weekend services. And I think through, you know, through the teaching of those biblical values, through telling those kind of stories, through actually also sharing how you are living out those behaviors yourself creates that kind of, that kind of culture. You can do equipping through your teaching. One of the things that we also do, we just had, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, we had a commissioning service. And this is an annual deal for us, where we ask people, “Hey, if you’re willing to make a commitment and you’re gonna be on mission and use these Bless practices, you know, where you live, work and play, we want you to come forward. We want you to know we are for you. We wanna pray for you.” So, we anoint ’em; it’s like almost like your ordination, and, and we send them out. And I would, I’d throw this in, too. I mean, ’cause we were talking about the, you know, the, the, in the in invest and invite, I think there are times where you go like, no, we need to ask people, “Okay, are you ready to make a commitment to Jesus?” And I think, and sometimes, that best happens in a, in a, in a, in a weekend service. And I think, go for it.

Tony (34:01):

Yeah. And that’s, I think the point I wanted to get to: This is not an either or conversation. This really is a both and conversation. Alright, Jon, let me wrap up here. I know there are gonna be pastors that are interested in using Bless with their congregations. So, what are some specific steps you would encourage them to take as they begin to explore how to really roll this out so that folks are blessing their neighbors, blessing folks in their lives?

Jon (34:27):

Yeah. Sure, Tony. Yeah, I mean, you know, shameless plug, I, I would encourage people to buy the book: B.L.E.S.S.: Five Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World. I think it, I think it is a good place to start. And I would go to that chapter three, and fill out that map. Make your own list of the people you believe God wants you to bless. And then, get your leadership team, you know, to do it along with you. Start asking each other, who did you bless this week? You know, I, I think that’s, that’s a, it’s a great way to start. For more information on that, folks can go to bless-book.org. We also have a, a Bless family resource, which is, you know, great for helping families, children and parents together become blessers in their neighborhood. We’ve got a great series of videos that can be used in small groups. And, you know, finally, Dave mentioned the app. I think the app’s another great tool. Really, I mean, if anybody wants to know any more about any of this, they’re, they’re more than welcome to email Dave or myself, Jon Ferguson, jonferguson@community christian.org, daveferguson@communitychristian.org, and we’ll put you in touch with the right people to get whatever help you need to, to start blessing people as soon as you can.

Amy (35:42):

Well, Tony, what a great conversation. It’s so clear and evident how passionate Jon and Dave are about mobilizing their church to reach their community and reach their friends. What, what stood, there’s so much good stuff in there, Tony. But what stood out to you from that conversation?

Tony (35:58):

Well, we’ve had Jon and Dave on before to discuss Bless, but I truly do think it’s an effective way to get your church involved and on a mission. And as Dave said, a lot of evangelism programs are about adding things or events to your life. Bless, though, is it’s really about being intentional around the things that you’re already doing every day: praying, eating, meeting new people and just making this a, a way of life.

Amy (36:25):

Yeah, absolutely. And here I wrote this quote down: “It’s not a method or model as much as it is a way of life, and it’s how Jesus lived day in and day out.” So, anyway, I love that. What else stood out, Tony?

Tony (36:39):

Well, I think a big question for pastors is how do I roll this out—something like the Bless strategy to the church. And their answer was so compelling because, as a reminder, it starts with you. You and your leadership team need to be practicing this in your own lives first. From there, Dave and Jon explained to how they’ve gone all in on Bless by incorporating it into weekend messages, a teaching series every year, monthly testimonial videos. They do training around this, and they even have a commissioning service so that people can really step into this mission in their daily lives.

Amy (37:15):


Tony (37:15):

And I think it was Jon who said, “Pastors, you’re going to want to dive right into a message series on this, and that’s a mistake.

Amy (37:23):


Tony (37:23):

Train your staff before you do the message series so you can genuinely create a culture of blessing throughout the entire church.

Amy (37:31):

Yeah. That’s so good, Tony. And as Dave said, that’s one strategy for keeping this fresh for you and for your church. I mean, if we’re doing this well ourselves as a staff and a leadership team, there should always be more stories of life change that we can share and celebrate. And what’s more encouraging than that? I often, we often talk to our teams, Tony, about, you know, our invite culture. We couldn’t expect our body to be inviting their friends and family if us as leaders and staff in the church weren’t doing that. And that’s the same, the same kind of challenge here. So, Tony, any more final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (38:07):

Well, first lemme just reiterate a couple resources that Jon and Dave shared, and we’ll list these in the show notes. But their book is called B.L.E.S.S.: Five Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World. And then, don’t forget the app that they mention, which will really help you get to know better the people in your neighborhood. It’s called the Bless Every Home app. And as they suggested, I mean, it’s a great app, but it’s even gonna be better in the coming weeks as they refresh. And as a reminder, we’ll be discussing how you can use weekend services to reach new people and connect them to your church at an upcoming webinar on February 29th. And you can register now to join us at the link in your show notes. And be sure to come back and join us next week for our last week of the series on reaching and connecting new people.

Sean (38:56):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. As Tony mentioned, we’d love to have you join us on our upcoming free webinar happening February 29th on reaching and connecting new people to your church. To register and learn more, follow the link in your show notes. And if you don’t yet have the show notes, just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to register. Next week, we’re back with another brand-new episode. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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