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Why Church Revitalization Will Require a Disruptive Event

Nov 30, 16
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Game changer business or political change concept and disruptive innovation symbol and be an independent thinker with new industry ideas as an individual jet breaking through a group of airplane smoke as a metaphor for defiant leadership.

Part 2 (of 2)

What would a company do if it were experiencing…

  1. Negative growth?
  2. High customer turnover?
  3. A worsening reputation among non-customers?
  4. Little impact in its community?
  5. Declining sales from failing to properly train and equip employees to pursue target customers?
  6. Compliance issues from not following operational best practices?
  7. Diminishing influence on market trends?

Any one of those issues would seriously jeopardize the viability of the company.  A business facing all of them would be confronted with two clear choices: impending bankruptcy or radical change.

Review the list again.  Doesn’t it describe fairly well the status of the Church today in America?  The Church is struggling today in terms of growth, impact, influence and public perception.  Most large churches are admittedly revolving doors while less than 10% of small churches are growing.  Members of most churches are not adequately discipled to become effective evangelists within their circles of influence, settling for inviting people to church and leaving that responsibility to the “professionals”.  Churches are no longer on the front lines of compassion in America, running occasional outreach events rather than following Jesus’ example of demonstrating His love before telling them who He is.  Invite, Involve and Invest has become both the predominant church growth model and the rallying cry of the internally focused church.

Why the Resistance to Change?

Let’s revisit our nearly insolvent corporation.  What factors could possibly keep it from making drastic changes to its business model and operations before going under?  There are many: internal politics, the old guard contending “this is the way we’ve always done things”, insufficient competition in the market, or general complacency of employees simply content to perform just well enough to keep theirs jobs.

Not all, but some of those apply to churches today.  In many cases, older members fight any attempts to disrupt the status quo.  Most members and visitors see “church” as a place rather than as themselves – and therefore are more attune to their expectations of their church rather than to the Lord’s expectations of them between Sundays.  Modern conventions and trends in the American Church seem well-entrenched.  Asking pastors, staff and members to revisit longstanding priorities and consider significant course correction toward a more Biblical definition of “church” and “intended customers” is daunting for a number of reasons:

  1. Consultants, Books and Articles nearly all agree that better leadership is the answer.  Few recognize the fundamental reallocation of time, energy and dollars over the past 100 years from discipleship and local missions to attracting and retaining members.  Instead of questioning the “business model” itself, they simply recommend incremental changes within the current framework.  However, just as that company won’t be saved by better leadership methods, as long as a pastor tries to build an institution more than build disciples – catering rather than challenging – improving his leadership style at best will only grow that one church at the expense of the larger body of Christ.
  2. The Big are Getting Bigger – Pastors of smaller churches point to countless examples of megachurches that have successfully followed prevailing church growth models.  Name-dropping of pastoral “celebrities” is so prevalent today that conferences have made them their main attraction.  Of course, the implication is that “if your church is still small, you’re not doing as good of a job as that pastor is”.  That mentality only serves to further ingrain the misconception that pastors, not members, are the embodiment of “church”.
  3. The Pain of Reallocating Budget, Reassigning Roles and Resetting Expectations – Redefining “church” and its “target customer” would involve redistributing power, knowledge and responsibility from pastors to members, flattening that church’s organizational chart.  Intensive discipleship means investing much more time in members so that they can be effective in their new role as the living, breathing church.  In addition, returning to a prevalent role in addressing community issues – living out Jesus’ model of leading with compassion to open the door to sharing the gospel – would require a serious rethinking of where dollars are spent.
  4. This is “Risky” Business – No church wants to be the first out of the gate. Leading the way in challenging members to accept greater responsibilities risks losing many of them to churches down the road that will happily cater to them.  Nearly every church I’ve attended over the past 20 years has followed a similar, choreographed prescription for conducting church services, small groups and allocating expenses.  “Church in a Box” is increasingly common, allowing pastors to mimic “successful” churches in every aspect – from music to sermons to administration.  Breaking away from the pack is a scary proposition but worth the risk when the Bible clearly defines “church” as a gathering of believers, not as pastors and staff, and offers the Great Commission as a central mandate.
  5. Lack of Recognition – Most church leaders understand these principles, but don’t feel they fall into these camps, associating all of those issues with other churches and not themselves.  Why do Jeff Foxworthy “redneck” jokes get a laugh from everyone in the audience?  Because no one thinks the joke is about them.  Some of them must be wrong, right?  In our experience, the vast majority of churches inadvertently treat members as “customers”, largely ignoring their intended “customer” (the lost in the community where the church is planted).

What Could Disruption Look Like?

Pastors and Christians are increasingly censured for speaking Biblical truth in America but it hasn’t risen to the level of persecution faced in many other countries.  We haven’t seen enough disruption here yet to force a departure from institution-centric church growth models and overcome embedded resistance to change.

When over 90% of churches aren’t growing, why aren’t more willing to step out on a limb?  What will it take for a few brave pastors to throw caution to the wind and build a church in Jesus’ image, characterized by intensive discipleship internally and aggressive compassion and evangelism externally?

New church plants are willing to take risks because they have little to lose.  They have to engage in the community and ask a lot of their few members – if they don’t they’ll never get their name out there.  Then suddenly one day, there is more at stake – members, bills, a reputation and expectations to meet.  The demands of operating a church become more significant.  The same is true of entrepreneurs and politicians – they are idealistic and externally focused until the resulting success turns their focus to maintaining what they’ve built, taking their eyes off the “target customers” or “constituency”.  That’s why established churches likely will need a wake-up call to reconsider their current direction, which could take the form of:

  1. Persecution – Christianity in times of peace and comfort tends not to grow as fast as it does in persecution, as was the case for the early church and in China today.  That seems ironic until you consider there are no lukewarm Christians where public worship risks your freedom or your life.
  2. Bottom UpA recent study showed that close to 7.9 million people are leaving churches each year.  When enough “Dones” and “de-churched” stop going to church, pastors will be forced to take a closer look at what went wrong.  The mass exodus is caused by a number of factors, but research cites among them dissatisfaction with the depth of messages, sincerity of members, compassion shown to the poor, and other aspects of “organized religion”.
  3. Left Behind – I’ve attended three events in the past few years with well-known Christian leaders to discuss the deteriorating spiritual and moral foundation of our nation.  The consensus at all three was the same: the key to the culture war is for Christians to occupy the “7 Mountaintops” (government, media, religion, education, entertainment, family and business).  They felt that churches remain too wrapped up in their own affairs to engage cooperatively with other churches and leaders – at least until they lose so many members that they have little choice.
  4. “Competition” – Although more applicable to companies than churches, an example of the effects of “competition” is the story of a new “seeker” church that moved in down the road and took a lot of a neighboring church’s “fence sitters” with them – leaving only disciples.  Although the affected church shrank temporarily, because it had become healthier, exponential growth resumed quickly.
  5. Sudden Realization – The clarion call could also be a revelation from the Lord that a church has grown out of touch with the original vision and mission God gave it to reach the community for Christ.  When forced to take a step back, it may become clear that somewhere along the line it began preaching to the same folks every Sunday, winning few new converts, having minimal community impact, and not living out the dynamic Biblical reality God intended for every church.

How bad do things need to get to convince pastors that change is necessary?  Where will America and the Church be by the time a disruption severe enough occurs to force change?

How is Meet The Need Disruptive?

Meet The Need practices what we preach.  We don’t stop at words.  We enable actions.  Yes, we consult and coach churches on the importance of discipling and deploying members into ministry.  But we also provide churches with free tools for pastors to empower their membership to BE the church in their communities.  We share a message that most churches probably don’t want to hear, questioning their fundamental modus operandi – and likewise we’ve invested millions of dollars in building tools churches didn’t request – but should want.

Meet The Need could write books about leadership and sell member-centric systems that churches are willing to pay for – and make a lot of money.  However, Meet The Need is a non-profit that gives all of that content and software away to ensure money is not an impediment to churches following Jesus’ model of combining acts of kindness with words of hope.

Meet The Need also launched #CastAnEternalVote prior to the election to convince Christians to worry more about who’s in God’s House than the White House.  Now we’ve released #GiveAnEternalGift to extend that message into the Christmas season, focusing the attention of Christians on Compassion rather than Consumption.

It’s Your Turn

#GiveAnEternalGift before Christmas Day by:

  • Performing an act of kindness for a coworker, neighbor or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the gospel.
  • Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.


Why You’ve Never Read Washington’s or Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamations

Nov 23, 16
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one comments

Mount Rushmore National Memorial with blue sky in the morning. Black Hills South Dakota.

We’ll continue with Part 2 of “Why the Election Should Spark Church Reform” next week.  Given our discussion of the diminishing influence of Christianity in society, we felt compelled this week to share official declarations by arguably some of the greatest political leaders in our nation’s history about Thanksgiving.

Few school children are ever shown these proclamations for reasons you are about to see.  If prayer is not allowed in public schools, then these quotes are most certainly off limits.  Administrators likely fear unveiling them not only might offend non-believers, but also debunk the prevailing misrepresentation of the origin and intent of “separation of church and state”.  So instead, students are taught a sanitized, secularized version of the Thanksgiving story.

Studying the history of Thanksgiving, there are many conflicting accounts and some aspects aren’t as rosy as they’re depicted in a 2nd grade classroom.  Depending on the teacher’s point of view, the recounting of original events that led to the holiday may emphasize famine, food and fellowship – or opportunists invading and oppressing established natives.  Either way, public schools don’t share the immortal words of William Bradford, Washington or Lincoln giving all glory, honor, praise and thanks to almighty God:

The invitation from Governor William Bradford of “Plymouth Plantation” to the first Thanksgiving celebration on December 13, 1621 read…

“All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill… there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.”

The first National Thanksgiving Proclamation, signed by Henry Laurens in 1777, President of the Continental Congress, began…

“Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such father blessings as they stand in need of…it is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States to set apart Thursday the 18th day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor…”

George Washington wrote his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, saying…

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness…’”

Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation on October 3, 1863 of an annual National Day of Thanksgiving stated…

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

Lessons for #GiveAnEternalGift

Reading those excerpts, you may be surprised to learn that the actual Thanksgiving Day declarations were as Christ-centered as the proclamations making Christmas Day a national holiday.  Just like non-Christians and retailers have tried to turn our attention from our Savior to Santa and from Believing to Buying, they’ve reduced Thanksgiving from Faith to Family and from Compassion to Consumption.

Those same contrasting forces that compete for our allegiance at Christmas have crept back into our Thanksgiving celebrations.  Stores used to kick off Black Friday on Friday – imagine that!  Seeing the madness that ensued when they opened their doors at 6:00am, retailers sensed the opportunity to start even earlier – first midnight Thursday and then at 8:00pm.  Now, Walmart has announced its Black Friday sale begins at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving Day, right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.

#GiveAnEternalGift seeks to keep the focus of Christians on serving others and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We bristle at the first mention of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, but we can only accomplish so much through boycotts and we can only cast one vote to elect Christian leaders.  As Christians, we have much more control over how we invest in the Kingdom by pouring into the lives of others.  Just like we could #CastAnEternalVote many times over prior to the election, we can now #GiveAnEternalGift to countless people in our circles of influence before Christmas Day.

Don’t be fooled by slick advertising into wanton consumerism under the guise of generosity.  Going into debt and enduring bedlam at the local mall for the sake of giving temporal gifts that may never see the light of day is not God’s plan for Christmas – or Thanksgiving.  Instead, Jesus wants us to “go and make disciples”, giving the gift that will never perish.

It’s Your Turn

Family can be the toughest mission field.  Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Mark 6:4)  But that’s where each of us is called to live out the Great Commission over the next few days.  Prepare yourself to model Prayer, Care and Share even with your toughest audience.  Maybe read or share George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inspiring and revealing words about Thanksgiving with them – I know I will.

#GiveAnEternalGift over Thanksgiving by:

  • Performing an act of kindness for a family member and watch it open the door to sharing the gospel.
  • Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

Why Last Week’s Election Should Spark Church Reform

Nov 16, 16
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Los Angeles, United States - November 12, 2016: Thousands of Angelenos marched through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles in protest of president-elect Donald Trump.

Part 1 (of 2)

When I first started thinking of writing this post, I was assuming a Hillary Clinton victory, which in the eyes of most Christians likely would have brought with it at best a continuation of a less church-friendly environment, and at worst an acceleration of current trends.  However, watching the aftermath of a surprising Trump win last Tuesday, I’m not so sure that another Clinton administration would have presented churches and Christians with a greater challenge than what confronts the Church today with Trump in office:

  • A nation split right down the middle, with the line defined by the media and secular society as those who care about the rights of others and those who don’t
  • Churches and Christians seen by many on the other side of the line as the most radical element among those who do not care about the rights of others

How did followers of Jesus Christ come to be known as one of the most judgmental and least compassionate factions in America?  The answer lies in the central theme of this blog over the last year and a half – that churches have abdicated (and/or government has usurped) the lead role in serving the hungry, hurting, helpless and hopeless.  However, they’ve clung to the lead role in speaking out for Biblical values – a noble endeavor but destined to fall on deaf ears as a result of largely abandoning their other role.  As Jesus said in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Yes, Jesus rarely said who He was before healing and feeding.  He knew even His perfect words wouldn’t be enough to get their attention.  He chose to demonstrate His love first.  Since we certainly can’t “outpreach” Jesus, we should lead with compassion as well.

The Danger of Basking in the Status Quo

Trump’s win brings two countervailing propositions into play, the same ones Jesus dealt with in Matthew 23:23:

  • More legislation and policies that land on the “Christian” side of the social divide, but also
  • Closer scrutiny of the Church’s response to the perceived “reprieve” it has been issued by this election.

Society is watching intently to see:

  • Will Christians double down to take advantage of the opportunity to push a moral agenda on non-believers, or will they humbly serve and share the Gospel as Jesus did?
  • Will churches further turn their focus internally, looking out for their own interests, or will they turn their attention to the interests of others?
  • Will the Church galvanize its stance on morality in American with this newfound support from the political establishment, or will it step out of its comfort zone for the sake of those who feel disenfranchised?

Simply wielding a louder megaphone to share the same messages without showing its love for those who feel marginalized will only solidify the court of public opinion and the media in opposition to Christian ideals.

If history is a guide, four years of relative comfort and peace for churches may not be such a good thing.  Over the past few decades, many conservatives and/or Christians have occupied the White House, but they weren’t successful in reversing the Church’s slow drift away from service and evangelism.  Both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush even attempted to reform welfare programs while instituting a “Thousand Points of Light” to shift focus back in large part to the Christian community to care for the poor.  Unfortunately, those initiatives were short-lived.  There’s little evidence to suggest that churches will become more compassionate and evangelistic under a Republican president.

In fact, the opposite may be true.  It’s human nature to grow complacent in times of peace and prosperity, only to awaken out of our slumber when that sense of security is threatened.  For example, the “Me Generation” of the 90s was rudely interrupted by 9/11.  Suddenly, we banded together in unity as a nation and it was hard to find a seat in church, at least for a few weeks.  Likewise churches, in the absence of sufficiently “disruptive events”, have gradually pulled away from deep discipleship and local missions, no longer considering the Great Commission of utmost importance.

Yes, a Hillary Clinton administration may have eventually led to that “disruptive event (or moment)” that finally forced the Church’s hand.  A continuation of Obama’s policies would have shifted the balance dramatically in favor of those on the other side of the line that has been drawn in our nation’s sand.  The nearly even divide evident in last week’s election probably wouldn’t have been so even in four or eight more years.  The ranks of those hostile to Christianity would have continued to swell, further silencing the Church’s voice and compelling it to rethink its definition of itself and its intended “customers”.  Compassion was Jesus’ calling card.  Maybe it would have been worth enduring whatever mounting obstacles a Hillary Clinton presidency entailed if they induced churches to abandon the status quo and…

  • Move away from prevailing growth models like “Invite, Involve and Invest” which define “church” as an institution and members as “customers” to attract and retain
  • Vigorously pursue and serve the “lost” in their local communities, which churches treated as their target “customers” for over 1900 years
  • Equip members for ministry, resuming intensive discipleship efforts that challenge and prepare them to BE the living, breathing church between Sundays

Instead, with fewer credible threats under Trump, churches will likely maintain the current course.  As a result, we should we expect a continued decline in the Church’s growth, impact, influence and perception over the next four years.  If churches don’t return to making disciples who live Prayer, Care, Share lifestyles, society will continue to move away from God.  If churches follow Trump’s lead and become even more outspoken (words alone) rather than following Jesus’ lead and becoming more compassionate (action, then words), the next presidential election will turn out quite differently.

Next week in Part 2, we’ll discuss examples of where persecution has stimulated more church growth than religious liberty, and reasons why a “disruptive event” is likely necessary to overcome the tremendous resistance to change in the American Church today.

It’s Your Turn

Meet The Need is reaching out to you during this Christmas season to be the personification of Church to those in your circles of influence.  We’ve just launched #GiveAnEternalGift to encourage 1 million Christians just like you to pray for, serve and share the gospel with at least 1 person by December 25th Together we can show the love of Jesus to those who doubt that Christians care about the rights and welfare of those who don’t share our belief system.

#GiveAnEternalGift before Christmas Day by:

  • Performing an act of kindness for a neighbor, coworker or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the gospel.
  • Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

Introducing #GiveAnEternalGift!

Nov 09, 16
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This is a photo of a young boy opening a Christmas present.

Last night, we watched the election results pour in and considered how the results would impact the state of our nation.  No doubt this divisive presidential election and the split of the popular vote down the middle has heightened and highlighted our differences: conservatives versus liberals; Christians versus non-believers.  That’s why Christians need to continue to #CastAnEternalVote even though the election is now over.  In fact, demonstrating Jesus’ love to others and telling them who He is now becomes more important than ever.

We’ve all seen how Christians and our ideals have been vilified in the media during this election cycle.  We’ve watched over the years as Christian influence has largely been removed from government, courts and schools – even though our nation was founded on Biblical principles.  On the heels of Election Day, Christians now transition directly to another glaring example of where society annually attempts to erase Jesus from the picture – the Christmas season.  We’ll step into that next battleground at the first mention of the words “Happy Holidays” in a store ad or greeting card.

Christians hardly have a chance to breathe, already preparing to defend our faith against the secularization of Jesus’ birth.  We’ll soon start hearing “Merry X-mas” – and we’ll bristle.  We’ll see more about Santa Claus than our Savior as Christmas approaches.  Right after watching America try to take Christ out of politics, we’ll watch them try to take Christ out of Christmas.

That’s why Meet The Need is launching #GiveAnEternalGift – to combat the commercialization of Christmas with service and evangelism as our chosen weapons.

Combating the Commercialization of Christmas

“You can’t serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  Clearly, when it comes to the Christmas season, most retailers have made their choices.  It’s a Christian holiday but in an effort to maximize profits, under the guise of political correctness, companies will ignore its origins and meaning.

Unfortunately, their efforts to get American consumers more focused on BUYING than BELIEVING has worked.  Even Christians feel the pressure to purchase.  Do you ever get stressed out during the Christmas season?  Our OBLIGATIONS to shop, spend, attend parties and see family often redirect our attention away from our OPPORTUNITY to worship, serve and share the Gospel.

We cannot let consumerism overtake compassion within our churches and social circles. We can’t get SUCKED IN (by all those stressers) with little time left over to GO OUT (to be a light to those helpless and hopeless).  If we do, we’re complicit with retailers in helping take Christ out of Christmas.

The best stress reliever is always taking our eyes off ourselves and putting them on those less fortunate.  The remedy for consumerism is to get out of our own “stuff” and turn our attention from OUR SAVINGS to OUR SAVIOR, making our desire to see OTHERS SAVED.

Boycotting stores or electing a Christian president aren’t the best ways to “put Christ back in Christmas”.  Falling victim to consumerism won’t help either – splurging on our friends and families only strengthens the resolve of retailers by feeding their coffers.  Instead, as our theme verse for #GiveAnEternalGift says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  It’s no coincidence that verse is John 12:25 (& 26) – 12:25 is Christmas Day!  Only serving Jesus by regularly serving the “least of these” and sharing His message, two lost arts for most Christians, will remind our consumer culture of the real “reason for the season”.

Yes, the stand we should take for our faith this Christmas is one of action and not just words.  We should demonstrate our FAITH to a world that’s increasingly unattracted to our FAITH because they hear our voices but aren’t seeing our love.

For all those frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas, #GiveAnEternalGift is an inspired solution that will have an ETERNAL impact.

Your Christmas Gifts are Temporal – His is Eternal

You’ve seen kids (the target of most holiday ads) rip open presents Christmas morning, only to stop playing with those toys or break them a couple days later.  In contrast, Jesus gave us a gift that lasts forever – Himself.  When we serve others in His name, we’re passing along that eternal gift to others.  Normally, re-gifting is frowned upon, but not in this case.  Leading someone toward Christ in the way that He modeled, by first demonstrating His love for them and then telling them why we care so much, is the most enduring gift we can give.

Instead of putting all our energies into finding that “perfect” gift that only lasts a short while, let’s give THE perfect gift.  Instead of rushing to the mall looking for gifts to BUY, let’s consider “Where Would Jesus Be” (WWJB), areas of need right in our back yard, and look for ways to GIVE eternal gifts.

It’s Your Turn

No matter how the election turned out from your perspective and how much farther society moves away from the true Christmas message, you can still have an impact.   Control what you can control.  Do what you can do to bring our nation back toward Jesus.

#GiveAnEternalGift is encouraging 1 million Christians just like you to pray for, serve and share the gospel with at least 1 person by December 25th.  BE the church personified between Sundays.  Make an eternal difference in the lives of those around you by living out Jesus’ calling on your life – the Great Commission.  You can #GiveAnEternalGift before Christmas Day by…

  • Performing an act of kindness for a neighbor, coworker or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the gospel.
  • Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

Oh, I almost forgot – tell other Christ-followers you know about #GiveAnEternalGift!

And PASTORS – direct your small groups and congregation to our web site to see how they can #GiveAnEternalGift this Christmas season!

P.S.  Why MTN is Launching #GiveAnEternalGift

If you know Meet The Need, then you know our mission is about more than providing solutions and software to churches and ministries – enabling them to bring more help and hope to struggling families.  We’re about changing lives – which involves deep, personal relationships.  That’s why we’re launching #GiveAnEternalGift.  Our goal is to encourage caring, compassionate people all around the country who love the Lord to #GiveAnEternalGift.

#CastAnEternalVote Before Election Day!

Nov 02, 16
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Blog Post 73 - Cast An Eternal Vote

Election Day is almost upon us.  Before we vote for president, let’s #CastAnEternalVote – a simple act of service for someone in Jesus’ name that will have an impact lasting far longer than just the next four years.

That message has reached 700,000 people so far on social media.  Tens of thousands have expressed their support for Vote for Eternity 20:16.  What a blessing to see so many frustrated Christian voters encouraged by this initiative and inspired to #CastAnEternalVote!

Why We Started Vote for Eternity 20:16

Frankly, we understand their frustration – both with the state of our nation and with the options before us on November 8th No presidential candidate stands solidly in the Christian camp on the issues most of us hold dear.  That’s left many of us wondering about the future of our country – yet feeling powerless to do much about it.  You only get one vote for president next Tuesday and there’s a good chance the outcome is not going to end up in your favor.

However, Christians have more of a say in who winds up in God’s house than in the White House – and that’s what really matters.  “Vote for Trump 2016” or “Vote for Hillary 2016″ are not your only options.  YOU can “Vote for Eternity 20:16” by following Matthew 20:16 (“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”)

And YOU can keep casting those eternal votes, even after the election.  As Matthew 20:25-26 says: “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.'”  It’s the perfect verse to express our need as Christians to worry a little less about rulers and authorities and be servants instead.  That mandate applies both now and when Donald or Hillary sits in the Oval Office.

During this final week before the election, Vote for Eternity 20:16 continues to remind us that God is in control.  Politicians battle for supremacy in this nation, but Jesus remains Lord of all.  The winds of political and moral change are blowing – no doubt Christians face stiff headwinds.  Our task is to engage in the culture war – but the most powerful weapon at our disposal is the love of Jesus Christ.

Why This Message is So Critical RIGHT NOW

Christians are on the losing end of nearly every battle in today’s culture war:

  • “Human life” has been redefined, no longer applying to unborn infants.
  • “Marriage” has been redefined, no longer only between a man and woman.
  • “Civil liberties” have been redefined, no longer defending free speech for Christians.

Yes, the Church and Christianity have largely lost their influence in America.  The reason is not complicated but very poorly understood:

  • “Church” has been redefined, no longer viewed as the members but as a place they go on Sundays.
  • The Church’s “customer” has been redefined, retaining and catering to members rather than challenging and equipping them to pursue the lost in the community.
  • “Outreach” has been redefined, now meaning church marketing rather than caring for the helpless and hopeless.
  • “Ministry” has been redefined, now meaning “chores” inside the church rather than sharing the Gospel with those outside the church.

It’s no wonder churches and Christianity are diminishing in growth, impact, influence and public perception.  If believers would redefine those terms to align with Biblical principles, America would be more inclined to revert to the Biblical definitions of the terms it has redefined.

Those failing to understand history are doomed to repeat it.  Jesus rarely said who He was before He had demonstrated His love and compassion.  Jesus didn’t send His disciples out just to preach but also to heal in His name.  Churches were the food bank and homeless shelter for 1900 years.  As Churches pulled away from society, society has pulled away from them.  When churches turned their attention from building disciples to building institutions, they waived the white flag on the culture war.

This blog, particularly over the past few weeks as we’ve written about Vote for Eternity 20:16, provides a clear path to reversing those trends – simply imitate Jesus:

How We Plan to Continue to Encourage Christians

Our work is not going to stop next Tuesday.  That message is too important.  First of all, you can still #CastAnEternalVote long after the election.  In addition, Meet The Need is going to launch #GiveAnEternalGift, which will run until Christmas.

Like #CastAnEternalVote, #GiveAnEternalGift is an “ice bucket challenge” for service and evangelism.  We hope it will be as successful in encouraging Christians to BE the living, breathing church to those around them.  Christmas gifts are temporary – but not the eternal gift of leading someone toward Jesus Christ.

It’s Your Turn

You can make an eternal difference in someone’s life.  Before Election Day November 8th, #CastAnEternalVote that will last far longer then the next 4 years

  • Perform an act of kindness for a neighbor, coworker or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the Gospel.
  • Tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote to inspire others.
  • Challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

And don’t stop there!  Get ready to #GiveAnEternalGift after Election Day!

Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative?

Oct 26, 16
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Bilbao, Spain - February 17, 2015: Someone wearing red sneakers chooses between democrats and republicans. The United States presidential election of 2016 are scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

As Christians, have you ever considered how Jesus would vote in a presidential election or what party He would join, if any?  I have – and those thoughts haunt me every four years.  The last thing I want to do is cast a vote that doesn’t align with His will.

Jesus wouldn’t just vote along party lines or based on a single issue, as so many Christians do today.  It’s not that simple.  A close study of the life of Jesus reveals that His views don’t confine Him or conform to one party or issue.  To illustrate the point, it’s necessary to break the issues into the two that typically drive our allegiance to parties or candidates – Economics and Social Norms.  Each of us is either deeply concerned about the economic direction or moral direction of our nation, and we tend to vote accordingly.

NOTE: There are several political parties and ideologies in America today, but for purposes of this discussion let’s focus on the primary two.


  • Democrats think of themselves as = More Compassionate (more heart)
  • Republicans think of Democrats as = More Controlling (more rules)

Social Issues

  • Republicans think of themselves as = More Moral (more rules)
  • Democrats think of Republicans as = More Judgmental (less heart)

Democrats are generally considered “economically legalistic” (or “liberal) meaning they entrust government with greater liberty to invoke regulations, programs and taxes.  Republicans are considered “morally legalistic” (or “conservative”) meaning they cling to traditional social norms and oppose attempts to redefine them, whereas social “liberals” impose fewer rules or standards for right and wrong.

It’s possible to be an economic conservative and social liberal – with fewer rules on both fronts; in other words, smaller government and looser moral standards.  It’s also possible to be an economic liberal and a social conservative – with more rules on both fronts; in other words, bigger government yet upholding a more strict moral standard.  However, it seems few fall Americans fall into either of those combinations.  Today, most Democrats are both economic and social liberals – giving government more liberty to act and citizens more latitude to live according to their own moral compasses.  Republicans today are typically both economic and social conservatives – with greater restrictions on governments and citizens to act however they wish.

However, what if we define “economic liberal” not as asking the government to care for the poor, but as asking churches and Christians to do so?  Suddenly we begin to get a glimpse of where Christ would likely land – an economic liberal and social conservative.

Was Jesus a Liberal?

Yes, but only in terms of economics – generously serving and caring for those in need of help and hope. (Matthew 20:28)

Clearly, Jesus was more about heart than rules.  Jesus was first and foremost a servant.  He led with compassion, healing and feeding everywhere He went.  Jesus expected His followers to do the same, and the Church did for the better part of 1900 years.

However, the government has usurped (and/or churches abdicated) the front-line compassion role in America over the past century.  Jesus warned us of the potential abuses when political leaders wield too much power, assuming responsibilities that His Church was intended to have.  The government cannot provide hope, only help.  At the same time, Jesus did not deny the authority of government in society.  In fact, Jesus went so far as to subject himself to the legal system  and pay taxes, because He is the One who put those rulers in place (John 19:11, Romans 13:1).   Even when political leaders forget their intended roles as public servants, Jesus calls His followers to persist in serving others (Matthew 20:25-26).  However, the perception prevails today that Democrats are more inclined than Republicans, churches or Christians to help struggling families.

Was Jesus a Conservative?

Yes, but only in terms of social norms – holding His followers to a standard of behavior consistent with His intentions and will for our lives.

However, again here, Jesus was more about heart than rules.  Even the rules themselves were about heart for Him.  In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love (heart) is the driver of the rules.

Jesus also spent his time with “sinners” because they were most in need of the “great Physician” (Mark 2:17).  He didn’t condemn those “sinners”, but instead rebuked those who condemned them.  In fact, Jesus was so much about heart that He felt it necessary to emphasize that He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus was vocal about sin, but waited until He had demonstrated His love and compassion first before speaking out about it.  That’s the proper sequence Jesus modeled for us.  He knew society wouldn’t listen to what He had to say about morality unless they understood that He cared about them.

Fallout from Christians not Following Jesus’ Lead

The conclusion we’re drawing is that Jesus wouldn’t affiliate with a political party because he wasn’t fully liberal or conservative.  He was socially conservative yet economically liberal.

Society largely associates Christians with the Republican party (and vice versa) and the prevailing view of churches and Christians is that they’re judgmental and not compassionate – more about rules than heart.  Therefore, the Republican party is deemed “guilty” by association.  The reason the Republican party is struggling so severely today is that “social conservative” side of the party came to dominate the “economic liberal” side.  Christians and churches have talked too much and not done enough, choosing words over actions.  Failing to follow Jesus’ example has cost the Republican party and Christians dearly.

Churches were the food bank and homeless shelter during the first roughly 150 years of U.S. history, and society generally thought that Christians cared.  As churches and Christians have pulled away from compassion and focused more on moral issues, they’ve gravitated to the Republican party and shifted the party toward moral legalism.  Many have become single issue voters, whether it’s economic (welfare) or social (gay marriage).  Jesus wouldn’t vote for one party or one issue so why are Christians doing that?

Ironically, the more Christians have become disenfranchised (because of their failure to act before speaking), the louder they’ve yelled about where the country is headed.  However, rather than turning up the volume on the megaphone, Christians and the Republican party should be fighting the culture war using love (heart) as the chosen weapon – i.e. a “ground war” of compassion.  Continuing to drop verbal bombs, fighting an “air war” (rules) will only cause fewer and fewer to listen.

Further, why would Christians expect those who don’t believe in Christ to obey Christian laws?  A post-Christian nation isn’t going to subject itself to Biblical rules.  Therefore, our first task as Christians is to show we care, then society will care what we know.

Now, all this doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans actually have less “heart” than Democrats.  Democrats legislate more government assistance to poor families but studies are mixed about whether Republicans or Democrats donate more personally to charitable causes that help those less fortunate.  Republicans give a higher overall percentage of their income to non-profits, but that includes donations to churches (and we shouldn’t include tithes and offerings in measuring “heart” since the average church today spends less than 2% of its budget helping those outside its own “4 walls”).

Should Christians be Liberals or Conservatives?

Disciples of Jesus Christ are Christians – not Republicans or Democrats.  What’s important is that we each examine ourselves and make sure we’re not more about rules than heart.  Are we morally legalistic or genuinely driven by concern for the eternal fate of non-believers?  Let’s ask ourselves how we feel about “sinners”.  Is our concern for whether others obey Christian rules based in love and concern for their salvation, or in self-righteousness?  I’m sure most of us believe our political stances are grounded in love, yet somehow that’s not the message coming across to society today.

If churches and Christians want America to return to being socially conservative, they must return to being economic liberals, not leaving the responsibility for caring for poor, helpless, lost and hopeless to the government.   Until then, the socially liberal agenda of Democrats will continue to prevail because society aligns more closely with the economically liberal agenda of Democrats – associating them with compassion.  Being socially conservative is a good thing, but Republicans and Christians must dispel the notion that’s what they’re all about.  Christians must prove they truly love the sinner and only hate the sin.

It’s Your Turn

It’s not about what party we join.  It’s not about what we say.  It’s about what we do.  Will you #CastAnEternalVote during this final week before the election?

By the way, check out the latest Press Release about Vote for Eternity 20:16 and listen to our Interview on Faith Radio.

Why Is Humility Sorely Lacking in this Election?

Oct 19, 16
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one comments

Blog Post 71 - Donald and Hillary

What’s the first word that springs to mind when you hear Hillary Clinton’s name or watch her during the debates?  What about Donald Trump?  I guessing in both cases that word isn’t…“humble”.

Many Christians find it hard to vote for candidates so hungry for power, fame and fortune.  Frankly we should be reluctant to support anyone ostensibly willing to do and say anything to occupy the White House, possibly the most influential political position in the world today.

We’re rightly conflicted because we understand that humility is the very essence of Christianity.  We’ve placed our faith in the most powerful, yet humble leader the world has ever known – Jesus.  We understand that God Himself performed the most humble act in world history.  Despite His omnipotence and righteousness “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

Despite their arrogance and ambition, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the only choices we have in the presidential election.  However, they’re not the only choices we as Christians have during this election season.  We can choose to:

  • Swallow our pride and strong opinions about what’s right and wrong with America and the two candidates, realizing our own actions speak louder than our words.
  • Humble ourselves before almighty God and accept that He is in control, realizing He can use evil for good, even if our worst fears are realized in this election.
  • Stand in stark contrast to the two presidential candidates by demonstrating humility to a world that increasingly views Christians as dogmatic, arrogant and judgmental.
  • Stoop to the level of a humble servant and #CastAnEternalVote for our coworkers, neighbors or total strangers in Jesus’ name.

The Crux of Christianity – Humility

No, “humble” isn’t the first word you’d use to describe Hillary or Donald, but it is the first word the Lord uses to describe His followers.  The Sermon on the Mount begins with a long list of those who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven – opening with those who are “humble”. (Matthew 5:3)

It’s the first prerequisite for accepting God’s grace and starting down the path to becoming a disciple.  Without humility, we won’t confess our sins, repent and exchange our old lives for new lives in Christ. (Galations 2:20, Galations 5:24)

It’s the first and only means to live out God’s plan for our lives – the Great Commandment.  We can’t love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls and minds or love our neighbors as ourselves unless we humble ourselves before God and our fellow man. (Matthew 22:35-40)

Yes, it’s the first who will be last and the last who will be first. (Matthew 20:16)

For our nation, humility is also the first stipulation for us to receive God’s blessings: “And all of you serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud.” (1 Peter 5:5)

It’s also the first step America must take to avoid God’s judgment: “Then if my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

How Can You Help our Country Receive Blessings and Avoid Judgment?

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’” (Matthew 20:25-26)

This is an important election.  You should vote.  However, as U.S. citizens we only get one vote and it can only possibly impact which Gentile “ruler” sits in the White House for the next four years.  But as citizens of God’s Kingdom, we can cast many “votes” that will help influence who winds up in God’s heavenly house – eternally.

Look again at 1 Peter 5:5 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 – God is waiting for us to humble ourselves.  Donald and Hillary don’t appear to be leading us in that direction.  Our nation has sinned against the Lord.  America not only isn’t turning from its wicked ways, it is spiraling downward as we speak.  Christians are vocal in their criticism of where the country is heading, but our words are having little effect on non-believers.  Name a moral issue that Christians haven’t lost in court already or find themselves on the verge of losing.

It’s time for us to become humble servants, acting in love.  Words aren’t winning people over.  In the absence of compassion, our voices aren’t being heard.  Jesus understood the proper sequencing of Prayer, Care and Share – acting, then speaking.  He knew even His perfect words wouldn’t sink in unless He demonstrated His love first.

The uphill battle Christians are facing today in America is this: Christianity is not an “attractive” religion to a proud, self-absorbed people.  Words alone won’t work because Christianity puts forward some notions that our culture finds hard to swallow:

  • We’re sinners in dire need of a Savior
  • We’re unable to control our fate through our own efforts
  • Hard work and discipline won’t allow us to achieve our (eternal) dreams
  • The pursuit of happiness isn’t our purpose in this (short) life
  • Following Jesus means dying to our selfish desires and plans
  • There is such a thing as absolute truth, whereas relativism prevails today
  • We are accountable for our actions versus “I’m ok, you’re ok”

Other religions teach, “You can control your eternal destiny by looking within yourself or doing certain things”.  Those are much more enticing messages to non-Christians in America, as is the stance of the ever-expanding “Nones” who don’t subscribe to any religious philosophy.

If Christians and churches in America don’t humble themselves, exchanging angry words for humble kindness, then our impact and influence will continue to dissipate.  If the immorality and arrogance of our nation’s leaders and culture continues to increase, God’s judgment awaits: 

  • Imagine God’s disappointment with people who think they have it all under control and don’t need God in their lives, when it was God who gave them life itself and all of their abilities and possessions.
  • Imagine how offended God must be when people don’t think they need a Savior; that they can be “good” enough to earn their way into His presence; that somehow the Lord overestimated the cost required for humans to be reconciled with Him when He sent His Son to die for us.
  • Imagine His anger at those who don’t even acknowledge His existence.  How must God feel when His creation completely ignores the Creator?

It’s Your Turn…

Show your neighbors and coworkers how Jesus’ leadership style is far more humble than these presidential candidates.  Demonstrate your humility as a Christian.  Before election day, NOVEMBER 8th, #CastAnEternalVote by:

  • Performing a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Sharing your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

Photo credit (Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton): Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Are You a “Disciple”?…a Surefire Litmus Test

Oct 05, 16
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Jesus with a jug of water and a towell

Last week we showed how Powerful Christians aren’t private, passive or pensive.  They don’t rail against all that is wrong with the world, nor are they quiet about what they believe.  They aren’t “pew potatoes” that check the proverbial boxes, showing up on Sundays and doing a few “church chores”.  They see compassion and evangelism as their personal responsibilities, and don’t leave it to the “professionals.”  Powerful Christians recognize that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option when the consequences facing non-believers are so dire.

Another word for a “Powerful Christian” is a “disciple”.  So…what is a modern-day disciple of Jesus Christ?

Different people give different answers: a fully committed follower; a follower who reproduces more followers; a devoted student; an avid adherent.  All of those are true to a large extent.

There is (at least) one reliable litmus test…how well do our lives align with the attributes of Jesus?

In other words, are we…

  • not able to walk by those hurting and hopeless without helping them?
  • brokenhearted for the lost and bold in pursuing them?
  • selfless to the point of stepping far outside our comfort zones for Jesus?
  • wholly dependent on the Father, living and giving by faith?
  • willing to risk and sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?

If you examine the lives of most Christians – for example, those who attend your church – do they look a lot like that?  How could their lives not be transformed if they truly get who Jesus is and what He did for us?  Yet many go to church on Sundays, then look like the rest of the world all week.  Many pray in the morning, then essentially forget about God the rest of the day.  Too many believers stop short of surrender.  They either don’t fully realize what Jesus is like or don’t try hard enough to imitate Him.

Jesus’ Foremost Attribute

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we should take on His greatest attribute – that of a humble servant.  In Jesus’ own words, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus consistently modeled and stated (as did His disciples) that caring for the helpless and hopeless was the first step toward proving and living out our faith as Christians.  For example:

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he still lacked after obeying the commandments, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)

When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the evidence He provided was how He had served others: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the deal is raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)

When Paul and Peter went their separate ways, Paul said “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galations 2:10)

James 2:15-16:  “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

Our faith is dead without action?  The only flawless religion is caring for orphans and widows? 

Seriously?  Yes.

Jesus showed His compassion first, so people listened to His words.  He demonstrated His love before telling people who He is – and many believed.  As we said last week, Powerful Christians are those who do likewise – Act and then Speak.

Why aren’t more churches and Christians making service and evangelism to the helpless and hopeless their first priority?  How are they not getting that message when the Bible conveys it so clearly?  Look at the Facebook pages and websites of the average church in America – it’s all about Sunday services, classes, new campuses and sermons with little or no mention of serving struggling families in the community.  Churches are no longer the local food bank or the homeless shelter as they were for the better part of 1900 years.

Your Great Commission

Jesus’ disciples acted like Him.  Jesus was loving, selfless and compassionate.  As a result, He attracted a large following – and so did they.

Disciples make disciples.  Christians who aren’t disciples can’t make disciples.

That’s why Jesus spent most of his time discipling 12 men.  Through those first disciples, the Christian faith spread like wildfire.

Nothing has changed.  Disciples are still the key to growing the Kingdom and your church.

Discipleship is the means by which Jesus intends for people to come to Him and get to know Him.  It’s the most critical function of Christians and His Church.  Jesus made that clear in the Great Commission, His final words before His ascension.

Jesus made disciples by serving and teaching.  How can you know if you’re a disciple?  The same barometer applies to you:

  • Living a prayer, care and share lifestyle
  • Always looking for opportunities to serve others
  • Intentional in forming and building relationships that lead people toward Christ
  • Radically changed by what Jesus did for you, and thereby changing those around you
  • Possessing an infectious faith, leading to acts of compassion that catch others off guard
  • Can’t possibly hold the gospel in – just as you talk about the things you love, you love Jesus most
  • Concerned but not worried about where our nation is heading, knowing God is in control
  • Realizing that loving action, not just words, is the best weapon to fight the culture war

Is this you? 

If not, we encourage you to pray for the courage to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Courage is required because discipleship is:

  • Hard Work – Much more time consuming than attending Sunday services or small groups
  • Costly – Luke 9 points out how much hardship being a disciple of Jesus entails
  • Risky – “Go and make disciples” may take you far from a predictable, secure existence

A Great Next Step…

Consider participating in Vote for Eternity 20:16.  We’re asking 1 million Christians to follow Jesus’ model of leading with compassion and then telling people who He is by Election Day, NOVEMBER 8th:

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016.
  • Challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.