Church Marketing

I like the definition Richard Reising offers in his book “ChurchMarketing 101”,

“Church Marketing … is ‘the sum’ of all your church does to connect Christ with your membership and the outside world. It is ‘the sum’ of things that done (including all that defines your product, place, etc.) to engage someone to respond positively to the very thing your are promoting…it is your challenge to reach people where they are to create the atmosphere of love and joy that people hunger for. Your challenge is to relate to people wherever they might be in life and to relevantly connect them to Christ and His kingdom”.

As a rector, his definition is leading me to reflect on what I have been doing and leading and what I need to make response to this new (at least for me) definition of church marketing. May God guide our ministry.

Invisible but essential and beautiful

French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “”it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. Yes, we cannot see God with our eyes, but we can see Him with our heart.

Antoine also wrote, “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with heart”. For me, the most beautiful thing is Love.

“God, Love, God is Love” are the essential and most beautiful things that only can be seen and felt by our heart.

Mark Nepo’s poem “Accepting This”

Yes, it is true. I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs—all of it
rehearsal for the majesty
of being held.

The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you
and life begins
when saying I love you
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.

My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

Ultimately,
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.”

The world aches for our gifts to brought to the table, even though we just play a very small part in a very long story and we will not end hunger, poverty, suffering, or war at the end of the day, or the end of our lives. Just be good and do good anyway.

They need emotional support.

While I was driving, I turned on the radio and I was shocked by the information the host shared – there’s about 6 – 8 people died daily because of illicit-drug overdoses in BC in the past first ten month 2021.

When I was still the rector of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Mississauga three years ago, we welcomed the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) group in our church building. I was allowed to attend their meetings. One time I had conversation with a Canadian born Chinese young man. He told me he’s trying to live clean but it’s difficult with the emotional support of the family. He was kicked out by his parents because they could not accept his son with drug addiction. I could see his tears when he talked about his family. He loved and missed his family very much. I did not know what to say, I just gave him a hug. He cried and said “thank you” to me. Because he moved to another shelter, he had never come to the NA meeting in our church since that evening. I have been keeping him in prayers.

There are many people need others’ emotional support so that they can continue their journey of living clean. In fact, emotion support is one powerful way to prevent people to use drugs to escape from their personal problems and pains. In fact, we all need others’ emotional support.

Our worst enemy

In his book, “Ego is the Enemy”, Ryan Holiday points out the following truths for us:” Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego…It is that petulant child inside every person, the ones that chooses getting his or he way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility – that is ego…but ego is there at the root of almost every conceivable problem and obstacle, from why we can’t win to why we need to win all the time at the expense of others. From why we don’t have what we want to why having what we want doesn’t seem to make us feel any better…we live inside our own fantasy…what we have is not confidence but delusion…ego tells us what we want to hear, when we want to hear it…”

Yes, I realize that my battle with my worst enemy has not yet finished. I believe I am alone and helpless in this battle. Christmas reminds me that Christ has come to help us to fight and win this battle.

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute (The Priority and Practice of Evangelism – Canadian Church Leader Perspective in 2021), 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

According Thom S. Rainer, the top fifteen reasons our churches are less evangelistic today are:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

In his book, “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”, Mark Dever reminds us that “according to the Bible, all believers have received this commission”. The Commission he talks about is the Jesus Great Commission (Matthews 28:18-20).

Mark points out that “We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church – helping to organize or lead it. We may teach and equip. We may provide hospitality and encouragement. We may pray and serve and show mercy and give. But we also all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both insider and outside of the church…God calls all Christians to share the good news. Our churches need to make sure that we know the good news and to make sure that we can all express it clearly. And we should work to train each other in having the kind of Christian lives and clear understanding that will help us to share the gospel’.

I agree with him that “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explain what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism”.

I think Mark has given us a very concise and precise conclusion on evangelism, “a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive (a desire to obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God) We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God…The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray all Christians say “yes” to the call to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ,

The Anglican Vision

When I was considering to become an Anglican years ago, James E. Griffiss’ “The Anglican Vision” helped me to understand the origin of Anglicanism, Anglican belief and practice.

For someone like me coming from non-liturgical Christian background, his explanation on “the church as sacrament” dispelled my misunderstanding. He wrote, “In our prayer book sacraments are defined as ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace’…The witness of the Bible, the doctrinal tradition of councils and creeds, the discipline of prayer, worship, and action, and our communion with one another and with God – all of these essential components of how the church is the sacrament of God’s presence. They are our heritage in the catholic faith mediated to us and brought to life in the particular historical condition o four church community. By the grace of God, we believe, the Word of Truth will be present with us in the process of our hearing and speaking.”

According to his description, are you and I the sacraments? As a priest, have I been with my “church” experiencing His presence among&in us? May God help us.

Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life”

In this timeless book, Fr. Nouwen again insightfully guides me (I hope it helps you too) on a journey to discover the rich and the depth of the Eucharist through the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. When I partake the Eucharist, I come in my brokenness before God, heard the Word and the profession of faith, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What has impacted me the most is his reminding us of the end of communion, “Communion is not the end. Mission is …We recognized him, but that recognition is not just for us to savor or to keep as a secret…It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference…”

Even though they faced difficulties, challenges and persecutions, the first disciples carried on the mission and lived out their eucharistic lives faithfully. Their witnesses have been inspiring me (I hope you too) to live out the missional life in the midst of pandemic.

Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life”.

I love to read Sister Joan’s books. This book is one of books in The Ancient Practices Series (I love them all) by Thomas Nelson. This is one of the books helped me to discover and enjoy the rich and the meaning of The Liturgical Year when I came to Anglican from another Christian tradition 8 years ago.

In the beginning of the book, Sister Joan wrote, “every year is a distinct growth point in life… Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…The way we define our years determine what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it…”

Then she wrote and explained “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.”

Her writing has inspired me the most is this, “Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth”.

I have been thinking, as a priest, have I helped my parishioners to experience and cherish the rich and the profound meaning of the liturgical year? How can I have more and mover people journey with me in the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life?

Michael H. Hoppe’s “Active Listening: Improving Your Ability To Listen And Lead”

Although it published by the Center for Creative Leadership is written for leaders is for everyone. We all need to learn to be an effective listening. Although this book is very thin (less than 30 pages), it effectively describes the six components of active listening: paying attention, suspending judgement, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and sharing. If you need a concise book on active listening, I strongly recommend you this book by Michael H. Hoppe.

Thom Rainer’s “The Post Quarantine Church”

Although we are not sure if and how the Covid19 Pandemic is going to be over, Thom’s discussions in his book are good reminders for leaders as the churches gradually return to in-person gatherings.

Thom rightly points out that he new normal of the post-quarantine church does not look like the old normal of the pre-pandemic church. In order to grasp the new opportunities the new normal is bringing us, Thom advises us to 1) gather differently; 2) reach the digital world; 3) reconnect with the community near our churches; 4) take prayer to a new and powerful level; 5) rethink our facilities for emerging opportunities and 6) make lasting changes that will make a difference.

In fact, these are the areas the churches have been ignored for years and the new normal is waking us up to make responses to the rapid changing of the world.

Joe Amaral’s “Understanding Jesus: cultural insights into the words and deeds of Christ”

I just finish reading this book that really has been stirring me to “learn more about our Jewish roots as the people of God as we follow after the One our Hebrew Christian brothers and sisters call Yeshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah”. As what Wayne Hilsden wrote, “Joe Amaral sheds significant new light on the person and work of the Messiah and by digging deeper into the Hebraic roots of the New Testament text”, I strongly recommend this book to you.

Do you have faith in God’s love?

When I revisited my “old” Facebook post, this post caught my attention and I would like to share with you:

I was going to leave the coffee shop. A lady sat beside me talked to me, “Father, may I ask you something?” “Oh, sure!” “Father, will God forgive me if I have sinned against Him…?” She had tears in her eyes and she was reading a book written by a very conservation and famous writer (always talked about sin, judgement and hell). I was touched and said, “yes, God loves you before you asked for His forgiveness. Do you have faith in God and His love?” “Praise the Lord and thank you!” She had tears on her face.

Dr. Craton’s “wisdom from the homeless”

I just start to read Neil Craton’s “wisdom from the homeless” and I am touched by his preface and like to share with you.

“Sometimes the world seems like a very dark place. Partisan grievances have increased exponentially. Left and Right find new ways to vilify each other, hardening points of view into the points of a spear. To disagree with someone is to hate them. A new cycle is not complete without a tragic tale of someone killing their neighbor or themselves. Children are terrified that the planet is ecologically doomed, where every breath of wind is perceived as the first whisper of the apocalypse. We are increasingly fearful of one another, drowning in a toxic soup of racial tension, political gamesmanship, ethnic marginalization and the vicious habit of ‘depersonalizing everyone into a rival.’ The affluent seem increasingly obsessed with ‘small minded and lop-sided pursuits.’ Now more than ever, we are suffering from a deficiency of kindness and hope.

I feel the pain of the world and I am part of it. I feel tears filled with my eyes. Dr. Craton continues, “In this dark and angry world, I see a glimpse of light. I have seen kindness, care and hope at a homeless Mission…the source for hope, light, care and kindness is Jes…us of Nazareth…People of all walks of life need hope hope and every problem is easier to handle if we have it. Hope is hard to serve without the garnish of kindness. The present cultural context seems to know little of kindness. I have witnessed far more hope and kindness at Siloam than I see in many celebrities, newscasters or politicians.”…

Yes, if you and I pay attention to the world around us, we should be able to see the glimpse. The call for us is to be the small candle(s) revealing a glimpse of light that helps our neighbors to see Jesus and find hope in him.

They don’t come to church, not yet

Recently I had a fruitful conversation with a fellow priest in the east end of the country (while I am in the west end of the country). He asked me about my “new” church and community. I wrote to him that people in the immediate area don’t come to church (I am talking about the old normal). His response wakes me up, “Not yet…” Yes, there are still many people “not yet” coming to church, we need to invite them to come; people who are not yet coming to church may come to church one day. I pray, “yes, Lord, please help me to experience your presence when I am going to invite people from the community to St Chad to worship you. May you be honored and glorified. Amen!”

Alan Watts’ “what is Tao”

In the conclusion of the book, Alan wrote, “In our restlessness we are always tempted to climb every hill and cross every skyline to find out what lies beyond, yet as you get older and wiser it is not just flagging energy but wisdom that teaches you took at mountains from below, or perhaps just climb them a little way. For at the top you an no longer see the mountain. And beyond, on the other side, there is, perhaps, just another valley like this”. He also pointed out that “what we are seeking is, if we are not totally blind, already here”. When we are seeking for love, blessing, wisdom, truth, success, meaning, abundance, beauty…, we often like to go beyond “the mountain”, we at the end often find out “in the place where we are now, we have already arrived”. Do not wait, no need to go beyond, we can experience His presence right now and right here. Open our heart to Him who will help us to see the beauty, find the meaning and experience the abundancy of the life. Thanks be to God!

Enough?

In Wayne Muller’s “A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough”, he points out that “…we feel incapable of remembering this most essential, human offerings: to do what we can and have mercy?…forgotten what enough of anything feel like – enough work, enough success, enough love, enough security, enough wealth, enough care for our children, enough generosity, enough closing, shelter, enough daily bread?”

As someone’s husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend and priest, I quite often wonder if I have enough love for the people. At the same time, I have forget these four: 1) do my love for God is enough? 2) God’s grace is enough for me; 3) do I know what I can do? and 4) have mercy on myself.

That is why I felt overwhelmed, stressed and tired.