101 Ways to Reach Your Community101 Ways to Reach Your Community
Steve Sjogren
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Servant evangelism, a method of creating situations where one can gauge the spiritual readiness of unsaved individuals and then perhaps present the Gospel, has been popularly promoted by Steve Sjogren. In this book, over one hundred ideas for outreach into the community - ranging from the traditional (car washes) to the unusual (crime scene cleanup) - are presented with suggested places to go, lists of essentials, and many with "In Action" vignettes with anecdotes from actual executions of the projects. Intended to inspire social action to portray positive elements of Christianity to a world with some negative attitudes towards Christianity. Used in connection with a full Gospel presentation, 101 Ways to Reach Your Community can be a useful tool to doing just that.
     

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Why did you write this book?

Well….I had written…this is my third book. The other books were more along the lines of the theory behind outreach and why we ought to be doing outreach. The philosophy of servant evangelism. This is intended to be more of a “cookbook”. Specifically “Ok…we got the ideas down…lets go do it! And here I’ve got in my left hand the cookbook and in my right hand I have the implement of serving, whether it’s a squeegy or a can of soft-drink or it’s a stamp I’m giving away or it’s a….whatever. I’m ready to go do it now.” And so it was attempt at getting past the theory and we want to “Ready, Fire, Aim” and go do something.

Are there people who are “cut out” for this type of ministry or is this something that anyone can do?

Well…I hope that anyone who has a heart and desire to obey the Lord….(laughs)…no really, it sounds kinda ‘high falootin’’ of me but anyone who has the simplicity of heart to hear the great commission and say ‘yes! Here I am. I want to go do that’ would hear the call of servant evangelism and say ‘this is something that even I could do’. And they would pick up the childlikeness of this approach. I mean, this is the simplest approach to evangelism going on right now in the body of Christ. I like to say ‘if you can’t do servant evangelism, then you can’t do anything’. This is not the Jaguar Motor Car of evangelism by any means. This is for the evangelism impaired. Those who have a heart to do something activist, that’s who this is for. Those who have a desire to be involved in apologetics, and engage people at a verbal, intellectual level…they probably would not be fulfilled. Although we do have our share of conversations with people they tend to be intermittent. But for the people who just want to get started and do something and get their feet wet and want to interact with a large quantity of folks….this has got their name written all over it. But if you want to do the Ravi Zacharias thing…sit on a stump with the philosophers…you probably wouldn’t be to satisfied doing this type of thing.

Well…since you mentioned Ravi Zacharias and apologetics, I’ll ask you the same thing I asked him. Where do you see the difference between “apologetics” and “evangelism”?

I think apologetics is pre-evangelism like servant evangelism is pre-evangelism. It’s leading people toward Christ. Actually by definition, evangelism itself is helping people cross the bridge from being, what I call, a not-yet Christian to being a full-fledged follower of Christ. So apologetics, in an intellectual way is very similar to servant which is more emotional and visceral. We help people experience at a life level, at a heart to heart, sternum to sternum level, that God is real and God loves you and let me prove to you. Here’s a dozen donuts. Ravi Zacharias encounters a whole other crowd of people who say…there was a woman a while back who said, ‘I think that life was started….,’ she was a raelian, ‘I think that life was started by UFOs. They came to earth and brought live to planet earth and the Bible was brought to earth.’ And this is in the middle of a car wash. So we said, ‘well you that if God went through all that trouble, don’t you think you should read it? I mean if UFOs brought the Bible, don’t you think you should read it?’ That was our best attempt at responding to her. I’m sure Ravi could have given her a much better answer than we can. You know…we just mirror children in this whole thing. So I think that apologetics and servant evangelism are kissing cousins at one level, but on an emotional level, they’re completely different. One is at an intellectual level and one is at a visceral level. They’re both leading people up to the point where they receive Christ.

In your book, you have 101 really amazing idea. What were some of the ones that weren’t so amazing?

We have some of the humorous ones in the book. At the back we have the top ten worst projects. They’re things like free body piercing, free pet embalming, urinal cleaning at halftime at the NFL game, I thought that was pretty bad, in mouth denture cleaning at the rest home, and the free match give-away at the Smokers Secessionist meeting. (laughs) Seriously though, we had a few ‘not-so-good’ projects. There was this one where there was this ‘not very prudent’ teenager and we were out washing windshields which is what we do when we’re out at large parking lots. We leave a little card that says ‘we noticed that your windshield was a little dirty, hope we brought some more sunshine to your day’ and we finish washing the windshield nicely and kinda stick the card there under the wipers. And.. there were a couple of Chihuahuas in this car and Chihuahuas can get worked up pretty easily. They get beyond hyperactive. These things began to run around inside the car almost like circus motorcycles. They go from barking and a little bit of shaking to running around. First I think it was horizontal and then it became vertical running around. They devastated the inside of the car and when ended up having to pay to repair the inside of the car. That was one of the things we did wrong. So don’t wash windshields when there are two hyperactive Chihuahuas inside the car.
Another one was, we were doing a windshield wiper fluid refill and you put the blue fluid in the blue reservoir. Well this lady put the blue liquid in the yellow reservoir which is the….uh….

Transmission fluid? No….Antifreeze?

Yeah antifreeze. She put the blue liquid in the antifreeze and that completely messed up the whole antifreeze compartment and the next thing you know we’re paying for a flush for the entire antifreeze…and that was about three-hundred dollars. That was pretty bad. A number of times when we’ve gone to wash windshields, we lift up the wiper and the entire assembly comes off in our hand. That’s a small problem. But its funny that with the thousands of people that I’ve personally touched over the year, I’ve only had two people that I had to walk away and they were still mad by the time I walked away. And I just kinda scratch my head and say ‘they must be having a bad decade. And there was nothing I could do. I could have been giving away hundred dollar bills and they would have wanted one thousand dollars. There was just no way of making them happy.

I guess that’s kinda like the servant evangelism equivalent to an apologist meeting someone who…you know, Jesus could appear right in front of them and they still wouldn’t believe.

Yeah! He could have raised from the dead right in front of them and they still wouldn’t be convinced that he was the Son of God. And so we.. I mean, most people are looking for the brighter side. They’re hopeful that this stuff is true. That there are people who are out there to believe in and look to and walk in the light. We found for the most part that people are, deep down, looking for the ray of light they hope lives in human hearts. The negatives have been so small and incredibly exceptional that they aren’t really even worth mentioning.

Now you are from Ohio which is generally part of the “Bible Belt” and yet I was reading an article that was describing (favorably) a project you did with a church in Nashville, TN where it said that people were very skeptical. Are there unique challenges to being down there?

I found that there is a different breed of skepticism in different parts of the country. In Boston you have the skepticism that would say, ‘there is no God’ and shake their fist at you. It’s more of an atheistic skepticism. Back east skepticism. I planted a church in Baltimore and I would say that was pretty prevalent there. Does that make sense?

Yes.

And the further south and west you get there is more of a religious skepticism. Kind like ‘my denomination could whip the snot out of your denomination any old time’ kind of a hypocricized skepticism. People know you go to church every Sunday but you live like heck the other six days out of the week. So nobody really believes much about anybody else’s spirituality. So you go to Tennessee or Kentucky or Alabama or Georgia…and in some ways its actually more shocking to go out doing these servant projects. You get the jaw drop and the amazing responses from people cause they are not expecting any type of kindness. They anticipate that you’re there to grow your church. Not to do anything altruistic or ‘otherly’ in anyway. I think it is shocking anytime you go into a skeptical society to do a serving project but it just kinda varies what challenge [you face] depending on where you are. And Nashville would be close to the epicenter of skepticism religiously. I love Nashville but it would be a tough place to minister I think.

While we’re talking about different communities….how would you define “community”?

I’d say some of the best stuff on community has been acts 2:42. I, kinda kidding, say, with all the study Bibles and with the Open Door Study Bible, I wish I could find the little door in a passage of Scripture and just climb on in to experience the 3D dimension of that verse. I would love to be able to open up the door of the page of scripture in Acts 2:42 and get into the Acts 2 dimension of sharing all things in common and especially the fellowship. They had, I think, the proper balance of inwardness and outwardness where they really had a heart for the community but at the same time they had a heart for one another. They shared all things in common. I think the way that Scott Peck, now I’m not sure where he stands spiritually, he wrote a pretty good book on community called In Search of Civility a few years ago and he uses the word ‘civility’ synonymously with the word ‘community’. I think that’s a pretty good way of phrasing it. It’s just learning to treat people right. And the older I get the more I think that’s a pretty good insight. This learning how to treat people decently is putting wheels on this theoretical idea of community. As a young person I would have talked a lot about describing it from the outside. Activities. We’re the people who take the Lord’s Supper, and we’re the people who believe the Scriptures and we’re the people who blah blah blah. But at this point in my mid-forties and with what I’ve been through in life in ministry I’d say just simply learning to treat people right in a consistent way and being able to love when the chips are down, love them no matter what’s going on in their lives, love them regardless. It’s pretty close the idea of agape love but aimed inwardly to the body of Christ. Saying to people, ‘I will love you no matter what. You can’t do anything bad enough to make me reject you.’ In my mind, that’s getting pretty close to the heart of community. I understand the notion of boundaries. I read all the books on boundaries and addictions, but personally I think that the body of Christ has overstated the notion of boundaries in the last ten to fifteen years. And the Allender book Bold Love is closer to where we should be living.

Dan Allender?

Yeah. The concept of bold love is closer to where we should be living. I think too quickly in the late eighties and the nineties, we came up with this idea of boundaries. Like, ‘they got their chance and we draw a line in the sand and if they cross that line then they’re out of the house or out of here or whatever. And I’m not talking [as one] who ever had that done to me or one who’s ever had to do that to some one I love but I’ve watched it transpire in the body of Christ. And I ask myself, ‘where is the agape love in that?’ I mean we’re supposed to be these people who go the extra mile and take the risk of loving the extra bit. And I think that he asks a good question, ‘are we living more like secular psychology than like Biblical people?” And I think that’s a great question. I think that community should ere on the side of loving too much. When we stand before God at the pearly gates, I would rather be one who falls on the side of ‘I loved too much’ rather than ‘I loved too little.’ And I think that that is what real community is closer too.

You mentioned Dan Allendar, what are some books that have been foundational in developing your views?

Well, there’s this one book that is kinda old but I think it’s still in print. Its called Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. It’s a small book by…..I can’t remember now. But he’s good and that’s a good book. Watchman Nee and some of the stuff he’s written has had a big influence in my life. Though he is a bit more mystical than I am certainly. His, The Normal Christian Life and his concepts about what normal and abnormal is all about. Is it normal to be living a life of outwardness and servanthood? That had a big impact on my life. And his biography Against the Tide. I read all the time. I’m one of those guys who reads a tremendous number of books. I…there are weeks where I read nine to twelve books a week. I mean I’m just trying to figure out which ones stand out over the years. Probably the book on prayer by Brother Lawrence and Frank (unintelligible) they got together. It’s a compilation of the two of them. One was a monk and the other was a 20th century theologian. That was a very powerful book. I read that over and over. Knowing Godby J.I. Packer, I’ve read and re-read that one. And then I guess the whole notion of the power of the spirit has been rekindled in my life by Fire in the Fireplace by Hummel. I find myself reading that one over and over again.

Well, thank you very much.

You're welcome.