Category Archives: Serve Your Neighbors

Life Change in Vegas

At ELI we get the incredible pleasure of hearing amazing stories from church planters such as yourselves, people tearing down walls and building bridges into people’s lives. Here is a fresh story that will inspire you (from Verve church in Las Vegas, as told by Krystal Altman):

Tommy recently had the honor of baptizing our friend Mike. Who is Mike? Well, almost 2 years ago, Brodie met a little boy named Adam at Verve. I soon set up a play date with Kristina – his mom – to get the boys together. Kristina, Adam (3) and her daughter Miley (5) were living with Kristina’s boyfriend, Mike.


We hit it off right away, but soon Kristina pulled me aside.


“I have to tell you…we’re moving. We’re moving to Washington State at the end of the month.” We were bummed! They were moving. However, try as they might, they were struggling to rent their existing house in Vegas and find a new one in Washington.


About a week after our play date, Kristina was at my house in tears.  Mike had gone out one night and not come home. She confided some of his story to me. Mike had a history of addiction, having just spent 7 years in prison for cocaine; he was also an alcoholic. So, occasionally, wouldn’t come home.


I immediately began to try to help Kristina and her kids. We offered our home for them to stay so she could get on her feet. It wasn’t an easy situation for several reasons. First, she had only been attending Verve for a couple of weeks, and did not know God, coming from a completely unchurched background. Secondly, she loved Mike and didn’t want to leave him. Thirdly, Mike is an engineer; he earned well and provided for them so she hadn’t had to work. Kristina decided to stay with Mike, but not move to Washington.


I spent a lot of time with Kristina, who is in one of my Micro Groups. She began to discover who God is and that he loves her unconditionally. I soon had the honor of baptizing Kristina as she  made the decision to enter into a relationship with God. Weeks later, Mike finally agreed to come to church, because, “I have to meet this best friend “Brodie” that Adam keeps talking about.” Mike was very skeptical. He’s intellectual and felt he couldn’t blindly believe in God.


Over the last year and a half our families have done life together. We’ve had birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I was in Kristina and Mike’s wedding. We have prayed a lot for Mike. He has watched skeptically over the last couple of years and discovered that our God is real and that he wants a relationship with Him.


And so, Tommy had the awesome honor of baptizing Mike a few weeks ago.


Mike’s words? “I’ve been watching. And I’ve seen the changes in the lives of those around me. I would like to have that also.”


We say Verve is a “church for people who don’t like church” and it very much is. Because of this, we reach people who are really far from God. Most of them take a very long time to grow in their relationship with God before they are ready to trust Him and decide to follow Jesus.


Mike is a perfect example of this. It took him two years of observing the life change in Kristina and observing Tommy and I to see if the God we followed was “real.”


I have seen Mike go from the cocaine addict/alcoholic living with his girlfriend to a man who is now Kristina’s husband, completely free from drugs and alcohol, who loves God, studies his Bible, comes to church, sits in the front row (when he’s not serving in the tech booth) and doesn’t miss a week. This radical transformation never gets old. Thank you for being a part of what God is doing here. Thank you for giving sacrificially and allowing God to use us to reach those here who are very far from God.


And thank you, Altmans and Verve, for that encouragement!
[Some of the names in the story have been changed.]

Being Missional AND Evangelistic

One of the things I do to make church planting possible is look after my three year old daughter Layla during the day while my wife heads off to work a “banking hours” job. I get some work done during the day amongst her hugs and TV shows and then work more after she goes to bed.


It’s challenging and yet I find that following her around (and yes, sometimes I wonder who leads who) helps me by providing a wealth of illustrations for teaching. Take for instance the teeter-totter. Everyday we go to the park and I watch kids playing on this classic outdoor toy. Most of the time kids have a ton of fun on it – moving back and forth and back and forth, giggling and screaming because of the gentle swaying that they co-create. We’ve all done it and probably loved it as a kid, right? Occasionally though it simply doesn’t work. There is a law at work with the teeter-totter. It’s a law of balance. The two kids on the teeter-totter must be roughly equal in weight otherwise neither of them move and the toy simply doesn’t work, the joy is lost and everyone is left feeling ripped off.

It’s occurred to me lately that something similar might be hindering the functionality of my church planting and perhaps you can identify with it. See at one end of my teeter-totter is the need to be missional. I always take missional to mean that we’re doing practical things to show the love of Jesus to those around us. Acts of service. Radical love expressed in organic community. Things Jesus would do for others if he were here today. I find this latest buzzword helpful because I am constantly running into people whose beef with the church is that we’ve stopped being practical and helpful to others. So being on mission in practical ways is important.

However, I feel the sometimes I let that “kid” get too big and the “other kid” too small. The other kid that brings balance and joy to the motion of the teeter-totter is evangelism. I think we’ve been rightly convicted about how we share the gospel and think of evangelism. Too many of us inside and outside of the church have seen the sharing of the good news of Jesus reduced to a sales pitch and if you’re at all like me it’s made you a bit afraid of giving people the wrong impression of you and your church. You don’t want to be “that guy”. For fear of being lumped into “that” category you have chosen the way of “intentional community” or some other more missional approach.

The problem I’ve seen is that intentional community can become a community intentionally not sharing the Good News of Jesus with anyone. In these cases we let the missional kid become fat and the functionality of our churches breaks down. People hide in our churches because they know they’ll never have to take that step of faith and actually string a sentence together that is both true to the gospel message AND manages to speak to the heart of a person who doesn’t yet follow Jesus.

This is very real for me. The past year of my church planting journey has seen my missional kid get way too fat and, for a while, I think our church was like an out of balance teeter-totter – doomed to zero movement and none of the joy that comes form the ebb and flow of mission and evangelism working together to see people join the Kingdom of Light.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel like you’ve let your evangelism quotient be outweighed by an unhealthy approach to being missional? Do you have any tips for others that might tip the scales and put a church back into balance?

Practical Ways To Engage Your Neighborhood

Recently I made a list of 100 ways to engage your neighborhood. I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

* In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people
* Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working.
* Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a list of my top 25. The full list of 100 is available to download below the list. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.

  1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard
  2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood
  3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard
  4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)
  5. Invite neighbors over for dinner
  6. Attend and participate in HOA functions
  7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors
  8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved
  9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)
  10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors
  11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors
  12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards
  13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home
  14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute
  15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety
  16. Host a sports game watching party
  17. Host a coffee and dessert night
  18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night
  19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)\
  20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
  21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood
  22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents
  23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas
  24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team
  25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

View the full list here