Everything we do in life reflects what we believe (or don’t believe) about who God is and who we are. And when I mean everything, I’ll even include the way that we, as a church planters, interact with our prayer partners and financial supporters.
Here are three — I’m sure there are more — attributes of God’s nature that fuel and inform the way I connect with the networks, churches, family, and friends who support the work God is doing at Renaissance.
A God Who Communicates
We worship a God who is not silent. Our God is a God who doesn’t leave us wandering in a state of confusion and chaos wondering what we should do from one minute to the next. Rather, the Triune God clearly and regularly communicates his desires for his people. He did this through his prophets in the Old Testament, and ultimately did through his Son in the New (Hebrews 1:1ff).
Even before you and I were invited to follow Christ, Jesus tells us that it’s an invitation to come and die. It’s an invitation to pick up a Roman torture device and follow him. And because we are forgetful people, he graciously gives us tangible reminders to recall his affections for us and the mission he has invited us into. From Scripture to the Sacraments to other believers to his divine nature revealed in creation, he is continuously speaking to us.
So if I am his ambassador and image bearer, and I am, then I have the great joy and privilege of mirroring this reality by reminding Renaissance’s supporters of their participation in God’s mission. From the day they sign that commitment card to pray or give, I commit to regularly communicate with them the fruit of their sacrificial generosity. I’ve heard countless times, “I read your updates every month, and through them I am reminded that God is still at work.”
Tips for Consistent Communication:
Get a game plan
I communicate once a month through Mailchimp. Eight of those are prayer emails, and four (spring, summer, autumn, winter) are photo newsletters. There is no magic equation. Pick something. Stick with it. If it doesn’t work, rethink it. If it ain’t broke, try to hone it.
Get creative with your content
Invite others into the process to craft the stories and/or prayer request. Use different formats and layouts. End everything in an exclamation point! Just kidding. Seriously. I’m just kidding. Try to bullet your prayers. Try to limit each request to a word count. Share longer stories when necessary. Get creative.
Get it read
Just send the thing. Will it be imperfect? Yep. Will you wish you would have shared a different story? Probably. Will there be typos? You know it. My most recent newsletter gave the wrong birthday for my new daughter. It happens. Your partners are just excited to hear from you. Not in how well you communicate, but that you are communicating.
A God Who Comforts
Throughout the story of Scripture we see over and over again that God comforts the down and out, the broken, the beaten up, and the weak. And one of the primary vehicles God uses to comfort his people — you ready for it? — are his people. Everyday ordinary Christians comforting everyday, ordinary Christians. You and I, pastor/planter, are those everyday, ordinary Christians. Paul writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. — 2 Corinthians 2:3-4
Let me just admit: I am horrible at communicating my brokenness and weaknesses to my supporters. I love sharing growing numbers, large Sunday gatherings, success stories, and baptism testimonies that would even make Donald Trump weep. I don’t love sharing my afflictions. But my supporters need to know my hardship, shortcomings, and yes, my failures. Because it it will be through them, that the God of all comfort will comfort me through phone calls, visits to my city, and support from my extended family in Christ.
Even though I don’t do this well, there are men who do. Just take a look at any update Rusty McKie (Sojourn Community Church, Chattanooga) or Jeremiah Taylor (Redemption Church, Miami) have ever written. It’s through these men, that I have had the great privilege to experience my unshaken Hope and Comforter, Christ Jesus, “for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 3:7).
Tips for Comforting Communication:
REMEMBER YOUR WEAKNESS
Our partners don’t need any more reasons to put another pastor on a pedestal where he doesn’t belong. Let them know you are flawed and fallen. Let them know it’s been weeks since you’ve taken a day off, or taken your wife on a date. Let them know attendance has been low or stagnant or declining. Let them know you are weak. Both you and them will experience great freedom in Christ, because he is our strength; not us or anything we can or cannot do.
Ask folks from within your church if you could share their needs/struggles with your prayer partners. Enlist the wisdom of your wife (if you have one) to help discern how you communicate your own struggles. Share how members of your church or your network have been a great source of comfort during difficult times.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” - Romans 5:3-5
REVISIT PAST NEWSLETTERS
- Update them on previous trials and hard situations. If they have progressed, celebrate. If they haven’t improved, tell them. If it’s gotten worse, tell them. That’s why they’ve committed to be on their knees for you. Remember, all of this is for your joy and your hope.
A God Who Celebrates
What you celebrate communicates what you value. Right now in Pittsburgh the town is littered in black and gold because The Stanley Cup has made its way to its rightful heirs. It’s clear to both outsiders and insiders; Pittsburghers put great stock in their motto ‘City of Champions.’ The same is true of our God. What God values he celebrates.
From the opening verses of Genesis we see God celebrating His creation. Like a never ending CCM chorus, those initial words of God’s creative act send cheers reverberating throughout the atmosphere, “And God saw that it was good.” - (Genesis 1:10ff)
In the Parable of the two Sons we see the Father throwing a party at his own expense for the return of his rebel son. Grab my robe, the finest drink, and the fattest heifer. Put the speakers in the windows and the doors. Turn it up to 11. My kiddo, who I thought was dead, is alive (Luke 15:11-32).
And what will be awaiting God’s redeemed children in the joining of new heavens and new earth is a feast, a banquet, a party to kick of the biggest celebration the world has ever seen or known - God dwelling with us, and we with God. Lavish festivities celebrating God’s glory making all things new. All joy. No sin. And it won’t stop (Revelation 19ff).
As a communicator of this Great News, I want to give my partners and supporters a tangible foretaste of this reality through photos and stories of answered prayers. When they read my newsletters, I want them to rejoice like David, “in the saints of the land, in whom is all of his delight” (Psalm 16:3) all the while knowing that in God’s “presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (v. 11).
TIPS FOR CELEBRATORY COMMUNICATION
SEND A VARIETY OF FORMATS
From photo newsletters to brief prayer emails sans photos. Post this on all (when appropriate) social media platforms.
SELECT DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHERS
Nearly everyone in your church is a photographer if they have a smartphone. This will insure different perspectives of a story from your own people.
SHARE PROGRESS, NOT A FINISHED PRODUCT
Because your church is not a project, it will never be a finished product. It’s a group of flawed people - including me and you - who are progressing more and more towards Jesus. Salvation is finished, not our sanctification.
Yep, I went there. Celebrate what Christ alone is doing for you and through you in his church. I am not the center of this story. Do I work harder than the rest? Possibly, but it’s not me, it is God’s grace in me that I am what I am, and that his church in Pittsburgh is what it is. The only reason I have anything worth celebrating is solely by faith alone, by God’s Word alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone, for God’s glory alone.
When I think about my role as a communicator in these ways, writing newsletters become less of administrative duty. Writing that sentence was hard, but it’s true, even when I don’t believe it. Not only to I get to display these three character traits about my God, but I get to enjoy him while I write. My hope and prayer is that this becomes more and more of your experience as well.