Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program. From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.
The lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering. Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel. While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.
When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number. There was a commission to preach the Gospel.
Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people. Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him. Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.
For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.
‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.
Stop inviting them to church!
Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up. What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.
We were never called to bring people to church. We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces. I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.
What is “outreach”, anyway? To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible. We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago. Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add. We should “reach beyond”. This is what love would do.
It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.
But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser. It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church. We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.
Love does not pull. Love draws. Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically. We cannot force it or manufacture it. It is not our love that draws. It is not us who draw. Jesus draws. It is His love, through us.
We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth. Take care of people.
Feed, clothe and house the poor.
Welcome and love the disenfranchised.
Protect the weak from predators.
Serve the “less-than’s”. Don’t let pride get in the way.
Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.
Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).
Have a shoulder available. Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.
If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief). This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it. Might tell that story, eventually).
Don’t forget, home first.
We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world. Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.
Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.
Wear their shoes.
When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6). To have compassion is to suffer with. Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy. Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses. Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.
I, like many others, have been on the receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking. Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.
The latter issue is huge. There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion. Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost. No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul. But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…
16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)
Less inviting. More ministering.
Less preaching. More serving.
Less apathy. More compassion.
Less judgment. More love.
I am no better at this. I speak to myself, as well. This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do. I am tired of the same old – same old. I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate). For me, I am seeking just how that will go. For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.
Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.