I have read a book entitled “101 Ways to Reach Your Community” by Steve Sjogren who is the founding pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati. (A full review will come later.) He is a graduate of Lutheran Bible Institute and is the founding pastor of that non-denominational mega-church. In that book there are some very unique ways to draw the community to your church. He also wrote another book called “Irresistible Evangelism”. Both books are worth the read. He grew his church to more than 6,000 and he kept Jesus front and center in his ministry the whole way. It is not the size of the church that matters but I think the angels in heaven are rejoicing each of those 6,000 followers of Christ in that church. In his books he emphasizes that you cannot just use one tool over another but must use many tools to bring them to the Lord. He says we need to be open to what works in today’s mission field and disregard old things that maybe once worked (like cold calls if they ever worked .
To me the bottom line on outreach is simply showing the Lord’s love in our lives. And of course for me, and I believe for most others that means servant evangelism. I was reading something interesting about how this person believed that Jesus purposefully linked communion with service by washing his disciples feet on Maundy Thursday. It was not a coincidence that he did both that night. In his mind the two go hand in hand. Given the face of the church by many on the outside we have to show them what it means to be a disciple and not just give them words. Words just bounce off the unbeliever as hypocritical without actions to back them up. Actions do speak louder than words. Outreach is giving them a reason to check us out to see if we are really like what we appear to be.
I am really surprised that many seminaries only exposed their students to only one or two forms of outreach if that. And often times that is cold calling . Everything I have ever read about it says that is the least effective way to bring souls to Christ. There are literally hundreds of more effective things to do! In my days in the corporate engineering world I came across the “NIH” syndrome many times. It think it is also prevalent in the church culture. NIH is “not invented here”. That is if we don’t come up with it on our own then it is not worth the effort. I on the other hand believe that it is a total waste of time to re-invent something that has already been successfully done. In that regard we, as a church, should always be looking and studying how others do outreach and use what they have found to work. That is one of the reasons I am constantly on the lookout for books relating to this subject.
Now lets talk about church websites as a form of outreach. I believe that websites are a good outreach tool. Especially to the younger generation who literally live on the web. And the younger generation are the very ones who are leaving church in droves! I have seen some church websites that put a very enticing face on their church. The point of the website is to get them initially interested in “maybe” coming to see what we are about. Once we get them in the door other factors have to take over. A very essential one is the workings of the Holy Spirit. I know what doesn’t work with websites are those that are boring and do not reflect an active and enthusiastic congregation. Like it or not people are initially attracted to the members of the church before they are sucked in to the Lord’s love for them. That is the reason why I say if you can’t keep your website active and enthusiastic then it should probably be shut down as it may do more harm than good. To make it work you need members who are willing to spend a few minutes a week to craft posts about our activities and enthusiasm for Christ. Will the site guarantee new members? Of course not but it will at least bring some to think about it. Just how much work is justified to save one soul? Of course you know the answer to that.
In closing, I think a common problem with many churches is that they turn into country clubs where their members are just too comfortable to bother with reaching out to others who are not like they are. When I first started volunteering in a Christian soup kitchen about five years ago I was somewhat uncomfortable with all the “bums” and “drunkards” who are sometimes there. But after a while I realized that most of the people there are pretty much like me except they have fallen on some hard times. These are the exact people who I believe the Lord intends us to reach out to with vigor. When we refuse to leave our comfort zone we are denying the teaching of Christ. I constantly pray that He will remind us when we get just too comfortable with the way things are.
Thanks for listening to my ranting. We should always be uncomfortable with how we are doing outreach. If we are not then we are probably not doing it the way the Lord intends. Let’s keep challenging our comfort zones.