Amazing! Even as I attempt to communicate to you, I believe all may be lost because of the language barrier. But I will try!
When you think outreach you are more than likely are thinking of a Christmas or Easter program. You see people coming to church who normally do not and a few others that have been invited. The hope is that they will hear the message and ask Jesus into their lives.
There you have it, Outreach! Clap your hands and you are off the hook til next year.
Now some of you may be more advanced. You might think outreach is giving tracts or having a Christian summer festival at your church.
Another, even more developed insight might be serving food at a soup kitchen or assisting at the senior center.
Now we move to utter edges of known frontiers; to house the homeless, of course that would be way out there and probably wasn’t one of the categories.
I spoke to an enlightened and active minister the other day. I estimate he is one of the best of the community. He asked me what I was up to. I told him I was speaking at churches encouraging reaching out to their community. Well we just happened to be at an “outreach” at the time. It was a fun Christian event: dunk-tank, stage, band, evangelistic message, bouncy thing for kids,…the works! It was advertised all over town with window flyers in shops…It was called “Praise in the Pasture.”
He said “Yeah, many churches are reaching out. Isn’t it great?” Dude! We are obviously from different sides of the vector stream! He says it is happening and I’m telling you, I can see it is not! Not even at the event we were at!
So here is a question…how many non-Christians were at that event do you think? There were few if any. Here is some personal background. Before I was a Christian, if I saw a fun “Christian” event I would have avoided it. Christian and fun were never terms I associated with one another. So “Praise in the Pasture” will draw who? Yep…Christians….and mostly from the church putting on the event…therefore it is not an outreach, it was a fun time for Christians who like that sort of thing. Cool!
To be an outreach it must be strategic!
Strategic thinking might seem antithetical to the Spirit’s leading. I contend that He lives in me and gave me a brain. I am lead by the Spirit, yes: including my brain.
Outreach! What is it for? Who is it for? What do we want to accomplish? What is realistic?
Outreach implies involving ourselves with non-Christians with the hope of them obeying Jesus. It also moves outside the four walls. Let’s look at the event I previously mentioned. As well meaning as it was, the event I mentioned was not an outreach because it was not strategic nor was it outside the church facility.
It was a fun time for Christians to get together. No problem, but not an outreach although they gave the gospel message, which was kind of silly! It was silly because of the lack of unsaved. I know the smiling, altruistic, optimistic, “spiritual”, never-be-critical-types will say “…but you know! There may have been someone there who needed to hear it!” Can you hear the joyful, slap down tone of my inquisitor?
With this reasoning we will never have to plan. It will always, always be a good event because we are Christians. We are Christians therefore it is good!
Oh, another funny thing happened while I was at the event…I said the S*** word…the head of a Christian in front of me whipped around, as if he never heard or said it before. I didn’t get the memo on the permissible words for poop.
Imagine if it had really been an outreach and the “holy one” tried advancing the cause of Christ through sanctioned language, which is sort of strange since they have strong “theological” stance against works. Next time I’ll say mire, dung, or feces…it is safer.
But I think you get the point. The event was for Christians but called an outreach. Yes, kind of twisted but no overt malintention. Call it what it was, a fun event for evangelically en-cultured middle class Americans.
But what if it were a real strategic outreach? How about not doing at the church but at the park? How about getting the business community together and working with them? Maybe the event would be called “insert your city here, Days” or “Blast in the Park.”
Get a stage, invite some bands, use the stage to do periodic presentations/commercials for different businesses in town, that would include your church! Present a short, powerful message with an action and hook.
For example a script could be as follows; “Hi I’m Cliff pastor of church X. This community depends on good people, our business owners and public officials are very important to us. But even more it depends on you. Moral decay can be reversed. Morality is not something that changes as some would like to believe. Loving your neighbor will always be the highest standard and none exemplifies this more than Jesus. Read his words and develop the skill of loving your neighbor as well as your enemies. It will change your life and strengthen and prosper our community!”
People at your church could hand out flyers. The flyers would give a short message similar to the commercial with an invite to the church. They could hand them out wearing t-shirts that have the event logo and a message that fits the tract.
There will be a lot of interaction with the community. Throughout the planning your church will interact naturally with the community. Many good things can happen.
Now this might not suit the religious. They may only want Christian bands. They may feel if they have not presented the gospel in formal Christian-ese they have sinned. They must deal with complex ethical questions like “What if a band says the S word?”
If they make a flyer it would have Angels and clouds and the t-shirt would say something quirky like “No Jesus, No Peace, Know Jesus, Know Peace.”
How do I know all of this? I have attempted a lot of things and had the same dilemmas. I became so Christian that I plainly sucked at reaching out. I have had a lot of flops. But I’ve an excuse, I’ve always been on my own just as many of you have been. This is due to poor leadership! The church is full of it! Not bad, just poor…top to bottom!
So back to the subject: Communication! How do you convince a church that is so sure of itself yet so wrong?
I spoke to a pastor about doing a seminar on Experiencing God through Serving the Poor. He said “Well, we do that!” I knew he thought they truly were doing it! He said “We have a benevolence fund!”
Let me tell you, we are worlds apart. But we are in the same religion, calling on the same Savior and using the same Holy text !
Wow! How do I tell him the truth without making him feel like his event is a curd? Small and Cheesy!