“The act of extending services, benefits, etc., to a wider section of the population, as community work.“
According to Dictionay.com, this is the definition of outreach. How is that definition lived out within the Western World Church?
Outreach ministry has become increasingly difficult over the last 30+ years. In days past, the evangelical church functioned within a primarily Caucasian society, where life followed general Judea-Christian beliefs. Though there were many who didn’t attend church regularly, they often felt some social pressure that they should be.
Furthermore, businesses used to close on the Lord’s Day, Schools used to give the Lord’s Prayer equal P.A. air-time as the National Anthem, and sayings like “God Bless You” were as common as “how do you do?“
In those days, Sunday School and VBS programs were considered good outreach for children. In a Judea-Christian culture, many a good mother wanted their little darling to learn more about Jesus.
Soon enough, these programs became more about training kids from Christian homes then reaching those from within the community. Now, many mothers outside of the church are quite apprehensive to what they would see as religious indoctrination.
Evening Worship Service was originally started as an outreach idea. Following the thriving revival campaigns across North America, evening service was a place where people could dress-down for church and therefore, invite their friends and neighbors.
Unfortunately, the pastor still always had his suit on, which didn’t make him look any more approachable, nor human. Today, the world has seen what men in suits represent and ultimately desire. It’s tough to be a pastor when the other two people who look like you are lawyers and salesmen, both of which don’t often represent honesty and integrity.
Alas, some forms of outreach have carried on throughout centuries of church leadership and have spanned almost every country in the world. They can function without policies, bylaws and committees. They can even thrive within our current Western society and it’s melting pot of cultures.
It comes down to asking what a person needs, (caveat) and not just telling them they need “Jesus“. That being said, Jesus should definitely be the fibre that binds all forms of outreach together. You see, God has created mankind with some foundational needs that must be met.
As Believers, we have constant outreach opportunities to show Christ’s love by providing for some of those foundational needs.
The obvious thoughts go to physiological needs like food and water, which are excellent forms of outreach. The church has been giving bread and water to the poor and afflicted for centuries, which has resulted in many souls turning toward Christ.
However, within a Western culture where food and water is generally fairly plentiful; we often have to get a little more creative.
This is where we move from physiological needs toward the needs of safety and love or belonging. Safety needs are typically centred around security of family, home, job, health, possessions, etc. The church can help people struggling to find rest in these areas by providing help in abuse situations, job-search skills, language training or health-care assistance.
Regarding love and belonging, these focus on the person feeling like they fit within a certain group of people. The church can reach out to these people by a simple shared cup of coffee or an invitation to dinner. Quality time and verbal expression of encouragement are the keys. Simply, it might just be a warm embrace.
It’s important to note that all forms of outreach, should be poured out with zero expectations of church attendance or worse, membership (aka: solidified tithe). Jesus never seemed interested in demanding temple attendance, nor a temple tax from those in need and whom He just cared for.
You see, just like in days of old, there is only so much love that a human being can be given by a total stranger. Soon enough, they will be compelled to ask, “why are you doing this?“
This is where outreach becomes less about the act of service and all about the Holy Spirit. Our outreach should flow out of our love for Christ and in turn, be verbalized through the message of the Gospel: “I do this and expect nothing, because Jesus did everything and expected nothing.“
How are growing safety and belonging needs transforming your church’s outreach strategy?