The Call to be Outward Focused
Churches in America today invest nearly all of their time and money into caring for their own flock. A portion is then set aside to support overseas missions. Both are clearly important responsibilities of any church. However, between the four walls of the church and far-away countries lies an enormous ministry field that the Church has increasingly “left behind” – the very communities in which those churches live and breathe. It seems reaching those in need around the world is sometimes easier than reaching those in our own communities.
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick
…I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt. 9:12-13)
If Jesus’ words in Matthew 9 should serve as a model for the Church, then it stands to reason that churches should spend much more time outside their four walls. Local ministry and church volunteer outreach efforts are often limited to inviting congregation members to participate in (or give toward) an occasional special event like feeding the hungry at Thanksgiving or supplying gift bags to children at Christmas. Some churches attempt to coordinate more extensive community outreach events, partnering with local ministry organizations to reach more of their local area for Christ. But these efforts are too often impeded by logistics, busyness, and lack of consistent human and financial resources. Even our best efforts leave large gaps of unfulfilled needs in our communities throughout the year. Jesus didn’t do two or three large events a year and call it “done.” Serving others was a lifestyle He lived out daily. The Church is clearly called to be more outward focused.
The time has come to revolutionize church outreach and spark a community outreach revival.
- Outreach is our Biblical Responsibility. In Acts 1:8 Jesus makes clear that ministry begins at home, in “Jerusalem”, and then extends out from there. It is only in the past 75 years that government and secular charities have completely assumed the social responsibility of taking care of those in need in our communities. At the same time possibly in response to the assumption of this role by others, the Church has increasingly retreated from the community and become confined in sanctuaries.
- Sharing the Gospel requires outreach. Only the Church can provide truly meaningful and enduring help to people through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The government and secular charities cannot satisfy spiritual needs, just the immediate material or physical need. By reclaiming some responsibility for caring for those nearby, the Church could dramatically increase its ability to satisfy their spiritual needs, something no other organization can do.
- The perception of the Church suffers when we our outreach is inefficient, ineffective – nonexistent! Quite simply, the community’s perception of the Church is based on what they see – or don’t see. Instead of a Church reaching out to them in love and service, the only evidence most see today of the local Church comes from marketing and advertising campaigns aimed at bringing more people in. This gives the perception of the Church as a business rather than a place of refuge or love. Jesus went to the crowds of hurting people – He didn’t wait for them to come to Him.
Compassion and service were the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He began His ministry by first demonstrating His love to those around him. Of course, it did not take long for word to spread about Him to surrounding areas. The Church has the opportunity to expand its influence in the same way, by first showing its love for its neighbors through community outreach.
In the last century, the focus of the Church shifted dramatically inward – attending to the needs of church members, preparing for weekly services, building new facilities, etc. The complexities of running a church do require a great deal of work and attention. With limited time and money, church and local ministry leaders alike must make difficult decisions about how to allocate resources. However, the Christian community has a larger pool of human and financial resources than has so far been used for church and community outreach priorities. If every Christian is indeed called to ministry, then the Church has an opportunity to dramatically increase its impact on the community by mobilizing those members to ministry.
Learn more about how to mobilize your church or ministry members in outreach. Download our Church Outreach e-book or our Ministry Outreach e-book. Both of our e-books discuss specific ways to leverage modern Internet technology along with the vision of church and ministry outreach to impact lives in the name of Christ.