Mention “church outreach” among a group of church leaders today and you are likely to be looked at as if you are wearing a leisure suit and matching patent leather shoes! Dude, you are a dinosaur living in a high-tech world. Just mentioning “church outreach” will likely get you kicked out of the Missional Ministry Club.
You may have read Thom Rainer’s blog last week, “Where Have All the Baptisms Gone“. This past year, the Southern Baptist Convention reported its lowest number of baptisms since 1948. Just to rub some salt in the wound, we have almost three times as many members today as we did 65 years ago. I’m not one to say let’s go back and do what we did in 1948, but I do believe that it is time for us to consider why we are no longer as evangelistic as we used to be. We may have let the pendulum swing too far regarding organized outreach efforts, especially through our Sunday School and small group organizations.
I have discovered five main reasons why organized outreach strategies often fail:
- Lack of commitment and enthusiasm from the church leadership – If the pastor is not committed and passionate about outreach, I can assure you that no one else will be either.
- The “time” commitment – Perhaps one of the biggest fears of a member participating in church outreach is that there seems to be no end to it. For many, if they show up for outreach on Tuesday night they fear they have just committed every Tuesday night to outreach for the rest of their life. So much for the fall bowling league…
- Lack of training – People need to know what to do when they are sharing Jesus with friends and guests. Many of our people do not know a simple Gospel presentation and also need some help sharing a concise personal testiomny. Because of this lack of training they will not participate in an organized outreach effort because they do not want to look foolish.
- Lack of people to visit – When the list of people for outreach leaders to visit runs out, participants give out.
- Lack of belief – Due to doubts created by the Christian culture, many people do not believe that organized evangelism works.
However, here are some reasons why I believe that churches should invest in an organized evangelistic outreach plan.
- Guests to your church need to be cultivated. Often these guests are already Christians. They need to know what their next steps are. Many of the guests to your church are lost, and following up with them is one of the best ways you have to reach them with the Gospel. Most guests are not going to interrupt the pastor’s sermon or spend much time at the information center. They need a real live human being that they can interact with, ask questions of, and with whom they can develop a relationship.
- It’s about discipleship. By that I mean that some form of organized evangelistic outreach engages those that are not yet disciples of Christ to people in the church who are disciples but need to grow. The modern church has compartmentalized discipleship into deeper life studies and internal growth. Yes we need that, but a mature disciple is able to make another disciple.
- Churches need a strategy that implements their church mission. The people in the church need to know that their church has a strategy and how that strategy works.
- It engages the laity. Generally, the church’s lay people will let the pastor do all the work – especially the work that lay people don’t like to do. Some type of outreach strategy gives the average church member a chance to participate and involves more than just the pastor in evangelism.
- Organized outreach elevates evangelism. We calendar what is important. Churches dedicate time during the week for Bible study and worship. The choir or worship team schedule practice times. Many churches dedicate a time on the church calendar for prayer and fellowship. We schedule committee meetings to discuss facility upkeep and budgets. An outreach strategy keeps evangelism in front of the people by giving it a priority on the church calendar.
What are your thoughts on organized outreach? Has it gone the way of the dodo bird and the leisure suit, or does it have a place on the church calendar?
Tomorrow I’m going to share a theology for evangelism…