About four months ago we revamped one of our Wednesday night Bible classes to be a time of outreach. I have blogged about this a few times if you need some background on what this is, what we do, etc. When we started all of this we had one main purpose – to get people connected/involved in the congregation (both Christians and non-Christians/visitors). Once we started doing this we realized that was not our entire purpose. Two additional purposes cropped up that just made all the sense in the world. Here they are 1) Develop and disciple our members by involving them in this ministry and 2) change the culture of the congregation to be more outward focused. Simply stated, when we work on them, God works on us. When we reach out to grow others, God grows us.
Now, these three purposes go hand-in-hand. They all work together. I share that because this might help someone out there put these pieces together as well. It took us a while to figure this out but now it is just as clear as can be. Here is how the pieces fit. Jesus commanded us to reach lost people. Period. No brainer. What happens when you start trying to actually do that is your own faith begins to grow. It begins to grow because you have a sense of purpose and because God blesses your efforts. Think about it….how many Christians have you known who were active in outreach and Bible study with non-Christians who fell away while doing that? I haven’t known any. So lost people are being reached while the Christians doing the outreach are growing in their faith. The more Christians in the congregation who take this on and encourage others to do the same the more the church culture itself begins to change to produce an outward looking church. That is the church we find in Acts. The Christians in Acts were not obsessed with in-focused ministry (they did it but didn’t seem to be as obsessed with it as some are today). If they were, they would have all huddled in Jerusalem and Acts 1:8 would have never been said by Jesus. Samaria and the ends of the earth would have been the last thing on their mind. Instead, you see Christians on the move as they look outward toward lost people and then go and engage those people with the Gospel. One problem many churches have today is that we have gotten obsessed with looking inward and in doing so we begin to die a slow death never quite understanding how we can be dying when we are so close knit and are meeting some needs of our members. They are dying because they lack the outward focus to see fields that are ripe for harvest.
So the ultimate end of all of this is a congregation that has embraced a culture of evangelism…where evangelism is facilitated, encouraged, and celebrated.