Why We Love Outreach and Hate Evangelism

Thursday is for Discipleship

The difference between outreach and evangelism is essentially this—outreach will almost universally get you pats on the back while evangelism will eventually get you persecuted.  (see yesterday’s post)

This is precisely why most people don’t do evangelism. They have a greater fear of man than they do of God. Unless this reality is confronted for what it is—sin, and people are equipped to behave differently, the anemic evangelism of our churches will continue.

Outreach does not replace evangelism but it can be powerfully productive as a handmaid to evangelism OR an excuse for not doing evangelism. It can be the cowards way of assuaging his guilt and insulating himself from facing his disobedience.

There are new opportunities to explore holistic ministry almost everywhere we turn in the new face of suburbia. [1] The suburbs themselves are relatively new, having just arrived outside our cities in the post war 1950’s. But one new aspect on the suburban scene is poverty. As John Fuder writes, “the suburbanization of poverty is here to stay.”[2] New immigrant populations and migrating cultures seeking to escape the crime and gangs of the city are showing up in the suburbs in record numbers, taxing social services, and creating new patterns of behavior and opportunity for churches whose eyes and hearts are open.

The ethnic diversity, the racial division, the socio-economic clashes between haves and have-nots, the pockets of poverty, the educational disparity, the economic downturn in the economy and the pressures on local services and family budgets that are increasingly common in even our “best burbs” will all be opportunities for gospel people to make a difference.

The need is to develop structures for new churches that can survive persecution. That means, in part, a structure that has no permanent need for seminary trained leadership. Today, the church in most of the Western World, has a structure that is a product of affluence and freedom. If the church were persecuted, its structures would not survive, and care for the saints would be the casualty.

In our time, the need is for agents of a “Kingdom that is not of this world” (John 18:36). We need structures that not only can, but are designed to reproduce and thrive under any circumstances, including persecution. To do this, every-member-ministry must become more than an ideal or slogan. Everyone in a local church (Brick or House, Traditional or Organic) must be equipped to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Is the church at the end of the twenty first century’s first decade poised to take advantage of the cultural scene? Will she seize the day? Does she have the guts to step out in bold new paths that will combine real, passionate outreach with real, passionate proclamation? We will see, meanwhile …

Make sure your church plant does.

  1. Know and love our community.
  2. Give a bold and passionate proclamation of the gospel by all to all.
  3. Enter into strategic partnerships with other churches and ministries.
  4. Minister to the needs of the community with both proclamation and justice.
  5. Don’t allow your people to substitute outreach for proclamation.

If we are faithful in these things, we will be able to give glory to God for whatever results He entrusts to us.


[1] John Fuder and Noel Castellanos, A Heart for the Community, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2009).
[2] Ibid., 34.


One thought on “Why We Love Outreach and Hate Evangelism

  1. In my church in Central Texas I see one example of the kind of structure that should survive persecution. The parts are voluntary, but are well-subscribed.

    The first and most productive part is widespread participation in Walk to Emmaus. The product of this activity is increased knowledge of our faith among the laity, and increased participation in leadership in the church.

    The other key activity is Lay Speaking ministry. With required initial and “booster shot” training, participants are trained not just in pulpit supply, but also in communication, outreach, and ministry of choice for each person. Much of my time is devoted to supporting those who have been adversely impacted by disasters in the state, in addition to my focus on wellness and pulpit supply as needed.

    The combination of these activities has greatly enhanced the growth in ministry as well as of numbers of this particular church, in an environment of slow or negative growth.

    Like

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