Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Outreach Lessons To Learn In The New Year

Thought I’d throw some random thoughts together for those of you brave ones who will decide this year to take the gospel to your city in increasing ways.

Pack a lunch. As the old saying goes, you didn’t get here overnight and you ain’t gonna change overnight. Even with the transformational work of God in bringing us to faith in Jesus we begin a process of conforming to His image that takes time. Believe me, it takes time. Effective life change NEVER happens in a block party, visitation, an act of mercy, giving someone clothes or any other random act of kindness. Life change is a work of God that happens in the context of a faithful community investing in one another according to the various gifts God has distributed to us as we build one another up in love. So, pack a lunch, roll your sleeves up and get ready for some hard, sacrificial, thrilling work.

Leave your boxes at home. We have been trained to engage the community by inviting them to join us in our spiritual life ("Invite ‘em to church").  We find that if we enter their life it works better. The Bible never says that Jesus invited the lost to synagogue, it does say he ate and drank with sinners. Making real friends (How many time have you shared a meal with the ‘visitation' assignment?), real enough to include having a meal together, takes much more than an invite to a meeting or other programs. And as we got to know each other God seems always to give us opportunity to share the hope that lies within us to those who need to hear it.

When you get stuck, outsource. So many times the church won’t do what it takes to engage their community because they either ‘get in over their head’ or are afraid they will. We are over our head all the time around here. And when we get that way we remember we’re not in it alone. This is a small city, we know each other, get help! Day after day Christians call us and we them solving seemingly impossible problems.  It’s beautiful. God designed His church in a city to work together. There is no place like outreach where this is so natural.  There is a brother in our town getting his doctorate in Christian counseling (not mentioning names Chris). We can’t wait! Why? Cause we’re way over our heads sometimes and need his help.

Remember, it’s about them not you. We have designed the church to be about us, and we spend almost all our talent and energy and money on ourselves. Jesus however, left all that and came and spent Himself on us. And he calls us to have the same attitude as Him. Jesus left the ninety nine for the one, rebuked the ‘church guys’ when they told the suffering He was too busy or when they shooed the street children away. It was always about us. Always. And for us, it’s always about them.