Outreach: Getting Started

Tim J. R. Trumper writes:

It would be good as young Christians to learn the importance of not only a seasonal but a year-round habit of sharing our faith in Jesus. With four thousand churches a year closing in America, and three thousand church plants per annum needed to sustain the numbers in the church in America, I am especially keen to address how young Christians can contribute to the integration of seekers into the Christian community. If this evangelism lifestyle can be encouraged among new Christians while they still have unconverted friends, there’s more likelihood that they will be effective in reaching the lost throughout their Christian lives.

Our Motivation

We’re not motivated simply to fill pews, or to increase the coffers of the church. Rather, we seek to glorify God by exalting Jesus as Savior and Lord.

God is not glorified if we think Christ or our local church is just for us. Nor is he when we take for granted the impact of Christ on our lives, or withhold the potential of that impact from others. God is not glorified when material or temporal matters cloud over, or crowd out, the urgency and priority of spiritual need. Neither is God glorified when we doubt his desire and power to save people from their sins. After all, we ourselves are evidence of his desire and power! While God has not promised that all to whom we witness will be saved, it’s clear they won’t be unless they have access to the word of Christ.

Conversely, God is glorified when, through our excitement about him, we’re impelled to reach out to unconverted friends (Ephesians 3:14–19); when our confidence is fueled by the promise that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17); and when we’re inspired by what he’s done in history. How God delights to see his people energized and obedient (Acts 8:4), yearning to see others joining us in heaven!

Our Manner

Since God sovereignly draws his people out of the world and unto himself, we’ve no need to coerce or to cajole others to join us. A sense of desperation is out of keeping with the riches we have in Christ. Ours is a joy to provoke the lost to jealousy (cf. Romans 11:13–14). Much depends on our living, but also on our seeking God’s direction to be led by his Spirit; his prompting to see openings to speak or opportunities to respond (1 Peter 3:15); his power to loose our tongues when appropriate; his wisdom to use effectively the weekly equipping by the ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:12); and his grace to believe that invitations to Christ and commands to repent fulfill God’s intent.

In answering our requests, God harmonizes his sovereignty and our responsibility. Remember how Jesus wept over Jerusalem, took to task those who led the blind astray, pled with the lost with a full and perfect blend of grace and truth, and ultimately he died for them. All did not believe in him, but he was faithful in dying to himself and fruitful in saving his people. It is not for us to atone for their sins—Christ has accomplished that—but we are called to die to ourselves and our reputations for their sakes.

Our Method

Since it is by the foolishness of preaching that men and women come to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) we understandably aim to invite friends to public worship. How we do so impacts our effectiveness as a church.

The direct approach: Christmas and Easter are great opportunities to invite anyone along to worship, for these seasons form points of contact with society. Everyone knows something about the Christmas and Easter story, even if they know little about Christianity or the church. So do pray to be of use to God in filling your church’s Christmas and Easter services with any and all who need an encounter with God!

In the remainder of the year, the direct invitation to worship will best suit those with previous experience of church. Public worship—what was called in Old Testament times the Qahal (“assembly”)—remains chiefly for the covenant community. Accordingly, much of the pulpit ministry is geared to the equipping of the saints for ministry during the week. The evangelism which comes through the preached word in public worship is largely geared toward non-communicant members of the church; that is, toward those with some knowledge of Christianity. This focus agrees with that of Scripture, for it chiefly addresses the covenant community.

The indirect approach: With the increased gap between the church and society, we may well prove more effective integrating those without church background by introducing them first to other settings; e.g., a social event at home or church, an informal study group (district study, Christianity Explored, Griefshare, Divorce Care, etc.). This does not mean to say it is wrong to invite the unchurched first to public worship. God is sovereign and can bless to them the welcome, the various elements of the service, even supposing the sermon means little to them. Just don’t expect the pulpit ministry to do for unchurched invitees what, in the main, it is not intended to do. For few books of Scripture address those from outside the covenant community explicitly (e.g., the fool in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, parts of Daniel). The Scriptures teach us that the preaching to the unchurched takes on a different form (e.g., Acts 17:16–34), and occurs outside of public worship. That’s why we suggest initially the primary use of venues outside public worship for preaching to those with little or no experience of biblical exposition and worship liturgies.

Our grasp of this will go some way to alleviating unwarranted expectations of the pulpit ministry, while maximizing the opportunities in church life for the unchurched to hear of Jesus. Christmas Day and Easter Sunday are obvious opportunities for the churched and unchurched alike. Who are we praying to bring along?

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