I had someone asked me two years ago how I measured effective community outreach, my answer would have included something along the lines of getting as many people from inside the church to serve outside the church. While that’s still a vital part of our mission’s ministry that I think about regularly, my belief on authentic, discipleship-based outreach has shifted as I’ve become more aware of the life of Jesus and how He views relationships. Here are a few points that I believe are essential when thinking through genuine, Christ-centered outreach.
- It’s not about numbers; it’s about nearness. Too often in missions we gauge an initiative’s success on how many people it can get to serve for a specific cause. While I don’t discredit these types of events and even think there are times when they’re needed, authentic life change takes place when God’s people make intentional efforts to build genuine relationships with an individual, family, community, or culture.
- It takes consistency to build community. When you examine the life of Christ, you’ll find He chose to spend the majority of His time with 12 men. He lived with them. He taught them. He broke bread with them. He invested His life in these men. Why should our model be any different? If our desire is to see an individual, a family, or an entire community impacted by the power of Christ, then we have to be willing to share our life with them. You can’t share your life with someone by meeting a few times a year.
- Prayerfulness is more important than preparedness. Do not mishear this: being prepared is important. However, no amount of planning will ever outweigh or outshine faithful and fervent prayer. As a church, we have three teams that serve different areas of the community each and every week. These areas are known for its homelessness, abuse, and trafficking. One of our team leaders is often heard saying, “The real work is done the night of the week that we all come together and pray. The day that we serve is just an opportunity for us to rejoice in how God answered the prayers!”
One of the things that I love about Christ is that He never avoided a person in need. He didn’t see the orphan and think, “someone else will take care of that,” or the homeless guy and say, “that’s too messy.” Instead, He sought them out. He lent His ear to them when they spoke. He addressed their needs.
I want to add a disclaimer here. These types of relationships aren’t always comfortable. They certainly don’t always yield the results we hope or intend. However, let me remind you that Christ came to us in our weakest moment. He took on flesh so that He could heal our brokenness. As followers of Christ we are called to extend that same type of love and grace to those hurting all around us.
Can you do me a favor? If these ideas resonate with you, would you:
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