Throughout history, communities worldwide have been drastically impacted by the presence of the Church. This is because followers of Jesus have understood that true ministry is not meant to be confined to the four walls of the church building — ministry is out there.
There was a time when God’s presence resided in what we call the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Only those who were called into the High Priesthood could enter into God’s presence. Even still, they could not freely access Him; they had to bring sacrifices and offerings to enter into the Presence of God.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Presence of God manifested when Jesus was born. God walked around among sinners and demonstrated to the world the true character of God. And after His resurrection from the dead, God even further expanded the reach of His presence. He gave the Holy Spirit of God, Who would radically change the place that God would live.
Acts 17 talks about how “God does not live in temples built by human hands.”
This does not mean that God no longer resides anywhere. On the contrary, God resides within us!
We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.”
God doesn’t live in a building anymore — He lives and moves and has His being within the lives of those who put their trust in Him.
God’s desire is for His people to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the broken world around us. We are called to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and exercise true religion (“to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” - James 1:27).
Whether we realize it or not, we carry the very Presence of God with us everywhere we go! That means that we get to show the communities around us who God is and the hope He brings.
Through church outreach, we can touch the lives of those around us and show people Jesus. Outreach is simply our means of engaging those not part of our church community. These people vary in their religious affiliation and involvement. Some of these people already attend a church, but many of the people we desire to engage with are unchurched.
These people may have had a relationship with the church and at some point fell away from it due to hurt, disagreement, crisis, and many other reasons. Some of these unchurched people may even have no experience in the church at all.
No matter their story, one thing remains true: the unchurched need reached by a loving, Jesus-following community. It is God’s call to us to share the Gospel and make disciples and outreach is one of the ways we can accomplish those goals.
So how can you best do outreach in your community? Keep reading and we’ll tell you.
Everyone loves a party! (okay introverts, we see you, don’t quit reading yet).
For many people, it can be quite intimidating to be invited to a church service. The word “church” itself may bring a plethora of bad thoughts, memories, or perceptions. On the flip side, there is something much less intimidating about being invited to an event.
Events usually make room for every type of person, regardless of their belief system or personality.
Events are a great way to bring together members of your local community and your church community.
Food at your event is a great idea: it is the pinnacle of shared community activity! In addition, the event can also include games, children’s activities, music, and more.
The possibilities for what your event looks like are endless! Just keep in mind the purpose of the event is not to try to host some sort of revival meeting. Instead, the main goal is to connect with those in your community who you’d typically not connect with on a Sunday morning.
The church’s call is to affect the lives of those in our communities. In Acts, we see that believers spent much of their time contributing to the collective needs of their town.
They sold their goods and gave away the profits generously.
They were constantly eager to serve.
The love of God within them was so compelling that it moved them to pour back out love to the people around them.
While we aren’t the first-century church, we too share the same Spirit of God who compels us to affect change and show love to our world. An amazing way to reach out to your community is by giving back to it through volunteering.
Reach out to your local book bank, homeless shelter, Humane Society, and other nonprofit organizations in your area and learn how you can volunteer and help them do more good.
Many churches even have “Serve Teams” at their church who go out every month and do yard work, cleanup, litter pick-up, and more in their neighborhood.
There is never a shortage of ways to contribute back to your community. A bonus is that you get a chance to yet again interact with those you wouldn’t normally interact with as you volunteer!
As churchgoers, it can be a bit too easy for us to assume that people will just show up because our church building stands. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.
There is much value in investing in digital marketing, great social media content, and amazing websites (that’s sort of our whole thing here!). However, we cannot just do digital marketing and neglect one of the most powerful outreach tools we have: the personal invitation.
Part of the reason we may overlook this style of outreach is that it can often be uncomfortable. We don’t always know the right words to say and are even afraid the person we are inviting will decline our offer. But truthfully, this method of outreach is one of the most effective because we are highly relational beings. While “cattle call” invitations have their place, nothing beats an invitation from a close friend.
When you truly value something that brings you joy, you want to tell everyone you know. Think of it this way: we have no problem inviting someone over to watch the season opener of our favorite TV show or the playoff game on Sunday. Why is inviting someone to our church any different?
We completely understand why you may not invite someone to church right off the bat. It is very wise to establish a trusted friendship and relationship with an unchurched person, especially someone you have just met! That is why you can start small. Invite them to your church picnic or another event you are holding. Maybe even invite them to the small group you attend (and make sure to sit with them!).
As for the fear of what the person you’ve invited will say, it is pretty simple: the worst they can say is no! When you neglect to invite someone at all, you are saying “no” for them.
There are so many wonderful steps you can take to effectively reach out to the community. You can volunteer, hold events, and invite everyone and their mothers. However, one of the most important components of outreach is the power of our presence.
Remember, you carry around the Spirit of God inside of you. God is actively at work in everything you say and do, so long as you allow Him to do so. And we have Jesus as the greatest example of how to be present with those in our community.
One of the greatest characteristics we see in Jesus is His ability to walk alongside others and be ever-present in the lives of the people He knew.
Jesus was intentional in His conversations.
Jesus was kind and compassionate.
Jesus was patient and enduring.
He has modeled to us what it looks like to not just reach out for the sake of reaching out. He was reaching out to enter into the lives of others, even in the middle of their mess.
The people we are trying to reach aren’t just looking to join some sort of religious club; they desire true, intimate, solid relationships that will help them as they wrestle with life’s biggest questions. They want to belong somewhere. We know that the church is one of the best places to belong, but we must remember that the church is not a building but a people.
If we are unable to foster a culture of belonging with others on a one-on-one basis, we will not be able to effectively foster a culture of belonging in the 4 walls.
How do we do this?
Mourn with those who mourn.
Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Truly listen to the person who is talking to you.
Join others in their mess of life because, let’s face it, we’re all a bit messy.
In the end, do as Jesus did and be a friend of sinners because He has been a friend to us!
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