Discipleship or Outreach is the Wrong Question? Part Two - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 1, 2018

Author of “Reckless Faith,” “Empowered by His Presence,” and the “Organic Outreach” series, Pastor Kevin Harney describes three stages most churches will go through as they wrestle with choosing best practices in the evangelism/outreach or going part of their discipleship programs. As I summarize his findings, please understand each step as progressive, building on the gains of the previous stage.

Push Pin Missions. The first stage he calls the “Push Pin” stage. Visualize a large bulletin board in the lobby or foyer with a world map and push pins or little flags indicating places supported by the congregation. These displays serve to remind the people of a world in need of Jesus. Additionally, these hallway “Missions” boards encourage the essential monetary gifts and prayer so crucial to those on the international frontline.
The only drawback if we remain at the Push Pin stage, is the ensuing belief that money and prayer ends our obligation to the Great Commission. Money and prayer easily quiets our nagging conscience and justifies not sharing Jesus with our neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.

Committee-Based Evangelism. If done well, the Push Pin stage inevitably leads to conversations about local outreach. This is good. At this point many churches form a local outreach team or committee to compliment the focus internationally. About a dozen people with hearts for the lost and/or the spiritual gift of evangelism are gathered and given a budget to;

1. Plan outreach events to mobilize the church people to reach the community.
2. Plan training opportunities for church members to be equipped for personal outreach/evangelism.
But, here’s what happens. On the weekend of the big event, the __________ ministry planned an over-nighter and the ___________ program planned their annual parking lot sale.
Didn’t they know?! YES, THEY DID KNOW!
Were the outreach events sub-par? NO, THE EVENTS WERE GREAT!

Turns out, it wasn’t about bad communication or even bad feelings between ministry leaders (as if that could happen in a church!). It was all about choice. Other ministries saw the event(s) as the Outreach Committee’s event to which they had the option of jumping in or not. Without any sense of ownership, a pat on the back for “owning” evangelism for the church was all the outreach committee ever received from other ministries and programs. With their own events to plan and worry about, other ministries saw the outreach committee events as 2nd or 3rd on their list of priorities.

Organic Outreach. While the committee-based outreach team brings excitement and energy, it fails to draw the entire congregation. A big step forward is when a congregation decides to involve the key influencers and leaders of every ministry and program in the church. The Outreach Committee is then transformed into the Outreach Influence Team, a group of people with the influence to set the direction of the entire church!

At this third stage, outreach becomes the shared vision, passion, and driving force of every ministry and program rather than the responsibility of a handful of passionate lay leaders and the assigned staff person. Much like prayer, outreach becomes a shared focus of activity and practice throughout the churches discipleship program.

Understand, this is a strong de-centralizing move. Ownership of the vision will necessarily pass from clergy to lay leaders. Yes, this is you, class teachers and life group leaders but no need to panic. Your church staff has been praying and seeking God’s direction and guidance and sense doors and opportunities opening in the elementary schools of the Richland School District. We are currently seeking out and developing small group serving opportunities that are relational, repeatable, and joinable (as much as possible). Additionally, there are things our groups and classes can do at their regular meeting times and places and/or at an actual elementary school site. Sky’s the limit if we get love right folks! 

One last warning; all this means if you aren’t plugged into a class or group, you will miss out on the synergy and excitement being created. You will still be able to serve but you won’t experience the joy of serving side-by-side with Richland Nazarene family members and the power of the mentoring relationships that develop and deepen at these serving opportunities. If you aren’t happy with our current slate of classes and groups, please see me about launching a new one or two!