I. Why do we “do outreach?”
The church carries the mandate to take the message of the gospel to the entire world (Matt 28:19-20). In fact, the impetus to be involved in outreach comes directly from the pages of Scripture. It is clear from scripture that a church cannot be faithful to the Lord apart from reaching out to the lost with the message of the Gospel. God’s basic plan for evangelism is that it be done through the life of the church (Eph 3:10). The corporate testimony of the local church that comes through intentional evangelism and holy living is a key component of God’s plan for gospel growth (Phil 2:14-6). This means that the church must be involved in outreach within its own community in order to be faithful to God’s plan.
The church’s motivations for being involved in outreach must also be carefully evaluated based upon the word of God. The bible reveals at least 5 basic motivations for outreach ministry:
Obedience to God (Matt 28:19-20)
The joy of revealing God’s glory (2 Cor 4:7)
A love for the lost (Lk 10:27)
The desire to do good to all people (Gal 6:10; Heb 13:16)
The privilege of being used in the growth of God’s kingdom (Acts 18:0)
These are the motivations that should be driving the church’s outreach ministry. Any other motivations or goals run the risk of being unbiblical and may even lead to an adulteration of the gospel message (2 Cor 4:1-4).
II. Where do we “do outreach?”
The mandate to take the message of the gospel to the entire world requires that the church be involved in evangelism to those around the world through “missions” (The issue of missions is dealt with in the “Philosophy of Missions” document.), and to those in the local community surrounding the church through “outreach” (Acts 1:8). Locally, God has providentially placed each church and each believer within that church in a strategic place for sharing the gospel. Each church and each individual has a sphere of influence that God has not given to any others. The church and the individual believers within the church must identify and use their sphere of influence for the purpose of evangelism. Just as the apostle Paul used his “everyday marketplace” as an evangelistic opportunity (Acts 17:17) we too must intentionally use our everyday lives as evangelistic opportunities. Separation from sinful lifestyles and influences does not require isolationism with respect to unbelievers (1 Cor 5:9-10). We must take the initiative to build relationships with unbelievers for the purpose of evangelism and spiritual influence (i.e. Discipleship).
III. How do we “do evangelism?”
The mandate to take the message of the gospel to the entire world must be fulfilled in a manner consistent with the principles found in the word of God and the doctrines affirmed by the church. “More effective outreach” must never be used as an excuse for theological compromises (2 Cor 4:1-6). God only blesses ministry that is done his way. It must always be remembered that the Bible is is proven and effective for the work of gospel ministry (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Based on the teaching of scripture it is clear that the mandate to share the gospel has been given to the entire community of believers. We must seek out relationships by which we can have a spiritual influence on another person (i.e. discipleship), and we must always be ready to share the truths of the gospel (1 Pt 3:15). It is the church’s job to train, encourage, and support individuals in this effort (Eph 4:12).
Corporately, the church may hold occasional meeting for the purpose of sharing the gospel with unbelievers. However, while the Lord’s Day should be focused on the gospel, the primary purpose of the corporate gathering of believers is worship and edification rather than evangelism.
“Mercy” or “helping” ministries should always be seen as an opportunity to share the gospel rather than as an end unto themselves (Mk 8:36), and should always seek to address physical needs with biblical solutions. Assistance with food, clothing, housing, transportation, housing, employment, etc. should be addressed by the church as individual believers take the initiative to meet a need that God has laid upon their hearts. In the instances when financial assistance is needed from the church, members of the church must always be given priority.