Outreach is difficult for established churches and established Christians. Why? Because church is our comfort zone. And evangelism and outreach tend to terrify a lot of us. Yet the church exists for one reason and one reason alone: to reach out with the love of Jesus Christ and to make disciples for him, as he appointed us to do in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20. We don’t exist to insulate ourselves from the non-churched world, to shelter our children from sin, or to surround ourselves with the comfort of like-minded people. So, even if the plan for getting an outreach director hasn’t materialized, we can’t use that as an excuse not to experiment with ways to reach out to our neighbors with the message of the gospel.
However, there may be ways to reach out that are not so terrifying. Maybe even some that are exhilarating and fun, activities that we look forward to. If I could dream up my own version, it would involve shooting guns and hunting and fishing. Maybe you could call it Christians in camo. Too bad there isn’t a ministry opportunity there. Or is there?
In my own experience. I have talked to men about spiritual matters in a hunting cabin out in the middle of nowhere—men who might never open up anywhere else. A young man who, under normal circumstances, would never talk to a pastor without being physically restrained, showed up at my house early for catechism, just to show me his brand new hunting rifle. I was duly impressed, not only by the rifle, but by the way the Spirit can work in mysterious ways. Shared interests and experiences are a recipe for relationships. Relationships, in turn, are what the Holy Spirit uses to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.
I have often thought about how I could intentionally use this interest for ministry and outreach. A number of years ago Rev. Maury DeYoung began a ministry at Kelloggsville CRC which hosted outdoorsy events and even brought in experts in hunting and fishing sports. It attracted many unchurched persons. Rev. DeYoung is now the full-time director of Sportspersons Ministries International, which helps churches to plan outreach events for people who like to wear camo. He will be hosting a training event on the evenings of September 21-22, from 6:30-9:15, at Corinth Reformed Church, with supper provided. I will be attending to explore the possibilities of what we could possibly do here at First Cutlerville, along with people from South Harbor Church and Corinth Reformed. I invite anyone who has a passion for the outdoors and a desire to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ to come along with me, just to explore the possibilities. Contact me for more information.
This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and it doesn’t have to be. Another pastor, for example, might be a sports aficionado and bond particularly well with the athletes and fans in his or her congregation. Maybe you have a passion for the lost, but you don’t know how to put it into action. Well, what do you love? Do you love scrapbooking? There’s a possible outreach event there. Do you love books? Start a book club, or if you’re not a club-starter, get your more extroverted friend to start one. Do you play on the church softball team? Invite your neighbor to check out the game, and maybe enjoy the fellowship afterward. Hand out candy on Halloween and take a moment to actually meet the people who live four doors down from you (and don’t buy the hype that it’s Satanic or unchristian. It’s an opportunity to meet your neighbors. See this blog post from a few years ago, by a Canadian Christian mom, that has gone viral: http://troublefacemom.com/2012/10/31/on-halloween/ ). But do not do any of these things just to get people into church. Do these things to create relationships with people, because Christ is shared in relationships. But do something. And always be on the lookout for opportunities. Recently I found out that Calvin College encourages students to attend local congregations in the morning. Most of these students are believers, of course, but it’s still a great opportunity to extend hospitality and also enrich our own fellowship with the presence of young believers.
Why must we do these things? Because the Great Commission isn’t optional, or just for a few select Christians. Jesus calls us to be disciples, and to make disciples.