This blog post comes from Rev. Dr. Kevin Harney. Dr. Harney is the Founder and Visionary Leader of Organic Outreach International and the Lead Pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California. In addition to being an accomplished writer, Dr. Harney has also written over seventy small group study guides. In this session, Dr. Harney shares eight tips to help evangelistic vision and action become the domain of every ministry and person in your church. Especially during this global pandemic, I found the content in this video so helpful and encouraging as we continue to examine and shift how to do church.
Jesus has called us as His followers to share the Gospel, but our churches and organizations have a tendency to become more and more insular over time. In contrast, Jesus’ heart is to focus on the needs of all people. Jesus wants more workers in the harvest fields. (Matt. 9:36-38) However, if our church culture isn’t intentionally pushed outward, we are going to end up being a ministry that is all about ourselves.
If you are going to be a ministry that moves outward, you have to be a ministry that is outwardly focused. An example Dr. Harney gave of this is iPads. iPads are amazing devices, but without the right operating system, they’re useless. Churches are a place for God to dwell, for community to be built, and for hope to be distributed like confetti. However, if it exists solely as a physical location, operating for a couple of hours during the week for whoever shows up, how effective is it? Dr. Harney encouraged leaders to ask themselves eight questions to help diagnose their ministry’s operating system:
1. Does your church or ministry love God with passion?
When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, He cited the commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Matt. 22:37)
2. Does your church or ministry love each other?
Do your people care about “other” people enough to point non-believers to the Lord? Does your church care about and serve other churches in your community?
3. Does our church or ministry love those who are lost?
Are we willing to love the lost enough to give up the things we love for the sake of people that Jesus loves?
Why focus on love (God, one another, the lost) before beginning a conversation on outreach? Because if we don’t get the love piece right, what we do isn’t going to be right. After evaluating what your church/ministry loves, ask:
4. If I were God, would I send people to my church?
If you were God, would you send someone who doesn’t know Jesus to your church knowing that they would be loved, as they are, as they discover who Jesus wants them to be? If not, are you willing to do what it takes to re-shape your church to embrace people right where they are? This does not mean compromising the Word of God. We have to be true to the Word of God and embrace people where they are. That is what Jesus did. Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of His day because He spent time with the sinners and rabble-rousers of His day and they seemed to like Him. Could it be that God is keeping people from your church until you are in the right place with the right heart? Why would God do that? Maybe because He loves people so much that He doesn’t want them to be damaged anymore. If lost people come to our church and we don’t love them where they are, we will simply drive them further away from the church and further away from Jesus.
People are now able to engage with your content and sermons more than ever before. Rather than sitting in a pew listening, they are watching online, commenting, asking questions, and, for most, feeling way more comfortable to do so than when they are in person. Are we prepared to meet that with unlimited love and grace?
If we get our culture right to where we can answer “Yes,” to these four questions, then almost anything we do for outreach will work. If we answer “No” to any of them, almost nothing we do for outreach will work. When we are able to answer, “Yes,” then we can ask:
5. Are we willing to examine and change some of our fundamental thinking in how we do ministry?
Five fundamental shifts need to happen:
1. From random to strategic. Outreach must be strategic. Who leads your outreach? You know who leads your youth group. Churches/ministries who say that “everyone does outreach” rarely do any outreach. Nothing good happens in our churches unless we plan, prepare, and are strategic.
2. From famine to funding. Set aside money in your budget for strategic outreach. This does not include money that you send elsewhere for someone else to do missions or ministry. That is a good practice, but this is meant to do ministry right where you are.
3. From believing to belonging. People have to know that they can come to your church not yet believing and still belong. You don’t have to allow them to be a small group leader or even be on the stage at your church, but they can be involved in hospitality and a variety of other places.
4. From programs to praying. Raise the value of prayer around everything you do for outreach.
5. From mush to clarity. We must resist the temptation to shave the edges off of God’s Word and present a clear, biblical theology. People outside the church want to know that we actually believe something even though they might disagree with you.
During a time such as this, being encouraged to examine and shift outreach efforts ought to give you a little bit of peace. I know it does for me. Outreach isn’t stationary or linear, and we have to be able to constantly be evaluating how and if it’s working. Unfortunately, right now we are being forced to do that. But let this be a good practice for us in getting comfortable with making changes and serving our community in the way they need, not the way we are most comfortable.
6. Will we treat outreach like an isolated ministry or the heartbeat of the whole church?
Outreach can’t be a sliver of what the church does on the periphery. Every ministry needs to be immersed in outreach if you want the culture to change.
7. Will we do what it takes to be relentlessly evangelistic?
Leaders must reinfuse organic outreach [evangelism] every 30 days until Jesus returns. A once a year focus on outreach won’t get the job done. Every 30 days we have to reinfuse passion for outreach in four ways:
1. Inspiration - inspire your church/ministry to do outreach
2. Accountability - evaluate what you are doing now
3. Learning - teach something new
4. Planning - what’s next?
How do you do this every 30 days? Organic Outreach has a free 7-year curriculum to infuse outreach in your church every 30 days. Again, we are tasked with doing this now and will likely see fruit from a shift in our efforts. We need to take what we’ve learned during this pivot and let that continue to inspire us to have a monthly rhythm of evaluating and implementing as needed.
8. Do we understand the relationship between evangelism and discipleship?
Evangelism and discipleship are not enemies, but they are also not friends. They are in partnership. To do evangelism is to do discipleship. To do discipleship is to do evangelism. Discipleship isn’t complete until it expresses itself in evangelism. Evangelism isn’t complete unless it follows through with the “teaching them to obey” component of the Great Commission. Rather than thinking about discipleship and evangelism as separate departments of your church’s ministry, begin to think of them as complimentary pieces to your overall ministry strategy.
Moving to where we are able to answer, “Yes” to all eight questions will give us an operating system that is wired for outreach, a church that is functioning optimally to truly engage and impact its community.
What a blessing and encouragement you and your church are right now to the community around you- and, likely, people halfway across the world from you as more people are streaming church services online than ever before! We are excited for the positive things that will come from this; stay encouraged!