Q & A: Outreach

Q Our church can’t seem to get an effective outreach effort going. What’s working these days?

A Recently I read about one church’s attempt at outreach that included hiring a petting zoo and giving elephant rides to get people in the door so the church could hit them up with a gospel presentation. With all due respect to that particular effort, I have a hard time believing that God needs a circus in order to connect with people in our communities.

A more effective and natural means of connecting with your community is to get involved with events and things already going on. As one critic of the church recently quipped, “How come you Christians don’t show up at anything that you can’t control?” That’s hard to hear, but worth considering.

Check out the community events calendar in your local newspaper and get involved! You’ll find things like book clubs, poetry readings, musical performances, ecological preservation gatherings, neighborhood association meetings, and more! Certainly these are the kinds of things Christians also enjoy and love, and they provide a natural platform of common interest on which to build relationships without any pretense or ulterior motive. There is certainly nothing wrong with having outreach events, but perhaps it’s our turn to show up.

—Bryan Berghoef

This FAQ appeared in the Banner in October 2010.


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Q
I often wonder if I’m a genuine Christian because I’m not actively sharing my faith. My attempts at outreach or evangelism seem phony and inappropriate.  What should I do?

A If you’re trying to talk to someone about your faith because you feel pressured to or because of some misconception about what a genuine Christian is, your attempts will be phony and inappropriate.

In our cultural context today, relationships are the most fertile ground for the gospel. The days of showing up and knocking on people’s doors with a “plan for their life” are over. Think of the last time a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon knocked on your door. What was your reaction?  Exactly.

Now think of the last time someone shared with you a favorite recipe or a story about how his child just learned to ride a bike or about a great movie she just watched—no doubt it was natural and unrehearsed. Sharing a story about God can and should be just like that.

A true Christian witness doesn’t need to think about saying the right thing or inserting the right verse because his or her life is focused on following Jesus and living out the kingdom of God. This kind of authentic faith speaks for itself.

Develop friendships with people outside of your Christian circle—people you meet at the bookstore, a favorite restaurant, or at the office. Invite a casual acquaintance over for dinner. Offer to help him with a house project. Get to know her over coffee. Seek such a person out as a friend rather than as a target, and your words and life will be seen and heard differently.

In this context faith issues can become a natural part of your conversations, rather than a forced and sudden presentation. Relax and entrust the whole thing to God. As you do, you’ll find that God has a way of arriving in unsurprising ways and places.

—Bryan Berghoef

This FAQ appeared in The Banner in April 2010.

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