Why would anyone want to visit your church? And what would lure them back again and again to ultimately join your congregation? The answers will be our focus for Outlook in 2012. Our overall theme of community outreach will particularly explore connecting with young adults and the unreached multitudes of Mid-America’s larger cities, while keeping our church schools missional and viable. I’m suggesting six blessings that effective outreach requires from your church.
1) People want Love
“Occupy Wall Street” rudeness has given way to a mean-spirited election process. What’s left of the job market is a Darwinian-style survival competition. People need a break. They crave love. Looking for it online in social media, they find instead profanity, arrogance and exploitation. As Jesus warned for the last days, the love of many has grown cold (Matthew 24:12).
What an opportunity for your church! Jesus said that love will be the distinguishing mark of His people: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35/NTL). Is there loving, authentic relationality in your congregation? Do you invite people into your hearts, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice?
2) People want Worship
Worship is a basic human need. We worship objects or people that attract us, but finally the Spirit convicts us that God alone is worthy of adoration. He deserves all our hearts and souls and minds. Does your church really worship Him? Or is your 11:00 service merely a sermon and sundry boring “preliminaries”?
This is not about one style of worship or another. Worship means adoring our God together, not being afraid of the emotion involved in that heartfelt relationship.
3) People want Purpose
Most people live their whole lives and die without knowing why they were here on earth in the first place. They yearn for a church that will help them understand God’s purpose for this planet and for their lives—particularly purpose in pain. They also need a mission, some great cause in which they can invest themselves. Will they find that in your church?
4) People want Help
Life is tough. Your workplace colleagues are over their heads in debt, trapped in addictions and unable to manage their kids. Your neighbors are sheep without a shepherd. God wants to have compassion on them through your church and show them how to cope with life. Does your church offer remedial seminars? Not just a hand out for the hungry but a hand up for the helpless?
5) People want Truth
People want to know the truth about what’s going on in this wild world. The year 2012 has long been a matter of speculation. What an opportunity to teach Bible prophecy! We Adventists have answers, and we shouldn’t be shy about sharing them—but only in the context of grace, love and humility. Jesus was full of grace and truth, and truth without love is a lie.
6) People want Diversity
Diversity is not just icing on the cake; it’s key to relationality. Obviously this involves various ethnicities and both genders interacting peacefully and productively in your church. It also includes members of different ages, outlooks, personalities and socio-economic strata who are collaborating in the Spirit. This speaks powerfully to a world seeking diversity but lacking it without a shared spiritual experience in the church. “All of you together are Christ’s body” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Does your church offer these six outreach essentials? Some Mid-America churches do. This month we feature Wichita South Church, with Pastor Michael Campbell.
This is an editorial in the January 2012 issue of Outlook magazine.
Martin Weber, DMin, is editor of Outlook.