How successful is your church/church family in outreach? Which best describes your church in your opinion?

Very successful. We see many people saved and discipled
21% (3 votes)
Somewhat successful
0% (0 votes)
A good number of our folks look for opportunities to share
21% (3 votes)
Only a small number of our folks look for opportunities to share
7% (1 vote)
We have programs in place that tend to reach people effectively
0% (0 votes)
We make a lot of attempts, but see very little fruit
14% (2 votes)
More than one of the above
21% (3 votes)
Other (please comment)
0% (0 votes)
We are not really into intentional outreach; we expect it to happen naturally
14% (2 votes)
We are discouraged and not trying to do much although we used to.
0% (0 votes)
We have an amazing outreach ministry that is so special I have to share the idea!
0% (0 votes)
The elect will get saved and we need to nothing special other than conduct services, etc.
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 14
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There are 20 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Outreach can mean anything from attempting to do something to reach people passively or actively, or it can refer to SUCCESSFULLY reaching people. Some outreaches, IMO, are merely token.
Outreach can mean evangelistic outreach, discipleship outreach (drawing unaffiliated Christians and training them), compassion outreach (feeding the hungry, divorce care, etc.0.

The "church" can mean different things as well. When someone who is part of your church witnesses at work, for example, THAT is evangelistic outreach.

Here, we are talking about evangelistic/discipleship outreach, and a church's outreach does not merely consist of programs (although it includes that), but the sum total of a church's impact on your community for the Gospel.

For us, that is a weak spot and has been for decades. What about your church?

"The Midrash Detective"

JD Miller's picture

Ed, I appreciated what you said about token outreach while still being concerned about reaching a lost world. I fear too many witnessing programs or calling nights can end up becoming tokens of "I fulfilled my duty so now I don't have to worry about witnessing" though that does not mean that all take such an approach. The point I am trying to make is that if people don't really have a heart to share God's word, they are not going to be effective witnesses.
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I have been trying to show our people how wonderful God and the salvation He provided really is and that they should be excited about talking to others about Him. I want them to share the gospel, but I also want them to disciple people with other truths of the scripture. We live in small town Iowa, so many have already heard the gospel, but few have been effectively discipled. I believe that is part of the reason there is so little fruit.
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I am also trying to show them that I am not pushing a one size fits all approach to outreach. I would love to see each family in church leading an effective Bible study in their neighborhoods, but realize that not everyone is equipped for that. There is however a somewhat shy teenage girl in our church who is really excited about her Savior and she shares Bible verses and inspirational songs and quotes on her facebook page. By doing that, she is involved in outreach. Another family recently sent out a Christmas letter and shared Christ's blessings with all the recipients. I want our church family to be doing more and more of those sorts of things and naturally sharing the truths of our wonderful God and praying for and looking for more opportunities to do so.
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I would love to find the perfect outreach approach that would work in every church. We do not have all the answers. We are not growing by leaps and bounds either but we are ministering to our community even if they never attend Sunday services.
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I would love to learn from others. I do not want to hear about programs where they get a lot of professions, but actual churches where they have outreach and the professors become members who are growing spiritually and desiring to learn more. If you are in such a church please share with us so we can try to implement something similar (BTW what I am really interested in are small town churches that have an effective program and have seen it duplicated in other churches). Thank You

Ed Vasicek's picture

JD Miller wrote:
Ed, I appreciated what you said about token outreach while still being concerned about reaching a lost world. I fear too many witnessing programs or calling nights can end up becoming tokens of "I fulfilled my duty so now I don't have to worry about witnessing" though that does not mean that all take such an approach. The point I am trying to make is that if people don't really have a heart to share God's word, they are not going to be effective witnesses.
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...I would love to learn from others. I do not want to hear about programs where they get a lot of professions, but actual churches where they have outreach and the professors become members who are growing spiritually and desiring to learn more. If you are in such a church please share with us so we can try to implement something similar (BTW what I am really interested in are small town churches that have an effective program and have seen it duplicated in other churches). Thank You

Your thoughts are superb. I am like you; I know we need to do more, but programs do not grip me either. I hope others will chime in and share -- we need ideas. Some will not do well with our churches, others might. So please bring 'em on, folks.

"The Midrash Detective"

JD Miller's picture

I want us to be passionate about outreach, but I also want us to be realistic in our goals and not get discouraged. Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." We need to be diligent and stick to it even if we do not see fruit right away. We live in a sparsely populated area (15,543 residents in our 974 square mile county), so there is not as much fruit to harvest as there is in other places. Still we need to be faithful in attending to the fruit that is there even if we do not harvest until next season.
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It can however be frustrating when a young man comes back from college in a densely populated area and wonders why our church is not as large as the one he has been attending. I never want to make an excuse for a lack of outreach, but I do want to bring a little reality to our setting. Based on population per square mile, a church of 1000 members in that metro area would be equivalent to a church of 24 members here. Further, if we baptized one person per year, they would statistically be baptizing 41.
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I do not want this post to become an excuse for complacency, but I fear that too often people quit witnessing because of discouragement. In other words, if we do not see the successes we read about in other times and places, why even try? Again read Galatians 6:9 "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
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In some places that season may not even come in our lifetime, but we need to be faithful regardless.

rogercarlson's picture

When I first came to this church 12 years ago, we had a door to door program. It consisted of me and one man going out on Saturday mornings and another man going out by himself on Saturday afternoon. We did this faithfully for 2 years with zero results. I begged the Lord to give wisdom. I was willing to do that my whole ministry if that is what he wanted. But I also sensed something had to change.

I came across a sermon from a pastor about building redemptive relationships. Relationships that actually get to the Gospel. Theologically, the Lord was also making me more precise. I got away from decisionism, and was praying hard for people to be genuinly converted (I don't want to hijack this thread, if you want to talk about that, pm me). I should also mention Dave Doran's "For the Sake of His Name was very helpful.

Not long after that, the Lord allowed me to be on the coaching staff for a public high school. I was able to do that for 3 years. Then the Lord did something interesting. The fire department sent out a letter to every pastor in town asking for someone to be the chaplain. I was the only pastor in my town to respond. It took the city 4 years to allow it, and I had to agree to be a part-time firefighter as well. It was the best decision I ever made (in this context). I have more opportunities, because the fireman know me. I work along side them in fires and I also work as a chaplain. I get opportunities as well. God has since brought two firefighters to my church, both from other departments. Last summer, the Lord allowed me also to be a paid chaplain for a hospice. With our church still being small, both of these positions have allowed my gospel contacts to increase and help fill the gap for the church. By God's grace, we regularly have unsaved people in our service.

We have not done door to door in 10 years and have way more Gospel contacts than we ever did. My people are starting to get it. I really believe this is the best way to give out the Gospel. Find a hobby you like, and witness to the lost who do it.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

JD Miller's picture

Roger, your philosophy really lines up well with my approach. I started praying for open doors as soon as we got here and they did not all open right away, but God has provided wonderful opportunities. I have been able to give the Memorial Day address for the last 3 yrs and that has opened some doors. Further the previous pastor who faithfully prayed and ministered here for about 30 years recently ended up in the nursing home. His wife really resisted it at first, but it ended up opening a door for her to minister there and become the assistant activities director. That in turn opened up a door for me to do memorial services for the residents every time one of the other residents passed away. We have had so many open doors through the nursing home. In fact, this year we did our Christmas program there instead of at church. It may seem like a dead end to minister to old people who may not live much longer, but we have also gotten to know many family members of residents through this ministry as well. Further we have had huge opportunities to get to know the staff better. If Pastor M had not gotten Alzheimer's and ended up in the nursing home, these doors would not have opened in this way, yet God answered the prayers he prayed for years and now there is a wonderful ministry opportunity here. Pastor M may not even realize his prayers were answered but our God is faithful.
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Shortly after we moved to Bancroft, I asked the local paper if I could write a column for them. I let them know that I did not expect them to run it every week but that I would submit articles and they could run them whenever they needed to fill space. They gladly received them and that has provided a great opportunity not only to witness but to disciple people throughout town. Many who would never consider visiting our church are reading the articles. Regularly as I walk around town and talk to people someone will mention that they read an article. After I had been writing about a year, my Catholic neighbor pulled me aside and told me that the larger county wide paper in the neighboring town was looking for a columnist and that I should contact them. I did and they now print a regular article in their paper every other week. God has opened the doors but I pray He opens more.
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After writing for the paper for a while, my wife mentioned that we could start a blog for free, so I began posting the articles to the blog. We do not get a lot of traffic, but we have had people all over the world in places like India, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Latvia, Russia, and United Arab Emirates read the blog. Many of these are places where it would be difficult to send a missionary, yet the gospel is able to reach them from this small town in Iowa. It is very unlikely that any of these readers across the globe will ever visit our church, but the great commission is about making disciples for Christ, not for our local assembly.
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Roger, I really appreciate you pointing out that it took YEARS for you to establish some of those contacts. We live in a microwave society where you pop it in and take it out in 30 seconds, but the illustrations from scripture talk about planting and watering. Here in Iowa they plant corn and it is ready in about 100 days, but the same in not true of most fruit trees. It can take years for them to grow and produce.
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Roger also mentioned hobbies. My wife likes to knit and a yarn shop opened up in town and the owner encourages ladies to stop in and knit. This has provided great opportunities for her to witness. The owner and my wife have become great friends even though my wife is young enough to be her granddaughter.
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Further we have an appointment for speech therapy for our 4 yr old this week with someone from the public school system. Some at church thought that we shouldn't be worried about his speech yet, but I pointed out that this was yet another contact we could make in the community.
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We do not do door to door calling, but we do drop off welcome bags to new residents. I have a great relationship with city hall, so I stop down a few times a year and get a list of the new residents and then drop off a few things that would be useful around the house. Included in the bag is a tract and a letter telling about our church. We have not yet seen fruit from this, but it is neat how once I see a new resident in town, they already know me and I have established a relationship with them through the gift. Perhaps I can minister to them at some later date or maybe they will decide to read the newspaper article because I gave them some soap and Kleenex.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ya know Ed, if it's God who adds to the church, then how exactly are we to measure success for the church in evangelism? It seems that process might be a good starting point here.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Harold's picture

We began 3 years ago mailing a newsletter (with various gospel articles in it) to 200 different homes in our area each month. We saw new visitors to our church every week for the first year and a half, and none of them were because of our newsletter. We began putting our sermons on Sermon Audio a year ago and have had a good response, but most of it is from out of state or over seas. We have had a few travelers stop in because of our website or sermon audio, but this has not led to any church growth. I have seen a great response to kind/challenging thoughts on the church sign over the last 4 years. A face book page has allowed our church to minister to people that we otherwise would never know. Some of these things may be helpful in your area.

I guess, we just do all we can and trust the Lord to add to the Church daily such as should be saved.

Shaynus's picture

We have active and passive outreach.

Passive on the Internet
At my church of about 75 we have a large number of visitors. I think there may have been one Sunday in the last year where we didn't have any. We have a very good website, and rank high in Google. One thing I would recommend is to put your town name in the title of your church. Ours is "Grace Church of Alexandria." That way if someone googles "Church" and "Alexandria" we're higher up in the rankings in Google. We also have found that facebook ads work very well.

Active - we encourage people to meet up in public places and strike up conversations. Because of our area, door to door is almost always out of bounds due to no solicitation notices at apartments.

Ed Vasicek's picture

As I have been reading these posts, I have been encouraged by what many of you are doing. As I was reading, I said, "Yeah, we're doing that too."

For example, I too write a weekly column of the Opinion Page of the Kokomo Tribune (our city is a bit more than 50K, and this is the only daily). Published over 600 of 'em. This got me on the front page of USA Today a few years back and on the NBC station in Indianapolis two months ago.

Our website has been up since 1996, and we average about 1500 hits a day (www.highlandpc.com). We have seen people come to know Christ in Pakistan and India from our site. We have sent several Bible studies (Source of Light) to different states.

Every week for 15 years we send out 10 letters to residents (from the phone book) including a Gospel tract and a letter of invitation to the church. If you do the math, that means we have contacted 7500 households.

I agree that door to door is not the the way to go (tokenism). But my concern is about what we do as a body, including many people in the process. For example, AWANA is an outreach. But are we looking for chances to share the Gospel?
I have to ask myself that question, and sadly I must say, "no." At least, not consistently.

Every Christian is to be a witness in some way; some people might be more comfortable inviting people to church or Christian events. But we must aim for growth in the Kingdom of God. We should be concerned about God using us to grow the church, even if that growth does not necessarily affect our specific congregation.

"The Midrash Detective"

Dick Dayton's picture

We have sought for intentional reasons to be in contact with our larger community. Far too often, we have a "Build it and they will come" approach.

We as a church joined the local Chamber of Commerce. I pick and choose what events to attend, so as not to compromise my personal convictions. We have not had direct results, but we are now seen as a positive part of our community instead of an isolated group. I have had occasional opportunity to share personal thoughts with fellow members as we have built credibility.

I also serve as a volunteer chaplain with our local police department and our state highway patrol. When I see officers in various places, they are now my friends. I have had opportunity to pray at public gatherings, and recently conducted the funeral for the father of one of my officers.

I also volunteer tutor math at our high school. Instead of being seen as the "trouble making fundamentalist," the school sees me as their friend.

None of these avenues has yet produced direct fruit, but it is keeping me in touch with unsaved people, and getting me intentionally out of the office into the marketplace.

Dick Dayton

JonBeight's picture

Our church of 500 last year was praying last year for a little over 300 to come to Christ through our church's ministry. We missed our goal by about 50, but we grew to almost 1000. Lot's of community involvement (we cancelled some church services so we could do this), reaching out to the needy through Celebrate Recovery, and a pastor who leads by example gave us lots of doing along with praying.

_____________________________________________
Jon Beight
Twin Lakes Camp & Conference Center
Hillsboro, Indiana

Ed Vasicek's picture

JonBeight wrote:
Our church of 500 last year was praying last year for a little over 300 to come to Christ through our church's ministry. We missed our goal by about 50, but we grew to almost 1000. Lot's of community involvement (we cancelled some church services so we could do this), reaching out to the needy through Celebrate Recovery, and a pastor who leads by example gave us lots of doing along with praying.

That is great, Jon! Are many of these people maturing in the Lord (couples living together getting married or separating, etc.)? The reason I ask is that I know of a church with great pastors that has a similar outreach, but they can't get people into Sunday School or discipleship classes and they won't' stop living together, sleeping around, etc. Obviously with such growth as you have had, there is going to be some of that, but are many actually becoming disciples?

As I have been rethinking all this, I concluded that reaching a few families and seeing them become true disciples is better than reaching a mob at once in our day. But if even 30% of those your church reached are growing as disciples, that is quite a feat. Jon, what is your assessment?

"The Midrash Detective"

JonBeight's picture

Ed, I'm not sure what led you to this conclusion:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
As I have been rethinking all this, I concluded that reaching a few families and seeing them become true disciples is better than reaching a mob at once in our day.

Your conclusion seems to be that a church cannot both reach and disciple very many people at one time. From what our pastor tells us at deacon meetings and his emails:

  • We have about 300 adults in discipleship and accountability groups.
  • We have about 100 adults who were/are making massive efforts to break sinful habits in extensive discipleship and biblically based accountability relationships.
  • We have about 60 adults in counseling relationships with pastors and other trained leaders
  • We have a large youth group that is actively sharing their faith
  • We discipline members who will not listen in such a way that they repent and don't leave the church

We have a lot of work to do to in training our new converts, but I would disagree with your conclusion. If anything, we should be MORE urgent about reaching the lost, and with so many people getting saved and lives being changed it certainly is motivating.

_____________________________________________
Jon Beight
Twin Lakes Camp & Conference Center
Hillsboro, Indiana

Ed Vasicek's picture

JonBeight wrote:
Ed, I'm not sure what led you to this conclusion:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
As I have been rethinking all this, I concluded that reaching a few families and seeing them become true disciples is better than reaching a mob at once in our day.

Your conclusion seems to be that a church cannot both reach and disciple very many people at one time. From what our pastor tells us at deacon meetings and his emails:

  • We have about 300 adults in discipleship and accountability groups.
  • We have about 100 adults who were/are making massive efforts to break sinful habits in extensive discipleship and biblically based accountability relationships.
  • We have about 60 adults in counseling relationships with pastors and other trained leaders
  • We have a large youth group that is actively sharing their faith
  • We discipline members who will not listen in such a way that they repent and don't leave the church

We have a lot of work to do to in training our new converts, but I would disagree with your conclusion. If anything, we should be MORE urgent about reaching the lost, and with so many people getting saved and lives being changed it certainly is motivating.

Thanks, Jon. It is hard to argue with success.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joel Shaffer's picture

I happen to know the church that Jon is part of. Its the real deal. Their pastor (who at one time was my youth pastor) has the gift of evangelism like no one that I've seen. He's networked the community by making contacts, building relationships, and introducing many of them to Jesus. The congregation has followed his example. I know that there is an emphasis on discipleship as well because when he was my youth pastor, many of my friends and myself were discipled by him. Great to hear things are going well at Rock Point Church, Jon. Smile

Joel Shaffer's picture

I’d like to point out one thing with the example of Rock Point Church, where Jon is a deacon (Jon, feel free to point out any thing that I am getting wrong about Rock Point Church) Yes there are great numbers in both evangelism and discipleship. The one difference that I see that distinguishes their church from many of the churches on Sharper Iron is that Rock Point Church is a replant. If I remember my history of the church (it used to be called Pleasantview Baptist Church), before the church planting pastor Terry Thompson arrived, it was a dead fundy GARBC church. They were extremely issue oriented rather than Gospel oriented. With less than 40 people in the congregation, it turned to Bethesda Baptist Church, a sister GARBC church that has planted at least 8 churches in the Indianapolis area for help. Pastor Terry and several families from Bethesda that were committed to evangelism and discipleship restarted the church and from the beginning it grew mainly through conversion growth as it continues to do today. They didn’t have to fight through the many issues such as the worship wars and other seasoned fundamentalist’s sacred cows that often keep churches from making disciples.

I am now part of a church plant within inner-city Grand Rapids. In comparison with the good church that we left (which is still our home supporting church), New City church is much more focused on disciple-making. Because of that, I have seen more people come to faith in Christ and being discipled in one year, than I did for 16 years at our old church. Not that our old church wasn’t making disciples, they actually were. However, they were also so busy with all of the children’s choirs, teen choirs, Awana, handbell Choirs, 15 different committees, brass ensemble, all the programs connected to the youth ministry, small groups, and the typical Sunday School, Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening, and Wednesday Night church, and several other programs as well that many people do not have as much time to do the hard, messy work of life-on-life disciple-making. At New City Church, everyone (and I mean everyone) is focused on making disciples and that is the difference.

That is why so many missionaries and church planters and even church growth “experts” state that church planting is the most effective form of evangelism.

Anyway, comparing church plants/replants and churches that have been around a long time is really like comparing Lions and Bears side by side. They are different animals.

JD Miller's picture

In regard to John's last comment, has anyone else read the book Historical Drift by Arnold L. Cook? It speaks of the life cycles of churches and how they often die out after about 70 years unless they are totally revitalized. The new plants have the excitement, but that excitement typically starts to decline after a few decades. Unless something happens to spur them on, they tend to decline until they die. I was at a pastor's fellowship last Monday, and of all the pastors that attend that fellowship, the only church that is seeing substantial growth is a recent plant. BTW, this fellowship is planning to get together this spring to discuss and pray for another new plant in the area. It is exciting to know that even as some churches are on the decline, others are being planted and are growing. May we be faithful wherever God has us serving.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joel said:

Quote:
That is why so many missionaries and church planters and even church growth “experts” state that church planting is the most effective form of evangelism.

JD said:

Quote:
It speaks of the life cycles of churches and how they often die out after about 70 years unless they are totally revitalized. The new plants have the excitement, but that excitement typically starts to decline after a few decades.

That's interesting. I had heard the older adage that a church must reinvent itself every 40 years.

I think these are two different kinds of animals, and it is obvious we need to do both: revitalize vintage churches and plant new ones.

"The Midrash Detective"

Shaynus's picture

I've been involved in a church plant from a fundamentalist church planting church for the past four years. Our experience is that we help our mother church reinvent itself. If a church has a church planting attitude, they might avoid the pain of needing to totally reinvent because they might constantly need to adjust during the plant process.