October 2016

October 2016

Some Principles of Christian Outreach

Our Outreach Committee has recently begun planning in earnest for activities geared toward getting the message of our congregation out into the community in which God has placed us. I am very pleased about these efforts, and I pray God that they may bear much fruit in keeping with His good and gracious will. One of those efforts which you will be hearing a lot about in the coming weeks is the Neighborhood Giveaway. I am particularly enthusiastic about this effort because I believe it embodies some of the chief principles of Christian outreach: it is local, it is not self-interested, and it is unconditional.

Christian outreach is local. Of course, every congregation is called to be involved in foreign mission work as much as they are able. Every one of us owes our Christian faith—and thus our portion in eternal life—to some congregation’s foreign mission work, beginning with that of the church in Antioch, which sent St. Paul to Asia Minor and Europe. But every congregation is also called to minister to the needs of those among whom God has placed them. St. Paul urges the Galatian congregations to “do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). But that “especially” does not negate the “all men.” Service to the poor, both within and without the Christian congregation, is perhaps the single most basic and oft-admonished good work that characterizes our faith as truly living and active, and not a dead faith of mere words. I praise God that we are seizing opportunities to be of service to those who are right here among us and in need of a helping hand.

Christian outreach is not self-interested. We do not preach the Gospel and provide for bodily needs that our congregation may grow, that we may prosper, or that our budget may increase. We preach the Gospel and provide for bodily needs because God commands it and our neighbors need it. The giveaway that we are planning is not a fundraiser with the object of making money off customers, nor is it a recruitment tool through which we hope to expand our membership. It is an opportunity for service. Our object is to benefit others, not ourselves. And here is an interesting paradox: if we engage in outreach with the purpose of getting people into our congregation, our outreach will be less effective because those we reach will be able to tell that we are expecting something from them and they are being “sold to.” But if we engage in outreach with the purpose of benefiting the bodies and, yes, the souls of our neighbors, they will be able to tell that we have only their best interests at heart, and they will therefore be more likely to want to explore the possibility of membership at our congregation! Remember, the giveaway we are planning is not bait intended to lure people in. It is service from beginning to end. Only when it is and remains pure service will it also be effective outreach.

Christian outreach is unconditional. Our giveaway will benefit any who come to us for help. We will not ask whether they are Christians. We will not require attendance at a certain number of church services. We will not require that they hear a message first. We will simply be generous to them. To be sure, we will provide them with materials that make clear who we are and why we do what we do. They will know that our generosity stems from the new life that we have been given in Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. But as Christ loved and served us before we could possibly love and serve Him, so we will love and serve our neighbors whether they reciprocate or not. This is love—no strings attached!

May God prosper our efforts as He pleases, for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

Pastor Neuendorf