Two words in the Christian vocabulary simultaneously summarize the Christian mission while also terrorizing followers of Christ: outreach and evangelism. For most believers outreach is an easier term to swallow and embrace. But if we properly understand outreach we are reaching out to people with the good news of Jesus Christ. Umm…I hate to break it to you, but that’s evangelism.
It’s obvious that evangelism generally terrorizes believers because we rarely participate in sharing the good news of Jesus’ person, life, death, resurrection and coming again. I suppose it’s possible that we just don’t care and that’s why we don’t talk much to people about the Lord Jesus. But I’m going to assume that mostly our problem is fear and not apathy, ignorance of how to share Christ and not indifference to the need to do so.
How do we address this problem? In the past we’ve had wonderfully committed people with a heart for evangelism lead a new program or specific outreach team. Usually this is partially successful, but the success is short-lived and the involvement of the whole church is limited. Evangelism is seen as an activity for the committed few and not the whole body of believers. Unfortunately this is ineffective and doesn’t find precedent in Scripture.
This is why we are creating an Outreach Influence Team. An Outreach Influence Team (OIT) is “a group of people with the influence to set the direction for the entire church” (Harney, Organic Outreach for Churches, p. 88). This is NOT a program, but a strategy to regularly infuse the DNA of outreach and evangelism into the body of Calvary on an ongoing and regular basis. Kevin Harney describes this strategic team by saying:
No longer would we have a disconnected group of people planning and leading the outreach of the church, begging the other ministries to come and participate. Instead, we would have all of the key influencers in the church leading the outreach charge in their personal lives, with their leadership teams, in their areas of ministry, and for the whole church….Now the group responsible for planning [outreach and evangelism through the church] is our new Outreach Influence Team made up of the leader of our women’s ministries, the head of our children’s ministry, the chair of our church board, our lead pastor, the head of finance team, our high school and junior high leaders, the leader of our small groups ministry, and a half a dozen other key influencers who led various church ministries.Harney, Organic Outreach for Churches, p. 89-90.
While the ministries and leaders will be different for Calvary Community Church, the essential idea remains the same. Leaders of present ministries become a collective team to guide the outreach and evangelism ministry of our church, utilizing their influence as leaders in their respective areas of ministry. This way the various church ministries are not competing against one another, but working together to reach our community for Christ!
The elders and I spent many months considering this strategy and agree it has exceptional promise for our church. One of our elders, Jim Byrd, has agreed to be our Outreach Influence Team Leader (OIL) and will be working with me over the next year to get this strategy off the ground. We are very excited to see how God is going to use this strategy in our church, not only be more evangelistically effective, but also to unify our ministries around a singular mission – reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please pray for us as we continue working and praying to bring this new team together. If you have any questions please feel free to talk with Jim or me. May the grace of God bless this strategy to help us be more faithful to him and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.