When it comes to the priorities of a church, boldness in reaching new people should always be first and foremost. Creating environments where first-time visitors feel welcome, proactively reaching out to your community to engage them with the Gospel, and creating processes and systems to help ensure that no guests fall between the cracks are all important steps in carrying out the Great Commission.
While those things are essential for church growth, you and I both know that they take a lot of time and energy.
"...is it possible to do both outreach and discipleship well?"
From our experience, it seems like many churches fall into one of two primary categories:
1. They excel in reaching new people with the Gospel (but have a tendency to neglect their members).
2. They focus heavily on the discipleship aspect of ministry (but neglect outreach).
Too often we see churches place emphasis on the outreach and not the ‘in-reach’. Once you attract new people to your church and they ‘stick’, they are no longer outsiders. When someone decides to join the church, get baptized, or attend the new member class, it’s automatically assumed that they have everything figured out. Your outreach efforts paid off and have proven to be effective, so you keep investing your time or energy in reaching more people.
As we started thinking about the way churches approach discipleship and outreach, we began to wonder ... is it possible to do both well? Can we still effectively reach new people in our communities without neglecting those who are already plugged in? At the same time, can we care for ‘insiders’ without being insider-focused?
If we look in the Bible, the only answer we can arrive at is yes."valuing someone and making sure they know they are valued are two different things." In the accounts of the early church recorded in Acts, time and time again we see members and leaders learning to strike the balance between outreach and in-reach. They took care of each other while also attracting new people to the cause. They were growing in their faith and adding thousands to their numbers every day.
How did they do it? We believe the key to caring for insiders without being an ‘insider-focused’ church comes down to one word: value.
Early church leaders believed that every single person was valuable in spreading the Good News. At the same time, they realized they had an obligation to continue to show generosity toward new members of the Church. They were able to care for insiders well, even though their overall mission was to go and make disciples of all nations.
Granted, valuing someone and making sure they know they are valued are two different things. The early church leaders could have believed that everyone was valuable to the cause, but if they didn’t instill that belief in every person, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Stay tuned for a future post on practical ways to do both.
Do you value your members? Or do they feel like second-class citizens because you spend all your effort, energy, and communications on the new people?
More importantly, how are you showing your new members that they are valuable to the mission of reaching people and changing lives?
There's always a next step:
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