If outreach is a program, I am free to leave outreach efforts to the church and allow it to be their responsibility. If outreach is the responsibility of every Christ follower through incarnational living and intentional development of relationships with unbelievers then I must take responsibility.
But here is something to think about. We get what we teach and model in the church. If we model programming as the means of outreach, that is what we will get. If we teach and model that reaching our workplaces, neighborhoods and friends is each of our responsibilities, that is what we will get. Which is more powerful? Which will reach more people?
I am all for church wide opportunities for people to bring their friends in venues that are favorable to them hearing the gospel. But, that presupposes that there are unbelieving friends to bring and that we have enough capital with them to even be able to invite them.
The real challenge in evangelicalism is to convince every believer that they, not a program of the church, are responsible for developing meaningful relationships with unbelievers that can result in opportunities to share God's love, being the example of Jesus to them and speaking candidly about one's relationship with Christ. Until that happens, we will never have the impact in our world and community that the early church did and that Jesus desires us to have.
How do we do that? First we model it ourselves. Second we tell stories of others who model it. Third, we set an expectation that every Christ follower has an intentional strategy to share the love of Jesus with those they have relationships and contact with. Fourth, we pray together for those divine appointments that God can use and finally we celebrate whenever a breakthrough comes and another individual becomes a son or daughter of the king.
God loves when people seek him so He will answer the prayers of people and congregations who ask Him for these divine opportunities. I had several last week. I thank Him for every one. And I long for the day when we all expect it to happen as He allows us to be His representatives.
Go with a program and you will reach a few. Go with everyone and you will reach more than you can ever imagine.