Jesus on Community Outreach
(Luke 4, Matthew 10 & 13)
Introduction: Recently, I read an article suggesting local churches should discover the needs of the community (in that case a problem with drug abuse), and then focus on helping the community with its problem, instead of focusing on weekly worship. From time to time I hear the idea that the local church should make a difference in the community in some practical way. This article, however, went beyond that and seemed to suggest that combating drug abuse in the community was more important than weekly worship. As always, we need to see what the Bible says about the best way to reach out to the community. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- Outreach in the Church
- Read Luke 4:14-15. Who is leading Jesus? (The text specifically says that the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in Jesus.)
- Is Jesus out in the community doing community service? (This says that Jesus is teaching in the synagogues. He is going to the places where people worship.)
- Read Luke 4:16. What is Jesus' custom regarding weekly worship? (He attends the worship service every week. The idea that weekly worship is unimportant is inconsistent with the practice of Jesus.)
- Read Acts 14:1. What is the practice of Paul and Barnabas in their missionary activities? (To speak to those who have gathered to worship each week.)
- Read Luke 4:17-19. What has Isaiah prophesied will be Jesus' work? (To preach good news, proclaim freedom, help the blind see, release the oppressed, and proclaim God's favor.)
- Do you think Isaiah means the financially poor, actual prisoners, and people who are literally blind? (No. The good news is the gospel. It goes to people who are poor because they do not know about the gospel, people who are chained in sin and blinded by the ways of the world.)
- How does this description of Jesus' task apply to the idea that we should abandon church services to help fix the community drug abuse problem? (The article that I mentioned in the introduction seemed to argue that fighting drug abuse would bring attention to the gospel. This has things backwards. It is the gospel that releases people from addictions. Besides, what do church members know about treating drug addictions? Hopefully, church members know the gospel!)
- Read Luke 4:20-21. What is Jesus telling those who have showed up to worship? (That He is the Messiah!)
- Is that still our primary gospel message?
- Outreach Away From Church
- Read Matthew 10:5-11. Here we have an illustration of going into the community to share the gospel. Notice a couple of odd things. First, Jesus does not give His disciples any money or other physical resources. Second, Jesus tells them to stay at the home of a "worthy" person. What lesson is Jesus teaching them (and us)? (Those hearing the gospel should pay for it. The disciples should stay in the home of a person who wants them there.)
- How does this compare this with the way your church does community outreach?
- In many of the evangelistic programs I've assisted, we did not take an offering from the visitors. Instead, we gave them Bibles and other gifts for attendance. Is this how we should be doing things?
- Read Matthew 10:12-15. When you have an evangelistic outreach to the community, do you pester people to come to the meetings, and after they come keep calling them to persuade them to come to church? Is that consistent with what Jesus describes?
- If you were to pattern an evangelistic program after the instructions of Jesus, what would you do? (You would only look for willing listeners, and you would make them pay for the outreach. The church would put none of its financial resources into the effort, and no one would chase unwilling listeners.)
- How do you think that would work? (You are probably saying, "That would not work! No one would come.)
- Let's read Matthew 10:16. Jesus suggests this is the "shrewd" approach! How can we say it will not work?
- Let's go back and see if we are missing something. Re-read Matthew 10:8. What do these activities provide? (A motive to come and listen! Putting the article I mentioned in the introduction in the best light, the idea of chasing down addicts and helping them would give them (and others) a motive to listen to the gospel. If someone was healing the sick, raising the dead, curing dread diseases and driving out demons, you would want to learn more about that, right?)
- How can we make our evangelistic meetings appealing? Are we stuck with bribing people to come and chasing them down since we are not healing the sick or raising the dead?
- Re-read Matthew 10:7. What is the specific message that Jesus commands for outreach? (That He has come.)
- Would that be the same message today? Or, would it be better to preach that Jesus is coming again?
- Read Luke 10:27. What is the reason for Jesus telling His disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, heal diseases and drive out demons? (Love.)
- Re-read Matthew 10:14-15. When we chase after people, is it because we love them? Why does Jesus say "Give them a chance, and then move on." (I have no doubt that helping people in the community and chasing people with the gospel, reflects love. But, we all know that good intentions can have bad results. I suggest that the gospel is great and valuable news. When we chase and pester people with it we degrade the good news. We make it seem like it is something of little value. Thus, we have to pester you and bribe you to try to get you to accept this information. That is not shrewd.)
- Hopefully, these questions are making you think more clearly about community outreach. If you look at Jesus' instructions as a pattern for outreach today, and you are not raising the dead or healing the sick, how would you follow Jesus' pattern? (We must give the people a reason for them to want to come. Paying them or chasing them is not the right answer. Why not pray that God will send His Spirit to either perform miracles in your congregation or show you what it is that will attract your community (both pagan and Christian).
- Gospel Procedures
- Read Matthew 13:1-9. What do you think this means?
- Read Matthew 13:18-23. What does Jesus say it means?
- Look again at Matthew 13:19. What is being sown? ("The Message of the Kingdom!" This is a parable about evangelism. It is a parable about community outreach.)
- Study Jesus' interpretation and tell me where you would want to concentrate your gospel message? (We want to focus on sharing the gospel with those who "hear the word and understand it.")
- If you look at the categories of community listeners, only one does not understand the word. The rest hear and understand, but they lack "root," or face trouble, or have worries, or are deceived by their wealth. What part of this can you, the gospel farmer, control? (Only making the gospel understandable. On this note, give (sell?) your listeners the easiest Bible to understand!)
- If we, as gospel farmers, can only control whether we make our message easy to understand, what does this say about the strategy we should use in sharing the gospel with people who have no "root" or have other troubles that distract them? (We need to do the same thing as the farmer, share our message with everyone because the only factor we can control is whether we make it easy to understand.)
- Friend, how are you doing community outreach? How is your church doing evangelism? Will you re-examine what you are doing and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to follow a Biblical approach to sharing the good news of the gospel?
- Next week: Jesus Mingled with People.