The critical mistake that many church planters make is that they think that God’s calling on their lives equals a ‘successful’ plant. Planters think that since God is calling them to an area that they will simply show up, put up a sign, and people will flock into the building because they are ready to teach the Bible. Oftentimes people get the false impression that if you simply teach the Word, people will flock into a new church. This may be true if you are planting a church in the middle of a full on revival, but in reality, in 2009, there aren’t too many place in the United States that are in the middle of a full on revival. Effective church planters need to do outreach to meet people so that they can come to the building to hear that Word of God. This was brought into focus for me when I was speaking to one of the older pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement. This pastor was there in the beginning of the Jesus Movement. He told me that not only was the Pastor Chuck Smith’s teaching anointed, but there was also a ton of outreach going on. There were concerts and Christian communes. There were outreach studies going on in schools, homes, and by the side of the road. Greg Laurie was inventing new cartoon tracks and they were being handed out. Teaching tapes were being given out. There were people, outside of the church building, meeting people with the intention of communicating the Gospel to them. A successful church plant is one that is reaching out to their community. When the people who are reached come to the church, then they will get the opportunity to hear God’s inspired Word.
In one of Mark Driscoll’s books, he gives a great and simple insight into casting vision for outreach. He asked three simple questions: Who are you reaching out with? Who are you reaching out to? And how are you reaching out? Feel free to read that article to see the finer points of these questions. But to begin our discussion, these questions are important. Who are you reaching out with? Is it just you? Do you have a small team? A large group? The answer to this question will affect the scope of our outreach. Who are you reaching out to? Depending on whom we are trying to reach, this will color the style of outreach. In the Jesus Movement, Christian concerts worked well, but might not in every context. This speaks to the need for cultural exegesis and understanding our target communities. This is where statistics and demographics can be incredibly helpful. Do we love the community that we are called to as Jesus does in such a way as to understand them? Finally, how are you reaching out? This is the culmination of the first two questions. When we understand who we are reaching out with and who we are reaching out to, then we can formulate an action plan as to how we are going to reach out. It is this third section that I want to spend some time on.
Have A Plan
It is simply wisdom to have a goal and that can be executed. If we have a plan and set some goals, we will have a better chance of accomplishing anything. So I always recommend that church planters come up with a plan, no matter how basic it may be. Set some goals and work towards their fulfillment.
Don’t be Seeker Sensitive, Be Seeker Sensible
I don’t know who coined this pithy phrase, but I like it. We need to be sensible to the people that we are trying to reach and the message that we are giving out. This is important because oftentimes our outreach ideas are not relevant to the people we are trying to reach. We have a tendency to import an outreach strategy that we saw used in another context. We need to be sensible. There is nothing worse then investing time and energy into something that isn’t sensible.
The Gospel is Free; But Getting It Out is NOT Cheap
We need to spend money on outreach. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t. It seems that oftentimes we would rather spend our money on anything else other than reaching people for the Gospel. We would rather spend money on the building a church (building) than building the church (community). Are we more concerned with getting ourselves a salary our reaching our community? Getting the Gospel out in our community will cost money and we should be prepared for this. It is money well spent (as long as we are mindful of who we are trying to reach).
It’s The Slow Drip That Works
What I mean by this is simply that it’s the cumulative effect of all the outreach attempts that work. We are apt to judge the effectiveness of an outreach based on immediate fruit. But in a church plant, it is the entire breadth of outreach that will have the effect. A continued outreach initiative, over time, will be effective. So have a broad view of it. Think about it, how many times have you heard about something before you try it? Like a restaurant? Oftentimes you’ll see an advertisement or two, maybe a billboard, then you’ll hear of a few people who went there and then you’ll try it. Churches are the same way. After someone gets used to seeing your name, if they know someone who likes it, often they will try it.
Put Your Name and Logo On Everything
This is the simplest outreach style. I call it ‘passive outreach’. To simply get name recognition, you want to put your logo, name, and website on everything: handbills, t-shirts, pens, everything. If you put your branding on everything, eventually people will notice you. As a Calvary Chapel pastor, if I am driving through a town and I see a dove, I instantly know what that means. There is recognition of the name and symbol. In our towns, if no one ever heard of us, there is a good chance that they are not stopping by for a visit.
Maintain A Good Website (and keep your name in the Yellow Pages)
In the technologically obsessed United States, it is criminal not to have a strong web presence. We are really shooting ourselves in the foot if we are not all over the web. Simply google your community and see what comes up. Put your name everywhere. On every community website that you can. The internet is here to stay and we want to be a part of it. People still use the Yellow Pages as well. Make sure your name is in the Yellow Pages. Also, don’t forget that you can negotiate with the Yellow Pages salesman. That we have in the Yellow Pages was being offered at $120 per month and we settled on $30 per month. That’s an extra $90 for other outreach ideas.
Train The Congregation in Community Engagement
Jesus’ outreach style was to train up twelve apostles. Jesus knew that having thirteen points of contact (Himself plus the twelve) would be more effective than it just being Himself. As we are teaching the people the Word, we need to be constantly raising up people who are effective witnesses on their jobs, while at school, as they recreate and the like. I am constantly downloading outreach sensibilities to the congregation as we walk through the Scriptures together.
Finally, The Church Will Be Passionate About What The Pastor Is Passionate About
Brothers, if we are not passionate about the lost, neither will the folks in our fellowship be. Just as Jesus reproduced Himself spiritually in His disciples, so will we. If our hearts do not burn for the lost, then we will never inspire them to care enough to share. Brothers, do we have a passion for the souls of men? Is it a passion that will drive us out of the safety of our offices and studies and into the places where people congregate to them won for Christ? A church planter without an outreach passion is not a church planter.