Summary: The purpose of outreach is to take the God of the church into the community.
(To the reader – this sermon was begun while I was inside an appliance box.)
The theme of the most recent issue of YMI Update, our national youth ministry leadership newsletter, was "Out of the Box." Included in this particular issue were several stories about congregational youth ministries who are attempting to reach out to their communities by breaking “out of the box.” One story came from the South Meridian Church of God in Anderson, Indiana.
Mark Krenz, the youth pastor at South Meridian wrote, "Late last fall, to help our students "think out of the box,’ we put them in a box - a cardboard box to be exact. On a Saturday evening in November when the temps dipped below freezing, our kids, wearing donated coats huddled around barrel fires, prepared to spend the entire night outside sleeping on concrete and cardboard.
During the course of this "Lock out" they got a taste of the harsh reality of being on the street. While shivering, they also heard from a panel of homeless men from our local shelter sharing about the reality of homelessness, pain, and the hope of Christ.
During the night, church members dropped by to offer an occasional blanket or cup of hot chocolate. When dawn finally broke through we entered our sanctuary for Sunday morning worship; smelly, cold, tired, and tattered. Our elderly church members were quite surprised!
This was the launch of our Youth’s Church on the Street ministry. When it comes to community ministry, we finally put our program where our mouth is. Instead of expecting the community to come to church, we decided to take the church to the community. Once a month, instead of our regular Wednesday night youth worship and talk, we close up shop and head into the community."
Krenz went on to say, "The effect on those we minister to and the effect on our youth has been tremendous. And, if you expect our numbers to be down on those nights, guess again."
"When it comes to community ministry, we finally put our program where our mouth is." I like that statement. I think that it is something that many churches are doing and, as they do so, they are helping to advance God’s kingdom. They are reaching out!
Community ministry is one aspect of the second of the Church’s five purposes that we are examing this morning - outreach. What is outreach? Why is it important? What is the purpose of outreach? We will answer these questions. But first, I want to get out of this box!!
Now before we examine several Bible passages related to outreach, there are a couple of exercises that I want us to do. The first thing I want us to do is to answer a question in a unique way. On the communion table is a black marker. I am asking for six volunteers to come and write their answer to the following question on the box. And this is the question, "What are barriers to outreach?"
Second, I am asking for three additional volunteers to solve a puzzle. There are three copies of this overhead on the communion table and I am asking for three people to try and solve this puzzle. Here are the instructions: Place one of the markers on one of the dots, and then, without lifting the marker from the transparency, connect/cover all nine dots with four straight lines. Where are my nine volunteers? (Give a couple of minutes for this exercise while continuing.)
While our volunteers work, I want the rest of us to reflect on this question: "How do we overcome barriers in our lives?" First of all, we have to admit that they are present in our lives and ask God for help. Second, we have to be willing to do something about it. Then we also have to ask God to help us do something about it. Admitting there are barriers, problems, or challenges in our lives is one thing, making the decision to do something about them is another thing.
Third, we have to begin brainstorming solutions. There may be several different ways to overcome the barriers and we have to put all of them in front of us. Again we ask for God’s help and direction in this regard. Fourth, we have to commit to a course of action to over come the barrier and ask God for wisdom, strength, and courage, among other things, to do something. This is true for us individually as well as congregationally.
Now, let’s see what our first group of volunteers wrote.
Now, let’s see how our puzzle solvers did. (Share overheads) Now, here is one possible solution to this puzzle. (Show the puzzle). I’ll have more to say about this exercise in a few minutes.