I think we live in a time when it is critical for churches and individual Christians to be involved in personal outreach. Christians should excel at befriending people, forming relationships, and drawing in outsiders. Yet, it seems to me that too many churches are failing in this area. What is worse is the timing of this failure. More than ever, Christians need to be living “one another” lives.
Americans are a people on the move, re-locating from one area of the country to another. People new to an area don’t know anyone, and need to make friends and develop a support system. Modern technology with its many benefits can also have a isolating affect on people. They are communicating via technology, yet can lack real-life connections and relationships.
Sociological norms are changing. People are marrying later, having kids later, not having children at all, remaining single, and other unique family situations abound. The point is not to create a discussion on the ethics of those issues, but the church needs to realize that an increasing percentage of people don’t fit the traditional mold. Churches tend to be organized around traditional families with children (and there is nothing wrong with that), yet we need to get better at reaching out to a wider variety of people – and not alienating people who don’t fit the traditional patterns of life.
You may have never thought about it, but people often make friends and assimilate through their children. When you drop your kids at the Sunday school, and your kids make friends with other kids – you naturally meet the adult teachers and other parents. Without children, you lack this significant way to meet others. Those “without children” can be a varied bunch – working professional singles, married without kids, empty nesters, those who don’t have custody of their children, etc.
Besides ideas already mentioned in this series of posts, I think every church should have some way of identifying people who might have a harder time assimilating into the church. And a little extra shepherding care or follow-up should be made with these people. (Actually, I think personal follow-up should be made with everyone!)
At the beginning, I said that “Christians should excel at befriending people, forming relationships, and drawing in outsiders.” Why should we excel at this? Because it is what Jesus Christ did for us. God came near in the person of Jesus. God took on human flesh. It is incredible if you really take a moment to ponder it. God walked among us, and through the death and resurrection of Christ the way of salvation was opened to all people. As Christians we should imitate our Savior by “coming near” – reaching out to people, making the first move, and caring for them.
Take a moment to read Ephesians 2. Before we came to Christ, we were dead in our sin, distant from God, and strangers. Yet through Christ we’ve been brought near, have peace with God, and are part of God’s family. Let us, through our actions, reach out to others and draw them to the Savior and into the family of God.