Monday, October 22, 2007

How to motivate people for missional outreach

If selfishness is the universal human condition, how do we motivate individuals and churches to look beyond themselves and reach out to the world? It is a huge challenge, and if the statistics on conversion in churches in the US are anywhere close to being true, it is a challenge that is not being met.

How then, do we motivate people to do missional outreach? There are many things that I might say here, such as personal modeling, biblical teaching, creating structures for mission, devoting church resources for mission, and prayer. But the motivation I want to bring out today is self-interest.

I will point out that, whether we like it or not, Christians make many decisions about their faith on the basis of self-interest. We choose a place to worship because there are ministries for my kids, or others who are our age, or a preacher that we connect with. Rarely does a family ask, who needs us most? Where can we serve? Where can we best reach our neighbors for Christ?

People automatically think of themselves--I certainly do. And a bit of self-interest is probably okay. Christ said that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A healthy self-love is assumed by Christ. The problem arises when we place ourselves above others and above God.

So we need to help people see that doing missional outreach is of benefit not only to others, but to them as well. For instance, in our last life group meeting, we talked about some various things that we could do to serve someone in our community. I would say that our group is pretty typical--a few who are naturally inclined and gifted towards outreach, and most who are not. But this time we chose to bring gift baskets to the teachers and the school of one of our life group members, and because it was connected to one of our members' children, it received a positive response. Our members donated drinks and food, which overflowed into three baskets, and signed cards thanking the teachers for their service and letting them know that we had prayed for them.

And as we went and delivered these gift basets, one of the parents of the children said, "You know, it really is a blessing to serve." The teachers were very appreciative, they saw a church in action, and the name of Christ and his church was praised.

Those who are gifted in missional leadership and evangelism must "blaze the trail" for these outreaches, providing motivation and helping others not gifted in these areas to overcome their fears. If you are gifted in these areas, do not despair because others are not. Instead take these steps:

  1. Provide passion for outreach to the world.

  2. Give various ideas for outreach--most people are not naturally thinking about these things.

  3. Find ways to reach out that connect with people's lives and at times, their self-interest, such as their children.

  4. Be the person that leads the way into the school, the coffee shop, the neighborhood, or where ever the outreach takes place.

When led in this way, others respond. The administrative gifts kick in, and people start organizing around your (and now their) ideas. The service gifts kick in, and people start to see how they can serve. The prayer gifts are activated, as people now have something tangible to pray for (and prayer becomes more fervent and real as you pray before going into some new setting). Etc. And as they are led into these outreaches, they themselves are blessed and begin to see the value of these efforts. We have to help Christians see that when they serve others and reach out to the world, they receive all the blessings that they say they are looking for--purpose, meaning in life, friendships, and community.

Some Spiritual gifts experts say that only about 10% of a church have gifts in evangelism. Those gifted in outreach must lead in these efforts. They do not necessarily have to be the ones leading a small group (though this helps), but there needs to be 1-2 in every group, and the mission must be constantly help out by both them and the official leader. Otherwise, our natural inclination towards an inward focus will return.

What motivates you towards outreach?