By Jimmy R. Mickells
The word “outreach” is an expression that has been coined in recent years. If I understand what is meant by its use, it means an effort by a local church to reach out to those that are lost to save them from sin. That certainly is the work of the church. Paul, in writing to the young evangelist Timothy, said that the church is the pillar and the ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). It (the church) is to defend and preach the truth to a world of lost sinners. This same apostle commended the church at Thessalonica for doing this very thing, sounding forth the word of God (1 Thessalonians 1:8). When persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem, the saints that made up that church went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4).
In recent days, one was asked about a local church of Christ having a gym. The answer that was given, “It is just an outreach tool to reach the lost.” What was the means that the New Testament church used to reach those that were lost in sin? Was it not the simply gospel message that was preached by its members? That is all they used to appeal to the inner man to respond to God’s calling. Paul, in his epistle to those at Rome, said that he was ready to preach the gospel to them (Romans 1:15). The very next verse says, that it is the gospel of Christ that is God’s power to save (Romans 1:16). When he wrote his first epistle to those at Corinth, he said, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1,2).
The New Testament church never built any kind of structure to draw or attract people so that they then might share the gospel with them. They didn’t have soup kitchens, offer medical care, give away free vacations nor did they have church sponsored basketball or softball. Actually, what has happened when a church has built a gym is that they have involved the local church in a work that God never gave her to be engaged in. At least a part of its work would then be recreation. Where would one find authority in the New Testament for such a work? If a local church can build a gym and justify having such by simply stating that it is outreach program, could they not build a hospital, a nursing home, a retirement community, etc. and find just as much authority for one as the other? Sure they could! The problem is that none of these things are authorized in the scripture.
In my limited travels in this country and abroad, I continual see a need for gospel preachers that is not being met. Part of the problem is that men cannot find enough financial support to go to these areas to preach the gospel. While local churches are spending thousands of dollars to build gyms to play in, men and women are dying lost because there is no one to share the gospel with them. Are they really concerned about saving the lost or are they more concerned about entertaining their members? They will need to answer that question for themselves.
I have had a good number of people through the years ask me, “What do you offer at the church where you preach?” Usually what they want to know is, do you have entertainment, will you take my children on various outings, etc. The only thing that the Bible permits us to offer those that are lost in sin is the gospel of Christ. If that is not enough, then I’m just as sorry as I can be, but that is all I’m authorized to extend to you. We will do our very best to teach you and your children the Bible; to help in whatever way we can in your obedience to our God so that you can go to heaven when this life is over. We will encourage you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and help equip you so that you might use your talents or abilities to better serve the Lord.
May we each be busy doing our best to use the gospel of Christ to reach out to those that are lost and in sin. This is the outreach program that God is interested in.