Most churches reach beyond their walls in one of two ways. Some focus on the spiritual needs of people, helping them discover a relationship with God through evangelism. Others tend to emphasize people's social and emotional needs by providing services or advocating for justice.
At our church we've tried to resist settling for an either/or approach. Here are some of our strategies designed to blend social action and evangelism.
At our free medical and dental clinics we ask patients if they would like prayer. About 75 percent agree to be prayed for, leading to many spiritual conversations.
In our sports programs we do devotions with the children's teams and employ relational evangelism in our adult leagues.
Our financial counseling services use a biblical approach to money, which has brought many to faith in Christ.
At our food pantries we offer prayer for each recipient and hold weekly worship services and Bible studies.
In our outreach to the homeless we provide hot meals, blankets, clothing, tents and prayer. Every weekend we bring a vanload of homeless men and women to our church, where many have come to faith in Christ.
In our pro-life ministry, we are sensitive to issues of shame, hopelessness and fear. Prayer is always part of the equation. We also connect them to our parenting classes, daycare center, financial counseling and social services. Relational evangelism then takes place through all of these ministries.
We've found that service designed to bring real and lasting change builds bridges to our church and ultimately to the Lord. We cannot separate the Great Commission to make disciples from the Great Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
—Rich Nathan Vineyard Columbus, Columbus, Ohio
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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