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the boomerang effect

by Doug LIttle

IT WAS A WITNESSING TACTIC I’m not sure I’d have the boldness to try. Arriving for midweek FAITH training and visitation, a church member passionately recounted how she had turned a telemarketing call into an unanticipated opportunity to share the gospel. “I told him I would listen to him if afterwards he would listen to me,” she said.

After listening patiently to the sales presentation, she declined to purchase the offered service. Then she asked the salesman to keep his end of their bargain. “In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?” Using the key question of FAITH, she led the salesman into a conversation about his spiritual condition. Before the conversation ended, he committed his life to Christ over the phone. She encouraged him to attend church, make a public profession of faith, and follow through on his decision.

What was most remarkable to me as her pastor was the change that had occurred in this woman’s own life. When she began attending our church, she was extremely timid about sharing her faith. Her desire to please the Lord (and probably some guilt) prompted her to go through soul-winning classes and visitation, yet her heart remained fearful.

What brought the transformation? She and her husband went on a mission trip with our church. She soon found herself witnessing to total strangers in a cross-cultural setting, using a translator. As she saw the Holy Spirit touch lives, a passion for soul-winning ignited. And it kept burning strong when she returned home. Any telemarketer who calls her house now could verify that!

Most Christians are not called to obey the Great Commission through vocational Christian ministry. Opportunities for personal participation in reaching the world for Christ are more likely to come through the local church. As local churches become better mobilized for outreach, the involvement of individual members multiplies.

Mobilizing a church for outreach is not an event, it’s a process. The focus of the process involves two primary thrusts—empowering the pastor and equipping the people. The church’s potential is seen in the leadership level of its pastor, so the pastor must have the knowledge and resources to engage church members in outreach ministry. Effectiveness is found in the “follower-ship” level of its people. Members must be trained and given opportunities to find their place of personal involvement in outreach—locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Then they must respond to the Lord of the harvest who has called every believer to the work of the harvest.

As I’ve observed, studied, and experienced this process, I have discovered seven basic strategies to keep a church focused on outreach. Church leaders need to prioritize these strategies in planning budgets and calendars. Eventually they will become habits that define the heart of their church.

  1. Plan for global outreach. What gets planned gets done. Keeping the big picture in mind, church leaders must plan three to five years ahead so the church’s outreach impact can be strategic rather than random. Advance planning assures projects and events contribute to a comprehensive Acts 1:8 scope of ministry that fits the church’s available resources of time, finances, and personnel.

  2. Teach for global outreach. Teaching occurs in the church in dozens of ways. The way people hear and respond to the Great Commission depends on what they understand about the biblical basis of missions and the current needs of lost people across the street and around the world. If the church takes its role in world evangelization seriously, every age group needs to learn about evangelism and missions all year long.

  3.  Pray for global outreach. Almost all prayer in the local church focuses on the physical and financial needs of its members. Yet the model of the early church and the commands of the New Testament call for us to pray against spiritual darkness, for the advance of the gospel, and for the boldness of believers’ witness. Churches who practice regular, strategic intercession for the lost experience a dynamic of the Holy Spirit that inwardly-focused churches never know.

  4. Partner for global outreach. God has gifted every church for some level of partnership laborers beyond their local ministry. Valid partnerships include financial and prayer support, sending members to a mission location, and building long-term strategic relationships between the church and specific mission works. By prayerfully building relationships with missionary workers, a church can discover opportunities to make a significant impact.

  5. Invest in global outreach. One of my greatest blessings as a pastor was to see what God did in our church as we increased our giving to missions. Churches don’t have to choose between giving to missions and funding a building program; they don’t have to choose between giving to missions and hiring additional staff members. Many make those choices based on the budget, and less is invested in reaching the world. Churches who stay outwardly focused keep the main thing the main thing. And it’s amazing how God provides.

  6. Call for global outreach. Mobilized churches plan events that celebrate what God is doing and challenge the church to ongoing involvement. Conferences, rallies, and missions services provide moments of unique opportunity for the people to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s call.

  7. Lead for global outreach. Pastors of mobilized churches recognize the need to keep their own passion inflamed for a lost world. A church’s heart for missions will not surpass the heart of the pastor. Most understand they can’t handle the challenge of leadership alone. They learn to involve key people to keep these strategies alive in their churches. As a result, the process continues.

My desire is to be involved in empowering pastors to mobilize their churches. Nothing will advance the cause of Christ through the Free Will Baptist movement more effectively than for 250 or more of our churches to mobilize for outreach over the next five years. The potential of such a global outreach boggles my mind.

Many people in our churches are like my friend who shared Christ with a telemarketer. They love the Lord with all their heart, but they’re scared to death to witness. It may not take an overseas trip to light every person’s fire for evangelism, but I’m thankful the opportunity was there for her. Getting people out of the pew and into the harvest field will transform lives in the church and the lost world.

Doug Little pastored for 18 years before joining the International Missions staff. As director of stateside development he pursues his passion for assisting pastors to develop and grow Great Commission churches.

Global Outreach Pastors Workshops can be scheduled wherever pastors are interested. Individual church consultations can be arranged. Contact Doug Little at International Missions toll-free (877) 767-7736 or e-mail to take the first step.



©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists