by Jenna Musgrove
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘outreach’? A church evangelism event? A local food drive? A summer youth program? It’s easy to think of outreach as a planned activity or event, something you participate in every once in a while to serve those in need. But is that really what it ought to be?
As a believer, we have many calls. The call to grow in sanctification. The call to glorify God with our lives. The call to serve in the church. And, of course, probably the most famous call of all- to go and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations ( Matt 28:19-20). That, my friends, is your call to outreach. Or better put, to reach out. We are commanded to extend truth and grace to those lost in sin and darkness.
But, what does that look like? Considering our best example for life and ministry is Jesus Himself, we must first examine how He ordered His days. When reading through the gospels, it seems evident that to Christ, outreach was an interwoven part of His everyday life. It wasn’t an organized event. It didn’t occur once every couple of weeks. I find it noteworthy that more often than not, Jesus ministered to the lost in the most ordinary and unplanned moments. In fact, most of the crucial interactions in Christ’s ministry happened while He was simply passing by, walking through a city, or traveling from one place to another.
It is in those “insignificant” moments where we cross paths with others that we are presented with countless opportunities to reach out.
Now that’s all easily said, but let’s bring it onto a more practical level. What exactly does that look like? What does it require? Please hear me say that I am nowhere near perfect and my attempts to live intentionally and gospel-focused are often befuddled by my own shortcomings, lack of courage, and selfishness. Even as I wrote this, I was deeply convicted over the areas in which I struggle and fail to reach out. But, for the sake of painting a picture, allow me to share a few examples from my own everyday, routine moments.
Snapshot #1: The little moments matter
Our next-door neighbors are a vivacious, friendly European couple. The girl moved here to work for a health center and her boyfriend followed to be with her, soon after joining the local circus as a trapeze artist (just your average neighbors, right?). Every time we see them, it’s in passing. She’s coming home from work, he’s leaving to practice, we’re heading out to run errands, etc. But in those moments of hi’s and bye’s, we have little opportunities to reach out, to show the love of Christ. We chat, we ask questions, we share tidbits of our days. And every now and then, we get a chance to linger and dig deeper. In addition to these sprinklings of conversations, they also witness the way we live our lives by default as our neighbors. For example, every Friday afternoon they see my Bible study girls come and go like a herd of giggling, tromping elephants. In fact, they once asked me if our organization required us to study the Bible, since it seemed they always saw us leading, going to, or participating in some form of Bible study. Brief interactions, quick conversations, touches of outreach. Simply living our daily lives. Such small things. But in God’s sovereign perspective and plan, even the littlest of things matter. Who can say what foundation is being laid or what the Lord has in store for this relationship? As a matter of fact, we’ve now got pending plans to head to the circus in the near future.
Snapshot #2: The sacrifice of time
Saturday mornings for Adrienne and I consist of spending time with a handful of kids from Tamarindo. What began as a request for a little ‘tour’ of their community to better gain our bearings and begin relationships, quickly turned into a weekly routine. Now, somewhere between 9 and 9:30 am, we receive a loud rap at the door and know our slow morning of coffee and time in the Word has ended. What then ensues is fairly unpredictable, from walks through the community, read-alouds with kids we gather on the way, rainy day pancake breakfasts, or a much-needed hair washing in the tub. During this handful of hours, we reach out to these four particular kids who have become very dear to us, and more often than not, encounter a variety of other people along the way. These mornings are fun and sweet, but also purposeful. We choose to give of our time to invest in these kids, to live out the love of Christ, to look beyond ourselves, to plant tiny seeds that we hope one day will produce an eternal harvest.
Snapshot #3: Being intentional
Sunday afternoons, you might see Adrienne and I walking to the colmado (think Dominican 7/11) or catching a motorcycle taxi to the local mercado to get our weekly groceries. To any observing eye, there may appear to be no particular rhyme or reason to this ritual other than the necessity to purchase food. And to those who know I own a car, it might seem strange or even foolish to opt for public transportation over my own vehicle. In addition, fellow Americans could wonder why we don’t head to a bigger nearby city to find a wider variety of products and familiar brands. But, our decision to shop this way was actually made as a conscious effort to build relationships within our community, to create opportunities for conversation, and to live with a touch of solidarity with those we serve. As a result, we’ve been able to establish a budding friendship with the sweet couple that owns our local colmado. After various times making small-talk, sharing greetings and a smile, and simply taking interest, eventually we were invited to their home for lunch. But it took intentionality. Repetition. Time. And a recognition that even the most routine activities of life (such as grocery shopping) can be precious opportunities in the eternal kingdom.
Snapshot #4: It’s a choice
At least once a week, I receive a familiar knock on the door from a local wandering street kid looking for a way to fill his empty belly. And every time he visits, I have a choice to make. Will I open the door, knowing the next half hour of my evening will be taken sitting on the stoop chatting with my little friend until he manages to direct the conversation to his real desire, food? And then, I’ll be faced with the ever-difficult decision of either sharing what I have to satisfy his hunger or saying a gentle no so as not to develop a dependent relationship. OR, I can ignore the knock altogether and pretend I’m not home, continuing in whatever task is at hand, and avoiding the inevitable tough calls that ensue. In those moments, I am presented with a choice. Ease or sacrifice. Stay in or reach out. The opportunity is laid before me, how I respond is up to me.
Why do I share all of this? My hope is to challenge your perspective on everyday life, to show you that outreach is not as complicated or distant as you maybe thought. My prayer is that you’ll begin to have eyes to see the little opportunities that come across your path each day. In the end, the choice is yours. Will you reach out?
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
by Richie Sparling, Outreach Director
June 15, 2016 we will celebrate the completion of our third year of marriage. Who would have ever thought we would be teaching a marriage class to couples who have upwards of 15 years of marriage under their belts? Certainly not us!! And yet this is a door that God has opened for us and we have stepped through.
In the fall of 2012 Gabrielle and I were privileged to participate in a fantastic premarital class with our home church. The title of the class is 2-1 Premarital ministry, but the roots of the class go all the way back some 15 years or so to a Divorce recover class. With the success of the Divorce recovery ministry, the facilitators began to realize that rather than just minister to those suffering from Divorce and broken marriages, they had a responsibility to prevent this terrible end result to marriage. Therefore they worked backwards, using all the research from their time navigating various situations of divorce, and put into a premarital class all the reasons for which couples get divorced. What they realized was that if they could help couples communicate through these issues prior to marriage, in the long run they could help prevent those same issues from resulting in divorce years down the road. They have also helped couples realize the purpose of marriage, its eternal impact and God's design, and the seriousness of the commitment and pact they are making with another sinful human being. In this way challenging couples to truly discover their compatibility and loyalty to the idea of commitment with each other for life.
Needless to say, the class is incredible. It had a profound impact on our relationship and marriage. Not to say that without the class we would be failing in our marriage, but the benefit to our marriage has been amazing.
We brought the class materials with us to the Dominican Republic because we planned on continuing to use them in our marriage. Not two months into our time here, the Lord opened the door for us to break out our binder and share with a young couple about to get married the information that had been given to us. Essentially we went through the entire class with this couple and they loved it! From there, and from their own personal testimony, the word spread and we had more opportunities to share our knowledge. I even spoke at a Valentines day dinner for couples of our church here in Montellano ...almost ALL of the couples from our church. Then I was asked to offer a mini conference to couples from the church.
With all of these opportunities, and how incredibly receptive the couples who sat through these sessions were to the teaching, including the church leaders from various churches, I felt like the Lord was opening the door for me to offer the full 11 week class. I went to the pastors and proposed a plan, invited a young couple from Makarios about to get married, several newly married couples, a couple Gabrielle and I had been mentoring and also asked the pastor to select other couples from leadership in the church to take the class. In my proposal to the church leaders, I laid out a vision for the church to continue the class and offer it as a premarital class to couples from their church and outside the church, that it would not only be a blessing to marriages, but a tool to share the gospel as marriage is presented as an image of Christ and the Church.
Five weeks ago we started with 16 couples and Pastor Pedro Marrero stood before the class and announced that many of them had been invited to take the class, not just so that it would benefit their marriages, but so that after taking the class they could then teach it as the church is planning on making it part of their regular ministry.
Wow!!! What a privilege to have a front row seat to God's working! We are simply the instruments God chose to use to accomplish His work, because there is nothing special about who we are or our background that sets us apart and that anyone would look at us and say "with all your experience you should teach a marriage class". But we praise God for the work He is doing and are so thankful for how He will continue to use the ministry started almost 20 years ago for His glory.
We are into our 6th week and each session has been more and more incredible! Praise the Lord for what He has done and will continue to do!
Outreach happens in various forms within Makarios and we are excited to see how this area develops in the future as relationships are forged and fortified through time, effort, energy and love.