Chapter 1 of Organic Outreach (Harney, 2009) is titled “The Law of Love”. I used to think of evangelism and outreach as something that I’m supposed to do because Jesus tells us so in Matthew 28: 19-20. However, after reading this chapter of Organic Outreach, I have a bit of a different view.
In one of my previous churches, we showed a video one Sunday from The Skit Guys about how NOT to invite your neighbor to church. That video lines up with what Harney (2009) tells us in this chapter of Organic Outreach. Harney (2009, p. 26) says, “I explained that if reaching out was nothing more than a religious homework assignment to him, his neighbor would soon sense his lack of sincerity. His efforts could become counterproductive if they weren’t motivated by love”. WOW! Talk about a punch in the gut. Seriously, this really gave me a new light at looking at outreach. I love people. I truly do. Am I really loving them enough to reach out with sincerity?
God loves us so much that He gave up his most precious possession – Jesus, his son. Jesus came to earth as a tiny human so that he could grow up and give his life for you and me – not just the people living at the same time as him. I often imagine Jesus, nailed to the cross, seeing all of our names flash before him, with our sins listed after. Kind of like a rolling screen. God LOVED us so much that he reached out to us. “Loving God and loving others are the two big hooks on which everything hangs,” according to Harney (2009, p. 25).
How can we reach out to people with true & sincere love, like Jesus did for us? Harney (2009) gives us a prayer that we can pray. We can ask God “to give us a heart like Jesus’ heart toward those who are still living on the borderlands of faith” (Harney, 2009, p. 27). What a powerful prayer that must be! If I can truly & sincerely love people even somewhat like Jesus did, how much of a difference will that make?
Our world is a broken world. There are dark places. There is evil happening. God is still here and he’s still using us to reach the people that are in those places and situations. God doesn’t want anything bad to happen to any of us, but unfortunately because of the brokenness of our world, those things do. Something I am learning from my own personal circumstances is that despite the terrible things that have happened to me, God can take the ashes and make something beautiful out of it. He can use us to love people so much that we love them through the heartache and the terrible and the hard times. He can use that love for those people to reach them. Our God is a great and powerful God. The miracles He can perform are beyond words. All we have to do is love people.
One of my favorite things about Harney’s (2009) book is that there is an “assignment” at the end of each chapter. On page 29 of Organic Outreach, Harney (2009) gives three options: Option 1 – Spend five days in prayer for a person that you know is far from God. That means intentional prayer. Not just something you remember and say in a quick prayer, but take time to truly pray over and for that person. And for your heart to love them through whatever it is that keeps them far from God. Option 2 – Read a chapter each day from one of the Gospels and study how Jesus loved people. How did he love them? How did he reach out to them? Option 3 – Find places to connect to people outside of your inner church circle – people you know who aren’t believers. I like to watch football on Sundays at a local restaurant (that’s what happens when you’re a Seahawks fan in Cincinnati). I don’t sit at the bar watching the game and advertise that I’m a family pastor. I don’t even talk about what it is that I do. I talk football and Russell Wilson. We find a way to connect. You know what? The next week we’re sitting in that same restaurant bar, watching football, some of those same people are there again and we can continue building our relationship. I can learn how to love them even better.
This chapter was powerful for me. It was a heart check. There are people in my family that don’t know Jesus that need to know him. I can’t just make it an assignment. I need to love them through it all.
Harney, K. (2009). Organic Outreach for Ordinary People. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.