Imagine a church. This is a conservative, well regarded Southern Baptist Church. We'll call it First Baptist Anywhere. The pastor of First Baptist Anywhere is a Bible teaching pastor who wants to see others come to know the Gospel. They have a student ministry that young people flock to on Wednesday nights. They have a student-led band, and even an air hockey table. The music minister has a nice blend of classic hymns and contemporary worship during services. How nice.
Now imagine another church. We'll call it The Living Well of the Spirit #Luminous. The Living Well of the Spirit #Luminous is a relatively new church. They started out at around 20 members and now boast a membership of over 800. The Living Well of the Spirit #Luminous's teaching pastor has spiky hair, and wears t-shirts with rhinestone crosses on it. The people at this church sing with their hands in the air and their eyes closed. They have really well made videos on a giant projector at the beginning of every service with lots of flashy lights and shiny things. They meet in small groups every week to promote fellowship and growth together. How cool.
Now imagine a third and final church. This is the Missionary Baptist Church of Anywhere Mountain. This church meets in a small building in the middle of nowhere. The pastor of this church has a combover and yells and sweats alot. People say "Amen" often during the service. They boast a congregation of around 25, because the Smith family left the church recently, which was around 1/3 of their members. They meet every Sunday morning and then have a potluck in the small fellowship hall afterward. How quaint.
Now imagine that each church decides it is going to have an outreach program to reach the people of Anywhere. First Baptist Anywhere decides they are going to have a block party for the families in the neighborhood, so they can come and see what the church is all about. They rent a bouncy house and have carnival games set up. Around 30 children and their parents show up. At the end of the block party, the children's pastor gathers everyone in and somewhat awkwardly tells them a Bible story, and everyone leaves with a First Baptist Anywhere book mark and tract entitled "Who Am I?"
The Living Well of the Spirit #Luminous also has an outreach. They decide that with the great sound system they have they will hold a concert with a Christian band, and before the beginning of the concert they will show a video about their church and why everyone at the concert should come to it. The concert is a great success. Over 1000 people show up, and each and every one of them sees that you can be a Christian and still like good music and watch cool videos.
As you would expect, The Missionary Baptist Church of Anywhere Mountain holds an outreach as well. They decide that they are going to make signs and go to the busiest intersection in their town and preach. They have signs that say "Repent!", "The End Is Near!", "John 3:16", and other things of that nature. They become the talk of the town, and basically everyone who lives on or near Anywhere Mountain has seen them and their message.
Which of these outreaches was most successful? Was it the First Baptist Church of Anywhere? They gave out information about their Church and told a Bible story to over 30 people. Was it The Living Well of the Spirit #Luminous? They held a concert for over 1000 people and showed people how cool it is to be a Christian. Was it the Missionary Baptist Church of Anywhere Mountain? Everyone in their town of around 200 people heard the scriptures that day.
You may have an answer in your mind. Most likely it is the church whose outreach method you most agree with. Or maybe you look at the numbers and see which outreach reached the most people. This is the problem we have with our programs, in my opinion. We, being Americans, assume Jesus and his followers should treat our faith as we treat our economy. We think that the church or outreach that boasts the most numbers and is bringing in the most members is successful. We think we need to "sell" Jesus when we evangelize. We think if we don't do a good enough job making Jesus appetizing, he won't be able to do it Himself, and therefore our return on investment won't be profitable. If we think our love won't be accepted by people, we get stingy with it and dole it out other places.
I don't think God works that way. I think God doesn't care about numbers, but rather hearts. I think God doesn't care about how appetizing He looks, but how hungry people are. I think God doesn't consider Love a currency, but rather a river. Whether or not I think any of these outreach methods are good ways of reaching people, God can use any of them. As followers of Christ we need to stop worrying so much about what others are doing, how they are doing it, and how they can do it better. We need to simply look to Christ and how He loved others. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 & 13 sums it up when Paul says, " If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
So which outreach is the most successful? None of them. Or all of them. It all hinges on the hearts of the members of the church who were leading them. If we simply love God, really learn to love God, we realize He deals in a totally different economy. He deals in the the economy of Love. And when we deal in the economy of Love, we don't need to sell God, we realize all we need is to freely give out His love.