The Purpose and Goal of Outreach
When we understand the purpose and goals of Outreach, we can better then define the methods by which we are committed to Outreach into our community. First, the purpose of the Church is to glorify God by being God-like in the world, to live in the world as Christ lived, to allow His life to be lived out through His body, the Church. As Christ was given one mission by the Father, He in turn gives only one mission to His Church. The Church exists in the world for the same ultimate purpose for which Christ came-to reveal the glory of God to all men. This is the Great Commission, the mission of the Church, to see God's glory declared among the nations and to see His glory deposited into more and more disciples who congregate in local assemblies among all nations; continuing to radiate His glory to a dark world--until He comes again to extend His Kingdom and His glory throughout the whole earth.
Missions and Outreach Understood: Missions is defined as any ministry for which the purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ either indirectly through media like radio, MP3s or literature or directly through evangelism, discipline, and church planting, and aiding in their growth and development locally, in various subcultures in the United States, and overseas, recognizing the importance of meeting other human needs while carrying on these priority ministries.
The definition of outreach is synonymous with the above definition of missions. However, since outreach connotes simply a general "reaching out," this word gives a broader scope of the ministry, including any possible form of disciple-making in this culture or in any other. Because in the minds of many people "missions" denotes only ministries of reconciliation in foreign or other cultures, outreach then is any missions endeavor which reaches out to person in the name of Jesus Christ beyond the congregation, the church facility, or the local sphere of influence of the church.
The Scriptural Purposes of Outreach: A "purpose" is defined as that toward which men ultimately hope and strive, a cause to which men give their hearts, a final objective that is intentionally "fuzzy". In considering the purposes of the Church in outreach, several levels of purposes exit, and the following three purposes are included here.
Short-Range Purpose: Pursuing Love
Intermediate-Range Purpose: Building Biblical Relationships
- The mark of the Christian is love, loving God and one’s neighbor (Matt.22:37-39). Jesus calls His Church to give of herself in self-sacrificing obedience to God and service to others (John 15:12,13,14, and 13:14, 34-35).
Long-Range Purposes: Furthering Jesus' Lordship and Kingship
- The intent of the Bible is the revealing of God to man and how man might know Him (John 15:15, 17:3, Phil.3:10). The Bible is also concerned about man's relationships with other men, both inside and outside the Church. It is the desire of the Elders' Council Handling Outreach (ECHO) that the philosophy of the sending process should at the same time reflect all three commitments in ministry: (1) A commitment to the person of Christ, focusing on the worship, (2) A commitment to the people of Christ, focusing on the Word, (3) A commitment to the plan of Christ, focusing on the world.
- The Holy Spirit's stated objective is to glorify the son (John 16:14). He does so by furthering Jesus's Lordship and kingship throughout the earth. This two-pronged purpose defines the role of the Holy Spirit in this Church Age, which is more technically the Age of the Spirit. He furthers the Lordship of Jesus by mediating the New Covenant, and He furthers the Kingship of Jesus by extending the rule of Christ in the hearts of men around the world through the missionary enterprise. This was Peter's theme in the first sermon of the Early Church (Acts 2:36). If Christians confess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Rev.17:14, 19:16), then His very name requires that the Church's motivations and actions be consistent with the God-man who is both Lord and King. We are committed to outreach because the name and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ are at stake.
The Glory of God. The mission of the Church culminates in the glory of God. There is no greater purpose than seeing God acknowledged by all creation throughout the universe for all eternity as the ever-ruling King of Kings and as the covenant-keeping Lord of Lords. His glory then will fill all in all. (Isa. 66:18,23, Zech. 14:9, Phil.2:9-11).
The Scriptural Goals of Outreach: "Goals" are defined as the steps one takes in accomplishing one's purpose. Goals are realistic and accomplishable, and they can be measured by time and by performance. Unlike "fuzzy" purposes, goals are specific, concrete, tangible. In considering the goals of the Church in outreach, several levels of goals exist, and the following three levels of goals are included here.
Short-Range Goal: Walking in the Spirit
Long-Range Goals: Declaring His Glory and Making Disciples Among the Nations
- The point of Pentecost in Acts 2 is that the Church eschatologically is a harbinger of the end, signaling to the world that a new age had dawned. The Spirit began thrusting out the infant Church to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdoms, so that the end of the age would come (Matt. 24:14, Acts 2:1-11). Once Jesus had ascended, the Holy Spirit was free to work as He had never worked before in the Old Testament (John 7:39, 14:176), bearing life to many new creations and bearing witness through the lives of all the New Testament saints. The glory of God no longer resided in one Temple building but in thousands and thousands of temple bodies spread throughout the Roman Empire. And as the Church individually and corporately obeys Jesus as Lord and King and allows the Word of Christ to richly dwell within her, the Holy Spirit is free to produce His fruit, His life and His witness through her to the glory of God.
Ultimate Goal: Being Conformed to the Image of the Son
- The Old Testament states that believers are to declare God's glory, who God is and all that He has done, among the nations (1 Chron. 16:24, Psalm 96:3). Its New Testament reality is the companion statement of Mark's Great Commission: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). God not only desires the Church to declare His glory, but also to bring His glory into the lives of others by making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20), which further intensifies the glorifying of Christ. The long-range goal of declaring God's glory among the nations highlights the whole Bible's universalistic backdrop and thrust and finds its original biblical basis in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen.12:1-3). The long-range goal of making disciples among the nations has as its major biblical basis in the Great Commission itself and is the unique mission of the Church in this Age of the Spirit.
- That final goal of the Church, which is accomplishable, measurable, and will ultimately allow her to fulfill her ultimate purpose of glorifying God, is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom.8:29, Phil.3:20, 1 John 3:2). The overall goal or mission of the Church in this age is to be like Jesus was and act like Jesus did toward the world when He was here on earth. The Church will never perfectly reach this goal until the redeemed of all ages dwell with Him forever, but it is nonetheless the goal that she ever pursues in anticipation of Christ's return and eternal reign.