Aquarium Christians

I have been traveling around the country now for a couple years, and I am disturbed about much of the Church’s overall idea of outreach. Why do we have so many outreaches inside a church? That’s like fishing in our own aquarium hoping that other fish come over to swim because we put a flyer on their car windshield when they were shopping that tells them how nice our water is.

Why don’t we go where the fish are? It’s frustrating when I see or hear about churches that are quicker to point a finger at someone who actually goes outside of the so-called Christian environment to share God’s love than they are to offer a helping hand. Isn’t that how the Pharisees treated Jesus when he hung out with street kids, prostitutes and drunks?

Instead of putting such a high emphasis on the big event, we should focus more on the essentials of Christian living. Like loving God and others as ourselves. Instead of only being excited about the four toys being inflated in the parking lot and the dunk tank the wacky youth pastor will sit on, we should be stoked about living out Jesus’ greatest commandments in everyday life.

I think many are hesitant to reach out because it’s uncomfortable. It’s like being in the ocean and realizing how small and out of control we really are. It’s challenging to be vulnerable. One of my favorite verses is in Galatians 5:6. It says, “For in Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (TNIV). So the “big” event your church is planning and pouring money into means jack if its not faith working through love.

We are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and love others as ourselves. Do you notice that it states we first must love God before loving others and ourselves? This is because we can’t really love ourselves and others until we first love God. Loving God is really just getting to know Him and discovering that He is love. For in loving God we receive His love to love ourselves and others. It’s hard to love others until we love ourselves, because the way we treat others is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves.

I’m not bagging on all outreaches at all. I think that they are good when aligned with God’s purposes. But let’s be smarter in how we plan them. Here is an example of an outreach that made a positive impact on its community this month:

I recently preformed at this summer bash up in Marysville, Washington. It’s only about a half hour north of Seattle. It was a beautiful summer day in the Pacific Northwest—one of the best places to be in the summer. The church had done this event for a couple years now, and each year it has grown exponentially.

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This year all the churches in the area got together to reach the community. They had a salon give haircuts to kids and Wal-Mart donated some school supplies to families whose children were going back to school. It was at a park, and they had tons of free food, a drug rehab booth, music, dancing and more. The mayor, police chief and some athletes were there. They even had a guy who showed up with reptiles and displayed them from the stage. It was entertaining.

During the day they had teams of people going through the park engaging with people and asking them how they were doing and if they could pray with them. More than 10,000 people showed up throughout the day, and the community was impacted by God’s love through people willing to dream big and not care who received the credit.

Outreach should come from knowing God and wanting to share His love with others no matter where we are. Outreach can happen on the beach, street, at the store, school, work, online, bar, barber shop, next door, bank, on a plane…whenever and wherever. It’s more of a lifestyle than an event. So let’s get out of our comfortable heated aquariums and paddle out into the ocean. I know it’s scary, but God is with you.

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