Outreach spreading the net wider
In the previous articles in this series I have concentrated on gospel outreach that is linked to the local church. This article, however, focuses on outreach that is of a more individual nature. In light of this please remember the Biblical aims of gospel work:
To glorify God (2 Cor 4.1-7)
To see souls saved (1 Cor 1.21; Acts 5.14)
To see souls meeting with Christians in a local assembly (Acts 2.41; Acts 9.26-28).
It never has been the Lords intention to see people saved but not in fellowship in a local church. Therefore, outreach, whether individual or corporate (local assembly based), works towards these basic aims.
Street Meetings - more commonly known as "Open Air Work"
There is nothing better than getting in front of people with the truth of the gospel. It needs to be done prayerfully, courteously, truthfully and regularly with the help and guidance of the Lord. The following are some things that we do in our "Street Work"; others may have more effective suggestions to make.
Location, Location, Location!
As many know this is the maxim of many a business venture but it is equally true as we plan to preach the Word. Find a good location. There is no point in preaching to houses or blocks of flats which are soundproofed by double glazing and internally erupting with noise from televisions and sound systems. Nowadays people in the streets will often have earphones in, but at least they have the choice to stop and listen. If you have display boards up, they can read gospel verses as they pass by.
Display boards create a focal point for the preacher and for the audience. If preaching in a town centre I like any fellow workers to face me, as this allows any interested parties to stand behind them without feeling too conspicuous. Items on the board should be well prepared and professional as we are constantly making an impression on our audience about how seriously we take the message. Clear verses of Scripture are ideal as are statements of truth that hopefully will stimulate a thoughtful response from the audience. Often the response is not what you would want, but the Lord is often speaking to people especially when they are kicking against His promptings. Many do stop and read what is on the boards, and, remember, we believe from Psalm 119.130 that "The entrance of thy words giveth light". Another seed sown!
It is important that the literature we give out explains the gospel simply, and grasps and holds the attention of the reader. Ultimately this cannot be achieved without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit of God. Just as a preacher is responsible to "preach the word" (2 Tim 4.2) and to explain truth in words that are "easy to be understood" (1 Cor 14 9), so the person who is writing a tract should seek to make the message easy to grasp.
We have found that it is beneficial to preach in the same place at the same time on a regular basis. This means that if people are seeking salvation they know where you can be found.
In our experience preaching should be simple, clear, to the point, and relevant to the generation we are addressing. Paul, in Acts 17, took a completely different approach to that which he used when "persuading" a group of Jewish people in Acts 28.23. The Lord Jesus did the same. When talking to the woman of Samaria in John 4 His starting point was different to the method He adopted when speaking to Nicodemus in John 3. We need wisdom to appreciate what people understand, to start at their level, and to take them to an appreciation of the truth of the gospel in terms that they can grasp. Preparation, practice, and the power of the Spirit of God are clearly needed for us to be effective as we evangelise.
Internet based outreach
This is an area where there is great potential to reach people. If you are going to do this you need to do it properly and consistently. You cannot afford to start well and then over time let it fade away.
Each week I prepare a written gospel article (called a blog), I record an audio gospel message (called a podcast), and a video gospel message (called a vblog). The idea is that as the current generation uses the Internet to get most of their information we should make the gospel readily available to them by this medium as well. If you search the Internet, there are many Christians and Christian organizations that are doing this, so my contribution is just a small part of a bigger picture. If you do your research properly you can make sure that you contact people who live in your locality. So this is not just about putting the message out on the World Wide Web but about tailoring your contacts to reach people in your area.
I currently have a contact base in excess of 2,000 people and I know that over 15,000 people have accessed one of the three items I put out on the web. Many of my 2,000 contacts pass on to their contacts my invite to watch, listen, or read, which is why the numbers being reached are significantly higher than my contact base. Details of where to access the items are also on the back of all our literature given out on the streets.
This work demands discipline to prepare the messages on a weekly basis, and to be relevant and Biblical in the presentation. As with many forms of outreach, it is difficult to determine any level of success so we work on the same principle as that of gospel work our job is to sow the seed of the Word of God - the reaping and saving is in the hands of our Lord and Master.
Letters to local newspapers
For a long time now I have had a burden to write in local newspapers as a means of spreading the gospel. Newspapers are still widely read, and, despite the rise of electronic media, they continue to be a major communication tool in our society.
As you will no doubt imagine, most newspaper editors in our country have very little inclination to give a regular column to someone pushing the message of the Bible. I have therefore resorted to writing letters to newspapers picking up on current issues of the day and mixing in Scripture and the gospel. If you dont, the editor will print the topical bit and leave out the Biblical bit. Another tip is to find out the names of the editors in charge of letters and send them your letter by e-mail in the late evening or early morning (1 am!) as this is the time when they are deciding what to include in the next issue of their papers.
Another way to get into a local or free newspaper is to buy advertising space and to write a message alongside an announcement of some form of gospel outreach. You might think that this is expensive at first glance, but have a look at the costs. These publications end up in 15-20,000 homes in most areas. Putting a leaflet into every home will cost you a lot more and take a lot more effort than one advert every 3 or 4 months. I know one assembly who are using this approach and have seen people coming along to their hall as a result. To do this properly you need to buy half a page of space, get someone to design the page well, and someone to write a good concise and informative piece explaining the gospel.
Outreach to business people and the wealthy
One of my interests was to contact people in the business community. I personally have a lot of contacts in the business community from my secular work life and I wanted to keep in touch and bring the gospel to them. This linked in initially with my Internet outreach as many business people keep in touch and contact each other through networking sites. So each week I post a link to the various gospel messages that I put out on the Internet so that these business people can access them.
Second, with the help of another believer, we have written to the top 100 business people in the North-West of England and we have for three years written to everyone who appears on The Times Rich List. This has evoked quite a good response with a number of people replying to the letter by phone or e-mail, and at least one man accessing the Internet based gospel messages.