Every follower of Jesus has the inescapable call to participate in works of mercy and justice. This call predates Jesus’ earthly ministry and is expressed clearly in the following passage from the prophet Micah:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
You cannot call yourself a Christian and ignore suffering or injustice. Participating in acts of mercy and justice are as much a part of discipleship as are worship and prayer. Unfortunately, in many churches today, what passes for ministries of mercy and justice (often called “missions”) is the collecting and sending of small sums of money. However, mission is much more than money. In Matthew 25, Jesus personalized our call to acts of mercy and justice by saying when we reach out to others, we are reaching out to him. Do we want to encounter Jesus from afar or up close and personal?
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, embedded acts of mercy and justice deep into our roots. Wesley himself was famous for prioritizing the needs of others above his own. He organized schools and hospitals and required all Methodists to take seriously our call to aid the orphans and widows. The soul of the Methodist movement is a rally to stand with those on the margins of society and make sure their voices are heard and their needs understood.
The missional church movement has done an amazing job of helping local congregations become aware of their need to be in the community, being a source of blessing. Here, congregations find renewed strength and vitality by focusing less on their personal preferences and more on blessing their neighbors.
When done well, local church missional outreach cannot help but create new relationships between people. This is especially true when the missional effort embraces the idea of doing ministry “with” people rather than “to” them. These relationships often lead to the creation of community, both formal and informal, as friendships are formed.
Missional outreach is an essential part of any vital local church. It can also be a means to bring renewed vitality to a waning local church. Well-constructed missional outreach easily becomes a win-win-win. The community is blessed, individual discipleship is deepened, and the congregation is strengthened.
While missional outreach takes various forms, commonalities do exist among the best examples. This workbook will guide you through a process of thinking about either how to start a new missional outreach opportunity or evaluate and adapt an existing one.