Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions The Seismic Shift in OUTREACH You Need to Know

The Seismic Shift in OUTREACH You Need to Know

Like the one we live in today.

The presentation of Christ must remain central to our thinking, to be sure. That is the only reason we are even talking about strategy; the goal is to present Christ and Him crucified. But is that where we start? On Mars Hill, the spiritual illiteracy was so deep that Paul had to begin with cultural touchstones, lead in to creation, and work his way forward.

It took him a while to get to Christ.

And community? It matters, but the average person has tastes of that already. Maybe it’s not functional, but they don’t seem as drawn to it as they used to be. Perhaps it is because of the lure and illusion of social media, or because they’ve simply given up on it, but it’s not the great “search” it once was.

So there has been a great seismic shift. Today, it is cause that arrests the attention of the world.

Which brings us to the challenge.

First, to recognize the seismic shift, and begin to strategize accordingly.

Second, to realize how difficult this will be. If cause is in the lead, and community close behind, the church is at a deficit. In the minds of many, our causes have been mundane (let’s raise money for a fellowship hall!) or alienating (Moral Majority!). And the close second of community? Our reputation for dysfunction in that area is legendary. 

But there is great irony in the challenge. Jesus wed mission and message together seamlessly, proclaiming the Kingdom that had come while healing the leper and feeding the hungry. He mandated concern for the widow and the orphan, the homeless and naked, the imprisoned and hungry, while speaking of the bread of life and a home in heaven.

In other words, we should have been nailing this all along.

And if community is lurking in the back of the minds of people as a felt need, that should be a calling card as well. Jesus challenged his followers about the importance of observable love toward one another as the ultimate apologetic for His life and ministry and message.

And even if it takes a while to get to Christ, He should be presented raw and unfiltered in all of His scandalous specificity; as Moltmann proclaimed, “the crucified God.”

So as we ponder the rise of “cause” as the cultural bridge over which to walk, perhaps the greater truth is more elemental:

Do all three.

Imagine a church that had community, cause and the undiluted message of Christ in the vanguard of its efforts.

It might just become the church Jesus had in mind all along that would reach the world.  

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.