Why Church Outreaches Often Fail
More than ever before, there seems to be an increase in church outreach activities. That is not a bad thing. I have always agreed that we must be the church outside the four walls of a building. Over the past several years, I’ve been a part of many different kinds of outreaches.
We have had back-to-school bashes and given away backpacks full of school supplies, while entertaining the kids with carnival activities. It was a kind way of loving on the community. Some of them visited the church later, but most took the free stuff and were never seen again until the next year.
There have been a lot of loving outreaches done with the underlying intent of drawing people into the church. In one of our former outreaches, we had at least one hundred people show up for the fun and free stuff. Only two or three visited the church afterward, and none of them made our church their church home.
So why do outreaches so often fail? And why do most churches buy into the idea that giving away things, and throwing fun carnival events draw people into the church?
First of all, there’s no doubt that people are falling away and leaving churches. I believe that is a sign that we are living in the last of the last days. I also believe pastors are panicking to try to bring in people or retain people. You can’t browse a bookstore without seeing multiple books about how to grow your church or retain attendees.
But there is one big problem with all of this. We can’t grow churches by methods. Only the Holy Spirit can effectively grow The Church--and I’m talking about the church universal. When leaders begin to focus on growing numbers in their congregations instead of growing numbers for the Kingdom, they soon start to resort to secular outreaches and end up disappointed.
Another problem many churches face is they become great at outreaches and festivals, but when the visitor comes into the church, there is no power. A church that lacks the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit will not retain visitors. People are looking for more than entertainment. They are looking for churches that are alive with the life changing power of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe we must minister to the needs of the community, especially those in need. But how many times do we do these outreaches with wrong motives? And we can ask ourselves a very important question to check our motives. How many people are we leading to Christ during the outreach? Are we actively witnessing to the participants about the soul cleansing blood of Jesus?
If our priority is reaching souls for the Kingdom of God, we must be sure that the spiritual needs of the church members are met first. We must be sure we are speaking the whole truth of the Word of God, preaching about Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and His redeeming blood. And we must preach and teach on the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
We must allow the Spirit to move in our services. There are a lot of great sermons out there, but without the anointing and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit they simply fall flat. We must have the anointing. There has to be something happening--besides entertainment--inside the four walls of the church to truly reach those outside the four walls.
The popular motto is, “Stop doing church, and start being the church.” I agree with that sentiment to an extent. I don’t think church should be a routine that we casually do. But being the church has much more to do with speaking the truth to lost souls and empowering them through the power of the Holy Spirit, than giving away free goodies.
If the people in the church are built up in their faith and filled up and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there will be no need for outreaches. People will knock down the doors to get into a church where they can truly encounter Jesus; where lives are being spiritually changed, and people are being healed. And a church whose people are empowered by the Holy Spirit will naturally reach out to others—wherever they are.
When will we as leaders wake up and realize that our efforts are worthless unless we are empowered and led by the Holy Spirit? We can build social clubs all day long. But this lost and dying world needs far more than another social event. They need the active, life changing power of the Word of God in all its gory details—no sugarcoating—and the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit Who causes us to be bold and gives us the power to witness.
This is how we grow the Kingdom. In the process, church numbers become a naturally occurring byproduct. We can’t do this on our own. We need Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God knows the plans, and He honors our efforts to lead the lost to Jesus.
“And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself.”
John 12:32 MEV
Who Are You?
The Holy Spirit is such a kind and helpful friend, especially when we have one of those momentary memory lapses where we forget why we have been placed on this planet. I had one of those moments recently. I was walking through a store when I passed by the pharmacy. As, I started to turn the corner a lady almost bumped into me with her shopping cart. Then I noticed she was speaking to me—very quietly.
I leaned in closer, and she asked me if I knew of a good medication for inflammation. I’m not a pharmacist, but I suggested Ibuprofen. Her expression revealed that was not exactly what she was talking about. So, I asked for more information, “Joint pain, or inflammation of the joints? You could try Glucosamine maybe?” She looked at me, smiled weakly and said, “I’ll keep looking I guess.” I told her the pharmacist could probably give her better advice, and I turned and walked away.
I had walked no more than two aisles from where we were speaking when I heard that familiar still small voice. “Who are you?” He asked. I stopped dead in my tracks. Once again, He asked me, “Who are you, Donna? Have you forgotten? You may not have the answer to her questions about medicine, but you carry something far more valuable than that.”
Oh, my goodness! Where was my brain? Normally I would have immediately offered to pray for anyone who mentioned the slightest ache. Yet, after social distancing, masks, quarantine, and all things COVID, I think I have become accustomed to seclusion. I think I have unconsciously avoided interaction with those around me, completely blind to their needs, even when they are blatantly obvious!
I hurried back to where I left her. She was still standing there. I walked up to her and said, “I don’t think you stopped me by coincidence. You see, I’m an evangelist, and I wholeheartedly believe in the healing power of Jesus. Do you mind if I pray for you?” She looked at me and said, “I would like that.”
I placed my hand on her shoulder, and as I began to pray for my new friend, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit fall powerfully right there in the aisle of the store. She looked at me and said, “Wow, where do you go to church?” We continued to talk briefly. Walking away with my heart overflowing with joy, I felt that approving nod from my best friend—the Holy Spirit.
How easy it is to forget who we are and what we carry. I was reminded of Peter and John as they met the lame man begging for alms outside the temple gate. The beggar asked for alms, and Peter and John had none. But, without hesitation they told the lame man what they did have. And it was much better than silver or gold. In the Name of Jesus Christ, they took the man by the hand and raised him to his feet, and he began to walk.
Peter and John had spent time in the upper room—waiting just as Jesus had asked them to—when they received power from on high. They were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. They experienced a new holy boldness, and a divine shift in their identity. They now realized who they were in Jesus, and what power they carried within them.
Situations may have caused you to shift your gaze in other directions. You may feel as if you have been temporarily disengaged from your purpose. But don’t you dare forget who, and more importantly, whose you are. Remember the power you carry through the Holy Spirit. Pray in the Spirit daily and be ready to step out immediately when presented with the opportunity. He will definitely provide plenty of opportunities.
“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
Acts 3:6 KJV
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.