“We need outreach programs to reach the lost!” are often the concern of people who genuinely desire to reach their friends and neighbors for Christ. Churches devise complicated programs for singles, married, widowed, children, people with addictions, and the list goes on and on. There are churches who have all sorts of ‘outreach’ to a vast array of people with various mixed results. However, sometimes a program-oriented thinking can cause us to forget that outreach is the primarily responsibility of the individual not the church. Jesus made this clear in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The only command in the Great Commission is to make disciples. Surprised? In order to make disciples we ‘Go, baptize, and teach’ knowing that Christ is guiding us in this endeavor. The single greatest responsibility that you have as a Christian is to make disciples.
Consequently, the question becomes “How do I make disciples?” Disciple-making starts in your home, workplace, and neighborhood. Put yourself in contact with unbelievers for the purpose of building relationships. When you go to your kid’s t-ball or dance practice make it a point to sit down and talk with the other parents. It is amazing the conversations that you can have sitting watching your kids practice. Some of the best witnessing opportunities have come while my kids were running wind sprints. People learn that you’re a Christian and over time learn to trust you enough to talk about their faith (or lack of it), difficulties, or questions. It is here that disciple making becomes so powerful. In the context of a relationship you are able to introduce to them the saving work of Jesus Christ, invite them to worship service, or start a Bible study. This relationship discipling is possible at work as well. Over the course of time your co-workers will see the integrity of your work and your grace-filled attitude. By observing how you work they will begin to figure out that you are different. Use those moments as an opportunity to share the gospel to them to Christ at lunch or over coffee before work. I will eternally be indebted to one of my father’s co-workers who started a Bible study at the fire station that eventually led my father to the Lord. The heritage of faith that my family has was started by a faithful believer seeking to make disciples in the context he found himself.
I firmly believe that the best form of disciple making is organic ministry. By this I mean, a congregation who is actively looking for individual opportunities to make disciples rather than relying on formal corporate outreach (programs). The beauty of this is that a ‘ministry’ may arise when a group of individuals see a need in their community and band together to meet that need. Starting a Bible study with surfers, meeting with a local single mother who needs help and guidance on how to be a godly mother, or a prayer meeting for local professionals before work. These are organic individual ministries that meet specific needs within a congregation or the community. They may last for years or for months depending on the need but share the goal of making disciples. Does this eliminate a corporate responsibility? No. That is why we organize things such as the Community Health Fair, VBS, and Easter Egg hunts. Special ways to corporately reach the community. However, the most significant way to make an impact for Christ is a group of individuals seeking to make disciples in their individual context.
Don’t know where to start? Ask yourself what you are good at or what you have a passion for. It may be children, elderly, education, street evangelism, adoption, or sports? Think how you can use these talents, passions, and abilities to come into contact with lost people and share the gospel with them. Do you fish at the pier on the weekends? While you’re casting your line for fish cast your line for the souls of the regular fishermen. Do you have a tender heart for the elderly? Ask people at the church if their are any shut-ins who need encouragement and visit them. Do you have a passion for children? Volunteer to coach a kid’s sports team, find a single parent who needs a little bit of help, or join a local organization who advocates to the less fortunate. Use your own personal passions, gifting, and talents with the goal of making disciples. As you being to make disciples and bring them into our community of faith they will be strengthened and equipped to make disciples themselves. This will be the most powerful way to impact the Jax Beach community for Christ! May Ocean Park be a church who seeks out an opportunity to make disciples at home, work, and in our community.