Outreach is more important than ever.
I want to share a personal story because it affected me deeply. This past Saturday night, my husband and I went to a birthday party of an acquaintance. Our evening turned out to be more eye-opening than we ever could have imagined.
We arrived and visited with the honoree and his family. There were close to 100 people in attendance.
We had not been there too long when the host came over and said that the buffet was ready, and that he had been asking people to say a prayer before he opened the buffet line. Every person he asked said no – not because they were shy or uncomfortable about praying out loud (and I know many who are), but because they either didn’t think it was necessary or it wasn’t something they were “into”. Ick – who prays these days?
He said that we were the most “religious people he knew” (that, alone, was an interesting choice of words), and that he hoped that we, at least, would be willing to share a prayer. None of his other family/friends/acquaintances wanted any part of it.
Of course, we were humbled to pick up the microphone and offer a prayer for the loved ones gathered, the bounty of food we were about to enjoy and for each of the families represented there. Some people talked right through it on their cell phones. People milled around and continued conversations. People were already dipping out tiny meatballs before we closed.
When you think of outreach, what do you think of? A third-world country? Reaching youth in the inner cities? Providing services to rural areas? Sharing the Word with poverty-stricken people who feel there is no hope?
Outreach was needed right here, in my community, a suburb of a big city. Outreach was needed in the grassy backyard of a middle class family where, out of 100 people, only 2 seemed willing to say a small prayer of thanks. Outreach was needed in ways that these folks understood – relevant, tolerant, fresh.
We continue to talk about fresh ways to reach out – using every tool available – on this blog and in our workshops. After Saturday night, I have never been more convinced that we’re on the right track.
Tell your friends, family, parishioners, small group members, youth, and church leaders that the time for outreach is now – not necessarily thousands of miles away, but maybe 1/2 a mile away…or even next door.