We Don’t Do Outreach

We Don’t Do Outreach

Financial struggles in the missional arena are just part of the missional journey.  I really can’t imagine a time when we won’t be struggling to raise funds to support the missions and ministries that we participate in.  Every year we struggle to put a budget together and to make ends meet.  For us, that is normal.

Someone told me that a friend had told them that “outreach” had proven to be the demise of their “church”.  This person was speaking out of real concern for our community.  The problem is that neither this person nor their friend were using a term that applies to what we do here or how we do it.  The friend had explained that their church was doing a lot of really “effective outreach” (whatever that means), but the only people who were “coming to their church were poor people who didn’t have any money to give”, and so the “church” died.  When I heard this story related to me, all I could do was just kind of slap my forehead because I didn’t even know where to begin. We don’t “do outreach”.  We live missionally.

What’s the difference?


OUTREACH – assumes that God is IN the church as God’s primary place of redemptive activity.

MISSIONAL – Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save the lost.”  Assumes that Christ is both IN and OUTSIDE the church doing equally important and meaningful redemptive work. There were two lost sons in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).


OUTREACH  – assumes that participation in the church (as institution) is participating in God’s primary redemptive activity.

MISSIONAL – Assumes that participating in God’s present Kingdom is participating in salvation (Luke 4:43).


OUTREACH – giving from the church to the world – purveyor and consumer model.

MISSIONAL – Always both the object and the subject of the mission all the time – object and subject model (Matthew 23:8).


OUTREACH – staffs activity from the pews.

MISSIONAL – Laborers in the harvest come out of the harvest, not solely out of the pews. (Luke 10:2)


OUTREACH – designed to attract people to the church (as institution) because it is believed to be the place of God’s primary redemptive activity.

MISSIONAL – Designed to enable as many people as possible to see the present Kingdom of God at work in the world and to find ways to connect everyone to it.  The Kingdom of God is the place of God’s primary redemptive activity (Matthew 5:1-10).


OUTREACH – funded by church members from the operating budget of the church (as institution)

MISSIONAL – 2/3 of all funding comes from the same people we are trying to reach and connect to the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:2)


OUTREACH – unspoken motive is to get more people into the pews.  The people it is designed to get into the pews are the people being served.  The movement is from being served into attending church on Sunday – Object of mission to pews.

MISSIONAL – Unspoken motive is to make the Kingdom of God that is already at work in the world more visible to as many people as possible and to invite as many people as possible to participate in it with us.  The movement is from object to subject of the mission and back and forth.  Changing others and being changed by others (Matthew 6:10).


OUTREACH – We serve others and invite them to come to “church” (Sunday worship).

MISSIONAL – We serve others and invite them to serve us and others with us.  Some of them, having had this transformation, will eventually worship with some of us sometimes.  It’s not that we don’t invite people to Sunday morning worship. We do.  It’s just that we first invite them to the feast of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 22:9).


OUTREACH – Sunday morning worship is the primary community activity and the place where the majority of service and finances go.  Doing work outside the church is the “fruit” of worship.  Doing work outside the church is what is “also” done and where the “extra” goes.

MISSIONAL – Participation in the Kingdom of God in the mission is the primary community activity and the place where the majority of service and finances go.  Worship is the fruit of participation in the mission of the Kingdom of God AND participation in the mission is the fruit of worship.  Worship is everything we lift up and is not limited to Sunday morning ritual.  There is no “extra”.  It’s organic and all part of the same whole (Romans 12:1).


OUTREACH – receiving salvation.

MISSIONAL – Participating in salvation. It’s not that we don’t take to heart John 3:16.  We do.  It’s just that having received salvation, the question becomes, “Now what?”  (Luke 2:10-11)(John 15:16)


OUTREACH – salvation is “afterlife” oriented – the point is getting into heaven after we die.

MISSIONAL – Salvation is present-oriented – the point is to participate in God’s present Kingdom.  We aren’t waiting to die to get into heaven.  We are already dead – baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.  The Kingdom of God is at hand. (Romans 6:3-4)



  1. Ron Said:

    Thorough and particularly well stated, Max! One of the best treatments of the issue of missional support/engagement that I have come across anywhere. A topic that is seldom addressed but so frequently in the minds of church leaders. You are right on in pointing out that “outreach” is not an appendage of the church. One look at most church budgets demonstrates the real heartbeat of what constitutes the basis for existence (Matthew 6:21) and mental-model of what constitutes “church”. With or without a recession, when proportionately high percentages of church expenditures continue to focus on self (building, administration, member’s benefits, attractional programming), perhaps there are justified reasons for the increasing “demise” of congregations that no longer live missionally. You have given us much to think about, especially during this time of year when new budgets are being formulated. I’ll be sure to bring this entry to the attention of those in my learning community. Thanks.

    • Thank you, Ron! The image of the appendage is very helpful. I wonder which finger it is that those “poor people” who couldn’t afford to support that “church’s” overhead thought was being stuck out to them?!?!?! I have a feeling I know which one.

  2. Sam Said:

    Thanks Max for making me think and renewing my spirit for the day! First – I have come to make a distinction between finanical “struggle” and finacial “issues.” You’ve helped me struggle with this. For me, In a financial struggle you keep on keeping on even though you don’t know where the next dollar comes. You do what you can with what you have at the time and trust that God will provide.
    In a finacial “issue” you do what you can in response to the budget limitations and if need be for the sake of a balanced budget, you get rid of that which is not “financially” supported. So then you get a church full of poor folks and you close the church because they won’t pay the “rent” if you know what I mean.
    A missional church will always have struggles but will always following the tug of Christ and not the tug of the budget.

    I appreciate the outline of the difference between outreach and what you do. For me, I think the underlying theme of all of the categories is summed up in #7 – how many butts do you put in the pew and as the one clearly demonstrates, you only want butts with money 🙂

    • The distinction between financial “struggle” and financial “issue” is really helpful. Thanks! Finances are never an issue for us, but they are always a struggle. Always.

  3. stacey martyniuk Said:

    Max you have made me think. You never know about the seeds you have planted.

    • Stacey, the Kingdom is very much at work in you. It will be amazing to see where it will take you!

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