By Brett Dood
Over the years, I’ve heard Christians tell me they struggle with outreach. Now, if you define outreach as talking to a total stranger about your church, ministry, or even your relationship with Jesus, many would have trouble—that would be terrifying!
But what if outreach isn’t about trying to connect with a total stranger?
When Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37, NIV), he is telling us the world is far hungrier to know him than Satan would ever want us to believe. He calls this hungry world “the harvest.” Think about that. A harvester working for a landowner works the field that has been assigned to him. Whatever your context—your neighborhood, your workplace, your family—that’s the field you’ve been assigned.
Is the reason so many people are frustrated and discouraged with their ability to reach out because they have overlooked the harvest right under their nose? Reaching people happens most naturally in the field God has given you within the relationships that are right in front of you. You don’t have to find a complete stranger to reach; your favored field is right before you! It’s the waitress who serves your table every Tuesday. It’s the car wash attendant you see every Friday. It’s your kid’s teacher and coach, your neighbor and hairdresser. It’s the gas station clerk who always rings you up and also the front desk staffer at your gym. These people are providentially placed in your harvest field.
The question is: do you see and notice them?
If you want to grow in your ability to reach others, here are some daily practices to consider:
1. Ask God to help you see the people he has placed in your field.
This can be humbling, since previously we may have walked past or talked over these people, sometimes daily. Slow down and ask the Lord to help you see them. Take a mental note of whom he points out.
2. When you notice someone, seek to know that person.
So often we see the same people, but we rarely grow in knowing them. Learn people’s names, what season of life they’re in, and what brings them joy. Learn what they do for fun and what common interests you share. It’s impossible to reach people if you don’t genuinely care for them. Spend time getting to know people, and it will bear much fruit!
3. Stay consistent.
If God is opening a door relationally, walk through it again and again. Reaching people isn’t a one-and-done box to check off. We must be willing to run a relational marathon of love.
4. Ask God to show you how he is seeking to bless others through you.
You might offer a genuine compliment, a generous tip, a verse from Scripture, or simply a heartfelt smile to someone else. As you do, remember that you are not reaching people for God; God is reaching them through you! Be obedient and open to how God would have you bless and show encouragement.
Keep asking God for favor. Reaching people takes time and will not always be easy. But take heart that from time to time, God will show you the harvest of relationships!
If you want to grow in your capacity to reach others, start by working the field to which you’ve been assigned. You will find the harvest that is near is far more abundant and fun to work than the field of someone else down the road.
Brett Dood is lead pastor of Calvary Reformed Church in Ripon, California. This article was originally published on the Far West Region’s blog at www.rcawestupdate.org.