Every Saturday in the local paper is the religion section. Among other things, this space allows for different congregations to publicize events they are hosting in the coming days. Events being publicized are dinners and other activities.
And with a number of different people with whom I have discussed these different events, these events are classified as “outreach.”
But are they necessarily so?
What exactly is outreach when done by a congregation? Well, reaching into a community to meet certain need or needs can be defined as outreach, but is it, in and of itself, “full” outreach when examined in light of the Great Commission – the church’s mission from Christ Himself?
These types of events can certainly be vehicles for carrying out a congregation’s mission, but I have found it to be more often the case that these activities lack intentionality in actually drawing people of faith into conversations about faith and God with those who are not of faith.
And what I have found from my own experience is that when left up to their own decision, there are many people of faith who will not naturally enter into a conversation with someone about faith. The hope that these types of events will eventually lead to these types of conversation just does not often come to fruition.
And if these types of conversations are not occurring and people of faith are not actively calling others to consider or to come to a place of faith, should it be any wonder that so many congregations in this country are shrinking?
So, while events and activities which meet needs of people in a community please our Lord, they do not, in and of themselves, advance the mission given to the people of God to birth and grow disciples.
There are many people who have a variety of questions about life. And because of that, congregations need to look to create a gathering of people in a safe and welcoming environment where people can ask and have respectful conversations about these questions and perspectives on life.
This is a place where people gather around two activities common to all people – food and conversation – a place where the atmosphere is relaxed but also is intentional on the topic of discussion – faith – but done so in an open and unoffensive way. This is a place where new relationships are created and existing ones are strengthened. This is a place where people are asked to consider Jesus and encouraged to ask questions about His message and faith, whatever they may be.
Therefore, I am taking a very serious look at what is known as Alpha.