Sunday Message for 18 April 2021: “Encouraging Outreach”

Encouragement and outreach are today’s topics from Luke 24:36b-48.

The resurrected Jesus had gathered with his closest followers as the time neared for his departure. The stage was set for a new era, one without Jesus walking the earth but with his followers empowered by God’s spirit.

His apostles first perceived Jesus as a ghost, and so the risen Lord needed to again prove who he was. Once convinced that Jesus was real, the disciples turned their worries to what they faced in the world. The end of Jesus’ time on earth was close and Jesus’ friends feared that he would abandon them amid growing persecution. Jesus realized that his fearful followers needed encouragement and empowerment.

What filled the void created by Jesus’ physical departure from earth? The granting of God’s presence in the form of the Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ friends what they needed to continue spreading the gospel. The disciples feared that once Jesus left they would face insurmountable perils without their Lord. Christianity was young and vulnerable so to keep things going Jesus needed to instill confidence to his threatened band. Jesus ascended to heaven but his power and presence would continue in the form of the Holy Spirit still guiding people of faith today.

How are Jesus’ followers supposed to do God’s will on earth without Jesus? The work of spreading the gospel message is done via evangelism (or outreach—a less controversial word). Outreach is a marvelous process by which every Christian can share God’s message. God’s Holy Spirit empowers people of faith to enthusiastically share their faith with anyone.

Outreach is God’s gift to the world through us, who are the spiritual children of the Almighty. Here it comes, that slogan of St. John’s known as “We can DO it!” The “DO” involves the “D” of discipleship (partnering with God to make existing Christians stronger) and the “O” of outreach (partnering with God to make new Christians). Without constant attention to outreach, a mere religious building isn’t really a church. The DNA of a group such as our congregation is the organic, consistent process of gathering new people in church alongside strengthening the people already there.

Consider something that you cherish. This may be an activity that consumes you [positively] so much that you can’t remain silent. Perhaps you have a hobby, or you enjoy sharing pictures and stories of your children and grand-kids. Well, that’s a big part of what constitutes effective outreach. The vital part is your sharing what brings you joy and meaning. Outreach is your way of announcing to the universe what God has done and is doing in your life.

St. John and every other church grow stronger through discipleship and outreach. There are many ways to accomplish these foundational goals and we must strive to be relevant and attractive to people outside our walls. Outreach is not some dark mystery to dread or deny. Quite the contrary. Outreach brings profound joy because you and I are designed to gain vitality when we practice compassion to every living creature.

Outreach is a way for our church to help people who are searching for healing and fulfilment. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to love and accomplish good things as an extension of our redemption and spiritual rebirth. We have been transformed into new creatures with new attitudes and behaviors. Share who you are and help people find God.

Ask a friend or neighbor to be a part of the wonderful activity in your congregation. Encourage people to come and share the joy of your faith fellowship. As you do, you’ll discover wondrous depths of God’s blessings. You are empowered by God’s spirit and that means you lack nothing to accomplish wonderful things.     –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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