If you have had any experience in Christian evangelism/outreach you have probably heard the term “We all need to step out of our comfort zones today”. While this idea is often true and even biblical I also think outreach leaders are a bit too aggressive with their understanding and expectation of what comes with “stepping out of our comfort zones”. Sad statistics have come out about outreach/evangelism that say that 9 out of 10 Christians do not like to participate in Evangelism. This has to be a direct result from a leader’s unrealistic expectations of the people showing up to do outreach and forcing them to “step out of their comfort zone” when they are not ready. In the year and a half that I have lead outreach teams I have seen God transform extreme introverts into outward flowing personalities that can’t wait to tell others about Jesus; however, this transformation took time, and took the extreme introverts coming to multiple outreaches where there was no pressure to step out of their comfort zone. Rather than having people step out of their comfort zone I believe in having people grow into stepping out of there comfort zone. Rather than jumping off a cliff, maybe we should provide step after step to get to the same point. This just takes time, patience, and love. Nothing highlights this better than my experience in leading home school students in outreach this past summer:
Every Friday this past summer we would set out with a group of students in order to show God’s love in a practical way. Our group usually was made up of mainly home school students. Usually students that are home schooled are a little more reserved than than other students in a youth group and that was the same case with our group. Our first outreach was going out on a hot day and passing out cold water to people working outside. I told the students, “today I will do all the talking, you guys just carry the water and put a smile on your face.” The next week we went restroom cleaning at local businesses. Again I said, “You guys hold the cleaning supplies and clean the restrooms and I will talk, BUT this time are you ok with giving them our card at the end that says God loves you?” They thought about it and agreed to do this. Outreach after outreach I could see these students growing into stepping out of their comfort zone. Finally I asked them if they would like to do the talking while I provide the service. They agreed. After a great response from a local business owner to our service, these students were ecstatic with joy and could not wait to talk again. Again and again this happened and now we have gotten to the point where I consider these home school students, who at the beginning of the summer did not want to talk much less pray with anyone, as some of the church’s best tools in showing the lost who Jesus is. I actually had them leading their own groups when we would split up while window washing for businesses’ at the end of the summer. This transformation was amazing, but it took time and it took God telling me as their leader not to be to aggressive with their ability to step out of their comfort zone.
I know there are plenty of instances in the bible where God called people to do amazing tasks that were WAY WAY out of their comfort zone (i.e. Paul, Jonah, Moses, etc.) and trust me if you hear God calling you to do something you better not tell him that you do not want to step out of your comfort zone (AND DO NOT CITE ME FOR TELLING GOD THIS). However, I like to think of how Jesus shaped and molded his disciples over time. Especially Peter. Do you think he was ready to preach on Pentecost when he was denying Christ during the last days of Jesus’ life? Absolutely not. But every single one of Jesus’ disciples grew to the point where they were willing to die for him, and many of them did; however, this did not happen in a 2 hour time frame at an evangelism conference. This happened over 3 years of seeing and enjoying positive experiences of outreach with our Lord Jesus.
This Saturday Feb. 25th we are going to meet at Skinny’s hamburgers at 10am and we are going to go around a neighborhood and tell homeowners that we are going to rake their yard to show them that Jesus loves them with no strings attached. We may have a team of 15 people and this outreach requires only one person to talk (the person contacting the homeowner and saying the 10 second prayer with them after we are done) therefore, most of us will be using our rakes and using our bags to bag leaves. Unless you like to talk to your rake and leaf bag…which is kind of weird… there are really no words needed. If you struggle with talking with people about your faith come out Saturday. God can still use you and WE NEED YOU! You might just be amazed after the hour and a half that we are serving how much God grew you and what you are willing to do on the next outreach.
I love you guys and hope to see you Saturday.
– Austin Cooper