Rick Warren What Is the True Cost of Outreach?
Recently, it was reported that 82 percent of the churches in my denomination do not have a soul-winning program and that last year more than 11,000 of the churches did not report a single conversion!
I believe one of the reasons so few churches engage in outreach is because they ask the wrong question. Too often, the first question asked is, “How much will it cost?” The right question is, “Who will it reach?”
How much is a soul worth? If you spend $500 on a newspaper ad that reaches one unbeliever for Christ, is it worth it?
If your church gets serious about developing a comprehensive evangelism strategy, it will cost money! With this in mind, let me share some insights about financing your strategy, based upon my experiences as Saddleback Church grew from four members to over 15,000 [and now 20,000].
First, money spent on evangelism is never an “expense”—it’s always an investment. The people you reach will more than repay the cost you invested to reach them. Before we held the first service of Saddleback, the people in our small home Bible study went $6,500 in debt preparing for that service. Where did we get the money? We used our personal credit cards! We believed the offerings of the people we reached for Christ would eventually enable everyone to be paid back.
One of the “miracles” of our dress rehearsal service was that a man who had not attended our home Bible study came to that first service and gave a check for a thousand dollars when we took the offering. When the woman in charge of counting the offering came up and showed me the check, I said, “This is going to work.” Sure enough, we paid everyone back within four months. (Please note: I’m not advocating that your church use credit cards to finance it. I’m just trying to illustrate how willing we were to pay the cost of reaching people for Christ.)
Often when finances get tight in a church, the first thing cut is the evangelism and advertising budget. That is the last thing you should cut. It is the source of new blood and life for your church.
Second, people give to vision, not to need. If “need” motivated people to give, every church would have plenty of money. It is not the neediest institutions that attract contributions but those with the greatest vision. Churches that are making the most of what they’ve got attract more gifts. That’s why Jesus said, “It is always true that those who have, get more, and those who have little, soon lose even that.” (Luke 19:26 TLB)
If your church is constantly short on cash, check your vision. Is it clear? Is it being communicated effectively? Money flows to God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired ideas. Churches with money problems really have a vision problem.
Third, when you spend nickels and dimes on evangelism, you get nickel and dime results. Do you remember the story about the time Jesus told Peter to go find money in a fish’s mouth in order to pay the Roman taxes? In Matthew 17:27, Jesus told Peter, “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open it’s mouth and you will find a four drachma coin.”
I believe there is an important lesson in that story; the coins are always in the mouth of the fish. If you’ll focus on fishing (evangelism), God will pay your bills.
Fourth, remember that “God’s work done God’s way will not lack God’s support.” This was the famous motto of the great missionary strategist, Hudson Taylor.
Adapted from Rick Warren’s Ministry ToolBox, a free email newsletter available through Pastors.com. Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church.
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