Outreach, Missions and the Great Commission
Have you ever wondered if outreach and missions are the same? Or, if they are different, is one more important than the other? In the next couple of paragraphs, we will discuss both Outreach and Missions and where they fit into the Great Commission.
What is the Great Commission?
The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20. This is the passage where Jesus gives the 11 remaining disciples the final task before he is to ascend. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
But, this task does not just exist for the 11 disciples; it extends to all followers of Christ until the end of the age. So, this task was given to us, as individuals and as the church. We must make disciples (obedient followers of Christ) in all nations by teaching Scripture and baptizing new believers.
What is Outreach?
Outreach is when the church, reaches out to help those within its community. Outreach is local near-neighbour evangelism. We share the Gospel and teach Scripture with the hopes that we can make new disciples within a small region. A good example of outreach is Vacation Bible School. VBS is a one-week summer camp that churches will run inviting children from the church as well as the community. The goal for VBS is to introduce the Gospel to children from the community who may not have heard of God before. This is outreach because the church is reaching out to the community and teaching Scripture.
Is Outreach Enough?
No, outreach is not enough. Outreach teaches scripture and can lead to people being born again but it doesn’t complete the Great Commission. Outreach may play a part in the Great Commission by reaching those within our community but we also need to reach every nation. How can we “make disciples of all nations” if we are only staying within our community? How will the Gospel and the good news of Christ be shared with the nations? This is why we need missions.
What is Missions?
Missions is when the church goes farther than their community. Missions is when the church crosses cultural, ethnic and religious barriers. Missions is when the church sends out their own members to go and teach the Gospel to those outside of their affinity group. An example of what missions can look like is the sending of a missionary. A missionary crosses barriers to preach the Gospel and share the Good News in a place that is foreign to them.
What is The Difference between Outreach and Missions?
Have you been able to spot the difference between outreach and missions? It is location. Outreach is the part of the Great Commission that stays within the small community of the church. Missions is the part of the Great Commission that will reach the nations as it is that part which crosses borders.
Which One Is More Important?
This is a trick question as one is no more important than the other is. The Great Commission will not be completed unless both outreach and missions are being done. In order to cross borders and to do missions, one must first be willing to do outreach. If we are not willing to teach those in our community, how will we be able to teach those in a completely different nation? Outreach is what prepares us for missions.
It is important that the church does not just focus on one or the other but on both. If we only focus on missions and crossing borders, we forget about those unsaved in our own communities and creating new disciples to send. If we only focus on outreach we forget about reaching the nations and sending the disciples that outreach has made.
If we have any hope that the Great Commission may one day be completed, the church must be willing to participate in both outreach AND missions. Outreach creates disciples in our own community and these disciples can be sent by the church to the nations. Among the nations, the disciples we send make new disciples. These new disciples in turn evangelize their own community and do outreach there to create more disciples. It is a cycle that must not be broken if we are to complete the task Jesus has assigned us.
So, we encourage you and your church to start this cycle in your own community. Need help getting started or moving forward? Contact our office and we will be glad to help you and send you resources!