August 25, 2008

The Church--Reaching in or Reaching Out?

This weekend I was involved in a training equipping me to teach young women about the pitfalls of sliding into bad relationships without thoughtful, decisive contemplation. For example, cohabitation and casual sex will lead to constraints such as isolation from family, unplanned pregnancy, and a lack of advancement in goals, all of which will make it difficult to get out and get into healthier relationships where there is physical, emotional, and commitment safety.

I'm so excited about incorporating this educational component into my existing ministry because I have such a heart for seeing young women succeed in life. But this also seems like the type of ministry that churches could offer to educate the community. Young women are not likely to attend church if they are stranded in difficult relationships and have difficulty moving forward. The need to reach out is huge, both to talk with young women not yet in such relationships and to those already in them.

This work is often left to parachurch ministries like my own, but unless a ministry is functioning as an agent of the church, they aren't being delivered to the church. Young women like these are expected to find their own way (obviously there is hope that there are other Christians in there lives).

The church bears the message of the gospel, and it preaches the gospel. But how far is its reach? Is the church "going out" or is the church's reach only an arm's length? I believe we should be seeing the church's fingerprint on the community, involved in every possible way to assist in the broader development of people for the sake of the gospel. This will not happen if the church is waiting for unbelievers to find them.

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