I've now been performing for 33 years, and 22 years have been primarily as ministry work. I currently have 3 different shows, each one designed for a different purpose.
One of the distinctions I've tried to make, to churches interested in hiring my services, has been the difference between "outreach" and "evangelism". I don't really consider myself to be an evangelist, though I've had the privilege on many occasions to lead people to Christ through, and after, my programs.
To me, evangelism is done with the intent to not only explain the Gospel, but take people to a time of decision for themselves. Outreach, on the other hand, is a time to share my personal faith as a Christian, more as an inspiration to others that are either 1) not a Christian or 2) are Christians, but are having a tough time in life. Outreach is the easiest to do. For me.
In the 22 years of ministry shows that I've done, I've had pastors and others that hire me say, "Well, what good is it to have visitors in my church if we're not going to share the Gospel with them?" And before I give you my answer, think about it yourself: what would you answer to that question?
Here are my thoughts:
One of the biggest barriers to sharing the Gospel, if it going to happen in a church building, is getting people inside the walls of the church, without them feeling "pounced upon". I've seen MANY visitors sit in the back, near the door, for the security of being able to run out of there if need be. Safety is a factor.
How many times have you gone someplace that you felt uncomfortable being, and felt the need to just get out? I can think of many times that has happened in my own life. I didn't want to feel "trapped". Nobody does.
Second, outreach doesn't have to happen inside the church walls. Others should be able to see that you have a strong hope, even though life can deal you some tough hits at times. (1 Peter 3:15) If I've learned one BIG thing over my years as a Christian, it is this: Don't TELL people what it means to be a Christian, SHOW them.
I've explained all of this to tell you how an outreach event furthered God's kingdom. Here it is:
I was asked to do a show for a small church in Minnesota. When I arrived there were only about 25 people there. In my head I felt disappointed that there weren't more. I set-up my show, and started on time. During the show, the audience filled to approximately 50 people.
Within the show, I told my version of Jonah & the Whale (many of you have seen it), and gave a simple summary, that God really does have a plan for every person's life, but each of us has to choose if we will go on the journey God has set before us.
At the end of the program, I simply encouraged people, no matter how young or old, no mater how rich or poor, no matter what your life is like right now, God wants to begin a relationship with you, and you can come just as you are. Don't think that you have to clean up your messes and THEN come to God. He wants you just as you are, even with all of the baggage you may carry.
The show ended, and as I was packing, the church was testing out a new drummer, letting him try the songs they would be doing tomorrow in the Sunday service. The drummer did great.
Afterward, while talking with the pastor, he explained something neat. When I asked if the guy was a new drummer, the pastor said, "Yes, and before today's show, I had never met the guy. He said he received a flyer on his door about today's event, and brought his family over. He came to the show, heard the simple message and asked if he could come to our church, and use his drum talents to play with our music team."
And so the relationship begins. Outreach, the way it is intended. No one questioned this guy's credentials (his past, whether he drinks or smokes, his mistakes). They simply said "Yes", when he asked to be a part of what was happening here at this church. Outreach.
My question to any Christians that read this is this: Do not worry that you've never shared the Gospel with anyone. Do not think you are any less worthy than the pastor that sees personal decisions happen regularly. Ephesians 4:11 says that SOME are evangelists, SOME are teachers, SOME are apostles... You can share the Gospel by the way you live your life. Matthew 5:16 says,
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (NIV)
Does your church do outreach? Have YOU done any outreach? Try reaching out sometime, and see where it takes you. See how it affects people. See how it changes lives.