Someone in our church recently said she observered an increased attention paid at EVFree to outreach. This concerned her; she felt that behind this increased attention is a pressure to grow in numbers. Fair enough - that tendency and temptation is always there in churches: to want to grow, either in response to other churches’ growth (bad), or for our joy in the glory of God to increase (good). I can’t speak to the intention of every act and every person, but to this person’s comments, it seems to good to revisit our aspirations for outreach.
By “outreach” we mean sharing the gospel with real people who don’t presently know Christ, whether in person or through media (for instance, a pamphlet, web article or online sermons). Outreach is commanded in Scripture (Matt. 28:18-20). Some are gifted for it (“evangelists”), but all are called to engage in it. This is because “outreach” is really a very human activity: we naturally just talk about the things we delight in. We can’t help it. Thus “outreach” is the overflow of what is to be the normal Christian life: delighting in God, evidenced by talking about Him to others, for the pleasure of seeing Him made much of. Gossip is evangelism’s evil counterfeit: talking about someone else, for the pleasure of seeing her torn down. In either case, the talker doesn’t need to be told to do it; they do it out of the overflow of their heart. We are commanded to evangelize by Christ not because the world needs us, or that God needs us. Rather, the world needs the glory of God, and we are the means by which God gets more glory - as He shines a light on himself by placing that light in our hearts, and letting it shine through us, back to Him.
Thus there is a needful balance between heart and ambition. Our greatest joy is to be that our names are already written in heaven, not about anything that we can do now for the Lord, as great as it may be (Luke 10:20). There are no brownie points for numbers. And yet it is this very joy that feeds godly ambition. Therefore, it is worth considering where you and I find ourselves on this “balance”: on one side, a restful joy in what God's already accomplished, should the world continue on as-is; on the other an overflowing urge to gossip God to others. Our aspiration is for both sides of this “balance” to be heavy-laden: restful joy, feeding a holy ambition.