In every society there are the rejected that Jesus is intensely interested in assisting. But the church often is in the place of judging the outcast at the side of the rest of society. Below is my vision, based on Jesus’ ministry, of how the church should look when they are responding to the outcast as they should. These are also the principles on which my ministry is based:
All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.
Identification–I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.
Offer to be Family–Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast–social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance–this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)
Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8).
Deliverance–From Satan, from sin, from death.
This is God’s area, and if we are called to work with the outcast, we are God’s representatives.
A. By prayer. (Mark 9:28-29; Luke 18:1-8).
Through prayer, deliverance from oppression can occur.
B. By teaching. (Matthew 28:19-20).
Through the teaching of Jesus’ commands, teaching and life there will come understanding of God’s justice and of gaining that justice.
C. By dwelling with (John 1:14; Acts 2:42-47).
By living with the outcast and showing them the life of Christ they will gain understanding and the ability to live it out.
D. By suffering for. (John 12:24-27; Colossians 1:24)
Through suffering the suffering of Christ the people of God will be redeemed. This is the wake up call, the realization of the atonement in the lives of the people, the life of Christ in the flesh.
Forgiveness– Luke 15; Mark 2:1-12; John 20:23.
This is also a sense of acceptance, like mentioned above, under “family”. But this is different, in that it occurs after regret for sin and repentance is done. This is an acceptance that comes after a wiping away of the debt of sin, and is fuller than a simple offering of acceptance.
Guiding to Commitment–Luke 14:26-27.
A. Commitment to God as the one true Lord (Matthew 6:24);
B. Commitment to living according to the righteousness of Jesus (Matthew 7:24-27; John 14:15);
C. Commitment to Love (Mark 21:29-31);
D. Commitment to the family of God (Matthew 12:47-50);
E. Commitment to reaching out to the outcast (Matthew 28:19-20).
Attitudes In Ministry:
Gentleness (Proverbs 15:1; Matthew 11:28-30; Galatians 6:1-2)
The outcast are typically wrathful, having been oppressed by the evil. Even if they are in sin, they don’t need to be treated with harshness. They know their sin, and if they do not, they need to be informed carefully, not with anger. They are looking for deliverance, they are looking for family. They will not choose to pursue family with those who are harsh or critical. This is not to say that sin should not be spoken of–it is. But it needs to be dealt with kid gloves, not with wrath.
Patience (Psalm 103:8; I Thess. 2:9; II Peter 3:9)
Convictions built up over years do not melt away overnight. It requires much patience and work to show others that God is for them, although the world be against them. The outcast will reject you, will speak evil of you, will mock you and secretly despise you. But over time, the message of the gospel will work in the hearts–even of those who seems least likely to hear it! Labor patiently–literally for years–in order to see the fruit of faith.
We are not to show favoritism between social groups. (James 2:1-8; I Cor. 7:22) We are not to show favoritism between ethnic or cultural groups. (Matthew 8:11-12; Acts 10:34-35) We are not to show favoritism between knowledge of God. (Romans 2:11-13). We are not to show favoritism between sins. (James 2:10) This last is a tricky one. We want to separate some sinners from another because one sin is worse than another. James says that we are condemned by all of them. If we are to offer a benefit or service to one sinner outside of Christ, then why shouldn’t we give it to all of them? Impartiality is essential in ministry to the outcast, for their sense of injustice is strong.
Reliance on God (Matthew 10:9-10)
We, the ministers of the gospel, must be dependent on God. In the New Testament, most ministry is done with total dependence on God, for no one can do miraculous healings or exorcisms of their own power. Even so, we must not depend on our own resources or abilities to minister, but to rely on God and his work.
Surrender (Colossians 1:24; Philippians 2:3)
In ministering to the outcast, we must be ready to sacrifice. The needs are great–greater than we can meet. And more will be demanded of us than we can give. Yes, we do what we can so we can minister, but let us not set arbitrary boundaries around our love. Instead, we should set boundaries so we can love the most people we can. This will mean that care for ourselves might be compromised–but this is what ministry is about. Do what you must to continue to love, and beyond that, give and give.