James Lim is the pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Long Beach, CA. A long-established OPC church (founded in 1941), James has served for 10 years in Long Beach–one of the most racially, ethnically, and economically diverse communities in CA. He also formerly served as an Associate Pastor for 5 years at Lake Sherwood OPC in Orlando. James started his ministry time as an intern in the PCA in La Jolla, CA and at the historic Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA under Terry Johnson. James and his wife, Taylor, have two high-school-aged daughters.
This week, James answers our first three questions….
Question: What is something that you believe and/or do in regards to outreach that has changed over your time in ministry?
James: Two things in regards to outreach have changed in my ministry. First, I’ve tried to be more inclusive of Paul’s command to Timothy to do “the work of an evangelist” as a part of pastoral ministry (2 Tim. 4:5). In the past, I would simply try to preach the gospel with a call to repentance and faith for possible “unbelievers” who occasionally come to our services. But that was it. After reflecting on what Paul is actually saying there, I realized that I was not actually doing the work of an evangelist as described in the New Testament. I needed to go out and be a “fisher of men” and not simply a pastor who occasionally shares the gospel with the occasional unbeliever. Now, I block out times for intentional evangelistic outreach just as I do for counseling, prayer, and sermon preparation. This includes open air preaching and sharing the gospel one-on-one at local college campuses. I also try to seek out friendships and get involved in non-Christian communities such as my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club and neighborhood associations. If I’m not doing the actual work of an evangelist, then I’m not being faithful to my pastoral ministry either.
Second, I came to the conclusion that the local church must also do the work of outreach and evangelism as a core part of its mission. If a local church is not intentionally going out and doing outreach and evangelism, then it’s not fulfilling the mission for which it exists. So, now, we try to take everything we do as a local church and add an outreach and evangelistic component to it- VBS, Neighborhood carnivals, picnics, fellowship dinners, occasional services, etc. We also host a regular “Introducing God” course, which is similar to Alpha and Christianity Explored.
Question: If the OPC and OPC churches want to continue to grow in our effectiveness in reaching the lost-what is the most important thing we need to work on and how or in what way(s) should we be working on it?
James: I think a strength of the OPC is the desire to be faithful to the gospel and the whole counsel of God; to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) . We love our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage as it pertains to our doctrine, life, and practice. I believe we can be more effective in reaching the lost when we leverage that faithfulness in doctrine with a flexibility in practice. This could mean taking risks and doing what has not been normally done in terms of evangelism and congregational life. It could be as simple as fostering a more welcoming environment toward visitors and people who have never stepped foot in a Christian church or have never opened or owned a Bible. It could mean giving short explanations of the elements of the service and its role in worship and relevance to the gospel. It could also mean preaching the gospel with both believer and unbeliever in mind. But most importantly, it means allowing OPC churches and mission works to have a missionary flexibility in practice to reach unbelievers in their communities; to do what OPC evangelists and missionaries have always done overseas and try them here, in our home mission fields. This is why I believe some of the most fruitful home missionaries, at least, here in Southern California, were former foreign missionaries like Bruce Hunt and David Crum.
Question: What is something that has surprised you about outreach and evangelism to the lost as you have done it?
James: Non-Christians are so much more open to talking about the gospel than I realized. I’m always afraid that someone will get angry or offended when I talk to them about the Lord, but it’s almost never the case. They are always glad to talk about it and, more often than not, thank me for sharing the gospel with them.