Outreach International had its early beginnings one night in September 1967, with a gathering of about fifty people in Melbourne, Australia, under the leadership of Tony Kostas. They already knew one another well, but recent circumstances had drawn them closer together and given them a sense that God had called them for a specific purpose. That night the Melbourne Outreach Crusade (MOC) was born.
In July the following year we began operating ‘MOC-IN’ – Australia’s first full-time evangelistic coffee shop outreach. Located in the Melbourne CBD, the MOC-IN coffee shop offered ‘Coffee, Conversation & Christ’ five days and six nights a week.
Over the next four years our involvement with people, many of them young, resulted in a growing emphasis on counselling and pastoral care. This led to us moving our daily operations from the coffee shop to a new centre, Outreach House, while holding regular church meetings in a rented auditorium.
One night in 1973 God spoke to Tony about the calling He had given him — saying that when He calls a man, He also gathers a body to fulfil that calling. That same night, God gave Tony the name and vision for Outreach International — a worldwide church family committed to gathering people into local church communities where they could live in the fullness of Jesus’ Two Great Commandments, to love God and love one another (Mark 12:30 & 31).
So, in faith, we changed our name to Outreach International – even though, at that time, there was only a single congregation based in Melbourne. Within a short time, a recently-formed group of believers in Adelaide, Australia asked to join us. This was followed within a few months by two more church communities in Canada. Over the following twenty years God added communities in Australia, Canada, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the USA, New Zealand and Europe.
Tony Kostas talking in 1998 in response to a question about when God first spoke to Tony about Outreach International.
Throughout the years, since that first gathering in 1967, we have been led by God into and through many situations, as our personal love relationships with Him and each other have continued to deepen. Like all living things, we have changed and matured and, though we have been tried and tested along the way, we have proved His faithfulness again and again. Above all, we have thrived in the love, the power and the faithfulness of our God as He continues to lead us into the fulfilment of His heart’s desire.
In May 2016, after almost 50 years leading Outreach International, Tony knew from God that it was time for him to pass the leadership onto his son Simon.
Though Tony is still very much involved in the body, this change has freed him to be led by God into new ventures with Him. One of these is ‘The Word & the Spirit’ – a personal blog through which Tony regularly shares the passion of God’s heart for those who are hungering and thirsting to know Him and His transforming power in their lives.
As a body we are seeing the multiplication of Tony’s calling, which God has now given to each one of us personally. We are committed to keep pursuing God, to know and do His will, as we live in the wondrous reality of our personal love relationship with Him. Our greatest desire is to be a delight to Him by our love and our obedience in all things.
Jesus once told His disciples to pray that God’s will be done on Earth just as it is in Heaven. This is our prayer — not for some vague time in the future, but today.
As we respond to God, He continues to draw us closer to Himself. There is much we do not know about what lies ahead of us, but of this we are sure: it will be more of God and more about God …and that is all we need to know.