Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How close is too close?

Jesus was very often accused of associating with sinners and even being their friends! What a tragedy! Right? I mean to be called the friend of sinners is a horrible description of the "Son of God". Or is it? I feel that many Christians today forget the fact that Jesus is our supreme example for life and living. I believe what He did, we should do. If Jesus was hanging around sinners, shouldn't we have a friends list that includes many of the forbidden types? You know, those that DON'T come to church. When is the last time you went out to eat with family that isn't following Christ? When is the last time you held a conversation with someone that doesn't appear to be interested in God? Have you engaged in any way a non-believer in the last month? Have I?

I've always believed that relationships leads to conversions. It's next to impossible to lead someone to Christ that you haven't developed some level of trust and confidence with. Loving the Unlovely isn't just a good title for a Sunday morning sermon, it must become a way of life for all Christ Followers! Love those that we would naturally not want anything to do with. Showing interest in the lives of non-believers is what Jesus did so well. He noticed them and they noticed it!

So, how close is too close? We've all been told that a little leaven ruins the whole lump, cast not your pearls before the swine and others like evil communications corrupt good manners. All of these are true but I also believe there is more to be said of these than what's easily pulled off the top.

I believe the Church has got to be outward focused. I fear that many times church is too inward focused to be of any outward good. We have to remember it's not about us....anymore. Jesus said that he didn't come to call the righteous but the sinner.

I want to solicit some feedback on this so here's the question I offer to you.

What does an outward focused church look like to you?


Colin Lamm said...


I just caught your comment over at John Smulo's site and followed the link. Hope you don't mind the intrusion.

The problem, as I see it is that we are too inwardly focussed in the wrong way, and so our impact outwardly is adversely conceived. If we were truly caring and discipling communities of Jesus people, focussing on loving God and others, then there would be no problem. The issue is that we become too inwardly focussed on the establishment and perpetuation of the institutional community, that we have little energy left for those left outside the walls.

The first example resembles a well planted and consistently nourished seed. The other is a laboratory where the seed is measured, weighed, dissected, and analysed to bits, but never planted, watered, pruned etc. Not a perfect analogy but . . .

I hope I didn't over stay my welcome. Thanks for stimulating my mind and challenging me!

Shannon said...

I think your comment brings up an important truth. No business is as important as God's business. When we lose sight of the fact that God's business has always been people then I fear we are left with what you've stated, inward focus on the establishment and the perpetuation of the institutional community. As a pastor I find that I have to work to keep my focus directed on the most important aspect, people. It's easy to get caught up in the other and when that happens, God's true business is left unattended. Thanks for your thoughts and helping me to see a bit clearer what an outward focused church should look like :)

John Smulo said...


This is a discussion we need to be having more of! Great post. I think that out of all of the ways we need to be following Jesus, this is the least encouraged one.

I think we forget too easily how countercultural to the religious establishment it was for Jesus to hang out with sinners--I dig that he was called a glutton and drunkard. It shows how much time He spent with outcasts in his time.

God help us to do the same in ours.

Shannon said...

John, your comment really resonates what I've been feeling for the last year....Jesus was counter-cultural. He didn't play by the book of standard religiosity and I think we fail God's most important work when we work so hard to conform to today’s standard of religion rather than being transformed into what is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. These thoughts are really stretching me and my ministry. Thanks for stopping by and adding your insight!

John Smulo said...

Jesus and Christianity as counter to culture has been on my mind for quite some time as well.

I think that we've too often domesticated Jesus--in our mind never reality. And Christianity is at best a tolerated subculture.

I've been thinking about for a number of years, and have part of a book outline done--that I need to do something with!--called "Countercultural Christianity".

Shannon said...

I know what you need to do with the book outline, FINISH IT!! :)

John Smulo said...

Since you asked so nicely, I'll just have to do that :-) But then again, there's another outline for a Missional Apologetics book. I have to get more disciplined with this.