Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inward Focus Stifles Outward Focus

A few days ago I alluded to the idea that Church should be more OUTWARD FOCUSED rather than INWARD FOCUSED. Over the course of the last few days some pretty interesting topics have surfaced. Andrew at Moved Mountains and Jaime at MoreThanStone have both contributed great posts on the topic, "Church-The New Exodus?". I don't pretend to have all the answers but the more I think about this, the more I get extremely frustrated about it. There is a reason that millions have the left the church in recent years. Probably more reasons than we'll ever know but I think those of us willing to be honest about "Church", could name a few of those reasons. Let me say first of all, I love the Church. I love what she represents and I believe she is a wonderful work of God's Kingdom established on this earth. I do however become extremely disheartened with the way "Church" is done most of the time. My heart aches when the greatest message on the planet is rejected because "Church" has screwed something up for so many people.

I believe in organizational structure but I believe more in being led by the Spirit of God. Agendas, programs, models and the like are mostly tools to help give more to those who have been "getting" from the Church for years and years. The most oppressed of souls seem to be overlooked for what is best for the frequent attenders of the Church. There are entrance requirements and membership has its privileges. There those who are “in” and those who are “out” and the distinctions are made clear by the “ins”.
There are secret passwords and dress codes. (Service times, music styles, acceptable dress). The focus is on member services. (Most of the focus is on improving member services so we can attract more people like us.) This is due to the church being INWARD FOCUSED. When we continually strategize how we can make our "services" better for the member, we've lost touch with the heart of Jesus. We've become Pharisaical to the worst degree. We have allowed the consumer mentality to infiltrate our ranks and poison the true mission of the Church Jesus said he would build. We've sought conformity and in seeking it we've achieved it. We've conformed rather than having been transformed. The elitist mindset that many Christians have is so very opposite of what Jesus demonstrated. [end rant]

So, how do we become Outward Focused...Missional in our thinking? God knows we need it. I have some thoughts on it...

  1. Study Jesus! WWJD isn't just a catchy acronym. We must learn what Jesus would really do in today's culture. It is a must. The Bible is very clear about how Jesus went about doing ministry. If we don't love, accept, teach, care for, listen to, etc...we can forget ever being what God has called us to be in our world.
  2. Throw away the hoops! There came a time in Jesus' ministry where He could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. Why? Because word spread around that Jesus would accept anyone who came to Him. He did not have a list of hoops that they had to jump through first. Membership requires pre-qualification. If you do this or meet this standard, you can belong. If not, forget it.
  3. Become Missional in our Methods! I love the concept of Missional. It's active and it's at work doing those things Jesus would really do. It's like living, on purpose. It's about realizing that the best "church" happens far from the proximity of a building. Why? Because the building isn't the church!
  4. Seeing God in everyone and everything! Ok, I may loose some here...I believe God exists in everything and everyone. I believe even the worst of people have God's goodness deep inside somewhere. Somewhere hidden deep within is a beautiful creation that God knows is in there! Many times we compare ourselves to non-believers and highlight their bad and our "good". We never consider the fact that we're more alike than we are different. We're both loved unconditionally by God. And as hard as it is for some to believe, God doesn't love you more.
  5. Admit we're not perfect! One of the greatest threats to Christianity is people who think they're perfect when in reality they are as screwed up as the neighbor they don't like.
  6. Seek Connectivity! We must connect with the non-believer. It's not likely to happen in our buildings so we must take it to them. Jesus took ministry to the people. He didn't have a come and get it attitude.
  7. Non-believer's matter most! Money we spend, expansions we make, ministry we do should be first and foremost geared to the non-believer or un-churched. This cuts across the grain for the consumer minded person. They thought all along it was about them! No it is not!
  8. Let People work through their problems! There is a great deal of hurt in peoples lives and most of the time it isn't resolved quickly. People need time and room to wrestle with issues and figure out who they are in God. It's our responsibility to just be there when they need us.
  9. No Perfect People Allowed! If you think you're perfect, you won't fit in here. If you think you're perfect, you won't like us.
  10. Accommodate the imperfect! Go out of your way to welcome and develop relationship with messy people. A messy church is the greatest church!
These are just a few of the ways I think any church can become more outward focused than inward focused. Perhaps if the church were more outward focused, we wouldn't be even discussing the issue of "Church-The New Exodus?"

I would also like to add that Living Springs is a Church committed to being a Church that God is glorified in and where the lost are valued, cared for and sought after. We are really working on being a greater church in our area. We have been able to accomplish great things with God's direction and we're excited about what He has in store...I'm honored to be the Lead Pastor of such a Church.


The Creature said...

Thanks for adding this to the discussion Shannon. I particularly liked the last 3 points in your list. I think this is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we have made in losing community within the church - that is the ability to be genuine. I clearly remember standing in a church service as a teenager (just before I turned and walked away) and thinking "I can never be like these people. They are all perfect.".

Thanks again bro!

Jamie said...

John Smulo talks in his "Missional Apologetics" that perhaps the best apologetic is an apology. Brilliant stuff!

I think it applies perfectly.

Shannon said...


I've definitely learned it's much easier to just accept the fact I'm fallible. It's much less work than pretending to be perfect.

Shannon said...


Perhaps :)

Missional Jerry said...

we need to get over being right - its not about knowing right as much as it is about doing right

Shannon said...


Excellent point!

Anonymous said...

I currently attend an inward focused church and it is about to drive me crazy. I have tried to be involved and help when I can. I teach Sunday School, Lead singing, do some special singing and serve as the assistant in the sound booth. I have prayed and prayed about this but it seems it gets worse as we go.

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