When I was a kid, I liked playing with baseball cards, watching television or reading a good book, but my dad wasn’t always on board with my preferred ways to spend my leisure time. He would come home from work and tell me to “Go outside!” Now, he wasn’t trying to get rid of me, but he was convinced that fresh air was healthy for every boy. So I would reluctantly obey, and soon find myself have a great time with the neighbor kids.
Most of us have heard or even used the Dead Sea illustration. We know that while water flows into that sea, it has no means of flowing out. So the water sits, accumulates all of its salt in that one place–and nothing can live in it. Hence the name–Dead Sea. The water needs to “get outside” but it can’t and it doesn’t.
Too many churches are functioning in a similar fashion. While the occasional potential for new life flows in, all the activity is inside–no ministry flows outside the walls. The result? Dead Church.
If you want a healthy church, then outward focus is your recipe. The more we aim our ministries and our people into the community, the healthier and more effective our church will become. Inward focus fills the church with disease. Like the Sea, if the salt stays put, it just accumulates until even what’s inside begins to die.
But an outward-focused church constantly lives in the mission of Jesus. They encounter the brokenness of their community and connect with the needs that surround them–just like Jesus did. They can’t help but give their resources to help others, because the compassion of Christ is growing within them. They are becoming servants, because they are encountering the need to serve.
Outward-focused churches quarrel less and give more. When you’re making a difference, you don’t need to sit around and grumble at one another. Instead, you see opportunities for impact and can’t help but want to give to help.
Think of it this way: If you stopped by your grandmother’s house and found her yard had grown to knee-deep levels, you’d run home and get your mower. Well, when people reach into their community and encounter needs they have the means to meet, they give what they have to help get the job done. Churches on a mission have a way of attracting people who are looking for a mission.
So, what if you took some of your best ministries outside your four walls? What if you let your best Sunday school teacher take a quarter off so she could teach a parenting class on Thursday nights in a nearby community building? What if you took your excellent musicians and held a mini-concert in a local park? What if you aimed your church’s excellent cooks toward the local elementary school and filled the teacher’s lounge with their best baked goods? Take what you do well, and go outside with it.
When we begin to flow out into our community, something wonderful happens–we get healthier inside the church. People begin to rediscover purpose and God is able to use us to impact others, just as He intended when He established His Church.
So if you want a healthy church, go play outside.