In our journey of “two steps” we have already seen the two steps a pastor must take (grow himself, build a team) and the two steps that only the congregation can take (face reality, create an embracing environment). And last time we saw the first of two steps the two must take together–find your engine.
The final piece of the puzzle is the second joint effort between pastor and people–aim outward.
Inward focus is the bane of the declining church. Like the natural pull of gravity, inward focus is where congregations drift unless they are intentional otherwise. We get focused on ourselves, what ministers to us, what we enjoy, how we get help for our problems…the list goes on and on. Little wonder that after walking a mile or two down this path, we get self-focused.
Congregations that lose their sense of mission have little left to do but look at each other. And after awhile, it’s not hard to start picking at each other and finding flaws in one another. Conflict, broken relationships, and general weariness of each other is quite common in the latter stages of the church’s life cycle. The more inward focused we become, the less healthy the church will be.
Aim outward. The best way to do this is to take the engine (what we developed in the previous step) and aim that engine into the community. If the church’s engine is loving people, then find ways to show love to them out there. If the church has excellent teaching gifts, start aiming those gifts into the needs of the community. If musical talent fills the church, take it to the city park–stop limiting that ability to Sunday mornings inside your walls.
The best things happen when a church is aimed outward. Such moments give the people purpose, create potential for growth, and get us as close as we’ll ever be to living God’s intent for us. Remember, CHURCH ISN’T ABOUT US! It’s about HIM and THEM! When we get that focus, good things can happen.
Of course, God cares for our needs and wants to use His Church to minister to us. But He does that best when we focus on HIM and THEM. “Seek first the kingdom…” Remember?
I’ve yet to be in a growing church that wasn’t focused on those outside their church. Through friendship, ministry effort, and clear passion those churches see a harvest field and often abandon their own comfort to get out there.
At the same time, I rarely see such a church not growing. But it’s a partnership. I’ve met pastors who were driven to reach the lost, but their people weren’t on board. I’ve even encountered one or two scenarios where the passion was limited to the people, and the pastor was blocking the path. The point is that this must be done together.
Take your best efforts outward. Do the things you can do well in ways that your community can benefit. Figure out the engines of your church and drive yourselves beyond your church walls.
An outward focused church is the only church that fulfills Christ’s passion.