Four Characteristic of Externally Focused Churches
Question: When was the last time you were really proud of what your church was doing?
The Church an Emerging Minority
- The world no longer regards faith as central, the world does not share Judeo-Christian values and ethics anymore. The church may once have been the center of the community,which has changed its focus and left the church behind.
- The religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing currently carried out against Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa
- Church is fighting for a voice of relevance, struggling to maintain strong links with the outside world, yet simultaneously remaining faithfully steadfast to the rule of faith.
- As minority communities, Christians face 3 choices as to their response.
- For one, we could “accommodate” the increasing secularization by submitting to religious liberalism.
- Or, we may “resist it,” thereby violently radicalizing into the pattern of religious extremist groups in many parts of the world today.
- In another choice, we “withdraw into protected enclaves,” religious communes, such as present-day successors to early Anabaptists, or similar radical groups within Orthodox Judaism.
- Christian—can function as creative minorities– This demanding yet risk-laden choice, the Lord demanded of the Jewish people while in Exile in Babylon:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” Jeremiah 29:5-7
The Church is “withdrawing into protected enclaves,”
- We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
- Why have so many churches emotionally or physically withdrawn from their communities?
- Maybe this separation has something to do with the New Testament word for church. It is the word ecclesia, meaning “the called out ones.” Many have mistaken this to mean a physical separation from the world. The church is called to be separate in lifestyle but never to be isolated from the people it seeks to influence.
- In our evangelistic zeal, we often think people just need more or better information in order to believe. But what do they really long for?Fewer are asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Instead their question is “What can I do to make my life work?” When the people who talk about a loving God demonstrate love, the gap between doubt and faith is narrowed, and the people around them often find themselves wanting to believe.
The Church will thrive as creative minority – inwardly strong–yet, outwardly focused Ministry
- Definition of ministry: Ministry is simply “meeting another’s need with the resources God has given you.”
Four characteristics – inwardly strong–yet, outwardly focused Church
- Operate as if good deeds and good news can’t and shouldn’t be separated.
- Just as it takes two wings to lift an airplane off the ground, so externally focused churches couple good news with good deeds to make an impact on their communities.
- The good deeds, validate the good news. The good news explains the purpose of the good deeds.
- God proclaimed the “good news…through Jesus Christ…and…he went around doing good…because God was with him” (Acts 10:36-38).
- Motto: it’s really not “church” if it’s not engaged in the life of the community through ministry and service to others.
- They believe that their communities cannot be truly healthy without the church’s involvement.
- They recognize that God has placed them in their communities (whether they feel wanted or not) to be salt, light, and leaven.
- It is only when the church is mixed into the very life and conversation of the city that it can be an effective force for change.
- In joining in the life and rhythm of the city, they seek to serve and bless the city, not to control it
- After all, salt, light, and leaven are agents of influence, not of control.
- Thus we seek to build bridges instead of walls–assets of our communities, not one of the liabilities.
- Discipleship is not what happens inside the four walls of this church— We begin to grow when we take healthy responsibility for the growth of another person.
- Christians grow best when they are serving and giving themselves away to others.
- Because service and ministry are part of growth model for the church and the spiritual formation of its people, it is not unusual for huge percentages of their congregations to serve and minister outside the walls of the church.
- Congregations with a strong commitment to social justice and with direct participation in community outreach ministries are growing.
- Externally focused churches have the advantage of deploying people into the community where they can be church to people through their love and service. Their light is not hidden under a bushel– No, their light shine..
- Although these churches serve their communities expecting nothing in return, many people are drawn into the kingdom through their presence, service, and love.
The Bible tells us that Peter encountered a “paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up…’ Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:33-35). The healed man was simply the evidence of the existence, love, and power of the healer, Jesus. After observing Jesus’ compassion and love, people responded, “God has come to help his people” (Luke 7:16b).
- Church must intersect the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people in Lethbridge.
- “The only way the gospel can be biblically shared is to focus on the whole person, with all [his or her] hurts and needs, and to involve the church in ministering to those persons and leading them to Christ. This is the essence of our ministry evangelism.”
- If you go after the people nobody wants, you’ll end up with the people everybody wants.
- First, identify needs of your community and start ministries or programs to meet those needs.
- Second, partner with existing ministries of human-service agencies that are already accomplishing a shared mission in the community.
- The way to inwardly build a church is through outward service. A good church demands attendance–a great church values impact and influence in the community. More than attendance; a great church manifests the soul of community; it is salt and light, agent of influence–not of control.
- Discipleship is not what happens inside the four walls of the local church. We never really begin to grow till we take healthy responsibility for the growth of another person.
- The test of your spiritual growth is simple – How has your heart grown in the past twelve months? Are your arms open wider toward others, or are they wrapped around yourself? Do you have room for anyone else in your life?