Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Or Out? Too Much Or Too Little?

All the church growth experts say the same thing, and I hear it echoed by dedicated and passionate brethren across the country. In fact, they've all been saying it for more years than I can remember. It usually goes something like this: "What's wrong with the church is that we are too inwardly focused. We need to be more outwardly focused." If you're not up on church jargon, no, they are not talking about belly-buttons, though they like to jokingly add that we suffer from too much "navel watching" (a symptom of being inwardly focused). I understand the concern. We'll never be guilty of too much evangelism or too much caring for the hungry and homeless. Yes, we have ministries for everything and still seem to be doing less and less missions and benevolence. Of course, when would we be doing enough or even too much?

I don't know what everyone is thinking when they see the church being "too inwardly focused" but isn't it a fact that church folks have been gradually whittling away at time dedicated to being together? Do we really have too much fellowship, too much encouragement, and too much equipping going on? Just exactly when did we reach the goal of loving one another so deeply, so sacrificially, and so obviously that the world would know that we belong to Jesus? If the purpose of church, of spiritual leaders, of teaching and admonishing one another is, as Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-16, to build "unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" - when did we do that? Did I miss something here?

If we are "too inwardly focused" its the wrong kind of inward focus. The inward focus that has failed to build members who "grow up into him who is the Head" is not the kind the family of God was called to have. When inward focus comes from institutional, traditional, and worldly history -it's "too much" before it even starts. When the inward focus is about building spiritual relationships, growing in love, and helping one another develop a deeper relationship with Jesus - there is no such thing as "too much". In fact, the biggest problem facing the future of the family of God is people who are so "outwardly focused" they don't want or need a church family. Go figure.

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