Monday, August 02, 2010

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Inward or Outward Focus?

I just finished teaching for a day in a State-wide pastor's conference in Venezuela.  I was asked to teach on the Mission Church.  The invitation came from a pastor who was the Valedictorian of the first graduating class of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela ( Pastor Wilmer Perez had taken my course on the Mission of the Church and wanted to introduce his fellow pastors to both the concept and the seminary. He stated to them that going to the Seminary had changed his life and ministry, particularly the course on the Mission of the Church.

One of the primary differences between effective and ineffective churches is the primary direction of their focus.  Ineffective churches are inwardly focused - almost exclusively. Effective churches are primarily outwardly focused.  Ineffective churches consume all given to them (leadership resources, finances, location, facilities, etc.) with centripetal power.  Effective churches multiply resources given through the release of centrifugal energy into the world. Effective churches are about "them," those outside the church.  Ineffective churches are about "us." those inside the church.

This simple comparison and contrast is worth much more examination and something I do in the Seminary course.  However, it is enough of a thumbnail sketch for one to begin to understand the basic difference between the Mission Church and the Traditional or "Chapel" Church.

The pastors in the conference in Venezuela demonstrated this simple, but profound truth in an exercise depicted in the following pictures.  I asked for volunteers and 10-12 people quickly stepped to the front. Then I asked them to form a circle and join hands.  They did what I have seen in every case where I have scores of times asked this to be done.

Then I asked them if they could still hold hands and form a different kind of circle. After some discomfort and confusion they eventually moved to the form of a circle pictured here in which they were facing outward. These contrasting ways to be in community (holding hands) are powerfully demonstrative of the difference between the inward focus or outward focus of ineffective and effective churches.

There are many ways illustrate this and/or examine objectively which one best describes our church.  However, simply asking this question is a great beginning:  "Are we primarily an inwardly or outwardly focused church?"  The answers may help us change the focus and move from ineffective, irrelevant church life to transformational ministry in a lost and broken world.

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