Are You Leading an Outward or Inward-Focused Church?

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What is your church willing to do to reach people on the outside? The simple answer to this question reveals a lot about the kind of ministry you're leading.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked with church leaders from close to 200 different churches in consulting and coaching relationships. These churches are all different shapes and sizes.

There are denominational and non-denominational churches.

Traditional and contemporary churches.

Small churches and megachurches.

Church plants and churches that have existed for over a hundred years.

After working with all those churches, though, this is probably the key distinguishing factor when it comes to the health of the church: It’s whether the church is outward-focused or inward-focused.

That issue is always what creates the most tension when it comes to the potential for change.

At the heart of the issue is this basic question: What are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith?

For some churches I’ve worked with, the answer is just about anything short of sin. For others, it’s just about nothing if it means losing people who already attend the church.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true about these two types of churches:

The Outward-Focused Church.

The primary challenge will be how to we help people take steps in their spiritual journey after they accept Christ.

The fact is, though, most outward-focused churches are very sensitive to this challenge. These leaders are uncomfortable with people getting stuck spiritually, and they recognize that people with vibrant relationships with Jesus want to continue to reach people outside the faith.

Maturing Christians join the mission.

Tony Morgan Tony Morgan is the Founder and Chief Strategic Officer of The Unstuck Group (TheUnstuckGroup.com)

More from Tony Morgan or visit Tony at http://www.tonymorganlive.com

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  • Trevor

    The problem can sometimes be helping Christians see that an evangelistic / mission lifestyle is a key part of discipleship. You could even say it is the context in which discipleship is lived out. We want to be Christ filled people so that we display Christ and make Him attractive to unbelievers, who constantly surround us. “By this all men will know you’re my disciples because you love one another”. I am sometimes accused of being too mission focused. However, it is usually the hardest thing christians and churches do, you have to emphasise and focus on it atleast 3 times as much as everything else so that just in pratice its on the same level as everything else.

    Of course the prerequisite for this is that christians get grace. If the gospel is not good news to you the it will not be good news through you.

  • BARRIE

    THE TRUTH IS THAT WE ARE TO BE FORCUSED ON OUR SAVIOUR and walking close to God like Enoch THESE ARE THE DAYS WHEN WE MUST MAKE SURE WE HAVE OIL IN OUR LAMPS AND BE READY AND PEPARED FOR THE LORD JESUS SOON RETURN COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SAPARATE FROM SIN AND EVIL AND THE WORLD AND WALK WITH ME IN WHITE ,FOLLOW PEACE AND HOLINESS WITHOUT WHICH NO MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD IF A MAN CLEANSE HIM SELF FROM THESE THINGS THEN HE WILL BE A VESSAL OF HONOUR READY PREPARED FOR THE MASTERS USE OUR MAIN FORCUSE MUST BE TO OBAY THE WORD OF GOD OURSELVES ,THEY TOOK NOTICE OF THEM THAT THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS, ABIDE IN HIM SO THAT WHEN HE APPEARS YOU WILL NOT BE ASHAMED AT HIS COMMING ,YES WE ARE TO REACH PEOPLE WITH THE GOOD NEWS THAT THEY CAN BE SAVED BUT ITS NOT ABOUT A NUMBERS GAME NEITHER IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ABOUT COPYING ANOTHER MINISTRY BUT FULLFILLING OUR OWN MINISTERY AND CALLING THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO US ITS ABOUT BEING FAITHFULL WETHER THERE ARE BIG NUMBERS OR NOT WELL DONE YOU GOOD AND FAITHFULL SERVANT ENTER INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD, ITS NOT BUISNESS PRINCIPLES TO ENLARGE OUR CHURCH ITS ABOUT RESCUING THE LOST AND HURTING WITH GODS LOVE AND GRACE AND THE WORD OF GOD OUR FIRST PRIORITY IS TO LOVE GOD WITH ALL OUR BEING THEN LOVE OUR NAIGHBOR AS OURSELVES, O FATHER GOD FORGIVE US FOR LOSING OUR FIRST LOVE AND LUKEWARMNESS WE REPENT RETURN US TO OUR FIRST LOVE GRANT TO US THIS YEAR 2013 WE WILL SEEK YOU WITH A PASSION AND OUR FIRST LOVE ANDTHEN REACH OUT TO THOSE ARE LOST IN THE NAME OF OUR WONDERFULL LORD JESUS AMEN

    • Josh

      Unless you are striving to create “worlds longest run on sentence,” please use punctuation. Thanks!

      • Tim Dolan

        And all CAPS…. thanks for yelling the whole time!

  • Always Wondering

    Barrie, did you know in cyber-etiquitte All CAPS means you’re shouting?
    Tom, excellent article. I have found the same thing to be true as well. All our modes of outreach are vehicles for discipleship.

  • Bette

    I think there needs to be a balance. I have seen outward focused churches who have very little disciple making and teaching emphasis. There needs to be a dual focus. Some are gifted for evangelism, and some are gifted for teaching and disciple making. Jesus spent three years pouring into his disciples after they answered the call to follow him. We need to intentionally focus on people outside of the church who do not have a relationship with Jesus. But, then, after coming into the church we need to have an equally strong emphasis on training them up into maturity in Christ. I believe we need both of these in place to be true to Christ’s command in Matthew 28.

    I also think it is helpful to remember that both models – Outward and Inward focused, can be too driven in one direction, and unintentionally neglect the other direction.

    • MarciH

      Actually, I think one of the biggest myths and cop outs of modern christianity is the so called “gift” of evangelism. The only time the Bible mentions evangelists is in Ephesians 4:11 where they’re listed among the other leaders of the church. But the fact remains that we are all called to evangelize. I have heard too many christians say they don’t have the “gift” of evangelism as an excuse for why they don’t witness. The fact is, witnessing, or evangelizing (share the gospel with), is not a “gift,” it is a command.

  • RAMJR

    I’m not a pastor, and I come from a background of growing up in the church. The problem is, a lot of the time in the church I wore a mask. I carried the Bible, sang the hymns and listened to the pastor…yet I was empty inside.
    As a child, I grew up not liking myself, bullied and laughed at. Picked last and picked on. I found a peace, listening to the pastor. I even felt awkward, when I carried a notepad to jot down Bible verses, to take home and go over.
    I passed out religious tracts…though not to many people, just places I went. I was beaten up, chased, laughed at. I had bullies at school and on the street I lived on..and yet one day one of the bullies younger brothers carried the tract to me, and asked about God. I even had a Bible study, using my fathers Bible and going to him in the question the even younger boy would ask me. I was in elementary school.
    I am writing a book on all of this, so I’ll stop there, but It took years for me to come back to Christ. Pain, suffering, loss, etc led me to that point.
    The thing is, this article says we should focus outside in growing the church, when if the church isn’t established in true believers, it is easily pulled into a camp that immorality and ignorance can bring to its knees.
    i accepted Jesus when I was little. Was Baptized and given a Bible…but the lack of really knowing the Bible, wasn’t even directed at the pulpit. just the basics, which left out the real meat Jesus was after us knowing, as even the apostles didn’t fully understand.
    It still amazes me that Jesus pointed out true faith, not in the apostles that followed Him, saw the miracles and could easily see His words and actions math up, but the faith of a gentile pagan woman…and faith of a Roman centurion instead. A message that we Christian better listen to.
    I dusted off the Bible, that sat on a shelf for a week, and mockingly carried under my arm in complete ignorance. Sure, I could look, pick and chose verses, to make myself look smart, but the words of Jesus warning that, “My children are destroyed from lack of knowledge” divide fiction of Jesus, from the facts He wants us to know, for ourselves. That can’t happen in a ‘church divided’, and example of apostate churches are warnings to us.
    Many pastors today, should clearly not be pastors. many pastors just need to get away from sermons, and just start reading the books of the Bible instead. the Holy spirit will do the rest.
    The journey i am on,is full of faults and failures I am dealing with, waking up to…and yes many times fighting my fleshly knowledge over that which Jesus is trying to get me to. But that takes action. It also takes words matching to my actions.
    Simply put, churches have to take the picking and choosing out, the restitution and discipline in and let the Holy Spirit take over what God wants known, and mans values out. Way too many churches are recruiting devaluing God, sin and the Words in the Bible. before we can make the step of sharing, our words and actions have to at least match what God says, for others to see…or we are not true to God, and will make more churches apostate in value. Jesus calls for love, tough love many times, not a compromise. He will not be mocked. God Bless

  • Tim Dolan

    So, should the primary purpose of church be worship God or attract visitors?

  • celestina

    i really do not know how to pray i want to learn

    • Slave of Christ

      Think of prayer as a conversation between you and God. A conversation that includes times of you talking and times of you listening. Jesus once was asked about praying. You can read his answer in Matthew 6:5-13; Luke 11:1-13. The prayer that is found there is called the Lord’s Prayer. Practice praying that prayer. But as you pray each petiton (request/statement) think about what it means in your life today. Prayer takes practice. At first it seems awkward. But just keep talking to Jesus. His promise is to always listen and answer!

  • arlene

    If we examine Mark 12 ;30-31 described as the greatest commandment — it adresses a passion to LOve God and love others. Love of GOd will motivate us to reach the lost. Our love for the brethren would stir us to encourage and edify each other as we meet with them as often as possible. Hopefully the result we should see a maturity of believers and an increase in new converts