observations and readings about church ministry ideas, challenges, solutions, and trends
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Seven Habits of Outwardly Focused Churches
By Thom S. Rainer
It was not a dramatic moment in time. Instead it was subtle, almost too subtle to be noticed. It became evident first in mainline churches. But evangelical churches followed a few years later. The erosion was slow, but it became glaringly apparent after several years.
The change of which I speak is the movement away from outwardly focused ministries in churches. Over time, most of the resources of time, money, and ministries have shifted more toward the members. Churches are now gathering in holy huddles with little intention of breaking out into a world of lostness and loneliness.
How did this negative trend develop? Though many perspectives could be offered, allow me simply to share the practical perspective. There was a time when most churches had an outreach ministry. And more times than not, this ministry was a type of program with predictable patterns.
But church leaders, vocational and lay alike, became program averse. So they slowly began eliminating outreach programs in their churches. I understand why this development took place. The programs seemed ineffective, not culturally relevant, and often cumbersome to lead and implement.
The problem, however, is that nothing replaced the programs. And the mild culture of outreach in churches was replaced with no culture of outreach.
At the same time, more churches started sending members on international mission trips. This development was good. But it gave many in the church a sense of false comfort that the church was really outwardly focused. The problem was that many times the local community became a neglected mission field.
Dr. Pat Ford joined Church Partnerships of LifeWay Christian Resources in 2007 after 35 years of ministry in church, university, and seminary settings. He can be contacted at 832-725-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter at @patford.