I've been sharing here some thoughts on church revitalization, a relevant topic for most congregations, and specifically the shifts that I believe are necessary for our churches to experience revitalization.

God is not through with His church. The question is whether the congregations you and I serve will do what we must to join His activity. Last month we considered one such shift, a change from a programmed to a relationship based discipleship model. You can read about that by following this link. This month, let me suggest a shift from an inward to an outward focus for the church.

Now if you have read anything on the subject of church revitalization, you know this is not news. Ed Stetzer, Thom Rainer, and countless others have written volumes on this point. In my work as a coach and consultant, I quote their research all the time.

Still, despite all that is written, I cannot tell you how often I hear people say, "But this is how I like my church to be." Recently, after a long conversation about revitalization, a man said, "But the people in our community know who and where we are. They ought to be able to accept us as we are. I just don't see why I need to change." Such words indicate an inward focus, that the church exists for the believer and his or her comfort.

NOW PLEASE DON'T MISS THIS POINT. As His church, we ought to minister to the needs of our people! But many fail to grow beyond their own spiritual needs and become God's resource for the needs of others. When this attitude becomes common in a congregation, the church loses all connection with unbelievers around them.

What separates healthy, growing churches from those in decline? Those that reach their communities think differently. They believe deep in their hearts that the church exists for those who are not yet part of it. They don't cater to the crowds, nor do they ignore their people, but they do seek to understand those living nearby and build bridges so they may engage their lives, establish relationships, and present Jesus.

Richard Faling, my first trainer as a church consultant, taught me to ask this question, "How does your church earn its right to exist in the community?" It's a great question.

This will look different from church to church, but the core issue is the same: does your church have an outward or inward focus.

Now, I know someone will hyper-spiritualize my comments here and say, "Jim, you need a Godward focus, upward, not inward or outward." I get your point. For me, that's a given. But tell me, where does an upward focus lead you? More inward, or outward? Right. You're getting it now.

Until next time,

Bro. Jim