Swinging from the Vine / 791 posts / 2,699 comments / feed / comments feed

Externally Focused Church: part 1

* The Externally Focused Church shall henceforth be referred to as EFC.

“Our world is still open to a Gospel it can hear AND SEE. The real Gospel is two-sided - it’s truth and proof.”

Jesus himself demonstrated this model of preaching and doing.

While most churches certainly do not intend to be internally focused and most would agree that the community is important, more often than not, the church appears to our communities as a secret society, a stranger. So regardless of intent, we have not been successful forces of positive change in our communities.

The EFC is essentially a book of ideas, activities (including good discussion questions), stories, validation and lessons on the importance of a church that intentionally invests itself in the community through works of service. It’s a book for churches that are EF and want ideas and encouragement and it’s a book for churches that desire to be more EF.

Rick Rusaw is the senior minister at LifeBridge in Longmont, Colorado - he speaks both from a place of experience in the shift from internal to external and as a current EFC.

And Eric Swanson served with Campus Crusade for 25 years and is currently the director of Leadership Communities for externally focused churches in partnership with Leadership Network.

So these guys know their stuff - first hand.

Some of the language I really appreciated about Off Road Disciplines (by Earl Creps) was adjusting how we view and talk about “non Christians”. I liked his language - the sought. Jesus is seeking, we should see people as those who are sought.

One thing I have observed about the sought in my sphere of influence is that they no longer find our truths compelling or our holy lifestyles admirable. The most effective way to reach people is through selfless, no strings attached, real, relevant, honest, compassionate acts of service which can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share.

This seems to be a growing revelation in the hearts and minds of Christians today, esp. among the 20somethings I am in contact with day in and day out. Even though it’s not overtly said, what I keep hearing from Christians and the sought alike is “don’t tell me about Christianity, don’t teach me about Jesus, show me…and then bring me along to experience it myself”.

Either God has caused this wave we are riding or we have formed a wave God is blessing. In either case, the wave is here.

This is how I feel about the direction of the Church today. Regardless of the specifics, there is a wave and people are riding it. Building up defenses against the wave isn’t going to stop it.

According to the EFC, there are 6 characteristics that define an effective EFC.

Inwardly strong but outwardly focused
Integrate good deeds and good news into the life of the church
Value impact and influence in the community more than attendance
Seek to be salt, light and leaven in the community
See themselves as the soul of the community
Would be greatly missed by the community if they left

I’ll end with this for this round:

Talking about how dirty the water is, and teaching people how to keep from getting dirty themselves doesn’t clean the water.

[tags]externally focused church, missional, book, book review, service, outreach, church, community[/tags]

1 Comment

  1. Paul — January 30, 2007 #

    Thanks Ari - on an aside i knew all my expensive training as an accountant would pay off -so i would be able to complete the spam protection sums…

    anywho back to the post…

    it reminds me again of the need for christians to be about the words, works and wounds of Jesus - say it, do it, suffer/be a servant for it - with it being the kingdom of God…

    And the other thing where i think it resonates is about a life style/practice/way that is about bringing out the God colours in our communities - i think that has a lot of ressonance in terms of living out what we believe 24/7…

    oh and one more thought, it reminds me very much of elizabeth o’connor and her thoughts on a journey inward [God practicing in our lives] at the same time as a journey outward [showing God in the lives we practice] - that we can only reach out as far as we’ve reached in and vice versa…

Leave a comment