This is a follow up from the reblog of the article about Declining Churches from last week. http://wp.me/p5FpqF-lB I posted it first to get the brain cells going and have people see what they think before offering my half of a cent. In short, I think I get what the authors are saying, but disagree with their conclusion or at very least the way it is expressed.
Each of the articles focus on how an inward focus in a church is the problem that leads to declining churches, positing that churches must be outward focused in order to not decline. An example:
Both articles identify a common pattern among churches in decline: an inward focus, to the exclusion of an outward focus. No surprise! Here are some highlights from Rainer’s article:
“Ministries in declining churches are only for the members. Budgeted funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. Times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members.
Personally, I think the overarching statement set out is mistaken – to be truly effective and to be “the church” we must always be inward focused, by the sheep and for the sheep.
The church, the Body of Christ should always be the primary focus of the church and its shepherds and the goal should be not to bring in more sheep, but to make sure that the sheep that are there are healthy and thriving. So funds should be spent primarily for the members, worship should focus on the members and styles should reflect the people who make up that particularly Body of Christ. Jesus told Peter to tend His lambs and feed His sheep not be focused on the wolves who may one day become sheep. The world is never to be ignored, go forth and make disciples is our command, but the church is there to make people ready to go forth and preach Jesus and to be a port in the storm of life.
Feed the sheep the true and unadulterated Word of God and tend them with the love of God and the church shines like a city on a hill. Focus on just reaching people who are not at church or preach just to the seeker and you do a huge disservice to the ones who are already part of the flock. The church should always be about the people who make up the church, the first ministry is to care for the Body of Christ, it should not be about just trying to add to it.
That said, in focusing inward, the goal should always be on making healthy sheep, increasing a believer’s love of Jesus and fostering a fruitful walk with the Lord. Healthy sheep by their nature as growing disciples of Jesus naturally turn outward and attempt to make disciples of all nations, person by person, interaction by interaction. Healthy believers in Christ bear fruit, in their lives and in their preaching the Gospel of Jesus wherever they go.
The folks reached by the Gospel are added to the flock and these new sheep are in turn fed and tended and the loving church grows one person at a time, one relationship at a time.
So the authors talk about an inward focus of churches being a problem. I disagree. A proper inward focus of the church strengthens the Body of Christ and leads to an outward focus. A selfish, sinful approach to church on the other hand, however, which appears to be what they are describing just leads to a more sin and selfishness and who wants to be part of that.