The natural trajectory of the church is to drift inward, but its design and destiny is to move outward.
An inward focused church is not a bad church, it is merely a church that has become consumed with taking care of its own, solving the problems of the church, and investing its energy to keeping the programs good and going.
An outward focused church also cares for the congregation, works hard to keep ministries meaningful, but directs a substantial amount of thought, energy and resources to those who are outside the church.
Over the last few years, we’ve experienced an elevated level of influences that pull churches inward. For some, it was a sense of what was required, for others it was perceived as a means of survival. For all of us, it was not expected.
Pulling back is a natural response to the punches that life can serve up at times. Like a boxer in a ring, when the opponent is advancing and the hits are hard enough, you can’t help but retreat. The problem with that retreat is that once you are in a corner, it’s easy to get stuck there. Then you’re in trouble.
For the leader, like a boxer, it takes intentionality, willpower, and strength to get out of the corner, away from the ropes and back in the fight.
When a church has drifted inward it’s more difficult to see it than you might expect, and it takes a leader with a strong team to lead the church outward again.
The following are a few common reasons a church can drift inward:
Concerned about safety and security
Safety and security matters to everyone, but if it dilutes the effectiveness of the vision, or pulls the leaders and congregation inward, it may be more about fear than security.
Progress meets with resistance
The book of Acts is quite clear throughout the narrative of the early church that progress and problems are inseparable. Progress for the sake of the gospel will always meet with resistance, yet it remains our responsibility to press forward.
Setbacks and discouragement
We can all relate to the reality of setbacks and discouragement. Over time, that drains a leader’s energy and vision which allows drift toward inward rather than reaching outward.
Disconnect with current culture
The moment we fail to connect with or understand current culture we automatically begin to drift inward. It doesn’t mean we don’t care, but it translates that way to those outside the church because we don’t understand how people think and therefore can’t connect or communicate our compassion well.
Leadership has a comfortable sense of busy
It’s easy for churches in general to become “busy machines,” and to eventually find a kind of comfort in that place. The church operates well, but there is little sense of urgency or energy to reach the community.
4 Ways to Move Your Church From Inward to Outward Focused:
1. Shake off the Past
Whatever reasons may have caused your church to drift inward, you don’t have to remain stuck there. Determine to shake off the past and re-engage the passion and confidence you once had to move intentionally outward.
This is not meant to sound like an annoying platitude. We know it’s not easy. The church wants to drift inward, but the pain of remaining stuck there is greater than the risk of pressing forward.
Let me offer you some starter ideas.
- Remember your dreams and vision when you first came to the church.
- Simplify your ministry.
- Take a few days for a quiet retreat to find spiritual rest and resolve to make some changes.
- Ask others to help you. You may have all the gifts and talent you need, and still need a little help to get a breakthrough.