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Fight the Inward Drift: Remember Your Church’s Purpose

On my blog earlier this week, I noted some of the signs of internal drift in established churches.

I noted an established church could be any congregation that has existed for three or more years. The church has developed certain patterns or traditions while simultaneously forgetting its original purpose and passion.

By almost any metric, the majority of North American congregations are established churches. They often include discouraged leaders and frustrated members. Conflict in these churches is often normative.

So how does a church move from an inward drift to an outward focus?

Though I provide 10 succinct steps, I do not want to leave the reader with a false impression. I am not suggesting these steps are necessarily sequential, nor am I suggesting they are a quick-fix for any and every congregation.

1. Find a small group of trusted members who will commit to pray for the church every day. 

Ask them to pray specifically for the church to move from an inward focus to an outward focus.

More praying members can be added to the number at any time. The key is simply to get some people praying daily for the church.

2. Commit to love the church members unconditionally. 

They may not always be loveable. But love is a conscious choice.

Leaders can make that decision regardless of how the members respond.

3. The pastor must be willing to stay with the church through and beyond the changes that will take place. 

The pastor cannot make unequivocal promises about his tenure.

Still, he should have a commitment not only to lead the church through the changes toward an outward focus, but to remain with the church to deal with the impact of the changes. Too many leaders make changes and then leave the congregation to deal with the unintended consequences of the changes.

4. Begin leading members to do hands-on, outwardly focused ministries. 

It may be something as simple as delivering a welcome basket to new residents. It may only involve a few members initially.

The idea is to get members focused on the needs of others rather than their own preferences.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.