Friday, March 10, 2006

the internally-focused church

I notice that a seminar has passed through called 'The Externally-Focused Church'?

Really?! Externally-focused... I don't mind the 'external' word as it reminds us that the Great Commission is critical and that mission is at the very core of God's being and purpose in the world. But that word 'focus' makes me very nervous.

Is the church only about external stuff?
No! No! No! In fact a thousand ugly Noses!
Now I doubt whether the seminar leaders gave this impression. But 'an emphasis in a teacher becomes an extreme in a student' and I wonder about the imbalance that people may have taken home with them.

Read the New Testament and you cannot avoid that there is a heap of internal focus about the church. Let me call just the one witness - Colossians 1:28-29 - "We proclaim him (Jesus), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

Seeing God's people become 'perfect' - not so much 'sinless', as mature and ripe and, as the Parachute Band sings, "complete" - is the purpose of Paul's ministry. External-focus without investing in this internal-focus is misguided. It is short-sighted.

It is a bit like the punga, that tree fern in the New Zealand bush. Down Rotorua-way I once saw a punga with 8, 10, 12 branches, or koru, unfurling - all at different stages towards perfection. It was a thing of beauty. It was intriguing. Photos from every angle. I did not want to leave.

Please, please lets not lose sight of Operation Unfurl in the Internally-Focused Church?! It is part of the story. It builds intrigue and external people are attracted. But it also grows and matures the people of God for that ongoing external-focus which remains critical.

Nice chatting

Paul

12 comments:

eddie said...
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eddie said...

I attended an Externally Focused Church seminar in Auckland, in to their credit, one of their emphasees was that some aspects of Christian growth cannot occur (or atleast are slow) without an external focus, that is, serving those outside the church. Indeed, this sought of self-lessness is a great catalyst to Christian growth and maturity.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing when he was on the earth Jesus of Nazareth didn't take the same approach as our Blog author and only focus on His followers. We see plenty of Jesus being 'externally-focused' in His ministry....eg to women, to children, to Gentiles, to Romans, even to Samaritans...it's a good thing we're not called to be followers of Paul the apostle....

servant said...

And that anonymous comment shows the ignorance rife amongst how many Christians read things.... they don't. You have assumed without actually reading what was said.

Paul has not advocated looking externally at all, he has advocated not doing so at the expense of looking at ourselves.

It's a good thing Jesus of Nazareth was not anonymous....

Paul Windsor said...

I don't think 'anonymous' has heard my concern. The church is about 'external' AND 'internal'. That is the clear balance of the New Testament. And if you choose to focus only on the gospels, it is the clear balance of Jesus' ministry as well. Read the Sermon on the Mount again. Or John 13-17. A whole lot of internal focus in there! Followers of Jesus grow in maturity, holiness, faith, knowledge, humility, love for each other, christlikeness (all 'internal')and followers like these are what nourishes the 'external' mission of the church.
I fear this is another area of disjunctive, either:or thinking which so plagues the church. I stand by my comments. Churches that shape their lives purely with an 'external focus' are being short-sighted and missing the heart beat of so much of the New Testament, including Jesus!

Tash said...

Well Paul - you know that you're onto a good thing when you have controversy within the first three posts! Looking forward to seeing this journey unfold!

Helen said...

Sorry I could not find your email Paul but I am interested in finding out information/contacts regarding "prayer for deliverance".

If you or anyone else has any information please reply to my
email at helen7@ihug.co.nz or post in comments.
Thanks very much

michael said...

hallelujah,
what did ever happen to the internally focused church???? I attended one once - I think

Anonymous said...

I attended an internally-focused church, too. We spent a lot of time studying the Bible and not enough time putting it into practice as a body of believers ...
When a church isn't serving, it gets too internally focused ... We spent weeks debating whether there could be coffee in the foyer! I'm still ashamed ...
"Externally focused" is just a call for church folks to get out among sinners so they can get their hands dirty serving them ... It's that kind of love that will draw people to Christ.

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