This is not post about Introverts vs. Extroverts.
This is a post about where we put our focus.
Are we inward focused? Meaning focused solely within the walls of our church. Or are we outward focused? Meaning focused on something bigger – the community at large and our calling.
In an inward focused church, all the attention is on membership, keeping people happy, and concern about loss. When we turn inward, we have decided that its just too scary “out there.” That we don’t have control “out there.” And that anyone who walks in the door is welcome as long as they conform to our way of doing things. The church becomes a fortress to be fiercely defended from attack or change.
An outward focused church puts attention on the people attending in such a way as to equip them to go out from the church to serve and fulfill their baptismal call to spread the Good News to those around them. The church looks outside of its walls to the needs of the community in which it resides and serves.
Recently I read a great article on this. The focus was on asking the question of whether you are a pastor of a church or to a community. Here’s one story:
The first day of my church polity class, the professor, whom I knew, walked into the room and introduced himself. He said “my name is Mike Nickerson and I’m the senior pastor of Parker United Methodist Church.” Then he asked us, “what’s wrong with that?”
No one else in the room knew him, so I raised my hand and said, “you are Mike Nickerson and you are the senior pastor of Parker UMC.”
He replied, “I didn’t ask if it was correct, I asked what was wrong with it. 100 years ago I would have walked in here and said ‘My name is Mike Nickerson and I am the Methodist pastor to the people of Parker.‘ When my appointment was read the bishop would have said I was appointed to ‘the city of Parker’ and my congregation would have understood that I was there to serve outside our walls”
And a quote that sums this up:
By reframing their existence as outward instead of inward, and how wisdom and forms come from outside their walls, churches that embrace this simple change of phrase will experience transformation.
So now to where the rubber meets the road. What if you are not a pastor? You don’t get to play the get out of jail free card here. If you are a Christian, you are part of the priesthood of believers and are called outward to serve. But how?
The answer to that question is as diverse as humanity is.
Here’s what I did this morning. I posted the following message and prayer on Facebook:
Last night I decided that complaining wasn’t helpful. So I decided that I should actually live out the things I believe. That means instead of being fearful or upset, I would pray. Below is the prayer for today. It’s not a perfect prayer by any means, but it’s a prayer none the less. Every day there are many things to pray for – I’m choosing just one today. Today we have a choice, we can be angry, fearful, upset, enraged, stunned. We can call names to those we disagree with. We can resort to violence and verbal abuse. Or we can pick up our cross, deny ourselves and we can start with a prayer. If you want to join me in this prayer, pray along and/or share it. If you have your own prayer, I’d love to join you in it.
God of all creation, today we prayer for those who are voting in five states in the US. God we ask that you give voters discernment, wisdom and grace and in so doing that they seek out leaders who seek peace, who are not burdensome to the people and who are wise. We especially ask that calmness prevail over anger in the hearts of our citizens and especially those who vote today. Amen.
We’re not looking at grand plans and schemes here. A prayer is simple, yet it touches lives. The pastor in the article scooped ice cream. It’s simple, yet he was touching lives. How will you fulfill your calling as a Christian to your community today?