Turning the Church Inside Out.


Clip of a lady healed at a recent outreach.

I wrote this article a few years ago and have had it reprinted in several blogs etc. It’s still true.

Many years ago I went to my favorite restaurant, the Screaming Coyote, to purchase a Forklift burrito, the biggest ever made, to bring home to share with my wife. 

While waiting I noticed a young mother with her child. The mother was dressed in typical alternative dress, appropriately ripped jeans, T-shirt and Doc Martin sandals. She was wearing more than one earring and looked like the typical young mom. 

While she was digging in to her purse to find the correct change to purchase her food, her baby sat in his stroller and stared into space. He did not look well. I then noticed a tube running to his nose. 

I thought, ‘I need to pray for the child.’ It was a crowded night so I waited for my order and observed that the mother had moved to the sidewalk tables. I paid for my burrito and nachos and strolled outside. I introduced myself and asked the mom about her child mentioning that I had noticed the tube. She explained that the baby had been born premature and had some major health problems since the birth and that the tube was a feeding tube. 

Interestingly she also informed me she had named the child a biblical name, Michael. At some point in the conversation I asked if I could pray for her and the baby. Unsurprisingly she affirmed by saying something like, ‘That would be nice. Thank you very much’. 

Before I prayed I asked permission to place my hand on the child’s head and then prayed a please give health to baby and grant wisdom and strength to mom type of prayer. I did notice the mother had tears rolling down her face. At the end of the prayer, I said, ‘Thanks for letting me pray.’ 

She responded tearfully by saying, ‘No, thank you for praying.’ Her next response ripped my heart she said, ‘I didn’t think anybody cared.’ 

Stunned, I affirmed God’s care and love for her and her child and told her about a great outward focused church where I knew she could find acceptance. The only problem it was miles away. 

As I walked away I pondered the situation. I was living in Pensacola, host of a revival that had been going on for over two years, and here was a person who never knew somebody cared for her life. I was stunned. I asked my self, ‘What is revival?’ I thought it meant communities being reached and changed. People empowered to reach their world. 

“What is revival?” I thought it meant communities 
being reached and changed. People empowered to reach their world. 
I thought about Jesus and the many times compassion moved Him to action. He was graceful and caring toward the people who needed health and healing. I then thought, ‘When will the church ever be a go church instead of a come to church? When will the church ever become outward focused instead of inward focused?’ Something happened in my life that day I can never explain. I did know I wanted to be part of a church that cared and welcomed people where an alternative young mother and child could find refuge.
Not long after this event I moved to Cincinnati Ohio and became a part of Vineyard Community Church one of the largest outward focused churches in the USA. Thousands of people each week are touched with God’s love through varied expressions of Servant Evangelism. Hundreds of people are then welcomed by the staff, an army of fantastic volunteers, and pastors. People are allowed to come as they are and hang out. They are also patiently encouraged to discover Jesus and become a part of The Vineyard. The love and care presented to thousands out in the community each week through their serving is duplicated by the atmosphere they seek to create in their gatherings on weekends.
What makes Vineyard Community Church a part of a growing group of people across the world who are attempting to be outward focused? I believe they discovered their purpose for their existence. In a nutshell, Vineyard Community Church exists to love the people of Cincinnati into a relationship with Jesus Christ. That means it is a go church.
We exist to love the people of our world into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’ve moved on from Cincy to The Dayton Vineyard, eleven years have passed. Cincy Vineyard continues to grow. I’ve learned much since moving to Dayton. At the present we are revisiting pressing into God’s presence and power. At the same time we continue to be outward focused reaching out to our community.
Why does the church Exist?
The Church is God’s great idea. It is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way. The people of the early church were  ‘the called out ones’,  ‘disciples’, and followers of the ‘Way’. In the early church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe, togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community and a strong sense of God’s presence and mission. The resulting fruit?… ‘The Lord added to the church day by day those being saved…and the church found favor with all the people.’
Our mission and focus is all important. It defines why we exist and why we are here.
Emil Bruner in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its Reason For Being states,’The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.  
Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry in the U.K. once said, ‘When we lose sight of the great commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life.’  Both statements are extremely important. When any church focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s primary mission for existence, that church will eventually lose it’s purposeful sense, of mission. That church will quickly forget why it is blessed in the first place. I call it the Big Why?
Many people need to recover their sense of mission.
Many people need to recover their sense of mission.

The  truth: God wants to get the attention of His church. His purpose… that the church might seek Him and find Him, and discover His passion for our dismembered world.

It is interesting to view church movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal prosperity and personal blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are mission, / value driven. Some of the fastest growing churches in the USA are in this category. 

Believe it or not, they are criticized for their passion for the lost. ‘Those seeker churches, They are a mile wide and an inch deep.’ Sadly, this criticism sometimes comes from our ‘more spiritual’ brothers who are criticized by the ‘less aware brothers’ who are criticized by… ok I’ll stop. Truth.

The reality, many churches in the different streams are doing all they can to reach everyone they can. They are focused upon knowing God (His relationship / His presence) and making Him known (His mission / His power). Everything else follows.  
As one man stated, “We cannot continue to be an inward focused church and expect non-believers to want to be a part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to experience the reality of life changing answers for life’s problems, and to experience the God of that reality.”

As one great leader has stated, “We need to re-present Jesus to our world.” How, by first of all pressing in to know Him, then reach out to our world to reveal Him in life, action, attitude and word.

It really does matter where you focus your aim. 
It will set the course of your life.

The questions…What drives your church? What is it’s purpose in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of mission? Or is it a church a drift?

Sometimes getting back to our foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? How is business?  Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need to discover our present reality on order to move forward. 

One year during a losing season Greenbay Packers coach Vince Lombardy gathered the team together and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This is getting back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His team together, point to our world and say, ‘Church this is your mission.’ It really does matter where you focus your aim. It will set the course of your life.

Where are you aiming? Inward or outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist? May I suggest that answering these questions will help you discover what really matters to you and to your church.  

Fill in the blanks: Our church exists to _____________________ ________________. 

We are a church that ______________________________.  

Our purpose in this town, city is to ___________________________. 

Our main focus is to ______________________________________. 

Our main mission is to ________________________________.

May I also suggest that if you answer doesn’t include pressing into God’s Presence, or  going out into the Great Commission you are falling far short of your destiny. 
Secondly, check and see if your practice equals what you believe / value. Christians often define themselves by what they believe, our communities define us by what we do.

The Desire For All Nations by an All Nations God

God has always been an all nations God. From beginning to end He desires to be in relationship with every person from every tribe, people, tongue and nation. This is God’s ideal for the inhabitants of planet earth. His desire was expressed when he commanded Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth. His Father heart was revealed when He asked  the questions, “Where are you? Why are you hiding?” He’s still asking those questions to the people of our world today.

 His desire for all nations was also revealed when he encouraged Abraham telling him his seed was to be as the sands of the sea and as the stars in the universe. 
He is a who-so-ever God for a who-so-ever will believe people. 
His passion for all peoples continued in the New Testament by coming in the fashion of His redeeming Son, expressed in John 3:16 NIV 

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, 
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life. 

He is a who-so-ever God, for a who-so-ever will believe people. 

Jesus revealed His Fathers passion when he upset the religious leaders of his day. The court of the gentiles had become a robbers den. Their buying and selling under the guise of religious ceremony prevented all nations from coming to worship at His House. His passion overflowed as He literally drove the money-changers from the area with a whip over turning their tables as he went. 

The Apostle Peter revealed the heart of God when he expressed, ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but (wanting) everyone to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NIV) 

Lastly, a new song will be written to celebrate God’s passion of the who-so-ever believers at the conclusion of time and at the beginning of eternity …  And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. (Rev 5:9-10 NIV) 

He is an outward focused, all nations, all peoples God, looking and longing to have relationship with all who will call upon Him. Always has been… always will be.

When the Church, which is supposed to be connected to His eternal purpose, loses sight of God’s main plan for man, we often move our focus on minors rather than on majors. 
Why do we exist? We exist to know God(relationship / His presence) and to make Him known(His mission / His power) We are His plan for man. We are it. No other plan. It is His unchanging purpose from eternity.


One thought on “Turning the Church Inside Out.

  • Great article Steve. This has to be on the mind of every church. Two months ago at a small group leaders conference my team of leaders where asked about our church mission. I was blessed to hear them articulate in their own words who we are as a church and that it was virtually verbatim what I have been trying to get across. On the flip side, that job is never done. its too easy for that to become just words.

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