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3 Factors Your Church Needs To Thrive! Part four

By Greg Perkins, SMDHealthy.Church

Failure To Thrive (FTT) is a condition where growth has been decelerated, arrested, or considered to be abnormal (in) growth or development.  FTT is most often used to describe children who have failed to show the signs of growth and development in critical areas of health, but also accurately describes a church that is experiencing plateau or decline.  In previous blogs of this series, we have explored the need for Committed Leadership and Biblical Behavior within the church.  In this week’s blog, we will focus on the final factor your church needs to thrive…

Factor 3:  Outward Focus.

Church revitalization specialist and author, Ed Stetzer, said this about the importance of an outward focus, “One of the things you will find in churches that are growing disciples and growing numerically is an emphasis on outward focus. It is so integral that outward focus should be a part of revitalizing a church.”

One of the things you will find in churches that are growing disciples and growing numerically is an emphasis on outward focus. It is so integral that outward focus should be a part of revitalizing a church.” Ed Stetzer, Ph.D.

EXECUTIVE dIRECTOR, BILLY GRAHAM CENTER FOR EVANGELISM, Wheaton College

 

In the first chapter of Acts, we find Christ’s final instructions to his followers before ascending into heaven.  He told them to wait in Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit, but also told them what would and should happen as a result.  What would happen was they would receive POWER after the Holy Spirit came upon them.  What should happen was they would be WITNESSES of Him “in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   Christ’s words were meant to confirm what He had told them in the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel (promise of the Holy Spirit), but, also, to give them the strategy they needed to accomplish the Great Commission they had just received.  Basically, He told them to start where they were, but not to stay where they were!  I believe Jesus was trying to establish an outward pattern of ministry for the church that would propel their message to those who needed to hear it.   This is essential because the Church has been called to reach “all the world,” not just those on our front porch or in our backyard.

 

He told them to start where they were, but not to stay where they were!  I believe Jesus was trying to establish an outward pattern of ministry for the church that would propel their message to those who needed to hear it.  GREG PERKINS

DIRECTOR, SMD HEALTHY CHURCH

In an article written for Christianity Today (Revitalizing Church Through an Outward Focus), Ed Stetzer also shared this:  “An outward focus can avert church conflict. Instead of having a room full of customers demanding church their way, the music their way, the pastor their way, you have a room full of co-laborers who are receiving training to live out the mission of God.” Churches that are in decline, or in the final stages of life have almost always become INWARDLY FOCUSED.  Phrases like, “What about us?” are spoken much more often than “How can we reach our neighbors?”  Inwardly focused churches are more attentive to the preferences of church-goers than they are with the needs of the lost.  This does not line up with the example set by the first century church in Acts 2:42-47. 

 

 

But, let’s be clear, they did not ignore the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ (or anyone else).  The Scripture indicates that they gave to anyone that had need and spent time together.  Looking after one another is part of our responsibility as the Body of Christ, but we must remember that it is not our sole responsibility.  Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by our love for each other.  In other words, our love and care for each other should equip and enable us to reach those outside the church.  When the people in our community know that we love them in the same way as we love each other, they will be receptive to the message of hope we bring.   In their book, The Externally Focused Church, Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson said, “The success of an externally focused church depends on getting involved in the community, creating authentic relationships, and being truly useful.”  They went on to say, “In the process of SHOWING, externally focused churches have discovered, again and again, that people are more willing to listen to their TELLING.”

“In the process of SHOWING, externally focused churches have discovered, again and again, that people are more willing to listen to their TELLING.” Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson

authors, the externally focused church

 

A pond that only collects water, but has no means to release it will stagnate and cease to be useful.  The same is true with the church.  If we hold on to the ministry we receive and fail to share it with those outside our walls, we too will stagnate and cease to be useful.

I’ve heard dozens of church leaders make this declaration, “The local church is the hope of the world.”  While I believe that statement to be true, I would offer just two clarifying words – “The OUTWARD FOCUSED local church is the hope of the world.”

“I’ve heard dozens of church leaders make this declaration, ‘The local church is the hope of the world.’  While I believe that statement to be true, I would offer just two clarifying words – ‘The OUTWARD FOCUSED local church is the hope of the world.’” GREG PERKINS

DIRECTOR, SMD HEALTHY CHURCH

Churches that are plateaued or in decline CAN THRIVE AGAIN, but it will require Committed Leadership, Biblical Behaviors, and an Outward Focus.  Churches that make these factors a priority, will overcome Failure To Thrive and begin their journey to health and vibrancy once again.

To read previously posted blogs in this series, or on other topics, go to SMDHealth.Church and click the BLOG tab on the home page.

Greg Perkins

Greg Perkins

Church Development Director

Greg Perkins serves as Church Development Director for the Southern Missouri District. He and his wife Di Ann have always had a passion for the local church as well as a deep desire to see healthy, vibrant churches reach their communities with the Gospel.  They bring this passion and desire to their work in and among the churches of Southern Missouri.  The Perkins’ are former lead pastors of First Family Church in Osage Beach, MO, and have spent over 25 years in full-time church ministry in Southern Missouri and Kansas, serving as lead pastor in Marshfield, Missouri and Derby, Kansas.  Di Ann has worked as an executive secretary in real estate, banking, international missions, and Christian higher education. In addition to church leadership, Greg spent 6 years as a Senior Sales and Business Development Representative for two Fortune 500 companies, as well as Director of Chaplains for police agencies in Kansas and Missouri. The Perkins’ have two sons, Brad and Alex. Greg is also the author of a devotional book entitled, “Moments of Destiny,” He is currently working on a series of book projects and also has a devotional blog site, www.momentsofdestiny.com.

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