This post is part of a 8-part blog series called, “Outward Focused.”
I’ve been a pastor for several decades and I’ve noticed an interesting trend. I’ve seen this trend both in my church and in the greater movement of Christianity in our country. I think of it like a pendulum swing between an evangelism focus and a discipleship focus. In my church it has often come down to a yearly emphasis or calendar planning. One year we would plan a lot of outreach events and opportunities, we’d do some evangelism training with our folks or inviter events. And we’d see an influx of people who were new to their faith. Then there was a kind of ‘oh crap’ moment where we said – we need to grow these people up. So the next year it was more life groups, and more bible studies, more mentoring opportunities. We need to get serious about discipleship. I’m oversimplifying but you get the point.
The same thing happens in slower cycles in the broader church context. There’s a season where outreach and evangelism is all the rage – the books being written the conferences being attended are all about attraction and planting and multiplication. But right now, we’re in a swing where it’s all the rage to be talking about discipleship. The megachurch movement has kind of run its course, and the Christian world is looking again at how do we go deeper, let’s re-look at the spiritual disciplines, and spiritual formation, and liturgies and creeds. So we’re seeing a greater emphasis on church renewal and spiritual growth and I think this is a really good thing by the way.
Now let me be clear – I think we’ve kind of manufactured the separation of these two elements. One of the ways I’ve heard it said is that people accepted Jesus as savior but not Lord. Or it’s separating justification from sanctification. Can these two things be separated – I’m not sure. But it’s certainly possible to focus on one more than the other. At their core both of these functions are part of the discipleship process. Think of them as two sides of the same coin. In Jesus’ great commission – he called his followers to make disciples and then he called out two parts – “baptizing them” which would seem to indicate a focus on that first step of salvation what we might call the result of evangelism, and then “teaching them to obey” which would point to the function of what we might call discipleship. So Jesus is asking us to do both.
With all that as the backdrop – as lots of the writing and training and emphasis for church leaders has shifted to the discipleship side of this coin, I thought it would be timely to put out a series of blog posts about the importance of churches and church leaders and individual Christians to maintain a posture of outward focus. So, I hope you find these 8 posts helpful – Why the church must maintain an outward focus.
Table of Contents:
Jesus’ Original Vision
We are Part of God’s Rescue Mission
God’s Rescue Mission – A Parable
Jesus’ Radical Model
Your Blessings Were Never Meant to End With You
The World Is Lost
Every Life Matters