I hear a lot of talk about inward-focused vs. outward-focused churches. In fact, the latest trend is to harshly criticize inward-focused churches for being consumer-minded and just existing to please the members. The only alternative, many experts suggest, is to be an outward-focused church. “Don’t exist to please the members,” they say, “exist to please the unchurched. Do whatever you can to attract and bring in people of the world.” I want to suggest that this is a false dichotomy and that both inward-focused and outward-focused churches are wrong.
The biblical alternative to these two focuses is to be an upward-focused church!
1. The Upward-Focused Church Exists to Please God
The false dichotomy that’s been set up says you either exist to please your members or you exist to please your neighbors. The outward-focused church accuses the inward-focused church of being consumer-minded, but the truth is they both are consumer-minded, they just have different consumers!
But the upward-focused church exists to please God! Paul wrote, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “we make it our aim to please Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). The upward-focused church’s primary question is not, “What will our members think about this?” Nor is it, “Will this attract the unchurched?” The upward-focused church’s primary question is, “Will this please and glorify God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)?
2. The Upward-Focused Church Ministers to Its Members
The church must minister to itself. The church is full of new Christians, hurting Christians, ailing Christians, and struggling Christians. The church must continually serve its members. Paul wrote, “God has so composed the body…that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-28).
We serve the church because the church is Christ’s body. When we minister to the body of Christ, we minister to Christ Himself. I reject the idea that the church exists only to serve those outside of the church. This is an unbiblical concept. Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
3. The Upward-Focused Church Evangelizes to the Lost
The upward-focused church is evangelistic because that is what Christ told us to be (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The upward-focused church cannot help talking about Christ and what He has done for us (Acts 4:20). The upward-focused church seeks to be a reflection of Christ to the world – not to be a reflection of the world to itself! We will never draw men to Christ by acting like the world.
Show a person who is focused on being everything God would have him to be, and I will show you a person who is reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ! Paul was certainly one of the most evangelistic men to ever live and he wrote in Colossians 3:1-4:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Examine Your Worship
The inward-focused church sees worship as something for themselves. The outward-focused church sees worship as something to attract the lost. The upward-focused church sees worship as something sacred, offered up to please God. How you and your congregation see worship says a lot about your focus.
I love you and God loves you,