Churches can have an inward focus (all about nurturing the members) and/or an outward focus (all about reaching those outside the church). It is my belief that in a healthy church, these two should both be present.
I have been to churches that were so focused on body life that they became ingrown and unfriendly to outsiders. I have been in others that were so focused on bringing in outsiders that there was no plan to bring members into spiritual maturity. Either extreme must be avoided.
I understand that it is difficult to find a balance between reaching outsiders and ministering to insiders. But I am convinced that we need to do both and we need to do both well. The goal that the Apostle Paul gives us in Ephesians 4:13 is that “all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
While we cannot lose sight of reaching out, neither can we lose sight of Christ’s demand of leaders to build up their flock, and to that end, leaders must participate in the “equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12) It is my hope that as churches look to grow in reach and consequently grow in numbers that we do not lose sight of the need to grow deeper in Christ.
After a wind storm there is plenty of evidence of what happens to a large tree with shallow roots. That shallow rooted tree becomes firewood because the roots cannot keep the tree upright.
Those of us in church need to reach out to our communities. But, we must also have a strategy and a plan to bring that community to maturity in Christ.
It is not an either/or proposition. Jesus called us to the process of making disciples. Making disciples entails more than just getting more people through the doors of the church.
In the book DiscipleShift, the authors ask their readers to assess the disciple making process in their churches:
“. . . attendance, busyness, construction, finances, and programs are not real indications of success. The core question of effectiveness — the question that ultimately matters — is whether the people who are getting saved are being conformed to the likeness of Christ. Are we making mature disciples of Jesus who are not only able to withstand the culture but are also making disciples of Jesus themselves?”
Are we making disciples that are also making disciples?