For many years the church has been focused on internal issues, and by that I mean the focus has been on developing disciples to better understand the Word in the walls of the church, while ignoring the ability to put things into action. The study of the Word is a noble and necessary part of the Christian life; don't get me wrong on that. But my argument is based more on the fact that we have neglected the lives of those outside of our church. How are others won for the kingdom? Do they fall through the doors on Sunday morning saying "Save me"? New believers come to know Christ by the actions of believers and seeing disciples work.
The Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28:12-20 instructs and commands Christians to go and make disciples of all nations. There is no gray area in that statement and certainly no room to wiggle. The commission has never, and never will be, to sit at home, pray quietly and read the Bible perpetually. The commission commands us not to act within the walls of our comfort zone or local church, but to be bold and go forth to make disciples. God wants us to put our salvation to work for Him.
Be a Doer of the Word
It comes down to putting your knowledge and faith in God into practice. This means that you go and meet people where they are in their pain and affliction. Years ago, while leading a Bible study in the book of James, I came to the realization that we do work for God because we enjoy it. The task set before us is not about working in toil but in working out of a love and reverence for the Lord and His ultimate plan. The mindset shift comes when we don’t work because we have to, but we work because we want to.
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:19-27
Transformation happens when you come to know God and are no longer satisfied with the old way of life in which you lived apart from God. Now your mind is focused exclusively on being His servant who shows others His glory. This realization can take some older Christians years to figure out and an instant for new believers. A new believer has passion and is invigorated to serve the Lord. Have you ever wondered how to be on fire for God in that capacity? When you get your first taste of a new food, you are instantly enthralled with it. Over time your love of that food wanes. Why? You have gotten used to it and it no longer has the same appeal. The same can be said of our faith, as we've let it diminish. Turning that fire back on involves on simple change, which involves outward action.
God doesn't want His children to be lethargic and taking what He has given for granted. As Christians who know Him, we should not sit back and say, "the battle is won and now I can rest." Wrong. The battle may have been won over our sin when we were saved, but now we are on the front lines to find more lost souls who need to hear God’s truth. There are broken and lost people still out in the world who have never heard of Jesus or the message of salvation. What about them? Do we forget them? The mindset of the church needs to refocus and turn outwards to the world that we are still a big part of. We may try to ignore it or pull back into our own small churches, but we cannot forget the lost and hurting in our communities because they need Him. When the outside world sees the church and has a bitter reaction to it, then it means we have failed to be like Him and have failed to love them like Christ loved us.
"Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
When we imitate God we must understand who He is. Christ gave Himself up so that we might know Him, which was the ultimate sacrifice. It was this one act that should make us want to serve others in the same capacity. I never deserved the salvation that He provided, but He still died for me, because of that unending love that He had for me and for you. I should be living life everyday in joyful praise of that, but I don't. I become lethargic in my faith because I drain myself with selfish endeavors that lead me away from God, rather than towards Him.
When the church starts meeting the needs of those hurting outside of its walls in the same loving mindset as God sees them, then you will see a huge transformation in the church. Make it a duty to serve in a loving manner towards others that you meet, pass-by or talk to on the street. Be the disciple that talks and lives for God. Show the world who God is through your life and actions.
In a past post "How to Manage the Church - A Missional Church Approach", I talked about the process of planning a ministry and looking deeper than the surface elements in order to see and move forward with the plan that God has for you, your ministry and His church. If you're interested in moving forward then I encourage you to start moving outward.