12 signs your church may be inwardly focused

June 18, 2019

Most churches have more of an inward focus than an outward one. That’s one reason Thom Rainer and I many years ago wrote the book, Eating the Elephant – to help established churches turn outwardly. Here are some signs that your church might be inwardly focused:

  1. Your church doesn’t baptize many new converts. The causes for this situation could be many, but an inward focus is often at the core.
  2. Your small groups almost refuse to multiply. And, it’s often the small group leader who’s the biggest obstacle. It’s hard to multiply when you want to grow your own crowd.
  3. Division marks your church. The people might gather at the same time, but their hearts aren’t in the same room. Turf protection becomes more important than outreach.
  4. Your congregation battles over increasing budget funds for missions. “That’s a place where we can even cut to keep more here,” I’ve heard some church members say.
  5. Your church is still battling worship wars. Ultimately, we have worship wars because we think worship is about us.
  6. Evangelism training doesn’t happen in your church. Simply calling people to do evangelism isn’t adequate if you’re not going to provide training and accountability. Only telling people to evangelize isn’t necessarily outwardly focused.
  7. You seldom, if ever, send people out. You don’t raise up church planters, and you don’t challenge people to go to the nations. Nor have you in years seen someone called to ministry out of your church.
  8. Your congregation quickly gets frustrated if your pastor isn’t always doing pastoral care. I believe that pastoral care is part of a pastor’s responsibility — so I’m not denying that fact — but some churches are so inwardly focused that they want all of the pastor’s attention.
  9. Few people talk to guests who attend. You might argue that your church is friendly, but it’s possible they’re friendly only to people they know. Many “friendly” churches neglect people whose faces they don’t recognize.
  10. Your church’s leaders can’t accurately describe the general demographic make-up of your community. They may assume they know, but their lack of accurate information suggests they’re not very outwardly-concerned.
  11. Your church is afraid of the world. We’re not to be of the world, but we have to be in the world to reach people. That means that our church must be a place to re-arm to engage the world, not a place to retreat from it.
  12. Few people in your community know about your church. That usually means that your congregation isn’t doing much of significance in the community. They’re missing opportunities to be light in the darkness.

So, how does your church compare?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions.This post first appeared at www.chucklawless.com.


by Chuck Lawless  /  
Vice President for Spiritual Formation  /  Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

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