The Best Church IN the Community or The Best Church FOR the Community?

The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw is another thought provoking book about changing paradigms for church and how we see it in North America. In their book The Externally Focused Church they asked the question, “If your church were to close its doors, would anyone in the community notice ?” In The Externally Focused Quest the deeper question is, “How can we be the best church FOR our community?” As opposed to the internal, competing for market share, religious goods and services approach of being the best church IN the community. Not that anyone of us church leaders would admit to this attitude or say it out loud, but our program driven, service oriented, competition driven economy has opened the door for this thinking in the church. A slight preposition change, can change our thinking drastically. The book is well-researched, offering real-life examples of churches making this shift and statistics about the changing culture around us. How do you make the shift in thinking?

  1. Choose the window seat, not the aisle seat. Be an aisle seat church, focusing on what’s outside not just inside.
  2. Practice weight training, not bodybuilding. Don’t just grow to show off your size and strength. Purpose to expand the potential for serving and transforming the community.
  3. Live in the kingdom story, not A church story. The church doesn’t exist for itself, but to demonstrate the kingdom. Maybe the highlight of the book is the charts that compare church thinking with kingdom thinking.
  4. The few send the many, not the many send the few. Sending the whole church, not just the staff or super Christians.
  5. Build wells, not walls. Partnering and collaborating with other churches, ministries, and organizations for the good of many.
  6. Create Paradigms, not programs. Programs begin and end. A paradigm is a pattern or model that create a movement.
  7. Innovation, not replication. Seeing the opportunities, not being satisfied with the status quo, attempting difficult things leads to creativity and innovation.
  8. It’s about the game, not the pre-game talk. What happens once the sermon is over is as important as the sermon itself.
A few of quotes:
  • Church is more than just a worship center or a mini-seminary. Rather church is the visible and visceral expression of jesus living among a people.
  • Service has always been the DNA of Christianity, but for most people, it is a recessive gene in the gene pool.
  • Quoting a 2006 Tom Rainer study – “nearly 95% of the churches’ ministries were for members alone…many churches had no ministries for those outside the congregation.
  • we don’t grow until we begin loving, serving, and giving ourselves to someone outside of friends and family.
  • real spiritual growth occurs when the physical, relational, spiritual well-being of our neighbor is as important as our own.
  • Quoting the Willow Creek Reveal study: “Church activity alone made no direct impact on a growing heart…a stunning discovery for us”
  • Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world.
  • For many Christ followers, service and ministry are sentiments but no values.
  • Externally focused churches are churches whose effectiveness is not measured merely by attendance but also by the transformational effect they are having on the community around them.
  • How will people, communities, relationships, and cities be different if God granted you the desire of your heart?
  • we often want to be inspired more than we want to apply anything.
  • Also, found this list about How to Measure Success in Church in the book as well. 
This book is well-worth reading and I hope is another addition to a library of books being written that will shape the future vision of Christians to transform the world.

Posted on May 27, 2011, in Books worth reading. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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