Why… Externally Focused?
I’m continuing my series of blogs answering the “why” question. Why drives what we do – not tradition, not what’s easy, not what’s popular, and not what’s expected or demanded. Why is what motivates us. Why creates the hows and whats of systems and programs in our church. It is the why that keeps us alive, healthy and life giving.
And Jesus had a consistent why message: We must go. He commanded that we go (Matthew 28:18-20). We go because we can’t stay here!
Jesus said this was his personal why – he came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He never lost focus of that. He told three parables about the joy over finding a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son (Luke 15). In fact, in the stories of the lost sheep and coin, he concludes both with this statement: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
At Pantano, our focus is always on doing all we can to reach people not connected to God or a local church. We design what we teach, how we teach, and how we do church to reach lost people – the people Jesus told us to focus on. We are to focus on the one “lost sheep,” risking the 99 sheep in the flock to do so. The “flock” is often offended by that focus on others. That’s why Jesus made the point so clear. But the good shepherd never forgets the lost sheep. Those of us who are “insiders” in the church struggle to focus on those “outside.” While it doesn’t have to be an “us or them” choice, our external focus must drive what we value and do. That is what is best for those of us who are “insiders.” Our why is to be externally focused – to focus on the world outside the “walls” of the church.
Part of this is our personal investment in people who are not connected to God or a church. Every Sunday, about a dozen or so people come to a room called Starting Point to see about starting a new spiritual journey. Almost everyone who comes says they were invited by someone already here. Our mission is externally-focused: Loving people to Jesus, launching passionate people to make a difference. Keep loving lost, messy people!
And our external focus also includes an intentional effort to engage in our community to make a difference. While we must be vigilant to not let the world shape us, we must engage the world to love people to Jesus and make a real difference now and for eternity. We engage with schools, government agencies, Christian organizations and more; see the community outreach pages on our website to learn more (click the tabs at the top to see each area). We put our faith into action in our community and we engage with other churches to make a difference.
Halloween is coming and here’s a great example of being externally-focused. Don’t hide from this holiday. No, we don’t honor the glorification of evil, devils, demons, etc. But we use the holiday to engage. Join us for our Halloween Challenge. Families, individuals and small groups find creative ways to serve those who are trick or treating on that night. My group has done this for at least 3 years. It’s a blast and a great way to serve and connect with those in your neighborhood.
My college professor and mentor had a poster of a ship on his office door. It made a lasting impact on me. It said: Ships are safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are made for. May we sail into a sea of lost people to help them find a Savior in Jesus. May we sail into a sea of hurt and chaos to bring God’s love and service to others, giving life and health to all we can.