Do We Have an Inward Focus or an Outward Focus?
Focusing on Ourselves Is Selfish While Focusing on Others Is Selfless
There was a time when I headed up our church’s small group initiative. One of the things I learned was that small groups with an inward focus lasted about eighteen months and fizzled out. However, groups with an outward focus would last much longer. Yes, members would come and go, but the group’s focus on others kept them united and moving forward.
Small Group Focus
However, there are some small groups which need to maintain an internal focus. These are recovery groups and self-help groups. The people there need help. They’re broken. They can’t give to others because they’re barely hanging on themselves. Once they’re better, then they can help.
Aside from these groups, all other groups need to look beyond themselves. What can they do to help others? How can they show the love of Jesus to others? Who can they minister to? When they rally together for an external mission, they draw themselves together, experience personal growth, and advance the kingdom of God.
But when they look inwardly, they atrophy. The group dies.
Expand this concept of small groups to churches. Some churches have an internal focus and others have an outward focus.
Inward-looking churches are concerned with themselves. “What can we do for our comfort? What can we do to make us feel good?” Often their focus is on survival. They need more people to remain viable. But they don’t seek more people for the good of those people. What they’re really after is the money those people bring with them. This is so selfish and unspiritual that few church leaders will ever admit it. But it’s true.
Outward looking churches seek to benefit their community. Yes, they want to tell others about Jesus, yet they realize the most effective way they can do this is through service. How can they serve their neighbors? How can they make the community a better place?
A convicting question every church should ask is: “If our church disappeared today, would anyone in our community notice? Would anyone care?”
Now let’s narrow the focus. Let’s look at ourselves. As an introvert I do this a lot. I’m introspective. This fuels my writing, which is an outward looking initiative. Yet by default I’m an inward-looking guy. My writing is one outward-looking effort.
People with an inward focus are often selfish and may be lonely. They think about themselves and their own comfort first, with others being a secondary concern or completely overlooked.
Jesus followers who have an outward focus seek to bring him with them wherever they go. They give their attention to others. They focus on the needs of others and don’t worry so much about their own comfort. Everything they do advances the kingdom of God.
This is easier for some of us than others because of how God made us as individuals. Yet, regardless of where we are on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, we can work toward being more outwardly focused and less inwardly focused.We can work toward being more outwardly focused and less inwardly focused. Click To Tweet
Regardless, may we make a difference in the lives of everyone we meet or talk to today.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.