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Outwardly Focused & Upwardly Witnessing

Allow me to begin with a story that comes from Pastor Steve Nance at Groesbeck First UMC.

 “The lady that runs our local housing authority office called the church some time back asking for clothing for one of her clients.  She called nine local churches in the Groesbeck area and FUMC was the only one that responded.  We placed a call out to the church and in a very short time supplied her with everything she needed and included food items as well.  The lady from the housing authority was so overwhelmed with the church’s willingness to get involved that she visited the church a few Sundays ago.  Last Wednesday night she attended the first session of a new Bible study based on the TV show, Mayberry.  Today she came in and asked if she and her husband could join the church.  She wants to be a part of a church that ‘gets out of the walls of the building’ (our [First UMC Groesbeck’s] tag-line).

 “Pastor Nance adds,  ‘Funny story:  we recently changed insurance companies.  Underwriting for the new company saw on our website that we engage in risk taking missions.  He needed a written explanation as to what this was before we could be insured!!’”

 Wow!  I find such a narrative to be exciting.  It is at the heart of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  In PLD Group (Pastors Leadership Development Group – a part of the Healthy Church Initiative ministry) we are reading The Outwardly Focused Church by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson.  Their insights go hand in hand with the experience of First UMC Groesbeck.  They comment, “Service is, and should be, the identifying mark of Christians and the church. … One of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. … To tell the truth, we must show the truth. … Externally focused churches are convinced that good deeds and good news can’t and shouldn’t be separated” (Emphasis in the original; The Outwardly Focused Church by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson, pp. 11 & 24). The combination of radical hospitality (evangelism) and risk-taking mission and service is at the very heart of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Luke 10:27 & Matthew 28:18-20).  It is at this crossroads (pun intended as we move through Lent to the cross and beyond) that gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, intersects our hurting and hungry world.  Think of the cross.  The arms extended horizontally represent risk-taking mission and service.  The upward reaching center beam stands for the good news of salvation in and through Christ our Lord shared in the radical hospitality of evangelistic witness.  Outwardly focused and upwardly witnessing.  This is the church of Jesus Christ, the body of Christ, at its best!