Inreach & Outreach

Are you an innie or an outie? I know, we think of belly buttons when we hear that question, but I ask it wondering what you think the church is all about.

In the last article I posted, particularly in the example about the Bazaar at the end, a subtheme is this very question. It is an important question which, if not clarified and consensified (I like making up words) in a church, will hold a church back from being all that it can be.

In my experience with the church in general I think each of these two categories –In-reach and Out-reach — have at least two ‘expressions’ or ways they are worked out. In-reach, in a simple definition, is: anything that is intended to connect existing participants in the church with each other better. Out-reach is: trying to connect the church with people outside of it. But In-reach has a purely social side, and it has a spiritual growth side. Outreach too has a strictly social side, and it has a spiritual purpose. A church that is entirely about social In-reach, with no spiritual growth, is very very likely not a growing, healthy church. A church that is focused only on social outreach, with no spiritual purpose, is also not likely to be healthy. In fact many of the “Mainline” churches in North America switched to those kinds of In-Out-reach and are suffering the consequences. They might be doing some social good, but they are not doing much Kingdom good.

So, you might already be gathering that I think the spiritual/theological side of In-and-Out-reach is more important than the social. Spiritual in-reach is very much like what we refer to as Biblical Discipleship, and Spiritually driven outreach is Evangelism as we read about in the book of Acts. They both have a social aspect of course, but it serves the greater purpose.

It is very important that a church looks at it’s theological and spiritual belly-button and identifies which of these categories is really it’s priority. My sense is that this will be an important question to gain clarity on in the next year or so.

“Go and make disciples of all nations” are some of the last words Jesus spoke while standing on this Earth. Seems to me the opposite of that is “huddle, and be a well brain-trained single nation.”


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