The weblog of Darren Friesen

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dallas Willard: Don't make outreach a primary goal

Common wisdom says that inwardly focused churches need to focus on outreach in order to change. Dallas Willard challenges this wisdom in Renovation of the Heart:

It is, I gently suggest, a serious error to make "outreach" a primary goal of the local congregation, and especially so when those who are already "with us" have not become clear-headed and devoted apprentices of Jesus, and are not, for the most part, solidly progressing along the path. Outreach is one essential task of Christ's people, and among them there will always be those especially gifted for evangelism. But the most successful work of outreach would be the work of inreach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.

A simple goal for the leaders of a particular group would be to bring all those in attendance to understand clearly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be solidly committed to discipleship in their whole life. That is, when they are asked who they are, the first words out of their mouth would be, "I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ." This goal would have to be approached very gently and lovingly and patiently with existing groups, where the people involved have not understood this to be part of their membership commitment.


Blogger Kim said...

I think this is a bit like the riddle of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. If a congregation is so inward focused that they don't even recognize the world in need out there, they are clearly not on a discipleship path and getting exposure to out there could be the first steps to recognizing a need to change from inward to outward focus. I agree this goal needs to be approached patiently & lovingly, but I'm not sure gentleness is appropriate or even possible.

7:55 AM

Anonymous Thinker said...

The chicken or the egg. :] I like that. I gotta say though, I think we could stick to the Biblical example and do quite well. Jesus was baptized and then went on a fast while he was tempted. He waited until he was 30 to begin public ministry. Before that he was an example, a speaker, a challenger, and a witness. As he trained His disciples He taught them disciplines and correct thinking. He told Peter He would build His church on a rock. Churches need firm foundations-- Jesus is the chief cornerstone of what we try to accomplish. The cup must be washed inside to be clean. A church that tries to rise without a foundation will crumble.

6:59 PM


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