In the beginning of church planting, removed from an established church and familiar surroundings, my eyes were up and ears open, my spiritual senses on high alert. There was a newfound urgency about the gospel and an awareness regarding our city that motivated me to pursue acquaintances, neighbors, parents of my children's classmates, even strangers pushing their kids on swings beside mine at the park. At our previous, established church, we had ministered mostly to Christians inside the church, but suddenly we had no church and were finely tuned to the people outside Christian circles. In that first year or two of planting, my every prayer was laced with pleas for our city and its people. It was all very exciting to me.
|Picture by my friend Tahni over at Joyeuse Photography|
And now I fear that it has happened. My church planter's heart has become dull and desensitized. Whereas once the people we had over for dinner were our unbelieving neighbors, now we more often (always?) socialize with people committed to our church. Sadly, I find myself doing what I did before we planted: head down, eyes averted, barely noticing the people beside me as I go about my day in the city. I know one cannot live life hopped up on adrenaline and urgency, but where is the balance between building community inside the church and having an outward posture to those on the outside? I am struggling to find it.
Is this not the struggle of the Church, to cultivate inwardness and outwardness at the same time? We cannot lose inwardness because they must know us by our love, but we also cannot lose outwardness because they must actually know us to see Christ in our love. We must be together in our sorrows and struggles and joys, but also be with others who are alone and isolated and invite them into our community. I must do these things, but I'm not always sure how.
I am asking Him about these things because I know the answer is not to volunteer for something or add something to my to-do list to make myself feel better about it all. I am asking for a renewed heart--a church planter's heart--that has eyes to see people, ears to hear beyond their words, and feet that go forward with good news.
There are no easy answers to these questions it seems, but what has God shown you about striking a balance between the inward and the outward?