When I was a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, my professor of counseling, Stanley Watson, used to say “Actions precede attitudes.” He would speak about how a married couple who say they no longer love each other can rekindle those loving emotions through performing loving actions toward one another.
Actions can lead to attitudes. I have found that principle true in my life.
This truth can be applied to ministry as well. Everyone who writes on church revitalization writes about the importance of turning a church’s focus from inward to outward. It is one of the key steps in revitalization. But how do you lead a church to turn her attention outward? And how can you do so when the church doesn’t even want to turn from her inward ways?
You apply the “actions precede attitudes” principle.
To assist in your church becoming an outwardly-focused church, let me recommend five actions:
1. Take a prayer walk
Schedule a prayer walk for a select community or section of your city or town. Instruct those who participate to walk slowly through their assigned area and pray for who and what they see. For instance, if they see children’s toys, pray for those children to come to know Christ. Should they encounter someone, inform them they are praying for their community and ask if there is anything about which they could pray for them. Schedule monthly prayer walks. Don’t be discouraged about those who do not come, but invest in those who do. After the prayer walk, return to the church together and report what each experienced.
2. Experiment with servant ministries
Steve Sjogren’s book, Conspiracy of Kindness, details how Steve grew his church in Cincinnati, Ohio, through servant ministry. Many of his ideas have helped transform inwardly-focused churches to outward. Common servant ministry ideas include battery giveaways for smoke detectors, light bulb giveaways, free car washes and car repairs for senior adults and single mothers. Another of his books, 101 Ways to Reach Your Community, provides enough ideas to keep any church busy. The concept is simple: Get out of the church and serve somebody. As believers serve others, their focus will change as compassion fills their hearts. Plan a servant ministry each quarter and watch your church be transformed.
3. Move your family-night supper out of the church building
Instead of having a covered dish family night supper or a prepared meal brought to your fellowship hall, take your church family to a local restaurant. Contact the restaurant in advance and let them be prepared for your church coming to bless them. Try to find a weeknight that is not too busy for the restaurant. Prepare your people to tip well, to be patient waiting for their food, to fellowship with one another and others who are open and to have a good time. Show the world a little Christian joy and bless your local restaurants in the process. We did this in our small town and it was well received by our businesses. It doesn’t cost the church anything, and there is no cleanup!
4. Take a mission trip
Sometimes people will say they don’t believe in individuals taking mission trips, doing things “there” that they do not do “here.” In theory, they are right, but the reality is that often people have to go “there” and see a need before they can see the need “here.” Through mission trips –both nationally and internationally — I have seen the hearts of individuals turned toward local needs. We could wish it worked the other way around, but most often it doesn’t. So if you want to see your church’s focus turned outward, take a mission trip. You can serve in Tennessee through various Compassion Ministry sites or go nationally, as well as internationally, through the TBC’s partnership mission opportunities. Whichever you decide is fine — as long as you go.
5. Start a 1-5-1 group
Get off of your church campus and start a 1-5-1 Bible study. The purpose of such groups is to engage lost people with the gospel. Start one Bible study targeted for lost people with the hope that at least five of them will accept Christ and follow through with baptism. Plan for the one group to birth another group in the future. The TBC website has all the information you need to get started. Don’t be afraid to start small. It only takes one person willing to step out of their comfort zone. Maybe you will be the one used to start the transformation of your church from inward focused to outward focused.
Actions precede attitudes. Take action. Choose an action and watch the attitudes change in the outward direction!
Joe Sorah is a Harvest Field Team Leader/Compassion Ministry Leader/Compassion Ministry Specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. To connect with Joe about these and other ideas, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.