Not long ago I went to my favorite
restaurant, the Screaming Coyote, to purchase a Forklift burrito,
the biggest ever made, to bring home to share with my wife. While
waiting I noticed a young mother with her child. The mother was
dressed in typical alternative dress, appropriately ripped jeans,
T-shirt and Doc Martin sandals. She was wearing more than one
earring and looked like the typical post modern. While she was
digging in to her purse to find the correct change to purchase her
food, her baby sat in his stroller and stared into space. He did not
look well. I then noticed a tube running to his nose. I thought, ‘I
need to pray for the child.’ It was a crowded night so I waited
for my order and observed that the mother had moved to the sidewalk
tables. I paid for my burrito and nachos and strolled outside. I
introduced myself and asked the mom about her child mentioning that
I had noticed the tube. She explained that the baby had been born
premature and had some major health problems since the birth and
that the tube was a feeding tube. Interestingly she also informed me
she had named the child a biblical name. At some point in the
conversation I asked if I could pray for her and the baby.
Unsurprisingly she affirmed by saying something like, ‘That would
be nice. Thank you very much’. Before I prayed I asked
permission to place my hand on the child’s head and then prayed a
please give health to baby and grant wisdom and strength to mom
type of prayer. I did notice the mother had tears rolling down her
face. At the end of the prayer, I said, ‘Thanks for letting me
pray.’ She responded tearfully by saying, ‘No, thank you for
praying.’ Her next response ripped my heart she said, ‘I
didn’t think anybody cared.’ Stunned, I affirmed God’s care and
love for her and her child and told her about a great outward
focused church where I knew she could find acceptance. The only
problem, it was miles away.
As I walked away I pondered the
situation. I was living in Pensacola, host of a revival that had
been going on for over two years, and here was a person who never
knew somebody cared for her life. I thought about Jesus and the many
times compassion moved Him to action. He was graceful and caring
toward the people who needed health and healing. I then thought,
‘When will the church ever be a go church instead of a come to
church? When will the church ever become outward focused instead of
inward focused?’ Something happened in my life that day I can
never explain. I did know I wanted to be part of a church that cared
and welcomed people where an alternative young mother and child
could find refuge.
Not long after this event I moved
to Cincinnati, Ohio and became a part of Vineyard Community Church,
one of the largest outward focused churches in the USA. Thousands of
people each week are touched with God’s love through varied
expressions of Servant Evangelism. Hundreds of people are then
welcomed by the staff, an army of fantastic volunteers, and pastors.
People are allowed to come as they are and hang out.
They are also patiently encouraged to discover Jesus and become a
part of the church. The love and care we present to thousands out
there each week through ServeFest is duplicated by the
atmosphere we seek to create in the celebrations.
What makes Vineyard Community
Church a part of a growing group of people across the world who are
attempting to be outward focused? I believe that many years ago they
discovered their purpose for their existence. In a nutshell,
Vineyard Community Church exists to love the people of Cincinnati
into a relationship with Jesus Christ. That means it is a go church.
Why does the church Exist?
The Church is God’s great idea. It
is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way.
The people of the early church were “the called out ones”,
“disciples”, and followers of the “Way”. In the early
church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe,
togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community, and a strong
sense of mission. The resulting fruit?…
The Lord added to the church day by
day those being saved…and the church found favor with all the
Our mission and focus is all
important. It defines why we exist and why we are here. Emil Bruner
in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its
Reason For Being states,’The Church exists by mission as fire
exists by burning. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry
in the U.K. once said, ‘When we lose sight of the great
commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life.’
Both statements are extremely important. When any church
focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s
primary purpose for existence it will eventually loose it’s
purposeful mission. That church will quickly forget why it is
blessed in the first place.
Many people need to recover their
sense of mission. Disillusioned Charismatics in particular, who were
seeking the great dream of a painless, prosperous Christianity have
realized the dream was merely a vapor without substance. In their
pursuit to find fulfillment through the accumulation of things, and
seeking to become successful they have become inward and blessing
God wants to get the attention of
the church. His purpose… that the church might seek Him and discover
His passion for our dismembered world.
It is interesting to view church
movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal
blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are
mission/value-driven. Some of the fastest-growing churches in the
USA are in this category. They are doing all they can to reach
everyone they can. They are focused upon the main thing. Everything
For example Pastor Rick Warren…
with the 15,000 member Saddleback Church… author of the 1,000,000
best seller The Purpose Driven Church… He encourages leaders
to recapture their purpose, by defining their mission…A church
committed to the great commandment and to the great commission will
grow a great church.
80% of his church growth is by
first-time believers. As one man stated, “We cannot continue to
be a traditional church and expect non-believers to want to be a
part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to
experience the reality of life-changing answers for life’s problems
and the God of that reality.”
The questions Warren asks in his
book provoke thought…What drives your church? What is it’s purpose
in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of
mission? Or is it a church adrift?
Sometimes getting back to our
foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders
we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? and
how is business? Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need
to discover our present reality in order to move forward.
One year during a losing season
Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi gathered the team together
and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This is getting
back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His
team together, point to our world and say, ‘Church this is your
mission.’ It really does matter where you focus your aim. It
will set the course of your life.
Where are you aiming? Inward or
outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist? May I suggest that
answering these questions will help you discover what really matters
to you and to your church.
Fill in the blanks: Our church
exists to _____________________ ________________.
We are a church that
Our purpose in this town, city is
Our main focus is to
May I also suggest that if you
answer anything less than the Great Commission you are falling far
short of your destiny. Secondly check and see if your practice
equals what you believe / value. Christians often define themselves
by what they believe. Our communities define us by what we do.
Steve Bowen is the
Director of Extend for the
Community Church ministries outside of the city. After 18
years church-planting in Scotland, Steve and his wife Patti
returned to the States with one dream: to pour heart and soul
into seeing churches turned inside out with the power of
showing God's love in practical ways.
Steve loves nothing better than
talking about Servant Evangelism. Call him
at 513-671-0422 ext. 6349. Or
email him at firstname.lastname@example.org He'd love to hear from you!