outward-looking church

In his preface to the revised (2004) edition of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Pastor Mark Dever has a very interesting potential ‘tenth mark’:

“If I had to add one more mark to what you’re about to read, it wouldn’t be missions or prayer or worship; but it would touch on all of those things. I think that I would add that we want our congregations to be outward-looking. We are to be upwardly focused – God-centered. But we are also, I think, supposed to reflect God’s own love as we look out on other people and on other congregations.

This can show itself in many ways… We do pray in the pastoral prayer each Sunday morning for the prosperity of the Gospel in other lands and through other local congregations… We have internships for those preparing for the pastorate. We have curriculum we write and talks we give. All of this is for the building up of other congregations. As a pastor, I am certain that I need to realize that, under God, the local church is responsible for raising up the next generation of leaders. No Bible college, course, or seminary can do this. And such raising up of new leaders—for here and abroad—should be one of the goals of our church.” [pp. 17-18, emphasis added]

Michael Green is helpful on this theme of outward-looking churches:

“Antioch itself was a missionary situation. It was a young church which owed its origin to informal missionaries. It could well have argued that they had plenty to do in Antioch, and could not bother about anything beyond their borders. But… Antioch was a church which looked beyond itself… Hence their support of the Jerusalem Christians when famine struck. Hence their readiness to send Paul and Barnabas on the missionary journey to Cyprus and South Asia Minor… Just imagine the sacrifice involved in allowing two of their most gifted teachers and leaders to depart on some mad excursion, not knowing… whether they would ever see them again.

Is there not an important lesson here? We shall be fired to evangelism in our own locality in proportion as we are willing to neglect our own needs and look to needier places… which we can support. It is the church which waters others that is herself watered. But how few churches seem to believe this.” [from Evangelism Now and Then, quoted by Jeff Read in The First Principles: Building for Future Generations]

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