Following Jesus Beyond the Walls of the Church | COTH Blog | Church on the Hill

Following Jesus Beyond the Walls of the Church

February 14, 2024 | Jeff Coleman

5 minute read time

Have you ever seen what happens when a church turns inward? It’s the inevitable pull of any organization over time. The tug toward inwardness often happens when a church begins to struggle, attendance declines, giving goes down, and other factors are introduced into the “body” that ultimately creates a sense of dis-ease. You experience this when you’re sick. You don’t want to go anywhere, do anything, but lay on the couch or stay in bed and rest. The Body of Christ is no different.

In my many years of local church ministry, I’ve seen this over and over again. No church desires to slip into an inward state. No church wants to experience “mission drift.” Most every church I’ve ever encountered wants to be a vibrant, life-giving, hope-filled community of people that are serving, worshipping, and growing together. They want to make a difference for God’s glory.

Pastor Mark Anderson (name has been changed), a pastor with decades of experience, shared a profound insight with me years ago. Having witnessed the ebb and flow of countless congregations, he reflected on the devastating effects of churches losing focus. “When a church turns inward, it loses its pulse. The enthusiasm that comes from actively engaging with the community diminishes, and a disconnect forms. It’s not merely about attendance, giving, or any other measuring stick; it’s about impact for Jesus Christ, which slowly becomes lost.”

Then he said something I’ll never forget. “Imagine what would happen if the community woke up one day and your church was gone. Would anyone miss you?”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of a church that the community can’t do without. I want to be a part of a congregational movement that offers the help, hope, and healing of Jesus everywhere the people go, from housing developments to restaurants, from corporate offices to county parks and ballfields, from gated communities to homeless encampments. Wherever you find people that’s where the Church (aka: the people, the Body of Christ) should be.

Consider Janae’s story (name changed). Janae was a dedicated member of our church and she found comfort in the congregation, but one day she felt a Holy Spirit nudge to move beyond the walls. She engaged in a local outreach opportunity and saw first-hand what those who are less fortunate face every day. The experience not only deepened her understanding of the church’s role in coming alongside others, but it also sparked a newfound joy in serving. Janae realized that the church, at its core, is a conduit of the love of God in Christ, which is meant to extend beyond its physical boundaries of the church building.

Through this outreach, continuing to worship regularly, and sharing with others in community, Janae experienced a spiritual awakening. She said, “Meeting people where they are, regardless of their circumstances, allowed me to see the face of Jesus in each person I encountered. It's not just about giving food or clothes – even though that’s important – but rather, it's about acknowledging their humanity and offering them dignity as we show them, they are valued and that God loves them as they are.” Janae’s commitment to serving beyond the walls of the church became a living testament to the transformative power of embodying Jesus’ message of compassion and care.

The call to follow Jesus extends far beyond the confines of our sacred space; it beckons us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the broken and hurting world around us.

So, what church would you rather attend? One that’s only a social club designed to further your networking potential, one that has turned inward due to fear, scarcity thinking, and loss of focus with a weak pulse. OR, one that calls forth a desire in God’s people to bear witness to the Risen Christ beyond the walls by serving the “least of these” (Matthew 25:45). James reminds us that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). It’s time for us to breathe life into our faith by engaging in meaningful service beyond our comfort zones.

Here are a few practical ways we can activate our faith:

  1. Identify Your Passion: Discover what stirs your heart. Is it visiting the elderly, mentoring youth, or participating in community clean-up projects, serving in children’s ministry, helping to organize and administer details behind the scenes, etc.? Find your passion and let it guide your service. If you’ve never taken a Spiritual Gifts Survey before, CLICK HERE to take one that will help provide you with a profile of your God-given gifts.
  2. Join a Ministry Team: Our church offers various ministry opportunities. Whether it’s outreach, education, or hospitality, find a team that aligns with your gifts and interests. To  learn more about ministry opportunities CLICK HERE.
  3. Pray for Guidance: Seek God’s guidance in identifying areas where your unique talents can make a difference. Let the Holy Spirit direct your steps as you step out in faith.
  4. Be Intentional in Relationships: Building relationships with those we serve is crucial. It’s not just about the task at hand; it’s about the people we encounter and the impact we make in their lives.
  5. Encourage Others to Join: The more hands and hearts involved, the greater the impact. Encourage fellow church and group members to step out in faith and join you in serving the community.

I pray that we are a church known not only for our worship within these walls, but also for the love and compassion we extend beyond them. When we embrace the call to serve others in the name of Jesus, we unlock – through the power of the Holy Spirit – the transformative power of the Gospel, not just in the lives of those we serve, but within our own hearts as well.

“Imagine what would happen if the community woke up one day and your church was gone. Would anyone miss you?”

I truly doubt this will happen because by actively embodying our faith beyond the walls of a church building, we live the truth that that WE ARE THE CHURCH!