Externally Focused Quest Eric Swanson & Rick Rusaw, 2010, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco CA Reviewed by Stan Rowland The Externally Focused Quest is all about what is happening through the myriad of churches that are practicing being externally focused. This is a follow-on to their 2003 book, The Externally Focused Church. Swanson has a good way with words and uses diagrams very well to get key points across. Each chapter has key learning points which are showcased by multiple short stories related to the point. He has a couple hundred vignettes that show what External Focused Churches are doing. In the forward he identifies the Attractional Church is all about getting the community into the church while the Missional Church is externally focused and is all about getting the church into the community. What Kind of Day is Today He says ministry effectiveness, changing the trajectory of the church, will come from understanding the times and hitching a ride on the wave where God is moving. He asks, ‘What if being the largest, fastest growing and most innovative church are the wrong measure of a good church. Is there something else to working towards? The best measure is how can we be the best church FOR our community? A key question which they ask continually is, “If your church disappeared, would your community notice”? Future studies are not about prediction but about imagining plausible and possible scenarios for the future so that we can plan accordingly. Predicting the future is not the book’s goal but discovering what today’s trends and patterns are. Swanson uses an anachronism, STEEPR, to guide leadership: S is for Society. We need to know our society today. Societies are no longer defined solely as nation-states but can also be defined by generations. T is for Technology. He described four dimensions on technology. Today we live in a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all knowledge. Technology is how we access and customize life. E is for Economics. Globalization is the interconnectedness of people, goods and services of the world. China in twenty years has experienced the same degree of industrialization, urbanization and social transformation that took Europe 200 years to accomplish. E is Environment. Environmental issues don’t just affect the quality of life but threaten life itself. Too many Christians stand against such scientific data of global warming which is alienating the scientific community. P is for Political. In years past our goal was to stop communism. But today it is to spread freedom and democracy around the globe. Jim Wallis says backing political candidates is fine but ordaining them is not. R is for Religion. But a long time in history the only channel you could get was the God channel. But in the 15th and 16th century we began to understand how the world functioned. Today only 3 out of 10 adults believe that there is any absolute moral truth. Many now believe that the church has little or no value in helping them find meaning or purpose in life. There is a shift from an internal focus to an external one. Unless a church is engaged in conversation, rhythms, needs and dreams of their communities, its not the church that Jesus Christ wants it to be. He differentiates between religion and spirituality. Religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there and back. One Boulder Country resident says the institutional church is like a set of training wheels that help you learn how to ride a bike, but after you learn to ride you don’t need them any more. The problem today is not the loss of spirituality but the churches failure to recognize the existence and significance of this quest by thousands of people not involved in the church. He says a collapse in the church culture does not mean the collapse of the church. There is a strong desire for a simple organic church model which is the church in every space and every place. Part of this book’s task is to help shape what church needs to be for the 21st century and how to reach and grow people that may never be part of the conventional church. The key is not skating where the world was but where the world will be. Swanson states that the church is God’s answer for the world and our communities. The balance of the nine chapters, deal with nine key ways to be the best church FOR our community. He uses catchy titles for each chapter and showcases short stories from what the churches have been doing related to that point. Focus, They Choose the Window Seat Not the Aisle Seat He says aisle churches are those who are preoccupied with what is going on inside the four walls of the church. Window churches focus vision and work outside the walls of their church. The early church was a window seat church. He differentiates between the attractional and missional churches. The attractional church is one that through it’s program, presence and marketing seeks to attract people to it’s services. But many, many people pay no attention to them. The attractional model is a come to model. Missional churches can be described as go to churches. These churches think of incarnation as much as they think invitation. The only thing more difficult then getting the church to go into the community is getting the community into the church. Swanson then lists reasons why the church is not engaged. Missional Factors. Many people say how should we meet the needs outside the church when we have so many needs within our four walls. The mission of the church cannot merely be to maintain itself. Theological Factors. There can be no cooperation capitulation or collaboration with Christians who are less dedicated them themselves. Therefore they set themselves apart. Secular Factors. Secularization of social services has said certain activities are not part of the church but the secular world. The church is absent from conversations regarding society’s ills and needs. Personal Factors. Engaging in the world is just too hard to do therefore I will stay out of it. Swanson then looks at the scriptures emphasizing two parables, The Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The Good Samaritan calls us to engage in social action, charity, mercy etc. while the Prodigal Son calls us to evangelism, forgiveness and grace. Swanson then uses the parables of One Hundred Sheep, Ten Coins and Two Sons. These stories all focus on going after what we don’t have rather then focusing on what we do have. Externally focused churches focus on reaching the lost. Churches that transform communities are those that are inwardly strong but outwardly focused. Purpose: They Practice Weight Training, Not Bodybuilding Pastor Danny Carroll says “I’m not looking for an audience to fill up the church; I’m looking for an army to change the world”. For athletes weight training is a means to a greater end, to build strength, balance and flexibility in order to go faster, higher and stronger in a given sport. Body builders train with weights for the sole purpose of making the body more muscular, beautiful, symmetrical and physically imposing. Churches that transform communities are those that build the body of Christ to expand the capacity for ministry and service. The church exists to equip people accordingly to their calling and gifts to be salt and light in their family, church and community that God has prepared us for good works before-hand implies that these good works are ours to discover, not invent. The role of the pastor needs to change to fulfill this purpose from one who tends the hurts and needs of the congregation to one who teaches and trains the congregation to tend the hurts and needs of the community. God gives us spiritual gifts not to edify ourselves but rather to serve others. The focus is outside ourselves for the good of others nor ourselves. Real spiritual growth occurs when the physical, relational and spiritual well-being of our neighbor is as important as our own. Keys to effective service include: It must be authentic service that meets real human needs. This service must be coupled with the opportunity to process the experience with others. People doing ministry must also be recipients of ministry, a two way street of mutuality. Our journey is not a stair step journey. It is really a never ending loop. What takes us in brings us out and what takes us out brings us back in again. It is a continuing journey. Going inward is loving God and going outward is loving our neighbor as our self. The Infinity diagram below represents what is taking place. Another way of looking at what is taking place is the Celtic Knot. As a contemplative devotional life that strengthened their belief in God, they desired to live and belong in a community with like minded souls on their journey. They had a sense of mission that drove them to show compassion and blessed the world. Their diagram is show below: The space in the middle is unnamed. Swanson contends it is missional leadership. How can leaders structure the church so that every person has the opportunity to experience believing, belonging and blessing. This style of leadership is through influence not direction or authority. Swanson says we want to build strength, increase capacity, have a sustained influence and impact in our community. He says there are two measures ‘depth of engagement’ and ‘frequency of engagement’. He uses the following chart: There are people who give things or do things for others with little relationship building. There are people who will come alongside another for a period of time to help them improve their life. Then there are others who want to see people grow and to be independent and do things on their own. The vast number of people reaching out into a community are found at the bottom left hand corner of the chart giving money and things or doing something for someone once a year. The desire is start where people are at in multiple ways and multiple times in their life to help them move to a deeper commitment. The goal is to help people move to greater depth and more frequent involvement. This means moving up the grid of involvement toward empowering as well as to the right for regular involvement. Ahead of time the church must have concrete things at each commitment level and time where a person can fit in being involved. Story: They Live in he Kingdom Story, Not a Church Story The question is what kind of story have we been telling? The Kingdom is the story to tell, not the story of the church. The word kingdom is mentioned 152 times in the New Testament while the word church is only mentioned three times. The kingdom was the central teaching of the apostles. What is the Kingdom? The answer used is the Kingdom of God is any place over which God has operative dominion. The kingdom is where the king is reigning. Swanson says church people think about how to get people into the church while Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church while Kingdom people work to see the church change the world. He has a quite extensive chart comparing the two on page 76. Daniel Pink says ‘Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic, they are ideally set up to understand stories’. We tell a better story by modeling a better story and inviting others to be part of the story. Swanson goes on telling stories about how the externally focused churches are impacting their communities. The gospel of the kingdom and salvation both get conversions. The difference is the gospel of salvation is finished at conversion. The gospel of the kingdom begins at conversion and engages comprehensively and wholistically through the entire life of a person and community. Missions: the Few Send the Many, Not the Many Send the Few Initially the externally focused church focused on local mission but that is different today. Today most externally focused churches want to be the best church for their community and for the world. They see both going hand in hand. But there is a changing center in Christianity Now many missionaries are from different countries then the developed nations. He relates: Jerusalem, to across the street Judea, to across the country Samaria, to across the track, culturally different The world, to across the seas. He believes the present future in missions includes: Mutuality: There is a shift from west to east, and from north to south as the sending places for missionaries. In fact the gospel is growing in everyplace of the world but the US. There is a shift as countries receiving and sending missionaries are coming to the table as equals and with reciprocity on both sides, not a one way transaction as it use to be. Partnering: Partnering is different then Mutuality. Mutuality has to do with equality of those around the table, partnering pertains to the purposes or projects that require the needs of real partners. Partnership is built around shared values rather then bringing our separate agendas or programs. Today it is no longer missions to, nor ministry for, but ministry WITH. Investing in Leaders: Leadership is everything, whatever good things are happening, there will be a capable and passionate person leading the way. How do you recognize good leaders, by finding those who are already engaged in ministry without outside help? Combining Good Deeds and Good News: Both are critical in missions they are inter-twined. Good deeds verify the good news and good news clarifies the good deeds. Rick Warren says I am not interested in interfaith dialogue but interfaith projects. Greater Financial Accountability: Our challenge is to develop sustainable and healthy partnerships with indigenous people with out disempowering those who need help. John Martin of Good Shepherd Community Church uses the acronym RAISE o R Relationships: Always lead with relationships o A Accountability: Never give to individuals only to organizations o IS Indigenous Sustainability: Its helping local ministry do ministry without money. o E Equity: Any financial gifts should not create economic dependence but helps build local sustainability Business as Mission: Business is now becoming a part of missions which helps build sustainability. The church is finally beginning to learn how to use business people and entrepreneurs. Focus: Focus on what you do, do not shotgun missions. Churches that seem to be having the most global impact are those who focus. People want to be part of a movement, a social force to change the world and this comes through focus. Technology: In today’s world technology is becoming a major impetus to take us to the next level of mission. Look: Look at what you are doing globally Ask: As you look ask questions ready to receive answers with an open mind being willing to change. Ask questions such as do we need to keep doing this etc. Partnering: They Build Wells, Not Walls The externally focused church could and should partner with any organization that is morally positive and spiritually neutral. This means partnering with community agencies and government is normally acceptable. Paul Hiebert of Fuller Theological Seminary talks about a Bounded Set and a Centered Set: A Bounded Set asks the question do you believe as I believe, if not I cannot work with you. They exclude people and groups by this. A Centered Set consists of people who share a common affection, interest or pursuit. Do you care about what I care about? Therefore all are in and I can work with them around this allegiance. Churches that are transforming communities don’t divide over their differences but they unite around their common love for their community and task. By asking do you care what I care about, we can bypass the issue of who is right and who is wrong and head straight towards kingdom solutions of the communities and world problems. Catalytic Days of Service and Unity is practiced throughout the whole externally focused movement. It is a joint effort of dozens of churches in a city to bless the city through service projects in order to practically demonstrate God’s love. It is usually done on a specific day with hundreds coming out to clean up parks, paint schools, to feed the hungry. Swanson gives many examples from around the US to demonstrate how this works. These days of service brings visibility of the church to the city showing that the church really cares about the city. It begins to give the church credibility with the world. It allows beginning relationships to form where there were none before. It is a powerful tool for showing God’s love. And you do not have to wear T shirts or have your church logo spread all over everything you do, nor do you hand out evangelistic tracts. God is control and people ask why are you doing this you get to share in a low key non-intrusive way. Lessons Learned from Partnerships Release people to go outside the church to serve. Service for church people should not just be within the churches walls. Every partnership requires understanding the rules. Every partnership needs some boundaries and established communication channels. The church should be simply helping the community meet an existing need. You don’t have to wear T shirts with your name on it. Let service be service and marketing by marketing. Just serve other don’t market your church. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit. Those who count know who did what. Not every partnership works out. That’s OK. There is value in the people and partnership themselves. To come alongside others is a blessing in itself. When we work with others we accomplish more then we could every accomplish ourselves. 2+2 is > 4 Systems: They Create Paradigms, Not Programs A program has a beginning and end. A paradigm is a pattern or model from which many programs and initiative will flow. They will emerge from their own strengths, capacities and calling not through control. They will take a life of their own. But there is a need to create limited structures that operationalize the shared values. Externally focused churches create systems that continually reinforce values without top down control. If we want people to get into the game there does need to be systems and mechanisms between our values and action. Swanson goes on to point out 3M, John Wesley, Henry Ford really created systems to see values happen. Jim Collins says that good systems cause good thing to happen even when no one is paying attention to them. You Go About Creating Systems By: Start with a strong scriptural basis. Saturate yourself in the gospels as you begin and as you go forward. Preach about your focusing on transforming your community regularly. The message of good news and good deeds resonate not only with believers but with seekers and unbelievers as well. One of a leader’s responsibility is to communicate vision. Make it part of your church plans. Put your words into regular opportunities to get into the community to serve the community. We want to maximize opportunities to get everyone into the game. We need to think of creative ways and strategies to engage people where they are and help them move to a deeper commitment and action. Infuse service into the small groups. Each group has three goals: connect relationally, grow spiritually and make a difference. Through small groups it is good friends who help good intentions become good deeds which in turn creates goodwill. In one church each small group has multiple leaders: o Group leader o Connect champion creates community within the group o Growth champion is responsible for the Biblical content of the group o Bridge champion leads the group in making a difference in their community. Engage in regular church-wide projects. Action is a unifier. People who only think about things generally don’t work well with others. Those people of action find an easy camaraderie with others. Every church should provide an annual day or weekend when everyone can participate in a community service project. This also encourages inter-generational service. Think Kingdom, not Church. Swanson has always believed that a church should not be measured by numbers but by it’s impact on a community. The church needs to be thinking about and acting to relieve social evils. Evangelism: they Deploy Kingdom Laborers, Not Just Community Volunteers. Jesus did not ask us to pray for volunteers for the community but to ask him for workers for the harvest field. But a volunteer in a community becomes a laborer in the harvest field when they combine the good news with good deeds. Mercy is Gods attitude and action toward people in distress. Mercy is exposed in the deeds of the Good Samaritan. Jesus went about doing good, not just through his ministry of mercy but also through his ministry of empowerment, Jesus healing ministry. By healing people he was helping them from dependency on care givers to sufficiency. Empowerment deals with underlying causes of symptoms and we are called to deal with both. Empowerment is teaching people how to fish, own the pond and even how to zone the pond. Mercy tends to deal with the symptoms of a person’s life. The deepest poverty is to have nothing of value to offer others. People are worthy recipients whether they become Christians or not. John Stott says ‘Yet the reason for our acceptance of social responsibility is not primarily in order to give the gospel visibility or credibility it would otherwise lack, but for simple compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service whatever it sees need.’ It is well and good to want to be the hands and feet of Jesus by what we do but we also need to be the voice of Jesus. A question becomes how do mercy and empowerment connect to evangelism. Good deeds create goodwill and goodwill is a wonderful platform for good conversations about the good news. Good deeds are those that are perceived as good by both the receiving culture and the church. The goal of a ministry needs to be a ministry of mercy, empowerment and evangelism. The empowerment goals are all about equipping people to function on their own. Good deeds get the attention of people as few words can do. Scriptural examples lead us to believe that God will set up the opportunity for conversation through good deeds but there is still good news to be shared. We don’t need to wear a ‘T’ shirt with our churches name on it because by intentionally not seeking to advertise ourselves, we make space for others to glorify God. The best apologetics will be demonstrated as much as postulated. Many times Christians feel that they need to know all the answers which is not true. Saying I don’t know is better then trying to make up an answer. People would still rather see a sermon than hear a sermon most days. If we fully expect that when we are serving and loving, God space is being created, we will be more in tune with people and their needs and unanswered questions. The word evangelist is no longer used in just spiritual situations The word evangelist is used secularly for people who act as evangelists no matter for what situation. Guy Kawasaki lays out 10 Fundamental Principles Of Evangelism: Create a cause. A cause seizes the higher ground Love the cause. Look for agnostics ignore atheists, people who are somewhat open not closed. Localize the pain. People don’t buy revolutions. They but aspirins to fix the pain or vitamins to supplement their lives. Let people test drive the cause. Try the cause with simple no commitment opportunities. Learn and be ready to give a demonstration at any time or place. Provide a safe first step. Ignore pedigrees. Meet with, and help anyone who gets it. Never tell a lie Remember your friends. Creativity: They Innovate, Not Replicate The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes. Innovation always pertains to the productive application of creativity. 3M’s definition of innovation is ‘new ideas plus action or implementation which results in an improvement, gain or a profit’ . Innovation deals with being not simply novel or different but better. Innovation needs to be tied to results that matter in regard to your mission. Innovation always pertains to the relationship between inputs and outcomes. All innovation is ultimately tied to entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower productivity into an area of higher productivity and greater yield. Successful entrepreneurs try to create value and make a contribution. They are not satisfied with simply to improve on what already exists or to modify it. They try to create new and different values and new and different satisfactions. Anyone whose goals are higher than their available resources can be an innovator. If you are satisfied with the status quo, there is no reason to innovate. Innovation occurs not because a person is trying to be original but because a person is attempting something difficult. Innovators embrace both and generally reject either or thinking. They are always thinking what could be to what is? Also they ask ‘What do you want to accomplish that is so big that currently you don’t have the resources to accomplish. A big compelling dream is the criterion by which you measure opportunities for innovation. Swanson then goes on to compare Internal Focus to External Focus in six critical areas of measurement. People are a churches most important resource yet most people view people as consumers of religious goods and services. When Jesus followers are living on mission they become kingdom people who think about the spiritual, relational and physical well being of others Facilities can be used to increase societal impact. Use the church’s facilities for the good of the community. Prayer can be leveraged to a higher level of impact by praying for the community. Finances of Christian are critical. 97% of total church income was spent benefiting Christian with only 3% spent for the benefit of non-Christians. This needs to be shifted. Technology provides the enabling mechanisms that we use to be more efficient or effective in accomplish our mission and vision. How can we use technology for the benefit of those outside the four walls of the church? Time. How we spend our time and money are probably the most determinative things we do. Below is a chart showing the measure for external focus for the six areas. People Facilities Prayer Finances Technology Time Kingdom people Facilities are for Prayer on location How much we The church Effectiveness church and in community give away mission community Everyone on Counting people Prayer for those Church is a How to navigate Hours spent mission who use the outside our church pipeline and understand serving others facility during the the community week Number of people We need to open Prayer for other Abundance Videos of Small groups who are released up our facilities churches mentality missional engaged in the to serve, start or engagement community lead ministries Mentoring and Facilities are Pray ‘with’ you Micro-loans Mobilizing the Time spent with tutoring for ‘them’ designed for the community non-believers in community redemptive relationships People equipped This is your house Prayer for money Empowerin Creating Number of to serve others to be freed up to opportunities to children reading at help others connect to the grade level community Trying to serve Market the facility Prayer for and Jesus-like Equipment shared Staff clocking out others unlike us to the community engagement with generosity with the three people who community don’t know Jesus Loving people and Prayer gathering Providing seed Links to other Time spent with what they do with other money churches and people anywhere churches in the community community partners People Facilities Prayer Finances Technology Time Growing people Prayer for people Giving to the Town square web Fluidity through service in need church and other site organizations People in the Prayer for God to Lots of white streets change me space People Prayer for people Total number of development to be sent out by moments our church How’s our city Prayer for doing expansion of the kingdom Being People of Prayer Swanson then looks at how we build entrepreneurs: Look for areas of leverage that make a difference. Swim in Blue Oceans not Red Oceans. o Red oceans represent all industries in existence today which are competing against each other for the same fixed market. o Blue oceans denote all industries NOT in existence today. This is an unknown market space which demands creation and opportunity for highly profitable growth. o Churches to can swim in either red or blue oceans. Being the best church in our community is swimming in a red ocean. Being the best church FOR our community is swimming in a blue ocean Look for unmet needs in your community and then plan how to help meet those needs. William James said ‘genius is the capacity for seeing relationships where lesser men see none’. Thomas Edison said ‘make it a practice to keep on the lookout for novel interesting ideas that others have used successful. Your idea only has to be original in its adaption to the problem you are working on’. Looking at the same thing while thinking something different, is what innovation is all about. Outcomes: It’s About the Game, Not the Pregame Talk Many times we often grade what we do by how well the pre-game speech went rather then performance of the team on the playing field. The pre-game speech is just preparation for a game while the game itself is what we are after the action of the game and the impact of the results. It is important that we Get Everyone In The Game. To do that some things need to be done: Provide regular easy-entry opportunities that give people the chance to change the world. What if everyone in your church at year end had a story to tell how they changed the world? Awesome! He gives several stories of ways churches did this. Combine opportunity with inclination. Giving motivating sermons is one thing but people need the immediate opportunity to become involved, to put what they heard into action now. Make it personal by people inviting their friends to join them in this specific, one time opportunity. Use the words ‘Do this with me.’ There are three I’s necessary to attracting and asking volunteers o Identify specific people who would a great job in this activity o Inform them personally what they can be doing in specific terms if they join you. o Invest by giving people a chance to try out something with no strings attached before they make any greater commitment. Begin with the willing. It is important to realize that not everyone is willing to play. You can just work with the early enthusiasts who are willing to play. Let them then tell their stories and others will come along. Are We Winning and How Should we Measure it? A key thing that is necessary is to knowing how to tell if you are winning, accomplishing your goals and having impact. We need to find out: What is working? What is stuck and identify the barriers needed to be overcomed to unstick the project? What can we start new to better fulfill our mission? What do we need to abandon? Yes things need to be stopped if they aren’t working. Swanson then goes on to investigate how we measure if we are winning or not. He shares an important process to see if we are winning which to him equates to long term impact. To this end he then looks at Five Concepts in Measurement: Inputs are the human and physical resources that make the initiative possible. They include such things as the people equipment, supplies, money and time. Activities describe the essential work of the initiative. It tells how the inputs will be used. These are the steps which are part of Objective and Step Planning. Outputs are the most direct and immediate results. Each output normally relates to one activity. The oututs create the potential for Outcomes to appear. In most instances they are measurable and could include total numbers of latrines, number of home visits by CHEs etc. Outcomes are the short and medium range changes that occurred in individual lives and families. They describe the key changes that have happened through the initiative. They are fewer in number and flow naturally from several of the outputs. In reality these are the objectives we want to accomplish as presented earlier. Impact is the long range change in the community or society. It is a picture of the desired future. They are the collective results of individual changes in a community. It is the reason why it is important to do the initiative. In planning describe a scenario that is close enough to show a real contribution to the desired change yet big enough and far enough out on the horizon to be visionary. If you ask a pastor to describe their church they will only answer in terms of inputs, activities, and outputs. But they do not really know what the desired outcomes or impact might be. What we need to be looking for is long term impact which in most instances these changes are not a direct result of our ministry because many people and groups are involved and we should be leading through influence, not direction. So the question is, What does winning look like for your church? How do you measure what really matters in your community? What impact is your church having? Would the community even notice if your church is no longer there?
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