It’s the Overflow

It’s popular these days to focus on getting the church “out of the building” to serve others.I’m all for it. Many churches spend too much time cloistered in holy huddle of sorts, off mission, and internally focused. However, there is another way we might be able to accomplish the same goal more effectively. There is another possible explanation for a lack of servanthood, mission-drift, and lack of evangelistic fervor. I wonder if such things aren’t first a symptom of an impoverished inner life. In fact, I don’t just wonder. I’m convinced.

Those close to Christ will resemble him inevitably over time. At the same time, serving while not close to Christ is a nice thing to do, but little more. This isn’t to say that service doesn’t have some intrinsic worth. It’s also not to say that one doesn’t grow closer to Christ by serving. It’s to say that serving itself does not a Christian make. Just as God doesn’t desire worship offered by those who spurn the basin and the towel, God isn’t asking for a generation of Marthas who spurn fellowship with Christ. Following the servant Christ by serving is how disciples live. It must be lived out in that order.

Both Scripture and experience lead me to the conclusion that unless a person or church’s inner life is growing and vibrant, the outpouring of that inner life (service, evangelism, generosity, etc.) will be forced or anemic. I’ve never seen authentic Christian benevolence or Christian evangelism or Christian generosity without an authentic spirituality firmly rooted in Christ. Why? The Holy Spirit’s work is what births Christian compassion, generosity, and all the other fruit churches and believers long to see. Nothing else. From cover to cover, Scripture bears witness to the igniting power of God’s Spirit to transform the hearts and lives of people.

Prayer, worship, study of the Scripture, Communion help us see the world with the God-lens. Coupled with the God-fire, it drives us to live the God-life characterized by compassion for the poor, burden for the lost, and zeal for the Kingdom.

Here’s a question: In general, would the Kingdom benefit from the church focusing on it’s inner life, outer life, or both? What about your congregation specifically?

Note, the preceding is an excerpt from a previous blog post.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “It’s the Overflow

  1. Darin,

    Just had time to read my comment back. Just wanted to say I didn’t mean to sound short in my response. I was just typing hurriedly 🙂 Thanks for your comment. Blessings.

  2. Darin, the Bible is covered with testimony to the reality of God’s Spirit bearing fruit in people’s lives, and the Greatest Commandment is to love God with everything. The verse you quote from Hebrews about worship needs to be taken alongside the other passages in the Bible about worship–and the book of Hebrews seeks to strengthen a worshiping community by offering a robust doctrine of Christ–not encouraging them toward works. If anything, Hebrews 10:25 illustrates the point that without gathering together, there may not be understanding, supply, or desire for works.

    Works flow from the inside out. Works righteousness is warned against throughout the Bible. We see people talking a good game about spirituality yet doing nothing rebuked. But, genuine Christianity, as I see it throughout the Bible keeps Christ first in all things–letting not even good works become a substitute for authentic love and desire for God. There is a navel-gazing “inward” focus. That’s not spirituality, though. There is another heresy that claims all Jesus cares about is whether we are doing good. Both are wrong.

    • Thanks for the response.

      Not disagreeing with the basic idea, just looking for text that say focusing on the inner person necessarily leads to love of neighbor. I’m just not sure in a self-focused culture that you get much more than people taking a break from time to time from their self-focus to do something for others, usually around Christmas or Thanksgiving.

      I also don’t see anything constructive when we cry works any time someone points out that active faith means helping the widow, poor, orphan and alien.

      • Darin, I don’t think we should ever divorce inner life and outward obedience. For me, it’s a doctrine of the Holy Spirit that teaches my point. Even texts like “out of the heart the mouth speaks” help me understand where my actions spring from.

  3. You begin by offering a better way. Am I to understand that your better way is to focus internally with the belief that the more we do so then the more likely we are to see people loving their neighbor and looking outward?

    I would be interested to hear the scripture that brings that conclusion. I agree that you can have people working to do good without being tethered closely to Christ but I see no indication where being close to Christ guarantees action.

    “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25

    The writer of Hebrews calls for Christians to gather for what purpose? How to move each other toward love and good deeds.

    I believe that the problem is people do not take their personal time to get closer to Jesus and expect the church gathering to do that for them. If people spent their personal time getting closer to God then the corporate gathering of the church would always be about outward focus and getting the church outside of the walls because it would recognize that is the purpose of gathering together.