What is an inward focus? A simple way to explain this is that one is only thinking of themselves and not concerned about what others may want. Every week, I attempt to share what it means to be a good neighbor and how we should strive to live like Jesus. My concern is that not enough people hear this message or vision I am trying to cast. An inward focus destroys churches because of an unwillingness to change, live like Jesus, and continue to do what they have always done. An inward focus causes more of a divide between God and us.
This topic is an uncomfortable one for many because they do not believe it pertains to them. I hate to break it to everyone, but I am talking to everyone when I speak about this topic. I have heard a lot of input from some people about how we or I should do things at Marble. Thank you for the information. Unfortunately, I am not interested in living in the past. Times are different, and if things done in the past worked so well, why have the numbers continued to decline? Marble has continued to have a steady flow of decline over the last several years. I would say a lot of that is attributed to an inward focus that still exists today. I am sure that is not easy to hear or listen to if someone does not think it pertains to them.
We need to focus more on the essential things like the Gospel, spreading the Good News, and loving our neighbors. This way of living is difficult when we focus on things like what we want in service, where we have a coffee hour, making sure the pastor meets all of our personal needs, and willingly offering advice on what to do but not wanting to help make them happen. I am sure by this point; people might be thinking that I am frustrated. Well, I am. As your pastor, I am trying to do things that will address those who are here and those who are not here for the better of the church. I love Milan and enjoy being here. I like the potential I see in Marble. But if we ever want things to get better around here, we must be willing to change who we are and what we do to keep our doors open.
“When we hold an inward focus, it not only separates us from God but also our neighbors.”
Marble Memorial is not a place where membership entitles us to the things we want or how we should be served. Marble Memorial should be a place that all feel welcomed, and they want to stay because we believe in something better so all may experience God's love and grace. People should walk out the doors feeling good about what they have experienced when they worship with us. We do not want them going home and feeling upset or frustrated because of a negative vibe or inward focus being displayed. Jesus did not go after the ninety-nine but instead went after the one. The ninety-nine that are here should care for each other while we chase the one we do not want to getaway. Living like Jesus in plain sight and loving on our neighbors is what will draw us closer to them and God.
Please understand something that I feel is important. God loves you, and so do I! As a pastor, trying to get people to see what the problem(s) might be in the local church context is always a challenge. Again, my job is to make the comfortable uncomfortable. Yes, you can be upset. The question I will ask is, "what are you truly upset about?" Are you upset with me? Are you upset because you are not getting your way? Maybe you are upset because anything new or different makes you uncomfortable. Finally, how does one set aside an inward focus, not be bothered by change, and create a space for all to feel welcome? I wish I had a simple answer for all of you, and I do not. I believe that if we can do everything with love and grace, not just for ourselves but for our neighbors too, we will not be upset and appreciate God's love for us even more.
To an outsider, this piece might bring up some questions or make you question why come to Marble. My answer would that we are just as broken and hurting as the next church. We are not perfect, but we are working on what it takes to be the neighborhood church for everyone. So, whether you are someone that attends here already or not, we must support each other as we strive to become a welcoming neighborhood church so that all may experience God’s love and grace.
Peace be with you, neighbor.