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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN




Look Out!

A recent conversation with a brother in Christ in another part of the state where I live made me stop and think. For a few years he and his family have worshiped with a growing, evangelistic congregation. Before that he was attending a congregation in the same county several miles away. He did not criticize the former congregation he left to worship where he now does, but in describing his current church home he said, "It is nice to be going to church and worshiping where the church is looking out, instead of in." He went on to observe that sometimes there seem to be personal agendas that hinder the church from being more mission-minded. The brother commented that while in his opinion his current congregation needs to do more evangelism locally, he was at least glad that it was looking out.

"LOOK OUT." Those two words capture a message the Bible communicates to God's people in every generation. The Old Testament reveals that God was a looking-out God. God called Abraham in Genesis 12 and told him that through him and his descendants "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (vs 3). Because He is a looking-out God, the Lord used the chosen nation of Israel to bring the Messiah into the world, and "when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4). Jesus was a looking-out Savior, and His self-proclaimed mission statement is recorded in Luke 19:10 —"the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." His path though this world led, not to a padded pew and comfortable church building, but out into a world of hurt and need and sin, and finally to an old rugged cross — all because He was looking out for us. The early church looked out, not in. Even after scattered by persecution, they "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). Their main concern was not entertaining worship styles, faddish faith, buildings or budgets, a fifteen-minute sermon, debating doctrine, or talking about how wrong everybody else was. They refused to become a looking-in church. They preached the gospel to every creature, and "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).

A few years ago Don Loftis reported on a survey (by George Colbert) of religious individuals who were active in their local churches. Colbert asked them what they thought the church's #1 purpose was. The response was telling. A full 80% of them thought the church's primary responsibility was to take care of the members' needs. To quote Brother Loftis, "In other words, four out of five felt that the church existed to take care of itself." The Bible tells us, of course, that in the church "the members should have the same care for one another" (1 Corinthians 12:25) as we seek to meet each other's needs. We must be aware of people in our midst who are hurting physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially, etc. But if we are to get the gospel to billions of lost people, we must not allow outreach to be an option or a secondary activity. Jesus continues to challenge His church to look out. "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4:35)" Are we listening? If we are we will LOOK OUT!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ