ExternallyFocusedChurchCoverWhat are you going to do to plug the hole that’s quickly sinking this church?

You’re the Interim Pastor and you’ve got the dreadful feeling that this client church retained you to bail water and not repair the leak. Isn’t that what Interim Pastors do, pick up the bucket the departing pastor dropped?

The assessment confirms your first intuition: these folks are so focused on themselves that they have no concern about the Great Commission and no compassion for the souls in the neighborhood.

You’re an experienced Interim Minister. You’ve seen this before, but not to this degree. So what do you turn to? What have you got in your toolkit that will help you develop a strategy to solve the real problem?

Let me suggest a tool you may want to add to your collection. (Any excuse for buying another book is a good one, right?)

The book, The Externally Focused Church [affiliate link] by Rick Rucksaw and Eric Swanson should be one of the first tools you reach for. This engaging book is a delight to read (you’ll find plenty of sermon illustrations to stick in your sermon file under “stuff I stole from other thieves”) The “case study” stories are helpful and there are excellent resources in the Appendices.

They set the book’s agenda right up front. In the introduction they write,

[E]very statistic tells us that the church in America today is becoming more and more marginalized and less and less influential…. One of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. Honest, compassionate service can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share. To tell the truth we must show the truth. (page 11)

The Appendix on “Scriptures Concerning Good Works and Good Deeds” is a helpful resource for preaching texts. If you start with those texts and borrow some of the chapter illustrations – giving credit where credit is due – you’ll have a good start on the preaching calendar.

An Important Definition


Externally focused churches emphasize bringing new people into the church. They invest resources in moving worship, excellent teaching, flourishing ministry for youth, and transforming small groups. Churches that focus on the question of “whose lives are different because of this church?” develop several distinctive qualities:

  • They know that the church is vital to the well-being of the surrounding communities.
  • They see service as the normal way of living the Christian life.
  • They know good works can’t be separated from the good news.
  • They send church members into the community to be the church in the marketplace by means of love and good deeds.

The chapter titles walk you through the process of moving from an internally focused church to a fully engaged church that is organized around an external focus and effective gospel ministry.

Interim pastors will be especially interested in the second chapter, which scores one congregation’s journey to becoming an externally focused church. Here are the chapter titles:

  1. What is an Externally Focused Church?
  2. Becoming Externally Focused – One Church’s Journey
  3. The Power of Service
  4. Helping People Grow
  5. Nothing Happens Outside of Relationships
  6. Good News and Good Deeds
  7. From Mercy to Justice
  8. Casting the Vision
  9. Assessing the Needs of Your Community
  10. Organizing for Usefulness
  11. The Best is Yet to Come

Action Steps

Additional Resources