There are three points at which the church expresses relationship (or the lack thereof). These three points are layered; that is, they are always the same three points, but the identity and/or description of the three points can be expressed differently depending on the subject or object of the relationship. The three points are Upward, Inward, and Outward. For example, Jesus expressed an upward relationship with the Father, an inward relationship with His followers, and an outward relationship with a hurting world. First, Jesus expressed the mission of God in who He was; equipping him, secondly, to express that mission in and with His followers, which, finally, could be corporately expressed to a hurting world. Because Jesus had an upward relationship with God He could have an inward relationship with His followers and they could have an outward relationship with a hurting world. The expression of God’s relationship with Jesus is the focus for His followers, which is the expression of His followers to the world.
Another aspect, or layer, of this three-pointed expression is our own individual upward relationship with the Father, our inward relationship with our own-self because of that upward relationship with God and, our outward expression of those relationships with God and self in our relationships with others. If we attempt to outwardly express a relationship with God without first internalizing the relationship, our expression is broken. We expect others to experience something we have not, yet, experienced. Likewise, if we immediately go outward without first going upward, then we offer only the same brokenness and hurt that the world already knows and experiences because we, ourselves, have not healed.
The expression of the church is to be a reflection of its upward relationship with God, its inward relationship with itself, and its outward relationship with a hurting world because of its upward and inward relationships – in that order. A church that moves from the upward relationship with the Father to an inward relationship with itself, and does not move outward to the hurting world, is an exclusive club of ineffectiveness. What is outward only serves to feed itself. A church that moves from the upward relationship directly to the outward relationship, but does not first express the inward relationship, is hypocritical. It speaks of things it does not know and it finds its identity in the numbers of people in line in its outreach ministries. And a church that begins with the inward and moves outward, without the upward relationship with the Father, is simply and only a humanitarian aid; the ultra-social gospel, where humanity is on mission to fix humanity and not God’s mission to heal humanity.
Individually and corporately, we must strike a balanced order in our relationships and there expressions. Upward, inward, and then outward is the necessary order. The balance comes in relation to the personal need of the upward to heal the inward so as to express it outwardly. We must strike the balance individually before we can do so corporately. Yet, the corporate expression of upward, inward, and outward is where the individual order is forged. Oh, the importance of the primal upward!