Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications
of Steve Sjogren & Dave Ping's new book, Outflow: Outward-Focused
Living in a Self-Focused World, (Group Publishing, 2006).
Imagine that your life is a fountain. If you focus mostly on yourself,
you'll be too dry or clogged up to flow properly. But if you shift
your focus to other people, the living water of God's love will flow
through you to your family, friends, and others throughout your
community and the world.
Here's how you can let God's love flow through you:
* Invite God to fill you up. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you. Then
rely on His power and wisdom in your everyday life. Depend on God's
unlimited strength instead of your own limited strength. Recognize
that God Himself will provide all the living water your fountain needs
to overflow into other people's lives.
* Remember your blessings, and ask for new ones. Make time to write
down some memorable ways God has blessed you – including some
blessings that came in disguise. Think about how those blessings have
shown you God's love in action. Thank God for specific blessings He
has already given you, and don't hesitate to ask Him for new ones.
* Let your selfish ways decrease so God will increase within you. Ask
God to help you change selfish thought and behavior patterns. Pray
about each of them specifically. Don't depend on your own efforts or
look to other people to find true fulfillment. Remember that God is
the only reliable source of fulfillment.
* Offer your treasure to God. Recognize that God placed such a high
value on you that He was willing to die for your sins so you can be
reconciled to Him. Honestly ask yourself what your relationship with
God is worth to you. Consider what you treasure most in your life –
time, money, family, friends, your work, or something else. Then think
and pray about how you can offer that treasure to God by using it to
* Get to know God's voice. Get your spiritual senses tuned up through
prayer, Bible reading, and talking with Christians you admire who will
help you grow in faith. Ask God to reveal Himself to you and help you
recognize His voice. Stop hurrying; slow your pace of life down and
pay close attention to ways God will speak to you every day. Stop
worrying; realize that dwelling on your concerns will drown out God's
voice. Decide to trust that God is powerful enough and loving enough
to care for your problems. Choose to trust that God knows what's best
for your life. Know that when you trust in God is when you'll be most
fulfilled. Pray for God to make you aware of the things that steal
your time, help you give up control over the things you worry about,
and to help you trust Him with every aspect of your life.
* Make time for worship. Recognize that worship isn't just about
attending a weekly church service; it's a lifestyle of expressing your
love for God all the time. Set aside time on a regular basis to praise
God for who He is. Schedule times of prayer and Bible reading every
day. Look for creative ways to connect with God each day, such as by
hiking in His creation, journaling your thoughts to Him, or using the
talents He has given you to serve people in need.
* Share every part of your life with God. Know that your contributions
to the world may seem insignificant to you, but from God's
perspective, they make a powerful difference. Understand that small
acts done with great love can accomplish just as much as huge, heroic
feats for God. Don't hold anything back that God leads you to give.
Ask Him to use everything you have – time, energy, money, talents,
lessons learned through suffering, and more – to accomplish His
purposes. Be honest with God about all your thoughts and feelings.
Fully express your hopes, joys, desires, fears, doubts, and struggles.
Place them all in God's hands and trust Him to transform them into a
force in your life that will help you change the world for the better.
* Serve God with love. Decide to serve a cause that's greater than
your own life – God's kingdom. Realize that you can't earn God's love,
so don't try to do so through service. Don't serve expecting to get
something for yourself in return, either. Instead, let your gratitude
for all God has done for you motivate you to do what you can to
contribute to His work on Earth. Ask God to help you see beyond your
own problems to other people's lives, and to make you aware of
opportunities to help them. Don't procrastinate; schedule a few hours
this week to help a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.
Make it a habit to set aside time to help others; incorporate service
into your lifestyle. Know that service will enrich not just those whom
you help, but also you, because it will draw you closer to God. Expect
that service won't be convenient, but it will always be worthwhile.
Let people whom you serve know that you're helping them with
absolutely no strings attached. When God leads you to do so, serve
people anonymously. Be creative about ways to fit more service into
your life, such as by transforming some of your daily activities into
acts of service and using money you would have spent to buy something
for yourself to buy a gift for someone else instead. Recognize that
even small acts of service are hugely significant in God's eyes and
can have big results.
* Evangelize wisely. Acknowledge the negative experiences many people
have had with evangelization efforts that come across as pushy, rude,
arrogant, or disrespectful. Make sure the people you're trying to
reach with the Gospel know that you care about them as people – not
just potential converts. Ask God to help you see people as He does.
Pray for God's love to flow through you into the lives of people you
encounter. Make time to build genuine relationships with them.
Remember that they need to know that you care before they care what
you know. Consider what specific ways you can naturally let God's love
flow into the everyday activities you do with your family and friends.
Think and pray about what acts of kindness you can do to communicate
God's love to them. Always be prepared to answer spiritual questions
people ask, but do so with gentleness and respect. Remember that most
people are loved into God's kingdom rather than argued into it. Don't
feel undue pressure, as if you're the only one responsible for
bringing a loved one to Christ. Understand that God wants you to do
your part, but that ultimately He is the one who works in that
person's heart to draw him or her into a saving relationship with Him.
Remember that God loves your family and friends even more than you do,
and, unlike you, God isn't limited in His efforts to reach them.
* Listen well. Let people know you care about them enough to truly
listen to the thoughts and feelings they express. Lay aside your own
agenda in conversations and give people a chance to control the
direction and pace of the conversation so they can fully express
themselves. Know that doing so will tell people that you genuinely
care, and will often lead them to share more openly with you about
their spirituality. Be slow to speak, but quick to listen. Ask God to
help you avoid becoming angry, defensive, or controlling when those
you love say something with which you disagree. Ask people open-ended,
non-threatening questions to help get them wondering about spiritual
issues and begin exploring the issues more themselves. Pray for the
Holy Spirit to get your mind off whatever might be distracting you and
onto God's purposes as you converse with other people.
* Reach out to your community. Whenever you're out in public in your
local area, ask God to give you His perspective on the people you meet
so you can see them as He views them. Ask Him to help you have genuine
compassion for acquaintances and strangers in your community. Pour out
generous words and kind actions whenever you have opportunities to do
so. Make it your goal to have every person you encounter experience
some of God's love through you. Notice people around you who seem to
need more peace, and pray for them silently or even approach them to
start up conversations with them. Make a habit of going to same stores
and restaurants so the employees there will come to know you
personally and you can share God's love regularly with them. Get
involved in what's happening in your area by volunteering and serving
in visible ways locally – not just through your church, but also
through other groups like an animal rescue group or park conservation
board . Take local adult education classes, join the Chamber of
Commerce, or join a sports team to meet other people in your area.
Consider kind acts like paying for the meal of the person in line
behind you at a fast food drive-through, or tipping extra generously
at a restaurant. Once strangers become your friends and you engage in
deeper conversations, don't hesitate to invite them to come to your
home for a meal, attend an event like a sports game or concert with
you, or come to church with you. Be sure that you're reaching out to
everyone you meet – even people who might make you feel uncomfortable,
such as the disabled, terminally ill, or people struggling with
addictions or poverty. Let God push you out of your comfort zones. Ask
Him to replace your fear with faith, and help you love people
unconditionally, as He does. Intentionally go to places where you'll
likely come into contact with people who have different values than
you do – such as bars – and get to know someone there with whom you
can build a genuine friendship. Recognize that God wants to use your
efforts to reach out to help not only other people, but also you, by
helping you mature through your relationships with them. Ask God to
help you learn all He wants you to learn from the people you meet.
Pray for God to reveal His vision for your community, and help you
understand specific ways you can help fulfill that vision. Be willing
to take risks. Remember that the point of reaching out isn't to get
more members for your local church, but to help people reconcile with
God, no matter where they end up going to church. Look at a map of
your community and pray for people in various neighborhoods. Consider
walking through those neighborhoods as you pray.
Adapted from Outflow: Outward-Focused Living in a Self-Focused World,
copyright 2006 by Steve Sjogren and Dave Ping. Published by Group
Publishing, Inc., Loveland, Co., www.grouppublishing.com.
Steve Sjogren is a best-selling author and founding pastor of Vineyard
Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. His innovative approach to
evangelism helped the church grow from 30 people to more than 6,000.
Dave Ping is Executive Director of Equipping Ministries International.
More than 130,000 pastors, missionaries, and volunteer leaders have
been equipped to reach out more effectively using his practical