Here’s a Q and A with Pastor Shawn Allen, founder of MissionalUnity.com . . .
Question: What does it mean to live UP / IN / OUT?
Pastor Shawn Allen: In nearly 20 years of ministry, I have come across dozens of answers to the question: How does a person follow Jesus? The simplest, most comprehensive, and most memorable description of following Jesus that I have found, developed by Mike Breen, describes following Jesus in three directions:
Living UP toward God
Living IN toward the Church
Living OUT toward the world
Question: Why does this concept help people follow Jesus?
Pastor Shawn Allen: These words give us a vision to help us know who God is calling us to become, and at the same time gives us simple words we can use to talk about who God is calling us to become.
Question: Can you explain how living UP/IN/OUT is simple and memorable?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Well, try explaining the concept to a preschooler: UP. IN. OUT. They can hear those three words one time and never forget them, especially if you write them as the three points of a triangle. The simplicity makes this concept easy to understand and easy to remember. By the way, that’s the problem with most attempts to describe the Christian life. In an effort to cover everything viewed as essential, the description is too complicated for the average person to understand and remember.
Question: OK. So how can a concept that’s so simple and memorable also be comprehensive?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Even though the words are so simple, every aspect of the Christian life can be clearly seen to fall under the umbrella of UP, IN, or OUT. If you made a list of ways of being a follower of Jesus, or activities that someone does as they follow Jesus, perhaps you think of prayer, reading Scripture, forgiving others, using your spiritual gifts to build up others, evangelizing, meeting the physical needs of someone who isn’t following Jesus. Well, each one of those are examples of living UP, IN, or OUT. Prayer and reading Scripture is living UP toward God. Forgiving others and using your spiritual gifts is living IN toward the Church. Evangelizing and meeting the needs of someone who isn’t following Christ is living OUT toward the world.
Question: Shouldn’t we be modeling our life after Jesus, and not these simple phrases?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Yes, we should be modeling our life after Jesus, and this UP, IN, OUT vision is based directly on the life of Jesus Himself. A great story that helps us visualize Jesus living in all three directions is found in Luke 6:12-19.
. . . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Question: How do you see Jesus living UP, IN, and OUT in that story?
Pastor Shawn Allen: In this one day of Jesus’ life, we see Jesus living UP toward His father, IN toward his disciples, and OUT toward the world.
Question: How do you see Jesus living UP toward His father?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Luke says . . . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. That’s Jesus living UP. Living UP is all about our vertical relationship with God. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend a night praying to His Father, then surely, the rest of God’s children need quality time with God. Of course that’s only the beginning, because when Jesus finished his time with the Father, He presented His entire life to the Father as a living sacrifice. And we are called to do the same. That’s living UP toward God.
Question: Alright. How do you see Jesus living IN toward the Church?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Luke says: When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles . . . Here we see Jesus living IN. He understood that loving God meant loving people. For Jesus, living IN meant serving people, meeting needs, forgiving them, and here in this passage, leading people to follow Him. That’s our responsibility as well. Our UP relationship with God has to extend IN toward people. IN toward the people of our local church and the Church in our region. Loving, serving and forgiving others. And leading them to follow Jesus more closely. That’s living IN toward the Church.
Question: That leaves living OUT. How do you see Jesus living OUT toward the world?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Luke says: He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people . . . had come to hear him and be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. Look at Jesus’ next move. He now goes with his disciples OUT to the world, to people who need to hear and see powerful truth lived out. That’s Jesus living OUT. Before leaving the earth, Jesus challenged his followers to make disciples of all nations, and here in Palm Beach County, we have the unique opportunity to make disciples of all nations in our own neighborhoods and workplaces. Imitating Jesus, we live OUT as we intentionally build relationships with people, looking for opportunities to speak and live God’s powerful truth. That’s living OUT toward God.
Question: How does living UP toward God, IN toward the Church, and OUT toward the world relate to people today?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Sure. I would encourage each person to look back at those names of Jesus’ disciples in Luke 6. Simon, Andrew, Matthew, and so on. Every one of them was called by Jesus, and every one of them responded to the call. 11 of the 12 followed Jesus with all their heart, devoting their whole life to Him. They learned from Jesus how to cultivate an UP relationship with the Father, how to live IN authentic community, and how to spread the good news about Jesus OUT to the world. Jesus is still calling people to follow Him, even today, even in this moment as you are listening to or reading this interview. The question is: are you willing to live UP toward God, IN toward the Church, and OUT toward the world?
Question: What’s the next step for someone who wants to live UP, IN, and OUT?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Get with a friend and audit your life. Between the two of you, try to discern if you are walking in all three directions. If you are, can you identify which is the weakest direction? if so, confess that to God, and make a plan with your friend that will help you grow in that direction. Make sure you agree to get together with that friend again soon so that you have accountability for your plan.
Question: How can living UP, IN, and OUT strengthen congregations?
Pastor Shawn Allen: Since a congregation is a collection of Christ-followers, and since the Bible describes the Church as the body of Christ, it makes sense that a congregation should be living UP, IN, and OUT, just like the Lord they are following. Congregational leaders can audit themselves to determine if they are leading their members to live in all three directions. Most churches will discover that if they look at all their programs, ministries, and emphases, that they are probably strong in one or two directions, and weaker in at least one direction. The congregation can then make a plan to lead their members to grow in that weaker direction, and set up accountability for themselves to ensure the plan is followed.
Question: How does living UP, IN, and OUT relate to missional unity?
Pastor Shawn Allen: The best chance individuals and congregations have of living UP, IN, and OUT is to live UP, IN, and OUT with followers of Christ from their own and from other congregations. For example, to live UP toward God, to see God’s vision most clearly, a follower of Jesus should surround themselves with followers of Jesus who come from different backgrounds, have different experiences of God, and who emphasize different attributes of God. To live IN toward the Church, a follower of Jesus should cultivate authentic community with those who know them best, but should also intentionally connect with followers of Jesus who might not ever attend their congregation. To live OUT toward the world, a follower of Jesus should partner with other followers of Jesus and go on God’s mission together.
Question: What is the best resource to help individuals and churches live UP, IN, and OUT together?
Pastor Shawn Allen: MissionalUnity.com was built as an electronic hub to inspire every follower of Jesus to join God’s mission together . . . in other words, to live UP, IN, and OUT together. Upon invitation, we would love to help strengthen congregations to live UP, IN, and OUT, and to help partner congregations to do so together. If you are leader, contact us to start this process. We’ll help you audit your own congregation, do what we can to help your congregation live UP, IN, and OUT more fully, and help you explore how connecting with other churches can help. If you are a member of a congregation, ask the leaders of your congregation if they will invite us to help your congregation be strengthened to live UP, IN, and OUT. Your leaders can contact us here.