Are we focusing on the wrong thing?

There is a thought bubbling inside of me. A thought that is sort of dangerous for me because it will require more of me than I think I want to give right now, but I can’t seem to shake it. I look around at what we are doing at church. I look at our meetings and our singing and our worship gatherings and our desperate pleas to get people to come into our building. And the more I look at it the more it looks to me like something that Jesus would have no part of. The more I look at it the more it looks like something that is totally missing the point of Christianity.

Let me come right off the top and say I am not pointing a finger at anyone but me. I am specifically talking about the things that I am in charge of–the things that I can control. And all of them seem to be very much focused on what goes on inside the walls of that building than about what happens on the outside. I mean, I talk about what happens on the outside, but we don’t show it much. We don’t do many things that actually take us outside of our walls and our little group.

But the thing is the more I look at the gospel of Jesus. The more I see his life and the things that he was passionate about the more I think we aren’t even coming close.

18 “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
       Because He has anointed Me
      To preach the gospel to the poor;
      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
      To proclaim liberty to the captives
      And recovery of sight to the blind,
      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
      Luke 4:18  (NKJV)

 Jesus stood up in the assembly and read these verses from Isaiah declaring his mission here on earth, and I keep coming back to the thought that this should be what we are about too. I don’t have it all in my head yet, but here are some things that I feel we should focus on.

1) We must be involved in social justice issues: Feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, healing the sick, being a friend to the outcast. Our lives as Christians should be characterized by a radical desire to meet the needs of those around us.

2) Our politics should reflect our first concern: We need to break away from being Republican shills and start to look at how we can influence policies that make a real difference and that reflect the sanctity of all life. (that includes homosexuals too)

3) Our focus must shift from "come to our meeting" to "let’s go and meet needs": In order to make this happen we must allow our staff the freedom to be more than just preachers and pastors. All members must step up to the plate to allow the leadership the time and energy to lead us out into our communities

4) We must break out of our American consumer mindset and realize that we are enslaved by our stuff: As I say this I look around at my room with TV, computer, laptop, video camera (broken, but still), digital camera, a shelf full of books and Digital Juice stuff. Let me be the first to admit that I am addicted and I need the power of God to break me from this addiction.

5) Finally we must see that worship, true worship that is in spirit and in truth, cannot be contained inside the walls of a church. We must take our praise to the streets showing our love to God by loving his people. We must become servants to all in order to be servants of Christ.

If we can do this. If we can even make a small shift towards this then maybe we can actually be a part of bring change to this world. We will never make this place heaven. But we can do our best to bring God’s love to the people around us and around the world who are desperate for it. 

We are focusing on the wrong thing. And I am afraid that if we don’t find a way to regain our focus, God will destroy these false temples we have built and raise up for Himself a people who will love serve Him in love.

6 thoughts on “Are we focusing on the wrong thing?

  • June 10, 2007 at 10:46 AM
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    You’re not making any sense, Shane. That’s not what it’s all about. That stuff that you’re talking about is messy, unorganized, distasteful, and uncomfortable. Not to mention impractical. No, I’m happy with the status quo. If you want to know how good of a Christian I am, I’ll be glad to show you my church membership card, my tithing records, or my Sunday School attendance percentages. Those are the marks of true Christianity. However, it does sadden me that I won’t be receiving my full reward in Heaven since I don’t have a WWJD bracelet on my wrist or a fish sticker on the back of my SUV. I’m going to have to work on that. But for now, be quiet and stop saying such things, you might cause people to lose their religion on you.

    Reply
  • June 11, 2007 at 5:47 PM
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    I have wanted to comment since I first read this, and I have reread it many times, but I know what I am going to say won’t be concise or well said.

    I agree with you. I think we get overly focused on all the things Andy sarcasticly mentioned and we forget about the mission that Jesus himself set for us and all people. I look at the world and some of the things be done in the name of God and I am appalled. But there is hope. There are people like you speaking out.

    Working with youth is a great thing when looking for hope. I can teach them about what Jesus has called us to do and I can see that influence on them.

    I just want to add to your comment about social justice and say that it goes far beyond giving to the poor. We need to work for ways to help people stand on their own two feet, to help people gain dignity and a sense of living that goes beyond merely surviving. Programs that provide training and fair wages are very important to support. Something as simple as only using fair trade coffee at church social functions can make a world of difference for a coffee farmer trying to compete in an unstable market filled with huge multinational corporations.

    Reading the intro to a book called "The Story of Christianity" by Justo L. Gonzalez, I was again drawn back to what you wrote. Partly because your conclusion was so lacking in hope that I wanted share this part: " At…times it will appear to many of us that the church has forsaken the biblical faith, and some will even dobut that such a church can be truly ‘Christian.’ At such points…, it may be well to remember two things. The first of these is that, while this narrative is the history of the deeds of the Spirit, it is the history of those deeds through sinners such as us…The second is that it has been through those sinners and that church-and only through them-that the biblical message has come to us. Even in the darkest time of the life of the church, there were those Christians who loved, studied, kept and copied the Scriptures, and thus bequeathed them to us.
    What those earlier Christians have bequeathed to us, however, is more than the text of Scripture. They have also left the illuminating record of their striving to be faithful witnesses in the most diverse circumstances."

    I like this because it gives me hope. We are not the only people in time to struggle with what is the correct path for the church and whether we are working faithfully towards the mission set for us by Jesus. God still chooses us inspite of all our flaws and indifference.

    Most people don’t want to do what God is asking of them because it usually means leaving behind our comforts, but we are in good company. We are not the first to struggle with this. Jesus says in Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God had come near; repent and hear the good news." God’s kingdom has come and is coming. It is our job as disciples to further God’s kingdom. I think your list is a very good start.

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  • June 12, 2007 at 4:32 PM
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    "…all the things Andy sarcasticly mentioned…"

    Sarcasm? What?!? I’m fo’ real!!!

    Reply
  • June 12, 2007 at 6:50 PM
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    My 20 year home church is between pastors. If we don’t get a new guy that breaks all of this tradition and religion and lead us towards the church of Acts 2 and 4, my family and I are gone. I am tired of this plastic Jesus game. Do we really think Jesus is happy with what His church has become? We spend millions of dollars on these huge grandiose cathedrals for a god who dwells in the hearts of men while people go to bed hungry around the world and in our own backyards. Wrong focus indeed.

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  • June 13, 2007 at 8:48 PM
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    I agree with you as well Shane. We need to stop playing church and spread the love of Jesus. What Andy said about church membership, paying tithes etc. is not the the main part of church.

    Church is so much more. It starts with our heart and our daily living. If our everyday lives aren’t reflecting Christ and his walk on earth then I think it is in vain.

    This is happening even at our church, where leaders get caught up in traditional worship and having everything done the same every week, that it scares me. We sing the same songs, we pay our tithes every week we talk about Jesus but are we really reflecting him??

    Each of us can do our part in our little corner and let Jesus shine throughout our lives and we can then have a meaningful service at church, outdoors or wherever.

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  • June 13, 2007 at 10:24 PM
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    What Nikhola said about Leadership really hit home with me. It is hard to lead people outside of traditional church. Life comes at us from all sides, and sometimes we fall back onto our same old routines. It is messy thing to get out of churches and interact with people.

    Reply

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