I really love football on a slightly obsessive level. I spent my college years surrounded by football players and coaches and fell in love with the defensive side of the game. A good friend of mine is a coach and he coaches the defensive backs (the guys at the very back of the defense). He would always say that he could tell where one of his players was moving out of place just by watching where his helmet was pointed. He told me one time, “Your body will always go where your eyes are.” Ah, how true is that? Wherever our focus is, that is what we will follow after. That got me thinking about what our focus is on in our churches. The more I thought about it, the more I discovered some areas where our helmets are pointed the wrong way. Here are a few places where I think we completely miss the point:
<1> We focus on behavior.
Personally, I believe this is the absolutely number one way we miss the point. We look at people, see their evil actions, and write them a prescription for some good Christian things to make them stop doing those actions. We fail to see that behavior is a result of a mindset not the cause of it. Evil actions are only a symptom of something deeper, darker, and more dangerous that is going on in someone’s heart, and there is no amount of duty that can heal them from it.
“And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him” –Colossians 1:21-22 (NET)
Our behavior is a result of what we believe about who God is and how He relates to us. The above verse makes it pretty clear that we are holy, without blemish, and blameless. He relates to us as blameless people; not in anger, hatred, or disappointment. Our focus should be on teaching people who they are not on fixing what they do.
<2> We see corruption in the world but not within the church.
How quick we are to see the darkness of this world. How often we preach of its dangers, speaking mostly of the overtly obvious sins found “out there” such as drinking, drugs, or violence. How easy we overlook the corruption hiding behind our own stained-glass windows. We teach messages fueled by guilt and hand out lists to our people in frantic attempts to get them to act better, seem put together, and look happy. There is darkness sitting in the pews of our churches, unopposed, destroying the lives of those who venture there to find hope.
I know I talk quite a bit about the short comings of the churches built on cornerstones of law, but I think even those who are grace centered struggle with something similar to this. Only, we become too focused on the corruption within the church and we fail to ever talk about the depravity of our world. This world is a mine field of emptiness. There is evil that wants desperately to destroy us all and we should talk about that with our students, in our churches, and within our homes. The totality of the Bible is not a battle of law against grace, some things are just a war of good versus evil. Let’s not be too quick to assume that everything in the Bible speaks to our specific battle. Satan’s only limits are the ones we choose to put on him.
<3> We are more focused on numbers than our people.
Right, so, this one hits a nerve with me. Why are we so concerned with how many members our church has? Is God going to cut our funding if we don’t recruit enough players? Will He write us off as a lost cause if we don’t keep enough butts in the seats? Maybe I’m just crazy, but I really think we should focus more on the people who are there than on those who aren’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally believe that everyone needs to hear the awesome, life changing truth that is found in church! However, I think if your main goal is getting people in, then you will lose the hearts of those who are already there. We cannot neglect the lives and hearts of our people in search of new bodies to pack our sanctuaries. Preach truth, live in love, and ignite desire in those who are there and don’t be surprised if more people come looking for what those people have. If you build it, they will come.
<4> We call our people to be leaders without teaching them how.
The place where this happens most often is in our youth groups. We call our students to be something great, to change the world, and to lead revolutions. I remember many times hearing voices of church leaders tell me, “You are meant for something great, you need to be out there showing people what a good Christian looks like. “ Another popular one was, “You are an influence on your classmates; be a Godly example.” Those things sound really great. The problem was no one ever taught us how to do those things. I was deeply broken and, quite honestly, the only influence I was capable of being was a bad one. If we call our students to leadership without guidance we will only get a bunch of broken people trying to put others back together while they themselves fall apart. We cannot call our people to be revolutionaries unless we first teach them what a revolutionary is. One can only relate based on how they are related to; similarly one can only lead if they are first led. Be the revolutionary you wish your students to be.
It’s time we lifted our heads up. It’s time we refocused on what is really important. It’s time we became relevant to our world. Let us clear our eyes and purpose our hearts to be something great in a world urgently in need of what we have to offer.