Sometimes, in the life of a church, you have to deal with items that are stressful. In the midst of the stress, the ultimate goal is to find unity. While we may disagree with one another, in the end, we have to find a way to bring about peace and unity.

One of the ways that I believe we experienced that this evening was in bringing together our leaders and allowing everyone who wanted to share speak their minds. Respectfully listening to and considering the thoughts and opinions of others is crucial. Why? Because often times, people just want to know that they are being heard.

Even when we don’t receive the results we desire, we have to respect the process that ultimately led to a final decision. It’s sort of like the Presidential election. Some folks didn’t vote for Barack Obama. But, you have to feel pretty good that we have the right to vote…to contribute to the process.

This evening, we dealt with an issue. Everyone in the room shared their thoughts. We voted. We accepted the results. And, now, we join together to move forward. We join together to “help others take their next step towards Christ…together.” We unite to do all we can to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We can now put this behind us and begin to focus on our next project.

 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

An Improper Focus

This morning, I am deeply troubled by events that will transpire later this evening. In the midst of tumbling stock markets, job losses, failing marriages, people losing their homes, massive poverty throughout the world, and people dying of treatable illnesses we will be spending time and energy on a minor, non-Kingdom issue. It is an improper focus. Unfortunately, because a minor issue has spiraled out of control, we have to take the time to address it.

I have been accused of taking the issue too lightly. I have been informed this is a very important issue that has a major impact on the ability of the church to function. And, I absolutely, whole-heartedly disagree!

The issue that is stealing our focus has absolutely nothing to do with making disciples for Jesus Christ. We could try and twist the issue in a manner to justify that it is about Jesus…but it would be quite a stretch. Our goals as a congregation are to increase our efforts and become faithful with our stewardship, outreach, and evangelism ministries. The issue we will be addressing this evening has nothing to do with these three areas. Again, we could try and twist it to justify that it is about stewardship, outreach, and evangelism. But, again, that would be some stretch.

What is disappointing and discouraging to me is that this non-Kingdom of God issue is interfering with our ability to focus on Kingdom of God issues. Tonight, while we will be spending our time discussing an issue that is entirely about personal preferences, people will die, people will receive foreclosure notices, people will receive pink slips, children will go to bed hungry…and we will be focusing on our personal preferences. People in our community and world are in desperate need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. And rather than discussing how we can get that message out, we will be focusing on ourselves…on our desires…on our felt needs (felt needs are things we’ve convinced ourselves are needs, but they aren’t).

Late last night, I received an e-mail that originated from a friend, mentor, and former pastor. In it, he encouraged people to open our eyes and realize when we are majoring in the minors. It’s in those moments when we major on the minors that we miss what God is truly calling us to. He warned us of investing our time and energy into the minors because it steals our time, energy, and focus from the things that truly matter…making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. He said that we stir up a lot of “sound and fury” that amounts to “simply nothing.” He said in majoring in the minors, we are “spending ourselves in debates that seem to have precious little to do with disciple making (Matthew 28) or feeding the hungry and clothing the naked (Matthew 25)”. I could not agree more!

He ended his e-mail with these words that I think we should all embrace, “Let’s invest ourselves in discussions that build up the Body of Christ, and point us beyond ourselves to a world hungry for the grace and truth Jesus Christ has to offer.”

When we think of it in this manner, we begin to realize how selfish and inwardly focused we can be. Certainly we can move “beyond ourselves.”