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The Church: What Is Its Focus? Does It Have One?



(PLEASE NOTE: This third article is part of a series on The Church. If you've already read the first article which also serves as an introduction to this series, please begin here to read my response to the third question presented in the introduction. If you've not yet read the introduction, please read it first. The intro sets up the purpose for this mini-series and will help you to make sense of it all. Click here to go to that intro).


Churches have many points of focus, all based on their goals. If their primary goal is numerical growth, then the focus will be on activities, programs, and advertising campaigns that are designed to bring in the masses. The focus, then, would be on the superficial.


If the goal is spiritual growth, the focus will be on the people: Where are they? Where should they be? How do we get them there?


Sometimes pastors and church leaders will go to great lengths to attract people and to try to keep them. If the one determining the goal believes that entertainment is crucial to keeping those who are coming, then the focus will be on entertainment. The use of entertainment as a means to keep up the interest of attendees is fast becoming the order of the day. But shouldn't we be more interested in leading people to stay because they are excited about Jesus rather than because they are being entertained?


Even within the same church you might find several goals working with and/or against each other. If so, you'll find several things competing to be the focal point. So how do we determine what's best? I'm glad you asked.


Matthew 6:33 should guide us in determining our focus: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (NIV).


To "seek first" means to make His Kingdom our highest priority; we put nothing ahead of His Kingdom; not our goals, not our desires, not entertainment, not even the people. If it's important to do firstly and most importantly, then it's something to which we are to give our best, our most, and deepest commitment; our highest integrity.


So, since it's that important, were we to determine our church's focus flippantly or vainly, it would belittle its importance and cheapen its value. The only focus we can justify seeking first is the one given by the Head of the church…His agenda, not ours; His focus, not ours; His purpose, not ours. Is the church doing that? Well, not exactly.


One problem I've observed is that most pastors understand that to seek first God's Kingdom means to do justice to the five-fold purpose of the church (I address these in my response to the first question in The Church: Part I). Pastors often attempt to lead their churches to seek God's Kingdom first, but because of heavy-handed church members with agendas of their own, the pastor struggles to keep the church on course. He finds himself embroiled in a battle with every attempt to steer the church in the direction in which God is leading.


Because he's expending so much time and energy trying to wrestle the hi-jacked rudder from the controlling church members, he's unable to lead the church as he should; and so it just kind of drifts into the future with no distinguishable direction or focus. The pastor purposes to let Jesus be Lord of His own church, but others, be it a small group, a long-time member, a deacon, or just an obnoxious loud-mouth, feel they should be lord of the church. And boy do they fight for it. I've even seen them "campaign" for control and the last say.


Pastors have a vested interest in the direction of the church. Often they spend numerous hours in prayer each week hearing from the Lord about the direction in which He wants His church to go. The Pastor often leads with confidence and clarity because of this time spent with Jesus. That's why he's so quick to stand against any attempts at a hostile takeover or any efforts to redirect the work of the Lord in that place. He's been with Jesus; he knows the mind of Christ for the church, so he confronts those who are just trying to push their own agendas so that the lordship, which belongs to the Lord, stays with the Lord.


We could have a lengthy discussion about Pastors who don't spend numerous hours in prayer and haven't heard a word from the Lord, but we'll save that for another time. Suffice it to say that it's imperative that they do. Without it, they will not be able to discern the mind of Christ for His church.


Now, I want you to think about something with me. In the New Testament, who made the decisions about the direction of the church? On the Day of Pentecost when so many new believers were ushered into God's Kingdom and into the church, did the apostles gather everyone together to ask their opinions about the direction of the church? No! They were all new believers. They were immature, untested, unaccustomed to hearing God's voice, still not used to being filled with the Spirit, and totally inexperienced in giving direction to a church. So, the democratic process was non-existent. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a New Testament example of a church that used the democratic process…for the same reasons I just listed.


But what happens in many of our churches today? As soon as someone joins, he or she is given voting rights. If an issue arises that begs the wisdom and experience of mature believers who are experienced in listening to the voice of God, in walking in the Spirit, in engaging in spiritual warfare, in making decisions that don't make sense humanly speaking, in deep intercessory prayer, and in taking great risks, you're not going to get the thing done correctly if new and immature believers are permitted to set the direction of the church. Sure, their voices need to be heard and their experiences considered, but they've never done church before, never been involved in setting the direction of something wholly spiritual, and don't yet have the spiritual discernment and capacity to know the right way to feel about the issues. So, it would be easy for them to vote in a way that would be contrary to the direction the Spirit wants to lead the church. That's why so many churches today are fractured, if not broken. They've valued the democratic process over the wisdom of mature believers and have paid an incredibly high price.


The New Testament example of the Apostle's approach to leadership properly translated into our contemporary era might reveal a more biblical way to modern church leadership. One of the best models I've seen is that of a Leadership Team, selected by the pastor and approved by the church, that sets the direction for years to come. The pastor knows the people, prays about each person he's considering, selects a mature cross-section of the body of Christ under the leadership of the Spirit, and together they seek the Lord in much prayer about the future of His church (there is wisdom in the presence of many counselors (and pray-ers)…provided they're mature and godly).


From this Leadership Team, or something akin to it, goals are set that give the church the proper focus for making the greatest impact and the greatest number of mature disciples possible.


So, if a church leadership team determines that the church's focus is non-existent or out of focus, it must seek to be "refitted." In fact, that may be necessary every few years. Every church must occasionally adjust and make mid-course corrections along the way.


"Increasingly segmented lifestyles, religious pluralism and even the "worship wars" within today's churches are among the most significant challenges Robert E. Reccord sees ahead for evangelical Christians in the 21st century. Reccord, former president of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, in speaking to state evangelism, church planting, and media leaders, said Southern Baptists must emulate the capacity for rapid change of the B-52 bomber to be effective in reaching a rapidly changing culture.


"The aircraft first flew in 1954 but because it is refitted every four years with the latest technology it is expected to have a life expectancy through 2030. 'At every step of the way [the B-52] adapted and changed to meet the conditions, while never losing sight of its mission."4


That's what we must do. Church leaders today must determine if their church's focus is "Kingdom first" or agenda driven -- if Jesus is Lord or if it is letting some domineering personality be lord. And if needed, it must make every effort to be refitted for the glory of God.


But are churches doing that? Not many. Too many are intently focused on maintaining the status quo. But maintenance is a whole lot different than ministry. And the status quo is overrated.


So what do we do? We establish a team of mature believers. We stay on our faces before God until He shows us what our church's focus should be. Then we ask the Spirit to be the Mechanic Who dismantles the outdated aspects of this flying machine called the church and refits it with all that's necessary to have the God-honoring, God-given focus needed to impact our communities for Christ. Yes, it can be painful and tiring; but what could be more painful and tiring than the drudgery of maintaining something that isn't working?


In order to keep the main thing the main thing, we must have a Kingdom-first focus in our lives and in our churches. Let's purpose in our hearts to consult the Mechanic soon…before we crash and burn.


4"Reccord: Gear up for rapid change to be effective in coming years" by James Dotson, Baptist Press, July 31, 2002. To read complete story go to: http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=13941 ). PreachingNow Newsletter, August 13, 2002.







Copyright © 2009. Faith Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.

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