Move Your Focus
If your traveling direction is off by only one degree, you will miss your mark by just 0.2 inch after one foot, or 5.2 feet after 100 yards. That’s not much, but if you are traveling from San Francisco to Washington DC, you will miss your mark by 42.6 miles and land up in Baltimore. Going to the moon, only one degree off will make you miss your mark by 4,169 miles, or by 441 billion miles to the nearest star.
Can this also apply to what we focus on in life? Can moving your focus make a big difference, even if it’s only by one degree? How about what we do in the church? Dr. Joseph Kidder, who teaches at Andrews University, suggests we need to make a few “moves,” as in moving or changing our focus.
1. Move from Programs to People.
Have you heard the following laments in the church? The reason we aren’t growing is because there is a lack of spirituality in the church. We have succumbed to Laodicean lukewarmness. When was the last time we had an evangelistic campaign in our church? Where are the youth? How do we keep the young adults from leaving? We lack enthusiasm . . . and on and on. What is the solution? Now be painfully honest. Where does your mind go? Mine, for many years, went to “What can we do?”, meaning, “What new program can we invent to save the day?” A healthy cooking program, a stop-smoking program, a VBS program, a gardening program, or a prophecy study program.
Have we become so focused on the next great program that we have lost or missed the more important, weightier matters of people and our relationships with them? Dr. Kidder, in his book The Big Four, says, “It is through relationships that we learn to apply the principles of the gospel to real life.... As people associate with us and see that we are better people because of Jesus – that we are better fathers and mothers, better husbands and wives, better sons and daughters – they are more likely to be attracted to Christianity than just by hearing doctrine or theology.”
2. Move from Just Doing Church to Spiritual Discipleship.
From a study of Adventist members conducted by Dr. Kidder, the results indicate that only 73% of our active members pray every day, only 37% have ongoing daily Bible study, and only 28% have daily family worship. If that were also true of our Mac church, and I would guess it is very close to that, then what does that tell us?
Do we have more excitement at board meeting about trivial things than about Jesus and His mission? Have we gotten so used to doing the “business” of the church that we have lost sight of the “mission” of the church? Dr. Kidder remarks on his efforts to direct one of his churches in a more spiritual direction. He says, “...I discovered how difficult it is to turn the church into a holy place.” What? Really? Think about your church. Is it a holy place? And I’m not talking about marked areas where children and women can’t go, like they had in the Jewish temple.
My prayer/vision is that McMinnville Adventist Church will be a place where spontaneous heartfelt prayer is offered in the foyer or offices for individual people needs; a place where Sabbath School classes are interrupted by prayer sessions and laying on of hands when specific people needs are aired and discovered; and a place where board and committee meetings are bathed in prayer before issues are discussed, without it being seen as a waste of time or used as a ceremonial filler.
3. Move from Programs to Purpose.
Do we feel good and pride ourselves in being a “busy” church with many programs and lots going on? Have we elevated “busyness” to a level of value, because our work ethic demands it? Has busyness become the goal, so that we have lost our true direction and purpose for doing what we’re doing?
I’m so glad that our church has a mission statement. Jesus is right up front and center, followed by our values of healing relationships, mentoring, and outreach. How do we move from programs to purpose? Not by having a mission statement, but by implementing it in every facet of church life. We have intentionally worked at these values in three phases, starting three years ago with an emphasis on healing relationships. The second year we added mentoring, and now in the third year we are emphasizing witnessing and outreach to our neighbors, family, and friends in the neighborhood as an evangelistic thrust. Each phase does not stop after a year. They keep functioning together.
Without a planned outcome, we have no purpose, and without purpose we are just treading water or elevating busyness as a virtue.
4. Move from Event to Process.
This refers to moving from event-focused to process-focused evangelism. Evangelism is not just something that happens under a canvas tent or hall with a beginning and ending date. Dr. Kidder says, “One of the most prevalent misconceptions about evangelism is that it is an event: something that the church prepares for, does, and then recovers from!” That makes me smile, because I’ve experienced it many times.
If evangelism is not an event but a process, what does that look like? I once again use Kidder’s words: “Evangelism is woven into the very fabric of the Christian’s daily living, a process worked out in the lives of people over time.” This reminds me of the testimony of Peter and John in Acts 4:20 NIV, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” For a true child of God who has experienced a true, heartfelt conversion, whose heart has been touched by the Holy Spirit, evangelism is a way of life. It is like breathing and eating. It’s what a Christian does, a new identity in Jesus Christ.