Internally focused and off track

Off TrackI once worked for a company that was very good at holding meetings. Some of the managers in that company could spend their entire work day in meetings. The problem was that most of the meetings were internally focused and too often the needs of the customers were ignored.

The church faces a similar challenge, we can get so focused on church stuff that we forget to interact with the world around us. I’ve seen this happen in two ways.

The first is where a church gets focused on defining the distinction between being worldly or being spiritual. The determination is that this style of clothing is spiritual, this other style is not. This haircut is acceptable, the other one is not. The debate is centered on what is acceptable practice, with the intent of pleasing God. The problem is that because they feel that their practice puts them in a better standing with God, they can look down on those who are less acceptable. Were it not so prevalent in Evangelicalism, this stance would be laughable because the Jesus they claim to worship hung out with hookers, terrorists, traitors and longshoremen.

The second way that I’ve seen churches get focused on church stuff is when there is an overemphasis on theological correctness. Don’t get me wrong, being meticulous in theological understanding should be a good thing. The problem comes when theological correctness is an end rather than a means.

Good theology is intended to deepen our understanding and our love of God. Good theology is not intended to be a litmus test to determine with whom we will fellowship. When theology becomes and end rather than a means, nothing good comes from it.

Jesus did not look down on anyone because of their lack of theological nuance. What did get Jesus angry was theology that lost track of the whole point of theological study. In John 8:42, Jesus confronts the Pharisees on this very point. The Pharisees claim to represent God, but were so off track that they could not recognize that Jesus had come from the very God that the Pharisees claimed to worship.

When the world looks at the church and sees something different than the Christ we claim to worship they have a legitimate reason to criticize us. Neither our theology nor our practice should prevent us from emulating the Christ we see in the Gospels.