"We can't be all circumference with no center."
I read these words years ago. I have to remind myself of them often. I believe they are true. I want to live my life by the principle that Jesus is my center. But, I am easily distracted. I don't believe I'm alone in this distraction problem.
When it comes to living for Jesus, I fear many of us find it hard to stay on track. In an ADD culture with nanosecond attention spans, most of us are easily distracted. Our intense focus one minute can be a forgotten thought the next. Stimulation is wonderful. Over-stimulation leaves us adrift on the latest wave of attention-grabbing inputs. The lightning strike of a great new idea gets lost to a powerful unexpected visual input which gets drowned in a sea of stimulating ideas which are all dropped from conscious thought forever when a powerful media input hijacks our focus.
As much as we try to multi-task our way through each day, deep down we know that we are in denial. There's no such thing as multi-tasking; we reduce our attention down to short, serial bursts of focus upon one thing before moving on to the next. Significant thoughts that require focus are carried away from us like bubbles on the breeze. They soon burst and are forgotten as they bump up against the next new idea that vies for our attention.
"We can't be all circumference with no center."
What is our center as disciples of Jesus?
Even more, how do we as leaders among God's people help our people stay on track?
How do we keep our faith from being all about circumference busy-ness?
How do we keep from losing sight of the kingdom-building call of God in the midst of so many titillating distractions?
How do our churches keep from being held hostage to the latest church fads or consumer-driven demands of our members?
If we are going to live out our purpose and not be all about circumference issues, how do we find that true center?
We invite Jesus back to church with us!
But what does "invite Jesus back to church with us" mean? This sounds like some new church growth gimmick that will be an out of date book in a few years?
- Inviting Jesus back to church means that we focus on Jesus in our teaching, preaching, small groups, and discussions.
- It means we spend more time reading the four gospels to make sure we are hearing the voice of Jesus in Scripture.
- It means we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us hear Jesus' voice, his call to us, when do read Scripture.*
- It means that we risk doing in our day to the people in our world what Jesus did in his earthly ministry.
If the church is Jesus' bodily presence in the world today, then how are we doing at living out the ministry of Jesus in our communities?
There are very many good things that churches, small groups, missional communities, parachurch ministries, and Bible-believing people do. That is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the things we are doing are really Jesus things!
- Did Jesus do them?
- Did Jesus do something like them?
- Do they fit the way Jesus treated people?
- Do they measure up to Jesus' preaching and teaching?
- Would Jesus invest his precious time in doing these things today?
- Do they give others a glimpse of God's grace and help them hear God's call to follow Jesus as his disciple regardless of the cost to them personally?
- In other words, in a church world of many activities, which ones actually orbit around Jesus with Jesus as the center?
- Is what we're doing essential to doing Jesus-style ministry as we invite others to experience his presence and follow him as their Savior and Lord?
The New Testament emphasizes again and again the importance of Jesus at the center of everything we are and do and believe:
Jesus is God's greatest and most complete message (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:1-18).
Jesus is the answer to God's great promises (2 Corinthians 1:18-20).
Jesus claimed to be the way and the truth and the life and that one could not come to the Father except through him (John 14:6).
Faith in Jesus is the key to making the Scriptures useful to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Being transformed to be like Jesus is the Holy Spirit's primary work in our lives (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Becoming like Jesus is Paul's goal for our lives (Colossians 1:28-29)."We can't be all circumference with no center."Jesus himself emphasizes that if we are his disciple, then we will grow to become like him (Luke 6:40).
As Jesus' disciples, we will help other people become disciples and know how to live Jesus' will in their own lives (Matthew 28:18-20).
We must find our center in Jesus!
But how do we do that at a congregational level? How do we invite Jesus back to church with us so that we take Jesus with us into our world? Here are five helpful places to start. I'd love to get your inputs in the Facebook comment section below:
- Emphasize Jesus as the center of what we do — our members should have their Bibles most worn in the places of Scripture that show Jesus.
- Evaluate our vision, mission, and ministries based on their connection to Jesus as their center and sharing Jesus with those who do not know him.
- Expect each other, especially our leaders, to treat each other and those we are trying lead and reach with the same care with which Jesus treated others.
- Excise things from our schedule that do not draw people to Jesus, do not exalt and praise Jesus, or do not share the teachings and example of Jesus.
- Experience Jesus' presence when we:
...study the Bible as our family story and the truth that guides our lives....live in genuine and radical fellowship that brings back the lost, deals with disagreements with integrity, and forgives radically....care for the broken and forgotten and treat them just as we would treat Jesus in those same circumstances....share Jesus with the lost world, leading others to follow him and be baptized, then walk beside them till the way of Jesus comes to live in their lives.
Years ago when staying with a friend, we dropped by the education minister's office at their church offices. My friend introduced us and said, "You've got to tell Phil what happened last week on your way home from church!"
This minister then described one of those moments parents of a four year old sometimes have. After church, his son was not wanting to sit in his booster seat in the car. This little guy hated being strapped into anything and especially that thing. So in an effort to distract his son from the task at hand, this education minister started talking to his little boy about what he learned in Bible class. His son stiffened, crossed his arms, scrunched up his face and said, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! That's all anybody wants to talk about at church is Jesus!"
I pray that we make so!
* Three ways I encourage disciples and leaders among Jesus' followers to help their people do this:
- Spend a year where they read one chapter a day reading through the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John over and over again.
- As you read from any portion of Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear the voice of Jesus help you know what you need to think, feel, and do based on what you have read.
- Take a look at A Year with Jesus.