Engaging Culture

In 2010, Let’s Refocus on the Mission

While there’s been a lot of criticism about this country’s financial markets, politics, and morality over the last decade, I’d like to suggest an even bigger reason for the stumbles of the last 10 years.  We’ve lost focus on our mission.  In the institutional world, Wall Street lost its focus and started only looking out for #1.  Congress lost it’s focus and became more partisan (and pork happy) than ever.

The Catholic Church lost it’s focus (which had been simmering for decades) when it was revealed how their priests started focusing on their needs and abusing those they should be serving.

But I would also say that in the church and ministry community generally, we’ve lost our focus as well.

As the decade closed, I saw a record number of major churches and ministries realize the mistake of expanding too far.  In a well intentioned effort, they started programs or ministry outreaches that were unsustainable or they weren’t really qualified to handle.

We had leaders who thought because they were successful in one area, they must be good at everything. So they experienced the Peter Principle firsthand, and were forced to pull back.  (After having lost a lot of money and credibility).

Even more important, success in the church actually hurt us on many levels.  Ministries grew larger, making us believe we should be sticking our nose into things we have no business doing.  We had the arrogance to tell the outside culture how to live when we had plenty to do keeping our own house in order.  Many of our “successful” leaders started believing that pesky issues like divorce, financial integrity, or morality didn’t apply to them, so they embarrassed the work of God on a national scale.

I would suggest that as 2010 begins, let’s re-take a hard look at our central mission to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

That’s a pretty focused statement.  In fact, there’s a lot of possibilities that Jesus left out when he commissioned the disciples, and after the last decade, I can see why.

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  1. Bigger and better isn’t always that, especially if God isn’t in the details.

    God wants us to focus on Him first, with the rest coming about as He guides. As God guides, He will provide. But obedience is what matters the most…everything else is of secondary importance.

  2. Good way of putting it Matt. An analogy might be, that we are all part of the Body of Christ, and as such we are all moving toward the same goal. However, some of us are the arms, the legs, the fingers, or the toes. All equally important, but each part has a specific purpose that is unique to itself.

  3. I think the point is in the Great Commission – a part we seem to have lost track of – “Make DISCIPLES of all men”  We need to examine all of our ‘ministry’ efforts and truly and honestly ask ourselves, “Is this making Disciples?”  If it’s not, then let someone else do it.

  4. Hey guys great topic. Just a quick point about the GC.  The great comission Matt 28:20 says ” Make disciples of all the ethnos”  (Nations) , not “all men”. I know to some it sounds like a minor point but it is not. This is theme throughout all the scriptures beginning in Gen 12 and culminating in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 where all ethnic groups are represented around the throne.  Currently there are 1500 plus ethnic groups with zero gospel witness among them. Another 3000 groups with a very weak, inactive church among them.

    I guess my point with saying that is I am not sure we have ever really been focused on the great commission. I work with churches and pastors all the time and very few understand the idea that our focus is to make disciples among ethnic groups. ( The word translated nations in the NT is ethnos = ethnic groups)  Matt. 24:14 states that the 2nd coming is contigent on the gospel being taken to all the ethnos. I guess my opinion is that few were ever really focused in that direction in the first place. Just a thought.


  5. I would have an easier time believing Phil if he had a smaller percentage of sarcastic tweets that sounded straight from the spin room of the Wall Street Journal or Fox News. Are right-wing political leanings essential to promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission?

  6. Nope.  Neither are Left wing political tweets.  But we’re all entitled to our opinion, aren’t we Anthony?  Besides, we should be prepared to argue the content, not smear the effort.

  7. Thanks for your reply, Phil.  I do think you are doing great work as far as encouraging peoples’ actions to match their brand, and I read your Tweets regularly. 

    I would like to share one experience with you.  During the Bush Presidency there was an evangelical ministry that posted on its website a lengthy prayer for the President, composed of scriptural passages, asking that God give him wisdom, be a light to his path, etc.

    I checked back on the website to see what they had to say about President Obama.  They listed the exact same prayer.  This was an example to me of how to be a Christian example even in politically polarizing times.



  8. I remember years ago when Cherie (my wife) was on a church board that was struggling to come up with a mission statement. Her argument was that we already had one that has served pretty well for 2000 years. The mere fact that it took some convincing…

    I think the focus that we’ve lost, and I include myself as prime offender, is that we do not need to work to make the Gospel relevant to our lives: we need to work to make our lives relevant to the Gospel.

    And that’s hard, and we don’t like it very much, so we’ll think of almost anything else to keep us busy, trying as hard as we can to look like we’re doing something worthwhile and Christian (as long as someone else has to do the heavy lifting).

  9. Re: Anthony P. about the same prayer for Obama and Bush. That is a great example of praying FOR someone else, a truly Christian thing, versus praying that someone else will serve your agenda, a truly… well… not-Christian thing, of which we see WAY too much on Christian media. My father, an old school Northern Baptist, ridiculed it and called it “directed prayer”. Prayer for the smug. Good point, Anthony, and thank you.

  10. Anthony writes, “Are right-wing political leanings essential to promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission?”

    In reply, I guess that I’d point out that the Great Commission isn’t merely about conversion. More importantly, it’s about making and becoming obedient disciples who share God’s values to the extent that imperfect human beings are capable of doing so.

    One of the most fundamental Christian values of all is the idea that all people are equally valuable to God. If we act as if we don’t understand that fact, then I question whether or not we deserve to be called disciples.

    In theory, most Democrats would agree with that general statement. In practice? Not so much. In the worldview of the average Democrat, unborn children are expendable and unworthy of protection. Tens of millions of unborn children have died as a result of that huge moral blind spot on the part of people like Barack Obama, who didn’t even have enough backbone when he was a senator to support an Illinois bill designed to prevent infanticide.

    I’m not by any means denying that political conservatives in this country sometimes exhibit moral blind spots of their own, but in my book, the ongoing deliberate killing of tens of millions of innocent unborn children is an inexcusable, tragic injustice of epic proportions. Statistically speaking, it’s an injustice which dwarfs any of the failings currently being attributed to Republicans by their political enemies.

    Superficial niceness and genuine love are sometimes erroneously treated as if they’re synonymous. They aren’t. If a little bit of sarcasm is necessary to bring the aforementioned injustice the attention it deserves for as long as it takes to end that injustice, then so be it. If people weren’t sometimes incredibly obtuse, then sarcasm wouldn’t ever be necessary. Sadly, that isn’t the case.

  11. Great thought, Ken.  Having served as a “trainer” for European church leaders for 8 years, and now preparing to launch a church in Freiburg, Germany, I think it is amazing that people assume a nation is “reached” simply because of its background.  In Europe we are now seeing 4th and 5th generation unbelievers, people that have no Christian background whatsoever. 

    It’s amazing to me that people assume because a country (continent) has a good standard of living that it doesn’t need the Gospel as much as a 3rd world country (continent) does.  The world is waiting!  I have a friend that says, “Jesus is coming… now get off your bum and get busy!”

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