As a pastor I meet a lot of interesting Christians. I have people who attend my church, people who call or stop by to promote their ministry in our church, and/or people who send me information via email or mail. The common theme is that every Christian seems to have a “thing.” That is to say the one theme of their life and their advocacy.
For instance, there are those whose specialty is defending Genesis. For others it’s Christian political activism. There are outreaches and emphases on Jewish ministry, men’s ministry, Christian education, eschatology, and a host of other specific niches. Pastors get hit with appeals for these on an almost weekly basis.
In one sense, I love this because it demonstrates how God has uniquely gifted and called individual Christians and ministries. Their laser-like focus helps educate and edify God’s people. For the busy pastor, who sees the whole church, having speakers or curriculum or small group studies can help sharpen the faith of this people.
And yet sometimes I see an unhealthy imbalance where your emphasis becomes your “thing.” Let me explain. I’ve had conversations with people passionate about science around Genesis. I find this compelling and I’m in agreement with the view that Genesis describes a literal six-day creation. I enjoy hearing from smart scientists who defend this view. But an emphasis or a calling to this field can easily become a “thing” that seems to drive everything about a person’s life. And rather than Jesus becoming their animating theme, defending against evolutionists is their animating theme. Every conversation, every concern in the church, every social ill must become a debate about origins. I think this is unhealthy.
I”m not just picking on creationists here. I’m just using this as an example. I see this in every other specialty. And this can happen with any particular focus of Christian ministry. Where what we are most passionate about becomes less the gospel and more our pet “thing.”
It’s unhealthy on a number of levels. First, what was a good interest and a worthy calling can become a source of conflict with other believers. When the gospel animates us, then we are humbled enough to work toward unity in our local body of believers and in the body worldwide. But when our pet “thing” animates us, we become argumentative, looking always for opportunities to prove how right we are. Secondly, I think the enemy is okay with us focusing on a “thing” rather than focusing on Jesus and using our gifts and talents, ultimately, to build God’s church through evangelism. Third, an unhealthy imbalance divides people into categories and suddenly we don’t see the unchurched as objects of God’s love in need of the gospel, but people on the wrong side of an issue. And we don’t see brothers and sisters who disagree with us people we should love, but people who we must win over to our view of things.
Unhealthy imbalance can also create a culture, in the home or the church, where the gospel is actually not the main thing we’re concerned with passing to the next generation. Teens sniff this out right away. They quickly get what we are most passionate about. If this is not the gospel, the “faith” once delivered to all saints” (Jude 1:3), they may reject our faith. Because our faith in Jesus is the only thing contagious enough to be “caught” by the next generation.
I guess what I’m saying is this: everyone has a “thing”, a special calling or emphasis they feel is important to ministry. But this must always be surrendered to the larger “thing” which is the call to live and share the gospel with those who are far from Jesus.
At the end of my life, I don’t want it said that what drove me most was that I believed in a six-day creation or that was a dispensationalist or that I was a political conservative. I want it said that I loved Jesus, that I faithfully taught His Word, and that I loved those God has called me to love. That’s what I want most to drive me.