We've been kicking around the questions, "What is the primary mission of the Church?" and "What is the greatest hindrance to that mission?" since this post back at the start of October. This morning, I'll share thoughts on how we become that stumbling block and how we might take a wrecking ball to it. Though there are many things that may occur at the micro level, I believe we can categorize these on a macro level through describing them as our being "Off Focus", "Off Frequency", and "Off Sides".
"Off Focus". The Westminster Shorter Catechism (paraphrased) describes the "chief aim of man" as to "Glorify God and enjoy Him forever". By implication, our focal point as the Church is the Almighty God. All too often in our contemporary American cultural church, its become a type of group therapy that's centered on my feelings, well being and self improvement. The moment He leaves the center of our lens, this focus distorts and can ultimately be lost. When first person pronouns are the dominant component of speech related to the Almighty and His Church, its a good time to perform a focus check. You see, its about HIM, not US. When examining our prayers, are there more "you's, your's, him/his", or "I, me, mine's"?
"Off Frequency". As an amateur radio operator, I can tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than not having a proper frequency, or communicating with someone whose radio is off frequency. Are we hearing from God? Very few of us have (or will ever) experience a Theophany/Christophany where we experience that "close encounter of the third kind" with a member of the Godhead. This said, He has made it possible to hear from Him through encounters in His word, prayer, events and others. Through these, God has made himself clearly known. If we're looking to hear from Him in ways other than these, we're not going to hear much of anything in the way of the divine will of the Father.
"Off Sides". One is ostensibly "Off Sides" in American Football when they're where they shouldn't be when the ball is snapped. Not only does this nullify the play but it costs the defenders precious yardage. The saint who is off sides has a similar effect on their team as well. The ways in which a saint can be off sides on God's gridiron are too numerous to to list in this space. However, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we'll receive immediate feedback when we're not where we should be. Its when we ignore this conviction that we cease to be spiritually healthy and productive saints. This individual not only has the move of God choked in their life, but their likely hindering others.
The bright spot in all of this is the fact that any or all of these are highly treatable in the life of the saint. Our God is a master at remedial maintenance and the dirtiest of us can be made white as wool. He's also made "a way of escape" from these setbacks through a course of preventive maintenance. Our ability to hinder the mission of the church is greatly reduced when we're looking for God, listening for God, and being mindful of our standing within the kingdom of God.