Focus, Focus, Focus

I’ve been thinking recently about the transition of electrical and electronic equipment I’ve used or seen others used in proclaiming the gospel.  My home church, years ago, had a lantern slide projector with 3″ (7.5 cm) glass slides illuminated by a lightbulb, probably powered in the early years by battery.  We progressed to a filmstrip projector, a slide projector, at times a 16mm projector, an overhead and in more recent years an L.E.D. Digital projection unit.  

We’d set up the equipment on Friday or Sunday nights in advance of some meeting where hymns, choruses or some Bible story was going to be depicted on a white wall or projection screen.  When we used filmstrips, the first few 35mm size pictures to be used included the word ‘focus.’  Depending on the distance, the lighting, the strength of the bulb, the operator could ‘focus’ the projector for a crisp picture from a significant distance.

Leadership is a matter of ‘focus,’ isn’t it? Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc  leaders choose to focus their attention on priorities.  In my leadership of the Internship program at Heritage College & Seminary, I’ve opted to focus on Conversion, Calling, Character & Competencies.  These 4 topics have come from a multitude of conversations with leaders and workers of all ages, in churches, mission agencies, parachurch organizations, etc.  One of my tasks in training the next generation of leaders is to understand their focus and help them assess it in the light of God’s eternal truth.

In 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul urges Timothy to keep focused on key objectives.

“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”

Positively, keep reminding the congregation.  Keep challenging God’s chosen people (the elect – v.10) about the truths we have examined thus far in this letter.  In order to remind others, Timothy must be well versed in truth himself.  You can’t pass on what you don’t know.  Keep the essentials ESSENTIAL.  Keep non-essentials NON-ESSENTIAL.  One of the biggest challenges is deciding which doctrines and practices fit in each list.   Some of us want everything to be an essential.  Even our personal preferences slip into this unnegotiable category.  Others seem to have no essentials and are ‘tossed about by every wind of doctrine.’

Negatively, keep restricting the congregation.  Issue warnings, where needed, about needless quarrels.  Don’t let the congregation become quarrelsome, with valueless discussion about theological triviliaties.  What a waste of time! Timothy, you, nor those you lead, have time for such empty pursuits.  And don’t forget about those who watch and listen.  How many have been ‘jarred’ in their faith by watching ungodly conduct in business meetings! How many have been sidetracked into religious ‘rabbit trails,’ by ‘one issue’ advocates. 

How does one stay focused?  On what or on whom should one focus a ministry?  Regularly through my leadership responsibilities, I sought to teach ‘the whole counsel of God.’  We worked our way through the Bible, book by book, reading, studying, preaching and applying the various truths as we learned them.  At Christmas and Easter we interrupted the series.  Why? Because the Birth, Death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ are core doctrines.  The Incarnation, The Virgin Birth, The Birth of Emmanuel is no second thought.  And when 30 out of 89 gospel chapters focus on the last week (Palm Sunday – Easter) of the life of Jesus Christ, I think our priorities are set for us.

One of the big challenges of preaching this season is that people think they ‘know the story.’ Really?? We’ve grasped fully the wonder of the birth of the Son of God and Son of Man? We’ve understood all the prophecies pointing to His first coming?  We’ve mastered the 4 songs associated with His birth (Magnificat, Benedictus, Gloria In Excelsis Deo & Nunc Dimittus – the 4 Latain titles for the epic expressions of praise in Luke 1-2)?  Perhaps we need to turn back to 1 Timothy 3:16, to be reminded of  what Paul wrote  there – “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:  He appeared in a body, was vindicated by theSpirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the ations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

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