Have you ever considered how hard it is to remain focused on any one thing for an extended amount of time? A decade ago the average attention span for an adult was 12 minutes. Now, ten years later, we have statistics that say,” the attention span for adults is only 5 minutes”. Staying focused can be difficult. For many years I have heard people in church say, “ we have to keep the main thing the main thing.” The only reason anyone would make such a statement is because they, at some point in their life, got off course and now understand how easy it is to get off track. We as pastors often make this statement in our sermons in an attempt to keep our congregations headed in the “right direction.” So let me ask you a question. What is the main thing? What is the right direction?
For the past several weeks my mind and focus has been set on that of the Early Church. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that their “main thing” and our “main thing” is not the same. The early church was the most successful movement of any movement that has ever taken place. The early church was not concerned with filling their synagogues to capacity; they were concerned about carrying a message to as many people as possible. The mentality of the early church was not, “ lets see how many people we can get to come to us”. Everything about the life of the early church involved carrying the message of Jesus Christ to as many people as they possibly could.
In my quiet time this morning I was completing the last week of a bible study that I was required to do in my seminary class. The book is written by Avery T. Willis, Jr. and is entitled “The Disciples Cross”. One of the passages used for the last week is in Acts 2:42,46. Here is what the verses say, “ They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”. I thought to myself, “ if there is one thing we have learned from the early church it has to be the breaking of bread part, lol.” Then my mind drifted to how we as christians spend less time praying than anything else. Church services prove that! Churches love to sing, and churches love to eat! I grew up hearing others invite people to their Wednesday night prayer meetings. In these meetings, that was called “prayer meetings”, there was only an opening and closing prayer that occurred. To call something a prayer meeting and not pray seems weird to me. The remainder of the meeting was someone standing at a podium and teaching. Which led me to my next thought.
The believers in the early church, “devoted themselves to the apostles teachings”. Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself, “what did the apostles teach?” Based on the beliefs of many churches and denominations, who claim to be keeping the main thing the main thing, the apostles must have stood before all these believers and taught something like this: “you are going to see God do great and mighty things until we die, and after we are gone, all these things that you are seeing now, will cease”. (Emphasis mine) Really? What kind of movement would that have caused? Certainly not one capable of existing for over two-thousand years. If we have kept the main thing the main thing in our churches today, then, this must have been what the apostles were teaching.(sarcasm) Had the apostles taught what many pastors, preachers, and teachers claim in today’s world as being the main thing, christianity would have never survived the Roman Empire.
Is it possible that many have become as the pharisees and sadducees? They were people who convinced themselves they were the only ones who were right. Have we become like the lawyer in Luke 10:29 who said what he said in order to justify himself? Many people see no purpose in certain methodologies, they see no reason to do something any other way than their own way. The gospel is not about any one passage, gift, or section. The bible was given to us so we would keep the main thing the main thing. Sure we can single out certain words or verses as being more important than others, but the fact is, the gospel works most effectively when used in its entirety. Ecclesiastes 3:1 makes it clear; “there is a time for everything under the entire canopy of heaven”.
In my way of thinking, God saw fit to raise up a generation of people to do His work. A work that was not suppose to change based on any one man or any certain group of men or women. God’s plan was for those who call themselves Christian to keep the main thing the main thing. You can justify to yourself all day long why you don’t believe this or that. You can feel better about yourself by giving an explanation of how the Holy Spirit works in our day and time. You can be proud of yourself and your own personal success because you put money in the offering plate on Sundays. The reality is this: “if” God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the main thing in our life, our lives will reflect that. The gospel will begin to operate in our lives in its entirety, not in our justifiable comfortableness. John Maxwell taught me this, ” as we go, so go those who we lead!” “People won’t follow what they don’t see!” If you are a leader in any ministry, and the main thing in your life is not the main thing, neither will it be for those you lead.
Pastor Jon Ellis Sr. Pastor The Refuge Ministries of West Ga.