Focus on What’s Important

Focus on What’s Important

Rev. Steve Norden, Senior Pastor

I’ve been noticing an ever growing phenomenon, one that I’ve added to my list of pet peeves. Perhaps I’m simply paying more attention. Still, I am observing a lot of distracted drivers on the road. Most are either talking on their cell phone or texting. The result is that some are unable to drive at the posted speed limit (which really irks me) while others are unable to stay in their lane of traffic. In any event, many of these drivers are breaking the law and are also menaces to society. Suffice it to say, I have little patience for this kind of behavior.

It also occurs to me that there is so much distraction in many churches today. Inordinate attention is given to concerns that are not unimportant, but in my estimation they are not the most important work of the church. We’ve lived with our current mission statement for nearly ten years. Occasionally, I wonder if we ought to revise it or write an entirely new mission statement. Yet, each time I read it I am of the opinion that this states well what God is calling us to do. The mission of New Hope Church is to Reach people for Christ, Root people in Christ and Release people to serve Christ. In other words, it is our aim to bring people to a relationship with Christ by whatever means we’re able, grow them in the life of discipleship (following Jesus) through Bible study, spiritual growth and education opportunities, and then deploy them into ministry through myriad opportunities to impact our community for Christ.

Earlier this week, a friend in church sent me this quote from his daily devotional (“The Gospel According to Paul” by John MacArthur on

The cross of Jesus Christ is the sum and the focus of the gospel according to Paul: “We preach Christ crucified. God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in Pauline theology, the cross is a symbol of atonement. “Christ crucified” is a message about redemption for sinners.

How vital is that truth, and how crucial for the messenger to stay on point? To make the gospel about anything else is to depart from biblical Christianity. Paul’s teaching is not the least bit ambiguous about this. It’s the very definition of what he meant when he spoke of “my gospel.” Quite simply, the gospel is good news for fallen humanity regarding how sins are atoned for, how sinners are forgiven, and how believers are made right with God. And the mission of the church is not to win the world’s admiration.

Many of today’s best-known evangelical strategists and the leading practitioners of “missional” methodology seem not to grasp that simple point. They constantly encourage young evangelicals to “engage the culture” and defer to the rules of political correctness. When they translate that counsel into concrete, practical plans of action, it often turns out to mean little more than trying to stay in step with fashion – as if being perceived as cool were the key to effective ministry.

You won’t find anything like that in Paul’s exhortations to young ministers. On the contrary, Paul candidly acknowledges that the gospel is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

As we continue to “press the mark” at New Hope, I pray that our distractions will be minimal, will not divert us and that we will ever keep “the main thing the main thing.”