“As leaders there are a number of things that pull at our hearts. The desire to grow a ministry, the longing for recognition, and the development of our careers strive for the attention of our hearts. Then there are the many ministry needs of hurting people around us. They too call forth the better aspects of our leader’s heart. It is tempting to set our hearts on these and other legitimate concerns. But if we are to lead with the greatest impact, we must recalibrate our hearts around the ministry of teaching. My proposal is simple. We need to set our hearts on the Word of God–to study it, to practice it, and to teach it to others.” ~ Great Leader, Great Teacher: Recovering the Biblical Vision For Leadership by Gary Bredfeldt
There are so many needs in the church that are crying out for our attention. Christians are suffering through abuse, poverty, divorce and many other issues that break our hearts and draw our attention. And our attention should be drawn to them. We must, according to Scripture, care for the poor, the downtrodden, the widows, the orphans, the abused and the cast off. We must or we are not loving as Jesus would love or serving as He would serve. HOWEVER–when these issues become our main focus we have allowed them, the issues, to usurp the place in our hearts and in our lives that only Christ Himself should occupy and we have enthroned them in His rightful place.
When we as Christians or as leaders in the church focus first on these things rather than realizing that such issues arise from a failure to teach the Gospel pure and undefiled, then we are adding to the sins committed against those very ones we desire to help. When we fail to speak first of Christ, when we fail to give Him His rightful place in our teaching, we are joining forces with the very ones we wish to speak out against. To fail to speak first and foremost of Christ and rather speak first and foremost to the issue at hand is to abuse the very ones we say we desire to serve and, worse, it is to commit idolatry. This isn’t to say that if someone is starving you don’t feed them before you try to convert them or if someone is being abused that you don’t get them to safety and get them the help they need before you address Christ. It would be ridiculous to even consider such. However once we have ensured their safety physically and emotionally we must begin to address their safety spiritually even as we address the issues they are facing. We cannot change behavior long term by simply teaching morals, offering up 10 steps or getting them into some program. In order to change behavior long term, to ensure the next generation is saved from the issues we are confronting, Christ must be given His rightful place in our teaching. No program can ever take His place; He alone changes hearts. When hearts are changed, lives are permanently redirected in a way that no secular or even “Christian” program can ever do. However this isn’t about adding Christ to a program. It’s about His love and life flowing through us so that we are His instruments to do His will on the earth. When we are fully submitted to Him, He will act. We must reach out to the poor, the abused, the downcast and any and all who need us because we love God and because to do so is to honor Him. But if we do so and then our focus becomes alleviating abuse or poverty or anything else without focusing on the truth that is real freedom (freedom from sin, from hell, from destruction) then we are not only denying Christ but we are heaping further abuse upon those we claim to help. We must arm the ones we desire to help with the truth that will really set them free. We must teach single Moms how to love their children by teaching them of the love of Christ by teaching them the truth of God’s Holy Word without downplaying anything we think might offend. We must teach those who have been abused how to live so that they are truly free by teaching them of the freedom found only in Christ. If we do this then we are going to be helping to create better lives for them in a way that only addressing the betterment of their lives never could.