TONY ELDER: Christ should be our most important focus

If you had driven by our church one morning recently, you might have seen the unusual sight of myself and another member of our congregation perched on the roof of our building. No, we weren't literally trying to get closer to God or to climb to greater spiritual heights, although crawling around precariously on a steep roof can certainly encourage someone to do some serious praying.

On this occasion, we had ventured up there to check out a malfunctioning steeple light. We had hoped it would simply be a matter of changing a burned out bulb. As it turned out, we needed to replace the entire fixture.

When we did, we tried to situate it in such a way as to make sure the spotlight would shine all the way up the structure. We especially wanted to be certain that it would reach high enough to illuminate the cross that rested at the very top of the steeple.

The Apostle Paul was concerned that he, fellow-believers and the church as a whole would always shine the spotlight on Christ and the cross. When Paul preached, he wasn't trying to impress people with his dynamic personality, his speaking skills or his great knowledge.

He stated to one church, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). He also encouraged those same people not to boast in themselves and their accomplishments, but told them instead, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1:31).

It can be tempting for a church to turn the spotlight on things other than Christ and the cross. Some may do so intentionally, out of a desire to be more accepting of others and less offensive to certain people. They want to focus on more positive messages rather than talking about sin, atonement and a sacrificial death.

But when we do that, we are turning away from the very heart of the good news God has for people.

Other churches may stray from that emphasis unintentionally. We want people to know about the wonderful pastor we have who does such a good job of feeding his flock with God's Word. We want to encourage people to attend our church by highlighting the inspiring musicians or the effective children's ministry.

That's fine, but while we promote and emphasize these other positive aspects of the church, let's never let the main spotlight stray away from Christ and the cross. No individual, regardless of how greatly gifted and used of God, should be allowed to eclipse our Savior Himself. No program or ministry should ever outshine that greatest of events -- when Christ died for our sins.

Likewise, as individual believers, we need to be careful to keep the spotlight focused on Jesus. There may be times when we will receive compliments and praise, maybe even for our service to the Lord and to the church. While we might be grateful for such acknowledgement, let's always remember that any gifts we possess and any good we do is all because of Jesus and the cross.

Let's be sure to pass such praise and glory on to Him, not only in our own minds, but also voicing that acknowledgement in the presence of others. Don't let others start shining the light more on you than on your Lord.

Although that steeple light on our church is reaching up to the cross, I may still have to make some adjustments to cause it to shine even brighter in that direction. Similarly, let's make any necessary adjustments in our actions and attitudes in order to keep the spotlight shining as brightly as possible on Christ and the cross.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.