A large majority of the decisions we make each day are determined by what’s best for us. We pick a certain restaurant because we like the food. We choose to wear a particular outfit because it’s the style we like. Whether we’re choosing a movie to go see, a vacation spot for our family or what channel to stop on when we’re watching television, our own preference tends to be what sways us one way or the other. It’s no surprise, then, that we often take a similar approach when we gather together with other Christians. Think of these examples:
– Do we choose a church home because we think it’s a place where we can make a positive impact of because it has the programs, preacher and people that we like?
– Do we decide to attend (or not to attend) Bible study on Wednesday night because of how it may encourage (or discourage) others or because we think it will benefit us?
– Do we determine whether a time of fellowship was successful by the impact it had on others or by our own enjoyment?
– Do we think a time of worship is unsuccessful because it failed to please God and uplift others or because it was what we prefer when it comes to worship?
These are all areas where we can tend to focus inwardly rather than outwardly when it comes to being together with the family of God. It’s so easy to focus on self. However, think of how the Christians were in the first century. In Acts 2:42-47 we can read about their attitudes. Verse 45 tells us that they were selling their possessions so that they could give to those in need. These were people that were outwardly focused. They wanted to do whatever they could to help, encourage and uplift their fellow Christians. Shouldn’t that be our same goal within the church today?
Here’s something we can try that I think will help us shift from an inward view to an outward view when we gather together. The next time you gather with fellow Christians (whether for worship service, Bible class, for fellowship, etc.), take a few minutes to look around. Who’s not there that usually is there? Unfortunately, we are so inwardly focused at times that we don’t even recognize when certain individuals have been gone for weeks. After you notice who’s missing, take some time during the week to encourage those individuals. Maybe it’s a phone call to make sure things are going well. Perhaps you can send an email to check in on them. Don’t make them feel like you’re the attendance police. Help them see that you noticed they were gone and wanted to make sure nothing serious was going on. Hopefully in time that practice will help us to focus more on what we can do for our brothers and sisters and less on our own personal preferences.
Interestingly enough, the more we focus on others and help them grow, the more we will find ourselves growing. Funny how that works.