We have just finished watching the new Netflix show Man Vs Bee. If you like slapstick comedy and Rowan Atkinson doing what Rowan Atkinson tends to do, you won’t go far wrong. The premise is a bloke who is a professional house sitter ends up obsessing over a bee in the house. You can guess the rest – essentially a cross between Mr Bean and Home Alone unfolds.
It was interesting to see how the programme unfolded. Ultimately, a bloke obsessing over a non-issue. A bee in the house is not a big deal. It can be ignored without too much of a problem. There are various ways to deal with it too without going nuclear and wrecking your entire home. This much is obvious to anyone. But the programme highlights both the foolishness and danger of obsessing and over-focusing on one thing to the detriment of everything else.
I was set to thinking how this can be a problem in the church. No, not bees. Though, if you do have bees taking up residence in your church, you might want to get someone in to sort that out. But the problem of over-focusing. It is very easy to get tunnel vision in the church and focus on one thing – maybe something significant of itself, maybe something that isn’t very significant at all – and end up torching the place as a result.
For many pastors, this may be the preaching of the Word. Makes sense given that most pastors are employed to be the primary source of teaching for the church. But it is possible to so over-focus on the preaching of the word that you hardly do anything else. Some would spend 30 or 40 hours in their study per week and make very little time for anybody in the congregation. Preaching the Word is vitally important for the church, but if you only preach the Word and do nothing else at all, you may well end up with a lopsided church. Considering it has been referenced recently, let me highlight The Trellis & the Vine positively. In it, they rightly note that preaching sermons alone is not enough. Vital and important as they are, it is not all we are to do if we are to have a healthy ministry that equips the saints for works of service.
But others may be more tempted to focus on evangelism. In a small church or a planting situation, this can seem like the obvious place to spend most of your time. Perhaps even all your time. If you don’t go out and start reaching people with the gospel, your church isn’t going to survive. If it is already tiny, this seems sensible doesn’t it? Again, important as evangelism may be, if that is all you ever do, you are going to end up with some shallow believers. People will be saved and view their sole responsibility as sharing the gospel with others. But their own spiritual needs will not be met, their hearts left untended, their growth stunted because we model – and potentially even say – that evangelism is the only thing that really matters.
Others still might be more tempted to focus on discipleship. Or, if not discipleship itself, focusing on the people in your congregation already. This is more likely to happen in established churches where there are clear (and often strong) expectations of what the pastor will do for me. And you may well be in a situation where people do have real needs that need care. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a lot of time focusing on those needs among us? The problem is, if you only do this and never reach out, your church will become stagnant and never grow. If you don’t reach new people, you won’t grow numerically, and if you don’t spend time in the Word and applying it carefully to people in the way the Lord asks, we won’t grow in maturity.
There are all sorts of other things – probably far less important things than these – that we could spend all our time doing. You could, if you have a blog, spend all your time writing that rather than reading the Word, reaching the lost and spending time with your members. You could focus your energies into the local fraternal you run. You could get obsessed with your church live stream. You might have really strong opinions and spend inordinate amounts of time on a building project. You might be most interested in ‘casting vision’. The list could go on and on. These are all things that might have some value, or may just need doing, but you might be tempted to spend far more time on them than they warrant. It’s not that they’re of no value, it’s just that they’re not really of the most value. And even what value they may have, if we obsess over them, we may cause real damage to the church as we do not focus on other important things too.
There are, of course, various ways to answer these things. You could mount a case for a church with every-member ministry here. The pastor can focus on the teaching of the Word if there is a strong culture of others focusing on the areas he is least well placed to handle. You could mount a case for a balanced approach to leadership, where none of these things are out of kilter. You could make an argument for being clear on the mission of the church and doing what matters most. All those things might be lessons you draw.
My point here is a simple one though. However we address it, we ought not obsess over one thing in the church. We are called to do numerous things as pastors and we need to make sure that we fulfil all our duties, not just the ones we like most or that we find easiest. In the end, an unbalanced ministry will lead to an unbalance, unhealthy church. The pastoral equivalent of running through your church with a flame thrower in order to address one particular issue. Which, if you do watch Man Vs Bee, you will see is not such a good idea.