Center Stage

When ministries lack trust, the issue that created the lack of trust is on center stage and Christ shifts to the wings.

 

by Dan Busby

 


I grew up in a village of 30 souls. Lamont, Kansas, is in east Kansas, near the Flint Hills. The population temporarily grew by a few dozen during the oil boom of the 1930s, when some inexpensive houses were added.

Locating inhabitants of the village was not difficult. There was North Street and South Street and four cross streets intersecting the two—what I call a “2 x 4” town.

Before zip codes, our postal zone was 27. Our family’s post office box, located in a four-by-eight-foot space in the corner of the only grocery store in the village, was 33, and our telephone number was 7. Remembering important numbers was easy back then.

Our small, five-room home was just across the street from a combined grade school and high school, which I attended from first grade through high school—11 years. The trek was shortened by one year because my mother taught the first three grades. In her inimitable wisdom, she perceived an early flash of brilliance meriting my promotion from grade two to four. This allowed me to graduate from high school at age 16.

Our responsibility
is to give the world
the right impression
of God.
John Wesley

I played basketball in grade school and high school. It was not too hard to make the team. (The year I graduated from high school, we had 30 students in the entire high school. My class was comprised of five girls and one boy.)

Gymnasiums of small schools in that era were often tiny—ours was one of the smallest in the area. At one end of the gymnasium was a stage, elevated about three feet above the basketball floor.

It was on this stage that my limited career in theatre began and ended. The width of the stage was about 18 feet. When someone stood at center stage, they were only three long steps from being off the stage, right or left, front or back. So, it was a fine line from being on center stage and being off the stage altogether.

Understanding the “center stage” concept—knowing where center stage is located and who should be on center stage—is just as applicable today as it was when I was a budding actor in school.

It is this simple: Jesus Christ should always be the focus of Christ-centered ministries. He should always be on center stage (1 Cor. 3:4–7)—not in the wings, and certainly not off the stage entirely.

Contrast the intended focus on Jesus Christ with many of our actions. When a significant issue bubbles up, do we focus on Christ? Even though we desire to fix our gaze on Christ, the problem may dominate our time and energies. Often this leads to further distrac­tions, such as relying on our own under­standing to fix the problem instead of keeping Christ on center stage and leaving the problems to Him (Prov. 3:5–6).

Jesus Christ does not
want to be our helper;
He wants to be our life.
He does not want us
to work for Him.
He wants us to let Him
do His work through us,
using us as we use a
pencil to write with—
better still, using us as
one of the fingers
on His hand.
Charles G. Trumbull

Consider these five unfortunate examples:

1. Staff dissension. A ministry’s staff chooses sides on a high-profile issue. At lunch, at breaks, through emails, instant messaging, and tweets, dissension rapidly spreads through the employee ranks. Some resign, departing for other service. Others stay but are not happy. The ministry is in a season of stagnation. Result: Christ shifts from center stage to the wings.

2. Board uprising. Instead of peacefully resolving a key matter, conflict breaks out in a board meeting. The vote on the issue is 8 to 7. Instead of closing ranks and supporting the majority position, dissenting board members conduct an “after-the-meeting” session and go public with a minority view. Result: Christ is moved off center stage.

3. Giver dis-ease. A ministry raises funds for a certain project then cancels the project and uses the money to pay down the mortgage. Givers protest the use of the designated funds and threaten to sue if the ministry does not reverse its decision. Result: Christ shifts from center stage to the wings.

4. Fraud occurrence. The ministry receives most of its revenues digitally. Through a lapse of internal controls, an employee redirects digital deposits for one hour of each week, cleverly covering up the missing funds—stealing several hundred thousands of dollars over a few years. Result: Christ is pushed off center stage during the fraud investigation and long after the employee goes to jail.

5. Media attacks. A local television station investigates a ministry and airs a series of exposés questioning the integrity and credibility of the ministry. Many of the claims made by investigative reporters are not fact-based, but the false claims still get media traction. Result: Christ shifts from center stage to the wings.

Abiding in Jesus isn't
fixing our attention on
Christ, but it is being
one with Him . . .
A man is abiding
just as much when
he is sleeping for Jesus,
as when he is awake
and working for Jesus.
Oh, it is a very sweet
thing to have one's
mind just resting there.
J. Hudson Taylor

Ministry leaders should more frequently ask, “What are we doing to keep Christ on center stage?” Let’s look at the basic concepts:

  • The scope of the stage. On the 18-foot-wide stage at my school, if I took a few steps to the right or to the left, I wasn’t just off center stage—I was off the stage. Period.

Likewise, it doesn’t take many distractions about a ministry—coming from inside or outside—to move Christ off center stage. It is a narrow stage in terms of whether He is the primary focus or some­thing else, or whether someone else becomes the primary focus.

  • Importance of keeping Christ on center stage. When Christ is on center stage, we have the strongest opportunities to advance the truths of our faith. When He is on center stage, the focus is not on ministry leaders or even on ministry programs that, from a human perspective, seem to be successful.
  • Impact of Christ not being on center stage. When Christ is not on center stage and the focus is on distractions that have arisen, the advancement of His Kingdom is hindered.

Today’s 24-hour (and often shorter) news cycle seems very brief—and it is. But the residual impact—the lingering pain inflicted on the ministry by media, constituents, and others for days, weeks, months, and even years—is often under­estimated. The governing board, staff, givers, and volunteers may be impacted.

Hebrews 12:1–2 vividly illustrates that we are to cast aside distraction and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

Jesus Christ should always be on center stage.

 

  Questions   for reflection

 

  1. Does Christ occupy center stage in all areas of the ministry you serve?
  2. How could the ministry increase its focus on Jesus Christ? In what areas?
  3. What are some steps the ministry could take to ensure keeping Christ on center stage?

 

From TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, ECFAPress, 2015, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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