In my back yard this spring stood a badly worn out statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by the overgrown thorns that were there when I moved into my newly bought house. Being a non Catholic and from a Christian tradition that does not use icons or statues, I had a dilemma. What do I do with Mary? The statue was in no shape to be given away or sold in a yard sale we were having. Besides that, I wasn't sure if selling Mary would not be offensive to some, especially in a yard sale! My wife, jokingly, suggested that we put a sign on her in the front yard saying, "Available to a good home." Somehow that didn't seem right either. I finally did the only thing I could do to this beaten up statue (I hope I don't offend anyone). I secretly wrapped her up in a garbage bag and threw her in the trash. Even as a non Catholic it felt weird to throw away one who represents the mother of the incarnate God. Yet, at the time it seemed to be the best option for this non-statue believing Baptist.
However this encounter raises a more important issue for me as I reflect on this. Does the church and myself do the same to Jesus? As a church consultant, will my mission be to point congregations to a better method, program, ministry, facility etc. or to point them to Jesus? To be sure a consultation will involve all of those things but if Jesus isn't the central focus, then those things will only be like a worn out statue in the midst of the thorns. A church's ministry, facilities, programs and other activities may replicate Jesus but unless the congregation is truly centered in Jesus then it has no more value than an object headed to the landfill. A ministry-focused church rather than Christ-focused congregation will wear out quickly and lose its vision of why they are in existence-to reflect Jesus Christ in today's world.
It is my prayer that, in the midst of all my consultation, I don't lose sight of the centrality of Jesus in all I do. I am sure I can do a consultation without Jesus and do it well but it will only be a statue dedicated to a Christian endeavor rather than that which reflects the very essence of Jesus Himself. Like my backyard dilemma, the result will be a lifeless church surrounded by the thorns of programs and ministries. On the surface it may look like Jesus but unless He is the focus then we have missed the mark. May God give us the insight to know the difference.