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Focus on the Trunk of the Tree During Times of Crisis in the Church


Eric V. Snow, sermonette notes, 8-14-2010, Ann Arbor, Michigan, UCG



Would you want to live with a nocturnal predatory, carnivorous female feline?  Make offer of cat, “Maggie”:  Friendly (will sit in lap, meet with strangers), extra furry, “fixed,” litter box trained, indoors cat, has front claws.  Due to Yndira’s moderate allergy.


Now, speaking of adjustments to marriage

 . . .


Before Yndira came to live with me, I had to prepare my place for her in advance.   For example, I had to buy new furniture and get rid of old furniture.  I also realized that I had to unload all my boxes of old Church of God magazines and newspapers.  After all, most of them I never looked at and didn’t use actively.  I successfully found a new “home” for them:  I shipped them to someone’s home in Virginia.  But what made it easier for me to let go of this collection?  I also realized the minutiae of the Church of God no longer interested me much.  I see no need to keep so much documentation about long, running arguments about relative trivialities or petty doctrinal disputes.


S.P.S.:  During times of perceived crisis in the church, let’s focus on the “trunk of the tree” truths, not trivialities.


Unquestionably, our church organization now has a crisis.  But this dispute is about matters of minor importance compared to the doctrinal dispute that convulsed our church 15 years ago.  The present problems don’t concern doctrine primarily.  They originated in administrative matters, such as the location of the home office and how much to spend on training new pastors versus preaching the gospel using the media.  True, it becomes more serious to the extent some advocate returning to a system of one-man rule or letting a small group of men have practical control of running the church.  Then it’s a dispute about church government or governance.


So then, how should we react emotionally during these problems?  I have 2 main points today.


1.  If we focus on what’s more important, then we will feel less angry, agitated, and anxious.


Jonah 4:8-10


Jonah got much more mad about God’s destroying a plant than he would have been had God destroyed all the people and animals in a large city.


One elder’s point:  People as upset over these present issues as they were over what was in dispute 15 years ago.  But the dispute then concerned a matter of salvation:  Was the Old Testament law in four critical areas (the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing, and clean/unclean meats) still binding on Christians?  What’s the dispute today about?  It’s mainly about such administrative matters as where the home office should be, how this church organization should spend its money (training pastors vs. preaching the gospel in the media), who should have won certain elections to the council of elders, how certain people made certain decisions, etc.  These disputes have produced a spirit of slander and accusation that’s much worse problem spiritually than the underlying issues are.  (Mr. Kilough’s sermon)


2.  Let’s focus our time and energy on higher spiritual priorities instead of lower ones.


Let’s avoid acting like the Pharisees.


Matt. 23:23-24


They majored in the minors.  They made mountains of molehills.  They wasted a lot of time while carefully tithing on small plants in their gardens.  Similarly, it’s a waste of time to visit lots of slanderous, gossipy Web sites, such as in Facebook, about the church’s present crisis.  Sure, we should keep ourselves informed about the basics.  We should be aware about what Mr. Luker and the Council of Elders officially say.  But it’s a poor use of time to chase after rumors and gossip on the Internet.  It would be much better use of time to read one of the church’s booklets or magazines instead.  Sure, let’s pray and even join in the church-wide fast that’s been announced for this coming weekend.  But let’s also remember that no one’s salvation is at stake concerning the substance of these issues.


Stephen Covey:  “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”


Matt. 12:1-11


Not “harvesting” grain on the Sabbath, but casually taking a snack while walking through a field.  Pharisees would get excited over trivial or perceived violations of the Sabbath while letting much bigger issues slide by.  The general welfare of people’s lives was less important than avoiding the perceived violation of trivial applications of God’s law about the Sabbath.


Apply the general principle of Cardinal de Retz (1613-1679):  “This maxim so necessary for princes—‘always to sacrifice the little affairs to the greater.’”


So in conclusion: 


During this church’s present administrative crisis, let’s focus on what’s truly important spiritually instead of being distracted by petty details.  Then we will feel less worried and use our time and energy better.  By focusing on the trunk of the tree truths, we will avoid majoring in the minors and making mountains out of molehills.


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