I tend to display symptoms of a minor form of ADD. Some days it is really bad and super hard for me to focus on one thing. I bounce from thing to thing and end up getting nothing fully completed. Sometimes when talking to people, I drift off into a thought that I need to take care of something else, all while trying to have a conversation with someone about a completely different topic. I’ve been working on it and I have gotten a lot better, but I still struggle. I work best when I am focused on one thing and one thing only. When this happens, I’m locked on like a heat seeking missile, nothing is going to distract me! When my thoughts are anchored, my actions follow.
In many ways, my problem with ADD is a systemic problem within the church. Not just as “the church” but also for the individuals who make up the church. We tend to lose our focus and thus are neglectful of living an anchored life. When we aren’t unified and focused on Christ, the ship of our life and of our church’s life is in danger. So as we look at this passage of Scripture, the question we will seek to answer is: “How can we live the anchored life?”
Paul is both addressing the whole church as well as individuals within these passages. The ship of their church and of their lives are in danger because they’ve not been anchored. How can we then live the anchored life? To live the anchored life, individual’s and churches should:
Let go of the distraction of celebrity and embrace the attraction of Jesus
Here, the Corinthian church wasn’t looking at the boundaries of what they could or couldn’t do, but to other people as their focused center. They were a church that was deeply shaped by the culture around them, which was a philosophical culture. In a philosophical culture, the messenger is often more important than the message. If the message was pretty good and many people followed the messenger, he (or she) quickly became a celebrity who culture followed and also revered. This crept into the church in Corinth and I believe in our Americanized church as well.
The people who preach God’s Word seem to be more important then the Word they’re preaching, this is a heinous thing to happen! Much worse is for the one speaking to allow it to happen, or worse yet encourage his/her own celebrity. The church at Corinth began talking about the Gospel as yet another philosophical teaching and was weakening its power in doing so. One commentator states: “Paul argues against understanding the gospel as a kind of mysterious wisdom teaching, especially as a teaching that would elevate those who have certain information above others who do not”.
In or current church society, many have relegated Christianity to a wisdom teaching and nothing more. Thus wise teachers of this wise faith are lauded and spoken more highly of then Christ himself. We live in an age of the celebrity pastor. He reminds them of their family connection as well we he declares them “brothers”. He was reminding them that they are not just buddies, but united as family under the name of Jesus. This call for unity aims at eliminating divisions that encumber the church and hinder its mission. Instead of going out and speaking of Jesus to the rest of Corinth, they were portraying the Gospel as the next religious philosophical fad, led by Paul, Appollos or Cephas. The mission of the church to bring people to faith in Christ was being severely hampered. Paul was so concerned with this that he uses the word: “Appeal”, which in the Greek is similar to urge, or exhort. He urges them to be united with the same mind and the same judgment. He is not interested in imposing uniformity with this statement, but simply calling the church to ensure that individually and corporately they are centered on Christ and that He is getting the glory and the center-stage of their life. If Christ is not fixed at the center and is not the main attraction, you’ll have a church as off focus as me in full ADD mode. Nothing gets done and there is much chaos. When Christ is at the center, unity, even in the midst of diversity can be possible.
The anchored life is to be lived out both corporately and individually. When a church is living an anchored life they recognize that:
A Christ-Centered Church is a loving church
When Christ has center stage in a church, not only is there more of a mission focus, there is also a desire to walk the journey together. In the Corinthian culture and sadly in American culture, a competitive spirit can sometimes take over. In Corinth, who’s “disciple” you were gave you a better standing in the church, and gave into this arrogance Paul has already mentioned and will continue to mention throughout this letter. I believe that this competitive attitude has leaked into the American church and there are some who deem themselves “more important” than others just because of what church they come from or who their pastor is. However, when we look at Christ in the center and we see ourselves in light of the cross, we realize that all are equal at the foot of the cross. This understanding of our equality then drives us to love one another deeper and will assist in walking this journey as a team rather than individuals. If we are in a race and someone falls, I’m more likely to ignore them, but when we are running together with the same goal in mind, I am more likely to scoop down and pick my brother or sister up. I know I’d rather have the latter.
When one looks at the question of how to live an anchored life, one must also look to the leaders they follow. We can live an anchored life when:
We are to be led by leaders who point to Christ, not themselves (vs. 17)
Paul here made an interesting statement when he said: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”. He’s not saying baptism is wrong, he’s simply stating he was in Corinth to preach the gospel; that was God’s mission for him there. He then states how he was to present the gospel, stating that he could have somehow in the way in which he presented assisted in emptying the cross of power! WHAT!? As a leader of the church, his motives could shape the culture of those he leads. Had he given into the cultural norm of that day and gave amazingly loquacious sermons, and amazed the people of Corinth with his amazing philosophical mind, he would have been leading people to himself, not Christ…the very thing he mentions is already out of line with them…they are living in a celebrity leader culture and are trying to make the church look like the culture rather than reshaping the culture of the church to be a culture shaping atmosphere! He’s stating to leaders and to Christians who follow them that their motive and their heart should be to lead men and women to Christ, not themselves! A commentator once said of this passage: “…loquacious rhetoric that wins allegiance merely through its beauty is inadequate, since it draws attention to itself or to the one who utters such lovely lines. The good news of God’s saving work in the cross of Christ, however, is not a message that is to be sold through elegant presentation. The cross is not a pretty sight, and sheer manipulative eloquence is not a medium that can bear the weight of the message of Christ’s cross.” I simply couldn’t say it any better myself. Paul here is giving a warning not just to the Corinthians, but to us. Who are the leaders in the “Christian celebrity spotlight”? Are they leaders directing people to Jesus or to themselves? I desire you would test me with this test as well and if you sense that I am directing people to myself, instead of Jesus…don’t be shy in calling me out on it! A Church in the city, needs to be a church that points to Jesus, otherwise it will utterly fail.
The anchored life is a life centered on Jesus, both individually and corporately. Paul was dealing with a church and a people with divided hearts, they were not centered on Christ, and thus as individuals and as a church they were divided. God is challenging all of us to be Christ-centered in our lives. With Christ as the center, no matter what outside pressure comes, the ship won’t budge because of its anchor. Personal anchoring in Christ causes corporate anchoring in Christ.