Yes and no. Of course it is true that the church exists to help transform people into disciples of Jesus. The church is meant to express the love of Jesus to hurting people. It is part of our calling to help set right what is wrong in the world. Where there is injustice, we should rise to confront it. Where there is inequity, we should challenge it. Where people are in bondage, we should be passionate about their freedom. Where people are separated from God, we should have a longing to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus. However, it is not enough just to call ourselves a people-centered church.
That may seem surprising, but I believe it is true. Consider Mary and Martha. Luke tells us that Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha. This would have been quite an honor for these girls. They wanted to be sure everything was in order. They wanted to be good hostesses and to provide what their guests needed. There was much work to be done. But when Jesus arrived, Mary stopped right in the middle of the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, and the tidying up. She was so tied up into seeing Jesus, she lost focus on the work and lost herself in listening to Him.
Martha was incensed. She complained to Jesus that all the work had fallen to her when her sister got distracted from the task and went to sit at Jesus’ feet. Notice how the scripture recounts the story. Luke 10:40 tells us that it was Martha, not Mary, who was “distracted” or “cumbered about.” In fact, Martha was so distracted by the work of the Lord that she missed out in her relationship with the Lord of the work! Isn’t that just like many of us in the church today? We get so busy and so focused on the work of God that the God of the work can be left out of what we’re doing. Our goal is not just to generate a large crowd. That has been done by many a lunatic. Our goal is to generate disciples. In order to do that, we cannot be focused on people as much as we are focused on the Lord.
Why do we reach out to people? Why do we try to help the hurting? Why do we want to see people saved? Because doing that is the best way we can glorify God! When we reach out, we don’t want people just to be impressed with our compassion. We want them to see the compassion God has for us and for them. When we offer assistance, we don’t simply want people to find our assistance honorable. We want them to know that God can do for them what we never could!
We want our actions to point them somewhere, or better, to someone! When I say we don’t want to be a people-centered church, I don’t mean that people are not important. Obviously, they are central to what we do. But I would rather say that we are a God-centered church. I would rather take Mary’s role and “chose what is better”—never to let the Lord’s work take the place of the Lord!
Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself” (Jn. 12:32). This was a bit of a double entendre. He was actually referring to the way in which he would die. But, ironically, this was also the way in which He would be glorified. When the Christ of the cross is lifted up among us, people will be drawn to Him. He is our focus. He is at the center of what we do. That was the case for Paul. When he addressed the Corinthians, he did not try to convince them of his passion for people. The people were important, but the center of his message was “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul resolved to be so focused on Jesus that he resolved to “know nothing else” among them. May the same be true at The Capital Church.