by Dick Wamsley
If there were any doubters that Apple would be able to attract buyers for their new iPhone X selling at $999, those doubts vanished when their most expensive phone ever was released on November 3rd. They started selling out by the next day. Over the weekend, resale prices began appearing on eBay and Craigslist ranging from $1,500 to $5,000!
And so, yet another technical marvel is in the hands of consumers that some will find to be a valuable tool in their work, home and personal management. For others it will become just another distraction that keeps them from fulfilling responsibilities in their work, home and personal management. In some cases, it will be a distraction that leads to auto and pedestrian accidents, loss of productivity on the job and even deaths. I heard one preacher refer to such technological gadgets as “weapons of mass distraction.”
That led me to consider how weapons of mass distraction can make their way into the life of the church. The latest and greatest outreach program that attracted people to Church A down the road is adopted in Church B without evaluating its appropriateness for them. A church introduces an entirely new worship style with little education of the congregation as to why the change is being made. A ministry staff member becomes a lightning rod of controversy that ends up dividing the loyalties of the congregation.
These can become weapons of mass distraction that divert the energies of a church from pursuing its vision and fulfilling its mission. What starts out as a minor distraction morphs into a weapon that blows up in the faces of the church’s leadership.
In the letters of the Apostle Paul to the first century church in Corinth, several such distractions are cited and criticized. (All of the following are in 1 Corinthians.) There were quarrels among some church members as to whom they should follow: Paul, Apollos, Peter or Christ (1:11-12). There was the distraction of sexual immorality by one of the members who “has his father’s wife,” (5:1). Others were suing each other in civil courts (6:1-6). There was controversy over Christians eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (all of chapter 8), divisiveness when sharing the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), and the manifestation of spiritual gifts used during corporate worship (chapters 12-14).
You talk about weapons of mass distraction! There was a stockpile of them in the Corinthian church!
Paul exerted his apostolic authority and gave specific instructions as to how to deal with each of these potential weapons of mass distraction, any one of which could explode into a church-splitting contention. Part of Satan’s strategy to disrupt the impact of the church on its community is to turn what may begin as minor distractions into major disruptions. Modern leaders in the church need to be on the alert for those distractions and take definitive, Biblically-based and Holy Spirit-led action to defuse them early. Procrastination usually leads to an escalation of the dynamics involved in the distraction.
Paul’s appeal for dealing with the divisions was that the church “agree with one another” and “be perfectly united in mind and thought,” (1:10). To deal with the sexual immorality among them, he said they should have “been filled with grief” and “put out of [their] fellowship” the guilty man, (5:2). To those who were suing one another in civil courts, he admonished them to appoint judges who were “wise enough to judge disputes among believers,” (6:4-5). He gave similar definitive actions to take in dealing with eating food offered to idols, the divisiveness when observing the Lord’s supper, and the proper use of spiritual gifts during corporate worship.
The key to neutralizing potential weapons of mass distraction is for the church’s leaders to be alert to those distractions as they arise in the church, interceding with biblical teaching and problem-solving actions to prevent those distractions from escalating into major disruptions. Doing so will more likely result in people affirming what Paul said to the Corinthian church in his first line after the greeting; chapter 1, verse 4: “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”