I Wish More Christians Were Focused on Themselves
Recently I've been designing a logo for a church plant.
One of the visual elements of the logo is an arrow, and my initial concept for the logo had the arrow pointing inwards toward the center of the logo.
I sent several variants of this initial concept to my client, and the feedback I received was that they wanted the arrow pointing outwards rather than inwards. The reason for this change was that they want their church to be outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused.
I one-hundred percent get this and applaud this mindset. This "outwardly" or "community" focused mentality is an admirable ethos to have for a church, especially in modern America. Many churches are far too focused on fulfilling their own needs, wants, desires instead of those of their community.
Still, I couldn't help but also like the idea of the logo's arrow pointing inward too. Why? Because it reminds me of another thing I wish churches and Christians had a better grasp on these days.
I wish more Christians understood themselves.
I know, I know, I just said a few paragraphs earlier that too many churches and Christians are inwardly focused. But I believe there are two different types of being inwardly focused.
There's the inward focus that is selfish and self-gratifying, but then there's another, more-vital sense of inward focus that is about awareness and healthy living.
There is a severe deficit of this latter type of inward focus within American Christianity these days.
This latter kind of inward focus is concerned with understanding and raising awareness of the Self—the individual Selves of the congregants, but also the collective Self of the church community and the culture.
What does this look like? It looks like more of us waking up to the biases, marching orders, and ingrained philosophies that we are completely unconscious of.
It means understanding who we are, how we see the world, and why we see it the way that we see it.
For instance, many Christians will say they believe in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. They will say that they try to follow the Bible and do what it says. But, as I've written about in the past, you can't just read the Bible and do what it says.
The Bible is a collection of ancient written communication that has been passed down and translated numerous times over the course of thousands of years. When we read the Bible, we are interpreting it and trying to figure out what it means. So, our mindsets, lenses, and assumptions will dramatically affect the conclusions we come.
Unfortunately, many of us are completely unaware of the fact that we are reading the Bible from a particular cultural lens. We often approach scripture with a Western, hetero-masculine, patriotic, binary, post-enlightenment mindset without even realizing it, and then we assume that the conclusions we come to are automatically correct.
Additionally, we approach scripture with a set of assumptions about how the Bible functions. We assume that the Bible functions in a particular way without ever conciously thinking about or questioning our assumptions.
Why do we believe the Bible functions in the particular way we believe it functions? Do we believe it functions in this particular way because that's just how we grew up? Do we believe it because that's what a tradition says? (a tradition that is filled with flaws, errors, atrocities, and many changes I might add)
How do other people approach the Bible? How do people who come from extremely different cultures approach it? What makes our way correct and their way incorrect? (When people start digging down deep into these questions they often unearth lots of ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.)
More of us Christians would do well to focus inwardly in such a way as to increase our self-awareness so that we can pursue truth in a more effective manner.
As it is, many of us Christians are content to simply follow our assumptions and our cultural lenses and call it a day.
This is not truth-seeking, my friends.
More of us would do well to set our Bibles down (yes, you heard me) and begin to study our Self instead.*
We must get to know ourselves. We must discover our assumptions, our prejudices, and our biases. If we do, we will inevitably realize that we know a lot less than we think we know.
More of us need to learn to say "I don't know" more often. Why? Because most of us don't know. And yet we run around dictating our lives and the lives of others as if we did know.
Maybe—just maybe—we Christians have been so focused on dying to Self and spreading our messages (which are unknowingly filled with Self), that we haven't taken the time to understand and realize what our Self is to begin with.
You can't very well die to Self if you don't even know your Self to begin with.
What would it look like if more of us were willing to die to our Self? Our assumptions? Our biases? Our cultural lenses? Our binary mindsets? Our certainties? Our expectations?
I believe one of the greatest needs in American Christianity is not an outward focus on spreading what we often perceive is the Gospel, but an inward focus on grappling with who we are and why we are the way we are in the first place.
We won't be able to love and understand other people to the fullest if we don't first love and understand our Selves.
*These two pursuits are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but I do think there are times where Christians need to set their Bibles down. There are times when a person has become so focused upon the Bible and a particular mindset that it can be helpful and necessary to take a break in order to come back to it again anew.