“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34
I believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees. They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing. I suspect you know a leader or two like that. You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it. After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?
The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way. They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws. Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.
Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology. He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard. He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing. I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12. This was a rare moment when Jesus actually commended one of those teachers, and it seems to me to be because this teacher was actually able to keep the details in perspective and to see the forest for the trees.
When I work with congregational conflict, I am never particularly surprised at how out of focus we church people are capable of becoming, how tunnel-visioned we get, particularly in matters of doctrine and theology. We can get so zoomed in on the differences among us that we completely lose sight of the major worldview we have in common. But I get particularly disappointed in shepherds among us who lose their focus on what is important, because they are who set the focus for the rest of us. Show me a church which is overly focused on money and material possessions, and I will show you church leadership who is out of focus that way. Show me a church who is overly focused on politics and I will show you church leadership who is leaning out of bounds in that same way. In matters of focus, we truly are a “follow the leader” kind of people.
Leadership vision which allows discussion on the finer points but which maintains its focus on the larger points is a vision Jesus commends. He saw it in this teacher of the law. He will acknowledge it in you as well. Keep your eyes on the forest, pastor. Always remind us and help us to see it. There will always be plenty of people around to point out the individual trees. You keep us focused on the major stuff. Jesus will be pleased.