Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Bottom Line Is ...

Years ago I was introduced to Stephen Covey’s bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” If you’re not familiar with Covey’s book, I do encourage you to check it out. It comes highly recommended, and especially if your career has you in some sort of a leadership role.

While I am not normally much into these success and positive thinking type books, recently I did start to read this one again. Having said that, I confess that my doing so had more to do with business interests than personal or faith-based interests.

As a result, I really did not expect to find any spiritual motifs in this book, and yet in at least one section, I did find just that. While I seem to have missed it on previous readings, or simply have forgotten it, this time around something the author said about “Church Centeredness” caught my attention. Covey writes,
“I believe that almost anyone who is seriously involved in any church will recognize that churchgoing is not synonymous with personal spirituality. There are some people who get so busy in church worship and projects that they become insensitive to the pressing human needs that surround them, contradicting the very precepts they profess to believe deeply. There are others who attend church less frequently or not at all but whose attitudes and behavior reflect a more genuine centering in the principles of the basic Judeo-Christian ethic. 
“Having participated throughout my life in organized church and community service groups, I have found that attending church does not necessarily mean living the principles taught in those meetings. You can be active in a church but inactive in its gospel.
“In the church-centered life, image of appearance can become a person’s dominant consideration, leading to hypocrisy that undermines personal security and intrinsic worth. Guidance comes from social conscience, and the church centered person tends to label others artificially in terms of ‘active,’ ‘inactive,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘orthodox,’ or ‘conservative.’ 
“Because the church is a formal organization made up of policies, programs, practices, and people, it cannot by itself give a person any deep, permanent security or sense of intrinsic worth. Living the principles taught by the church can do this, but the organization alone cannot. 
“Nor can the church give a person a constant sense of guidance. Church centered people often tend to live in compartments, acting and thinking and feeling in certain ways on the Sabbath and in totally different ways on weekdays. Such a lack of wholeness or unity or integrity is a further threat to security, creating the need for increased labeling and self-justifying. 
“Seeing the church as and end rather than as a means to an end undermines a person’s wisdom and sense of balance. Although the church claims to teach people about the source of power, it does not claim to be that power itself. It claims to be one vehicle through which divine power can be channeled into man’s nature.” (p. 117-118)
In context, Covey was describing some of the different things that compete for our attention as “centers” of our lives. Besides church, Covey says that these “centeredness” things often include: Spouse, Family, Money, Work, Possessions, Pleasure, Friend/Enemy, and Self. The point is, there are lots of different things that can (and do) compete for centre stage in our lives, and which affect the way we ultimately live and who we ultimately are.

While this is no doubt a great personal leadership book, but from a faith perspective this section misses one crucial point. One of the “centeredness” options it fails to mention is “Christ Jesus.” Yes, it speaks of the state of the church and of spirituality, but that is not the same thing as speaking about Jesus, which in the end isn’t really surprising, given that Covey himself was a Mormon. So obviously, there are differences in understanding between him and me of exactly what we mean by “church,” but we won’t get into that at this time.

The bottom line for me is, contrary to Covey, if the “center” of our lives is not Jesus, and Jesus alone, we’re going to have issues. Sure, we can colour it all we want in different shades of religiousness and business secularism, but take Jesus out of the equation, and in my humble opinion, we’re going to be missing the boat. Jesus said,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The bottom line is, the only centeredness in life that matters is: JESUS. All the rest is ultimately just mumbo-jumbo. That’s the way I see it anyways. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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