The Wrong Focus

Christians promote the Church more than Jesus Christ.

That’s what Dave E. Cole says in his book, What the Church Can Learn from Harley-Davidson: Connecting with Today’s Culture. In this book, he draws from his experience riding in the Harley-Davidson community to point out ways that Harley-Davidson has excelled in recruiting passionate followers and to suggest ways the Church can implement some of these strategies. One of these ways is to restore the correct focus: Jesus.

A Brand

Harley-Davidson owners are fiercely passionate about their motorcycles and readily tell others about their rides. In fact, the motorcycle “becomes the centerpiece of a lifestyle for its riders and managers” (p. 9) because they believe in the products. However, they don’t simply cherish their rides; they also “believe in the vision [of the organization] and in the capacity of the organization to deliver on its mission” (p. 65). That’s the essence of brand reputation, and if the brand has a good reputation, it’ll garner brand loyalty. Harley-Davidson knows how to garner brand loyalty, which creates passionate supporters who proudly display their Harleys to the world.  

Why don’t Christians do the same? Cole says, “Roughly three-fourths of churches in America are plateaued or dying because they do not share their faith with outsiders” (p. 48). If Jesus truly was who He said He was, that should excite us (Christians). We should be proclaiming this to the whole world. He should become the centerpiece of the Christian’s lifestyle, not just an add-on.

So, why do so many Christians stay silent?

Christ-Centered Churches

Maybe we aren’t confident in what we’re proclaiming because we’re lifting up a church rather than Jesus’s name. As Cole says, “Christians have been trying to sell the church as an organization rather than focusing on the person of Christ. We must understand that people are drawn to love and engage with God by a relationship with Jesus, not by the Church itself” (p. 10).

The focus of our churches must be Jesus and His saving work on the cross. He took human form, enduring unimaginable agony and rejection to restore humanity’s relationship with God. He is the reason for our churches. He needs to be the focus of our churches once more.

So, how do we as the Church keep our hearts and minds centered on Christ?  

A Mission 

Without a mission, people wander aimlessly. Having a mission keeps an organization on target. It helps them stay with their original purpose and keeps them from giving up. The Church has a mission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).  

In his book, Cole said, “Like Harley-Davidson, the Church must build its reputation by staying true to its vision and core values. Remaining true means defining what we do, but also being clear about what we do not do” (p. 65). One way to help do that is to create a mission statement. Cole recommends that every church should have a mission statement that is short, is easy to understand and memorize, comes from the Great Commission, and focuses on Jesus. This will remind the church of “its true purpose for being” (p. 67).  

A Good Example  

The Early Church had it right. Throughout the book of Acts, we can see the believers focusing completely on Jesus, counting their lives as loss if only to make His name known (Acts 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 8:30-36; 9:3-6; 10:36-43; 13:26-39; 17:2-3, 31; 18:5, 28; 20:21; 28:31). The apostle Paul phrased it this way: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Philippians 3:7-11).  

To Paul, nothing was more important than knowing Jesus. Nothing was more important than sharing Jesus with the world. He constantly proclaimed Jesus’s work in his life to anyone who would listen, even though it would cost him his life.

Paul’s top priority was Jesus. The Church’s top priority used to be Jesus. Let’s go back to our true purpose: telling the world about the One who died to set us free.