I love to play games and I am fortunate that I get to play a lot of hobby board and card games. In order to play all of these games I have read a lot of rulebooks, and I know how to play a lot of different games. The end result of all this is that when I am at a gathering where games are being played there is a good chance I am teaching a game. I have taught a lot of games.
Every time I am teaching a game I always begin the exact same way by stating “The goal of the game is to win.” From there I will then explain how to win. It seems like common sense to state that the goal of any given game is to win. However, it is important because in the midst of playing the game it can be very easy to forget. Many newer hobby games employ a wide variety of mechanisms. It can be surprisingly easy to get caught up in exploring these mechanisms and lose sight of the goal of the game.
The goal of any game is to win, but it can be deceptively easy to lose sight of that through the course of playing a game. The same principle is true for being a disciple of Jesus. In what is commonly called the great commission, Jesus himself told us the goal of faith at the end of the gospel of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As followers of Christ that is our goal, but just like in playing games it is possible to lose sight of the goal. Followers of Christ need to always keep the goal in mind or else we can easily get distracted. Unfortunately, this can be seen in churches. We have lost sight of the goal when we say everyone is welcome but the word evangelism is never mentioned. We have lost sight of the goal when programs, even well-meaning programs, become an ends to themselves. The reality for churches is that if a program or ministry is not somehow making new disciples, deepening the discipleship of current disciples, or teaching the commands of Jesus, then it is a distraction at best.
In playing a game it is important to be reflective and evaluate decisions. If previous decisions are not leading to the goal of winning, then players will adjust their strategy. In a game it would make little sense to keep making the same sub-optimal move that does not move any closer to the goal of winning. Yet the attitude of “doing what we always do” is far too common place in churches. In playing a game it is important to always be focusing one’s strategy on the goal of winning. In the same way, in the Christian faith it is important to always be focusing on how to better fulfill the great commission by making new disciples.
The goal of Christianity is to follow Jesus and share Jesus with others. That is the main thing. May we keep the main thing the main thing. May we not lose sight of the goal, and as we seek to make disciples may we claim the promise that Jesus himself gives us: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”