Summary: The heart of this message is how very easy it is for us to miss some of the really BIG issues of the Christian life because our focus and attention is elsewhere.
DID YOU SEE THE GORILLA?
1. “Most people like to think of themselves as alert and aware. But under the right circumstances, even the most observant people can be blind to what’s going on around them.”
• With those words CBS commenced a report entitled “What You See Depends on What You Look For”
• The report focused on research conducted by a team of Harvard psychologists on the issue of what is called “inattentional blindness” – that means that people really can miss things – even BIG things – that happen right before their eyes.
• And the way in which they studied this phenomenon was to have people sit and watch a videotape with the instructions to count the number of times people in white shirts passed a ball. This message was underscored – to look only for people in white shirts passing the ball.
• At the end of the videotape they were asked if they noticed anything unusual and over 50% of the people did not notice a person in a gorilla suit walking through the display, through the players, and out the other side – even if it stopped and thumped its chest.
• The point of the exercise is to demonstrate that if you are not expecting to see something, you might well miss it and also to show that it is quite possible for us to miss seeing something important even though it might be right before our eyes because our minds are focused on something else.
• A spin off result of the study is to show how dangerous it can be to be talking on the cell phone or putting on makeup or doing any number of other things while driving.
2. Well, the application I would like to make this morning is how very easy it is for us to miss some of the really BIG issues of the Christian life because our focus and attention is elsewhere. And so the question I want each of us to answer is, Did You See the Gorilla?
• And the gorilla in this case is what has become known as The Great Commission – Jesus’ charge to His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded us.
• Some Bible teachers have referred to it as The Great Omission because of the lack of mission and evangelism-mindedness that has enveloped large segments of the church and has led us to be focused more on self-preservation and just taking care of our own.
• Now those are not bad or wrong tasks. It is an excellent thing for us to care for one another and look after one another and take care of the building where we gather and its various activities.
• But if that is the primary or sole focus of our activity then we have missed the Gorilla!
3. We could compare that mindset to a Fire Department or EMT crew spending the majority of their time on cleaning and polishing and adding gadgets to their vehicles instead of getting out to extinguish fires and rescue people from life-threatening situations.
• All of us would agree that cleaning and maintaining the vehicles in tip top condition is important, but it can NEVER be MORE IMPORTANT than the work of saving lives.
• Rescuing people and getting them to safety has always got to remain the primary function of such services.
• My brothers and sisters, the same is true of the church. We are first and foremost God’s and the world’s Rescue Mission and when we forget that, we become little more than a spiritual version of Rotary, or a bridge club, or the local coffee klatch – nice societies, pleasant and enjoyable groups, but not the church of Jesus Christ.
4. I have inserted a copy of the story of The Life Saving Station [ get copy here - http://www.myfortress.org/LifeSavingStation.html] in your bulletin for you to take home and read and digest – but briefly it tells the all too sad story of many denominations and revival movements that have started out with great enthusiasm and a strong sense of focus and purpose and then over time became cozy, comfortable self-preservation societies that have forgotten their original reason for being.
• Some within the church have sought to be reformers and call it back to its original mission and either met with resistance or apathy and consequently broke off to form their own new group which eventually experienced the same tragic story.
• That was one of the reasons for the birth of the Methodist Church within the Anglican Church – Methodism was a reform movement seeking to call the church back to its mission to reach and save the lost – and so with great passion John Wesley and John Whitefield went to preach to coal miners and pub frequenters and wherever people would listen and repent of their sin and turn to God.