Vol. 11 No. 10 October 2009
There is a popular expression that goes something like this: “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” This expression presupposes that someone is standing in the woods, and therefore, he cannot adequately see the forest composed by the mass of trees. Yet, from another vantage point, such as standing outside the woods, maybe on the crest of a hill, one can see the forest and may not be able to see the individual trees that compose the forest.
Consider for a moment applying these figures to spiritual matters, and particularly to congregations of the Lord’s church. For instance, as a visiting preacher only speaking for one, two or three class or assembly times, really, I can only see the “forest”; for the most part, I cannot observe the “trees” — the individual members who comprise that congregation. On the other hand, someone who preaches frequently for the same congregation may more easily be able to see the “trees” and less able to see adequately the “forest” — how the congregation may be perceived by visitors or the community.
Think with me a couple of minutes about the different kinds of trees that one might find in the same forest: pines, oaks, maples, dogwoods, mimosas and many more. Furthermore, a forest will likely have in it old trees, saplings and trees of every age in between. Irrespective of the kind of trees or the age of trees, together the various trees constitute a forest. Although we humans may value or dismiss as worthless certain kinds of trees, together, the various trees nevertheless make up a forest.
There is a congregation with which I am familiar, owing to my several occasional visits over the years, that makes me think: “I can’t see the forest for the trees.” In this case, that’s a good thing. These “trees” — local Christians — cause in me awe and admiration.
Human tendency, even among Christians (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), is to be fussy if not divisive. Often, adults don’t play well together any more than small children who sometimes fuss with each other. Small children, however, get over it shortly and play well with each other again. This little church, though, functions well, despite being a “forest” comprised of various “trees.”
This church is comprised of at least four races, representing directly or indirectly several nationalities and cultures. Members represent all ages and socio-economic distinctions. From a purely secular viewpoint, these people have nothing in common, but because they have Jesus Christ in common as their Savior, they are an awe-inspiring family of God meeting in their community. The point is that they (and all Christians should) have and remember Jesus Christ in common as Savior. Jesus Christ our Savior is the great equalizer; nothing matters beyond the salvation of souls from past sins and subsequent preparation to meet God in eternity (Amos 4:12).
Further observation respecting the reason behind this remarkable cohesiveness is their “out of body experience.” By that I mean that this church is comprised of Christians whose interaction with each other is not limited to assemblies for Bible class and worship; they have “out of corporate body experience.” They not only worship and study God’s Word together, but they eat together in one another’s homes, they play together, and they work together to further the cause of Christ. Doesn’t some of that, the frequency of interaction in one another’s lives in addition to assemblies, remind you a little bit of the church of the Bible (Acts 2:46)?
These “trees,” though they differ from one another in a number of ways, make up a healthy “forest” of Christians in their community. What kind of “trees” are we, and do we contribute to a healthy “forest” of God’s people in our respective communities?