Archives for : Focus

Get the Slight Edge

What areas would you like to focus on the rest of 2019?  At the end of 2019 what will have taken place for you to consider it a successful year?  Ponder that question personally, professionally, and as a church.  Where do you want to be spiritually one year from today and what do you hope your church looks like one year from today? 

How will your faith grow?  What does growing in Christ look like for you?  Lifeway has a Spiritual Growth Assessment Process that you can take at and it will help you to evaluate where you are in six different spiritual disciplines that include:abide in Christ, live by the word, pray in faith, fellowship with believers, witness to the world, and minister to others.  It is an excellent tool to challenge you about where you need to focus on growing your faith and developing your walk.

*Spiritual Disciplines

*Living in the Word

*Praying in Faith

*Fellowship with Believers

*Witness to the World

*Ministering to Others.

It is an excellent tool to challenge you about where you need to focus on growing your faith and developing your walk.

This evaluation also gives you a list of recommended action steps for each area.  The beauty of this is that it shows you how you can implement practical ways to grow in each one of these six areas.  Whether you use this tool or not, if you want to move forward in a productive manner you should come up with a list of 5-7 goals to focus on and then prioritize them.  What do you feel the Lord would want you to work on first?  When will you begin working on it?  What will you do to help you reach and accomplish that goal?

He continued, “Olsen asserts that this ‘slight edge’ comes from doing the little things that bring success day after day after day. What’s amazing is that the things done daily in and of themselves seem to matter very little that day. Yet, this consistent discipline in the small things, plus time, equals great success. The ‘slight edge’ provides the power of compound interest in every area of our lives where it is practiced.”  Dr. Crawley has developed a men’s discipleship track that focuses on faith, family, friends, finances, and fitness.

This “slight edge” can be seen in every area of our lives.  The reality is that your health improves with exercise, your finances improve with a budget, your time improves with a schedule, and your soul improves by abiding in Christ by developing a daily quiet time.  It can be seen in disciplining ourselves to be in God’s word daily.  The truth is that you may not be changed in a day but if you are in His word daily it will change you.  The main point of taking a spiritual assessment is not to see if you have “arrived” but rather if you are headed in the right direction. 

Do you desire to develop a closeness and intimacy with Him that is deeper than you have experienced with Him in the past?  Some people say they are not into goal setting but the Apostle Paul was certainly not against it.  He says in Philippians 3:10, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  Steve Green said it well in a song, “Oh, I want to know you more, deep within my soul I want to know you, oh I want to know you…Oh I want to know you more.”

If this is your prayer and desire of your heart what practical steps will you take to see it become a reality?  An American proverb says, “The hardest step is usually the first step.”  Remember, “this consistent discipline in the small things, plus time, equals great success.”  My dad reminded me often that it requires consistency.  Decide what you are going to do to develop this closer walk with the Lord then be committed to see it through.  If that means that you’re going to read through the entire Bible verse by verse then get started now, repeat daily, and do not quit!

Timothy Keller has said this about a daily quiet time.  “It is the single most influential practice in building your life from the inside out.”  The thing that people need to see the most in your life is that you walk with God. They know you are not perfect and that you make mistakes but they need to see that you are passionately pursuing God. Schedule your quiet time, guard your quiet time, be dedicated to your quiet time, and most of all enjoy your quiet time as He changes you from the inside out.  

David said in Psalm 63:1, “God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.”  Your “slight edge” will be your commitment to pursuing Him and abiding in Him.  You have this new opportunity to spend time with Him and allow your intimacy with Him increase day by day.  Don’t waste another moment!


Pastor Now

How do we redeem our time? How do we prioritize our time and make sure we are focused on the right things? There are plenty of ways to waste our time and to invest our time in things that will never produce the results we desire. In Growing New Churches (training materials by Dynamic Church Planting International) Hal Seed shares tips on dealing with time demands. He gives “Ten Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Time.”

In last Tuesday’s blog we covered the first five:

  1. Our time is precious!
  2. We will give an account of how we spend our time!
  3. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time.
  4. We spend the most important time each day with God.
  5. Rest is important for our long term health and therefore our time management.

In Building a Discipling Culture (How to release a missional movement by discipling people like Jesus did) Mike Breen describes two New Testament words that are translated as time. The one we are probably the most familiar with is Chronos which refers to things in a sequential order. This is why we have 24 hour days and a 7 day week. The clicking of the clock is what often drives us to set our goals, timelines, and planning the future. The calendar rules!

Another word for time in the scriptures is Kairos. Breen defines it as, “an event, an opportunity – a moment in time when perhaps everything changes because it is the right time. A kairos moment is when the eternal God breaks into your circumstances with an event that gathers some loose ends of your life and knots them together in his hands. In kairos moments, the rules of chronos time seem to be suspended.”

Our goal in redeeming the time is to make sure that God is directing our day. We want our schedule to be under His guidance. Hopefully, we desire to be the best stewards of our time that we possibly can be in taking advantage of every opportunity that we have to advance His kingdom.

Here are the next 5 biblical guidelines in managing your time:

6. Saying ‘no’ to good uses of time to say ‘yes’ to the best uses. Martha and Mary’s response to Jesus’ visit in Luke 10:39-42 is a great example. Mary said no to housework and hospitality while saying yes to sitting at His feet. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. It is easy to allow busy work to distract us from important work. Most have a ‘to-do’ list but we would wise to also have a ‘don’t-do’ list. What should you stop doing so you can focus on something of greater importance?

7. The best use of our time is to prepare believers to do ministry. There is no better use of our time than discipling and mentoring others. Joby Martin has said, “The measure of your success is more about who you raise than what you’ve accomplished.” Dave Ferguson puts it this way, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction.” Do you have an easily reproducible plan for leadership development?

8. Avoiding or procrastinating important tasks is often a result of ungodly presumption and laziness. Mark Twain suggested that if there was something you knew you needed to do that day but did not want to you should go ahead and “swallow the frog.” Get it over with and behind you. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

9. Busyness does not equal godliness or productivity. Every job requires our taking care of tasks that are unpleasant and we do not enjoy. Do not avoid the unpleasant but important tasks. Resist the temptation to only spend your time on the things that are ‘sexy’ or ‘fun’ to you. Are you only busy doing ministry or are you busy multiplying ministry through others?

10. We must plan the wise use of our time. Psalms 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Listen to the wisdom of Bill Bright, “For many years, one of the first things I do every morning is to evaluate all the day’s competing demands against one single criterion: How will each opportunity enable me to maximize my contribution to helping fulfill the Great Commission? I prioritize accordingly. Some of the demands go to the top of my list, some down the list, and some get eliminated.”

Develop a “STOP-DOING” List

Building Margin

     We have all heard statements such as, “Keep the main thing the main thing!”  The problem is that we are tempted to believe that more is better.  We add more activities, more programs, and more ministries thinking that they will provide what is needed – more!  Many have long lived by the motto that the only way to be more productive is to work harder,  longer, or both.  Howard Hendricks stated that, “The secret of concentration is elimination.”  Eric Garland says it this way, “The real work isn’t acquisition.  It’s good, reliable filtering.”

     The idea of building margin into our lives and ministry involves developing boundaries that limit how we will utilize our time. The idea of building margin into your life is to remove the unnecessary so that you can focus on the most important things.  It is not only focusing on doing things right but making sure you are doing the right things.  We are often completely focused on our “to-do” lists, but we should also consider making a “stop-doing” list.  What do you need to stop doing so that you can focus on what you should be doing?

     As a church what things should you stop doing so that you can focus on the main things?  Are there programs and activities that are actually keeping you or distracting you from carrying out the Great Commission and obeying the Great Commandment?  In the book Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning stresses the three things every church should focus on:

  • Worship – This is how we stay centered! – Loving God more!
  • Small Groups – This is how we stay connected! – Loving people more!
  • Outreach – This is how we stay concerned! – Loving more people!

One question pastors should ask themselves is, “What do I need to stop doing so that I can intentionally build relationships with people far from God so that I might lead them to Him?”

     As an individual believer what do you need to stop doing so that you remain focused on what God is asking of you?  Paul had a focused determination in obediently following the Lord when he said in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  We are called to three things:

  • Follow Jesus – If you are too busy for daily Bible study and prayer you are too busy. What do you need to place on your “stop doing” list so that you build margin into your schedule for your quiet time with God?
  • Help others Follow Jesus – Are you spending time sharing your faith? How do we build margin into our lives so that we are intentionally building relationships with the unchurched and those far from God?  
  • Help others Help others Follow Jesus – Are we mentoring others to be faithful in the first two? We must have margin in order to implement an intentional leadership development strategy.  Dave Ferguson points this out clearly, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction!”

     In Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “The point of this entire book is not that we should ‘add’ these findings to what we are already doing and make ourselves even more overworked. No, the point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”  Remember, if you want a different result, do something different.

     The answer is not adding to our already over scheduled lives.  More frenetic activity will not in itself make us more effective.  The time has come to develop a filter system that places boundaries in our lives that will enable us determine our “stop-doing” list not just our “to-do” list.  Henry David Thoreau said it this way, “It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is what are we busy about?”  It is easy for our lives and ministries to become cluttered and complex but it takes a determined focus to “make the main thing the main thing!”

     Healthy churches not only desire to things right, they make sure they are focused on the right things!




Is your church focused on the past, the present, or the future?  When churches first begin they seem to be focused on the future and have visionary leaders who are risk-takers.  After the church begins to settle in and become comfortable they have a focus on the present congregation.  The status-quo sneaks up on them and the leadership becomes care-givers.  Some where along the life-cycle of the church the members begin talking about the good ole’ days and their focus is now on the past.  They want things to return to how they use to be but the reality is that nostalgia has sugar coated how it really was.  If this congregation is not careful the leadership will become undertakers and the church will die as the older members graduate to heaven.

First, are you focused on the future?  Visionary leaders will not trade off what is better for the future for what is easier in the present.  Visionary leaders have discerned God’s will for their church and they are fully committed to carrying it out.  They are like Joshua and Caleb who saw the obstacles in the promised just like the other ten spies but choose to believe God would help them to be overcomers.  Visionary leaders have a resolve to be true to God’s direction even though their are skeptics, naysayers, doubters, and even enemies to the vision God has given them.  They are like Paul who said in I Cor 16:9, “because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me —yet many oppose me.”  There will always be opposition but visionary leaders are determined to love people while being obedient to the vision God has given them for their church.

Churches focused on the future have a vision to impact their communities with the gospel.  Their priority is the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment.  They are not just focused on gathering but scattering to be salt and light in their neighborhoods.   They realize that every member is called to live as a missionary in their zip code.  They are not afraid to experiment and try new things as long as the gospel is presented clearly and biblically.  The church focused on the future has leadership who invest a lot of time and energy in pursuing God’s vision with an expectation that He will in fact guide them.  They practice a high-risk faith!

Second, are you focused on the present?  Things were going so well, at one time, that the temptation and desire was to freeze time.  The eventual outcome was turning innovation, in the beginning, into the traditions of tomorrow.  Habits became routines and unfortunately people began to just go through the motions.  The church of the present becomes very good at “doing church” but forgets about being the church.  The church of the “present” has a solid congregation with solid finances.  They have good programs, good staff, and very nice facilities.  Unfortunately, many become focused on their rights as members and a sense of entitlement begins to permeate though the congregation instead of a spirit of enlistment into service.  The church of the present becomes program-driven and no one is allowed to monkey with the machinery of the ministry already set in motion.

Churches focused on the present give priority to who is already there It has been said well, “In reach has its own voice, but outreach needs an advocate!”  Whenever a church begins to ignore its community it will ultimately find itself plateauing and eventually one  the backside of the life-cycle.  many times because of multiple ministries there are multiple visions and core values trying to co-exist.  The main focus becomes the programs and filling the positions needed to make sure that the machinery chugs along.  These leaders are totally committed to following God but are also committed to guarding and protecting what is “proven” and true.  They practice a low-risk faith!

Third, are you a church that is focused on the past?  This church talks about the glory days when Bro So-and-So was here.  The vision to penetrate the culture and impact their community is gone.  They have become slaves to the programs that were once effective and served a wonderful purpose in their day.  They are unwilling to change anything because that would mean admitting their mistakes and having to make some very hard decisions.  Churches focused on the past are overly fascinated with organizational charts, committee meetings, budgets, and business meetings.  Future-oriented churches are vision-driven.  Present-oriented churches are program-driven.  Past-oriented churches are structure-driven.  There is nothing “wrong” with many of the things they are doing but the structure becomes all-consuming!

These leaders desire to go back to some former time in the church.  The innovations of their former glory days became the traditions of the present day church but then became legalism.  While vision-driven churches are focused on the community and the program-driven churches are focused on the congregation the structure-driven church becomes consumed with the core.  One church consultant makes this observation, “Key influencers in this core often prove to be barriers to growth as they remain entrenched in their authority and hold the congregation hostage by means of authority and influence.”  This church practices a no-risk faith!

Healthy churches are future-focused, vision-driven, community-focused, and practice a high-risk faith!

Planned Neglect

A young violinist delivered a virtuoso performance.  After the magnificent concert that showcased her gift she was asked by a music critic what she attributed her success and talent to.  Her response was “Planned Neglect!”  She explained a strategic decision in her life to neglect those things that were not necessary to her goal of becoming a concert violinist.  Leaders and churches must begin to eliminate the unnecessary so that we can get back to those things that are necessary for us to be who God wants us to be.  Planned neglect asks the question, “What is most important?”  “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  —Michael Porter

 There are so many things we could be doing but what should we be doing?  What is it that God wants us to be busy about?  In Matt. 28:19 we are told to “Go and Make disciples…”  We are to be focused on disciple making. That has not changed and never will change until the Lord returns.  We do not have to scratch our heads or call another meeting to try to figure out what we should be doing.  Our mission is clear and we need to quit talking about it and just do it!  “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.”  —Thom Rainer

 Two questions need to be asked to decide how effectively we are doing the best things. 

#1  Are we going?  Are you living sent?  A sending environment should be a part of the atmosphere in your church.  There should be strong evidence of mobilizing our people to infiltrate the culture they function in.  We should not settle for a “come-to-us” mentality but a “go-and-find-them” attitude should permeate every ministry of our churches.  Instead of creating paths that lead those outside inside, we need to create paths that lead those inside outside.  Many focus on getting better at what they are doing but we must first focus on doing better things.

#2  Are we making disciples who make disciples?  A process and strategy of mentoring new believers should be in place that is simple, easily reproducible, and functioning in our churches.  Our mission is not just to win people but to cultivate the faith within them.  This involves meeting people where they are spiritually and moving them to where they need to be.  It is relational, a little messy at times, but always meaningful.  “Many people do not give themselves to developing other people because they never had it happen to them.” —Reggie McNeal 

 Be careful because it is much easier to develop programs than to win people to Christ and build them up.  Just because you have a program for discipleship does not guarantee that disciples are being made. We must first “go” if we are going to make disciples.  For far too long Christians have been ignoring their responsibility to evangelize!  This is where it must begin and until individual Christians once again embace this commandment from the Lord, churches will have to try to develop “programs” to reach the lost. 

 How are you investing your time and energy daily that proves you are concerned about the lost people in your circles of influence?  Multiplication of ministry has to begin with subtraction and you must figure out what you need to stop doing so that you can focus on what you should be doing.  All of us need to stop doing some things that are consuming our time and dedicate more time to reaching lost people with the gospel.  “A “stop doing” list is more important than a “start doing” list.  Stop something to liberate energy for what matters more.”  –Eric Geiger

 Dave DeVries puts it well, “What does the American church need to abandon to see the gospel move forward and disciple-makers made exponentially?”  Make plans now to neglect some things that really do not matter in order to focus time and energy on what does matter; Disciple Making!