I am amazed at all Jesus didn’t do while he was on earth. His public ministry only lasted three years, and in those years his scope of ministry was incredibly narrow. He is God after all, it seems like he could broaden his scope a little. Think about all the things Jesus didn’t do:
- He didn’t reform the government
- He didn’t solve orphan care
- He didn’t wipe out poverty
- He didn’t improve medical care
While Jesus taught principles that applied to all of these situations, he could have had an incredible impact in any of these areas. He could have ended abuse by the Romans, he could have launched a system of compassionate care for orphans, he could have ended poverty, or he could have instituted medical practices that would save millions of lives. But he didn’t.
Though Jesus had the opportunity, resources and ability to address many needs he limited himself to a very narrow mission; “to seek and save the lost”. Everything he did pointed to that one very succinct task. He knew that in this fallen world there will always be hundreds of desperate needs screaming for attention, but only one can be most important. Although he healed people, fed crowds and occasionally raised the dead, Jesus didn’t make any of those the focal point of his time on earth. He knew the more time he spent focusing on secondary issues, no matter how desperate or urgent, the less time he had for the main thing.
As church leaders we don’t claim to be God (well most of us), but act like we can accomplish more than Jesus. We believe our ministry or our church should be effective in a dozen or more areas. We feel obligated to meet as many needs, to fill as many gaps, to respond to as many crises as possible. How can we say we love God and not feed the hungry, care for the sick, educate the children, fight for the underdog, shelter the homeless, provide for the handicapped and adopt the orphans? All of this while we promote small groups, conduct church services, perform weddings and funerals, host VBS, send kids to camp, and counsel people in crisis.
When Martha complained that her sister wasn’t doing enough Jesus shared the power of a narrow vision, “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” The authors of The Four Disciplines of Execution call the trouble of many things “the whirlwind” and the focus of the one necessary thing the “Wildly Important Goal”. Their premise is that most individuals and businesses (I’d add churches) spend so much time on the whirlwind (many things) they don’t have time for their Wildly Important Goal (one thing). What if we patterned our lives, our ministries and our churches after Jesus and really drilled down to the one thing? We will always have the whirlwind to contend with, Jesus certainly did, but imagine the power of spending at least 20% of every day on our one Wildly Important Goal? Here are the questions we could ask:
- What is the one thing our church (or ministry) absolutely must accomplish in the next year? How will we know we accomplished it?
- What measurable activities will lead to accomplishing that one thing?
- How will we keep score? How will we know we are actually accomplishing what we say?
- How will we hold each other accountable to the one thing?
In over 30 years of ministry I’ve encountered very few churches with this kind of focus and discipline. I wonder what would happen if we actually followed the pattern of Jesus and focused on the one thing.