Renewal Thru Fine-Tuned Focus
Seeing To It That The Priorities Don't Slip
In the past we have seen the importance of thinking through, developing, and articulating a concise statement of purpose that will enable the church to stay the course. We have seen the importance of the leader choosing one critical priority at a time on which to focus.
As we make progress in these areas, I cannot overstate the importance of reckoning with the law of entropy. The law of entropy states that everything tends to fall apart as time passes.
A well-formulated purpose will be forgotten unless the congregation is constantly reminded of it. A direction that is crystal clear will not stay that way without constant attention. A program that is running well will fall apart unless it is constantly fine-tuned.
It is impossible to stay on the cutting edge of church renewal unless we are involved in a constant honing process with our ministry’s focus.
The Important, Not Urgent
It was once said, “Priorities slip with the passage of time.” It is the leader’s responsibility to see to it that the church’s priorities do not slip. The primary task of leadership is to keep the church focused on its purpose. If we are to be effective leaders we must understand that the daily routine has the propensity to blur the focus of the church. Each new decision, opportunity, or problem has the potential of derailing us from our primary task.
The story is told of a man who owned a Fiat automobile. It was the best-engineered piece of junk that he had ever driven. Among the many problems that the car had was that it was almost impossible to keep the front end aligned. The tires would wear out so unevenly that the owner could not get more than 15,000 miles out of one set of radials. One side of the tires would be worn down to the steel belt, while the other side would look brand new. Every time the car paid a visit to the front-end specialist for realignment, the owner would file a complaint. But the specialist would always say the same thing, “Those Fiats are impossible to keep in alignment. All you need to do is hit one stone and they are off again.” The owner himself couldn’t even remember being able to drive down a highway without having to pull the steering wheel in one direction. This badly engineered marvel of a car would simply refuse to drive itself in a straight line. Both owner and automobile would wrestle against each other in the middle of the road.
People are like that Fiat in this modern day parable. No one, by nature, is able to keep going in one direction for a very long period of time. Every little distraction that crosses a person’s path is like a stone run over by our Fiat. It throws off his or her alignment.
Sticking to one’s priorities is a full time job. What makes it difficult to stay focused is that urgent matters seem to pass through our hands on a regular basis. The temptation is to drop whatever we are doing and give our time to that which seems as though it cannot wait.
President Dwight Eisenhower once confessed that “only read two types of letters, those marked urgent and those marked important.” He said that he spent so much time on the urgent that he hardly had any time left over for the important.
As disciples and church leaders we are in a very similar situation. The temptation is to give our attention to the most urgent and immediate pressing needs, rather than to stay focused and devote our time to that which we have decided is most important.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
In order for us as leaders to keep our ministry in sharp focus, we must take regular time off to regain our focus. This requires solitude and time with the Lord. To consistently push without taking time off to fine-tune, hone, and question or review our priorities will result in the loss of our focus, and our effectiveness will radically decline.
There are countless pastors and church leaders who work very, very hard and yet are not effective at all in bringing about renewal in their spiritually hungry churches. They expend all their energies putting out the fires of the urgent, without taking time out to plan and prioritize. For them, there is no direct relationship between hard work and positive accomplishment.
Price Pritchett shares this most insightful story:
I’m sitting in a quiet room at the Milcroft Inn, a peaceful little place back among the pine trees about an hour out of Toronto. It’s just past noon, late July, and I’m listening to the desperate sounds of a life-or-death struggle going on a few feet away.
There’s a small fly burning out the last of its short life’s energies in a futile attempt to fly through the glass of the windowpane. The whining wings tell the poignant story of the fly’s strategy: Try harder. But it’s not working.
The frenzied effort offers no hope for survival. Ironically, the struggle is part of the trap. It is impossible for the fly to try hard enough to succeed at breaking through the glass. Nevertheless, this little insect has staked its life on reaching its goal through raw effort and determination.
This fly is doomed. It will die there on the windowsill.
Across the room, ten steps away, the door is open. Ten seconds of flying time and this small creature could reach the outside world it seeks. With only a fraction of the effort now being wasted, it could be free of this self-imposed trap. The breakthrough possibility is there. It would be so easy.
Why doesn’t the fly try another approach, something dramatically different? How did it get so locked in on the idea that this particular route and determined effort offer the promise for success? What logic is there in continuing until death to seek a breakthrough with more of the same?
No doubt this approach makes sense to the fly. Regrettably, it’s an idea that will kill.
Trying harder isn’t necessarily the solution to achieving more. It may not offer any real promise for getting what you want out of life. Sometimes, in fact, it’s a big part of the problem.
If you stake your hopes for a breakthrough on trying harder than ever, you may kill your chances for success.
People get locked into a rut of trying harder without trying smarter. Trying harder doesn’t always work. Sometimes we need to do something radically different to achieve greater levels of success. We need to break out of our paradigm prisons, our habits patterns and our comfort zones. To accomplish the work before us, we don’t have to try harder to reinvent the wheel, but try smarter when the wheel is already at our disposal for our success.
The adage “work smarter, not harder” could be changed to read, “work focused, not scattered.” It is the politician who, when he or she loses sight of the objective, redoubles the efforts. This should not be true of leaders who seek renewal in their churches. We are under obligation to God to get the right things done. It is not good enough to do the wrong things very effectively. It was once said, “Things not worth doing are not worth doing well.” According to my former professor Dr. Colin Brown, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”
Many Busy, Few Effective
In the churches today there are tens of thousands of busy leaders, but very few effective leaders. Albert Einstein said, “Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age.” Many of us have allowed calls for help distract us from our primary focus in life—to glory God by making and nurturing disciples.
Over a hundred years ago, D. L. Moody lashed out as a loving critic to certain parts of the church in his lifetime for misappropriation of their energies. The church reminded him, he said, “of firemen straightening pictures on the wall of a burning house.”
As leaders of our churches we desperately need to re-focus our lives and our ministries. The eternal destiny of millions of people rests on our shoulders. Would that God raise up one man or woman in each church who would be willing to invest the time necessary to develop and articulate a clear statement of purpose for the local church, and then possess the tenacity to maintain the focus toward the fulfillment of that purpose.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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