Discerning where to focus your energies is essential.
Focus is power. The biggest difference between the light in your lamp and the light of a laser is focus. The letters in the word laser stand for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The focused laser beam can travel very long distances. It can be used in precision tools and can cut through diamonds or thick metal.1
In his 2015 movie, Focus, Will Smith’s character explains why focus is so important, saying, “The human brain is slow. It cannot multitask.” In the 1991 movie, City Slickers, Jack Palance explains the secret to happiness is in finding and focusing on your one thing. In 1984 The Karate Kid was instructed by Mr. Miyagi in the ability to focus, which brought him great success. The book, The One Thing, details what it calls “Lie #2: Multitasking increases productivity.”2
In studies, psychologist David Strayer found that 97.5% of people failed multitasking tests, and he concluded that there is no way to increase your ability to multitask.3 In fact, additional research out of Stanford University found that chronic multitasking actually damages your brain and career.4 Focus is power.
During the COVID-19 pandemic our travels, businesses and churches were shut down for a time. We were forced not to do things we were accustomed to doing and to learn to focus on avenues and strategies that would work during those unusual times.
Such lessons should not be lost on us even post-pandemic. Three simple, but vital, focusing questions can help you achieve the maximum effectiveness in your life and ministry: What is most important? What can you do? What impacts the kingdom of God?
Mark 14 chronicles the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. While Jesus was at the table of a man named Simon, a woman came and anointed him with expensive perfume. Some of the disciples complained, but Jesus gave three focusing statements that align with our three focusing questions.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT?
Jesus first assesses the value to the women’s action, anointing him with the expensive perfume. Mark 14:6–7 states, “Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me’” (emphasis mine).
First, the action is considered important due to the intrinsic value of her action—noble. Secondly, the action is important because of its timeliness. Jesus says, “You do not always have me.” All the things you can do, and all the ways you can spend your time, are not equal. Some are more important, some less. The problem with not discerning the difference is that we may end up doing the good, or just okay, at the expense of the important.
What are the most important things you need to focus your attention and efforts on this year in your ministry? Things like offsite, onsite, and online small groups; social media evangelism; generational outreach; family ministry; and community missions are all really vital these days.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There is always more that can be done than any of us have the capacity to accomplish. Your capacity is determined by your giftedness, your resources, your context. There will be times when you have the skills and giftedness, but not the resources. Or you may have the resources, but they do not work in your context. Often, we see what others are doing and we want to implement those things where we are, but we have not even evaluated whether those things are appropriate or will otherwise work in our context. Jesus understands this. He says about the woman in Mark 14:8, “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial.”
God never expects us to do what we can’t do, but He does delight when we do what we can do. So, of all the important possibilities, what are the things you need to focus on that you are uniquely gifted and resourced to accomplish in your context?
WHAT IMPACTS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
Knowing what is important and what is possible is still not enough. The third focusing question is just as important. What impacts the kingdom of God? This question helps us to make sure our efforts are in alignment with God’s purposes for our lives and this world. The church can provide meals, but it is not a restaurant. The church can influence legislation, but it is not a political action committee. The church can field sports teams, but it is not an athletic association. Everything the church does should be because it has a clear connection to God’s greater purpose of drawing all people into a saving relationship with Himself. Our goals can never just be full people, good people, or even healthy people. Those are good, but by themselves they fall short of God’s kingdom plan.
The goal of the woman was not just to give Jesus a nice fragrance. Here’s what Jesus concludes about the woman and her kingdom impact, “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)
What do you need to stop doing, and what do you need to start doing, so your efforts this year will be focused on making a kingdom impact?
God has uniquely gifted you and your congregation to serve your community. Allow these thoughts to help you refocus your ministry efforts around what you do best to achieve maximum kingdom impact. “So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
This article originally appeared on LifeWayVoices.com and is reposted here by permission.
2. Gary Keller, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Bard Press, Austin, Texas, 2012, P 46
3. “Lie #2: Multitasking Increases Productivity,” The 1 Thing.
4. Travis Bradberry, “Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest,” Forbes.com.