The Power of Focus

Stop making a dent, and start making a difference. – Pastor Mark Driscoll (Resurgence Leadership Podcast, introduction).

montana-fly-fishing-3I love to fish, especially to fly fish, although I’m not very good at it.  When I come to a new water I’ve never fished before, I’m overwhelmed!  There are so many fishy-looking places to cast a fly, and so many different flies to choose from!  Usually the first several times I fish there, I go all day and may only catch a few fish.  But this is often because I lack focus.  With so many options and opportunities and good-looking choices, I try to cast a couple times to all of them, but move on too quickly and miss fish.  A better approach would be to break the water down into smaller sections and then spend a day focused in on one or two areas.  This makes me pay closer attention to where and what and how I’m casting, and results in more fish.

Focus = fish!

It’s not all that much different in ministry.  There are many opportunities to do good things, but to really make an impact in what God is calling a church to do, that church must focus on the target and not allow itself to become distracted.  And, just as in fishing, there is great power in focus.

Focus = fish!

Let’s see how this plays out in Scripture.

One of the most unusual passages in the New Testament is Acts 16:6-10.  Here, Paul, Silas, and Timothy were traveling as missionaries, preaching the gospel and planting churches.  It says in v. 6 that they went to Phrygia and Galatia because they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.”  And in v. 7, “they attempted to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”  Then, Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man who invites him to come to Macedonia, and in v. 10, “immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

What strikes me about this is that there were places God did not allow Paul to go because there was a specific place he did want them to go.  There was nothing wrong with preaching the gospel in Asia or Bithynia.  In fact, preaching the gospel anywhere is a good thing.  But, God didn’t want Paul, Silas, and Timothy to do good things; he wanted them to do God things.  In other words, God wanted Paul to pass up some good “fishy-looking” things in order to focus on what God was specifically calling him to do.

How does this apply to ministry?  Most of the churches I’ve been a part of lack the ability to focus on what God is calling them to do.  Instead, it’s almost as if the church is constantly being drawn off-target by every “fishy-looking” opportunity that floats by.  As a result, the church’s ability to accomplish what God is actually calling them to do is severely diminished.  The church ends up making very little impact because it’s spread so thin – like too little butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins once said.

Think of it this way.  Suppose I have a pitcher of water and I want to use that water to fill up some empty cups.  The more cups I have, the less water I can put in each cup.  Most churches I’ve been in have dozens of cups, and can only put a tiny amount of water in each cup.  All the cups remain relatively empty – the church has had virtually no impact.  But what if you reduce the number of cups and focus on a few?  Now, you can fill some cups to overflowing and pour a significant amount into others.  You’ve just made a tremendous impact in those cups!

In the church, I’d rather give $1,000 each to 10 missionaries than $100 each to 100 missionaries.  I’d rather pass up some good things in order to focus on God things – those things God is leading the elders to recognize as our specific calling this year.  I’d rather make a huge impact in some lives than almost no impact in many lives.  But this requires focus.  If we’re going to make a difference, an impact, we’re going to have to work together, stay on target, and not get distracted.

What do think?