Keep the main thing the main thing

Prior to God calling me to my role as editor of the Texan, I was pastoring a church in Central Oregon. Though I’d served on a church staff previously, this was the first time I had ever led an entire church.

Like many men who find themselves called to this position, I had a million thoughts and ideas about the direction I wanted to lead this church. Big picture, I wanted what I think all pastors want—to lovingly shepherd the people to whom God had called me and to guide them toward a more intimate relationship with Jesus that, in turn, would catalyze them to invite others into that same relationship. 

But on the micro level, there were literally hundreds of critically important issues that needed to be addressed for us to be able to achieve the macro vision. Our church had a constitution and bylaws that hadn’t been updated much since they were written in 1970. Though the bylaws called for the pastor to make decisions alongside a deacon body, the church had no deacons because it had never replaced the ones who had died or moved away.

Feeling overwhelmed by tasks I had no idea how to tackle, I decided to focus on other challenges that would be easier to accomplish and, hopefully, get checked off our to-do list faster. So what did I do? I went all in on creating a website for the church and nit-picking the volunteer leading worship about starting the Sunday morning service on time.

It’s not that those latter tasks weren’t important. They just weren’t the best uses of my time and they certainly weren’t the most important things the church needed accomplished to move forward. The church could survive in the short term without an online presence, but not having solid, biblical leadership in place was setting us up for trouble down the line when COVID arrived and put a strain on churches across the nation. 

"Assess regularly where you’re at on the road to achieving your goals this coming year, be flexible where you can, but be firm where you must."

As I think back to those times, I realize I had fallen victim to a trap all of us struggle with at one time or another: I gravitated toward that which was easiest. When we feel overwhelmed, when we are exhausted, when we don’t know what to do … we will naturally try to take the path of least resistance. In my experience, that path rarely leads to a desired destination. 

Two significant events are on the horizon: a new school year will begin in August, and many churches also consider September the start of their new “church year” when their next budget cycle begins. With these events come great opportunities for churches to take steps toward achieving the big-picture goal of reaching people, discipling them, and, in time, molding them into community missionaries who reach and disciple others..

As your church is executing a strategy to accomplish these things, the big-picture plan will almost certainly find itself competing with a swarm of pesky urgencies that threaten to siphon time, resources, and focus. Only you, as a pastor or a church leader, can decide which of those urgencies you must address, which you can offload to someone else, and which ones can wait.

But the point is, that swarm is coming. Take time to regularly and prayerfully process priorities alone, then go through that same process with other key leaders. Assess regularly where you’re at on the road to achieving your goals this coming year, be flexible where you can, but be firm where you must.

Satan would love nothing more than for your church to have the best website in Texas (so to speak) if that means the main thing—proclaiming the truth about Jesus to a world desperate for hope—gets lost in a dizzying, unwieldy swirl of distraction.

Jayson Larson pic
Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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