Which is more important to you? To receive your pastor’s attention or to receive your pastor’s care? What if we turned the question around and looked at it from your pastor’s perspective? We would ask it this way:
What is more possible: to give each member of your church your attention or to give them your care?
From a pastoral (or any leadership, helping profession) perspective it is not possible to give every person who comes to you your undivided attention, especially if your desire is to influence and impact more than a small group of people.
Thousands upon thousands of people have received Jesus’ care, but only a small number of them received his direct, consistent, undivided, and skilled attention. In some cases He would retreat from people, who wanted face time with Him (Matthew 13:36). Other times He would distance Himself from His family if they were not in step with His objectives (Mark 3:33).
- Why would He do this?
- Why is it important for us to think about this concept?
- What can we learn about Jesus’ discipleship methodology and time prioritization?
A discipleship model that accommodates everyone, according to how they want to be accommodated, is self-limiting, unwise and unsustainable. If your aim is to go and make as many disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) as the LORD desires to bring to you, then you need to be wise about giving your time and attention to every person who asks for it.
Providing care to millions
The Christian community needs to learn how to distinguish between giving people their attention versus giving them their care. Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians seems to imply this idea.
Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – Ephesians 4:12-14 (ESV)
Jesus is providing care today to millions of people through the model for discipleship He established 2000 years ago. A manifestation of that model is the local church. We are not receiving Jesus’ attention today, as in we are not having face time meetings with Him, but we are receiving His care through the people He trained.
People specifically and directly influenced by Jesus, or by someone who was influenced by those who were influenced by Jesus, have created an inestimable number of contexts where people, who will never see Jesus on this side of heaven, can receive His care. Carefully think through that sentence. A methodical application of this concept could be revolutionary.
I am not a pastor, but I am a ministry leader with a vision to bring care to as many people as possible. To do this well, then I must create contexts where people can receive my care, while I guard against giving all of them my undivided attention. This is not a cruel or uncaring model for discipleship. We know this because this is how Jesus operated His ministry on earth.
Then [Jesus] broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. – Matthew 14:9 (ESV)
As I have reflected on Jesus’ discipleship training model, I have had to create my own attention versus care methodology. I am one person, not many people, which means I must give careful attention to who receives my best discipleship care. If you were to examine my time priorities, you would see this methodology. Here is a snapshot in order of priority.
- My wife
- My children
- My friends (In my case, it is my vocational ministry.)
I do not give my undivided attention to every person who asks for it. I cannot do this; it is not possible. Therefore, I am selective regarding those who want my most effective care. This means my wife, children, and ministry rank as my top three discipleship priorities.
Breaking down the ministry
I have given hundreds of hours of thought into how to bring my most effective care to those top three priorities–in the order given.
- On marriage: I have written nearly 150 articles on marriage, which you can find by clicking.
- On parenting: You can find over 100 articles on the family by clicking.
My third priority, which is the subject of this piece, is the vocational ministry the LORD has given to me. My mission with this work is to take the Gospel to every person on the planet and to live twenty-five years after I die. The second point–to live twenty-five years after I die–is because I do not foresee the first point–to take the Gospel to every person–being accomplished during my lifetime. This mission statement defines everything I do.
- What defines you?
- What are you living for and how does that mission shape your day, week, month, and year?
To build any type of ministry, work, church, business, or life you have to define the scope as well as the priorities within the scope. My scope of global Gospel expansion is large, which means my priorities and methods within that scope must be clear. Those priorities and methods, simply stated, are twofold:
- The redemptive use of technology.
- The replication of leaders.
Technology and leaders are my top priorities for accomplishing the mission. Because there is an echo of omnipresence in technology, meaning I can reach around the world a thousand times a day from my office, I am able to envision and equip leaders in our global Gospel strategies.
The downside is that this model for mission can frustrate people. For example, it is not unusual for a person to join our Membership Site expecting to have full-access to me. They pay their $5 per month expecting me to enter into a counseling type relationship with them.
I understand how they feel. If I could get an audience with the main guy, then why not? But I, too, must be reasonable with my expectations. It would be good for us to give careful thought to this, I must have face time with the main guy, mentality. I know dozens of pastors that have given thought to this notion.
Training center in the sky
The wise pastor or ministry leader not only understands constituent expectations, but he/she figures out a way to envision their people, while providing them with the care they need. The rest of this article lays out how I do this by giving my attention to a few, while caring for the multitude.
The first infographic gives you a glance at our global Gospel initiatives. You can see the echo of omnipresence through the redemptive use of technology, which releases us to accomplish a lot through minimization. The echo of omnipresence concept has allowed us to go into every country in the world the past two years.
Potentially millions of people are able to receive my care, though only a few of them will receive my undivided attention. Our ministry model allows us to live comfortably in that tension. The second infographic brings more clarity to the practical differences between attention versus care.
Students, Members, Visitors
Technology gives us the theoretical possibility to take the Gospel to any human on earth. If a person has access to the Internet, then they can either receive (1) customizable attention or (2) indirect care from me. They choose how they want to enter into a relationship with our organization.
The people who receive my undivided attention are those who want to be trained through our Distance Education course. It is a self-paced, all on the Internet, well-developed training program that covers theology, psychology, and the competent and practical application of the two into real life situations.
A recent graduate said this about her training:
I have been [on the Member Site] for a year and a half, and finished the DE Program last month. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but undoubtedly also one of the best instruments in God’s hands for my sanctification I have ever experienced.
We first received Drive By Marriage about three years ago, and so I have been informally studying with Rick for that long. I am a completely different person than I was three years ago and have changed drastically since beginning the DE Program in September, 2013. – Brandi
Our first graduate of the program was Mark Grant, who now counsels and writes for us. He devoted nearly two years of his life to be trained by me so he could replicate our Gospel-centered, discipleship world view into the lives of others. Brandi and Mark are examples of my two-point missional focus of taking the Gospel to every person and to live 25 years after I die.
- I have replicated myself into them,
- And they are able to take the Gospel to others.
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. – 2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV)
There are others, who come to our cyber training center in the sky, not asking for that kind of intentional, one-to-one personal development. They are either looking for personal help or they are in a helping profession and they are looking for guidance regarding those within their sphere of care.
I do not train or counsel them the way I train a Distance Education student. The Members of our site receive some of attention and all of my care. That happens primarily in a twofold manner:
- I produce content in a buffet—all you can eat—manner. They can participate in unlimited grazing through our content.
- We are a community of like-minded disciple-makers, who spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
There are millions of words, graphics, webinars, and other training content on our site that would take years for a person to properly and practically apply to their lives. Plus, there is the added benefit of communal guidance, so no person has to be alone in our cyber training center.
- My Students receive my attention.
- My Members receive my care and some of my attention.
- My Visitors receive my care.
Then we have our visitors, the 100,000+ unique visitors, who come to our cyber training center every year, but are not interested in becoming a Member of our center. In Jesus’ day these would be the multitudes.
He gave His most valuable time to His twelve disciples, which would be the equivalent to my DE Students. Then He engaged people like Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, and a few others, which would be the equivalent to my Members.
He also provided content for the multitudes. Jesus would engage any person to the degree that person wanted to be engaged. (Read Mark 10:17-27 or John 2:18-3:7) He committed to people in proportion to their commitment to Him. The squeaky wheel did not necessarily get the grease, though He would give them a grease gun if they wanted it.
If they showed commitment, then He would teach them how to use the grease gun so they could go out and teach others how to grease wheels. If your ministry model is set up any other way then several things could possibly happen to you. For example,
- You could become overworked and tempted to quit the ministry.
- You could become bitter, critical, and cynical.
- You could become judgmental and untrusting.
- You could have a ministry model that is more fire fighting than preventative maintenance.
- You could top out as far as what you could do.
- You could be tempted to any number of sins, like sexual sin.
- You may not be able to lead your family well.
The value of “No”
I would recommend for you to do a study in the four gospels pertaining to the number of times Jesus said “No” to others. You could add the times He put them off like in John 11:1-44 when He was not responsive to Mary and Martha regarding their dying brother.
Wayne Mack called this the “hate me now, but love me later” principle. You may “hate” me now because I did not respond to you the way you wanted me to respond to you, but you will love me later if you change and mature. Caving to fear of man or some other manipulation from others will not serve you or them well.
If your ministry model does not create humble, teachable, maturing, leaders, who can go out and replicate those same qualities into others, then you have a flawed ministry model. If you continue in it, then you will experience some, if not all, of the seven failures mentioned above.
- Where do you stand?
- Do you give your undivided attention to anyone who asks for it?
- Do you have the discernment, plus a plan to distinguish between leaders and followers?
- Do you have a system in place to bring competent care to your followers?
- Do you have a system in place to bring competent training your leaders?
Jesus did not turn anyone away if they genuinely wanted His care, but He was wise and discerning regarding how they would receive His care.