There is a huge difference between answering a question hypothetically, and answering it in reality.
Take Peter Drucker’s famous clarifying question: ‘What is my single greatest contribution to this organisation?’
I think most Pastors answer that in terms of broad, but good, generalities. I’ve done that too: since I believe that our concern is with the church’s overall health, I have exercised an overarching role to ensure we have a balanced diet. Evangelism, prayer, small groups, and so on, all sharing the fundamental core element of the Word of God.
So I’d have answered, ‘Teaching and applying the Word of God, across all our activities and relationships.’ And without realising it, I’d failed the test – because although I had given an answer to Drucker’s question, it was a complex answer. He would have come back and said, ‘So, Chris, show me that in your diary.’ And immediately, almost every activity of my week falls into that category, and if I didn’t do any of those things another ten equally valid elements would have taken their place. I had no way to prioritise ruthlessly. I had no signal element that only I do.
My personal circumstances have changed over the past couple of months, and I’ve had to answer the question with greater accuracy. I don’t blog personal stuff here, but I’ve had to slow down in various areas, and rethink my priorities.
I have had to answer the question in reality: ‘If I can do only one thing for this church, and if on occasion I really only have the time and energy to do that one thing, where do I focus my limited resources?’
I guess most of us would answer ‘Preaching’, but that doesn’t quite fit the bill for me. Partly, because I share the preaching within a team, and partly because for a season I won’t be able to take the clear lead on that front.
My initial answer was ‘Planning’. We are starting a process for putting our five-year MAP together, and it is a complex and exciting task. MAP, in my world, stands for Mission (what should a church be like, biblically, in our time and place), Ambition (how could we be more excitingly biblical if we put our energies into it, in five years’ time), and Plan (how, month by month, do we move from here to there).
You’ve spotted the problem. I have given another complex answer to Peter Drucker’s question. Leading that task, in a busy church, could fill my diary and give no help in resolving my time and energy issues.
So I’ve had to focus down again – if I as the pastor of this church can do only one activity during the week in order to best ensure its spiritual well-being, what could that be?
And my surprising answer, or at least surprising to a slowcoach like me, is Prayer. Perhaps you got there ahead of me. But when I can do nothing else, I can pray. I’ve come back to the famous Robert Murray M’Cheyne quote: ‘My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.’ Not my intellect, energy, skill, experience, background wisdom or personal charisma (as if!). My relationship with my Lord.
Which is a problem of course, because like most of us, our prayer lives are something that are a bit of an embarrassment if they were allowed out in public. But I have to take myself in hand. I’m reading Tim Keller’s latest book on Prayer, which is quite outstanding, and that’s going to help me, both theologically and practically. It’s given me more to read, and more to do as well.
But, for you, with your circumstances – how would you answer the question? Because however much energy you have, you’re not a superhero, and you have a finite amount of time. Focussing both of those resources will give your best to your church. So take the Drucker test, and give a simple answer to the question: ‘What is my single greatest contribution to this organisation?’