An Incredibly Long Post Discussing The Nature of Spiritual Growth Through The Utilization of Several Lists

What is spiritual growth?

It is growth of the spirit.
It is growth brought by the spirit.

But what is growth?

Growth is something that can happen to an individual.

  • Samuel grew in favor with God and men (1 Samuel 2)
  • Jesus also grew in favor with God and men(Luke 2).
  • Proverbs teaches that the man who walks with the wise will grow wise (Proverbs 13).
  • Solomon claimed to have grown in wisdom more than any other man, but concluded that this growth was nothing more than a “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1).
  • Paul suggested that people can grow in their faith (2 Corinthians 10), and he suggested that this type of growth is typically accompanied by a change in activity (2 Thessalonians 1)

Growth is also something that can happen to a group, particularly the church.

  • Ephesians 4 provides detailed teaching about the church, particularly focusing on God’s plan to use certain gifted members to guide the church’s growth.
  • Colossians 2 teaches that the body’s growth comes directly from the head, Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 4 furthers this idea by suggesting that the goal of the church’s growth is to become more like Jesus.

The Bible seems to clearly teach that growth comes from God, not from our efforts.

  • Paul powerfully states in 1 Corinthians that it is God who brings growth, not the efforts of any man (1 Corinthians 3).
  • Jesus told many parables of growth (often the growth was kingdom growth, but occasionally individual growth). Almost always, the source of the growth was a mystery. On some occasions, Jesus even pointed out that no one knew how things grew (Mark 4).
  • During the Sermon on the Mount, in an effort to explain our need to rely on God, Jesus referenced the lilies of the field who grow even though they make no effort. His point is that God brings the growth, not our efforts (Matthew 6).
  • It would appear that God has given us the “milk” of His Word (Hebrews 5) as the primary instrument for our growth. Both Peter (1 Peter 2) and Paul (2 Corinthians 3) reference the need for spiritual milk.

When growth occurs, the Bible seems to teach that it is accompanied by a change in actions.

  • Jesus suggested in the parable of the soil that those who truly receive the Word will produce a “crop” (Matthew 13).
  • Paul implied that growth (both the expansion of the gospel around the world and people’s increasing knowledge of God) would be accompanied by “fruit” (Colossians 1).
  • Paul described the fruit of the Spirit as the result of a life lived while being submitted to the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • The first listed fruit in Paul’s list is love, which coincides with the observation that it would appear spiritual growth will manifest itself through the depth of our love for others (2 Thessalonians 1). This idea seems to correspond well with Jesus’ teachings regarding the importance of our love for others (Mark 12; John 13).

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Given the above concepts, it seems reasonable to define growth as:

God-enabled change in individuals or groups which results in more Christ-like activity, particularly love toward others.

Measuring the above definition of spiritual growth is not difficult. One can easily create lists or goals based upon the fruit of the Spirit or rooted in current relationships, and then regularly assess progress or regression based on the completion or achievement of the lists and goals. Of course this type of measurement is still somewhat subjective, however, it is virtually impossible to imagine an objective way to measure the growth of something so ethereal as the human spirit.

Noticeably missing from this definition is any sense of change in our relationship to God. Further study will hopefully address this absence. For now, it should suffice to say, spiritual growth of any kind must also include a positive change in one’s relationship with God.

Particularly problematic is the question of how one measures a change in their relationship with God. Throughout history, people of all cultures and all religions have attempted to identify clear-cut methods for obtaining the ideal relationship with God. Buddhism points to the eightfold path. Islam demands its followers observe the five pillars. Judaism reverts to strict observance of the Torah. However, none of these routes provide a biblically appropriate path to a deeper relationship with God.

Of course, Jesus is the ONLY path to the Father (John 14). However, this simple truth does not seem to provide a means by which to measure the growth in our relationship with God. Thus, we often tend to seek out more tangible methods by which to measure our spiritual growth. Some may rely on depth of feeling, or moments and experiences when God seemed particularly close. Inversely, the absence of these moments and experiences seems to indicate an alarming regression or lack of growth.

Some seek growth through the accumulation of knowledge, sensing a closeness to God whenever they discover a previously unknown truth about God or His Word. Seeking “head-growth” as the sole measurement of growth is dangerous as the Bible carries many warnings about harmful consequences of over-dependence on knowledge (Matthew 23; 1 Corinthians 8).

An even more dangerous measuring tool of spiritual growth is a checklist. Benjamin Franklin famously kept a list of thirteen virtues which he desired to shape his life. He regularly selected one of the virtues to be a focal point of his life, and he evaluated himself daily on his performance regarding each of the values. A temptation exists for some to reduce their relationship with God to a similar checklist of activities. Checked-off boxes are easy to measure, and if I can check all my “God” boxes in a day (prayed, read the Bible, witnessed, etc.), I can feel very positively about the progress of my spiritual growth. However, such activity is dangerously close to imitating the spirituality of the Pharisees.

Jewish tradition identified nearly 700 specific laws given by God in the Torah. These laws were a combination of actual laws from the Torah as well as many laws created through the oral tradition which was considered to be authoritative alongside the Torah. A devout Jew in the days of Christ would have considered the only measurement of their spiritual growth to be the extent to which they were “keeping” these laws. Jesus condemned this kind of spirituality, pointing out in the sermon on the mount that God was concerned not only with our actions, but also with our motives, our responses, and our thoughts (Matthew 5).

While none of the aforementioned methodologies (feelings, knowledge, lists) should be the primary or only means by which to measure spiritual growth, they may all be appropriate means by which to occasionally assess one’s growth. The key is to utilize these tools within a framework that understands the nature of spiritual growth. It is altogether possible that a person may be experiencing significant spiritual growth which does not show up in any of these measurements. It may also be possible for someone to demonstrate measurable growth which is, in reality, not growth at all.

Consider the following three examples of spiritual growth or lack thereof.

The early days of the church in Ephesus are recorded in Acts 19. After arriving in the city and witnessing the initial conversions of many people, Paul began to teach daily in a lecture hall. After teaching for two years, we are told that a series of events prompted several of the believers to give up their idols. The conclusion is that some of these people may have been believers for up to two years, sitting under the daily teaching of the Apostle Paul and were unable to give up their idols. We must wonder how Paul gauged their spiritual growth if they were not even willing to step away from their idolatry.

Few things in the Bible are as frustrating as the apparent lack of growth experienced by Jesus’ disciples. Reading the Gospels, we begin to wonder if these twelve men every understood a thing Jesus told them. Even at the last supper, after three years of walking with Jesus and hearing his teaching, they were still unable to comprehend the reality of Jesus’ mission. Even though he had regularly talked about his impending death, they were unable to grasp the concept. However, their inexplicable lack of growth over the three years is even more befuddling when contrasted with the amazingly accelerated growth which apparently took place immediately following the resurrection. The Peter we observe the night before the crucifixion is demonstrably different than the Peter we encounter in Acts 2.

Finally, Judas Iscariot presents a troubling tale of one who apparently demonstrated some level of spiritual growth, but clearly did not actually grow. Apparently, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus came as a complete shock to the other disciples. When told that one of them would betray Jesus, they were unable to identify who that person might be. Seemingly, to whatever extent the disciples exhibited spiritual growth, Judas did as well. In fact, one might suggest that Judas demonstrated a higher level of growth as he was entrusted with the group’s money, a task he would not have been given had he been considered untrustworthy. Yet, in spite of the outward evidences of growth, Judas clearly did not grow spiritually, as all evidence points to a reality that Judas was never even reborn spiritually.

What can we learn from these three observances?

  • From the Ephesians, we might conclude that spiritual growth does not happen overnight, and in some cases may take a great deal of time. We can also suggest that growth may not always happen immediately in the ways we would expect.
  • From the disciples, we can observe that spiritual growth may not always be a steady process, but might happen in spurts, prompted by significant or traumatic experiences.
  • The Judas story reminds us that measurements of spiritual growth may not always tell the whole story.

Much of our desire to measure is deeply rooted in modernity. The scientific method has become THE indisputable method for determining truth. As a result in every area of our life, we look for measurable factors which will demonstrate our success. We are likely to engage in actions which lend themselves more easily toward measurement, particularly, we are drawn to repeatable patterns and processes which correspond to the scientific method.

We sometimes apply these same ideas to spiritual growth. Since we want to be successful in our growth, we desire to measure it. Accurate measurement is much easier with consistent factors, therefore, we theorize that spiritual growth can best be measured if we can reduce it to identifiable consistently repeating factors. The result is a formulaic approach to spiritual growth which ends up placing undo stress on the methods and the activities instead of the result and the process.

Luke 18 records Jesus’ story of a man who measured his spiritual growth based on his ability to consistently perform spiritual activities. The man prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” Jesus made it clear that this man was not justified before God.

Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3) that, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Have you ever tried to wrap your hands around the wind? We see and hear measurements of the wind’s speed, but the reality is that those measurements are nothing more than averages based on moment-by-moment data. The wind is inconsistent, it is unpredictable, and it is uncontrollable.

Jesus said the work of the Spirit is like the wind. Spiritual growth is sometimes inconsistent and unpredictable. It is a process, but not always a measurable and orderly process. For this reason, we must learn to be patient with ourselves and others. Growth may not happen in the timeline we prefer and it may not take the path we prescribe. We must give grace to those who have not fully arrived (because we also have not fully arrived).

While opening ourselves to the Spirit’s work, we must also open ourselves to the possibility that He may have different plans for us than we have for ourselves.  If we must measure something, we should measure love.  Jesus measured love by sacrifice and we probably should also. But this post is already long, and that topic requires much more, so perhaps now is the time to bring this rambling writing to an end.

How Did Jesus Demonstrate Leadership To His Disciples?

If you aren’t sure what I mean by Leadership E-Words, go back and see this post about 6 practices of powerful leaders.

A while back, I came across some verses in Mark that prompted me to think about how Jesus guided the spiritual development of his disciples. So I used the Leadership E-Words as a template and was able to very quickly identify how Jesus used similar concepts to prepare the disciples for ministry.

These are all from the first half of Mark. I think you could do this exercise even better if you used the book of Matthew. It might also be interesting to look for similar patterns in Acts. I have no intention of doing either (unless some LifeWay editor is reading this and thinks it might make an interesting book, then I would be willing to write more… otherwise, probably not)

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Here we go:

Jesus ESTABLISHED a direction for his ministry.
Of course it was more about just identifying and clarifying God’s direction for His ministry… but that’s what we should be doing as spiritual guides anyway.

Mark 1:15 – “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus EXPLAINED to the disciples their role in the ministry’s direction.

Mark 1:17 – “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (aside: If you aren’t a fisher of men, are you sure you’re a follower of Jesus?)

Jesus EQUIPPED the disciples to accomplish their role.
Apparently, Jesus’ plan was two-fold: 1) Let the disciples/apostles hang around and 2) Send the disciples/apostles away.

Mark 3:14 – He appointed twelve—designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

Jesus ENABLED the disciples to be effective in their roles.
(an even better example of this step in in Matthew 28 and Acts 1, when Jesus gives the Holy Spirit as the ultimate enabler)

Mark 6:8–11 – These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

Jesus ENCOURAGED the disciples in their efforts.

Mark 6:30–32 – The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Jesus EVALUATED their success and incompletions.
The two stories found in Matthew 6 (feeding the 5,000 and walking on the water) both serve as labs in which Jesus evaluated whether or not the disciples had learned from the job he had given them (going out and preaching).

Unfortunately, they failed their evaluation. Fortunately, Mark has 16 chapters, so it isn’t over at the end of chapter 6. The final evaluation comes in Revelation!

6 Practices of Powerful Leaders

Not everyone can be a leader all the time, however, at some point in their life most people engage in leadership. When you find yourself leading, consider these six “must-do” activities.

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Establish a clear direction. I did not say “choose a direction” or “proclaim a direction”. A good leader does not set agendas himself, he observes and listens to his followers/team and establishes a direction which reflects everyone’s gifts and passions. Before you can be a vision-caster, you must learn to be a vision-collector.

Explain with precision the roles of those you are guiding. Most people simply want to know what is expected of them. They want to know how they will be evaluated, and they want to know what they can do to help accomplish the “win.” While a leader may fully succeed in getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, if he doesn’t clearly communicate the expectation, he will fail. It should also be noted that a leader can never get his people into the right roles if he doesn’t know his people’s gifts, passions, and dreams. True leadership demands a great deal of listening and observing.

Equip completely with the training and resources necessary to accomplish the team’s shared vision. A good leader recognizes tht everyone with whom they work has an important role. They must equip them to accomplish that role. Equipping includes training and providing resources, but it also includes assisting someone in maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. A good leader recognizes that everyone they lead is unique and therefore they learn to develop creative approaches when equipping different people.

Enable accomplishment by unleashing people in their areas, by giving them necessary authority, and by regularly advocating their efforts in public. Nothing can be more disheartening for someone than to have a leader who doesn’t enable them to accomplish their tasks. As a leader, if you can’t unleash someone to do a job, it is an indictment against your leadership style. If you aren’t willing to give someone the authority to do a job, the likely reason is that you haven’t capably equipped them. On the other hand, nothing is more empowering than a leader who not only unleashes people to work, but takes every opportunity to publicly proclaim how much they value and trust the work of those they lead. A leads who does this will have followers who accomplish much.

Encourage perseverance by regularly collecting updates and providing assistance when asked. Those you lead will become discouraged, they will have setbacks. There will be times when they want to quit. You can intervene in those moments and encourage them to carry on. If you step in at the right time and help them to refocus on the ultimate goal, you may keep them from quitting. But you’ll never know if they are wearing down if you aren’t regularly checking in with them. However, don’t check in just to “monitor their progress”. Be certain they understand and believe that you are checking in because you want to see them succeed. “Progress reports” should be an exciting and anticipated time, not a dreaded practice. You’ll set the tone, and by doing so, you’ll create a culture of perseverance.

Evaluate the person’s work by rewarding effective accomplishment and by correcting issues which may have led to incompletion. Simply put, “those who have done well with a small thing should be given more. And those who has struggled with a large thing should be given less.” good evaluations will help you identify the proper load for all your team members.

My Favorite Todoist and Google Drive Hack

I’ve tried every imaginable todo list app and Todoist stands head and shoulder above all. Some of the reasons I prefer Todoist are as follows:

  • I can quickly entetodoistr tasks with due dates and repetition by simply using text (example: “update the church prayer letter every Tuesday at 8:30am”)
  • Todoist can double as a reminder app. The above task will notify me on my phone and my Macbook right at 8:30 every Tuesday.
  • Todoist allows multiple levels of subtasks which is great for larger projects.
  • I can create several different categories  and sort tasks using hashtags.
  • If I don’t finish a task on the due date, I have the opportunity to either move it the next day or reschedule for a future date.
  • I get a “karma” score for completing tasks, and can use that score to set productivity goals for myself. I’m currently on a 26 day streak of hitting my productivity goal. My all time record is 28, so I may break it! This isn’t really all that helpful, but it is fun and motivating.

It’s the repeating tasks that are so important for me, because much of my week is spent doing the same types of tasks I did the week before.

Every week, I send out several group emails to different teams. Todoist reminds me every day which group is getting an email.

My sermon preparation process is tightly scheduled. Every day I am working on one or more sermons, which are labelled as “Now, Next, Future or Distant.” Todoist reminds me which sermon to work on and what part of the process is due (example: “Categories (God, Jesus, Doctrine, etc.) for FUTURE sermon every Wednesday”).

I have writing projects I need to keep working on, so on several days I am reminded to work on this blog, the “Invested Study” or the gratitude journal. The second two of these projects are due in several months, but I need to take a bite every day in order to complete them on time. Todoist keeps me taking one step at a time.

The chrome app makes quick Todoist item entry easy. I click once and type in my todo with due date and time. I now have a reminder on my phone which ensures I don’t drop important tasks or contacts that come up during the day.

Although I don’t utilize this feature, Todoist also enables users to share tasks and projects with one another.

A few months ago, I tweaked my Todoist set-up with a new hack. It is one of the greatest productivity leaps forward I’ve ever taken and has cemented Todoist as indispensable for me.

Much of my work every day is done on Google Drive. I use sheets for my email lists (I know I could use other apps, but sheets works for what I need) and for the administrative and financial tracking I do every week. I create my sermon presentations on Google Presentations. Most of my sermon prep is done in a few Google Doc templates I’ve created for that purpose. As a team, we create our weekly publications and presentations in a shared Google Drive folder. The discipleship resources I produce every week are created in shared Google Docs.

Every google document (sheets, presentations, docs, forms, etc.) has its own unique URL. This web address is used by those who collaborate on the document as well as for making the document public. I use those URLs to enhance my Todoist experience.

Every time I enter a task into Todoist, I include a link to the document on which I’ll be working. Here’s what some of those todo items look like:

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The brilliance of Todoist is that those URLs serve as links. I simply click on the address and the document I need to work on opens in my browser. Of course this can be used with more than just Google Drive. I have some todo items that link to MailChimp, some to Canva and some to online Bible study resources.

By my calculations, this productivity hack saves me about 5 seconds every time I use it (the time I would spend opening Google Drive, finding the doc and opening the doc). I use this hack 5-7 times each day meaning I’m saving about 30 seconds a day. This doesn’t feel significant until you realize that I’m saving about 3 minutes every week which adds up to more than 2 hours a year…

Well, I guess that’s not really all that impressive when you do the math.

But it’s fun. And I never have to remember where a file is stored. And sometimes productivity for productivity’s sake is worthwhile simply because it brings a little joy into your day.

Anyway, even if you don’t use Todoist, you can probably use a similar process on your todo app. Give it a try.

How I Find Illustrations While Preparing To Preach

Illustrations are important in a sermon. Jesus used parables to drive home powerful kingdom truths and although I am not half the story teller He was, I like to use stories to illuminate kingdom truths for those I teach.

However, it can be tough to find fresh and stimulating material week after week after week. I shy away from the old-school sermon illustration books. When younger, I would sometimes refer to the “1000 Sermon Illustration” type books. However, I’ve discovered that many of the stories in these books are portrayed as true but not verified. They are “pulpit-legends”, passed from pastor to pastor without every being fact-checked. I try to never tell a story as if it is true if I haven’t done the research for myself to know it is valid.

So, how do I come up with illustrations?

I begin with my own experience and knowledge base. I read through my sermon material making a mental list of the key ideas I would like to illustrate. Then I refer to the following list while asking myself if I can illustrate this point using:

  • Bible stories
  • History
  • Science/Medicine
  • Google
  • Music/Movies/TV
  • Relationships
  • Animals
  • Employment
  • Hobbies (Sports, Hunting, Fishing, Quilting, Scrapbooking, etc.)
  • Poetry/Literature

As an aside, using my own experiences and stories about myself is good as it allows people to know me a little better and feel a more personal connection to me. This opens them up a little more to the truths I’m teaching. However, I have two simple rules about using myself in illustrations:

  1. In any given sermon, my illustrations cannot be exclusively about me. At least one of my illustrations has to come from another source. This keeps me from appearing narcissistic.
  2. I can never be the hero of the story. Allowing others to learn from my mistakes and shortcomings enables them to acknowledge their own mistakes and shortcomings as opportunities to grow. I am also setting the example that we can learn from one another if we are willing to share the bad as well as the good.

Sometimes, I don’t need a process to discover illustrations for my sermon. Sometimes, I’ll see or experience something during the week that smacks me in the face and is obviously a powerful story for my upcoming sermon. Sometimes, I work through my normal process and still don’t have the illustration I want. Usually, my fall back source for illustrations is two obscure websites.

https://www.randomlists.com/topics

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This is a simple resource for authors who are struggling with writers block. Everytime I refresh the page, I’m given eight new topics about which I write. Often these words trigger a memory or an idea for a story I can use in my upcoming sermon. The central illustration for my Christmas Eve sermon a few months ago was the result of seeing the word “sign” on this site. It inspired a memory of one of my favorite stories and one for which I had a ready made picture which reminded us that God doesn’t leave us on our own.

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https://www.onelook.com/thesaurus/

This site is actually a robust thesaurus. I use it several times in my sermon preparation process (as well as when I’m writing or creating resources). I also use it when I’m really stuck and struggling to find an illustration. I review my sermon, identify 4-5 main themes and then plug one keyword for each theme into the thesaurus. This week, I used the word “eternal” (We’re looking at Jesus and Nicodemus and the promise of eternal life in John 3:15). Two words that popped up were “lasting” and “permanent”. This reminded me that we all long for permanence in life. This deep longing for things that last is a powerful reminder that we were created for eternity. I’m still working out exactly how that will be expressed in the sermon, but it was a helpful tweak that will likely make it into the final product.

I am not Jesus, but I want to be like Jesus. He mastered the art of using everyday experiences to draw people into spiritual conversations and eternally significant discussions. I want to do the same.  I hope you do also.

3 People Who Need To Hear Your Sermon

In a few weeks, I’ll be preaching from John 10 (the “good shepherd” passage). As part of my four-week sermon preparation process, I am spending part of this week reading and listening to what others have said about this passage. Yesterday, in one of the commentaries I was reading, the author briefly mentioned the three audiences to whom Jesus spoke during his ministry.

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To the crowd, Jesus spoke with compassion. They were sheep without a shepherd. They desperately needed direction and instruction. In His teaching, Jesus also demonstrated patience toward the crowd who often struggled to grasp His truths. He used stories and sought to communicate complex truths with clarity and simplicity.

To His close followers, Jesus spoke with intention. He delivered deeper truths to them and had higher expectations for them. He corrected them when they were wrong (remember when He told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”) and was quick to re-direct them when their priorities were misplaced (“The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”). He didn’t shield them from difficult or disappointing truths, but He guaranteed them He would always be with them.

To the religious leaders, Jesus spoke words of confrontation. They were Israel’s blind guides. They had misused their power, choosing to promote themselves and their own agenda rather than leading the people closer to God. Jesus condemned their hypocrisy, called out their lies and challenged their shallow faith. To whom much responsibility is given, much accountability is required. Jesus held them accountable for misusing their responsibility.

On any given Sunday, I am aware that these three groups of people are sitting in the congregation to whom I am speaking. Those who are seeking need to hear and experience compassion. Those who are following need a message of intention. Those who are self-righteous need to be confronted.

My goal is to always preach a sermon that accurately unpacks God’s Word and points to Jesus. I desire to accomplish this goal by using words that are hopeful and helpful. For the next couple weeks, I am going to make an effort to include compassion, intention and confrontation in every sermon.

4 Things Every Pastor Must Do Every Day

I like structure. Lists and tables (think excel not dining room) are the best. One of my favorite structure hacks is what I call “quadrant brainstorming”. It’s a marriage of brainstorming and mind mapping but with rules and guidelines.

I begin by drawing a circle in the middle of the page and then drawing two perpendicular lines to divide the circle into four quadrants (I would say it looks like a cross-hair but that’s no longer a fashionable term, so think of it as a pie with four pieces). I then draw four more circles, each connected by a line to one of the original circle’s quadrants. I finish by dividing the four circles into four quadrants also. Now I’m ready.

I use this process to think about a project I need to complete, people I need to meet or manage, a resource I need to create or my roles and responsibilities for a given week. I also use this method every week as part of my sermon preparation process.

Whatever I am trying to bring into focus, I begin by identifying the four big pieces. In a sermon, it’s the four movements I hope to work through. It might be four people who are my direct reports. It might be the four thematic goals (WIGs if you’re a Covey devotee) of a project I’m working on. I’m not sure why I like four so much. I have no science or magic to suggest that it is the perfect number, but I like the cross in the middle of the circle and four seems to be useful and flexible number. It’s large enough to include everything without being so small that something gets missed.

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This Sunday, the four pieces of my sermon (I’m preaching on Nicodemus) are:

  1. The conversation behind the conversation
  2. The Kingdom of God
  3. New Birth
  4. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

On Good Friday, we create an event called The Via Dolorosa. It is a prayer walk through the Upper Room, the Garden, and then through multiple stations to the foot of the cross. You might think of it as an evangelical remix of the Stations of the Cross. I used my quadrants to create our big picture plan for the event. The four primary categories of planning are:

  1. Design
  2. Execution
  3. Volunteers
  4. Promotion

All that to say this. Yesterday, while I was working out, I was thinking about the role of a pastor. Perhaps this is a reflection of my own neurosis, but I’m constantly trying to sharpen my own understanding of what I do so that I can do it better. I want to narrow my focus so I can focus on what is most important and beneficial. By defining the four quadrants of my life as a pastor I can evaluate my plans by asking questions like, “Where does this activity fit? Am I being balanced? What am I neglecting?”Here’s the four things I think I ought to be dealing with every day:

  1. People — Equipping the people of God to do the work of God
  2. Programs — Repeating events (usually weekly) such as Worship Gathering, discipleship groups, etc.
  3. Projects — One time activities, events or initiatives which enhance our ability to equip people and improve programs
  4. Problems — They happen. The buck stops with me. I have to address them and find solutions

The great benefit I experience from quadrant brainstorming is an escape from chaos. By creating guardrails for my thinking process, I am forced to sometimes make decisions about what is most important and what is nice but expendable. Clarity is a powerful force when harnessed. When I find it lacking, I draw a circle and two lines.