Managing the Margins

In most cases, as Christians, we know what we should be doing.  It is clear from the mouth of Jesus that our mandate is to “make disciples.” With that said, even though most of know what we need to do, many of us struggle with how to do it. And, surprisingly, even many pastors are naïve to think that preaching makes disciples. Along with that, many of those who attend worship services, even regularly, alarmingly think it is sufficient to become mature disciples. But, even with struggling with how to involve ourselves in making disciples, the real issue in my personal experience, is managing the margins.  In other words, we struggle with developing and protecting the capacity to make disciples because it isn’t a priority.  It should go without saying but, in order to make disciples we must manage our time, talent and resource margins.

 It isn’t surprising to learn, also from the mouth of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 9:23, that the first step in becoming a disciple or follower of Jesus is to “deny” self.  To be specific, “deny” self means to say “No” to self and “Yes” to God. This is where managing the margins comes into play. How many of us spread our time, talents and resources too thin because we can’t say “No” to self?  Why can’t we say “No?”  In my personal experience and observations of others, simply because many of us are undisciplined and lack focus. But the underlying issue for most, if not all, is the insatiable desire to please self. Why is this problematic? It becomes nearly impossible to manage the margins of our time, talents and resources in order to commit ourselves to following Jesus as a disciple who makes disciples.  In other words, obedience to Jesus takes a back seat.

 There is a story of a man named Christian. He says he is born again. He even says he loves Jesus. But Christian is characteristically busy, with little or no margins, because his life is filled with relatively good things, but not the best (obedient) things related to truly following Jesus in service and worship. He is very gifted and talented but, he rarely has the time and energy to use his talents and gifts to serve Jesus and His kingdom work. Christian even brags about a good income but doesn’t see the need to regularly invest in the local church and Kingdom work. In addition to that, Christian is entitled.  He actually believes that he is deserving of his choices and desires even if it means slacking on commitments made to others and in the larger scheme of things, saying “No” to God.

 This story, of course, is indicative of our struggle as humans in general, and specifically, as wannabe disciples because we haven’t come to the place where we are ready to “deny” self.  You might say, many of us want the surety of our salvation but we don’t want the commitment of following Jesus.  For that matter, we want to be blessed by God, but we are too selfish to want to be a blessing to God. And the result, of course, is very thin margins because we don’t have very little left for God and His kingdom work because we’ve used it all up to satisfy our insatiable desire to please self.

 It should go without saying but I’ll say it again. In order to make disciples we must manage our time, talent and resource margins. In doing so we must protect our capacity to make disciples by giving Jesus His due love and priority. Most of, as Christians, know what we should be doing but we struggle with how to do it. But, even with confusion about how to involve ourselves in making disciples, the real issue is managing the margins. Are you “managing your margins” for Jesus?

 A Work in Progress,

 Pastor Gene