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From a leadership, helping profession perspective, it is not possible to give every person who comes to you your undivided attention, especially if you desire to influence and impact others who are looking for your care.
Thousands have received Jesus’ care, but only a small number of them experienced His direct, undivided, and skilled attention. Sometimes He would retreat from people who wanted face time with Him (Matthew 13:36). Other times, He distanced Himself from His family if they were not in step with His objectives (Mark 3:33).
A discipleship model that accommodates everyone according to how they want accommodation is self-limiting, unwise, and unsustainable. If your aim is to make as many disciples as the Lord desires, you need to be wise about giving your time and attention to every person who asks for it (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Christian community needs to learn how to distinguish between giving people their attention and giving them their care. Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians implies 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).
Jesus continues to provide care to millions of people through the model for discipleship He established 2000 years ago. One manifestation of that model is the local church.
We are not receiving Jesus’ undivided attention today, as in we are not having face time meetings with Him. But we are receiving His care through the people He trained.
Fundamental Idea: Individuals directly influenced by Jesus, or by someone affected 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 fundamental principle. Your application of that concept could be revolutionary. I am a Christian with a vision to bring care to as many people as possible. To do this well, I must create contexts where people can receive my care, while I guard against giving every one of them my undivided attention.
This perspective is not a cruel or uncaring model for discipleship. We know this because this is how Jesus operated His ministry on earth.
Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds (Matthew 14:9).
As I have reflected on Jesus’ discipleship training model, I have had to create an “attention versus care” methodology. I am one person, not many people, which means I must give careful consideration to who receives the most of my discipleship care.
If you were to examine my time priorities, you would see this methodology. Here is a snapshot in order of importance.
I do not give my undivided attention to every person who asks for it. I cannot do this because it’s not possible. I am selective regarding those who want my most effective care. This perspective means my wife, children, and ministry rank as my top three discipleship priorities.
I have given hundreds of hours of thought to how to bring my most effective care to those top three priorities–in the order given.
My fourth priority, which is the subject of this article, is my vocational ministry, and I’ve written this mission statement to accomplish this priority:
My mission 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–happening during my lifetime. This mission statement defines everything I do.
To build any life, you have to define the scope as well as the priorities within the scope. My scope of global gospel expansion is vast, which means my priorities within that scope must be clear. Those priorities and methods are twofold:
Technology and leaders are my top priorities for accomplishing the mission. Because there is an echo of omnipresence in technology, I can go around the world a thousand times a day–from my office. And I can envision and equip leaders globally regarding gospel strategies.
The downside to this missional model is that it can frustrate people. For example, a person reaches out to me through a social media platform. Because our resources are there, some folks expect immediate access to me.
I understand their perspective. If I could get an audience with the main guy, why not? But I must be reasonable with my expectations. Social media can give a false sense of intimacy with individuals who you do not know as well as you may think. And it’s unwise to have relational expectations for people who are not your intimate friends.
The wise leader not only understands constituent expectations, but he 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 undivided attention to the few so we can care 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 many things through a few strategies. The “echo of omnipresence concept” allows us to go into every country in the world each year.
Potentially millions of people can receive our care, though only a few of them will receive our undivided attention. Our ministry model allows us to live comfortably in that tension. The second infographic brings clarity to the practical differences between attention and care.
Technology gives us the “theoretical possibility” to take the gospel to any human on earth. If a person has access to the Internet, they can receive customizable attention or secondary care from us. They are the ones who choose how they want to enter into a relationship with our organization.
The people who receive our undivided attention are those who want training through our Mastermind course. It is a well-developed, self-paced, all-Internet training program that covers theology, psychology, and the competent and practical application of the two into real-life situations.
A graduate of our program said this about her training:
I have been (on the Member Site) for a year and a half and finished the Mastermind 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 is 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 worldview into the lives of others. Brandi and Mark are examples of my “two-point missional focus” to take the gospel to every person on the planet and to live 25 years after I die.
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).
There are others who come to our cyber training center not asking for that kind of intentional, one-to-one personal development. They are looking for help, or they are in a helping profession, looking for guidance regarding those within their care.
I do not respond to them the way I equip a Mastermind student. The Members of our site receive some of my attention and all of my care, which happens primarily in a twofold manner:
There are millions of words through articles, podcasts, ebooks, books, graphics, videos, and webinars that would take years for a person to accurately and practically apply to their lives. And there is the added benefit of communal guidance, so no person has to be alone in our cyber training center.
This last group would be in Jesus’ day the multitudes. He gave His most valuable time to His twelve disciples, which would be the equivalent to my Mastermind students. Then He engaged people like Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, and a few others, who would be equivalent to our Members. And He provided care–through His disciples–for the multitudes.
Though He would engage any person to the degree that the person wanted engagement (Read Mark 10:17-27 or John 2:18-3:7), He committed to folks in proportion to their commitment to Him. The squeaky wheel did not get the grease, though He would give them a grease gun if they wanted it.
If they showed commitment, He would teach them how to use the grease gun so they could go out and teach others how to grease squeaky wheels. If you do not set up your ministry model the way He did, several things could happen to you.
I recommend that you do a study in the four gospels about 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.
If your ministry model does not create humble, teachable, maturing leaders, who can go out and replicate those same qualities into others, you have a flawed ministry model. If you continue in it, you will experience some, if not all, of the seven failures that I mentioned.
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.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).