If You Have Limited Time and Friends with Unlimited Needs

If You Have Limited Time and Friends with Unlimited Needs

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Do you have unlimited time? Do you have friends with a lot of needs? If so, you’re blessed, and so are your friends. You have the time, and they have the issues—what a beautiful world. Sadly, I don’t live in your world.

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It’s a daily challenge for me to find the “sweet spot” where my limited time and individuals’ unlimited needs can coexist without tension. Typically, the folks with needs far surpass the amount of time I have to help them. I suspect if you’re a caring person with at least a moderate leadership gift, there is a nagging disparity between your daily time allotments and the number of people who want to get together with you.

If you are like me, one of the most important things you can do today is re-evaluate how you spend your time, specifically as it relates to those who want a piece of you.

Working in Circles

I like to think about “redemptive-time-stewardship-practices” in concentric circles that work out from the most vital to the least important. I’m using the term “least important” to talk about how much time I can give to a person rather than making a statement about the quality of a person’s being.

Every person is important because God made everyone in His image (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9). Being a creation of God makes a person significant, so I’m not talking about their ontology. I am talking about how “God-given importance” does not automatically give everybody an all-access pass to my calendar. With that view of importance in view, here is my list, in order of importance, of the people who get my time.

  1. I Am Number One – If I do not take care of my spiritual and physical self, I will not be in any position (or shape) to take care of anyone else. “God and I time” is the best time of any person’s day, and in that sense, you are right to point your index finger skyward and say, “I am number one.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of them.
  2. My Wife Is Number Two – She is my flesh. We are one. To hate my body, which she is part of, makes no sense, plus it’s an unbiblical position to take (Ephesians 5:29). Therefore, she gets my next best time.
  3. My Children Are Number Three – They are not more important than my wife, but they are more important than anyone else in my life.
  4. My Students – Our Mastermind team have committed to me and this ministry, and they expect me to train them in the skill of discipleship. It is rare for any day to pass when I am not interacting with some members of this elite team.
  5. My Members – The folks who support our ministry by becoming Members receive the next level of care. I can spend upwards of 14 hours a day serving them through answering questions and content creation.
  6. My Church and Long-Term Friends – The next group are church and old friends. I do not interact with every person in my local church on a deep and personal level, but I do have a close network of friends with whom we interact during the week.
  7. My Relatives – Then there is our extended family. Due to time and distance, I have limited interaction with them, though rarely on the level of the people within my closer network, as outlined above.
  8. My Causal Friends – These are the people that I have met and engaged with at different times over the years. We move in and out of each others’ lives, picking up where we left off while enjoying whatever brief encounters we may have.
  9. My Social Media Community – These are “cyber friends” who only know me “cyberly.” We are not into each others’ lives at any depth, and I would not call any of them if I had a critical need. We are casual at best because it’s not possible, nor appropriate, to know all the details of our lives. Social Media relationships are mostly safe, risk-free, and low-committal.
  10. The Multitudes – This group is similar to the social media crowd. They are strangers whom I run into as I go about my daily affairs. These people represent opportunities to share Christ, uplift a soul, and model the Savior while bringing fame to God’s name.

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Jesus Circles

This model for relationships follows somewhat loosely how Jesus seemed to spend His time. His priority was Himself and His relationship with God. Then He appeared to have an inner circle of friends, namely Peter, James, and John.

His “circles of relationships” grew to the other nine disciples, a close network of friends—Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and there were the multitudes. The religious crowd was people the farthest outside His network.

Jesus was a finite man who had to make decisions regarding where and with whom He spent His time. While He loved everyone, He did not give everyone His undivided attention. We would be wise to learn from and follow His lead.

Time & Relationship Priorities for the LORD

Our #1 Time-Consumer

Now I come to what has become one of the more time-dominating time consumers in our culture today. I’m talking about social media, where a peripheral group of relationships gathers while consuming more and more of our time. For some people, it has become an addiction: a relationship replacement. I have a love/disdain relationship with social media.

  • I like it because it is an inexpensive means to share ideas and content that promotes the cause of Christ.
  • I dislike it because it can interfere with a person’s need for transformational relationships.

Building community on Facebook (and any other social media site) is not building biblical community—not if we are talking about koinonia, which I am. Though you can deliver a “pinch of encouragement” to a person on Facebook, you will never be able to know that person the way someone needs to know them.

  • Facebook is a “hangout” community, not a “call to action” community.
  • It’s a casual conversational community, not an in-depth “I want to know all of you” community.
  • It is a community where only the snippets that we want to present to others are in view. You have control over the narrative of your life.
  • It’s not a community where the darker sides of our lives—the aspects that need God’s transformative power—are made public.

Facebook is mostly a place where people chat, talk about their grandchildren, and show cute dog videos. It is also known for providing a battleground where combatants with differing opinions can spar.

For me, Facebook is mostly, if not entirely, a marketing tool, though not a good one because it does not accomplish our primary missional goals—meaning, Facebook is not a transformation community. It mostly feeds our “chat” preferences, which I have no inclination to do.

At best, it’s on the lowest end of the biblical encouragement scale. Though a blurb about this or that can cause pause as one ponders a spiritualized word, message, or picture, it can never accomplish what a real friend can do for you.

For some people, Facebook is like a pill that helps them to feel like they have real friends; they feel like they are part of a community. They get their “need-for-relationship-fix on,” but they are always arm’s length from those people. This manipulation permits them to maintain total control of the relationship; they can “like” or “unlike” you at any moment.

This contrivance makes Facebook a better answer than the church for some Christians because of the nearly painless relational experiences they can experience in the FB Universe (FBU). It is for these reasons that I have grave concerns about the long-term effects of this cyber environment.

In a real way, Facebook is not serving our ministry well. This issue is one of the reasons why I set up a private forum on our website. I’m looking for relationships that want transformation rather than a spiffy “quote of the day.”

Time and Relationships

Redeeming Facebook

I am continually thinking about these things while seeking to strike the right balance that does not cater to a significant problem that is in too many people’s lives while using the Facebook medium for the cause of Christ.

I’ve used the analogy of a missionary going to where the people are and communicating to them in the way they want it. In that way, Facebook is a “kind of” missional community.

But there has to be a line drawn quickly and definitively. Ultimately Facebook, as I have outlined, is not a transformational community. It’s a hang. So while I want to go into their tribal village and sit in their huts and smoke with the village people, I also want to call them to a better way of living. And that is where I draw the line: Facebook does not do that well.

And Facebook does not want me to draw that line that motivates people to leave their platform. They are not for me. Facebook is as determined as I am to build a community that keeps folks in it.

And there lies the tension. Facebook will do all it can do to keep people spinning through their feeds, creating addictions, and satisfying lusts, while never motivating them to move from FBU.

  • That is problem #1.
  • Here is problem #2:

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This Land Is My Land

The other drawback is what is called “sharecropping” in social media. Facebook is their “land,” NOT my land, and they can do whatever they want to do with their property. The worst-case scenario is that they could shut down or lose market share. (e.g., My Space or DIGG.) If I promote, build, and maintain a large community on Facebook, and if they went away, it would be a considerable loss to our missional endeavors.

Currently, we have 12,000+ people congregated on our Facebook page. That’s a lot of people for which I praise God for kindness. But Facebook is their land, and they can do what they want to do with it, which btw they make changes every two weeks, nearly without exception, and those changes do not always have our best interests in mind.

I’m a settler on their land, and I must never forget that. To build a ministry on Facebook can be risky business, which is why we have been working hard to maximize that medium while it’s relevant, but not putting all our eggs in their basket. Or, to stay with the analogy: to put all our villagers in their village.

If we want to be a transformational community, we have to make our central community our website. That is our wisest move. We have done this for years by creating some excellent resources and means to communicate those resources to the global community.

Our Forum, for example, has been one of the primary “means of grace” that the Lord has used to create and build our transformational community. It’s a grace-filled place where people can come to find answers to real problems. A place where real people can be real, not just present the more “attractive side” of themselves to others.

I hope that people, who are serious about change and are looking for answers, will leave the Facebook universe because they want a place where they can let down their guards and be real. They are looking for biblical solutions to their relational and situational challenges.

Call to Action

None of us have unlimited time. We are finite people living within real constraints. When it comes to being redemptive in people’s lives, it’s imperative we establish the best possible means to be good stewards of the time and resources that the Lord has provided for us.

  1. If you were to describe your friendships in concentric circles, who gets your best time?
  2. Do you need to change how you steward your relationship time? If so, how so?
  3. Where does social media fit within your relational time allotments? Do you need to change anything about that? If so, how so?
  4. Do you use social media to fill a relational void in your life? Does it keep you safe from being hurt?
  5. Is Facebook the best place for you to find relational, redemptive, and transformational help?
  6. Would you prefer a more in-depth redemptive community? Will you try ours? If so, click this link.

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