Lecture 16: Pastoral Leadership and Performance | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 16: Pastoral Leadership and Performance

Course: Pastoral Care and Leadership
Lecture 16: Pastoral Leadership and Performance 

Let’s talk about performance. Pastoral leadership and performance is not always a popular word. It starts to sound really corporate. Doesn’t God just ask me to be faithful? Actually he also calls us to be fruitful. What do we mean?

Let me start with an experience I had. I discovered that every year when we would have our budget meeting, our annual meeting of the church, we would always try to get up and tell great stories. It was largely anecdotal. How is the church doing? People of course ask the pastor that question a lot - how is the church doing? We like to say it’s going well. Let me tell you a story. We saw five kids in our youth group get baptized or, we had a new couple who came to the church and they said, “I really like what you are doing.” There can be a lot of stories.

But when I have done this traditional thing, I was really struck with, do I really know the measurables? What are the measurables? How would we really know if we are doing well? When I say we are doing well, based on what? It is appropriate for people to say, based on what? I began to realize, I’m not sure I know how to answer that question, at least very well, at least very convincingly. So much so that I took six months off from teaching at seminary and I gave my full self to the church, to try to get at performance issues. I wanted to see if we are really doing well. It was hard. It was not easy. It was revealing. So, that is what we are going to talk about here. We are going to start with, as I have on the notes, the problem.

A. Churches are often not great in doing assessments

The problem is, most churches are not inclined to embrace performance. That happens for multiple reasons. Here are a few.

II. Arguments against metrics

A. Metrics can cause you to take a reductionist approach to ministry

Metrics can, if we are not careful, cause us to take a more reductionistic approach to ministry. That is, we begin to just focus on numbers. We reduce things to processes and we start to lose the bigger things. We begin to reduce people to units. We begin to measure things like, our church is this size, so we have grown at this rate. Or, our giving is this amount. They are all indicators and there is something to numbers, numbers are not bad, they do tell us something. But one of the problems is, we can become reductionistic and miss other things.

B. Metrics can seem too corporate

Here is a second problem. It really sounds corporate. We are not a corporation, we are not a business. We are not led by CEOs who make things happen. We are not a profit oriented group here and congregants are not consumers. The vocation of a pastor can get diminished when we become too corporate and corrupted, and turn things into an ecclesiastical business.

I believe God used Eugene Peterson as a prophetic voice for probably 20 years. As the mega church became more popular and large corporate growth happened, he could see that pastors were losing their identity. So, metrics can seem too corporate.

C. Spirituality is difficult to measure

Here is a third problem with metrics, that is, how do you measure some things that really matter like spirituality? How do you measure if someone is spiritual or not? You can measure things at Starbucks or Nike, but how do you measure things with people? Heartwarming stories, where do they fit in with the statistics?

D. Results may be too revealing or disturbing

One more. I think if we are honest, a big problem we have with metrics, and we shy away from them, is that they are too revealing and they tell us things we don’t want to see. It is kind of safe if I just don’t know exactly what percentage of people are returning when they visit the church. It is probably good we don’t talk about how many baptisms we actually had that with people who had made decisions 14 years ago and were just getting around to it. We tend to shy away because our metrics may tell us that while our messaging is this, our metrics may tell us we are actually this; or they may actually tell us we are this.

So sometimes we shy away, we use excuses. Metrics, I’m not into numbers, thank you. We are not a corporation. God is in charge of that, He brings the growth. I am just called to be faithful. Fair answers.

III. Rationale for Metrics

I want to give you some rationale for metrics. Here is why I believe they are valid.

A. The church has a business aspect to it. If you are training to be a pastor, you must have the knowledge and motivation to know how to lead and manage a business. Don’t misunderstand what I’m going to say; but the church is a business. So, “the church is not a business” misses the fact that actually, this is why we have fiduciary matters, this is why we have policies and procedures. This is why we have structures. This is why we have to have good business practices. We have to be audited like businesses.

I know, in my last church, as I mentioned, we had an embezzlement issue that came to light just a few months ago of one-half million dollars that was stolen. We have to have careful procedures that are very much like businesses. If we don’t have a certain measurement, a level of performance expectation, chances are the church is going to close its doors one of these days. Chances are that this natural curve is going to happen.

A lot of people say this, “It’s just a natural life cycle. Like people have a life cycle, so churches have a life cycle.” Is that true? Do churches have to have a life cycle of birth, growth, decline, death? Where in Scripture do we see that? Most of the young men and women that I’m training for ministry in seminary are going to go out to plateaued or churches in decline, given the percentages. Are they just wasting their time? Is it inevitable they are going to die? I don’t think it is inevitable, I don’t think it has to be. But I think it will be if we don’t have metrics.

There is something of business that a church needs to be attentive to. Most of our people, at least a portion of our people who are business people, are not going to have much respect for a church that is not respectful of being business savvy. They have to be, why shouldn’t the church be?

Just down the street was Nike headquarters. We had people who came to our church that worked at Nike. I would walk on this campus, just amazed, it is very impressive. People work like crazy and there are performance goals that keep everybody pretty sharp. I would go there and I would be driving back and I’d be thinking something like this: All of that for “s-o-l-e-s.” Why shouldn’t we be more so for “s-o-u-l-s”? Why is it they are passionate and they are very attentive to results about shoes and we are over here talking about eternal lives? Why do we somehow feel it should be radically different? I sometimes wonder if people from Nike should come over to our church and go, “Wow, I thought we were really about making sure we’re effective, but you put us to shame.” We would say, “That is because it is a life or death issue for us.”

I may not be persuading you, but I think these are good arguments. I realize I am kind of up against a bit of gravity here because I have discovered that there are some, when I get to this part of the course, that are not inclined to want to talk about metrics. Maybe they don’t want to hear me say it because they don’t want to face reality; or, don’t want to do the hard work that comes with it, because it is hard work.

B. There are some things that can be and must be measured

Here is another rationale for metrics. There are some thing that can be and must be measured. One writer put it: “If something exists, it exists in some amount. And if it exists in some amount, it can be measured.”

What are some of the things that applies to in the church? Giving, attendance, number of students, baptisms, membership. To use the excuse that things cannot be measured, is simply a lack of discipline, words that can devalue the importance behind what we are doing. The adage, “We measure what we value” I think is true. Whatever we value, we tend to measure. I know this because I value money and I measure it all the time. I look at my bank statements. Why? Because I value what is in the bank.

C. Scripture validates it

Here is the third rationale for metrics: Scripture validates it. It’s not like we are just turning to a corporate page and Scripture says nothing. The Bible is filled with numbers. There is even a book named Numbers. God seems to be into numbers, last I checked. So when you say,” I’m sorry, we are just not into numbers, the church should not be about numbers,” God seems to be about numbers. The parable of the talents seems to be indicating that God cares about performance. The person who just hid the talent didn’t come off very well in that story; but the person that was shrewd, who invested and got a long-term gain was honored. At the end, God will do some serious assessment of all of us. If assessment and metrics don’t matter, then why will there be a judgment seat? Otherwise, seems like I would say It doesn’t really matter. I don’t know what it is going to look like, but I have an idea that I’m going to go through a performance review, and I think you will, too.

D. Effective ministry requires metrics

There is a fourth reason. I think if we want to be effective, it requires metrics. Because only then can we address real needs. If we take the time to measure – let’s go back to what I mentioned a moment ago – people who come back a second time, and we discover that people who come back a second time, that number looks more like 10%, that says something, doesn’t it? It says we might want to think about how we are approaching people when they enter, how we are treating people, what we are saying, what the front door looks like.

There are some churches I visit that I would never go back. Let’s imagine that they are only measuring how many guests came on a given Sunday. I’ve discovered, really I am not as interested in how many guests we had, as how many of them come back. That is the real measurement. So, effective ministry requires metrics, I think. We can’t be just content with the goodness of our cause, there has to be more.

IV. The Process for Effective Measuring

A. You must have a clear mission and vision

Let’s talk a little bit about the process. How do we go about doing this? Let’s start back in a broad way to say that we have to have a clear mission and a vision. If we are going to measure something, it has to be set in a context. Let’s assume our mission is - and I believe it is, I think Scripture says that every church has – a four-fold mission. Pursue truth, respond to truth - which is worship, mature the saints. Pursue truth, build on truth, respond to truth in worship, love one another and reach lost people. Those four things.

Let’s assume, and it is a safe assumption, that is the mission of the church. Then if I stand up once a year to give an account of the church, moving beyond the anecdotal stories. Not that stories are bad; but it’s to say I need to talk about our mission. How are we doing? Are we pursuing truth? Are people maturing? I don’t know for sure because I haven’t done a final exam. Imagine if you did that. Imagine if every year you said, “You have come, you have listened. I have gone through five series this year. I want to give an exam just to see how well we are assimilating the material.” You know of course what would happen. There would be a stampeded out the door or a barrage of anonymous notes. There would be people saying, “Sorry, we are not seminary here.” What are we? We are a church. What is the church? You know what? Isn’t it a place where we are supposed to mature and grow?

At seminary we have what we call “core outcomes.” That is, we have worked out what are the outcomes every person who graduates from our school must be able to do, must be able to know. You need to know how to preach if you are going to have a Master of Divinity degree. You need to know how to conduct a meeting. You need to know how to handle yourself in a hospital, etc., etc. Why is it, while that is expected and we should do that, when it comes to the church, we have no expectation of outcome? I don’t want to say never because there are probably exceptions. How many churches say something like this: “We are really glad you are joining the church; and we want you to know that we’re serious about outcome. So, once a year we take a brief sort of Biblical exam, we want you to participate. It is not a fail task issue. We just want to know what you know, so that we know actually what we should preach next year. If you have taken that now for the fifth time and nothing has changed, or maybe there has been a goi

ng backwards, maybe we are not doing something right or maybe you are not doing something right.”

Are we serious about advancing the Kingdom of God? Reaching a lost world? Making a difference? I know you are probably all thinking, “He has really gotten off on unrealism or idealism.” I think actually I am really onto why the church is so ineffective. We don’t really have any real standards for our people when it comes to performance. What if we asked everyone each year say, Tell us, rough estimate, how many meaningful conversations did you have with an unbeliever where you took the opportunity to share the Gospel? How many people did God allow you, use you, to lead to Christ? I am going to guess. I could actually be really off here because it may be worse than I’m thinking, but probably 95% of our people rarely ever have shared their faith. It is just a gut thing I feel.

Then I think we all sit around going, we need to go to the next church growth seminar, we need to do this; or we assume that our church is really growing when actually we are just getting a core of people who have left the church over here because they really got upset with the new pastor. I wonder, how many people we are actually impacting. We are afraid to ask the church. I think it makes a difference. I think there is rationale for it. I think it changes how well we are doing. If once a month in my staff meeting I am held accountable to talk about how many conversations I had in sharing the Gospel, I am going to think a lot about my personal interfacing with people. I’m going to be asking myself, I want to be able to share something positive and I need to slow down a minute and talk to this person.

I was done swimming the other day and this guy that I see often early in the morning, but we had never really spoken to each other, asked me what I do. I told him that part of my life right now is writing. He said, “Really” and he got really interested, “What are you writing?” I said, “I’ve written a book, it has been published, ‘Under an Open Heaven’ and I just finished a book on ‘Missing Voices.’” “Wow, those sound like intriguing titles.” Then we just kind of went on.

I was thinking more about performance and accountability. I knew that actually I would be rather accountable; i

t is not just for that reason. I know that we should have reason enough just out of our passion for lost people. But it might have helped me to maybe go another step and say, “Are you curious why those titles, why I would title a book ‘Under an Open Heaven’”?

I think we all need performance indicators, metrics to help us. So, the process as I have said, have the right mission and vision.

B. Determine what superior performance looks like

 

Secondly, determine what superior performance looks like

What are we measuring ourselves against? We might say we are really doing well. Based upon what? We’re doing a lot better than the church down the street that has really declined. That is not so great. What is our baseline? What is the bar we have set for ourselves? What have we identified are the true indicators of success? What do we mean by great results? We have to ponder that. What are our core outcomes? They should be realistic, for sure. They should be aggressive and faith inspiring, but achievable. We should not set goals that are so great that they are really unrealistic.

C. Create relevant metrics

When I first moved to Holland I was talking with one of the pastors I was getting to know who was a Dutch pastor, he lived there all of his life. He said, “John, what are you attempting to do here?” I said, “I want our church to make a major impact on Holland.” I said, “What about you?” He said, “John, I would just love to really reach this neighborhood.” I thought, That would be a major achievement. Maybe I should start there. They need to be realistic. They need to be realistic and they need to be relevant. We need to be measuring the right things. Imprecise measurement of the right thing is better than a precise measurement of the wrong things.

1.There are guidelines in your notes I would like to go through quickly. First, they should measure what you actually want to accomplish. Have you thought through where you want to get to? What gets measured is what gets done, or at least gets attention. Peter Drucker?_____(22:43.4) “If you want it, measure it. If you can’t measure it, forget it.” So measure the things that indicate what you believe is true success. For a corporation like Shell, it might be income statements or shareholder value, or production targets or safety performance. Starbucks might want to measure customer satisfaction or growth in investors. We have to figure out what we want to measure, but we should measure something.

You may remember that movie and that book, “Money Ball” which changed how they build teams, going back to the Oakland Athletics, that went from more scouts with their gut feelings to actually measuring, how many times does this guy get on base? Then they began to build a team more through metrics, which got them at least to the playoffs. At least we ought to ponder that because I think we tend to go too often like scouts with gut feelings.

2. Here is the second guideline. They should fit into an actionable time frame. That is, they should allow us to be able to track the trajectory with a certain rigor. They should help us to answer, Are we making progress? We are going to measure attendance and we are going to take one week to do that. Obviously, you can’t do that. What is the actionable time frame that will help us?

Starbucks might measure, how long does a customer have to wait to be served? In ministry it might include, how long does it take for a constituent to get a response? How long does it take to follow up someone new? That is a good question. Do people who visit typically, if we were to measure it, on the average get followed up in three months? How long does it take for students to receive feedback? On it could go.

3. Focus on outcomes rather than activities. The third guideline to creating relevant metrics. They must focus on outcomes rather than activities. There is a tendency in metrics to make a list of activity statements. We are committed to children’s ministry. That tells us what we are doing, but outcome statements are much more likely to yield results.

4. Here is the fourth. They should apply to things that are actually measurable. Trying to artificially assign specific numbers to a miserable activity is a common mistake among executive teams. It encourages achievement of arbitrary outcomes that may or may not contribute to the goal. They should be goals that are accessible, that are careful, not careless. Measurements do not need to be precise nor perfect, but they need to have certain credibility. They should tell us where we are strong, they should tell us where we need to give attention.

They should be a manageable number. We should not have 50 measurables. Maybe it would be great if a church just started with, here is a good Biblical number, seven. Let’s determine seven measurables. Let’s determine who is going to do the measuring. Let’s determine how often one does the measuring. It might be Pastor Bruce, I need you to measure how we are doing with attendance. I want you in charge of that measurable. I want you to track it and I want you to tell us quarterly. We need to see where we are. I don’t want it to be too long or the ship might be going down and we didn’t recover soon enough. We need to give it a certain amount of time so that we really see trends and patterns. So, you are in charge. Figure out how you are going to measure that. Am I measuring how many people are actually in a service? Am I measuring how many people showed up? We have to figure out what exactly we are measuring. I think if we are willing to do this, we might see the church become a lot more effective.

IV. Questions

A. How do you begin setting up measurables?

Question: This is a good discussion and challenge because I look at several places over which I have pastoral oversight and realize that I don’t have measurable methods, so I don’t know where we are going. I realize that I don’t know what we are hoping to achieve. I may have a general idea. So this is a challenging discussion. Comment on this.

Dr. Johnson: I would like to be able to report back to you that when I took that six months off and really got down to working on the measurables and metrics, and reported to my board after a significant time like that, I pulled back from a three-quarter time position at seminary so I could focus on a more full-time position at church to do this. I gave my report. I can’t honestly say it ultimately made any real difference.

There is something about ministry and the environment of ministry, where it is so foreign to us, we don’t quite know how to do it even let’s say we get past, “I don’t know how.” I’ve given some steps as to how. We just may not want to go there because again, it may be too revealing. But I wonder, even if it affects the giving pattern, imagine if you, let’s say as the youth pastor, stood up and you said, “I’m giving my annual report. I have determined seven core outcomes I want to get this ministry to. I’ve thought it through as I’ve thought about the mission and vision of our church. Here is where I want to see people get. I determined to get there by measuring these seven things. So I am here to give a report. These seven measurables: Some encourage me and some really discourage me. It shows me where I need help.”

I’m guessing somebody out there, who has to live under metrics like most of our people, will say, “Wow, finally somebody is taking this seriously. Now I really know how this ministry is going.” So this youth pastor, when someone says, “How is your ministry going?” Yes, an anecdotal story is fine; but to say, “Well, I use these seven core things to measure.” Just like we might say as we talked about VCPs_____? (30:19.9) the other day. I have invested my life into five VCP?_____ I meet with once a month. Three of them, I think I can safely say, are now VIPs in the church. That all fits within the mission. It is part of core outcomes I am going to get to. Again, we shy away from this. It is work.

Tim Collins?_____(30:41.8) who wrote the book years ago, “Good to Great” in which did a very exhaustive study on what is the difference between good corporations and excellent, successful corporations. He wrote the book, it had a lot of impact. A number of people from the nonprofit sector said, “Write a book for us.” So he wrote this little monograph, “Good to Great,” very small. I took my board through it at least twice because he goes through the same thing and he talks a fair amount about metrics. He starts the book with this statement: “What profits and non-profits have in common that are excellent…” This again was after intensive research. He said, “The difference between good non-profits and great non-profits is the same as good business, good profits and great profits. It is one word, do you know what it is? Discipline. That is the difference between good and great.

What we are really talking about requires discipline. We talked about staff. I expect discipline. Again, why? It can begin to sound really corporate and I sometimes get pushback from people, especially in ministry. Why don’t you share a Bible story? I’m not against Bible stories. But I am passionate to see the church become effective. We are not effective, in a large part because we are undisciplined. We are not a very disciplined culture. If you want proof, I can give you this assignment, when people come back from board meetings. If it is any indication of how the church is run, it is a wonder more churches don’t have closed doors. I had to preach a little bit.

Question: That’s it. It seems like often in our lack of discipline, we measure metrics that maybe really don’t have a lot to do with what is going on - giving, attendance, when I’m asking maybe a deeper question than that.

Dr. Johnson: So I can see, the discipline is going deeper. The discipline is going to the next question that is more important and that is, How many of those baptisms reflect people who in this last year came to Christ? We might say we had 37 baptisms; and they have all been people that have been around the church. It’s that you preached on baptism and a lot of people thought, “I have to get that.” It is some measurement, but we might say our core outcomes are bigger than that.

Question: Mark over here is a chiropractor. He is going to have a whole life experience with metrics and how do you do it and what do you measure?

Dr. Johnson: I was reminded of my nephew who is a chiropractor. He uses metrics. He measures his success by how few times he sees a person, how quickly can he permanently fix that person? His frustration is, he is good at it, but after three or four sessions they don’t come back and they should. But in that sense, it took 20 visits to fix my neck, as opposed I think to four visits I had with him. “Will you fix my neck?” thirty years ago. My neck has never hurt since. So, in four visits he was 100% successful. Metrics I think, are just hard.

I am reminded of the time that a pastor asked my son, “How you doin’ on humility?” My son goes, “Stuff it, I’m doin’ good.” He was joking when he said it. How do you measure any spiritual growth?

Question: Biblical Training has a board member who at one time was a senior software architect at Google. I’ve talked to him a lot about, how do I help the staff? He said, the whole secret is metrics. I said, “How do you do that?” He oversaw 250 programmers at Google’s Irvine plant. Talk about herding cats, 250 programmers. He said that every two weeks they did a measurable goal and working hard is not a measurable goal, it is writing a thousand lines of code. Many said at that point it was an issue of character. He said they had been committed to doing something. If they don’t do it, it is because they lack the character to do it.

B. How do you measure spiritual growth?

Dr. Johnson: I’ve thought about how difficult it is to provide metrics in a spiritual environment because they are so hard to measure. It’s not, “Hey, I wrote a thousand lines of spiritual code this week.” I think that is part of the challenge of this whole discussion, is you measure what is important to you; but there are some things that are so hard to measure.

Question: My fear is that we then use that as an excuse to then not measure anything.

Dr. Johnson: This guy’s last name is I believe ?Ghwanda_____(35:55.0), an Indian man who wrote the book, “Feckless Manifesto”. He is a doctor and he discovered that when he started measuring, started encouraging people to have check lists, the mortality rate dropped significantly because they started being much more careful about what they were doing with their measuring, etc.

When you go back to order, I think with the church it is much more about a check list manifesto – what matters, what is important. Again, whatever we deem is important is what we measure, as I said as an illustration.

I’m really much more interested in people who come back a second or third time than the first time. That is what I want to intentionally measure. Why does that matter? Because that says that maybe they are looking for a church. It is a better use of our time to do that.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3: “One waters, one plants, but it is God who causes the growth.” I understand that as a pastor, people might say, “How come the church isn’t growing faster?” In one sense I can say, “I’m not in charge of growth. I can’t make growth happen. That is God’s prerogative. Whatever you want to do with this church in terms of growth, it is up to Him.” That does not give me a pass from not being careful to create a disciplined environment, to look at what are things that measure, that tell us how we are actually doing, what we are actually doing; and then also indicate where we are weak and where we could get stronger. We all need sort of ?______IT (37:46.0) performance indicators to tell us if we are actually doing it, or not.

I think the key again is, when we talk about metrics, we are not talking about measuring activity, we are measuring outcome. I might say, “How’s my writing? My writing is great, man, I write eight to ten hours a day.” I’m not interested in your activity, tell me about your outcome. “Well, I just had my second book published.” Okay, then that helps me to know, am I doing the right thing? Maybe I’m on to something I should keep doing. But if my indicators say I’m not getting anywhere, I need to change what I’m doing. Maybe I’m really not on the right track.

Metrics are good. They can be abused, for sure. But I don’t think the church has a problem with abused metrics. I think the church has a problem with no metrics.

Question: I appreciate your notion of measurable outcomes and commitment. When I used metrics in chiropractic, the things that we came to a conclusion on, who would return for the next visit, it was relevant to the payer, it was relevant to the situation because everybody has limits of time and money. Some people with time have tons of money, but can’t come in. People with no money, but time, would love to come in. The thing that it came down to was that there was an emotional motivator somewhere in their story and their physical dysfunction was scaring them, it was limiting them, it was a burden on them. It didn’t matter how many office visits they had or what was in front of them, they just needed to be heard. When they were heard and they made a connection to a vision that was better and bigger than they had right now, they started to repeat and follow the treatment plan that would reach that target.

So I guess in the spiritual realm, as I’m talking to you, in metrics and measuring the number of times a person has come in, they would come into a church and they would feel welcome, they would feel comfortable, they would maybe feel safe. They would eventually start to feel authentic. They would maybe become vulnerable. Then they would start to receive change and renewing and redemption and movement. Those types of things can be had in metrics, but they are difficult.

Dr. Johnson: That is what I said earlier, in the spiritual realm, although it is not as clear as profit statements or shareholder reports. I can’t just leave it there. There are some nonetheless things we can measure and we should measure.

C. Spending time with someone who is making visible changes in their life

If a person keeps coming to me and does not make any changes, at least I’m trying to measure some change, that might be an indicator to me of who I spend my time with. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision and I have had to make some of those decisions, to say, “I would love to just hang out more and spend time with you and talk about the Lord; but you are still where you have been. I don’t really think you have taken that seriously.” I might have someone over here that if I just poured a little bit of time and attention, they would sky rocket; so where should I be spending my time?

So again, metrics is not measuring activity. I am interested in outcome. It is kind of fresh for me because my wife is really concerned about a young man that has been part of our family, who has been making one stupid choice after another. She came to me last night and she said, “John, we should be doing something for him.” She might have caught me at a bad moment, but I said, “Heather, do you think I’m really insensitive? But right now I am pretty consumed with people who want to get serious with God; so right now that is kind of where I am. I am not saying that I don’t have time for him. But I have spent a lot of time with him and he keeps doing stupid things.” So at a certain point I have to stop and think about how I am measuring my hours and my days. I only have so much space and time and resources. I am asked to do this project. I have to stop and think, “Is that a good use of my time?” We all have to do that.

Question: Sounds a little bit like the parable of the talents.

Dr. Johnson: It seems a little bit like the parable of the talents. Along that line, you make that kind of decision in your life. Do you have the gift to extend it to the next generation and the people alongside you to observe and make those decisions as well and to give them the skills to become more effective.? It’s all about getting information to modify skills to improve outcome.

D. The importance of choosing the people you are going to mentor

Dr. Johnson: Again, it is making choices. One man comes to Jesus and says, “I’ll follow you, but let me first go bury my father” or, I have to first do this. Jesus is saying, ”I don’t have time. I am focused on those who are not going to look back, who aren’t going to make excuses.” We have lost a sense of urgency, I think also in ministry today. We always talk about, “The Lord could come back any time.” We sure don’t live like that. I think a certain urgency says, “I need to be careful where I use my time.” Jesus certainly did that. It sounds rather insensitive, right? Let the dead bury the dead. Say that today! Of course, I think culture helps answer that question a little bit. The man really was just using an excuse.

I find Jesus was quite selective in who he was pouring himself into. He only had so much time to do that, just as we do.