Sermon:  Running with Focus

Summary:  In order to move people more effectively from salvation, to spiritual maturity, to 
meaningful ministry, there must be a commitment to consistent focus, which involves abandoning 
everything that falls outside of the process.  This means both eliminating and not adding 
programs that do not fit into the process, but instead, adding "options" to the already existing 
ministries and process when new needs arise.

Know:  In order to keep the process simple, understandable, focused, and effective, there must 
be a commitment to abandon what does not fit into the process and reject anything new that does 
not fit into the process.  To do otherwise would dilute rather than concentrate our resources.

Feel:  Hopefulness through the pain of the prospect of the possibility of abandoning or overhauling 
certain ministries

Do:  Reflect on the wisdom and rationale for abandoning what does not fit into the process.  Discuss 
the practical and emotional difficulties involved with this step, and how it might be done over time 
without excessive emotional pain.

Text:  Phil 3:13-14; Eph 5:15-16

Scripture Reading:  Eph 5:14-17

1.  Movie:  Supersize me
2.  More is not always better, faster is not always better
3.  Same is true in church.  Too much can amount to ministry congestion
4.  Focus - Cutting out the fat in ministry
	a.  (Eph 5:15-16) - Redeeming the time - Interesting phrase in Greek
		- "Redeeming" is exagorazo , -to buy out, to buy up, suggesting 
		   you snatch up all the time you can.  NASB expresses this well - 
		    "Making the most of…"
		- Time is kairos,  suggesting that there is a set time, an opportune 
		   not a limitless supply of time.
		- We are to make the most of the time we have - to be a good 
	b.  Paul is talking about stewardship
		- There is a definite amount of time, once it passes, it is gone
		- Don't' squander your time - Not a limitless supply of it
		- Anything detracting from your purpose is clutter - squanders time 
	c.  How do we make the most of every opportunity?
		- Most of use would like to
		- Are we willing to do what it takes?
	d.  Commit to abandoning anything that is not part of the ministry process
		- If not, the body of Christ can become fat and unhealthy
		- Here is what it will take to focus in ministry

I.  Eliminate the Fat 
	A.  Paul was single-minded - "One thing I do" in Phil 3:13-14
		1.  Presses on to what is ahead
		2.  Paul saw his life as a contest
	B.  (1 Cor 9:24-27) - Paul uses an athletic analogy here
		1.  Everyone runs, but there is only one winner - Run to win!
		2.  Talks about strict training - Have to be focused
			a.  Many things can break your focus
			b.  Get rid of the things that slow you down
			c.  I beat my body and make it my slave
		3.  Heb 12:2 
			a.  Throw of every encumbrance
			b.  Run the race with endurance  
			c.  Fix your eyes on Jesus - Focus!
		4.  What does it take to throw of every encumberance
	C.  ILL:  Exercise and training
		1.  Body gets fat, what happens?
			a.  More weight to carry around
			b.  Heart works harder, has to pump more blood to carry 
			     around dead weight
			c.  Lethargic, can affect brain function, mood change
			d.  Contribute to other problems - diabetes, back problems…
		2.  Supersized clutter not good
		3.  Get rid of the fat - Not always a pleasant thing
			a.  Hard work
			b . Means a change
	D.  What does it mean for the church?
		1.  Take a close look at our activity
		2.  Get rid of what does not contribute to the purpose and process
			a.  They are extra weight that bogs us down
			b.  They take up valuable resources
		3.  This is not always easy
			a.  You get used to the fat, hate to see it go
			b.  Like physical training, takes effort
		4.  It is easier to avoid it in the first place…

II.  Avoid the Fat
	A.  It is easier to do this
		-  If already lead, easier to run and train
	B.  I'm going to switch analogies on you here…
		1.  Col 1:5-6 - Gospel is bearing fruit in the world and increasing
			a.  What is this "fruit of the Gospel?"
			b.   It is redeemed, transforming, changed people
		2.  Jn 15:2f - Jesus uses a fruit analogy here
			a.  By this is God glorified, bear much fruit
			b.  In order to bear fruit, but abide in Christ
			c.  That means a total, sold-out focus on living as he did
			d.  It means carrying on the mission he started
		3.  There are things that affect a branch that is to bear fruit
			a.  Maybe a twig needs to be pruned
			b.  Parable of the soils in Mt 13, Jesus mentions other things
				- Rocks - Trouble and Persecution, hardhips
				- Weeds & Thorns - Worries and Wealth
					- Nothing wrong with wealth
					- But like so many things, it can demand your 
					  time, attention, and affections
					- You can wind up serving it rather than it 
					   serving you
		4.  There are things that can sap us to where we don't bear fruit
			a.  Can be a lot of activity, but it can be fruitless
			b.  Question should be - Does it contribute toward the 
			     mission and the process?
	C.  ILL:  Video of Mother Teresa
		1.  Building donated for her sisters of charity mission
		2.  Threw out nice carpet and other such things
			a.  She said, "We don't need these things"
			b.  But they were nice
			c.  Having those extras means tapping more resources
				- Vacuum cleaner and cleaners for the carpet
				- Manpower for the carpet
				- Replacement
		3.  Had a clear focus that caused her to eliminate what could be a 
		     drain on resources for the mission
		4.  Carpets, modern conveniences, and other such things had the 
		      potential of becoming thorns and weeds that take away from 
		      the fruit
			a.  To us it may seem extreme
			b.  To her, it made total sense
	D.  Are we willing to avoid weeds (or the fat) that saps our strength?
		1.  If you avoid it from the beginning, it is easier
		2.  What does this mean?  Avoid any ministry, program, activity, or 
		     stuff that does is not part of the purpose and the process
			a.  If it doesn't fit, it becomes fat, weeds/thorns, clutter
			b.  We will wind up serving it rather than it serving us

III.  Stay committed to the simple process
	A.  The purpose and process will basically stay the sam
		1.  It is rooted in the mission of God
		2.  The mission of God remains the same
	B.  It is tempting to add to ministries with growth in people and finances
		1.  Want to address legitimate needs
			a.  Have a bunch of new Christians, they have needs
			b.  Bunch of new families with children, parenting guidance
			c.  Want to reach out to people
		2.  Need to avoid adding disconnected programs
			a.  Easy to start tacking on programs without thinking of the 
			     larger picture
			b.  The overall purpose should be the purpose of every 
			c.  Each ministry should have a clear fit to the process
		3.  Remember - "Supersize me" is not always better
			a.  Studies have shown that churches that have numerous 
			     array of programs to serve every style, taste, and need 
			     do not grow 
				- Many are large churches
				- Most members are transplants
				- Little real growth
			b.  Churches that have a clear AND simple process, 
			     committed to avoiding the fat are growing
				- God's mission as revealed in scripture is central
				- Not program centered, but process centered
				- Think in terms of life transformation, not programs
				- Tend to be skeptical of new, innovated programs
	C.  Like Thom Rainer who did a study of churches that experienced 
	      genuine life transformation and growth
		1.  There were many large churches that were "complex"
			a.  They did not have a commonly understood process
			b.  Each ministry an entity in itself - there were many
		2.  In 1 complex church, counted 8 programs in 7 days
			a.  Everyone naturally expected to participate
				- People thought in positive way of programs
				- Problem with exhaustion, getting enough leaders…
				- Many thought they were effective.  HOW?  Hard to 
				   say because not a central focus
			b  With all the busyness, wondered how members could 
			     know neighbors next door, much less minister to them
			c.  For many, it seemed the unspoken purpose was to keep 
			     their favorite program going.  Not sure what trying to 
		3.  Like chopping with a dull axe
			a.  Lot of expended energy and resources, little impact
			b.  Need to have a sharp focus
		4.   BUT Churches that experienced genuine growth were all simple
			a.  Simple, commonly understood purpose and process for 
			     spiritual growth
			b.  Everything built around the simple process
			c.  They say NO to many ideas and activities that would 
			     detract from the simple process
			d.  Little trouble with volunteers, leadership, etc.
				- Discovered that supersized is less
				- Discovered that less is more
				- Their "axe" is sharp and makes a noticeable 
	D.  What you do when there are new legitimate needs for spiritual growth?
		1.  Purpose and process already there - Keep it simple
		2.  Add options to the already existing ministry structures
			a.  Like the summer series - Use existing meeting times
			b.  Some have chosen to do VBS on Wednesday evenings
		3.  Be clear about the next step
			a.  If you do a special event, never leave the "now what?" 
			     question unanswered
			b.  How does the event fit into the process of spiritual 
			c.  Make it clear what the next step is, whether it is a 
			    seminar, a VBS, a mission trip, etc.

1.  So what is the next step?  (Invitation)
2.  As stewards, we need to "redeem" or make the most of time, resources, and anything else 
the Lord has entrusted to us for his mission
	a.  Whether you think of it as pruning, training, pulling weeds, etc…
	b.  Focus means saying no to what does not fit the purpose and process
3.  Not only will clear focus help eliminate wasted effort and resources, it helps to eliminate conflict 
that results from misunderstandings and missed expectations

Small Group Questions:  Focus

Summary:  In order to move people more effectively from salvation, to spiritual maturity, to meaningful 
ministry, there must be a commitment to consistent focus, which involves abandoning everything that
 falls outside of the process.  This means both eliminating and not adding programs that do not fit into 
the process, but instead, adding "options" to the already existing ministries and process when new needs arise.

- Where in your life do you find the most clutter?


1.  Eph 5:15-16 - This passages communicates the idea of "buying up" or "buying out" the time.  
I Cor 9:24-27 uses an athletic analogy to speak of Christian mission.  Jn 15:1-2 speaks of pruning 
branches to increase fruitfulness.  Discuss how the messages of these passages relate to each other.

2.  How do these two passages speak to the church's need for focus in its mission?  What sorts of 
activities, focus, planning, etc. do these passages suggest need to take place?


3.  What programs are nonessential in our ministry process?

4.  What prevents us from eliminating nonessentials?

5.  Why is it difficult in ministry to say "no?"

6.  What would it take for the majority of us to understand our ministry process in order to have an efficient 
and sharp focus on it?

7.  As stewards of resources for mission, what is God telling us?


Pray for us to be a united, focused congregation with a united, focused leadership that will be passionate 
about God's mission.