I have often heard it said, “If you don’t plan your time, someone or something else will plan it for you.”
Time is our most limited resource, and everyone has the same amount each day. Your day, my day, and everyone else’s is only 24 hours. The fantastic thing is that while most of us can get some things done each day, some have learned to manage their time really well. They have learned how to squeeze more from that same 24 hours than most of us. According to one study, only about 10% of people actually feel like they control how they spend their time each day.
My wife and I recently made a commitment to exercise more regularly for the sake of good health and staying active. I remember when we began to talk about joining the gym. We started carving out time to work out, and my first thoughts were not only, “How much is this going to cost,” but also, “How are we going to find the time?”
I have learned from that experience that when you value something enough, you will budget for it and make time to do it. We have managed to find the time to work out four times a week and still do all the other things that we need to do. When it comes to making time for things like discipleship and investing in the lives of others, if you don’t consider it important and valuable, it won’t happen. If you don’t make an intentional plan and effort to set aside time to do it, it won’t happen. Unfortunately, our weekly routine and the tyranny of the urgent will always seem to gobble up that time. Let me offer a few suggestions for the busy person who wants to invest in making disciples.
Commit to the Call to Make Disciples
I have shared the following story in a previous blog, but it’s worth sharing again. Several months ago, I was with a group of Georgia pastors discussing disciple making and the work of developing a disciple-making culture in their churches. I asked them how many of them were personally involved in disciple making.
One pastor responded that he knew he should be a personal disciple maker, but he was just too busy to do it. I responded with the following statement: “You simply can’t afford to not do it!” Most pastors want to see a movement of disciple making in their churches. Still, I believe it starts with committing to the personal call to become a personal disciple maker. We have to accept the call personally and value it enough to not simply talk and preach about it but faithfully do it. Who could you invite to join a discipleship group? Pray and ask God to reveal the names of two or three people you can begin to meet weekly to grow as disciples of Jesus.
Commit to Give Up Something to Make Disciples
As a pastor, I know how busy and demanding the work is. I also know that most pastors are wholly committed to reaching the lost and shepherding the people God has given them. I identify and applaud your heart, but here’s the challenge: When I read the Great Commission in Matthew 28, it tells me that I am to “make disciples.” It doesn’t say to go and make converts. It doesn’t speak to simply tell others to make disciples. It means that we are to go and make disciples.
Too many of us fall short in making disciples because we never go further than sharing the gospel. Many, I would even say most, do not take the time to go further and actually make disciples who grow, mature, and multiply. I meet weekly with a group of four other men, and I have been in groups like this for several years. Some of the guys in our group are veteran believers, while others are new to the faith. Together we pray, study, and memorize Scripture to encourage one another and hold each other accountable. We do this for our walk with Jesus and our call to be on a mission for Him. They have become some of my closest friends, and I am teaching them the importance of disciple making as a way of life.
One of these men recently decided that it was time for him to take what he has learned and experienced and invest it in another group of men. He is a small business owner and has a hectic life with work and family. He is still meeting with us on Sunday afternoons and meets with a group of men and teens on Friday mornings at 5 a.m. He decided that disciple making is so essential that he adjusted his schedule, sleep, and commitments to make disciples who grow to make more disciples. What is it that you could give up to make time for disciple making?
Commit to Creating and Guarding Margin to Make Disciples
No one ever had to teach me how to waste time. I became a professional very early in life!
As I have gotten older and hopefully a little wiser, I have learned to use my time more wisely, but just like you, I battle daily with the tyranny of the urgent. One of my new favorite words is “margin.” As we expanded and honed our disciple-making strategy at church, I have learned how to create margin for what has become an essential part of my life and weekly – not “weakly” – schedule.
The time I spend with my guys in our D-group is sacred. We have agreed to guard that time and to continually create a margin for what we consider valuable and extremely important. Our wives and kids know we are committed to spending time with them but that each of the guys in our group has set aside time on Sunday afternoon for discipleship. We are committed to holding that time sacred. Some opportunities and requests seem to pop up almost weekly for each of us. Still, we have created the margin to spend time together as a group, and we guard it intensely. If you don’t generate margin and defend it, something will always come calling for that time. Without margin and intentional commitment to be a disciple maker, you will never be successful in personally making disciples. There will always be something else bidding for your time.
I recently attended a conference on disciple making. A speaker who was a seasoned pastor had been involved in disciple making for many years. He made a statement that challenged me to evaluate my commitment and the value of that calling in my life. He said, “I have been a pastor for over 30 years, and I know that I will one day retire from the pastorate, but I will never retire from disciple making. In fact, when I retire, I will have more time to make disciples, and I plan to do it until I die or until Jesus comes back!”
We should commit to the calling to make disciples who grow and learn to go and make more disciples. If we are too busy to make disciples, we are simply too busy!