Years ago, I saw an illustration that has stayed with me. A woman was given a large glass jar and several rocks of various sizes, including large rocks, pebbles and sand. She was asked to put all the rocks into the jar. As she struggled to get all the rocks in, it became clear that this task was harder than it looked. After she had done all she could do, there were still rocks left on the table. Then the leader instructed her to empty her jar and try again, this time putting the big rocks in first, then the smaller rocks, then the pebbles and lastly, the sand. Amazingly, she was able to get all the rocks in her jar. Then came the lesson behind the activity. In many ways our lives are like this glass jar. It has capacity for doing good things, but that capacity is limited. You only have a certain number of hours in the day; a certain number of days in a year. You have capacity but not unlimited capacity. The rocks and sand represent various tasks and priorities that demand your attention. The big rocks are the things that are most important, like work and family demands. The smaller rocks are less important priorities, and the sand is the trivial things we do each day that are needed, but not very important in the grand scheme of life.
The trick is how to fit all that is expected of you within the time that you have. If you try to randomly push everything into your schedule, most likely, something important is going to be left out. Your family isn’t going to get your best. Your work will suffer. Your list of tasks won’t get done. And certainly, time to make disciples will disappear. But if you intentionally place the big rocks of your life in first, making room intentionally in your schedule for what matters the most, and then fitting the rest around those things, you will be able to accomplish all the things God wants you to accomplish. As I talk with people who successfully make disciples year after year, I have discovered that each one of them made disciple making a big rock in their lives. making disciples wasn’t something they did with their extra time. It was a priority and given a primary spot in their weekly schedule. Listen, if you are going to make disciples who make disciples, you must make it a priority in your life. That’s what Jesus did. during Jesus’ ministry, He prioritized investing in a few. Around halfway into His public ministry, Jesus spent four times as much time with a few as He did with the crowd. While the masses constantly demanded His time, He intentionally, purposefully and strategically invested His life in a few who would reproduce. You may think, “How can I do that? I’m already so busy!” Let me give you a few suggestions:
Take an inventory of your schedule. The man who discipled me, shared two key words with me that have helped me assess my schedule. He said, “Craig, you must eliminate the things that are not very important so you can concentrate on what’s most important.” Eliminate and concentrate. Take a look at your schedule. How much time is going into things that are not important and certainly don’t matter for eternity? What things could be eliminated out of your life? How could you concentrate your time and be more productive?
Repurpose the time you already have. many will say, “I’m just too busy to make disciples!” Usually I will ask, “Did you eat today?” “Yes,” the person will respond. “How many times did you eat?” “Three times,” he or she will say. “You ate breakfast, lunch and dinner?” I ask. “Yes, that’s right”. Then I’ll say, “If you eat three times a day, then you have at least three opportunities in every day to make disciples.” What if you took just one mealtime a week – one meal out of 21 – and gave it to the Lord for the purpose of sharing a meal and making disciples? As you begin to look at the time you already use, you will be surprised to find there are many ways to repurpose your time for making disciples.
Make an appointment. Usually, we make appointments for the things that really matter. If you are sick, you will make an appointment with a doctor. If you need legal help, you will make an appointment with a lawyer. What matters most gets put on your calendar as an appointment. So why not make an appointment with your group to make disciples. It is just as important as any other appointment you have on the books. When I begin a group, I will set an appointment for that group meeting. I may meet early in the morning before work with a group. That becomes my first early morning appointment for that day. It gets scheduled. It’s on my calendar. other times, a group may meet early on a Saturday. That too becomes an appointment I set for the duration of the group. Carve out time to make disciples by making appointments and keeping them.
Be flexible and creative. many times, the people you are discipling have changing and flexible schedules. So don’t be afraid to be fluid, flexible and creative. one time, I was discipling a pilot whose schedule changed every week according to his flights. We had to change our meeting time every week, but we remained faithful to keep meeting. one time, I discipled a professional golfer who was out of town extensively during golf season. We met as a group and conference-called him every week. Technology allows us to communicate in creative and innovative ways. don’t let the inability of a regular meeting keep you from investing in someone’s life.
Ultimately, making disciples is a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also,” (Matthew 6.21 ESV). He was saying our time, our talent and our treasure will always follow what has our heart. We always find time, money and energy for the things we love the most. So make following Jesus and investing in others the heartbeat of your life, and when you do, you will find the time necessary to accomplish it.