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3 Ultimate Lessons in Ministry Focus

Focus is a challenging practice for any leader. But for pastors and leaders in the ministry space, it’s particularly difficult. Why? Our general motives, inspired by the grace of God and coupled with the plentiful opportunities of people-needs, leave us more susceptible to saying “yes” to good things that aren’t the _____________ things. (Fill in the blank: great, best, God)

So how do we stay connected to the best of the best of the best things? How do we separate the good things from the God things? To illustrate three ultimate lessons in focus, I want to draw from the field of archery.

Ultimate Lesson #1: Find the Center of the Center

There are three things you can aim at when shooting at a target. You can aim at the target, you can aim at the bull’s eye, or you can aim at a point, chosen by your eye, within in the bull’s eye. This point is called the “center of the center.” This phrase describes a physical reality of the eye’s ability to focus that requires practice and training.

TRY IT: You can easily experience this by holding a coin at arms length. Your eyes can look at the entire coin or one point on the coin that your eye arbitrarily selects.

The significance of aiming at the center of the center is huge. With this ability, one is more likely to hit the target. You may have heard the phrase, “Aim small, miss small; aim big, miss big.”

In ministry, the ability to find the center of the center translates to knowing precisely what you are called to do. Many churches are aiming at a target like “Love God and love people” or “make disciples.” Fewer have found a more specific bull’s eye. Very few find the “center of the center” that we call the Kingdom Concept. For example, a church I recently worked with began zeroing in on a Kingdom Concept like… [glorifying God and making disciples by…] changing expectations about life through worship that collides a small world mindset with the high expectations of God’s supernatural power leading to a one-year process commitment.

You may apply the principle personally as well. Sure, we use assessments like strength-finders or personality profiles. Yes, we take our spiritual gifts inventories. But what about a life-long, courageous pursuit of a life defined by what only you can do on planet Earth? How specifically have you defined your calling?

Ultimate Lesson #2: Beware of Hard Vision

Hard vision occurs when your eyes focus on the center of the center to the neglect of everything else. There is almost a paradox here. The goal is to focus on a single point. Yet if you focus too hard and too long on a point, your eye muscles grow tired, get stiff, and lose other “data” in the field of vision. The hard vision also makes it more difficult for the rest of the body, in this case the archer’s arms, to relax and synchronize with the work of the eyes. So an archer with hard vision is more likely to err or flinch as the string is gently released by the fingers.

TRY IT with the coin again. Stare at one point for a few minutes. Drill into the “center of the center” with your eyes. Focus even more. After a while, you will feel the effects of hard vision.

Have you ever met a godly person who seemed too rigid or too focused on a vision? Maybe they even had great focus, but something seemed wrong about their demeanor or overall approach to life. You were probably observing someone who had hard vision. The down side to having seen the “center of the center” is that you might become too entranced by it.

How then do you avoid the downfalls of hard vision?

Ultimate Lesson #3: Embrace Soft Vision

Soft vision is the ability to see the center of the center and simultaneously see other things. What other things might you want to see? In archery, you want to see the tip of your arrow. Soft vision is the ability to align everything you have in your hand (right in front of your face) with the center of the center (at a distance) at the same time. The eye muscles don’t get tight and rigid but stay relaxed.

TRY IT with the coin again. While focusing on the “center of the center” of a coin at arm’s length, raise the pointer finger of your other hand about six inches in front of your face. Bring the tip of your pointer finger in line with “center of the center.”

How does this translate to ministry? I make two applications.

First, you must align what God has given you today with your focus.

  • What is “in your hands?”
  • What is your current resourcing?
  • Who is on your team?
  • What is your current strategy or programming emphasis?

You have to start with what you have and line it up with where you want to go. Think again of the archer’s arrow and the distant target.

Second, you must subordinate your focus with your walk with Jesus today. You must have soft vision by being flexible enough to see both your God-given focus with your God-ordained daily path.

  • Who is God bringing across your path?
  • What is happening that you didn’t expect?
  • What is God trying to show you or teach you?
  • What did the Spirit emphasize from the Word today?

Make no mistake— soft vision is not soft leadership. It is ruthlessly clear vision with graciously flexible execution.

How is your focus today? How does the illustration from archery help you take a positive next step?

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Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country, including such notable pastors as Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Will holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary and has authored Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture and Create Movement; he also co-authored Building Leaders with Aubrey Malphurs.