Bible with Cross Shadow“Twenty percent of the people doing eighty percent of the work” has been a complaint of Christian leaders for decades. By the time I heard it, it was being said with resignation. This is our lot; we will have to deal with it. On the one hand, it bothered me. On the other, it was satisfying to think that I was a part of the twenty percent.

I am just being honest here. What can I say? I was an immature Christian leader. My complaint and my satisfaction were self centered, even egotistical. By God’s grace, I have matured as a leader. It is no longer about me. And it is not about the twenty percent; or the eighty percent. In fact, it is not even about the work. So, what’s left?

God. The importance of the work, and who is doing it, is about God. So, I just want to be clear. The work is important; the people even more so; but our perspective has to begin with God, and what is important about it to Him. He has not resigned Himself to the 80/20 rule. He has commanded all of His children to do the work of the kingdom. This is not for His good, but for ours.

I imagine many of you reading this are saying, “No kidding, Rob; tell us something we don’t know.” I agree; this is obvious stuff. But there has to be more, right? The obvious has left many walking in disobedience. There must be more.

I believe that the “more” we are searching for is found in a mystery (or two). So, I encourage you to resist your resignation and search deeper with me. Together, we will find the foundation of God’s purpose, plan and power for kingdom work.

Who is Serving Who?

Let’s start with the assumption that God needs something from us; that there is some service we can do for Him.

The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
Psalm 24:1

If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
Psalm 50:12

The LORD owns all He needs and, as much as we might think differently, He is not in the habit of telling us when He needs it. Seems like one of those “duh!” things once you think about it. However, most of us would have to admit we really want Him to need us. We want to give back to the One who has done so much for us.

But what would we do? Wash His car? Buy Him dinner? Shine His shoes? There is a humbling aspect to this whole matter of serving God. Once we accept the fact that He really doesn’t need us, we can begin to experience just how much He wants us – and how much He is willing to do for His children.

For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Isaiah 64:4 

Our God is different from all other gods because He intends to act for us – after we wait for Him. Let that sink in. Instead of waiting on us to act, God is waiting on us to wait – so He can act for us. Why would He do such a thing?

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. 2Chronicles 16:9

The LORD is looking to show Himself strong; and He knows that we are the ones that need His help – not the other way around.

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
Isaiah 46:4

In God’s economy, it is the strong that serve the weak. This is the heart of a God that is agapē – God’s sacrificial love. It was also the heart of His Son; for He is a good King.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Luke 4:17-19

The Father sent His Son to serve His subjects. I hope this has overwhelmed you as it does me. If there’s a lump in your throat right now, don’t resist the urge to praise our Father and our Savior King. Go ahead: Give Him praise!

Now that we are beginning to understand who is serving who in our relationship to God, let’s turn to the question that is niggling at the back of your mind; something like, “We are suppose to be serving, right? Doesn’t the Bible say something about that?”

Of course we are; and, of course, it does.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

We have been sent by our King exactly as He was sent… to serve others.

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1Peter 4:10

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

God’s way in serving is for His children to serve each other (i.e., love one another). In doing so, we minister to Him – completing the circle and satisfying our desire to love Him as He first loved us.

As we close out this section, it is important to recognize that serving others is harder than serving God. As someone has said, sheep are ornery, smelly animals. They bite and they wander off. And they don’t regularly return favors. Therefore, we must regularly and intentionally commit ourselves to the sacrificial service of others. It is a battle against Satan, the world and our flesh; that we must aggressively fight.

You can find more on “Who is Serving Who?” in Map 16 of The Map Maker’s Guide. For now, consider the impact this mystery can have on your work for God’s kingdom. Finished? Okay; let’s move on to another one.

Whose Work is It?

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19

Very early in His ministry, Jesus said that He could do nothing of Himself. The Son watches what the Father is doing, so the Son can do them. As we will soon discover, this is more than doing as imitation. It is doing in participation – where the Father does the work.

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. John 5:26-27

Why did the Father grant life to the Son? Because He, the Father, has life to give. Why did He give him authority? Because He is the Son of Man.

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30

Again Christ says, of Himself, that He can do nothing apart from the Father. He also said that His judgment was righteous; not because of anything He had done and not because of who He was; but because He sought the will of the Father. His mission was about the Father’s will and work, not His own.

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. John 10:37-38

Jesus is saying that our belief in Him should be based on Him doing the works of His Father. Whose works were they? They were the Father’s works. It was the Father’s works that proved the Father was in Him. In other words, the Father was doing His works through His Son. The works prove that the Father and He are one, because only the Father in Him could be doing the work that they are seeing. And that is why He could immediately say…

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

The Father’s works that Jesus did are to be the same works that we do. More so, now that He has gone to the Father, the works will be greater. How can this be? The secret is found in what Jesus had to say about His disciples.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

One of Jesus’ primary missions was to show us how to be disciples that make disciples. He did exactly what He expects of us. If we are to be productive disciples in the kingdom of God, we must become like Him. He made this clear in a number of ways. First, He told them directly:

It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. Matthew 10:25a

We must not confuse “disciple” for “student”. “Disciple” is much closer in meaning to our understanding of “apprentice”. For example, a disciple spends considerable time with his teacher (versus visiting a classroom once a week). A disciple’s intention was to become like his teacher – to take on the teacher’s lifestyle and character.

You will recall that Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing.” He said the same about us in the Parable of the True Vine:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:5, 7-8

It is in this abiding – “without Me you can do nothing” – relationship that our desires are met, the Father is glorified, we are productive fruit bearers, and we become His disciples. Furthermore, in our abiding, we must walk as Jesus walk:

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1John 2:6

Repeatedly throughout the Gospels, the very thing that Jesus proclaimed of Himself, He affirmed in His followers. Here is another example:

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. John 12:46

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

It is here, in the light, that we discover a mystery that will radically change our work in the kingdom of God.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

First, it is important to note that this verse contains a command of our King. Second, that command is not, “Go do good works that will glorify God”. God will glorify Himself. The command for us is to “let your light so shine before men…” Furthermore, we are not the one’s glorifying God. Men will do that as a witness to “your good works”. This raises a few compelling questions:

  • Would God take credit for work done by His children?
  • If our Father in heaven is to be glorified in the “good work”, who do you think will be doing the work?
  • Why does Jesus call it “your good work”?
  • If it’s God’s work – and somehow our work – what part of the work is His; and what part is ours?
  • Just what is our responsibility in a work that glorifies our Father in Heaven?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions. It is a mystery that I am continuing to search out. The point here is that there is more to our work than we have imagined. The point is that the eighty percent – the people we as leaders are responsible for – are missing out on something incredibly awesome (and only God is).

Consider that for a moment, and we will move on.

Faith and Work

In many parts of the church, faith and work are like oil and vinegar. If you start talking about works to the faith crowd – or faith only to the works crowd – you’re going to stir up somebody’s ire. It is incredibly, and tragically, ironic that these two, very important Biblical concepts have caused such division in the church.

The truth of the matter is this: Faith and works – a divisive tool used by the enemy against God’s children – cannot be separated from each other. You simply cannot have one without the other. Work without faith is dead work (Romans 14:23). Faith without work is dead faith (James 2:26). Each one brings life to the other.

Let’s look at one more passage to drive the point home.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Here we find the most famous verse in the Protestant movement – clearly proclaiming that salvation is not of works – immediately followed by one of the most encouraging verses for good works. Coincidence? I think not. God knew what He was doing when He wrote the Bible (Paul was the pen). Good works must follow the grace that saves through faith.

The Purpose of Kingdom Work

God has a number of good intentions for good works. Some of these are quite practical.

Command those who are rich… that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1Timothy 6:17-19

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you… that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:9-10

From these passages, we find that good works include giving, sharing and meeting urgent needs. We also see that these activities are beneficial to those walking in them: Storing up a good foundation for eternal life, increasing in the knowledge of God, and becoming fruitful. God’s intention for good works is clearly for our eternal good.

This brings us back to the problem (shall we say sin?) of our 80/20 resignation. Now that we understand: 1) That God wants to show Himself strong; 2) That the work belongs to Him for His glory; and 3) That faith and work are inseparable; we discover that our resignation inhibits God’s work and glory, and seriously endangers those that are not walking in it.

As leaders, we are in danger ourselves of underestimating what this means to God and those we love.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:21-25

How can we stand back and allow our brothers and sisters to fall into self-deception? Can we justify their forgetting who they are (Christians?), and missing out on the blessings of God?

James follows this warning with a more sobering one.

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:22, 26

The penalty of dead faith is devastating to the individual that carries it around. To God, it is a terrible stench (think road kill). The alternative is a faith made perfect. Who wouldn’t want that for everyone in their fellowship?

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. Matthew 7:24-27

You don’t have to know the full meaning of “…and it fell. And great was its fall” to know it is a significant and tragic thing; a thing that happens to fools.

Conclusion

Before we subject ourselves to the 80/20 rule resignation, we should consider the matter of work in God’s kingdom from His perspective. If eighty percent of the children of God under your watch are not doing the work of the kingdom, what does that say about the work you are doing? And while we are asking hard questions: What percentage is acceptable?

Do you know the percentage – even roughly? If not, what does that say about it importance to you? Shouldn’t it be one of your measures? I know these are hard questions. They are convicting me, too.

Application

Leadership is hard work. Conflict is an essential part of leadership. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Take courage; all things are possible with God. Take a step. The best place to start is with those directly responsible to you. Encourage, edify and equip them to do the same for others. Select a particular portion of the non-workers and lovingly lead them into the good work they were made to walk in.

Assignment

  1. Set aside some time to dream about the difference each of the mysteries sited here could make to the lives of those in your spheres of influence. Write it down.
  2. Pass this Foundation teaching on to those directly responsible to you. Ask them for feedback.
  3. Find the desire in your heart for encouraging, edifying and equipping everyone in your spheres of influence for the work of the kingdom. Surrender to God and He will give it to you.

Recommended Reading

The following are some of my favorite books on this subject. Most can be found at your local Christian book store, or at one of the many online distributors.

Radical; David Platt

The Map Maker; Rob Streetman

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Humbly Yours and Forever His,