A distraction is something that prevents us from giving full attention to the essential thing in front of us. Our problem isn’t that we give our full attention to something other than discipleship, but that we divide our attention among many things. In other words, our problem is not that we don’t give some time to making disciples; it’s that we split time. We split attention. We split our focus. What distracts us?

We are Distracted by the Latest Things

We don’t want to be left behind with new strategies, models, and language. Each year brings new, shiny, magical approaches to solve our problems. It comes with a package of made-up words. Our minds wander through this maze of paradigm shifts and structural milieu. We spend less time meeting with people and more time talking about people. When we meet with people, it’s to tell them the new scheme. We don’t listen to their lives and help them hear God’s voice; we paste our new structure over their lives to show them our strategy. We substitute modeling a complete reliance on the Spirit of God for modeling a partial reliance on the latest methods.

We are Distracted by the Outside

Others are distracted by causes, issues, and arguments. We invest energy, emotion, and thoughts on frivolous theological arguments and political dramas. We find ourselves following the events of prominent pastors far away instead of nurturing the lives of the people God has brought close to us. We give attention to the activities of denominations and networks. Instead of giving our attention to the people we disciple and their environment, we focus on the outside controversies and issues.

We are Distracted by Our Egos and Empires

Filled with ambition and visions of grandeur, our daydreams are of fame and extending our spiritual empires. Instead of building into the lives of people in our churches, we spend it networking with influencers and building our brand. While pastors have a lot to offer and are called to share it with others around the world, too often this is a simple escape from our primary vocation of making disciples and equipping leaders where we are. In many cases, it is much easier to influence people outside your church than those inside it. Essentially it’s more fun to be a spiritual uncle, sporadically visiting with treats, than to be a spiritual father, present through the pain and burden of discipleship.

We Choose Distraction

We are not victims of distraction. We invite it. Instead of depending and seeking the kingdom of God in our people, we welcome the new distractions of models, causes, and platform-building. It’s our defense against difficulty. We choose distraction when things are too difficult, when we are stuck, when we don’t want to face reality. We fail to create a discipleship environment in our churches because we choose to be distracted over facing our deficiencies, struggles, and the hard work of simply loving the people God has given us.

Jesus tells us the story of the man who discovers treasure in a field. The man makes a quick calculation that the treasure is worth more than everything he has and therefore sells all he has to purchase the field and have the treasure. He sold everything he had to buy the field with the treasure because he preferred the treasure to everything he had and because the treasure was intrinsically more valuable. The antidote to distraction is to sell all we have because the Kingdom is more valuable. Furthermore, it’s to give all we have and follow Jesus. In His words, we must pick up our cross daily and follow Him; we must lose our lives to gain it. The competition of earthly kingdoms for our attention needs to be over. Jesus’ Kingdom is either worthy of our full attention, or it’s not worthy of any of it.

Questions to Consider

Q: Which of the things listed is the most powerful distraction for you? The latest thing? The outside arguments? Ego and empire?

Q: Why do you choose distraction?

Q: How is the gospel and mission of God worthy of all our attention? What causes you to doubt its worthiness?

What do you find yourself distracted by most often?

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