Optimize the Core

This week I listed to a short and intriguing podcast on “The Good Life Project.” In this week’s episode, Jonathan Fields shared something I know nothing about: bicycling. For those of you who ride you already know that the lighter the bike the faster you go.  People spend lots of time, energy and money-making everything lighter and quicker.

Jonathan says,  “When we think about performing better, whether it’s at work, in sport, even relationships,  we often focus first on the things that are easiest to ‘tweak.’ Without fail,  those things are less about the “core of the matter” and more about ‘optimizing the margins.’ And, if we can do it by buying our way to better, investing in higher-end gear, apparel, equipment, supplies, materials or technology, we try to replace work with money. Thing is, that’s often the least effective way to get where we so desperately want to go.” –from “A Faster Path to Peak Performance: Optimize the Core”

Jonathan offers another way to go, calling us to spend time on the core, not on the margins. But this is harder.  Sometimes much harder.

For the bicyclist, it means losing weight and getting in better shape instead of the new, faster bike. For a musician, it means hours of practice instead of a new guitar pedal. For the artist, it means experimentation and risk instead of new, more expensive paints.

In my life, I can relate to working on the margins instead of the core.  I do it when I tweak things in my life instead of making  the time, energy and commitment to change the real thing that needs my attention.

As I think of the church I see how often we tweak what is instead of addressing the core.

The tweak might mean updating the bulletin or slides & bringing in a guest musician or two. It might mean using an outside program (Adam Hamilton ) to tweak programing. The problem isn’t the tweaking, oftentimes the tweak is beneficial. But the reality is that these tweaks often take time and energy away from the core.  And strengthening the core makes the long-term difference.

So, how do we strengthen the core? Here are things I have seen:

+Church leadership making daily prayer their priority, including prayer for the church, the pastor and other leaders.

+Churches starting their meetings with 30 minutes of seeking God as a community, including prayer and scripture, instead of jumping right to the business.

+Church leadership making welcoming the newcomer a priority and organizing the church to do the same.

What have you seen? I’d really love to hear what has strengthened your and your church’s core!

During Holy Week it’s good to remember that it is not the shiny new thing which will strengthen our communities—-it is strengthening the core.

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