The 80/20 Rule -Break It At Your Peril!

There is a rule that churches and their leaders are constantly trying to break – it’s the 80/20 rule. Good luck! I believe that it’s a universal rule and has never been broken in business, colleges or voluntary organisations anywhere in the world – ever! And it’s not about to be broken now by you!

Right now, the church I pastor is in the middle of a vision to raise one million pounds for the future ‘Megaplex’ facility by creating wealth through investments, creativity and sacrifice. So far, though, my personal pledge amounts to around one twentieth of the total. With far more than twenty couples in our church and some far more wealthy people than us our pledge seems way out of perspective. It’s not fair, but it is right. I’ve once again dug up the unbreakable rule that lies under every facet of church life, business life and social life – the 80/20 rule. It says that 80% of all the work done comes from 20% of the people. 80% of all gifts, talents, passion, enthusiasm and energy comes from just 20% of the people and it’s not necessarily the richest 20%. In fact I’ve never been under the spell of it. And I’m glad about that. That’s what puts me in leadership. It’s leaders – not in function but in heart – that cause it all to be so disproportionate. If the bulk of the people rise up more, ‘leadership’ rises even more. If the masses catch up with the leaders at any time, the leaders speed off even deeper into the territory of not just unequal giving, but unequal sacrifice. That’s what sets them apart. If it doesn’t, the rule takes over – someone else will overtake them and they’ll no longer be the leaders. (I call these ‘leaders’ of the Premier League of church life. More on that later!)

Jesus, unlike overly desperate leaders like myself at times, never attempted to break the rule. He never begged anyone to rise out of mediocrity. In fact, one startling moment of transparency can be found in Mark Chapter 4:11-12. ‘He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven’!”‘

Parables were not only meant to reveal truth – they were meant to disguise and hide the truth. Jesus gave this revelation in the midst of a kingdom revelation about the parable of the sower. Even though some seed fell on hard, shallow and overcrowded soil – it wasn’t the principle intent of the farmer. It was good seed for good soil. All else was wasted. The ministry of Jesus was to good hearts – not bad. The difference doesn’t lie in outer goodness or inner goodness, but in simple faith and honest humility. Jesus was not a beggar. The antidote of salvation cost Him His blood. The pearl of great price is only for people who value it. It is the sole property of the sincere and the hungry. Sure, He died for all, but it is only accessible to some.

As a leader of a church, I have spent years begging the hard hearted to attend conferences, prayer meetings, Wednesday night cell groups, men’s nights, women’s nights, youth nights and Sunday nights. All of that has ceased – well all except for the occasional panic attack originating from vivid dreams of not one single person turning up to the forthcoming event!

How many leaders have taken themselves to the point of exhaustion and stress trying to break the 80/20 rule? When trying to undo the law of gravity, you do it at your own peril. Here’s 5 reasons why begging (or even whipping) never works and why you need to once again give respect to the mighty 80/20.

1.Begging Replaces Vision
No one is inspired by a beggar. When I did my ‘Great British Generosity Experiment’ on the streets of London a number of years ago, I dressed up as a beggar to find out how much money beggars actually make on the streets of London. Soon after sitting down with my cap in hand I got arrested and charged for the illegal act of begging. (So I won’t be doing it again anytime soon.) After being released from a police cell, I put on some Hawaiian clothes and went out to raise money for a charity in Devon. Later, I borrowed a suit from Savoy Tailoring and did the same thing, only this time I was looking like a million dollars. The difference in response was night and day. I raised over 40 times as much offering an opportunity for people to be brilliant givers rather than loose change extractors.

Stay away from ‘if everyone could give £10′ or ‘if everyone could give an hour a month’ … it never works and never will. To raise an army, you’ve got to raise the stakes. Envision. Call to the cause. Inspire. Just don’t take the designer label off the greatest cause in the world and sell it at Matalan or K Mart prices. Begging, calling people to a sense of duty, selling it cheap, can’t break the 80/20 rule, but certainly causes it to be an anaemic reflection of those who play to the strength of the role – those who lead by vision, inspiration and opportunity. Vision is like blowing up a balloon. The proportions stay the same (80/20) but the size of it dramatically increases.

2.Begging Replaces Faith
To beg Jesus is right. To beg people is wrong. If you want a husband to remain an unbeliever – keep leaving those tracts in the bedroom. If you want your 19 year olds to stay in the shadows, keep harassing them with church flyers and open Bibles. If you want your church to be earth bound, carnal, emotive and spoilt – keep begging. The only ingredient for breakthrough is faith. Faith refuses to beg – it’s persistent at heaven’s gates, it fails to give up, it knows what it wants – it asks, seeks and knocks … but never begs. Faith is often initially accompanied by a loss of people and a loss of support – ask Gideon, David, Moses and even Jesus when you’re next in heaven!

3.Begging Loses Dignity
You can’t keep your dignity and lie on street corners, yet so many believers are found pleading with people to go to church, join a team, be at the prayer meeting or even come to the social. If they simply don’t want to, your pleading will make the ‘want to’ even less.

For years after their separation I watched my mother become subservient to my father in order to win back his heart and regain his hand in marriage. In doing so, she lost not only valuable time that she could have spent building a stronger personal life, but also a degree of respect. She lost her appeal. Relationally, playing hard to get actually increases appeal. It regains the mystique that’s missing in a lot of relationships. Every time Jesus becomes really familiar to us, He surprises us by doing something
unexpected or by simply being a little mysterious … just like He did for the disciples when He was transfigured in a private showing on a mountainside. Great leaders are not completely accessible. They say ‘follow me’ and leave it up to the desire of the listener whether they do or don’t. They don’t stay around for long before they move to the next thing. They don’t kowtow to the late adaptors. They persevere and create dignity – they add value to themselves by adding value to their call and cause and so attract the visionaries who love to rise up to the experience challenges.

4.Begging Reverses Leadership
Church life is all about raising Sons of the House. Unless there are some hurdles to climb, money to pay and prayers to pray, how can a leader really tell the difference between sons and servants. Isn’t that what midweek meetings do? They sort out the sons from the servants. Begging people to do things confuses the picture. To ask people twice to be a part of your brilliant steward’s team (and to be refused twice) is permissible but to ask three times is begging. You may get the people but they become your leader, you become their servant. Better a small team of great people than a larger team of people that wouldn’t be there if it had not been for the visit, the email, the text and the congratulations even after a poor, dismal display of effortless assistance.

In the parable of the wedding banquet, the king only ever sent his servants out twice to tell them who had been invited to his son’s wedding which was about to begin. There was no third invitation. The invitation was then cast out to the highways and byways.

5.Begging Doesn’t Change Hearts

No matter how much you plead, bleed, beg or budge, you cannot change a human heart. And without heart change, even if you do get them to church or to the prayer meeting, they’ll only come once and never again.

The only one that can give someone a change of heart is themselves. Honesty is a decision. Humility is a decision. Belief is a decision. Without those decisions to offload lies, pride and sarcasm, there is nothing that can change people.

After running a one year training school for over a decade, I can’t recall one person who was changed by it who didn’t firstly change themselves from secretive to open and from cynical to simple. Faith and humility are the two front doors that God enters through in order to exercise his life changing power. He surely can change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, but only when there’s a double door into that heart. Otherwise He will not, and according to the life of Jesus, won’t spend time trying to. A man convinced to do something against his will is still of the same mind. A woman pushed to buy a dress never wears it.

Those who respect the 80/20 rule know where to put most of their time and effort – into the 20%. They know where most of the fruit will come from – the faith filled and the early adaptors. They sniff out Gideon’s 300 in the midst of Gideon’s 30,000. They look for the 70 out of the crowd, the 12 out of the 70 and the 3 out of the 12. They’re smart. They know that 80/20 is here. Oh, and by the way, while the world tries to flatten it to 50/50, great leaders never attempt to do the opposite and make it 90/10. You can give too much and try to get your top people to go way beyond the high expectations of heaven. It will only create a blip of activity though until everyone resigns or they’re burnt out! 80/20 – it’s here to stay – Respect!

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