by Craig Etheredge: I saw an illustration that has stayed with me for years now because it showed so well our limitations of time. A woman took a large glass jar with various sizes of rocks, pebbles, and sand. She put all the rocks into the jar. As she struggled to get all the rocks in, it became clear that this task was harder than it looked. After she had done all she could do, there were still rocks left on the table. Then, she emptied her jar and tried again, this time putting in the big rocks, followed by the smaller rocks, then the pebbles, and last, the sand. Amazingly, she got all the rocks in the jar.
This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a Few. Download the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.
In many ways our lives are like this glass jar. We have a certain capacity for doing good things, and that capacity is limited. We have only a certain number of hours in the day. The rocks and sand represent various tasks and priorities that demand our attention. The big rocks are the most important things like work and family. The smaller rocks are less important things, and the sand represents trivial things we do each day that are usually necessary but not very important in the grand scheme of life. The trick is fitting all we need into the time we have. If you try to randomly push everything into your schedule, you will most likely leave out something important. Your family isn’t going to get your best, your work will suffer, and your list of tasks won’t get done. Certainly the time to make disciples will disappear. But if you intentionally place the big rocks of your life in first, intentionally making room in your schedule for what matters most and fitting the rest around those things, you will be able to accomplish all the things God wants you to accomplish.
Finding the Time
As I talk with people who successfully make disciples year after year, I have discovered that each one of them named disciple making as a big rock in their lives. Making disciples wasn’t something they did with their extra time; it was a top priority with a primary spot in their weekly schedule.
If you are going to make disciples that make disciples, you must make it a priority in your life. That’s what Jesus did. During Jesus’ ministry he prioritized investing in a few. Around halfway into his public ministry, Jesus spent four times as much time with a few as he did with the crowd. While the masses constantly demanded his time, he intentionally and purposefully invested his life in a few who would multiply. You may think, “How can I do that? I’m already so busy!” Let me give you a few suggestions.
1. Take an inventory of your schedule.
The man who discipled me, shared two key words with me that have helped me assess my schedule. He said, “Craig, you must eliminate the things that are not very important so you can concentrate on what’s most important.” The key words were “eliminate” and “concentrate”. Take a look at your schedule. How much of your time goes into things that are not important and don’t matter for eternity? What things could be eliminated from your life? How could you concentrate your time and be more productive?
2. Repurpose the time you already have.
Many people will say, “I’m just too busy to make disciples!” Usually I will ask, “Did you eat today?” “Yes,” the person will respond. “How many times did you eat?” “Three times” they will say. “You ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” I ask. “Yes, that’s right.” Then, I’ll say, “If you eat three times a day, then you have at least three opportunities in every day to make disciples.” What if you took just one mealtime a week—one meal out of twenty-one mealtimes—and gave it to the Lord for the purpose of sharing a meal and making disciples? As you begin to look at the time you already use, you will be surprised to find there are many ways to repurpose your time for making disciples.
3. Make an appointment.
Usually we make appointments for the things that really matter. If you are sick, you will make an appointment with a doctor. If you need legal help you will make an appointment with a lawyer. What matters most gets put on your calendar as an appointment. Why not make an appointment with your group to make disciples. It is just as important as any other appoint you have on the books, if not more important.
When I begin a group I will set an appointment for that group meeting. It may be early in the morning before typical work hours. When I schedule a meeting like that, I make it my first appointment for that day. It gets scheduled for each week on my calendar. Other groups may meet early on Saturdays. That, too, becomes an appointment I set for as long as the group exists, if possible. Carve out time to make disciples by making appointments and keeping them.
4. Be flexible and creative.
Many times the people are you are discipling have changing and flexible schedules. So don’t be afraid to be fluid, flexible, and creative. One time I was discipling a pilot whose scheduled changed every week according to his flights. We had to change our meeting time every week but remained faithful. Another time I discipled a professional golfer who was out of town extensively during golf season. We met as a group and had him conference call into our meeting every week. Technology allows us to communicate in creative ways. Don’t let the inability of a regular meeting keep you from investing in someone’s life.
Ultimately, making disciples is a matter of the heart. Jesus said, “Where you treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV). He was saying our time, talent, and treasure will always follow what has our heart. We always find time and money and energy for the things we love the most. So make following Jesus and investing in others people the heartbeat of your life and when you do, you will find the time necessary to accomplish it.
Written by Craig Etheredge
 Dann Spader, in his lecture on the life of Christ, indicates that according to his research in the gospels, Jesus is mentioned spending time with the crowd 17 times, but with “the few” 46 times, Disciplemaking from the Life of Christ (Chicago: Sonlife Classic, 2009) 8.
A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.