Lag or Lead

Today’s Reading: Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-25; Luke 8:4-18

For the last few years, my life has been greatly impacted by the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. The book talks about using “lead measures” and “lag measures” when trying to obtain your W.I.G.s ,or wildly important goals. I introduced these concepts to my team at work and they embraced them, making a huge difference on how much we get done each week and where we place our focus.

Lag measures are the measure of the result you are trying to reach while lead measures are the measure of what will predictably influence the lag measures. Here is a simple example that helps these concepts make sense. I am trying to lose weight…again. How many pounds I lose will be my lag measure, but I am probably not going to lose weight if my focus is on how much I weigh each morning. Stepping on the scales each day is simply not going to take the pounds and inches away. I need to instead focus on the lead measures – how many calories I am burning and how many calories I am consuming each day. It is reasonable to predict that if I burn more calories than I consume, I will lose weight.

Now let us consider Covey’s concepts while reading the parable of the farmer scattering seed. If the farmer’s goal is to grow more plants, and he knows that the more seed he sows the more plants he grows, it makes sense for him to plant more seeds in order to grow more plants. It is predictable. If he wants his harvest to be a certain size, his focus must be on how many seeds he plants and how many fields he works in.

One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell as fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears should listen and understand.”

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest” (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15).

Not everyone who hears the message of God’s word is going to accept it. Not everyone who hears how they can receive forgiveness will choose to believe. Some of the “seed” we plant will fall on the footpath, some on rocky soil, some among thorns and some on good soil. If our lag measure is how many people pray to accept Jesus as their Savior, the lead measure is what? If we want to lead someone to Christ, not for our own gain but so that they can experience the joyful life we are blessed with each day, what do we need to do?

At the Pregnancy Resource Center, our mission is to save the lives of unborn children by promoting life-affirming options and providing practical assistance, while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed, and to minister restoration to those who have been wounded by the trauma of abortion. So our lag measure is the difference we make in someone’s life but our focus needs to be on our lead measures.

How many opportunities do we have each day to present a woman with her options, provide material assistance to help her prepare for the birth of her baby, present the gospel of Jesus, and comfort a woman grieving from her abortion experience? If we want to make a bigger difference in our community, we have to have a strategy for getting the message out there of who we are and what we do. So client marketing is the lead measure we are looking at. After all, how can we help her if she does not know we exist.

If our mission as believers is to introduce others to Jesus or see those around us accepting Jesus as their personal Savior, we could ask ourselves what we are doing to encourage those opportunities. In light of Jesus’ parable, we could ask how many seeds we are planting each day. If we don’t plant seeds, there will be no harvest.

Where will my focus be today? Is it just another day about me or will I see myself as the farmer whose goal is to have a large harvest this fall? If I do not set out with my eyes open for opportunities to plant seeds, I will most likely miss every chance that comes my way. Today I am a farmer and today I will look for opportunities to reach out to those around me and plant seeds because it may just be the seed needed to grow a plant.

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is to be placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” – Luke 8:16