One day Charlie Brown was in his back yard having target practice with his bow and arrow. He would pull the bow string back and let the arrow fly into a fence. Then he would go to where the arrow had landed and draw a target around it. Several arrows and targets later, Lucy said, “You don’t do target practice that way. You draw the target, then shoot the arrow.” Charlie’s response: “I know that, but if you do it my way, you never miss!” — John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
Sadly, the experience of many Christians parallels Charlie Brown having target practice. Our fear of legalism or anything approaching the idea has sent Christians headlong into the very unclear waters of ambiguity. As a subculture, Christians have created language that defines parts of the Christian walk without saying much at all. We speak of praying, love, sacrifice, etc., but rarely do the words, practices, or ideas get defined in such a fashion that one can say, “Yes, that defines my life” or “No, that’s not me.” Instead, the words take on their own meanings in each individual Christian’s mind and so everyone hits the mark because they all feel they succeeded in hitting whatever definition they have conjured up. The problem with that is if a word carries so many definitions to so many different people then it really has no definition at all.
Let me take a step back. This whole notion has been rummaging around in my head for awhile, but began to take shape after reading a blog post by my friend Kevin Martineau. His post entitled 7 Dangers of Not Having Goals does exactly what it sounds like. He lists the 7 dangers as:
- We can become passive.
- It is impossible to do any real evaluation.
- We can fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something and it is difficult to state why we are doing this or why we are not.
- We lose motivation because we are not challenged.
- It becomes easy to settle for a maintenance mode instead of development mode.
- It is easy not to plan ahead.
- The emphasis becomes upon activity rather than output.
If those 7 dangers do not sum up many struggles in the Christian experience, I do not know what does. I see myself in almost every one of them. As a whole, Christian culture has become afraid of setting goals and standards for fear of seeming legalistic or not “free”. As a result, many of these dangers define us.
This is to our downfall.
While I agree that numbers and progress should never become our idols, why should we lack discipline in the one area we claim is most important? We set a budget because we want to monitor how we use our money. We set goals in diet and exercise. I’ve even heard of people who set “serving” goals: they try to serve a certain amount of people in some way throughout the week.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. – Apostle Paul
I realize everyone’s life will look different to some degree, but it is essential that we take the Apostle Paul’s advice. If we say we should live a life of love, we need to flesh that out. What does that look like? What does Scripture say about it? How do I put that into practice? Then, when we meet each other we can definitively say whether we have been loving well or not. The idea is not to create standards to beat ourselves up over, but to spur us on in our race.
Think of the average Christian’s prayer life. I have read the average Christian prays (including at meals) 3 to 7 minutes a day. Reading through the New Testament, we cannot come away thinking that’s a good thing. But here’s the rub: How does that change?
The model we have now would implore people to pray and we’d cover a new topic the next week. People would leave church, pray a time or two throughout the week, feel better, and gradually slip back into their old lifestyle of 3 to 7 minutes. Maybe I’m being cynical, but that is the common experience many Christians face. It may be difficult, but it’s a difficult reality.
Honestly, I’m only a writer on a very small blog. However, I deeply want to honor God with my life. I have no visions of being perfect in this life, but I know it honors God to begin intentionally, sacrificially giving up more and more of my life to him. Setting goals is an invaluable asset to that end.
Look at Kevin’s 7 dangers flipped around a little. What if they read:
7 Realities of the Christian Life
- Christians are active. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
- Christians do real evaluation. (Acts 6, Luke 8:9-14 )
- Christians do not fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something. They have a purpose and know why they do what they do. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
- Christ challenges us to be His ambassadors and His death and resurrection motivates us. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
- We are constantly asking God to examine our hearts and refine us. (Psalm 26:2)
- We plan ahead because we know our mission. (Matthew 28:18-19)
- The emphasis is on giving God glory and not the activity. (Philippians 1:9-11)
We set goals because we want our lives to honor Him, not to achieve our own personal glory. I’ll leave you with this. Do not be afraid to set goals. Goals are healthy. We must stop impersonating Charlie Brown.
If you struggle with evangelism, ask God to help you, and set a goal of sharing your faith with someone this month. If you struggle with prayer, start out praying 5 minutes a day and work your way up.
As I’m still thinking through this, I’m sure there may be more to come. Until then,
Do you feel goals are an important part of the Christian life?
What goals are you currently setting for yourself?