Focusing Again on What Really Matters

I’ve been thinking lately that we just have to focus on what really matters. Right? I feel that about my work right now. I feel that about the world. Life is too short. There is too much good work to be done, too much good life to be shared. The issues in our world are too urgent. We need to clear out of our lives and our work and our organizations the distractions, the trivial, what is meaningless and destructive. I know this requires some hard work, sorting out what matters and what does not, but really there’s no excuse. We’ve got to focus on what matters.

These thoughts all came into clearer focus for me over the weekend. I was sitting with my colleague and friend, Tali Hairston, and my son, Michael, in a vibrant worship service at the Lawndale Community Church in Chicago’s Westside. The Westside of Chicago has often been called one of the poorest, most broken neighborhoods in the country, but right here in the heart of this struggling neighborhood, right in the midst of lives of struggle and brokenness, there was a powerful sense of flourishing. The worship was joyful, exuberant, meaningful. Though I was among only a handful of white folk in the service, I felt warmly, genuinely welcome.

And suddenly it came to me: These people are focused on what really matters. They’ve sorted some things out, perhaps because of the urgency of their circumstances, and they have determined what matters — and the results are obvious.

Lawndale Community Church was founded by Wayne “Coach” Gordon and his wife, Anne, some 30 years ago. I’m so impressed with what they have done. They know what matters. This is a church that seeks to bring a real gospel of Jesus into the lives of these people. This is about personal lives flourishing. That’s the starting point.

And at the same time they have sought to bring real community development into this neighborhood. No separation there between the personal and the community. Both are critical. Both matter. Lawndale’s community health center has more than 300 employees with some 70 doctors seeing over 140,000 patients a year. Over 400 houses have been rebuilt and reclaimed for people in the community. Wayne and Anne, by the way, have been coached and mentored and inspired by our great friend John Perkins. The Christian Community Development Association, modeled on the vision of John Perkins, is located at Lawndale. Wayne talks to John every morning at 5 a.m. Lawndale is part of the great legacy of John Perkins.

As I think about my own life, and as I think about my role as a leader of a Christian university, I come out of this experience at Lawndale saying, yes, I must devote myself to things that matter. We must focus the work of our Christian university on things that matter. Sometimes the university of our day can focus on things that don’t matter, and we’ve got to reclaim the purpose of the university. The people on the Westside of Chicago deserve something better. The people in our own communities and churches and families deserve something better. People across the world deserve something better. All of God’s children deserve to flourish.

I want to think about this in the days ahead. I feel a sense of urgency about all of this. We’ve got to focus on things that matter. I’d love to hear how you are making this happen.