What Matters Most? A CAFO2018 Manifesto

The great blessing of our era is also its great curse: boundless choices. 

Manifesto?  Sounds grandiose, and we’re not much for that here.  But the depth of the problem calls for something weighty.  So here — humbly offered — are reflections on what may be the biggest dilemma we all face today…and where the solution just might be found.

We feel it almost always, that tug and yank every-which-way. Sometimes the possibilities sparkle: Great new app for my phone? New restaurant? New fitness plan? At others, they overwhelm. Which school is best for the kids? Would a different church be better? Should we add another program at work? And beneath it all, anxiety whispers of all we might miss if ever we say no.

From supermarket shelves to the Internet, youth sports to evening entertainment, we live awash in options.

These opportunities do not just wait for us to find them. They pursue us with relentless beeps, bling, and billboards. Forty years ago, the average city dweller encountered between 500 and 2,000 advertisements a day; that number now tops 5,000.

Even weighty matters overwhelm us with possibilities. Whom to marry? Where to live? What job to seek?

The old Arco slogan depicts our way of life, too much good stuff.

In the face of all this, our attention splinters. Our lives grow fractionalized. Our energies dissipate in every direction, like mercury poured on a tabletop.   Work we value receives partial focus. People we love receive partial attention. Distraction reigns.

Living in this state corrodes all that is good. It destroys intimacy. It robs gratitude. It renders us ineffective.

To love and lead well requires the very opposite of this fragmentation. Truly good life springs from wholeheartedness. It demands focus. It insists that we be fully present.

All this begins with a single question: “What matters most?”

If we cannot answer this question, we will hold onto every possibility. We grasp and clutch. Fear of regret will keep us from closing any door.

But when we cultivate a sense of what matters most – even imperfectly – we begin to release our grip. We can choose one thing and not others. We can prune without remorse.

“…Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” –John 15:3

This is the only way to simplify our overloaded lives. It is the only means of focusing overtaxed organizations. It is our only hope of trading anxiety for attentiveness and distraction for calm.

This is not only a practice for annual retreats and strategic plans. It is a stance that shapes each day. When we grasp what matters most for this moment, we can give ourselves to that one task, one conversation, one experience. And in time, it is not only our soul that grows more tranquil and glad. We see greater consequence from our leadership, more good fruit in the lives of others, too.

To seek what matters most is first a question of our ultimate purpose. We consider what we will value when we look back on this life from the end. What matters most for eternity?

But that question will change us little if we cannot answer it for today – amidst our regular rhythms and daily work. Of all the things I could do, which is most important now? What small choices will make the biggest difference…

  • In healing the mind and heart a child who’s faced trauma?
  • In raising funds and communicating our story?
  • In nurturing a multi-racial family that thrives?
  • In building a church ministry that will last?
  • In keeping a vibrant soul amidst the ache we encounter daily?
  • In partnering with the local church around the globe?

These questions, and many like them, we will ask and seek to answer together at CAFO2018.

Every session at CAFO2018 will help us toward this great question…and to the small choices that make the biggest difference amidst our daily work.

And our prayer is that what we discover will give freedom. Freedom to prune with no regret. Freedom to lead and love very differently. Freedom to live wholeheartedly…with greater focus…more fully present.

For eternity, and for today.



*Image from Fine Art America