The Pareto Principle for the Pastor’s Heart

My wife and I are reading through a book on marriage by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs called The Love & Respect Experience. In this book Eggerichs suggests couples use the 80/20 ratio. He says that no marriage is perfect, that there  might be, say, 20% we’d like to see different. He suggests, though, that we focus on the 80% of the marriage that’s going well.

I’ve heard of the 80/20 ratio before. It’s called the Pareto principle, from the observation of an Italian named Pareto, that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. The Pareto principle has been applied in a great many areas. It’s suggested that 80% of sales comes from 20% of the customers. Leadership folks suggest that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.

I’m thinking it would be advantageous to apply the Pareto principle to the pastor’s heart. When I look at my ministry I can quickly and easily identify that which I don’t like about it and aspects of the ministry that aren’t going as I’d like. This is what I think about the most and fixate on the majority of the time. The reality is that most of the time there’s a great portion of the ministry that’s going along in a satisfactory manner, maybe about 80%. My problem is that I focus on the 20% that’s not going well, allowing it to have disproportionate influence on my attitude.

I’ve recently noticed in my reading of the apostle Paul’s letters how often he used the word “thanks” and its derivatives in his epistles: 46 times! This from a man who, in the same letters, was addressing some serious issues and problems he saw in the churches to which he was writing. Paul had some serious issues with the Christians at Corinth but he was even thankful when it came to them. He wrote them, “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 1:4) He was thankful for God extending His grace to them; he really had to stretch to find a reason to express thanks for them – that they were undeserved recipients of God’s goodness, emphasis on undeserved!  The Pareto principle was Paul’s principle too.

Sure, there are things I’m not satisfied with in my ministry. There are issues and people I wish would change or go away. Often, not always, but often, these negatives are the minority, the 20%. I need to determine that I’m not going to let the minority rule! The 80% of my ministry that evokes thanksgiving to God deserves most of my focus. I’m thinking the Pareto principle is a good one to apply to the pastor’s heart!

I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)

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