What are some spiritual OKRs for disciples (and potential disciples)?
The acronym OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results.” In the business world, OKRs encourage people and organizations to identify goals (“Objectives”) and the measurable steps which will lead them to reach those goals (“Key Results”). Can we apply this same methodology to our spiritual journey? Specifically, what OKRs would be appropriate for someone who is seeking to follow Jesus?
First, some clarifications. Some Christians use the term “seeker” to refer to those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus. However, I have intentionally used the phrase “seeking to follow Jesus” to include both those who are considering the claims of the Christian gospel and those who have already accepted those claims. I believe that the same steps are important to both groups. If we are “seeking” in the sense of considering faith in Christ, these steps will help us to come to that decision. On the other hand, if we’ve already embraced faith, these steps will help us to continue to grow and mature in that faith.
Second, this article is the first of two dealing with this topic; the next article will be posted on May 24, and will address the subjects of OKRs for spiritual leaders. That does not mean that leaders are “beyond” the steps that I discuss in this post; rather, the second article will discuss additional “Key Results” that I believe are specifically related to spiritual leaders.
In one sense, the application of secular business principles and criteria to churches and ministry organizations makes sense. Organizations ought to have goals; secular businesses have different goals than churches, but both ought to have a clear understanding of what they’re trying to achieve and how to know when they’ve achieved it. If we cannot measure our progress toward our goals, we have no idea whether or not we’re effective.
However, the application of secular business principles to the subject of individuals and their spiritual growth is dangerous. A focus on “Objectives” and “Key Results” can lead us to lose sight of the fact that spiritual growth is determined by God, not by us. Any approach which implies that we can “control” spiritual growth, or the acquisition of spiritual gifts, risks shifting our attention from God and onto ourselves.
Spiritual OKRs for Disciples
There is clearly a balance between God’s work and our participation in it when it comes to spiritual growth. God won’t force spiritual growth and maturity upon us, just as he doesn’t force us into faith. God has promised to work in us if we submit to his lordship. That means that we give him the freedom to do that work.
Consider these Scripture passages:
- You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:6)
- “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’…The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37, 39)
The common elements here are asking and believing. They are related. If we believe, we will ask; if we don’t believe, we won’t bother. The degree of believing is critical: notice that several of these passages us the phrase with all your heart. When we believe something with all of our heart, we act on that belief. This depth of belief opens the door for us to “find God.” Commitment opens the way for us to discover his path and gain the wisdom that we seek.
With All Your Heart
So what does it mean to seek God with all our heart? I believe this reflects our total allegiance and total surrender to God’s sovereignty. Those who seek God with all their hearts are not just “interested” in spiritual growth; they are “committed” to it. If we are seeking God with all our heart, our “Objective” is to become more like Jesus.
Objective: Be Like Jesus
Well, it sounds good to say that we want to be more like Jesus. But how do we measure that? What are the “Key Results” to assess to determine whether or not we are achieving that objective? Obviously, it is not simply a matter of being like Jesus, because we’re not. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, no matter how much work God has done in us, there is still a long way to go! The Bible tells us that we will be like Jesus: We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:3b).
We won’t become fully like Jesus in this life, but we can become more like Jesus. That, I believe, should be our “Objective” when it comes to our spiritual journey. We measure our success in reaching our Objective every day – by asking God, “Did I do what you wanted today?”
Asking that question each day presents some challenges. First, the degree of transformation is often not evident from day to day. That’s why the “Key Result” is not how we “feel” about our conformity to Jesus, but whether or not we’ve obeyed God’s direction for that day. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21). God can show us each day whether we’ve done his will, and he will – if we ask.
Another daily step is to give God the time and opportunity to work in our lives. We do that by participating in the spiritual disciples of prayer, Scripture reading, and worship, among others. One way of thinking of this is to carve out a block of time for God in our daily schedule. Now, some people will undoubtedly say, “I give God all of my day,” but the fact is that we don’t come to that place in our spiritual journey without first giving God somepart of our day. I like to put it this way: first we give God a bigger block of our calendar, and then we give God the calendar. But it starts one day at a time.
“How Much” or “How Good”?
There is a risk when we start assessing “progress” merely in terms of time spent, because we can spend time without really being invested in what we’re doing. We need to give God time to direct us, but we have to be fully invested in listening to him (with all your heart). I can spend hours reciting prayers, but am I really “praying”? I can read chapter after chapter of Scripture, but am I really listening to God, or am I checking off boxes on a reading schedule?
Clearly, we need to be balanced in our approach. There are dangers at both extremes: focusing solely on the amount of time and cause us to sacrifice quality, while emphasizing quality to the exclusion of quantity makes us the judge of how “effective” our time with God is. It cannot be “either-or”; it must be both.
Being Like Jesus
As followers (or potential followers) of Jesus, the ultimate “Objective” is to become more like him. After all, that’s what it means to be a Christian! Many people want to ignore that title, or to marginalize it because of the failures of some who have claimed that title, but “Christian” simply means “little Christ.” God wants us to become like Jesus.
But becoming more like Jesus is not simply a matter of checking boxes or increasing activity. Both the quality of our activity and our motivation in doing it impact our spiritual growth. That brings me back to the danger I highlighted earlier in becoming too mechanical in “measuring our progress” toward the goal of Christlikeness. Satan is very clever; he will work to make us proud of our efforts by convincing us that effort is the same as progress.
While effort is important, our motivation is key: that’s why Jesus said that all of the commandments can be summed up in the call to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our motivation and effort are our part in the process of spiritual growth, but the growth ultimately depends on God. “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows – how, he himself does not know” (Mark 4:26-27). We don’t need to know howGod makes us more like Jesus; we just need to do what he says!
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