The 80-20 Exception

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. —2 Chronicles 20:13

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist of the last century is credited with coming up with the principle that bears his name. The Pareto Principle (aka: The 80–20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few, and The Principle of Factor Sparsity) states that, “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” Or in church terms, 80% of the effort and resources will most often be provided by 20% of the congregation.

We know that nothing is impossible with God, but history shows us that, when huge odds are stacked against you, any chance at an improbable victory generally takes far more commitment than Pareto said we had a right to expect. “All-in” efforts by all involved are pretty rare. But, then again, so are world-changing socio-spiritual movements.

The metrics for a church can be pretty discouraging for people who lead them, which makes a pastor’s conversations with God pretty frustrating. Take HDC, for example. We’re rapidly approaching another one of those proverbial forks in our long road of ministry together. God has now planted us firmly in four of our High Desert communities. And, of those four, we have two congregations that each needs a permanent place to meet (after setting up and tearing down every week for the last seven years), and a third campus that needs a renovation to sustain its growth.

So, I pray, “Lord, please provide the resources to meet all those needs.”

And He says, “I already did.”

And I say, “Uh…did I miss something? I haven’t seen the check yet.”

And He tells me what He’s had to tell pastors for as long as there’s been church!

“I’ve already sufficiently blessed your church family with the capacity to not only minister effectively throughout their community, as well as through whatever global ministry partners you’ve got, but to also facilitate the construction of virtually every capital campaign you need to fund for future ministry—and to do it debt free—if they would simply and obediently tithe the incomes I’ve already given them, which most of them still refuse to do.”

God says, “Don’t pray as if I don’t provide resources for what I call my people to do!”

Now, I’m still hoping my Dodgers will leave LA and move to Victorville. Because, if they did, we could probably get a few of them to attend our church and tithe some of those big contracts they’ve got! (I’d pray for the Angels to come here, but they’d want to call themselves The Los Angeles Angels of Victorville, and that would just be too confusing!)

But even without the Dodgers, I actually do know some rich people. Problem is, none of the ones I know attend HDC. I suppose I could write them and ask them to make a large contribution to developing these sites, and perhaps they would. But this isn’t their church. This isn’t about just building out a few sites for ministry. This is about the ministry that will take place at those sites after they’re built, and how God is going to honor us because we were obedient to the call that He gave us in the communities where we live! That’s why we need to come together and ask God to create an impact through our faithfulness.

The end of King Jehoshaphat’s international nightmare (which prompted the response noted before I started rambling) reveals an amazing example of God’s power and faithfulness, but if only 20% of the people would have showed up, we would be reading about a different ending.

This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. —2 Chronicles 20:15

God will fight for us, to be sure. But He would tell us the same thing He told the nation of Judah.

“It’s not on me until y’all show up for the battle!”

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