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Doing What Only You Can Do

by Michael J. McLaughlin, MDiv
Today's Christian Doctor - Summer 2005

You're doing what? You sit here all day, six days a week listening to case after case, hour after hour, with no end in sight—cases of all kinds, big cases, little cases, important disputes and insignificant spats.

This is not a wise use of your time and your gifts. You’ll kill yourself if you keep this up much longer. Use your head. I recommend that you screen out all but the most important cases and train others to settle the small stuff. That way you will do the things that only you can do - and allow others to do the things only they can do.

One day a couple thousand years ago, Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) came for a visit and attended Moses’ court, witnessing what surely was a waste of Moses’ time and gifts. In short order, Jethro pointed out what should have been apparent to Moses, but he was in too deep to see the forest for the trees—trying to do it all himself. If all of the important cases were to be settled in Moses’ lifetime, he would have to enlist the assistance of others to settle lesser cases and invest his time more wisely in the most weighty ones.

Allocation of Resources

The principle of allocation of resources is clearly taught in Scripture. In the early church, the Holy Spirit gave spiritual gifts as He willed, intending that each one put their gift to the best possible use. It would have made no sense for one gifted with teaching to sit on some church board, administrating the business of the church, or waiting tables.

To modernly paraphrase the Apostles: “It is not a good use of our time and skill set in order to serve tables when we are gifted by God to study and to teach the Bible to this growing church. Appoint several spiritually mature men to administrate the distribution of
food for those in need - and let us get back to the work that God intended for us to do.”

CMDA’s leadership model incorporates similar principles:

  • Dr. David Stevens, CEO of CMDA could still be in Africa being a missionary doctor. He was really good at it but there were others that could and did fill his role. His unique abilities as a leader, communicator and teacher were most needed at CMDA.
  • Gene Rudd, M.D., Associate Director of CMDA, had a very successful practice “by the Book” in rural North Carolina. But through CMDA he focuses his relationship, management, writing and leadership skills where they can best be used by God to impact the most people.
  • Sam Molind, D.M.D., left a thriving practice, leadership positions in medical, community and national organizations to lead CMDA’s Global Health Outreach. His enthusiasm, organizational skills, surgical capabilities and pioneer spirit uniquely qualify him to develop and direct GHO.

I could go on, but my point is that God surely intends that we invest well and specifically the gifts and resources He has entrusted to us. Many good and worthwhile ministries call out to us through the pastors, priests, friends and para-church leaders in our
communities, but not every good need requires that we respond personally. Here’s how I try to handle this quandary when I face it myself, as I did recently with an opportunity to serve in my own home church. The conversation went something like this:

Pastor—“How am I going to get you to serve on the Board?”
Me—“I don’t think that’s something I can do presently.”
Pastor—“You didn’t even say you’d pray about it.”
Me—“I am convinced that it’s not the best investment of my time and gifting as I consider the things God has entrusted to me. Certainly there are many other men in the church who can sit on the Board. God has entrusted me with other things to do that only I can do.”
Pastor—“How can we influence the leaders in our church with your insights and wisdom if you don’t sit on the Board? There are five or six other key leaders like you in our church who serve in national ministries and I wish that all of you would take your turn on the
Board.”
Me—“Why don’t you invite us one at a time to spend an occasional Saturday morning with the Board over breakfast, discussing a critical issue or leadership in general. That way I can concentrate in the areas only I can do.”

The Crucial Question

As we travel and talk with our members across the USA, CMDA regional and area directors often hear of our members, physicians and dentists, fully invested in many good ministries in their churches, Christian schools and other wonderful para-church ministries. I
often joke about having arrived in a particular city a couple days earlier and tell our members that I had met with other groups of
professionals including teachers, real estate agents, accountants, architects, professional athletes, attorneys and even pastors for the purpose of challenging them to disciple CMDA students, residents and doctors.

Immediately, they get the point and most invariably respond with, “Why don’t you talk to the doctors? They could do it so much better.”

Yet when CMDA staff do approach our members with various ministry opportunities, we often find they are involved serving God via very important and worthwhile ministries and don’t have the margin to mentor students or residents, or serve in an inner city clinic
now and then, etc.

Of course, it is not for me or anyone else to say which ministry you should do. My encouragement is simply this: If the above principle is clearly in agreement with Scripture, then each time you consider involvement in a ministry, first ask the question, “Is this something that only I can do?” The answer will help you determine the best investment of the influence, gifts, skills and resources entrusted to you by God. There are many good opportunities in which you could invest yourself; there are only a few that are best.

I once presented these ideas to a group of doctors. Afterward, a man approached me and said, “I came here tonight intending to
resign from my ministry of discipling medical students. But I guess after hearing what you had to say, I need to continue doing what only I can do.”

One final caveat: Make good on the commitments you’ve already made. Don’t use this challenge as an excuse to get out of something where others are counting on your faithfulness. It may take awhile to more properly align your gifts and possible ministry involvements. But this realignment will happen more surely if you remember, the next time you are asked to take on something new, to ask yourself: Is this something that only I can do? 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael J. McLaughlin, MDiv