The Pareto Principle for Churches

Most of us have heard of the 80/20 rule, sometimes called the Pareto principle.

It was named after it’s “inventor,” Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noticed about 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

To put it more generally, it says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. to put it more concretely:

  • 80% of property is owned by 20% of the population
  • 80% of sales come from 20% of the clients
  • 80% of complaints come from 20% of a company’s customers
  • 80% of problems come from 20% of causes.

Unless companies are aware of the 80/20 law, they can unwittingly expend 80% of their time and efforts on the 20% of customers who are producing 80% of the complaints and problems. This leaves only 20% of their time and effort to expend on the customers who are producing 80% of their sales and profits.

But churches and pastors can also succumb to this tendency of devoting the majority of their attention to problems and complaints at the expense of the vast majority who are living steady godly lives and serving the Lord fruitfully.

While we must not run away from problems and we must address legitimate complaints, church leaders must be resolute in their determination to prevent problems and complaints setting the agenda and dominating their time and attention.

Perhaps we could re-write the Pareto principle for churches. Give a maximum 20% of your time to the problems and a minimum 80% of your time to the fruitful and the faithful. 

Check out


The High Cost of Free Porn
Three ways porn hinders Jesus’ mission in the world.

Saved and Depressed: A Real Conversation about Faith and Health
Touching and teaching:

When most people look at me, they see a successful, 20-something-year-old woman who is giving of herself and her time. In the past, they would only see a bubbly, out-going, praying and saved young lady who is grounded in her faith. When outsiders look at me, they often see someone with two degrees from two of America’s most prestigious institutions, an entrepreneur who prides herself on inspiring others to live life on purpose, and simply lets her light shine despite all obstacles.

However, what so many do not know is that there was a time when I was dying on the inside. On a beautiful summer morning, at the tender age of 25, I suddenly felt sick. It was not the kind of sick where one is coughing with a fever and chills. I felt as if there were a ton of bricks on top of my body and I could not move my feet from the bed to the floor.

Should We Preach like the Puritans?
Joel Beeke says “No!”

In critiquing Puritan preaching, we do not dishonor the Puritans as faithful servants of God, but only acknowledge that they were mere men, fallen and fallible, and men of a particular time and place. Even as we disagree with their methods, let us admire their zeal and effectiveness under the blessing of God’s Spirit.

Divine Affections Yes; Divine Passions No
Here’s a helpful distinction:

The post-Reformation Reformed theologians (late 16th and 17th centuries) approached the subject using two different term: affections and passions. They flat-out denied that God had passions, a word which strongly suggests “vehement commotions.” But they were able to talk very sagaciously about God’s affections.”

The Distinction between Deacons and Elders | Gentle Reformation
Hand this out to every elder and deacon in your church.

Psalms: When Our Words fail Us
Join Carl, Aimee & Todd as they discuss their own experiences wading through the Psalms seeking (and finding!) solace and strength through them.

Kindle Books

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J I Packer $3.99.

Caring for a Loved One With Cancer by Jane Hunt $1.99.

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace by Michael Beates $2.99.

Digital Detox Roundup

US psychologists claim social media ‘increases loneliness’
We hardly needed psychologists to tell us this but in case you doubted it:

A report suggests that more than two hours of social media use a day doubled the chances of a person experiencing social isolation.

It claims exposure to idealised representations of other people’s lives may cause feelings of envy.

This Is Not A Show – Propel Women

Here are some good lines in this article:

All this being in the public eye, constantly under a spotlight of our own making, it doesn’t just share our faith. It also distorts it.

Social media turns faith into a show, and it ends up shaping our entire spiritual lives, both online and off.

Sharon then shares three practices that have helped her use social media in a healthy way:

1. Take a social media fast.

2. Practice the discipline of secrecy.

3. Embrace your hiddenness.

Five Reasons Why Pastors Are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts
I’m sure churches are checking a pastor’s social media use before hiring. But social media is also leading to some firings.

With greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs. By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

1. Nomophobia: No-mobile-phobia, the panic felt when one is separated from their phone.

2. Technoference: When tech devices interrupt our leisure time, conversations, and meals with our significant other.

3. The phantom ring: The perception that one’s mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not.

4. Cyberchondria: People who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. They get neurotic, and go down a Google wormhole, frantically reading about every dreaded disease that matches their symptoms.

5. Truman Show Delusion: The spooky feeling that someone’s watching you, the false perception that our lives are being broadcast.

Are You Suffocating Your Creativity?
If your creativity is suffering, two of the solutions may be:

3. Don’t engage in technological distraction.

4. Embrace the boredom.

Five Warnings On Christians’ Thoughtless Use of Technology

David Prince reflects on a recent interview with Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. Among many excellent points he notes:

♦ When we use a tool, not only are we shaping the world around us, but our tools are shaping us. The value systems embedded into our digital tools shape how we think and act, which even has a physiological effect on how our brains work (see Carr’s book The Shallows). Christians must actively interrogate the technologies they use  and determine whether the value system the tools encourage align with the Bible’s value system.

♦ We often have an illusion of connection via social media, but for most, no one really knows us. This has huge implications for Christian community. Christians who unthinkingly use digital technology will struggle to create and maintain deep forms of Christian community.

♦ When we constantly use tools that train us to value efficiency and convenience above core aspects of our humanity, we begin to blur the definition of humanity itself. And if the definition of human is blurred, it is suddenly possible to mold the definition of human to exclude certain groups

Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria L. Dunckley MD. I haven’t read this book yet but it gets rave reviews.

More Digital Detox Resources here.

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Blog Posts

Stop Calling Everything Hate | Tim Challies
“We need to resist this updated definition of ‘hate,’ to keep the new, expansive form of the word out of the church. Otherwise, we risk confusing hatred with confidence about revealed truth—we need to have the ability to confidently declare what is orthodox and what is heterodox, what is consistent with the Bible and what is heretical. ”

6 Reasons to Get Out of Your Office and Engage Your People on Sunday | Mark Dance, LifeWay Pastors
“Some preachers hunker down and hyper-tweak their sermons during and between worship services on Sunday. Is it possible to make as big of an impact in the hall than from your pulpit on Sunday mornings? I don’t say that to take away from the power and primacy of preaching, but I don’t think you need to choose between loving and feeding your people each Sunday.”

What Christianity in China Is Really Like | Colin Clark, TGC
“I have a friend who travels to China several times a year for ministry. His plans are top secret; even those traveling with him aren’t informed of trip details, and other parts of the itinerary are only unfurled on a need-to-know basis… I, on the other hand, openly and publicly pastor a church in China. When people ask me what I do for a living—even publicly in a crowd of people—I say, ‘I’m a pastor of a church. You should come visit sometime!’ Perhaps you’re more familiar with the former description of ministry in China, perhaps the latter, perhaps both. Regardless, seemingly contradictory reports on ministry in the Middle Kingdom can lead to no little confusion.”

Evolution’s irony: The Kingdom of Speech | Jesse Johnson, The Cripplegate
The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe, is a fun tour of the folly of evolution. While Wolf himself is an atheist, he is a vocal critic of the atheistic materialism that grips the Western world. He traces much of this materialistic swagger to the arrogance of modern evolutionary science, which he critiques in The Kingdom of Speech.”

Yes, You Can Please Your Heavenly Father | Kevin DeYoung, TGC
“One of the principal motivations for holiness is the pleasure of God.”

Low-Tech Solutions for High Impact Pastors | Rob Hurtgen, LifeWay Pastors
“In this two-part series, I want to share some low-tech solutions for high impact pastors. Solutions that through much study—mixed with a lot of trial and error—I have found to help increase my own productivity and effectiveness. I hope they are helpful to you.”

New Book

The Cost: What it takes to follow Jesus by Steven J. Lawson

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Preaching with Bold Assurance by Bert Decker and Hershael W. York ($2.99)

The Religions Next Door: What we need to know about Hudaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and what reporters are missing by Marvin Olasky ($0.99)

Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis ($2.99)

Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God by Gloria Furman ($3.99)

Meet The Skeptic by Bill Foster ($2.99)


 “How does biblical teaching about mercy and security influence the immigration debate?”
Two vital Biblical principles in dealing with the immigration issue.

The Ethics of Jesus are Anti-Abuse

There’s an excellent short post on marital abuse by Becky Castle Miller over at Scot McKnight’s blog. Please click through to read it: The Ethics of Jesus are Anti-Abuse. Two things that stood out to me were the definition of abuse and the questions to ask.

Definition of Abuse

“A pattern of coercive control that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical.”

Questions to ask

Remember that some abuse victims have not yet understood that their spouse is an abuser. They may think what’s going on is normal or that they deserve it. Try questions like these:

  • Does your husband call you names or insult you? (verbal abuse)
  • Do you have to account for every penny you spend? (financial abuse)
  • Do you feel like a child instead of an adult in your relationship? (overall pattern of abuse)
  • Does he make you do things sexually you do not want to do? (sexual abuse)

There’s more practical advice towards the end of the article, most of which I agree with.  I do have questions about the justice of not telling an abuser the charges against him. I understand why that might be wise but it seems contrary to a basic principle of natural justice. I also have reservations about the “Black and Blue” book.

These hesitations apart, I’m grateful for articles like this that push the church to face these issues honestly and deal with them more justly and compassionately.

The Ethics of Jesus are Anti-Abuse by Becky Castle Miller.

PhD Program at PRTS Receives ATS Accreditation

The faculty and staff of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS) are humbled by and grateful for the recent news that The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Board of Commissioners has fully approved the seminary’s PhD program, effective February 21, 2017. The leadership of PRTS has worked diligently to design a doctoral program that is domestically and internationally affordable, accessible, and academically credible. Its design is to support original research that is both historically informed and relevant for the church and academy. The seminary’s fully accredited doctorate program offers degrees in Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, focusing on the Reformation and Post-reformation eras.

Faculty involved in the new program includes:

Dr. Michael Barrett is Vice President for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a min­is­ter in the Heritage Reformed Congregations. For­merly, Dr. Bar­rett served as Pres­i­dent of Geneva Reformed Sem­i­nary. He earned his doc­tor­ate in Old Tes­ta­ment Text with a special focus on Semitic lan­guages.

Dr. Stephen Myers is Associate Professor of Historical Theology for the PhD program at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Prior to his appointment at PRTS, Dr. Myers served as the pastor of Pressly Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Statesville, N.C. While in the full-time pastorate, Dr. Myers also served as a visiting professor of theology at RTS Charlotte and a professor at International Biblical Seminary in Kiev, Ukraine.

Dr. Adriaan Neele is Director of the Doctoral Program and Professor of Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is an ordained pastor in the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, South Africa. Prior to arriving at PRTS in 2016, he lectured in Post-Reformation studies at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary, the University of Pretoria, and the African Institute for Missiology. He was Professor of Historical Theology and Director at the Jonathan Edwards Centre at the University of the Free State, South Africa. Since 2007 he serves as Research Scholar and Digital Editor at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, and as a member of various businesses and academic boards.

Mr. Greg Salazar (PhD candidate, University of Cambridge) is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology for the PhD program at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. In 2013, Mr. Salazar began doctoral studies at The University of Cambridge. His research interest is focused on how Dutch and continental Reformed scholastic divines shaped the theological and historical landscape of English Puritanism. The seminary’s president, Dr. Joel Beeke, will be team-teaching English Puritan Theology with Mr. Salazar.

The doctorate program at PRTS provides an advanced and affordable education that promotes both robust academic standards and a strong spiritual focus on Reformed experiential piety. The program utilizes the best of hybrid learning through traditional teaching and technology. For more information, visit PRTS online at or contact the seminary’s Admissions Director, Jonathon Beeke, at 616.432.3408.

The first PhD class at Puritan Reformed Seminary.

The first PhD class at Puritan Reformed Seminary. Dr. Adriaan Neele is third from left, and Dr. Stephen Meyers is on the far right.

Greg Salazar, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology.

Greg Salazar, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology.