By Jim Tune
Most readers will be familiar with Stephen Covey’s prioritizing system. He urges us to differentiate the truly important from the merely urgent; the essential thing from the merely marginal. Frequently referred to as the “big rocks” illustration, Covey produces a bucket (which symbolizes our life), a few big rocks (which symbolize our most essential priorities), and a bunch of small pebbles (which symbolize the tasks that seem urgent, but ultimately aren’t essential).
Covey pours the pebbles into the bucket, and then invites a seminar participant to try to add all of the big rocks. This proves impossible, of course. Covey starts over by putting the big rocks into the bucket first, and then adding all of the pebbles. The pebbles nestle into the spaces between the big rocks, allowing the bucket to hold the entire load.
I’ve seen numerous variations of this object lesson. The bottom line is this: get the big rocks right—handle the highest priorities first—or you will squander your schedule, your time, and your life with urgent, but trivial, things.
I think our movement has historically concerned itself with getting the big rocks right, especially when it comes to doctrine. This is an admirable and challenging goal, even though theologians don’t always agree on what the big rocks are. I’m increasingly turned off by belligerent dogmatism and doctrinal feuding. Nevertheless, I believe sound doctrine does still matter, and our historical concern for scriptural accuracy is a right and noble pursuit. We must allow for a generosity of spirit toward those who disagree with our conclusions, without surrendering convictions that we believe to be scripturally informed.
Since the earliest days of our movement, baptism by immersion as the mechanism for obeying the gospel has been one of the big rocks in our theological position. While not universally accepted among all three streams of the Restoration Movement, I believe it’s accurate to say, for most of our history, the Christian church has affirmed that new birth takes place when someone believes the gospel, repents of sins, and submits to water baptism. There’s just no denying this position is one of the big rocks that our churches have affirmed as bucket-worthy.
I really hope this view continues to prevail in our churches, even as we pursue greater levels of comfort and cooperation with the Evangelical world. Our position is not new or novel. It is the historic position of the earliest church fathers. It is backed by massive biblical support. Let’s not quibble over the pebbles, but we still need to do our best to get the big rocks right.