Pebbles, Rocks, and Water

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.

29_Overdorf2_JNI 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.

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4 Comments

  1. -brent
    October 1, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Jim, Thanks for the thoughts as they ring true in this ever changing world. Adherence to the clear word is tough when the world is trying its best to derail us. I hear so many people giving me a different gospel as I try to share the Gospel with them. It is the same struggle; but it sure looks different than what grandpa talked about. Take care,

  2. October 2, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Rock on, Jim. Rock-solid truth.

  3. Dennis Free
    October 3, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    A hearty amen from the islands Columbus missed (Ambon, Maluku, Indonesia)

  4. Pat Stillwagner
    November 3, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Two things do not change: the Word of God (the Bible) and dead things. One very important thing to remember is the Restoration Movement was to restore, not redecorate. What we think as men does not matter, it is the Word of God that matters–don’t add to it or change it . . .

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