Efficient or effective?
Published: April 21, 2016

This story, shared in a missionary prayer letter, reflects not only the reality of missionary life but also something we all need to remind ourselves of regularly: Keep God’s purposes central.

I waited my turn at the utility company for a half hour before I sat down to work on paying my electric bill. Yet it only took them two minutes to tell me, "You are missing a necessary photocopy of your residency card." I proffered my card and asked, "Can't you copy it for me?" Nope! To my dismay, I had to return later that afternoon with the appropriate paperwork. After waiting my turn again, I presented the odious photocopy. Everything seemed to be going smoothly now. The lady chatted with me for a couple minutes, which turned into 20 more. It became obvious she was stalling. Something was wrong. The computer system had locked up. "Please come back tomorrow," she said.

The next day it was still down. So I returned yet another day and finally got it all taken care of. To tell you the truth, it can be frustrating at times. This isn’t an isolated event. Just ask my coworkers about their experiences. We set out to accomplish four simple tasks, and we came back having accomplished 0.5. I just want to be efficient. 

It is often I have to remind myself that my goal is not to be efficient with people but effective. My father once told me, “Be efficient with machinery and effective with people.” I often want to do the reverse. As I wander around town seeking to accomplish legal work or pay a utility bill, I must keep this principle in mind. Only then will I be ready to get to know someone better to share the gospel. Let's not allow efficiency to trump effectiveness and so rob ourselves of gospel opportunities. Pray that I will be effective over efficient.