Zone vs. Man-to-Man


Do you seek out people to tell about Jesus, to influence, or to disciple? Or do you have a “zone” coverage view of sharing the Gospel where you wait for people to come your way?

When you play “zone” defense, you’re responsible for an area of the court. Anyone who comes into your zone is your responsibility. Yeah, you move around when the ball comes your way, even leaving your zone to help out when there’s an emergency. But your first responsibility is your area . . . your zone.


In “man to man” defense, you've got a guy to track. A person. A face. You can study him. You can prepare for him. In the game, you’ll always know where he’s at on the court. You know what he’s up to. He never gets out of your sight. Sometimes he’ll try to fake you out, but you never let him get away for long. You’ll bust your gut . . . even get injured trying to stay with him.


Not long ago, I sat down with church staff. They were all there. Music guy. Youth guy. Sunday school guy. They all had their zones.


I asked them to write down the name of one person they were personally investing in for spiritual purposes. Not a single person wrote down a name.


They are all playing “zone.”


“If anyone comes into my area, I’ve got ‘em. But by and large, so long as I’m covering my area, I’m okay.”


Now before you get too critical, ask yourself if you’re not doing the same thing.


I go to work . . . I cover my “zone.” When I come home, I cover my “husband and father” zone. I go to church, teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, so I’m covering my zone. If someone comes into my zone, I’m ready. If someone in my small group calls me with a problem, then I’m there to help. But I’m not going to look for engagement. I’m not going to initiate. It’s a lot more convenient to respond . . . to wait for the need to arise . . . to play “zone.”


Jesus played with a “man to man” view. He broke all kinds of social mores by connecting with men and women one-on-one. The woman at the well, the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the woman with the problem with blood, on and on . . . Jesus didn't just show up in his “zone.” Jesus didn't just go teach his Sunday school class or lead his small group. He initiated.


He connected with people the Father led him to. He went “man to man.”


How can a church, particularly a large one, go from “zone” to “man to man”? I have no idea, except this . . . 


I had lunch with the senior pastor of a large mega-church. Thousands of people. Hundreds of staff. Millions of dollars.


For 45 years . . . 45 years . . . this man has mentored a group of guys toward growth in their faith. He said, and I quote, “If I had to choose between preaching on Sunday (playing “zone”) or doing these groups (going “man-to-man”), I’d give up preaching!”


If church leaders start to go “man to man” in their own lives . . . if the leaders start to experience the joy of seeing individuals come to Christ and start to flourish in their faith, they’ll figure out how to get others to do it too.


Personally, I went “man to man” a number of years ago. No other decision I’ve made has been more richly rewarded.


Question: Are you willing to go “man to man”? Ask God to show who He wants you to engage with and to give you the courage to initiate.

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