Lately, I’ve been playing “Mr. Steelworker.” I’ve been cutting, drilling, grinding and beating into submission about a ton of angle and channel steel, creating a custom equipment rack where much of the electronic equipment in our new facility will be located. Building this thing is a lot like playing with an erector set, except that it’s a lot bigger, a lot heavier, and you have to drill your own holes.
Long ago, I was taught some important lessons about drilling steel, and it wasn’t far into the project that I began to remember those early lessons and take them to heart. I’ve also come to see that the important principles and practices involved in drilling steel are applicable to many other areas of life as well. For example:
- Use the right bit for the job. Hard steel eats cheap drill bits for lunch. The easiest drilling and longest lasting drill bits I’ve used happened to also be the most expensive. This doesn’t mean that more expensive automatically equals better, but I would have spent much, much more in the long run, and had to work a lot harder, if I had tried to economize and buy cheap drill bits.
How many times have you seen someone who wasn’t properly equipped trying to “do something for the Lord?” It’s a sad sight. They try and try and try, but they just can’t gain any ground. It takes a much different set of ministry tools to reach people in the suburbs than it takes to reach them in the inner city. check your tool bag, and make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job.
- It’s not just the bit that matters, it’s how it’s powered. After working several days, one of our corporate engineers sent me a tool box with several high-quality power tools. I tried the electric drill he sent, and decided I’d never go back. His drill made mine seem like something from the toy store, and made those good bits cut like a hot knife through warm butter. More powerful tools make any job a whole lot easier.
You can go to school, study the right things, become an authority on ministry and how to do it-but if you’re doing that ministry on your own power, you’ll get worn out in a hurry. If God has called you to the work you’re doing, then use His power, not your own. The work will be easier, the load lighter, and you’ll accomplish a whole lot more that way.
- There’s no such thing as too much oil. When drilling steel, we use a lubricant called “cutting oil” to reduce friction and heat. Many years ago, my steel-drilling mentor told me that it was impossible to use too much cutting oil. His favorite phrase was “always keep your bit wet.” Otherwise, the bit will get too hot, begin to deteriorate, and eventually lose it’s effectiveness completely. The most efficient way to do this on a small scale is with two people—one person handling the drill while another applies oil to the cutting surface.
In the Bible, oil is used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. As with drilling metal without oil, when we try to go out and “do things for God” without the constant presence and leadership of the Holy Spirit, we generate a lot of heat and get burned out in a hurry. There’s a reason that Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two; While one was “drilling,” one was “applying the oil.” Ask any successful minister of the gospel what his secret of success is, and he’ll point you toward the prayer warriors who keep him bathed in intercessory prayer and anointed by the Holy Spirit.
- Know when it’s time to change bits. Even the best drill bits get dull eventually. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is stop, evaluate your bit, and change it. Otherwise, you’ll be working harder and accomplishing less.
One of the most difficult things for a church or ministry to do is to realize that the things they’ve always done aren’t working anymore. It takes a lot of courage to stop what your doing and find a new tool that will be more effective, but whenever I’ve seen it done, the result is always positive. We all resist change, but like a baby with a wet diaper, sometimes a good change is exactly what we need.
Work hard, enjoy the journey, and whatever you do, be sure to keep your bit wet.