“Find A Need And Fill It, Part I”
Steve Gottry was a successful entrepreneur who, by 1992, had expanded his advertising agency into a multimillion dollar company with 10 employees. He had an airplane, a boat and five cars — he was living the dream, as it were.
But by 1994 Gottry nearly lost it all due to a downturn in the economy, bad debts, and personal missteps.
On top of that, he lost much of his house in a fire and his wife and daughter both had serious health problems.
While not quite a full-on Job-ian tale, Gottry’s experience was a wake-up call.
With the dream having disappeared, and having hit bottom, he decided to go back to basics and retool his life and business according to one simple principle— an acronym he devised— F.A.N.A.F.I.: “Find A Need And Fill It.”
Using that principle as a guide, Gottry built a new business and, as many in this situation are wont to do, wrote a book about his failure and resurgence entitled: “Common Sense Business: Starting, Operating, and Growing Your Small Business in Any Economy.”
Gottry’s observations and advice aren’t particularly innovative, but they’re sound and instructive for anyone who wants to be successful in meeting people’s needs and growing an entrepreneurial venture.
F.A.N.A.F.I, for example, is about as simple as it gets: Find a real need that no one else is meeting, meet it effectively, and your venture will grow.
Gottry believes the steps to finding and meeting needs— begin with dreaming, which is followed by growth and beyond.
Gottry’s theory of F.A.N.A.F.I—Find A Need And Fill It—is intended for businesses, but as we look at our passage from Acts 1, we can see the principle at work on a global, spiritual scale.
As Jesus prepared to depart from his disciples, he gave them instruction on how to F.A.N.A.F.I as his representatives on earth.
Jesus wanted his Disciples to go and find the needs of the people, and then fill those needs.
He wanted that of his Disciples then, and he wants that of his Disciples now, because the truth is, the needs of the people of the world then were the same needs of people today.
To begin to unpack the concept of finding a need and filling it, Gottry says all successful ventures begin with a dream— a dream that is envisioned by a leader and shared with others.
He believed, “Dreaming big enables others to see a different future and alter their present to make it a reality.”
What a great line. “Dreaming big enables others to see a different future and alter their present to make it a reality.”
Jesus had given his disciples a vision— a dream that he called the Kingdom of God.
The dream disappeared briefly when Jesus was crucified, but on the other side of the empty tomb the Disciples now saw what was possible: a people restored and brought to new life through the power of God’s saving love.
Upon his return to them Jesus instructed them about the kingdom, and continued to do so in the 40 days after his resurrection.
And during this time, he revealed, again, just how big a dreamer he was.
Jesus dreamed of a time when all people would be blessed in such a manner that those who were mourning would be comforted, the meek would inherit the earth, that all would be filled with mercy and righteousness, that all would be peacemakers, that the last would be first, that all would be forgiven and granted everlasting life.
In a sinful, self-centered, power hungry world, that was certainly dreaming big.
It was Jesus’ dream then, and it remains his dream today—and it is all the Kingdom of God.
The central theme of his preaching, the focus of his healing ministry, and the ultimate dream for which he had given his life was making the Kingdom of God a reality.
And now, with his physical departure imminent, with these 40 days from resurrection coming to an end, Jesus wanted to make sure that his Disciples would be driven by the same dream.
Now while Jesus saw the kingdom vision as a long-haul process, the Disciples were looking for something in the short-term.
After all, God’s people had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah, the one who would restore Israel to its former glory, fully return them from exile, and usher in a new age when God would again dwell with them.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Their question is one of timing— is it here? Is it now?
The answer was, and is still, both yes and no.
Jesus had told them during the tranquil days of their three year ministry together that the kingdom of God is “within you.”
That’s why Jesus spent his time teaching the disciples how to live in the present— how to love, heal and change the lives of those around them through the power of his Spirit.
But the kingdom, although a present reality, was also a future, coming experience.
Though the kingdom was within them as followers of Christ, it was their job now to let loose the Kingdom and expand it.
When Jesus ascended however, the Disciples, unfortunately, were left just standing there slack-jawed and staring at the sky— until of course angels appeared and shook them out of their apocalyptic awe.
These angels show up and say, “Hey! Quit gawking, and get to work!” (I may be paraphrasing a little there.)
Nonetheless, this is ironic because many Christ followers have continued to expend their energy looking up to heaven, waiting for Christ’s return rather than engaging the world around them, even though the message Jesus left with them then, and with Christians today, was clear: They weren’t to spend their time looking up into heaven, but rather looking out at the needs of the world.
The disciples were now to be the presence of Jesus in the world.
They were to continue his work on earth rather than pining for their own salvation.
They were to be driven by visions of the Kingdom of God breaking in on the present world, and filling needs in this present world, rather than merely focusing on “getting to heaven.”
It was a clear and concise mandate then and it is a clear and concise mandate today.
Find a need and fill it—fill it with the Kingdom of God.
When it comes to finding a need and filling it, Gottry says, “Once you’ve identified a need, planning is the way to fill it.”
In business, dreams usually don’t become realities unless there is some good planning involved.
Strategy, tactics and intentionality are not to be afterthoughts but rather are the primary structures upon which successful ventures are built.
All this is to say is that planning is critical.
After giving his disciples a vision and training them for it, Jesus proceeded to give them a plan for making it a reality.
He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, empowering them for the work ahead.
This was a critical part of Jesus’ plan for the Disciples Kingdom work—they were to not do a thing until the Holy Spirit had come upon them.
This was critical because Jesus knew that any work done without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit would be worthless, pointless, futile, and that it would surely fail.
That work would involve an outwardly focused strategy of taking the story of Jesus and the vision of the kingdom from a local to a global scale.
The disciples themselves took on a new job description in this venture, moving from disciples, or followers, to “witnesses”—those who were sharing the vision of the kingdom that would fulfill all the world’s needs.
The students were now becoming the teachers and their focus would begin with telling the story and sharing the vision with the very people who had seen Jesus crucified in Jerusalem, then move out to the surrounding areas of Judea, progressing to even the natural enemies of their people in Samaria and, ultimately, to the “ends of the earth” (1:8).
That was the plan—wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and empower them, anoint them, equip them for going forth to share the life changing, need filling, Good News of Jesus.
Gottry goes on to talk about the steps of implementation and growth, which, for the disciples, become reality as the Holy Spirit empowers them and they see 3,000 added to their number on the day of Pentecost—which we will focus on and celebrate next Sunday.
The bottom line of that early church entrepreneurial venture is that they had something that people really needed: a story of hope, a plan for loving everyone, and a compelling way of life.
What they offered was less a product than a person: Jesus Christ.
The world needed the good news about him then, and we surely need it now.
Ultimately, the F.A.N.A.F.I. needs of the world won’t be met by doctrinal formulas and the “five happy hops to heaven” or whatever process Christians tend to trumpet these days— which Christians spend a lot of our time and energy arguing among ourselves about.
What the world really needs is hope— a vision of a different future that will alter their present to make it a reality. And such can be done when the world is given and shown an example to follow into that new future.
Jesus provided that vision and example in his life and ministry, and continues to call us toward it through the Holy Spirit.
If we, as a church, want to meet the needs of the world and once again be relevant, vibrant and transformational then simply following him is a good place to start because when we follow him, faithfully and unconditionally, then we will be lead in his dream and his vision—a dream and a vision that always finds a need, and fills it, with exactly what is needed. Amen.