Should Christians Work to be Productive?

YES!

I answer this question emphatically when asked, so much so that I don’t get asked very much any more. The question usually centers around a well intentioned leader who is trying to reconcile scriptures that relay the idea of waiting on God (also an important aspect of Christian leadership). My aim here is to not reconcile the two thoughts (perhaps that’s another blog idea) but to help the Christian leader understand that they need to be productive while waiting on God.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:15-17

Did you see the first seven words in verse 16? I did. I put those words in bold. In case you missed it though, here they are again, ”making the best use of the time.”

Make

The

Best

Use

Of

The

Time

Objective

You are supposed to, as a christian, use time. The Christian is to recognize that they have time, the same amount of time that everyone else has. 365 Days in a year, 24 hours in each day, 60 minutes in each hour, 60 Seconds in each minute, 1000 milliseconds in each second. (Currently, my middle child loves milliseconds so you can thank him for that inclusion). We’ve all got the same amount of time: believer or unbeliever, leader or worker, husband or wife, rich or poor, parent or not, professor or student. We’ve all got the same amount of time. that’s an objective reality.

Subjective

Where we all differ is what the best is. What’s the best use of the time? As soon as you ask that question a million ideas flood to mind. Exercise, bible study, work, email, family time, date night, finishing a degree, cold calls, networking, planning, executing, sleep, housework, cooking, worship, time with friends, recreation, etc.

The best is decidedly subjective on an individual level, but is definitely calling us to be productive. The key to unlocking the best is wisdom. The best is gospel-centered productivity. We’ve got to discern the best use of our time. That, my friends is a priority question.

The best way I’ve found to think through priorities is to think about roles that I have. Here are my roles:

  • Personal
  • Family
  • Pastor
  • Other Ministry

What roles do you have? What’s your best?

Recommended Resources

Leadership in 5 Buckets

Henry Cloud was on the Entre Leadership Podcast on the Ramsey Network. He’s a Christian psychologist and author of many books including Boundaries and Integrity. He was on the podcast talking about the executive functions of the brain and their relationship to leadership. He mentioned 5 categories or buckets.

The categories are:

  • Vision – Where are we going?
  • Resource/Talent Acquisition – What do we need to get there?
  • Strategy/Plan – How do we get there?
  • Measurements for Accountability – How do we know if we’re successful?
  • Adaptation Systems – What do we need to change based on the things we’re measuring?

His point was that all leadership is contained in these 5 buckets and that big picture organizational leaders need to ensure that all of these areas are considered. The brain operates this way and so should organizations.

I’d agree with his basic assessment. I find it valuable to have quick reference metaphors like “the executive functions of the brain” to talk to others about leadership. Leadership is big, messy, and complicated. Without those quick metaphors these ideas get lost.

Exhaustion

I’m on Mr. Mom duty this week, a state I’m in about once a month. My wife works and has to go out of town once a month. These weeks I get exhausted. It made me think through my history with exhaustion.

Exhaustion

A state I thought I understood as a teenager after mowing the lawn, trimming, and edging on a Saturday.

Again, There was a time when I was home from college the summer before my senior year where I would work all day, intern at my church until 11pm, and then work midnights at a hospital.

I started ministry at 22 and I thought I was exhausted after an all-nighter (the dumbest idea ever invented) with 100 students.

We were married at 24 and exhaustion stopped being just physical, but also emotional, not in a bad way, but a new way where there was emotional care that needed to be extended to my amazing wife.

Children started coming in January of 2008 and I learned anew what exhaustion meant. Sleepless nights, typical parent worries, and overwhelmed moments.

Planting a church and completing a doctoral degree with an amazing wife and kids and writing a dissertation showed me exhaustion from a different angle.

At 38 exhaustion is something different, it’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s mental. It involves all of those amazing people (wife, kids, church), ministry, complex thoughts, and responsibilities that weigh heavily.

Exhaustion teaches me that I’m limited and I’ll always be limited and I’ll always be limited. God is gracious to grow me through the exhaustion and show me my very real limitations and demonstrate His limitlessness. The problem comes when I don’t recognize my limits and rely on Him.

Weak is Strong

Today I’m thinking about the message I shared yesterday at CityView Pearland. I was tired, was up all night Friday Night, and was exhausted when I woke up on Sunday.   I felt off before preaching, I didn’t feel cohesive in my thoughts and forgot several of the illustrations and applications I was planning to share. I felt it during the message and felt directly afterwards like I’d blown it.

But then…

  • A couple visiting said they were so glad they were there and were going to go discuss the message right now because it hit them so powerfully.
  • Another member, almost always sparing in praise, grabbed me afterwards and said “strong work man, that was a good message”.
  • At life group 2 families said they got a ton out of the message, that it was filled with “nuggets”.
  • Our Empty Nester life group meets after church for lunch together, they shared how much the message impacted them.

I felt weak, but so much of what I’ve learned in preparing for this series in Judges is that God works in our weakness and through our weaknesses, not through our strength.  These verses have been resounding in my head the last several weeks and have never been truer for me.

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1.27, 31 ESV)

I can’t brag about how great a preacher I am, but I can brag about how great a God I serve.

You Can Make Time!

Reflections on a Social Media Fast 3

Make Time

Today, we are talking about time.  Stephen Miller Band wrote,

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future

I’ve found no more appropriate way to think about how I have utilized social media in the past.

I like schedules and I calendar almost everything.  I know what’s happening and when.  The old adage, if you aren’t 5 minutes early than you’re late, is something I’ve taken to heart and amplified a bit (much to my wife’s chagrin): if you aren’t 30 minutes early than you’re late.  I’m very organized when it comes to my time.  I’ve written on it here, here, here, and here.  I don’t like my time wasted.

However, I continually let social media waste my time.  One of the biggest discoveries I had after I started the social media fast was how much time I had spent looking at social media.  I found my thumb going to the place on my phone where the Facebook App had been countless times a day.  It was subconscious.  If my thumb is drifting to this nebulous spot on my phone then how much time would I have spent mindlessly scrolling?

Make Time

We all have exactly the same amount of time in a given day.

  • 24 Hours
  • 1,440 Minutes
  • 86,400 Seconds

If you find yourself lacking in time, here’s an idea: Take a Social Media Break.  I promise it will be productive and that  it will be good for you.  I promise you will have more time.

Remember social media isn’t bad.  As I shared in my first post, social media is a tool.  It SHOULD be utilized, but tools yield to their master’s desires.  Use social media, don’t be used by it.  This idea will be the subject of my next post about my social media fast.

Reflections on a Social Media Fast 2

Part 2 - People Freaked Out

social media

On September 24th I posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (which I don’t use much, I know I’m terrible), and LinkedIn that:

Allison Crandall and I are signing off of Facebook/Messenger/Social Media for a while. If you need me you an email me at jason@cityviewpearland.com

Allie gave me the business because, “who cares if you’re off social media.”  She likes to give me the business (I like it too).

I remember telling her, “I know, people won’t care, but sometimes people ask me questions, etc and it’s kind of like an out of the office email letting people know I’m off and how to contact me if they need something.”  I’m a pastor and I utilize social media a lot.

Freak Out

We were both wrong, people cared, they really cared.  People freaked out.  I don’t have a large following on social media, a few hundred followers on Twitter and a couple thousand friends on Facebook.  I don’t know how to check Instagram followers (I know I’m terrible).

Within minutes of my signing off social media, I got 27 text messages, 5 phone calls, and a few emails.  The questions and comments continued for the next week.  They were:

  • Why?
  • Is something wrong?  Are you guys okay?
  • I want to see the boys.  Have someone else post pictures.
  • What about Penny?
  • How are we going to hear about Penny?
  • What’s Penny doing?

(Penny is our dog.  She’s a corgi.  She’s a puppy and… terrible, but we love her. She has her own Instagram, which I’d post here, but you know… I’m terrible and don’t know what it is exactly).

My favorite question was from a very serious, but paranoid friend: “are you afraid the government and Illuminati are watching you?”  I sent a text jokingly back, “aren’t they the same thing?”

The Social Media Social Contract

I’m nobody special.  I didn’t understand why there was such a reaction to my signing off of social media.  As I reflected though, I think it has something to do with the way that we connect and feel connected.  I think, due to social media, we are okay with feeling more physically/spatially/relationally disconnected from others.  After all we don’t need to actually keep up with people because we can always pop on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and see what’s happening in their world.

That’s not an indictment.  I enjoyed getting back on Facebook and seeing my cousin’s kids, my brother’s dog, my friend’s accomplishments, etc.  Social Media has made it possible to keep up without keeping up. It’s like there is kind of a new social media social contract that says this is okay.  People liked keeping up with me from afar.  I didn’t know how much the posts of our boys, our thoughts, funny quips, Bible verses, and Corgi pics meant to others.  It was only after signing off of social media though that I knew we mattered like that to others.

It got me thinking that maybe I should contact personally (via text, phone call, invite over, get coffee with, etc) those people who I enjoy seeing on social media.  I should spend time checking in with them outside the Twittersphere and Facebook universe.

My reflection today is don’t let the social media social contract be the only social contract you have with people.

Reflections on a Social Media Fast 1

Part 1 - Tools not Crutches

At the end of September my wife and I took a break from social media.  We had a lot of reasons (which I’ll talk about a little over the next few posts), but more than anything we just needed a detox.  I was beginning more and more to find this post from Urban Dictionary far too true in my own life.

Social Media can be best described as:

Facebook – I like doughnuts

Twitter – I’m eating #doughnuts

Instagram – Here is a Polaroid-esce photo of doughnuts

Foursquare – This is where I eat doughnuts

YouTube – Here I am eating doughnuts

Myspace – Meet the Up-and-coming band, ‘doughnuts’

Linkedin – My skills include doughnut eating

Pinterest – Here is a recipe for doughnuts

We plugged back in a couple days ago and I thought I’d share a little bit about what I noticed as I took an intentional break from the cultural phenomena known as Social Media.

First Thought: Social Media is a Tool not a Crutch

I don’t think social media is bad or evil or even a giant waste of time (on its own).  I think it’s a tool to be used.  Any tool that’s overused or improperly utilized can cause problems. Those tools can even destroy.  During my break I noticed how I had stopped using social media as a tool and started using it as a crutch for social interaction.  Crutches are great tools when a lower extremity is broken or hurt, but when nothing is broken and you’re using one… then there is a problem.  I am blessed to have a lot of opportunity for social interaction.  I don’t need social media to be the only place where it’s happening or even one of the main places where it’s happening.

Book Recommendation: The Imperfect Disciple

Imperfect Disciple

Wilson, Jared C.. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together. Baker Publishing Group.

 

This year I’m reading (or listening to) a lot of books.  I’m going to share about the ones I find truly helpful and beneficial.  Some of these books will be church planting, some christian living, some will even be…. gasp… secular business/productivity/organizational type books.  None of them will be fiction… I know I’m a wretch (but grace is amazing, right?).  I just prefer to watch my fiction (i.e. movies) then read it (it’s more efficient).  All of the fiction lovers out there either cursed me just now or started to pray for me.  That’s fine. This is my blog.

 

The first book I am recommending this year is The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared Wilson.

 

4 Reasons Why I Read and Enjoyed The Imperfect Disciple

1) I’m always weary of “how to” Christian Living books.

Wilson’s title captured me though, I’m an imperfect disciple.  Sometimes (rarely) I have a semblance of getting it together… other times not so much. I love this statement:

“I want to write a discipleship book for normal people, for people like me who know that discipleship means following Jesus—and we know that following Jesus is totally worth it, because Jesus is the end-all, be-all—but we often find that following Jesus takes us to some pretty difficult places.”

I’m normal.  Jesus is everything to me.  The more I’ve grown as a follower of Jesus the more I’ve seen the messiness of my own soul and been exposed to the messiness of others.  The real Jesus meets these real issues in others and me.  That’s a thing I believe.  That’s a thing that Wilson highlights and I deeply appreciate.

2) Beholding is more important than Behaving

He hits something on the head for me while explaining why we don’t try to behold Jesus (something I know I should do, but frankly struggle to do).  He says, “The very fact we consider something familiar sort of stifles any impulse to study it.”  I’ve found this to be true in my devotions lately.  I know the gospel.  I’ve studied it and heard it for most of my life.  The gospel is a thing I talk about all the time and Jesus is a person I talk about all the time.  You know what though, I’m ashamed to admit this, I fall into a pattern of just doing the right thing (behaving) and not looking at Jesus deeply (beholding).

I like how Wilson makes this point early in the book.  He makes it before he gets to chapters that emphasize more common spiritual disciplines like Bible reading or prayer.

3) Spiritual Disciplines are Important

Maybe it is just me, but in the current Christian climate it seems that spiritual disciplines have become almost looked down upon.  Like reading the bible, praying, and attending a local church have become that thing that old people do/did.  I think part of the reason it feels like that is because earlier generations pounded those disciplines so hard that it sounded like doing that stuff was all it took to be close to God.  It felt like they were leaving grace out of the picture.  (I don’t think this is what was actually happening, but it’s what it seemed and felt like).  I like the way Wilson reframes the disciplines:

  • Rhythm of Listening – Study Your Bible
  • Rhythm of Spilling Your Guts – Pray
  • Revolution Will Not Be Instagrammed – Go to church

4) I LOVE Grace

Grace is my favorite thing. Getting what I don’t deserve in God through Jesus.  I LOVE it.  I love how grace is constantly and consistently pounded on throughout the book as the power behind discipleship.  Wilson loves grace, he wrote a whole chapter on it and talks about it throughout.  I need to see that being produces doing.  I need it demonstrated to me.  Wilson does that.

Recommendation:

My wife and I frequently lament the lack of reading in our culture. People don’t pick up books.  They consume Netflix (guilty), Hulu (guilty), Sports Radio (guilty), and gobs of other entertainment.  They just don’t read and consider deep thoughts very much.  I’m hoping that doing these reviews will inspire some to read more.  So I’m going to do a recommendation system I’m calling READ IT.  I feel like most books should be read (I wrote one, you should READ IT).  The more capital letters in the the phrase READ IT the more I recommend the book.

I give Wilson’s book a full READ IT

I think you should.  You can get it on Amazon here.

Do Yourself A Favor: Get OmniFocus 2

My Favorite Task Manager

OmniFocus 2

 

Get OmniFocus 2

Small business owners, pastors, church planters, entrepreneurs, ministry professionals, and anyone who has a lot of freedom in their work needs something to help them stay on task.  OmniFocus 2 is my tool.

If you want to make sure you don’t drop the ball on tasks then please, do yourself a favor… get Omnifocus 2.  I love it.

There are a lot of task managers out there.  This one is highly adaptable to the way that you track your tasks.  I am goal oriented and it helps me track goals through the powerful folders feature.  Within the folder you can setup incremental projects that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.  Inside of those projects you can place your tasks that lead to the accomplishment of the goal.

I don’t recommend products unless I use them.  I literally use this app EVERY DAY.

  • Integrates with Calendars seamlessly.
  • I have it on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
  • Contexts, I use this as a “hats I wear” feature.  It helps me keep things straight as a Husband/Father, Pastor, Network Leader, Business Owner, and Individual.
  • Send tasks directly from email to your task manager.
  • Attach important reference material.
  • The Review Perspective is something I do every Monday as I setup my schedule for the week.
There are lots of people who have done free essential training for OmniFocus 2 online.  Here’s a great resource: https://www.youtube.com/user/learnomnifocus
Let me know if you have questions.  I’d be happy to answer as best I can.

Before Attacking Problems: Pray – 3 Reasons Among Many

Pray First

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wrote earlier this week on my Productive GRACE system.

  1. Get serious about the vision
  2. Required resources
  3. Author a plan
  4. Consistently execute the plan
  5. Effectively adapt to changes

This is the way that I attack problems in everyday life.  The system is scalable and works for long term goals and short term goals alike.  I’m following it up with a few posts that dive in more specifically.  However, there is a pre-step.  The pre-step is prayer.  Pray First!  Prayer is a great gift that believers in Jesus don’t fall on enough.  It almost seems silly to write a list of reasons why we should pray about problems, but I think sometimes we all need reminders and at the very least I need the reminder (and this is my blog).

3 Reasons to Pray First

 

1) We are commanded to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4.6)

When we are anxious, which is what I am when a problem arises, we are told to pray.  I’ve often heard this verse summarized in this way, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.  Pray about the thing that is on your mind and heart.  A loving father wants to hear from his children and specifically about those things that are making their hearts worry.  Pray.

2) Prayer brings peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Talking to my loving Father who also is the Sovereign God of all creation brings peace.  This peace goes beyond our mental capacities to understand, but it is truly there.  The next time you are anxious about some problem or goal, pray about it.

3) Prayer puts things in perspective

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

When we pray about our anxious moments we are reminded that there is something greater than our worries or goals.  There is God’s Kingdom.  Those goals and worries shouldn’t be our first priority.  God’s Kingdom coming is the thing that matters most.  We need to capture perspective.

 

Next we’ll deal with what to do when there are problems.  However, before we talk about attacking problems why don’t you spend some significant time praying about those problems.  Let me point you to Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34 for some further reading and study.