Quick update

Dear supportive readers,

I’m sorry I’ve missed a couple of days and will likely miss a few more. Work is pretty busy at the moment, with a few deadlines all coming up together.

The result? I’m burning the candle at both ends. So I’m having to be extra cautious and sensible with how I use my free time.

All is well, and God is good. But this is a busy season. Will try and get back on with blogs next weekend.

Best wishes and thanks for your prayers

Paul

Time Management – 6 Myths

Peter Drucker, known for much sage advice, has said that: ‘Time is inelastic (it can’t be stretched), irreplaceable (it can’t be replaced or reclaimed), and indispensable (it can’t be done without)!’

In other words, time is important and how we manage it is also important.

In order to manage our time well, it helps to understand it as well. To this end, please find below a list of 6 myths surrounding time management in a leadership context:

  1. We are individually responsible for saving the world. Few people will admit believing this myth, but our actions speak louder than words. I am definitely guilty of this, thinking the whole system rests on my shoulders. The clinical trial I work on in my day job. The wellbeing of my family and friends. The Spiritual health of those I’m discipling. It is so easy to succumb to the belief that it all rests on me. Not only is this bad time management, it is bad theology. Yes, may we take as much responsibility as is appropriate for our actions and input, but let us not mistake this responsibility for what it is. A gift from God, that we are to steward with thanksgiving, and humility. Humility to admit, it doesn’t all depend on me.

The Vision – as recorded by Pete Greig – in the 24/7 prayer movements has a couple of lines about the ‘rising generation’: “They pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them!

May our prayers be the evidence that we do not hold to this myth.

2. Time is running out, too little is left of it. Yes, time is short and the days are evil. But just as the farmer has learned patience, he is the one who has learned that the best things grow in time. All we can do is follow the proper sequence of planting, cultivating and harvesting. No harvest can be enlarged by frantically hurrying about. In fact, to mix metaphors, if we pull an cake out of the oven before it is ready, we will have wasted time rather than saved it.

3. A leader must be constantly available for all emergencies. This comes out of the belief that was outlined above. God has made us in such a way that we are not omni-present. We are not everywhere at once and we can’t be. In fact when we try, we will only hurt, disillusion and frustrate others. Yes, there is a time to be sacrificial with our availability, but not at the expense of pretending to be God.

4. Rest and recreation are 2nd class uses of time. If you are anything like me, you will be tempted to view working time, and productive time, and efficient activities more highly than reading a book, having a quiet time, being still, watching tv, eating a nice meal. But God Himself, engaged in rest. And it was not a 2nd class use of His time. Rather it was a time where He blessed creation, dedicated it as holy, and admired His work. Next time, you are pressured to surrender rest and recreation, to the demands of workaholism. Consider, if this is wise.

5. Burn out is heroic. I used to think this one. Even though I never ever would have admitted it. I used to think the burnout pastor, spiritual leader was like a battle worn soldier. Until I came to that point myself. There is nothing heroic about burnout, and in fact, it is often symptomatic of a lack of faith and trust in God. Yes, may we be people – who like Paul – ‘strenuously contend with all the energy that Christ supplies us’ (Col 1:28-29). But may we not seek to go beyond that, into reserves of fuel that He has not provided. This is the path to bitterness, resentment and judgementalism.

6. Family must pay the price. Many a Pastor’s family have been told this lie. “Since your husband, wife, father, mother is in ministry you must lose out on deep relationship with him/her”. This is nonsense, and in fact, according to the Bible, will actually disqualify a person from leadership. For if a person cannot keep their house in order how can they be trusted with the household of God. Keeping our house in order, is more than forcing kids to go to school and not take drugs. It is about representing Christ to them, loving them sacrificially (even at the expense of work, reputation and promotion) and being so present that you become an example to them in their faith.

I hope this has helped debunk some common leadership related time-myths. For further reading:

Bible Stories: Moses (Exodus 18), Jesus (Matthew14:9-16)

Wisdom: Ephesians 5:15-16, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, James 4:13-15, Matthew 6:25-34 (with focus on verse 33).

Tuesday Tools: Cull the Excess

For the last couple of months I’ve been constructing my own productivity theory. (Forgive me if someone has already beaten me to it!) It’s a cross between minimalism and the theory of diminishing returns!

The premise of this theory is that human beings are not good at handling excess, in fact we thrive in a sweet spot between having too much and having too little.

Before we begin, let’s think about the different areas in which we may find ourselves with an unhealthy surplus:

1) Time: it seems very few people in the western world claim to have an “excess of time”, rather it seems most people are busy – all the time. (All the time – people are busy!). But I don’t think that is true. I honestly don’t. I think for most people, they have an excess of time available and they spend it poorly. And soon wonder, “where’s all the time gone”. (If time was really as limited as we claim, I don’t think Netflix, YouTube or social media would be as popular as it is) – we’d all be too busy for it.

2) Money: again, few people will claim they have more money than they need. But apparently, if you earn £20K a year, you are in the richest (10%) of the global population. The truth is, you are more likely to have excess money, and spend it poorly than to not have enough. See for yourself in this online calculator: https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i

3) Other areas might include, resources, space, material possessions, relationships and a surplus of movie choices. Apparently the affects of excess are felt even when you increase the amount of desktop monitors beyond 3 or 4.

Again, I reckon my theory is closely connected to the theory of diminishing returns as well as minimalism. However, I have always associated minimalism with possessions and having a clear house, whereas my theory is about time, money and other resources – for the specific purposes of productivity.

So why does the excess need culling? Is it so bad? Why can’t I keep it? You may be wondering these questions or similar ones. So let me unpack why it is so essential that we examine the excess in our lives and seek to “cull it”.

I) Excess hinders our creativity and therefore makes us sloppy. When we have more than we need, we don’t have to think of creative solutions to problems, we can just fix it with an inefficient, imprecise, expensive solution. Like using a sledgehammer to hit a nail into plywood.

For example, the other day I noticed my laptop was heating up, because I use it all day. My first thought was “I need to buy a laptop stand, to prop up the back and give the fans some room”. This is because I have excess money (though of course I don’t tell myself that). And after resisting the urge to impulse buy, a luxury not available to those without excess, I decided to simply fold a piece of cardboard up and wedge it under the back of my laptop. Problem solved.

II) Excess isn’t appreciated appropriately and therefore wasted. When we have more than we need, we don’t see the value of what we’ve got. We become flippant and wasteful in how we spend the resource (be it time or money). We forget the importance of optimisation.

III) Excess makes us ungrateful and therefore leads us to jealousy. Linked to the point above, when we have an unnecessary surplus we become ungrateful. A lack of gratitude soon spirals down into comparison games, jealousy and wishing we had what others have, instead of enjoying and appreciating the gifts we have come to take for granted. If you are struggling with envy, one of the best things you can do is look round and be grateful for what you already have.

In this post we have explored some of the areas we may find ourselves with surplus, and the damaging affects of excess. In Thursday’s post we will explore, what to do with our bounty and specifically ‘how do we cull?’

Let me end with a quote from Proverbs (a wisdom book in the Bible) to soak in your mind. It is a prayer of a wise man who is asking God for two things, it is the second that is of most interest to us:

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Part 2 God Provides, We Steward

The second thing that I’ve learnt from studying these 34 verses is that God provides. We mentioned it in the last post as one of God’s activities in Genesis 1. In the story God provides: breath, life, food, work and relationships. But there are two other subtle gifts that God has given.

These provisions will be explored in this post.

1. God Provides Authority

Notice the various words for authority in the passage: “Rule”, “Dominion”, “Subdue”.

The sun, moon and stars are told to ‘rule’ and govern the night and day, the light and darkness. Additionally, mankind is told to have ‘dominion’ over the animals and to ‘subdue’ the earth. In Hebrew these are three different words Rule, Dominion and Subdue (Mashal, Radah, Kabash).

One of the few significant things I have learned about leadership over the last few years, is that competent and confident leaders are not afraid to give away authority – or to delegate it. It is often because we fear being usurped, out-done or overshadowed that we are most tempted to “hoard” our power. So in delegating authority God reveals His confidence and competence.

We may be stingy with our authority is because we are scared of losing control. Giving it away to other people’s is a risk. In doing so we open up the opportunity for others to wreck havoc on our “master-plan”. God’s choice to give authority to His creation reveals His confidence in His own power and sovereignty. He knows that nothing is too far gone for Him to redeem – as in fact He will later do!

We see this same kind of faith extended towards humanity by Jesus, when He leaves the “keys of the kingdom” in the hands of a man who would soon deny Him three times! We see Jesus again, trusting man, when He commits the future of the Church to 11 unqualified fishermen, and one man who was the “worst of sinners” (Paul).

The fact that God provides authority to those He has created demonstrates His power and ability to save.

It also re-affirms the truth that ‘People are God’s Plan A’. In the book ‘How People Grow’, the authors argue that God’s number one plan for getting His people to move into maturity is through other people! God is less about “zapping” people to maturity and more about relationally nurturing them into it!

But God doesn’t just provide authority and power…

God provides Order(ed-time) in the midst of Chaos

One of the things the commentators picked up on, which I totally missed, was how God provides order. We see it in the layout of six days, the first three days are spent creating spaces, whilst the second three days are spent creating creatures to fill those places. We also see it when it says that the world was ‘formless and void’ and that ‘darkness was over the face of the deep’ – a state of chaos. The Hebrew words “Bohu” and “Tohu” are used. But God brings order when He speaks, light, form and purpose into the world.

The commentator of ‘The Message of Genesis’, went further to remind me that it didn’t have to be done this way. In fact God could have created a world of chaos. Where there would be no rules, no rationality, no patterns, in this kind of “contingency” science would not have been possible. However, science is possible and does exist because creation has been made in such a way that we can see patterns, logic and order.

It is because we can expect the law of gravity to work that we can map out black holes in the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

(In other words, it is because God has created a ‘cosmos of order’ that the theory of the Big Bang could even exist!) Mind-blowing!

This provision of order, is very clearly seen in the uses of stars, sun and moon to demonstrate ‘signs, seasons, days and years’. Time is possible because God made it so. He has provided time.

Taking this one step further: Not only has God provided chronological time (Greek: Chronos), He has also provided significant moments of time in which He moves (Greek: Kairos). The mention of the various lights to serve as ‘signs to mark sacred times’ implies these Kairos moments. These are instances when ‘God invests in our time, turning Chronos moments into Kairos moments’! This is a big concept to mention in a post on its own – forgive me! (I’m just making connections!)

“A Kairos moment is when God breaks into your circumstances” (Building a discipline culture – Breen)

God has Provided and therefore we need to Steward well

Since God has provided so much, including authority and ‘ordered-time’, it is our responsibility to steward these resources well. This is one way we can labour for others to pursue God’s heart.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches through parables the importance of stewardship. What God has given us, He expects us to use, invest and manage wisely. This includes resources such as time and authority.

In my times with God this week I’ve been thinking about the various positions of authority I have, as well as the amount of time I have at my disposal. I want to make the most of the time God has given me and invest it well.

All this is to mention nothing of our responsibility to steward this planet well!