Develop a “STOP-DOING” List

Building Margin

     We have all heard statements such as, “Keep the main thing the main thing!”  The problem is that we are tempted to believe that more is better.  We add more activities, more programs, and more ministries thinking that they will provide what is needed – more!  Many have long lived by the motto that the only way to be more productive is to work harder,  longer, or both.  Howard Hendricks stated that, “The secret of concentration is elimination.”  Eric Garland says it this way, “The real work isn’t acquisition.  It’s good, reliable filtering.”

     The idea of building margin into our lives and ministry involves developing boundaries that limit how we will utilize our time. The idea of building margin into your life is to remove the unnecessary so that you can focus on the most important things.  It is not only focusing on doing things right but making sure you are doing the right things.  We are often completely focused on our “to-do” lists, but we should also consider making a “stop-doing” list.  What do you need to stop doing so that you can focus on what you should be doing?

     As a church what things should you stop doing so that you can focus on the main things?  Are there programs and activities that are actually keeping you or distracting you from carrying out the Great Commission and obeying the Great Commandment?  In the book Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning stresses the three things every church should focus on:

  • Worship – This is how we stay centered! – Loving God more!
  • Small Groups – This is how we stay connected! – Loving people more!
  • Outreach – This is how we stay concerned! – Loving more people!

One question pastors should ask themselves is, “What do I need to stop doing so that I can intentionally build relationships with people far from God so that I might lead them to Him?”

     As an individual believer what do you need to stop doing so that you remain focused on what God is asking of you?  Paul had a focused determination in obediently following the Lord when he said in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  We are called to three things:

  • Follow Jesus – If you are too busy for daily Bible study and prayer you are too busy. What do you need to place on your “stop doing” list so that you build margin into your schedule for your quiet time with God?
  • Help others Follow Jesus – Are you spending time sharing your faith? How do we build margin into our lives so that we are intentionally building relationships with the unchurched and those far from God?  
  • Help others Help others Follow Jesus – Are we mentoring others to be faithful in the first two? We must have margin in order to implement an intentional leadership development strategy.  Dave Ferguson points this out clearly, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction!”

     In Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “The point of this entire book is not that we should ‘add’ these findings to what we are already doing and make ourselves even more overworked. No, the point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”  Remember, if you want a different result, do something different.

     The answer is not adding to our already over scheduled lives.  More frenetic activity will not in itself make us more effective.  The time has come to develop a filter system that places boundaries in our lives that will enable us determine our “stop-doing” list not just our “to-do” list.  Henry David Thoreau said it this way, “It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is what are we busy about?”  It is easy for our lives and ministries to become cluttered and complex but it takes a determined focus to “make the main thing the main thing!”

     Healthy churches not only desire to things right, they make sure they are focused on the right things!


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