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Pastor Now

How do we redeem our time? How do we prioritize our time and make sure we are focused on the right things? There are plenty of ways to waste our time and to invest our time in things that will never produce the results we desire. In Growing New Churches (training materials by Dynamic Church Planting International) Hal Seed shares tips on dealing with time demands. He gives “Ten Biblical Guidelines for Managing Your Time.”

In last Tuesday’s blog we covered the first five:

  1. Our time is precious!
  2. We will give an account of how we spend our time!
  3. We must seek God regularly to guide our use of time.
  4. We spend the most important time each day with God.
  5. Rest is important for our long term health and therefore our time management.

In Building a Discipling Culture (How to release a missional movement by discipling people like Jesus did) Mike Breen describes two New Testament words that are translated as time. The one we are probably the most familiar with is Chronos which refers to things in a sequential order. This is why we have 24 hour days and a 7 day week. The clicking of the clock is what often drives us to set our goals, timelines, and planning the future. The calendar rules!

Another word for time in the scriptures is Kairos. Breen defines it as, “an event, an opportunity – a moment in time when perhaps everything changes because it is the right time. A kairos moment is when the eternal God breaks into your circumstances with an event that gathers some loose ends of your life and knots them together in his hands. In kairos moments, the rules of chronos time seem to be suspended.”

Our goal in redeeming the time is to make sure that God is directing our day. We want our schedule to be under His guidance. Hopefully, we desire to be the best stewards of our time that we possibly can be in taking advantage of every opportunity that we have to advance His kingdom.

Here are the next 5 biblical guidelines in managing your time:

6. Saying ‘no’ to good uses of time to say ‘yes’ to the best uses. Martha and Mary’s response to Jesus’ visit in Luke 10:39-42 is a great example. Mary said no to housework and hospitality while saying yes to sitting at His feet. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. It is easy to allow busy work to distract us from important work. Most have a ‘to-do’ list but we would wise to also have a ‘don’t-do’ list. What should you stop doing so you can focus on something of greater importance?

7. The best use of our time is to prepare believers to do ministry. There is no better use of our time than discipling and mentoring others. Joby Martin has said, “The measure of your success is more about who you raise than what you’ve accomplished.” Dave Ferguson puts it this way, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction.” Do you have an easily reproducible plan for leadership development?

8. Avoiding or procrastinating important tasks is often a result of ungodly presumption and laziness. Mark Twain suggested that if there was something you knew you needed to do that day but did not want to you should go ahead and “swallow the frog.” Get it over with and behind you. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

9. Busyness does not equal godliness or productivity. Every job requires our taking care of tasks that are unpleasant and we do not enjoy. Do not avoid the unpleasant but important tasks. Resist the temptation to only spend your time on the things that are ‘sexy’ or ‘fun’ to you. Are you only busy doing ministry or are you busy multiplying ministry through others?

10. We must plan the wise use of our time. Psalms 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Listen to the wisdom of Bill Bright, “For many years, one of the first things I do every morning is to evaluate all the day’s competing demands against one single criterion: How will each opportunity enable me to maximize my contribution to helping fulfill the Great Commission? I prioritize accordingly. Some of the demands go to the top of my list, some down the list, and some get eliminated.”

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!