I have recently embarked on a foray into the field of effectiveness and efficiency with one of my colleagues; that is, I desire to be more productive and my colleague and I are reading a book on the topic.
The book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, is written by Matt Perman. Perman is an author, speaker, and consultant who looks to help people work and influence the culture in a gospel-centered way. Matt is also the author of Creating a Business Plan that Actually Works.
Of particular interest to me, and part of the reason why my colleague and I chose this book, is because Perman worked at Desiring God for 13 years. Desiring God has had a significant impact on our lives and ministry and we wanted to approach and study the whole productivity topic from a solid Biblical and theological perspective. The connection to Desiring God convinced us that this was a good place to start and we were not disappointed.
The first quarter of the book What’s Best Next considers ideas around productivity and effectiveness from a theological foundation. This is a significant step for me because I find much of the church-as-a-business paradigm I have come across misguided and off-putting. This book begins by securing the discussion to Biblical thinking and theological arguments.
I thought I would share some of the author’s Biblically-informed ideas. Specifically, I found some of the ways in which anchored the productivity-related issues to who God is and how He works very helpful. In fact, I was a little suspicious that this type of talk and jargon might actually be counter-Christian. But Perman’s discussion on the need for us to center our productivity (and all of life for that matter) on God is both edifying and interesting. Consider some of the ideas that Perman develops below which are excerpts from pages 56 and 57 of What’s Best Next.
1. We will give an account to God of how we spent our time.
The apostle Paul states, "For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.... Each of us will give an account of himself to God, (Rom. 14:10, 12). This means that God is the ultimate measure and judge of our productivity.
2. Excluding God is the ultimate in unproductivity.
Jesus makes an important statement in Luke 9:25: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" Now that is the ultimate in unproductivity: gaining the entire world but losing yourself … If you get everything you want in this life, but do it apart from God and receive no eternal value from what you’ve done, have you been productive? Not in the slightest.
3. God offers ultimate productivity.
When we are productive in Christ and for his sake, everything we do has an eternal impact. Literally everything. "In everything he does, he prospers" (Ps. 1:3) If we care about productivity, then it makes sense that we would want the things we do to have an eternal impact and last forever. That's the ultimate in productivity.
4. God answers our need for fulfilment.
Jesus said, "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water we up to eternal life" (John 4:14) … The ultimate reason to center your life and productivity on God is because Jesus is worth it.
5. God does a better job of planning our lives than we ever can.
While it is important for us to make plans and work for those plans to succeed, we don't want to fall into the trap of planning our entire lives in meticulous detail, for this simple reason: we are finite and fallible creatures. You don't want to be the one to plan your whole life, because God does a better job than you ever will. Again, there is a place for planning. But if your plans are never upset or disrupted, if all that happens to you is something you have planned, your productivity will be very limited.
These are just a few examples of some of the theology that is foundational to how Perman engages notions of productiveness and effectiveness. I am just beginning the sections on how one can practically apply these doctrinally-rich principles. I hope that the book continues to stretch how I think about these ideas and will eventually help change the way I do things, for the glory of God.