Too Busy Not To Read

I love to ask people what they’ve read recently that they enjoyed and would recommend. The wide array of responses I get back are always interesting. But about half the time I ask this I get back something like, “I haven’t read anything lately. I don’t have time to read right now. I’m really busy.” It’s amazing how we can find time for TV shows, movies, Netflix, social media, bad football (Chicago Bears), and plenty of other things. Think about your past month and year. Outside of work and sleep, what did you fill your time with the most?

Now, I love everything I just listed above and take plenty of time in a week to watch through some of my ever growing Netflix queue or watch bad football (Chicago Bears). But I also have made it a priority to read. I once heard from a professor that the only difference between you now and you in five years are the books you read. I agree with this. I believe reading challenges us, entertains us and grows us. Reading grows us for today and prepares us for what is to come in the future. The argument could be made that reading is so important to our personal development that it is too important for us not to read.

One of my favorite explanations of how little time it takes each day to work through books comes from John Piper in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. While this book is written for pastors (and please forgive the complementarian book title) I believe this section of the book applies to all people that want to grow in their personal lives and further develop themselves in any subject. Here is what John Piper writes,

“Suppose you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-in-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 x 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year” (80).

Twenty minutes a day. That’s all it takes. How many hours a day or in a week do you watch sports? How many hours watching tv shows? Or movies? Or cruising Facebook and Twitter? Again, these are not terrible things. I watch plenty of tv and sports, but I have made it a priority to read at a minimum of 20 minutes each day for the past few years. If you set aside only 20 minutes at some point just think how much you could grow in a year if you were able to read 15 books.

I want to challenge you to start this today. I had a boss who when I shared this section of this book with him he told me once a day at a certain time to come into his office, remind him it was that time and he would stop whatever he was doing and would read for 20 minutes. Maybe you don’t have the luxury to do that at work, but what about before work or after work? Or after the kids go to bed? Or when you go to bed? Challenge yourself to grow. It doesn’t take much time, and it is too important for you not to read.

How many books would you like to read in 2017? My goal is 75 this year. I’d love to hear yours!

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Brothers, Let Us Pray

How astonishing it is that God wills to do His work through people. It is doubly astonishing that He ordains to fulfill His plans by being asked to do so by us. (…) I was amazed once to hear a seminary graduate say how adequate he felt for the ministry after his years of schooling. This was supposed to be a compliment to the school. The reason this amazed me is that the greatest theologian and missionary and pastor who ever lived cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). Not because he was a bungler but because the awful calling of emitting the fragrance of eternal life for some and eternal death for others was a weight he could scarcely bear. A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit–which is the only kind that matters–knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights only on what man can achieve.

Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to “nothing.” For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer. (…) Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers. It is un-American to be so impractical as to devote oneself to prayer and meditation two hours a day. And sometimes I fear that our seminaries conform to this deadly pragmatism that stresses management and maneuvering as ways to get things done with a token mention of prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Refuse to believe that the daily hours Luther and Wesley and Brainerd and Judson spent in prayer are idealistic dreams of another era.

-John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Revising the Beatitudes to Fit Today’s Pastor

I read Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification a couple months ago, and I have continued to return to it over this time as it greatly challenge and encouraged me. I wanted to post a brief selection from the book as Wilson has well articulated an area of the church and pastoral ministry that I have struggled with greatly. My struggle has focused around the business management mentality of many churches and pastors today, and getting away from what I feel a what biblical pastoral ministry and church looks like.

Wilson here is rewriting the Beatitudes to fit more of today’s pastors and church based on what he has seen sell out ministry conferences regularly today.  Take a look at the revised Beatitudes for today’s self-confident church:

Blessed are the type-A personalities,

    for theirs is the enjoyment of success.

Blessed are those who remain unfazed,

   for they will be self-confident.

Blessed are the powerful,

   for they will inherit celebrity status.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for temporary success,

   for they will have their reward.

Blessed are the dynamic purveyors of religion,

   for they will be the envy of many.

Blessed are the pushy,

   for they will have much to be proud of.

Blessed are the cool,

   for they will be called gurus.

Blessed are those who are recognized because of their achievements,

   for theirs is the renown among men. (83)

This section really helped me affirm my struggles with the business management style of leadership in many churches today, and the rest of the book encouraged me in guiding the pastor and church back to Christ and to serving His kingdom in a servant-hearted manner.

Organizational Culture Matters

Organizational culture is a big deal. But it usually does not get the proper attention it deserves. An organization’s culture is directly connected to the organization’s mission and vision, and how this is cast to people inside and outside.  There is nothing better than seeing people within an organization that have bought into the mission and vision, and are living it out together. This is how a culture within an organization grows in a healthy way. People understand the mission/vision, live it and show it through their work.

Here is where many organizations go wrong. Many organizations either try to force a culture on it’s people or simply don’t put an emphasis on this and there isn’t a healthy organizational culture within. An organization that forces a culture on it’s people usually has not properly cast the mission and vision to their organization, and usually just assume that people know it. The problem is most times they do not. People will create their own culture out of the mission and vision that they also create as most important. The other side of a forced culture usually comes in the form of forced fun. Nothing is worse than forced fun in an organization to replace a properly cast mission and vision. Making people “have fun” is like being forced to watch the birthday boy open up all his presents at his party. The only people having fun are him and his mom.

I wanted to connect this to my last post that talked about the danger of striving after the idol of importance. As a leader, you will create the culture of your organization by how you lead and how you interact with people. Either you will create the culture of your organization or the culture will create itself, either by each individual or each department. What you value and share, your people will value and share. What you prioritize, your people will prioritize. How you act and treat others is how your people will act and treat others. You will create your organization’s culture simply by how you lead and interact. You must be aware of this as a leader, and be intentional about creating a culture within your organization. This comes out of casting your organization’s mission and vision constantly and continuously in everything you do. Organizational culture matters. Make sure you are intentional in creating it.

The Idol of Importance

If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all. -Mark 9:35

I’ve noticed a trend amongst people today. We think we are important. It’s as simple as that. We show this by what we say, how we act and how we prioritize our lives. It shows in how we drive, it shows in how we talk to others, it shows in how we work, it shows in how we interact with others on social media, it shows in how we act in different situations. I saw this on display just this morning when I witnessed a woman yell at a barista for messing up her order. I mean full out yelled. We think we are the most important person there is, and we have fallen prey to the idol of importance. We think we are the most important person in our lives, and it shows in how we live.

 I’ve also noticed this trend within churches, mainly from within leadership and from pastors. Many pastors and leaders within churches have become so consumed with their value or their measurement of importance that they don’t seem to have much time for anyone else around them. This is seen in what they say, how they act and how they interact with others (inside and outside the organization). It worries me when pastors and leaders don’t have time for people simply because they feel they are too important.

There is an idol of importance in individual leaders that can be very dangerous to an organization, but there can also be an idol of importance that comes out of a desire for more. More followers, more people, more hits, etc. The number is all that matters, and this can easily lead to an idol of importance. When we place a higher value on how many people follow us on Twitter or how many Retweets we can get or how many people attend our church or event, we have begun to focus on ourselves and our own self-worth and importance. When Paul is leaving the Ephesian church I love what he says in the middle of his address to them in, “I consider my life worth nothing to me (Acts 20:24). When we value ourselves over other people, and believe we are too important to serve others we have forgotten this message. We have forgotten that our worth and value is found in Christ-alone, and we are called to be a servant of all. This trend worries me as I see pastors and leaders who are more focused on sheer numbers or followers, or must have a witty comment on Twitter at all times.

We all need to be reminded that we are not important. We aren’t. Christ is important, and we are to make much of Him. We should not strive after importance, but instead should put our energies into Kingdom pursuits and showing the importance and worth of Christ. I’ve fallen for the idol of importance plenty of times in my life, but I’ve also come to realize that to make much of Christ I cannot also make much of myself in the process.