Friday, September 28, 2018

Alignment - Conclusion

Over the past four months I have shared a part of my recent journey related to personal effectiveness. This series of posts developed because I had become stuck and was not accomplishing all that was before me. As I mentioned in the early posts, I completed what I had to do, and did it well, but I was not moving forward as I needed to do.

The hard part for me was that I am normally a productive person (or at least I thought I was). But due to that season in my life (no more than 6 months total and the worst of it was only a couple of months), I have learned some things about myself and about being productive. That was the purpose of these posts - to share my lessons to help any of you avoid similar traps and/or to find a means to break free quickly.

So, let me share a few key thoughts in this post, the final post in this series.

Planning is Biblical

I know many people like to be spontaneous, but for the most part I am not. I am, however, much better about this than I used to be. For instance, in an upcoming vacation, I know the city where I will be on which day, I know the hotel and car I will have, but I am not making plans for each day until that day (or perhaps the night before). Yes, I have identified a few places I would like to visit, but I have not determined which day or time - which I would have already considered in the past. But I digress. So, my trip has a little spontaneity, but overall I am a planner.

Planning is biblical. If we look at the lives of David, Nehemiah, Paul, etc. we will find that these individuals made plans. Sometimes the plans were changed (e.g. when the Spirit kept Paul and his companions from going to Asia and went to Macedonia (Philippi) instead - Acts 16.6-12), but plans were made nonetheless. So, we plan and then leave them to God by saying, and meaning, "if the Lord wills" (James 4.15). I would encourage you to read some verses just from the book of Proverbs (Pr. 14.15, 15.22, 16.33, 16.9*, 20.18, 16.3, 21.5) for a quick look at what the Bible says about our plans). Again, make plans, even detailed plans, but trust God.

*Over the past two years, Proverbs 16.9 has really been a guiding principle for me in this area.


Effectiveness and Productivity Are Different

Today's buzzword surrounding the ideas from this series is productivity. We hear about apps that make our life productive. We have tools (software and hardware) designed to do the same. A plethora of books have been released over the past few years related to the idea of productivity. All of this is fine, but I would rather be effective than productive.

Admittedly, the two ideas are related, but productivity is more comparable to efficiency than effectiveness. Productivity and efficiency are elements in being effective, but I can choose to do things very efficiently and be very productive at issues which have no real impact on myself, on others, or on anything of value (or for God). Additionally, I can be efficient at accomplishing a task and making matters worse. For instance, if I was to clean the garage, I could get done more quickly if I threw away everything that was out of place, but how would that help me later? It would not help, so the process of cleaning out a mess in that way might be very efficient, but ineffective.

Therefore, the term I chose to use most of the time in this series is effectiveness (or personal effectiveness). Sometimes being effective means slowing down to do things well instead of just accomplishing them. As a pastor this certainly relates to sermon preparation. As a teacher this could relate to preparing lessons. Over time, we can become more efficient in these processes, but the goal of preaching and teaching is to be effective. However, let's look even deeper. Effectiveness as a pastor (and a caring teacher) also includes spending time with others. Depending upon the person that could be categorized as a very inefficient use of time, but in a moment or need, it may be the most effective thing I can do.

Again, the current buzzword is productivity. And personal productivity is nicely alliterative. But I urge you not to consider yourself effective unless you are accomplishing a purpose that needs to be accomplished. The words the Christian should long to hear are "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25.21, 23). While some of us are called to do more than others, the key is doing them well, which is to be effective.


Personal Effectiveness Is An Important Issue

For a variety of reasons, I have recently asked my daughter to help me with this blog. One of the biggest reasons is so that I do not fall into the efficiency trap and overlook the need to proofread. She has only been helping for the past few months (sometime after this series started), but she gives me thoughts, helps correct typos and minor grammar issues (hopefully minor!), in addition to helping make this blog a little more professional.

As we were talking about the new host for this blog (see below), she mentioned how much she has enjoyed this refresher as she has read the posts. She mentioned Tim Challies' book Do More Better, and said that he and I have basically shared many of the same ideas. I was aware of Challies' book, but I have not read it, and now apparently do not need to do so. But the point is that many new books on the subject have been written, and many experts have written on the matter. Some of us may not be experts per se, but the growing number of voices shows this is an important issue in all of society, and particularly in the realm of ministry.

As I mention to my students each term, the Bible does not record every moment of Jesus' life (it records relatively little of it in actuality), but what we do know about Jesus is that every action He took was intentional. Furthermore, Jesus had no idle time. Even when He got up early to pray or take a nap someone would come to interrupt Him (e.g. Mark 1.35-39, Mark 4.38). If we are to be like Jesus, then we need to take the idea of effectiveness seriously.

So, we need to take this issue seriously. We must submit our plans to God, but if we are to accomplish all that He wants us to accomplish, we must also consider if we need to change our current approach and, if so, how we can become better at living our lives effectively.

With that, I will put a wrap on this series. And with that, I put a wrap on this blog being hosted on Blogger. I did not realize this until today, but I began this blog on the first of October and will end it at the end of September. 6 years have passed between that starting and ending point, but Blogger has served me well during that time.


Moving to WordPress on fotonni.com


As I mentioned above, my daughter is now helping me with some of the editing and especially the look of this blog.  The time has come to move forward with this blog. For us, that means moving to WordPress. For the time being, we will leave the old content here. We also plan to move some of the posts to the new site as part of an upcoming series.

The new blog will actually be hosted on our ministry website fotonni.com. To access the blog, you can follow the link to http://fotonni.com/hp_wordpress/. The content will largely be the same, but I will include my current reading list and some comments about the books I am reading along the way.

The plan is to continue to post new content each Friday, so the introductory post will be Oct 5. Beginning, Tuesday, Oct 9, we will begin to move some of the content over beginning with one post per week on the extended series from 2017 on the 4L's and how they relate to vision, mission, and strategy.

So, until next week, at our new home, I hope you will find yourself being productive. More importantly, I hope you are effective in what you are doing.