Tag: Productivity

Piper on Pressure and Productivity

Brothers we are not profA quote has been firmly wedged in my mind since I finished John Piper’s Brothers we are not Professionals that I thought I would share with you.  It has been tremendously helpful to me as I have let it simmer in my heart over the past few days.

In the chapter, Brothers, Read Christian Biography, Piper reflects on the lives of some of the most fruitful and, in terms of sheer output, most productive men in church history.  One man in particular was Karl Barth.  Although Barth was massively productive during much of his life, when he retired from his professorship in 1962, T.H.L Parker tells us he “lost the stimulus provided by the need to give lectures.”  Exactly what this means in regards to Barth’s actual output after he retired I am not sure, but Piper seems to interpret it negatively: on the flap of the book, Piper wrote in response,”Has greatness emerged from anything but pressure?  If greatness is to be servant of all, must we not be under authority, under demand, pushed, pressed?”  In other words, when the pressure stops, so does the productivity.

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The Importance of a Note-Keeping and Retrieval System

I once heard a college professor say that the best scholars are not necessarily those who are the smartest, but those who know how to best access the information. I think (and hope) he is right. This applies to two aspects of scholarship:(1) research and (2) note-keeping and retrieval. I want to focus on the latter.

If we know how to take and store our notes in a way that is not only easy but also highly-accessible, then we will make good use of our time and effort; what we learn now will be ready for us to use 5, 10, 20, 30 (yes, think long term) years from now. On the other hand, if we do not have a way in which we can store and retrieve notes, much of our time studying and reading and thinking and writing may be wasted; not completely wasted, but not as profitable as it could be.

As a positive illustration, take one of my professors, Dr. Donald Whitney. During the last few days of the semester, Dr. Whitney conducted a Q & A where he answered any remaining questions we had about the class (Spiritual Disciplines). One question regarded his method of note keeping. In answering the question, he mentioned how he had recently been asked to write an article for a popular Christian magazine. He was given very little notice, however—the article had to be submitted soon. Yet, when he heard the topic of the article, he breathed a sigh of relief: he had a file folder full of solid and previously sifted information on that very topic.

Had he researched for that article? Yeah—for over thirty years, as he, week after week, placed what he found to be helpful pieces of information about that subject into his file cabinet. Now he just needed to open the file and let it spill out onto paper. The article was written before he ever typed a word.

As a negative illustration, just consider the last 20 books you read. What did you learn from them? What sentences and paragraphs convicted, encouraged, admonished and taught you? What footnotes enlightened your understanding on a particular issue that was not germane to the subject matter of the book? What ever happened to that excellent illustration of courage you read about in that book on World War II? What page was it on? Even more to the point: how will you access that information for later use in sermons, articles, blogs, counseling, and other teaching opportunities? The crushing truth is that much of this information is lost, or, at best, hidden somewhere difficult to remember. All that reading and so little to show for it.

Much of our labor as pastors, teachers, and professors will be the gathering and distribution of useful knowledge. Our care to maintain a note-taking and retrieval system, then, is not a matter of preference, but a matter of stewardship.

Blogging and Making the Most of Our Time (2): Two Important Clarifications

As I reflected on my post from Monday, I came to the conclusion that I was probably guilty of two faults: (1) Drawing a false dichotomy between blogging and evangelism and; (2) not emphasizing the goodness of Christian blogging as a ministry. Please forgive my carelessness. I will attempt to clarify these two issues in the following paragraphs.

Blogging and Evangelism
Under the heading Don’t Let Blogging Replace Clear, Biblical Priorities, I mentioned that one of those priorities that should not be set aside by blogging was evangelism. What I had in mind here was face-to-face evangelism like evangelism to neighbors, co-workers, family members and the like. This principle tied in to the previous heading, Don’t Let Blogging Outweigh Your Time With Others. However, I can see that this might be confusing because it almost sounds like engaging in dialog with an unbeliever through a blog, or through an email as a result of interaction on a blog, is not evangelism; or that true evangelism must only be done face-to-face. I do not think that is true. Evangelism does not necessarily need to be conducted face-to-face; it can happen through letters, blogs, email, phone, video, and other means.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that since we live in a digital age, where the Internet is almost a new kind of Piazza, Christians have massive opportunity to spread the gospel through their blogs. Our blogs can be a means by which we expound and proclaim the Christian faith, where we can interact with unbelievers about the content of our blog, and where we can provide spiritual resources to those who are under conviction and desire salvation.

What can happen, however, and what I am trying to guard us against, is that we can make the mistake of only doing virtual evangelism and gradually drift away from face-to-face evangelism. Why? Probably because it is easier to evangelize through the computer. The spears of anger, confrontation, and ridicule are significantly blunted when they have to pass from the keyboard to our monitors. We can take that, and even end up feeling pretty good about our “courage.” Let us not be deceived!

Blogging as a Ministry
As I tried to show in the previous few paragraphs, blogs can be used as a ministry to unbelievers. They can be used as a ministry to the Church as well. That is one thing I have tried to do with this blog: provide helpful spiritual resources to Christian men and women, both young and old. And there are a host of other blogs serving the Church with their book reviews, essays, personal thoughts, and links to other good websites. I believe this can be rich and effective ministry if done well and according to God’s Word. Again, my only warning is that we are careful to not allow our blog time prevail over our personal (face-to-face) interaction with others.

Yet, there are some precious members of the body of Christ who are relegated to a wheelchair, or who are mostly homebound because of disabilities, and who are rarely able to get out and about, who may find that they can have a fruitful ministry online hosting a blog or website. If this is your situation, and you have despaired of finding ministries with which you can serve others (or even if you have not yet despaired), then I would encourage you to pray and think about this as a possible ministry, while at the same time seeking out personal fellowship with other Christians as much as you are able.

So in even in above case, I realize I need to be careful to not draw such a hard and fast line with blogging. Some may sense a leading to spend more time working on their blog or website, some may choose to spend less. In either case, what is important is that we are being guided by biblical principles (like those I have tried to lay out, though somewhat clumsily, in the last post) as we think about blogging.

The Internet is a wonderful tool for evangelism and ministry; may we use it wisely, purposefully, fruitfully, and above all, for the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Photo: David Lofink

Blogging and Making the Most of Our Time

Time is precious. God intends (requires!) His children to plan and spend their time wisely. “Make the most of your time, for the days are evil,” Paul exhorts the Ephesian church; “Help me to number my days so that I may present to you a heart of wisdom” the Psalmist pleads before God (Ephesians 5:16; Psalm 90:12).

Yet if we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we do not always spend our time as wisely as we should. Our time is often carelessly tossed aside by watching television, taking part in fruitless conversations, procrastination, poor (or no) planning, laziness, lack of discipline, web-surfing, and a multitude of other trivial activities that so easily creep into our day.

Blogging, unfortunately, can become yet another time waster. We can spend an inordinate amount of time in the comment sections of other blogs, engage in long and tedious debates with other bloggers; or we can allow our blog writing to consume our lives and push out other, more important, priorities. I hate to break it to you, but unless your livelihood is derived from blogging, or unless it is a duty that you owe an employer, then I would say that blogging is not a high priority. It is only a hobby.

This is why it is important as Christians who have been entrusted with a stewardship of precious minutes and hours and days, to make the most of our time in regards to our blogging. Let me suggest a few principles.

Don’t Let Blogging Outweigh Your Time with Others
This is very important. Our time in virtual interaction should never replace personal fellowship. It is unwise and unhealthy to neglect person-to-person relationships for computer-to-computer communication. While the Bible does not forbid socializing through computers (or other technology), I would argue that the tenor of Scripture upholds face to face fellowship as the norm. Sometimes this is not possible, but where it is, it should be sought and cherished.

Spend Your Blogging Time Purposefully
It is good to have time of recreation and blogging can be a fruitful time of recreation if it is spent purposefully. In America, however, we have bought into the misguided notion that leisure means laziness and the absence of discipline. True recreation, I would contend, is neither laziness or the absence of discipline, but rather a time set aside where we take part in a different kind of activity than that which characterizes our regular activities.

So set aside a certain time that you will spend writing and stick to it. Plan what you are going to write about. Have a plan for how you will visit other people’s blogs and the amount of time you will spend there. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending much more time than you ever intended to spend.

Don’t Let Your Time Blogging Replace Clear, Biblical Priorities
Clear, Biblical priorities like taking care of our families, fulfilling our duties at home, spending time with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading, fellowship with other Christians, serving in our local church body, evangelism, and working at our jobs and our studies with excellence. We will find abiding satisfaction when we seek faithfulness in the work God has laid out for us to do. On the other hand, experience tells us that the neglect of our responsibilities usually leaves us dry, frustrated, and unfulfilled.

So exercise discipline when it comes to your blogging. Consider the stewardship of time that God has entrusted you with and establish your priorities. And follow the apostle Paul and “make the most of your time for the days are evil.”

Photo: Frankieleon