This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Implementing What's Best Next, Part 3


This is the third of three posts on how I've implemented What's Best Next, by Matthew Perman. The first post can be found here. The second post is here

This post is long overdue. I've been busy and, as much as I've wanted to write it, it hasn't been what's best next. I've also realized how hard it is to quantify the impact of WBN on my ministry both at home and at Bethany Community Church. Even reading over this post again, it doesn't capture everything I'd like it to say. I knew it would be that way and so I've delayed writing the post.

But I'm glad it's taken awhile. At a pastors' retreat, I shared some of the things I had learned and implemented from WBN. One of my friends asked a penetrating question that had lurked in the back of my mind and disturbed me to hear articulated: "You've been doing this for 4-5 weeks. Do you really think this can last?" I answered honestly, "I don't know. I sure hope so."

I'm writing this post six months after reading WBN and the answer is, so far, yes. Sure, I haven't been faithful to keep up with everything I've wanted to do. Some things I stopped doing for a few weeks then started doing again. But at this point, I think I can say with confidence that most of the changes I have made are going to be long-lasting.

Knowing I won't be able to communicate the full impact of WBN, here are a few examples of its impact on my ministry.

Seeing the Day in Terms of People

The system I implemented after going through WBN—and the heart change that occurred while reading it—helped me see people in a new way. As people come into my study or call me on the phone, there is a greater joy in these encounters (formerly referred to as "interruptions"). There was a dangerous heart attitude I struggled with my entire ministry and this change has been a welcome one for both me and those who minister with me. (If you're wondering if I ever viewed you as an interruption, the answer is of course not! I'm talking about other people.)

Joy in Not Getting Everything Done

I'm also taking greater joy in not getting things done. Perman is right in arguing our joy must not come from accomplishing things on a list. Good days for me in the past were defined by accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. Bad days were days where things were left on the list. I think I'm doing better at defining a good day as one in which I'm faithful to do what God would have me do with joy.

Keeping Track of Projects and Action Steps

My ability to track projects and make progress on various ministry initiatives has increased significantly. The practical suggestions in WBN and GTD (Getting Things Done) are bearing some fun fruit in my ministry (and my home). Initiatives that stalled for months are progressing in God-glorifying ways.

Email 

For years, I hated emails. They sat and sat in an inbox with little hope of leaving until the project they referenced was completed. And the moment the inbox was emptied, a flood of new emails replaced the crop that had just departed.

The process Perman lays out to deal with "stuff" is the single most helpful practical counsel I have ever received for dealing with administrative issues.

Staff

WBN provided me with a template to help encourage our staff. First, it contained tools I could hand to them to help with areas they might be struggling with in their ministries. For example, if a staff person struggled to stay on top of projects, WBN had some helpful suggestions. Or, if a staff member struggled with how to delegate responsibilities, I could direct them to another chapter from WBN. It's a great coaching tool and, to paraphrase Paul, I could entrust what I'd learned to faithful people who could help others also.

It also provided me with a system where I could track my care for them. It's frustrating if a person in an area of leadership forgets a commitment they made to you or fails to do a task essential for you to accomplish your job. An ineffective leader can be a frustrating bottleneck in an organization.

Finally, it helped me track how to care for them. Instead of a special need they had becoming a task on a long list that gets lost in the shuffle of paper on my desk, their need became a special project. The project became something my attention was focused onto weekly. That's been helpful.

Family

WBN also helped me shepherd my family more effectively. There were so many areas in which I had said, "Someday I really need to think about how to address that issue." Putting all those issues into projects and thinking through the next steps and understanding my need to be faithful to do that which has been most important is going to yield fruit into eternity in my kids' lives.

In fact, just this last week, I began to train my children in implementing parts of WBN in their own lives. We're not six months into the process yet, but Whitney has noticed a remarkable improvement in the kids' ability to be faithful in doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Schedule

Pastor Ritch summarized WBN this way: "Go to bed early, then get up at 5 A.M." He was kidding, but not entirely. Much unfaithfulness in my schedule comes from poor decisions made late at night and early in the morning. I fail to get the rest I need and the start on my day that would make it more productive. This is the area I'm still struggling with the most. I know I need to get 7 hours of sleep but that still seems so unattainable. But, by God's grace, I'm getting closer.

This process of "getting closer" is a theme for much of what I'm implementing with WBN. I haven't arrived, but the book helped me understand targets for which to shoot and tools to help me aim more effectively. It's not an exaggeration for me to say that no other book impacted the practical side of my ministry more than WBN.  I highly commend it to you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

On the Meaning of Being Male and Female



Genesis 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

God created human beings in His image, male and female.  The perfection of that created order was deeply broken by Adam’s sin.  Sin’s entrance into the world damaged everything, even including the maleness and femaleness of human beings.  In this article, I hope to engage a controversial topic with compassion, truth, and most of all, a focus upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our only hope for healing that brokenness.

With the debate in our culture regarding same sex marriage virtually over, a new debate is quickly growing.  It touches on the core of what it means to be male and female.  Confusion over what it means to be male and female is the new hot topic.  Is gender a trait that exists along a continuum?  Is gender defined by what the individual feels?  What does the Bible mean when it says that God made human beings male and female?

Two Circumstances: Intersex and Transgender  

There are two circumstances here which require careful and compassionate consideration.  The first is that there are people born with intersex characteristics.  That is, there are chromosomal and/or genital characteristics that create ambiguity of the male/female distinction.  I believe that this is partly what Jesus had in mind when He said that some people are eunuchs from birth (see Matthew 19:12).  In the US, enough ambiguity exists to consult a specialist in these matters in 1 in 1500-2000 births.[i]  The challenging difficulties of the Fall create a variety of harmful effects on the human race.  All disease and genetic defects can be traced to Adam and Eve’s sin the Garden of Eden.  This effect of the Fall extends in some cases to the biological nature of gender.  In this, we must have great compassion for those who are born with these challenges and for their families.  As Mark Chalemin of Probe Ministries notes, “The fact that some individuals are born with evidence of mutations in their sex-determining genes doesn't change their value in God's eyes any more than someone born with the mutation that causes cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia.” [ii]  Indeed, it appears that God has a special determination to set everything right for people in this circumstance.  See Isaiah 56:3b-5: Let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

The second and more significant (at least in terms of cultural debate) circumstance is that today the very notion of gender is being challenged.  This is the issue of transgender, that is, a person’s gender is whatever they themselves want it to be regardless of the biological determination of their body.   Rather than a biological ambiguity of gender, the transgender movement is about a psychological ambiguity of gender.  The transgendered person feels that their gender identity is at variance with the physical reality of their biological birth sex.  Former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins University, Paul McHugh, noted  in a June 12 article in the Wall Street Journal, “On May 30, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board ruled that Medicare can pay for the ‘reassignment’ surgery sought by the transgendered—those who say that they don't identify with their biological sex.  Earlier last month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was ‘open’ to lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.  Time magazine, seeing the trend, ran a cover story for its June 9 issue called ‘The Transgender Tipping Point: America's next civil rights frontier.’[iii]   According to a 2011 survey, about 700,000 Americans identify as transgender.[iv]  The speed with which this topic has captivated cultural attention is breathtaking.  It was only in 2013 that the American Psychiatric Association removed this condition from its list of disorders, now calling it “gender dysphoria” instead of “gender identity disorder.”[v]

Defining the Problem of Transgender

There is, of course, a political agenda surrounding the topic of transgender.  There is a movement to normalize trangender experience and to redefine gender according to individual self-perception rather than biological anatomy.  This inevitably leads to debate about access to public restrooms, what children are taught in public schools about gender, and public funding of gender reassignment surgeries.[vi]

My primary concern for this article, however, is not the politics of transgender.  Rather, it is the hope of the Gospel to meet EVERY human brokenness.  The person who identifies as transgendered believes that there is a problem and that it requires a solution.  Where the disagreement lies is on what the problem is and what the solution is.  

Let’s think about the problem first. If indeed authoritative truth comes from individual autonomy, then the transgendered person would be correct—he was born with the “wrong” body, or at least he identifies psychologically about gender in a different way than his biology suggests.  As John Piper notes, “If there is no God telling me what is wise and good, then my own preference will assume that role. It will seem ‘ridiculous’ to say ‘biology is destiny.’”[vii]  Is the individual the best authority for what is best for him?  Is it possible for the individual to be wrong? 
 
The Christian worldview tells us that none of us should trust our own autonomy.  We are, by virtue of our sin, broken in how our minds work (They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  Ephesians 4:18).  We are broken in how our hearts deceive us (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9).  We are broken, enslaved to our passions (For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. Titus 3:3).  Does it then make sense that we should trust ourselves? By all means, no!  Instead, it makes sense to look to our Creator and what He reveals to us.  First, we should consider that the Creator has made each of us, fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139) and that His creation reveals His character (Romans 1) so that we can trust His work even more than we can trust ourselves.  Secondly, we should consider that God has spoken to us in the Bible, and its authority is greater than human individual autonomy (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  It is only when we accept this authority that we can embrace the biblical solution to human brokenness, including the plight of the transgendered person.

Solutions of Transgender

Let’s now think about solutions.  If the view of individual autonomy is held, the transgendered person would be correct in attempting to circumvent his biological gender by both medical means and by demanding that others accept his own gender designation.  This indeed has been the approach of many.  Surgical sex “reassignment” surgeries are thought by many to bring a solution.  However, there is strong data pointing out that recipients of sex reassignment surgery are more prone to suicide, suicide attempts, and psychiatric inpatient care.[viii]  This solution seems as challenging as the problem.  

One reason why this might be true is that sex “reassignment” is really a fiction.  As Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins University notes, “'Sex change' is biologically impossible.  People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder."  McHugh also notes his considerable history in addressing the challenges of transgender, “We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into ‘sex-reassignment surgery’—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as ‘satisfied’ by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”[ix]

The second solution by transgender advocates has been a demand that others accept the individual’s psychological designation of gender rather than their biological one.  While that might seem loving to do, it is built on the foundation of human autonomy; it demands that we accept what a person thinks in their head over what nature has given.  For a person who believes in a Creator, it is a demand to deny that Creator’s work.  And if indeed there is a Creator, to “accept” a gender designation contrary to biological gender is to support a person in believing a lie about themselves at a most fundamental level.

The biblical solution is quite a bit more nuanced than “trust Jesus and your problems will be over.”  In fact, in one sense, embracing the Bible’s solution creates more problems!  Jesus, after all, said, “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  That is the opposite of individual autonomy, of living as one’s own authority.  Jesus calls us to go the opposite direction of human autonomy and live under His Lordship.  So, while becoming a Christian is simple in some ways, it is not easy to be a Christian.

This means that we must be patient with people identifying as transgendered.  They must know that we do not regard them as “freaks,” that we will not bully them or accept others doing so, that God their Creator made them wonderfully and loves them.  They must know that Jesus died on the cross to undo the curse of Adam which includes the brokenness of gender confusion.  The denial of self and taking up one’s cross does not mean that one earns his salvation.  Rather, God receives us because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Our slow, plodding, even painful obedience in taking up our own cross (including the cross of gender confusion) is part of a long road of learning, learning the steps of our Master, Jesus.[x]

Applications for the Church

Several applications for the life of our church emerge simply from a consideration of these issues.  First, the issues of what is male and what is female will continue to grow confusing in our culture.  “Equal access” legislation, particularly as it relates to the public school and workplace, will trumpet the idea of individual autonomy over that of the authority of a Creator.  This points to the importance of having an intact family where maleness and femaleness is modeled.  More importantly, it points to the importance of holding up the scriptures as an authority greater than ourselves.

Second, the church needs to develop a compassionate, biblical approach for ministry to people with gender confusion.  As our culture abandons God for the individual as god, we cannot simply ignore people, no matter how the effects of the fall have harmed them.  Trying to avoid people who are affected by the fall is both impossible and disobedient to the Great Commission.  However, we also must love people enough even to the point of kindly disagreeing with the solutions that they propose for their own peace.

Third, we must believe in the power of the Gospel.  Is the Gospel such good news that it is for people who have congenital ambiguities?  Is the Gospel such good news that it is for people who wrongly think that real peace and joy will come if they can determine their own gender and everyone else just accepts that?  Do we believe the Gospel enough to welcome transgendered persons to our church?  Anything less than an affirmative answer to these questions is a denial of Christ and His power to save. 

Fourth, if we never face a circumstance on this topic, it is not a good sign.  It is a sign that our Gospel outreach has not extended to some people.  So, if you are thinking, “Boy, I hope that we never have to deal with transgendered people,” you should repent.  Repent that you do not want to extend the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  You see, “the ends of the earth” does not just mean geographically; it also means philosophically.  We take the Gospel to everyone and love everyone in Jesus’ name.  

Fifth, repentance means to acknowledge the authority of our Creator.  A transgendered person might not “feel” right in repenting of feelings that run counter to one’s biology.  But the Christian Gospel is not about how one feels.  It is about faith in Jesus Christ Who saves, indeed, saves us from our own confused, deceitful thoughts.  Any spiritual transformation, especially on a topic as intimate as one’s own gender, likely will not be immediate.  The patience of God and His people are great for those who earnestly seek the will of God.  I love what Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, “He does not bend a broken reed; he does not snuff out a smoldering wick.” (Isaiah 42:3)  Despite the incredible pain and anguish that any transgendered person faces, there is hope in Christ and the Gospel!  Jesus did not come to bend the broken reed.  He did not come to snuff out the smoldering wick.  He came to seek and save the lost.   


[i] http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency
[iii] http://online.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120
[iv] http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf
[vi] “When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70-80 percent of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25 percent did have persisting feelings, notes Dr. McHugh, but what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned. Despite such studies several states—including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—have passed laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.”  See: http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-transgenderism

[vii] http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/genitalia-are-not-destiny-but-are-they-design
[viii] http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016885
[ix] http://online.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120

Monday, August 18, 2014

Financially Supporting Seminary Students

Hopefully, my next blog post will complete my thoughts on What’s Best Next, by Matt Perman. This week, I want to quickly share a few thoughts about a new fund the elders have established at Bethany Community Church.

One of the most basic responsibilities church shepherds have is to train other shepherds. The demands of leading the community of faith are simply too great for a small number of people to do them alone. As Moses’ father-in-law tells him when he sees Moses working from morning to night to judge the people, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Ex. 18:17-18). Moses’s father-in-law instructs him to train others to help bear the burden. This is good for both Moses and the people.

Paul tells Timothy to take the things he has learned and teach them to men who will also be able to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul understands that a growing church continues to need men who can shepherd to sustain the spiritual health of the body.

At Bethany Community Church, we are abundantly blessed with men who I believe God is raising up to help bear the burden of shepherding a growing church. And we have been blessed with women who are shepherding other women to help them understand the deep truths of the faith and how to apply them in their lives. These men and women, by God’s grace, will be great tools God uses not only at our church but also in other churches throughout the world.

As the elders have shepherded future vocational leaders through our Mathetes discipleship ministry, we have identified some who will benefit from seminary education. We have committed to do all we can to help them receive the training necessary to effectively minister, including financially supporting their training.

Several of you, having heard about individuals pursuing seminary, have asked if you could help some of our families who are in seminary with their living expenses. Those requests have thrilled me and I’m happy to say that the answer is, “Yes!”

Bethany has established a special fund you may give to that will help with the living expenses of our students. The fund is called the Ministry Education Fund. If you’d like to give to it, please indicate that on your check or envelope, along with what student(s) you would like to support. Due to tax law, BCC retains the right to use the funds for other students, but will make every effort to ensure gifts are used in accordance with the desires of the giver. 100% of funds go directly to students. And, by the way, if you have been giving to Bethany Community at all, you are already helping with seminary costs for these students.

Thank you for your faithful giving and care for future leaders of the church.

Daniel

Monday, July 28, 2014

Implementing What's Best Next, Part 2

This is the second of three posts on how I've implemented What's Best Next, by Matthew Perman. The first post can be found here.


As we enter the next step, we're really getting into the heart of the practical implementation of WBN. 

I think I plan well. I know what I want to do and what needs to be done but it is difficult to implement the plan consistently. The analogy I use when talking to people about this step is budgeting. Some people have an awesome budget in place. They just have no way of comparing what they actually do with their theoretical budget. Planning and spending occur in two totally different universes for them.

The same is true for planning our time. We may have wonderful goals and plans for how to spend our time. But what tools can help us merge our plans with reality? The "Execution" step gives us tools to help reality conform to our plans. 

Once again, you need to read WBN. What follows are some things I've done. I haven't arrived yet. To me, discipline in this area is like becoming physically fit. You have goals and you implement those goals one at a time on your way towards physical fitness. It's good to measure yourself by where you want to ultimately be, but that can also be discouraging as you see how far you still have to go. Therefore, it's also helpful to gauge yourself by far how you've come.  

Step Four: Execution

How do you execute? Perman advocates a three-step process: Plan, Organize, Do.


First, planning involves being diligent to sit down every week and plan out the week ahead, based on the projects and action steps on your agenda.

Second, organizing means you have a solid system in place to deal with all of your “stuff”. As I tried to think through how to implement such a system, I decided to do two things. First, I bought and skimmed Peter Drucker's Getting Things Done (which Perman references frequently). Second, I read through how other people had used Evernote to implement GTD. 

From my reading of both Perman and Drucker, here are some thoughts on the “organizing” part of execute:

1.      Don’t use inbox as to-do lists.

2.      Collect all your information in one place.

3.      Process the information: one item at a time and in order. Don’t keep looking at an email. Deal with it.

4.      Organize and act. There are really only five possible things you can do with “stuff”: delete, file, do, delegate, or defer.

5.      Manage Projects and Actions

Actions that can’t be done right away (two-minute rule), should be deferred to a projects list or an actions list.

a.       Large tasks are projects. Small tasks are actions.

b.      Organize projects and actions (See Evernote section below)

c.       Manage Projects

Third, you must do.

1.     Plan your day: Create a project called “Today” in Evernote.

2.      Schedule your day at only 70 percent capacity or less

3.       Consolidate your time into large chunks

4.      Do the most important thing first

5.       Do one thing at a time

6.       Focus on outcomes, not activities

7.      See your day in terms of people and relationships first, not tasks.

8.      Ask in everything: How can I build others up?

9.        Utilize the key question in the moment: What’s best next?

Step Five: Evernote

Before reading WBN, I was using Evernote somewhat consistently. Perman uses other tools, but I didn't have the resources at the time to purchase some of the programs he mentioned. I also wanted to try to use one program instead of multiple programs/apps.

Due to lack of time, I’m not going to go into great detail about how to do each aspect of setting up a Notebook in Evernote. It’s a fairly intuitive program and I think the screen captures will help. Here's an overview of what my Evernote screen looks like on my desktop:


















1. Today

The first Notebook is titled “1. Today.”

(The “1” makes sure that Evernote puts that folder first as it orders them. You may have to adjust some settings to make sure the notebooks are put in alphabetical order.)

In this Notebook, I created only one note, also entitled “Today.” In the note, I put things I’m planning on accomplishing today. Every morning, I review my weekly priority list and populate the items on this note mainly from those items. I’ll often put in parentheses a time I hope to have finished that item.


Here’s what my “Today” note in my notebook looks like:





2. Inbox

This is my default Evernote folder. You may or may not use a folder like this. This is the folder that anything I send to Evernote goes to. When I go through my daily “workflow” routine, I’ll take pictures of documents or flyers, send them to Evernote, then put in the appropriate place (project, action, reference, etc.)

3. Weekly Priority List

This is similar to my “Today” Notebook. One notebook with one Note in it entitled “Weekly Priorities List.”

In this note, I put items that I hope to accomplish for the week. Once a week (generally a Friday or Sunday afternoon for me), I will look at my Master Projects, Master Actions, Waiting For and populate in this note what I need to get done in the coming week.

The things on this list are things that aren’t part of the normal routine. For instance, I don’t write “staff meeting” or “write sermon” because that seems silly to me.

Here’s what that my weekly priority list looks like:



4. Master Projects List

This is actually a stack of Notebooks. First, I created three notebooks: Books to Read, Church Projects, and Personal Projects. Then, I stacked them together and called that stack “Master Projects List.”

Each Notebook then has a bunch of notes, each of which is an individual project. For instance, the Notebook entitled "Church Projects" has multiple notes, each one a project I’m working on (e.g., The Gospel Institute or Asia Minor Trip).

Here’s what my Personal Notebook looks like (Master Projects List àPersonal Projects…):



The middle column lists the various notes that are all in the notebook “Personal Projects.” Notice that the first note is a list of all the notes that are in the notebook. Also, notice that each project has a series of “next steps.” Reviewing these next steps helps me populate my weekly priorities. Anytime I come across a piece of information related to a project, I'll put it in the note that corresponds to that project. Looking above, for example, I see that in my "health plan" notebook, I've put in a link to some website. I may or may not use the information there, but it's there for me to look through next time I focus on that project (which should be a part of my weekly schedule).

5. Master Actions List

This is similar to the Master Projects list, but with actions instead of projects. The difference between an action and project is the number of steps involved. Generally, an action is a single step.

6. Waiting For

These are items I’ve delegated and am waiting for someone to get back to me on.

7. Backburner

These are things that I will not be getting to in the near future but don’t want to forget about.

8. Reference

These are just notes of information I want to have available in case I need them.

Step 6: Getting it Together

The last step for me was putting everything through this new system. I collected all the info in my life. Notes, texts, emails, papers, etc. I pulled every thing I had out of drawers and "to do" piles and notebooks. 

After everything was in place, I ran every piece of it through this diagram (from Drucker's Getting Things Done, but don’t be thrown off. Those categories exist in your Evernote already (“Projects” is your “Master Projects” folder, etc.).





It took me a good 2 days to finalize the implementation process. If I had a piece of stuff that was a project, I put it in the project folder of Evernote. Notes from a meeting were moved to a reference folder. Action items from the meeting were placed in my Master Actions note. I took a lot of pictures of documents and notes and sent them to Evernote and put it in the appropriate folder.

In my next blog post, I'll talk through how WBN has impacted my ministry and personal life.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Implementing What's Best Next, Part 1



This is part one of a three-part series on how I've implemented What's Best Next in my personal life and ministry at Bethany Community Church.

If you have spent more than half an hour with me over the past four months, you've probably heard me mention Matthew Perman's What Best Next (WBN). 

I'm an avid evangelist for the book and for those who are tired of hearing me mention the book (1) you'll probably want to stop reading now and (2) just be glad you're not one of my children...can you imagine being an eleven-year old and spending your summer learning how to implement WBN (kidding...mostly).

When I discuss how the book helped me refine my ministry in some profound ways, I get the same questions: how did you go about implementing it? What were the first steps?

In the book, Perman gives an "immediate application" at the end of each chapter. My first recommendation is to purchase the book for yourself and, if implementing the entire system seems overwhelming, begin with the small lifestyle changes he suggests.

What follows here, however, are roughly the steps I took to implement some of the principles from WBN. As I read the book, I thought not only about how I would benefit from these principles but also got excited by different "nuggets" for each of my co-laborers. I think they've shared my excitement, for the most part, and these are also the steps we as a ministry staff are going through here at Bethany Community.

Step One: Understanding the Why 

It's important to understand why God is concerned with our productivity. The danger in reading a book like WBN is that it can become about efficiency instead of effectiveness. Such an approach misses the point of why God wants us to be productive: "More important than efficiency is effectiveness — getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done" (43) .

So I began by really trying to understand what Perman teaches about a God-centered view of productivity. While the core principle was simple enough (determine what the best thing to do is and do it), Perman's process of determining what the best God-centered, gospel fueled best thing to do was immensely beneficial.

WBN employs the acronym D.A.R.E. (define, architect, reduce, execute). To begin even the first step, defining, it was important for me to understand the theology under girding WBN.

Step Two: Define Who You Are and What You Need to Be Doing


The next thing I did was "define." I didn't implement this exactly as described in WBN, but I did follow the general categories. I determined my mission, values, roles, and goals. While I've always felt I had a pretty good handle on my mission and values, it was helpful to list out my roles and determine what areas perhaps my current schedule wasn't addressing.

I used MindMeister to graphically illustrate my mission, values, roles, and goals. I broke my roles into three primary areas: family, ministry, and personal. I tried to keep the categories broad. Here's a sample of what I did to think through my roles:


Spending time here helped me as I began to take practical steps to implement WBN. I now had a tool to measure what was the best thing on which I could focus my time based on the roles God has given me. When it came to "reducing," I referenced my roles in order to determine which cuts to make. 

Step Three: Reading About and Implementing "Architect" and "Reduce"

As I read through the sections on Architect and Reduce, I made significant changes, but I don't remember the order in which I did them. 

While working my way through the architect section, I decided that I would incorporate the following routines into my routine: 

Getting Up Early. Perman calls this The 5 A.M. Rule. I've done well implementing this but I need to be more disciplined with the corollary of what I call The 10 P.M. Rule (if I'm going to get up at 5, I need to be heading to bed by 10).

Daily Workflow: Every day, I look at my goals for week and decide what to do (I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).

Weekly Workflow: Every week, I look look at my quarterly actions, projects, calls, etc. and determine the goals for the week ((I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).

Quarterly Workflow: Every quarter, I look at goals, mission, etc. and evaluate what I want to accomplish in the coming months (Once again, (I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).

Prayer and Scripture: Obviously devotion time should be a part of any believer's plan for effective work and ministry. 

Personal Development: As I began to architect my life, I worked in more time for personal development.

Rest: I tried to make sure there is a healthy amount of time with my family and engaging in activities like running and swimming.

Perman also suggests we "Reduce." There are four primary ways to reduce: Delegate, Eliminate, Automate, Defer. I mostly took notes in this section for future reference.

In my next blog post, I'll describe the system I put in place to help me "execute" the system. Evernote was extremely helpful and I'll show some screenshots of how I set it up. In the third and final blog post, I'll discuss the ongoing impact of WBN on my ministry and the ministry of the other staff.