Every second counts…

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Good is the enemy of best. There are tons of good things that come along. We could fill our day with things that are good and never end up doing what is best.

As the older we get and the more influence we have, more opportunities will present themselves. It’s a responsibility to learn to manage our time and influences well.

This is a struggle that I deal will constantly. I have a pregnant wife, two babies, I am a small business owner, an operations manager for non-profit ministry, on the preaching rotation at church, and a student taking 16 units (3 of which are Greek)…oh yeah, and I do this Paul and Timothy stuff. I say all this to illustrate the potential over-busyness of my life.

My wife has asked me before if I think we will ever be less busy. I am always trying to gently let her down with my answer. But the truth is, being entrusted with more is a blessing and a gift. After the two servants were faithful with their talents, their master said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” (Matthew 25:21, 23). They were given more to steward. God is using our season of life to prepare us for the next one. The household is an incubator for church leadership. Managing a local church well comes from managing a household well (being faithful with a household leads to the opportunity to be faithful as an elder).

So what do we do? Many successful, honorable, godly, older man have told me about the value of planning. Gregg Harris calls it the Noble Planner (an MP3 of his teaching on planning can be found here). Gregg spends every Sunday afternoon planning his week. He sits down with his family after church and they plan what is best for them to do in a given week. Gregg plans on spending alone time with every member of his family every week.

CJ Mahaney talks about it in the Sovereign Grace leadership series. Mahaney is very protective over his time. He says that he will not flex his schedule, save an emergency. Mahaney plans time into his schedule to free up his wife to study, and then he creates reading lists for her.

John Piper has said that he purposely only goes to the church office once a week. He knows that his home office study is the “safest” place to get the most work done with his time.

As pastors, the nature of their job requires that they be flexible to deal with crisis in the lives of the Saints. When those crisis’ arise, they become the best thing they can do with their time.

Begin to view time as something that you have to invest. Invest your time in the place that is going to yield the greatest return. Or to use another analogy, plant your time where it will bring forth the most fruit.

Here are some practical suggestions:

      1. Begin planning out your week. Sit down on Sunday afternoon and in light of worship, fellowship, and the ministry of the Word, plan out what is best to do with your time the coming week.

      2. Start using a calendar. Whether it’s a physical paper planner or something on your computer, use something to help manage your time. I use Google calendar, because it is internet based (I can access it anywhere), I can share it with owther Google users, my wife can easily add items to it, and I can receive email or text message alerts.

      3. Help your wife to find time to read and study. Free her up and make her reading lists.

       4. Learn to say no while still being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit to “walk in the good works that have been prepared beforehand.”

       5. View the importance of the different areas that you have been given stewardship over. Your children and wife are way more important than Greek paradigms.

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4 Responses to “Every second counts…”

  1. Jeff Harris Says:

    After reading this I’m wondering what are some of the ways you guys plan out your personal study time? Do you have a daily schedule or so you just remember to remind yourself to do it? Are there any habits you have in your study times, as in what and where to read?

  2. Emily Says:

    Great advice, Matt. Thanks.

  3. Matthew Cunningham Says:

    Jeff Harris,

    Sorry for the delay getting back to you.

    1. I plan my personal study time right into my schedule. I block out time just like I would block out time for a dental appointment or a class. I am also protective over that time just as a I would be protective over my dental appointment or class. If you want others to take your study time serious, start taking it serious yourself.

    2. I plan out my study time at least a week out. I finalize when I am going to study on Sunday afternoons. But I also know that next Thursday and Friday will be spent in study because I am preaching the following Sunday. I already have it on the calendar.

    3. Make studying part of you and your families’s “culture.” That is, make something that you just do. It is normal for me to wake up on a Saturday and say, “I’ll see you in a few hours, I going to read.”

    4. Take very seriously the task of preparing to be a teacher in the church. There are two skills of an elder, he must be able to manage his household well and he must be able to teach. It takes years and years of preparation. Give yourself to the task of preparation. The fruit may not blossom for many years to come but if this what God is calling you to do, do it with all your might and heart. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

    5. I make reading lists. I don’t just go pick something up off the shelf. Generally what happens is I get interested in a topic and I pick out a few books on the topic and start reading them. For example, right now I am reading about post modern epistemology in the church. The books on my list are, “The Courage to be Protestant,” “Supremacy of Christ in a Post-Modern World,” “Why We aren’t Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be.”

    6. Don’t leave your family in the dust. Make time for your wife to read. Teach your family what you are learning.

    Press on!

  4. Jeff Harris Says:

    ok, thanks matt

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