The Most Important Choice You Make as a Leader

Do you know what the most important choice you make as a leader?

You make it every single day. In fact, several times a day you make this one choice to affects all other choices in your life. It isn’t just affecting your church or business, it affects your health, your family and every other aspect of your life.

Do you know what it is?

The most important choice you make as a leader is who and what gets your time and attention. 

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You know what happens if you waste time, spend time on the wrong thing. The affects ripple out in your life and in your church. If you fall behind on an assignment or a project, it affects other things. Stress levels go up, performance goes down.

And it all goes back to the simple choice you make on what gets your time and attention.

Everyday, when you choose to do something, you choose to not do something else. This might be choosing a meeting over sermon prep. Choosing to work on a budget item instead of being in a meeting. Putting out a fire instead of thinking about long-term planning and dreaming.

Here are 7 ways to make the right choice when you are faced with two choices of what gets your time and attention:

  1. Decide ahead of time what is most important for you to accomplish each day. This is the first step to managing your life and responding to what comes across your desk. You need to know what is most important in your life and job. All the things you need to accomplish in a week are not equally important. Every week there are things left undone, emails not responded to, blogs not read, meetings that you skipped and yet you didn’t get fired. Know what you have to do and do it.
  2. Don’t respond to what feels urgent. That word feel is important because what often feels urgent is not really urgent. Just because someone says they have to meet with you today does mean you need to meet with them today. Things that appear like fires have been brewing for days, weeks or months. Attempting to put it out today won’t matter. Just because something is urgent to someone else does not mean it is urgent to you.
  3. Respond to things when you choose you to respond. Email, voice mail, texts, updates on social media. They are all calling for your attention. This goes back to #2, but decide when you’ll respond to them. I schedule when I’ll check email, when I look at the blogs I read. Do it on your schedule, when it works for you. If someone says, “did you get my email?” Kindly respond, “Not yet, I’ll respond when I look at it.”
  4. Learn the art of saying no. Saying no is hard because we are afraid we will miss an opportunity. Guess what? If you say no, you might miss an opportunity, but that’s okay. Every opportunity isn’t for you. Opportunities do have a way of coming around again. And remember this simple principle: every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else simply by the fact that you don’t have time to do everything. Choose carefully what gets your yes.
  5. People will take whatever time you give them. If you give someone 5 minutes to meet with you, they will take 5 minutes. If you give them 30 or 60, they will take all that you give them. If you give them no time limit, they will meet with you until Jesus returns. People will take whatever you give them. Decide ahead of time how long a meeting or conversation will last. When you return a call, start by telling them how long you have. When you set up a meeting, set a start time and an end time. People will get down to business faster if you tell them ahead of time. This isn’t uncaring, there are other people and things that need you as well.
  6. Things fill the time given to them. This is the same as #5, except about assignments. If you don’t have a deadline, things take forever. Have you noticed how productive you are the night before a test or an assignment is due or the day before you go on vacation? You get a lot done. Why? You have a deadline. Tasks fill the time given to them.
  7. Remember, you are responsible for managing your time. No one else is responsible for how you spend your time. No one else feels the affects the way you do. If you are a pastor, your church isn’t responsible for how your time is spent. They have an opinion on it, but you are accountable for it. Same with your boss. They have wants, desires and ideas, but they aren’t accountable for it. They aren’t responsible for saying no and managing your time well.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Thom Rainer on 4 times when you should not respond to a critic.

As a general rule, leaders should respond to criticism. I do my best to do so, or at that very least, ask someone in my organization to respond. Critics, more often than not, deserve a response. They need to hear from the leader who can give them his or her perspective. They need to hear from a leader in the event the response can be an opportunity for reconciliation. But there are times when leaders should not respond to critics.

Cristina Fox on When distractions keep us from our kids.

One of the biggest drains of our time is technology because of the access it gives us to a virtual life. Our lives revolve around this access and its pull on us is strong. There’s always email to check, texts to respond to, statuses to update, images and videos to see or post. And they must be done right away (or so we think) — putting everything else on pause.

Ed Stetzer on Whether you should stay or go at church.

I, too, found I don’t get much out of sermons, even the good ones. Honestly, there is not much new content I learn at church. Finally, I am easily distracted and the slow pace of sermons let’s my mind wander, so I’d rather read a good sermon than listen to one. So, I could’ve just stayed home. But, I didn’t. And neither should you because our church involvement is not just anticipated (1 Corinthians 12:27), but commanded (Hebrews 10:25).

Donna Jones on 15 things you did when you were dating that you should not stop doing when you get married.

What what if celebrating Valentine’s Day didn’t cost you a dime and could actually re-kindle the flames of romance?  What if you could re-ignite the sparks in your marriage and make them last?  It might be as easy as taking a trip down memory lane and doing what you should have never stopped.

Mike Cosper on Giving up on church and the culture of contemporary worship.

I wonder, though, if Miller’s thoughts don’t say as much about our contemporary worship culture as they do about Miller himself. His description of a church gathering is two-dimensional: we listen to a lecture and sing songs that connect us to God. Miller says he stopped attending because he doesn’t learn from lectures and doesn’t feel like he connects to God through singing. This description of the gathered church is anemic and shabby, but it’s also the description that many American evangelicals would use to describe Sunday mornings. Rather than a robust engagement with God’s people, God’s word, and God’s Spirit through interactions with one another, songs, prayers, scripture readings, and the Lord’s Supper, we think of Sundays as merely preaching and music.

Love this song

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Should I Get Re-Baptized?

This question comes up from time to time in our church. Whether from someone who was baptized as an infant where they don’t remember it, or from someone who was baptized as a child because they felt like they should or because they were genuinely a follower of Jesus.

Here’s a simple response from a fellow Acts 29 pastor that we have adopted:

If you were not a true Christian when you got baptized and you have (since then) trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, let’s baptize you again. But if you were a true Christian when you got baptized but just didn’t understand it fully, we would recommend that you don’t get re-baptized.

The reason we land there is because baptism will always become more significant for us as we learn and grow in the gospel. Sometimes, we don’t fully grasp our baptism until years after it happened. That fact actually highlights the beauty of Jesus saving us even when we didn’t fully understand every single detail. But thankfully there is a Sacrament for Christians to participate in even after they grow into a deeper knowledge and love for the gospel – the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is where we can continually celebrate the gospel at work in our lives.

So in essence, we see baptism as something that allows the believer to profess initial faith in Jesus (after genuine conversion), but the Lord’s Supper as something that allows the believer to continue to profess faith and celebrate the gospel.

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Chasing Francis

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Chasing Francis (kindle version) by Ian Cron.

I read this book in less than 24 hours. I literally could not put it down.

I’m not sure why it had such a profound effect on me, but this book grabbed me in a way a book hasn’t for awhile.

The story is a novel of sorts about a pastor who is tired and burned out. He feels like his faith is stale, that the things he used to be so sure of are now becoming wobbly. Mostly because he is leading a church that is all about programs and getting bigger simply to get bigger and be more prestigious. He melts down in the middle of a sermon and because of that, his elders give him a 2 month break. He takes this break and goes to Italy and learns about St. Francis of Assisi.

Now, here is where things get a little weird for me. Some of the history and theology of Francis I am not sure of in the book. His talking to animals and things like that seemed weird and made me wonder if they are true.

But, keep in mind, this is a novel. If you do that, the story is great. If you want a history book on St. Francis, I’d pick one up, this isn’t it.

Here are a few things that jumped out to me:

  • A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there’s something missing inside your soul, and the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.
  • The Bible is less about ideas or doctrines than it is a story about people and their up-and-down relationships with God.
  • The Bible is the story of how God gets back what was always his in the first place.
  • Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible
  • True holiness is so often swaddled in the simple.
  • You’ll never be able to speak into their souls unless you speak the truth about your own wounds. You need to tell them what Jesus has come to mean to you in the midst of your disappointments and losses. All ministry begins at the ragged edges of our own pain.
  • Churches should be places where people come to hear the story of God and to tell their own.
  • Jesus draws very near at the Eucharist, and that can be unnerving. But think of it as a homecoming celebration. In the Eucharist, we’re united with God.
  • The church is realizing there is an awareness of God sleeping in the basement of the postmodern imagination and they have to awaken it. The arts can do this. All beauty is subversive; it flies under the radar of people’s critical filters and points them to God. As a friend of mine says, ‘When the front door of the intellect is shut, the back door of the imagination is open.’ Our neglect of the power of beauty and the arts helps explain why so many people have lost interest in church. Our coming back to the arts will help renew that interest.
  • Forgiveness is not something you do; it is something that gets done to you.
  • How we live together is what attracts people to faith.

This is a book that if you find your faith is stale and not robust, or, a pastor that is tired and burned out, you should definitely pick up. I found myself relating to so much of the story from past experiences while at the same time being challenged for my faith to grow and be more and more robust.