Bookstore Book Reviews

Book Review: Do More Better

I am always looking for ways to better structure my time. My productivity process is a beautiful, clunky work in progress.

When I came across Tim Challies website, his bio caught my eye. He was an early adopter of blogging. He is a book reviewer, an author, and a pastor.

These are all completely up my alley and I felt that he should be my role model– and thank goodness, I could learn how to be like him because he wrote a book on his productivity system– Do More Better!!

Right out of the gate, I have to say that a large portion of his productivity system was not for me.

He recommends using digital tools and focusses on task management.

Essentially, this book would be gold for a personal assistant, someone going through a career change who needs to set-up a new schedule, or someone in a job with many diverse roles– like say, a blogger, writer, reviewer, pastor.

As a mother whose preschooler is currently in the throws of needing all of mommy’s attention, I shed more technology every day.

I am not in front of my computer all day. I use a flip phone. I have an auto-reply from my email account notifying senders that I will reply to them by telephone in 24-72 hours. So, Todoist, Google Calendar, Evernote, and LastPass are tools that live far away from my toolbox.

The focus on task management is a little discouraging for me. Though, he acknowledges that productivity is not busyness; the number of tasks to manage/accomplish seems latently the measure of your “Christian character,” which is equated to productivity by Challies.

I didn’t really like that very much. Too Puritan. Overlooks the truth that sometimes even a Christian’s job is to be the weakest member.

However, by reading this thin book, I did realize that my roles and “jobs” are relationship oriented not task oriented.

My work output is by nature low– probably causing my feelings of unproductivity. Maybe rather than being unproductive, I just don’t  have much to produce right now!

But in reality, I am only truly unproductive when I spend my time trying to validate myself by churning out “work” rather than doing the invisible work of nurturing my daughter and husband.

When I do that– churn out work,– according to Challies, I am living off mission, in idolatry, and misguided in my prioritization.

Challies says that checking a bunch of minutiea off your to-do list could actually kill your productivity if your mission is the one task that you didn’t do!

This was greatly helpful to me.

I wrote out, as Challies instructed, my mission statement for each of my roles/areas of responsibility.

In doing so, I was easily able to observe that though seeing a perfect column of tick marks at the end of the day is so gratifying, it is:

  1. snuggling with my little girl and listening to her stories,
  2. tricking her into eating healthy food,
  3. going lock step with her through a tantrum,
  4. praying,
  5. singing,
  6. dancing,
  7. going for a drive with her so we can both have downtime,
  8. keeping her home when she is only “a little” sick even though I had a “to-do” list– all this is my to-do list!

And I am actually the least productive when I’ve reviewed an extra book, have done some great editing, stolen some time for cover designing, built some “content” or wrote some “copy,” but see in my family’s faces that I haven’t fulfilled the missions of my most important roles:

The mission to bring peace and health to our house. The mission to offer my child a secure love. The mission to be God-honoring in how we treat our belongings…just to name a few examples.

Undergirding it all, Tim Challies’ Do More Better is about how to do good to others and in so doing bring glory to God. 

I can’t tell you how much I don’t want it to be that my great contribution in life at 32 yrs old is cleaning my bathrooms, washing the dishes, or running to the store at 9pm for milk.

But those are my mission critical tasks every day. And acknowledging that they take priority actually frees me to do my writing, reading, and editing too.

And I can do so without feeling guilty by knowing they are second, putting them second, and entrusting my time to the Lord knowing that my “me time,” and my “passion projects” are not going to be unattended– but my very boring and important work for my family should not be stolen from.

And these are the kinds of realizations you get when pastors write books that shepherd Christians in non-ecclesiastical realms.

Challies writes about self-discipline in work as part of the spiritual work that a disciple does.

He writes using some great and recognizable coaching concepts. (I don’t know if he meant to, but he did.)

He does offer a very specific solution, which could be difficult for some people to adapt to their workflow needs.

Still, I would absolutely use this book as a coaching resource with a coaching client. His spiritual principles for productivity are great to wrestle with. His generalized organization tips are solid.

If you are willing to engage with this book, it has a lot to offer you.

 

 

Bookstore Book Reviews

Book Review: The Discipleship Gospel

There seems to me to be a creeping, flesh-eating disease killing its way through American Christianity. Every year books about church growth, church culture, empowered preaching, systematic theology, community service, and pastoral counseling come out in numbers, yet somehow none of them is the panacea.

With as much knowledge, insight, data, and as many resources as the American Evangelical Industrial Complex has, why can’t we put our finger on this mystery contagion that is causing church death one by one in small community chapels and setting entire mainline denominations on the brink of extinction?

You might have a few ideas on hand for what it is that ills the church: fractured families, secularism, the entertainment industry, public schools, the sexual revolution and the new age?

Well, those are all old news. Bill Hull and Ben Sobels would probably say that the premature aging of American churches has much less to do with outside pressure and cultural corruption, and more to do with compromise and apostasy from within.

In The Discipleship Gospel: What Jesus Preached We Must Follow, Hull and Sobels put down a hard word for pastors and lay leaders, which in essence is: you are preaching a false gospel, and it is making false disciples who are unable to share any gospel or make any disciples.

Churches are bound to age out if they are not raising up “younger” generations of believers. The apparent goal of The Discipleship Gospel is to teach pastors and lay leaders how to preach a true, complete, and biblical gospel and to teach individuals this gospel until it permeates, transforms, and radiates from them, so that those individuals can preach and teach to others who are themselves enabled to preach and teach, ad infinitum.

Such a gospel is: the discipleship gospel. It is a gospel that is active and kingdom minded, set about the work of the Father, by replicating the work of the Son. The work of the Son being namely, discipling.

Hull and Sobels deliver a cogent and relentless argument for the discipleship gospel being the only true gospel. Their logic is airtight, supported with scripture, and most importantly systematic. They give a frame-by-frame explanation of each element of the gospel and argue outward in concentric circles fitting each component into the whole.

The book takes on a lot of purposes in one tome. It refutes falsehoods, creates definitions, constructs logic models, all within a driving exhortation, and caps that exhortation with a sweeping coaching session and strategic pointers. It manages not to become unwieldy in its structure by anchoring itself to two gospel signposts. The book’s argument plays back and forth between these two gospel signposts, in my mind, as a way of surfing between the various functions that the book is servicing.

The first gospel signpost is more a “symptom.” It is open and unrepentant sin in church-going, bible-believing, Christians. This symptom is critical to diagnosing a hyper-grace, forgiveness-only gospel that fails to proclaim that following Jesus is as important as believing in Him.

The second signpost follows the logic of the first in that if you follow Jesus, you obey His commands, including to multiply the number of disciples by discipling others.

These two– following and multiplying– orbit the sun of the discipleship gospel, that is, the kingdom of God. Where the people are following Jesus’ commands and multiplying themselves, you know that there is a belief in, and urgency about, the realness of the kingdom of God and the realness of Jesus as its king– This is truly believing that Jesus is who He says He is.

That is how you know a person has heard and accepted the true gospel of Jesus; because their fruit reveals the state of their roots.

I am in very serious agreement with the authors in what they call the “need to thoroughly evangelize our church members.”

That sentence situated in the core of the book sums up the problem statement of The Discipleship Gospel. We can’t just leave each other alone in faith, or up to our own devices. We can’t assume that people are running the race to the finish, or running the race at all; maybe they are still at the starting line deciding whether to put their bib on.

A time or two in the midst of the arguments about false gospels particularly, there was reference made to Bill Hull’s previous publication, Conversion and Discipleship. It seems to me that in order to have a very clear contrast between false gospels and the true gospel, it would help to read Conversion and Discipleship as an in-depth “problem statement” introduction to The Discipleship Gospel.

The place I hit some snags in following the argument was simply because of the words “kingdom of God” and “multiplication.” For myself, I need to find more specificity on what those two phrases mean and don’t mean. Though I fully recognize the importance of both concepts covenantally, in terms of my nitty-gritty biblical understanding, I am lacking. I have seen both these terms used in a subpar manner, so they are a couple of my red flag words theologically. But, I can tell you, that those red flags didn’t go anywhere in The Discipleship Gospel, all was sound!

So now, I am just left to do some follow up reading on the kingdom and on multiplication! Actually, maybe that’d be a good place to start in a discipleship group.

If you’d like to purchase The Discipleship Gospel you can find an easy purchasing button in my Bookstore. Click Here.