Monday, January 30, 2006

Sharpening the ministry

Brad Isaac writes about Abe Lincoln's productivity secret today. It's reflected in this famous quote:
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

I've been pondering this from the context of productivity in ministrysince I read it . What does my axe-sharpening look like?
1. This one didn't come first, but it should have. Giving attention to your inner life. You cannot be on the outside what you are not on the inside. That is, I cannot be externally (in reality, not just superficially) godly, disciplined, focused, etc., when I am not so internally. This is the beginning place of "productivity." Ultimately, I don't want me quest for productivity to result in making widgets faster and with less effort. I want to be productive so that more people can hear the life-changing Gospel.
2. Building quality, strategic, transformational relationships. This may seem strange in a post about axe-sharpening, but people are the only things that are going to be around 10,000 years from now. People are the vehicles for God's grace, not laptops, phones and PDA's. At the same time, some relationships have more "leverage" than others. My relationship with my wife and kids has both the greatest long-term benefit and the most long-term risk. Blow it with them and most of your other relationships will suffer too.
3. Learn to use your tools. It doesn't matter whether your tools are mechanical, electronic or natural. Since I'm a lttle geeky, I'll mention a couple of a couple computer related things. I am stunned with how much time people spend with computers and how poorly they know how to use them. I know one person who regularly struggles for hours with a web-based email account because they are too busy to set something up in Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. They waste hours waiting for pages to load, attachments to upload, etc. Others have never learned how to type, or never learned a keyboard shortcut. Take some time to learn a new feature about a tool you already use regularly. Doing so saves time, lowers frustration and will help you get things done quicker with better results.
It's been good to reflect on this a little bit this evening. I don't know about you, but all too often I find myself happily banging away on some stupid tree without taking any time to stop and do a little self-reflection. Hmm, I'm off to do a little axe-sharpening.

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