Efficiency, spirituality important to tackling big or small tasks in today’s busy lifestylecomment (0)
May 29, 2014
The Alabama Baptist staff spent the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend in blitz mode with work projects and excessive email inboxes. Project Blitz Week, as they called it, gave everyone a chance to complete at least one overwhelming project that has been weighing on them. It also was a time to handle, archive and delete the thousands of emails sitting in their inboxes, sent folders and deleted folders.
Bill Gilmore, director of advertising, said the week was a morale boost because it provided a sense of catching up. “It gave us the opportunity to take care of something that remains on your to-do list but never reaches the priority level to be done,” he said. “It was an important exercise because I tend to access my email more and more with my iPhone and then fail to file the copies of those same emails on my computer.
“Keeping it all organized will help us all be more efficient,” he noted.
Linda Harrison, financial administrator, agreed, and added that the opportunity energized her to go a step farther. “Organizing my email provided the impetus for organizing the rest of my area,” she said. “You really have to stay on top of things or they will pile up quickly and then you have a mess.”
Glenn Akins, assistant executive director of the Virginia Baptist Missions Board, said keeping on top of emails is actually a way to do the Lord’s work every day.
How does Akins equate his job assignment of helping churches survive a post-Christian culture with answering emails in a timely and friendly manner? By viewing both as a way to help others get their jobs done. And that, he added, is being a living witness of Christ, whether in big or small moments and tasks. That’s huge in an era when everyone — from pastors to I.T. techs — is extremely busy.
Quick replies help others
“One of the ways I can honor them and acknowledge how harried they are, how thin their margins are, is by responding on a timely basis to their requests for help,” Akins said.
That may seem odd to some but not to Matt Perman. Hearing another Christian connect the dots between efficiency and spirituality is music to his ears, he noted.
“I think this is a huge gap in the Church,” said Perman, a Minneapolis resident, Baptist and author of “What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.”
That gap keeps Christ’s followers from seeing the importance of the seemingly mundane day-to-day work they do on God’s mission in the world, he said.
Perman’s mission is to present a theology of labor and organization that pushes Christians to put the needs of others first — and not only by feeding the homeless or building houses in Haiti.
“Paul says ‘abound in the work of the Lord,’ and that means be productive,” Perman said. “But we have this narrow view that ‘the work of the Lord’ means working in a soup kitchen or going ... to Africa.”
There has been some pushback to Perman’s theology of organization, including his critique of the practice of some Christians to treat the stress of life and work with spiritual retreats.
Retreats, whatever their form and length, can be useful in giving the faithful a time-out and a wider perspective on their challenges, he said. “But to me retreats are not the answer to everything.”
They can even be problematic if they keep people retreating from challenges instead of facing them head-on.
Perman said tackling big or small chores, at home or at work, can be just as spiritually refreshing if a person sees those tasks from a Christlike perspective.
“A lot of times we don’t see our work as service but just as something to get a paycheck,” he said. “Your work takes on a whole new meaning when you see it as an avenue through which to serve others.”
But just as important as not running from or minimizing tasks like email and organization is not letting to-do lists become task-masters, said Jayne Davis, minister of spiritual formation for First Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C.
“I never got the idea that Jesus got up in the morning and had a to-do list,” Davis said. “He had one item on His list and that was to make God known to the world.”
Davis said she agrees with much of Perman’s conclusions, especially because she’s “a to-do list kind of girl.” Yet she must remember not to fall into the trap of equating her identity with her accomplishments or job. Also she must remember that to-do lists are never completed.
“We have to be fundamentally grounded in the idea that we are acceptable as ourselves before God,” Davis said. “So make sure you know the ultimate goal of your list — which is making sure all those [items] have a God-given purpose.”
That’s the view Akins has of his to-do lists and email inbox, and it transforms any task into a work of service. “I might be responding to [someone who] needs a piece of information so she can do her job,” Akins said. “Because if I am holding her up, it holds up something else down the line.” (ABP, TAB)