Pastors have a lot going on. We have to be present mentally, emotionally and physically in many circumstances throughout each week. We often have families that are, or should be, a priority. We have responsibilities that pull us in many directions daily.
As the lead pastor for a church as well as a speaker, author and doctoral student, I’m often asked, “Pastor, what is the key to your productivity?” Here are some principles I like to remember in order to be productive and try to maximize my God-given potential.
1. Know your calling
We are all first called to receive, embrace and live from the life of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In response to the love of God, through the Holy Spirit’s power, we grow in our love for God.
For me, after that, I am called to love my wife and then my children.
I am called to serve and shepherd Transformation Church.
I am called to influence and encourage other pastors.
I am called to be an author.
I am called to complete a doctorate in the New Testament in context.
The specifics of your calling will differ, but by knowing and stewarding our callings, we can be free of the “tyranny of the urgent.” Once we clearly define our priorities, then if it’s not on that list, we really need to consider if it’s the best use of our time and other resources.
2. Simplify and declutter your life
A lack of productivity in people’s lives is often the result of not knowing our calling and having a cluttered life, filled with activities but not production.
In our 21st-century world, choices are everywhere, and we often clutter our lives with too many options because we are afraid we are going to miss out on something. The older I get, the more I realize that by doing less, I can accomplish more because I can focus my energy and abilities into my calling. God did not put us here to do everything but to do his specific assignments.
In a world of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Netflix binges and Internet connectivity, we can easily lose focus on our callings. To concentrate on one thing in a world where peripheral things are calling our names constantly, mental toughness is required. Set limits and add accountability to help block out the noise.
4. Be disciplined
In this case, I define discipline as doing what you are supposed to do when it’s supposed to be done. There is too much at stake for the people I love and for me to not be disciplined. I often hear people complain about not being productive. Often the reason is a lack of discipline.
5. Be ready to sacrifice
To really own your calling and be productive, it will require great sacrifice. I was working out with my son on a hot day in the local high school football stadium. No one was there, just him and me. I said, “Son, this is where greatness is cultivated, in the stadium, when no one is here watching you. A lot of your friends are at home playing video games, but you are out here sacrificing to develop your God-given talent. Greatness requires great sacrifice.” The great Muhammad Ali put it this way, “The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.” What do you need to sacrifice to develop your God-given gift(s)?
6. Surround yourself with great people.
My late grandmother used to tell me, “Birds of a feather flock together.” I learned that the people I surround myself with will influence and determine where I go in life. I’ve learned to invite around me people who love Jesus, who are smarter than me, and who stretch and pull God-given talent out of me.
So, how do you discover your calling?
Most importantly, how do you discover your calling? We discover our calling by being intimate (“into me you see”) with Jesus. The closer we are to him, the more we will know that he’s shaped us to leave our unique imprints on the world. This takes time; be patient.
We can learn to rely on the power of the One who called us to be productive for his glory, our joy, and for the sake of the world: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me“ (1 Cor. 15:10, ESV).
Marinate on that.
This article originally appeared here.