For months, I’ve been preaching what the uninformed and biblically illiterate could easily be misread as a false gospel – referring to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and “Making it All Work” in some of my discipleship, speaking engagements, and coaching. What you need to know is that while I see David Allen as a pretty committed New-Age pagan, what I’ve learned, read, and experienced in the Bible clearly shows that he’s accidentally stumbled on to a veritable gold mine of very God-ordained truth.
If you’re not highly familiar with his methodology, you may see it as a bunch of tricks and techniques that are helpful at best and complicated at worst. For your edification, let me summarize – Getting Things Done (GTD) is just a method of becoming more intentional about capturing all of the commitments and responsibilities in your life, conquering the “up front thinking” (What is it? What is the next actionable step to take with this? Where do I park it until its time comes? and How fast can I dispose of it if it’s trash?), and gaining both perspective (vision) and control (stewardship/influence/action) over these commitments.
Very simple, but not easy. But, you don’t need to understand that thoroughly to understand the next point.
As a believer in Christ, you and I have biblical commands and convictions that should make his entire methodology a walk in the park. If we’re ever “stuck” in using Allen’s methodology, we’re either uncertain of what “done” looks like or when to do the “doing”, David would have you or I use what he calls “Six Horizons of Focus”, basically pulling back the lens of our life to the 50,000 foot level to regain perspective. Once we’ve got a 50,000 foot view, it’s much easier to drop down several levels to the practical “what’s next?” level [GTD “runway”] with a more informed decision of what to do.
In other words, confused on what to do next? Go to the mountain and look down.
For those who are not “in Christ”, you are relegated to looking down only from the top of the mountain. But, there’s the trouble. No matter how tall the mountain you use as your lookout, God always has a higher view.
For those who have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the “mind of Christ”, you have a powerful vantage point that puts you head, shoulders, and planets above the rest – you have God’s vision.
My prayer today is not that you would pick up GTD or Making it All Work, not even that you would pick up your Bible right away… (Heretical?! No.) Rather, that you would pay attention to what has your attention. Count your sheep (see here and here), then bring your accounting to the Lord, ask Him “what’s next, from Your view point?”, and compare the answer you hear to what you read in your Bible. You have access not just to a mountain top view of your world, but of the mountain maker, mountain shaker, and mountain mover.
May He take the scales from your eyes and give you clear vision before you take another step.
First Things First: The Flock is YOUR Problem You have a flock. Did you know that? If you have a pulse it means God still has work for you to do. Matthew Henry would suggest that such work is your flock. Implication: you’re in charge of it. If something goes wrong with it, it’s your problem. Worse, by practicing poor shepherding, you’re disqualifying yourself from a larger field and/or larger flock.
The Matthew Henry Complete Commentary intimates that Proverbs 27:23-27 applies to all lawful callings “whatever our business is, within doors or without”. So, if you and I are still here, we still have a calling and God refers to that calling as our “flock”. More specifically, the sheep in our flock represent the commitments we have made and the field on which they live and feed is akin to the capacity we have to sustain these commitments. You and I have been given both a flock and a field by God and will give an account for them.
Lately, I’ve been implementing, advocating to others, and coaching people the practice or regularly “playing self-executive”, meaning two things: A. Sit down and take a regular inventory of your commitments. Count… your… sheep. Poor stewardship of the flock disqualifies us for larger and better flocks such as new opportunities, promotions, and relationships. Are there excess sheep on your field hogging resources from more important/appropriate sheep? B. Examine… your… field. There is no excuse for taking our eyes off the sheep or the field. An inventory of the flock and an honest look at the field are crucial for being found faithful as a steward. Knowing your blind spots, gifts, weaknesses, and places where your ideas and commitments can falter or flourish are crucial pieces of wisdom we’re required to have in place as managers and stewards. Why You Need a Regular Inventory of Your Flock:
Helps us weigh where we have overstepped our call. Sometimes, we commit to things out of our own strength or desire rather than as God calls and nudges us. Prayerful and regular examination of our commitments opens us up to the Holy Spirit’s advice as to whether we have taken a sheep (or many sheep) into our pasture in error/own strength.
Gives a true reckoning of how many commitments we have. When we don’t have an exhaustive list (and I recommend a written list) of our commitments (sheep), it’s easy to take on new sheep only to find we’re out of room when a wandering few we already had come back to the pasture.
Opens your eyes to the missing sheep. Ever have that “I know I’m forgetting something” feeling? It’s because a sheep has wandered out of your view. Very often, the mere process of writing and praying through my list of commitments “sets off” a reminder of a related commitment I may not have written down before.
What you can’t see is killing you. Out of sight is not out of mind. When you know something has fallen through the cracks it creates a low-level “hum” in your conscious mind that serves as a reminder that you have unfinished business. Added to the current “noise” in your head and the fact that emergencies come up, what you don’t have your eyes on can paralyze you when flexibility is required or overwhelm your mind when your heart is out of check. Scripture warns us to “guard your heart”. But, a clear head is needed to guard it.
Exposes the danger of an unsustainable flock. The field can only support so many sheep for so long. Some of us are idle and have only a few sheep when we know God is calling us to do more. Others are doing only what God has called them to do – nothing more, nothing less. This is a fruitful life. Many of us are being conformed to the pattern of the world which blurs the lines between “it should be done”, “I can do it”, and “I must do it”, resulting in a flock so large that the grass will soon be gone and the sheep will be hungry. Your field is overflocked. God doesn’t want overcrowding – there’s a reason why Jabez prayed for larger “territory” – sheep multiply under God’s sovereignty and with little coaxing.
Helps us be emotionally neutral when we have to decline. Nobody wants to tell the boss, the organization, or the client “I can’t do that right now. I’m overcommitted.” These are all emotionally threatening situations that easily stir up worry and dread. But, if we can give those people an honest look at our “flock to field ratio” (commitments vs. capacity) it’s easier, when possible, to mutually decide what gets completed when: Boss says – “I need you to take on project G this week.” Rather than saying “I can’t”, show them the field & flock: “Boss, I know you value sheep A, B, C, D, E, and F. If I’m to take on sheep G, which sheep is it OK to leave unattended in the meantime?”
Having a record of our “flock to field ratio” can remind us of God’s faithfulness and His trust in us. Being faithful with our flock qualifies us for a larger field (though it does not guarantee a larger flock). The parable of the talents explains how the Master gave each of the servants assets in accordance with their abilities and showed how God treats those who shepherd His assets wisely vs. shepherding them poorly or out of fear. The Lord doesn’t take rewards from the most prolific steward and give them to the poor guy who didn’t take any chances. Much to the contrary: He casts out the lazy servant and gives what he had to the more able of the three. God is preparing us for Kingdom living – Life is more than a dress rehearsal: our performance here will impact the role we have in His eternal Kingdom. Every sheep is valuable, but overcommitment is not rewarded anymore than slothfulness.
We cannot move ahead to greater assignments without a faithful handling of what God has given us. Keep these 7 reasons in mind and FIND time to count your sheep… regularly. This Friday night (04.26.2013), I’ll be speaking for Echo Ministries at Stars and Strikes in Cumming, GA at 7:30 on this very topic, in detail. If you’ve been wondering why my inbox is at 0 so many times a week or you’d just love to be a better shepherd, come join us!