One of my favorite video clips features comedian Bob Newhart who plays a psychologist with a quick fix to every problem. A patient comes to him revealing several concerns, and he replies with just two words: “Stop it!” While this is a very humorous piece, it does remind us that there are certain things we should just stop doing.
In training strategic leaders, I arrive at a point near the conclusion where I ask them, “What are you willing to give up or stop doing, so you will have time and energy to devote to this work?” This question generally leaves people curious, because we usually talk about what we should do, not what we should not do. People are often baffled as to why they should give up doing good things. But as my mentor Bill Smith put it to us a few years ago, if the ‘good’ things we do are the enemy of the ‘best’ things we could be doing, then we must consider such ‘good’ things to be sin!
In 2006, when Judy and I were trained as strategy coordinators, we were prompted with the question of what we should stop doing. Our “Do Not Do” list included the following:
- stop investing time and training in people who are not obedient
- stop spending time with idle social groups, hoping they will eventually move forward
- stop ‘cultivating’ people (with the idea that we can make them more receptive)
- stop looking for substitutes to person-to person, mouth-to-ear evangelism
We followed through with this list, and I found that it helped me to keep a very narrow and strong focus on the things that matter to Jesus the most. We immediately stopped working with a lady in whom we had invested much; she just wasn’t going to obey Jesus. We stopped meeting with a local friendship group that was not moving forward. We chose not to re-start Time Out, a social ministry that we had led before. I become more selective in choosing the people I worked with, and much more attuned to what I do with them. As we shared the gospel more faithfully, we stopped making excuses and creating trendy alternatives.
In months following our training, this list actually continued to grow. Here are some other specific things that changed during our first 12 months as we put T4T/AIM methods into practice during 2006-2007:
- I dropped my involvement with the Baptist Union Ministry Team. I was in a key position alongside the Superintendent, but I knew that I had to step away.
- We stopped attending traditional Sunday morning church services. We wanted to immerse ourselves in a whole new paradigm of church, and our groups during the week more than adequately replaced what we missed on Sundays.
- I stopped “supply preaching” in local churches, except where I determined there would be a strategic advantage for Kingdom work.
- I dropped my involvement in Crossover Australia (a national evangelism task force). Two years later I was invited back as a consultant, but looking back, I probably should not have re-joined.
- I limited the time I spent at ministers’ gatherings; just enough to keep in touch.
- As an avid beekeeper, I decided not to continue with this hobby. I loved beekeeping, but it was just going to demand too much of my attention. I gave my bees and equipment to 2 other men (one of which is a highly committed trainer now).
- I was doing a lot of web page design and PHP/MySQL coding at this time and put strict limits on how much time I spent with this. Despite my interest in other areas of computer programming, I decided not to pursue them.
- I limited my involvement with other hobbies, particularly photography and astronomy.
Getting serious about following and obeying Jesus doesn’t mean you have to give up everything and go live in a monastery. But it does mean that we must take stock of who we are, how we apply our skills, and what we’ll do with the limited amount of time and energy we have in our week. This is particularly important as you get started. Oddly enough, I still don't do most of these things. My 'do not do' list has become much more of a lifestyle, and it doesn't feel like much of a sacrifice anymore.
As we embark on a new year, we must each ask ourselves, “What’s it going to take to multiply disciples in my city?” One answer to this question will always be, “Stop doing ‘good’ things so you can focus on what matters most to Jesus.” To stop doing what is pleasant, or what seems right, requires a lot of courage--but the reward of letting God work through you far outweighs anything you’ll ever give up.