Today I yield the floor to one of my mentors. Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas. Dr. Childs ministry of leadership development within the church has transformed my ministry through the years.
His books and training material have revolutionized hundreds of churches and ministries. His personal testimony is one of many miracles with a very powerful pulpit ministry.
In the last decade, Microsoft introduced its Windows 95 operating system. As one of the many who utilized this software, I would routinely sit and wait the few minutes for my computer to boot up. I never pondered the immense importance of these wasted daily minutes until I participated in a corporate time management seminar in 1996. I was shocked to discover that the cumulative total of the time wasted as individuals waited the few minutes for Windows 95 to boot up exceeded ten thousand man years per day!
Time is valuable. In training and facilitating several thousand professional and corporate teams, I have documented millions of dollars in bottom-line savings and multiplied productivity simply by eliminating the wasted time from the operating processes used to manufacture goods and produce services. The root cause of the rise or fall of many organizations is their ability to manage time efficiently and effectively.
Time is life, and it is perhaps our most precious resource. It can be a tremendous friend or foe, and it is ours to do with as we please. Every moment should be cherished, for it is a commodity that can never be replenished. It is used once and then it is gone forever.
One of the greatest keys to effective leadership is the proper utilization of time resources. There is no greater example of time mastery than the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Scriptural study cannot reveal a single wasted minute in the life, ministry and actions of Jesus! A tremendous example of His personal mastery over time and priorities was in the account of Lazarus. John 11:6 says, “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.”
The scriptures reveal that Jesus loved Lazarus, and also his sisters Martha and Mary. He was sympathetic to their need but He did not allow even the circumstances of His close friends to dictate His agenda. He alone was responsible for setting His own priorities and effectively utilizing His own time. He did not drop everything He was doing just to do what others expected Him to do. Even though they misunderstood His motives, Jesus showed up at the right time and Lazarus was raised from the dead. The final result was that God was glorified through the actions of Jesus.
Jesus, as the master teacher, was manifesting an example for us to follow. In only 3½ years, He accomplished every detail that was essential for Him to complete His earthly mission. At the time of His death at age thirty-three, He left nothing undone. This could never have been accomplished had He allowed others to control His time and direct His focus away from the essential.
We too must be responsible for our time and agenda. Those who allow their agenda to be restructured by every phone call or request will be ineffective at best. If you are you breathless from running and your treadmill is stuck in high speed, it has to be your decision to get off of the treadmill.
Time presents a common challenge to everyone, and you need not feel alone in your struggle against it. The 21st Century is an era that is proving to offer an increasing abundance of absorbing demands and challenges to our time and resources. Simultaneously, it also offers the greatest opportunities ever presented in the history of the Church.
The potential for a last-day harvest is manifested through an amazing parable in the Bible. The parable applies to the value of time management. It is found in Matthew 20:1-16:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers
for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into
his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’
So they went.
Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (NKJV)
There are numerous revelations contained within this parable.
• The vineyard belonged to the landowner. The landowner is a metaphor for Jesus.
• The laborers had a choice whether or not to become employed by the landowner. Their time belonged to them and not to the landowner. In order for the landowner to have any claim to their time they had to work out an agreement. The landowner would pay the individual for a portion of his time. In exchange, the laborer would work in the landowner’s vineyard.
• In the agricultural system of Israel, each laborer was given a sack to gather the produce into. When the sack was full he would exchange it for a new sack. At the end of the day, he would be paid according to the number of sacks he had gathered. This pay-for-production system is still in effect in parts of Israel and the world today.
• The laborer who was hired at the eleventh hour was paid the same as the laborer who was hired in the morning. This meant he had gathered in one hour as much as the other laborers had gathered all day!
• This is a prophecy that the tools and capabilities of the last hour laborer will allow them to reap in a short time an equivalent harvest to the early laborer who worked a long time to reap a harvest.
Several underlying truths can also be derived from this parable:
• The landowner obviously practiced a system of organizational continuous improvement. At every shift, he was able to gather more in less time. His methods were more proficient in the latter part of the day than in the morning.
• The landowner was a wise steward. He was not foolish when offering the same salary to the eleventh hour laborer that he had offered to the early morning laborer. He was aware of his organizational and personal capabilities. He knew he was getting a fair return for a fair wage.
Time will have a greater impact on your lifetime achievements than perhaps anything else. The irony lies in the fact that every human being is dealt an equivalent measure of exactly twenty-four hours of time for every day of life. Those who acquire a discipline for time management will reap its innumerable benefits and be productive. The highest levels of effectiveness can only be attained once individuals and organizations develop the habits and disciplines required for time management.
Jesus was a wise time manager. Careful scrutiny of the scriptures reveals that He was very proficient at maximizing the value of the time spent on any endeavor. He was constantly bringing one meeting to a close in order to head to the next item on His agenda. He kept the disciples focused on tasks and assignments. He was a man of few words, getting straight to the point saved Him significant chunks of time. He consistently had others intercept his interruptions for Him, and He would see certain people only after He had returned a disciple with a message to bring the visitor into His presence. His list of accomplishments is incredible, and much credit goes to His remarkable ability to maximize time to His strategic advantage.
As stewards, we must become astute time managers. We should continuously improve the systems and methods that effect the gathering of a harvest. It is our individual choice as to whether we desire to pick the harvest by hand or reap it with a combine.
If the time wasted daily while people wait for their computers to boot up is equivalent to thousands of human lifetimes, how much productivity is being wasted in the Kingdom of God by the daily misuse of our God-given time? Only eternity will reveal the answer to that question, and by then, time will be no more.