Joe Coffey the lead pastor at Hudson Community Chapel shared a request made by a 17 year old high school student planning to go to seminary and answer God’s call to ministry. As part of a school assignment he was to shadow someone in his career choice for 30 hours a week for a month. Pastor Joe thought this would be a great opportunity to invest in this young man, but wondered, “What will I tell him when it looks like I’m not doing anything, but have a lot going on inside my head?”
As pastors and ministry leaders we all know that taking time to think is a big part of our job. Unfortunately the much needed time to do the work of thinking is often pushed aside by so many other demands of ministry. In his book Thinking for a Change, John Maxwell said, “Becoming a better thinker is worth your effort because the way you think really impacts every aspect of your life.” When it comes to ministry matters, you and I need to do the work of thinking because the stuff of ministry is of eternal significance.
Let’s take the next few moments and consider seven ways to help us improve the work of thinking.
1. Make prayer a priority. I confess that often my prayers exist within my mind. God hears our thoughtful prayers, and I’m thankful that some of these silent petitions have even been answered. But I’ve also learned that my prayers are more focused when I start verbalizing my thoughts. Alone in the car, or mowing the lawn are examples of times that I can choose to speak my prayerful thoughts. As a Pentecostal, sometimes the speaking uses the unknown words given by the Holy Spirit. Either way as I begin to speak to the LORD it puts me in a position to do the second half of prayer – listen to His voice. When we take time to listen to God in prayer the Holy Spirit will energize and inspire our thinking with wisdom.
2. Decide to do the work of thinking. In the same way we must choose to pray, we have to make the choice to stop and think. Put it on your calendar, then follow through and keep this important appointment with yourself. The work of thinking is a discipline we must learn to develop.
3. Find a place to think. We need a place free from distractions, a place unplugged from the internet and phone calls. I enjoy sitting on my deck watching the sun set, or sitting by a bonfire in the backyard. Get away from the office and find a place you can call your thinking spot.
4. Write down your thoughts. The older I get the more I realize that if I don’t write it down I will forget it. The whole point of doing the work of thinking is to remember your thoughts. We can only act upon our thinking if we can come back to those thoughts at a later time. I like using my iPad to “write” my thoughts; find an app that works for you even if it’s pen and paper.
5. Connect with a mentor who is a great thinker. As a solo pastor, I spent too much time alone and disconnected from others in ministry. We need each other. And more importantly we need someone who can inspire us to do the work of thinking. Scripture teaches us that wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors. Find a great thinker and connect with him/her regularly.
6. Keep learning. No matter how good we may get at thinking, we will never know or think every thought possible. We need to fertilize the garden of our mind with the good thoughts of others. Whether it be through reading books or articles, attending a conference, searching the web, enrolling in a continuing education program, or whatever, make an investment in yourself by continuing to learn.
7. Express your thoughts. Don’t do the work of thinking only to keep it to yourself; share your thoughts with others – even the world. One way we do this is through our preaching and teaching, but don’t stop there. Think it and share it, because the more we invest of ourselves in others, the more we will have to give away.
Let’s do the work of thinking. It’s worth the time and effort.
What do you think: