Friday, January 5, 2007

New Year's ToDos

I’ve been reading From Where I Sit– Michael Hyatt’s blog. He is the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and an interesting figure: from his blog you might imagine that he is more business minded than spiritually minded. After all, he’s been posting numerous articles on setting goals and organizing your priorities and disciplines (his former blog was called Working Smart). However, he’s also an ordained Deacon in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, according to his bio. The juxtaposition of these two is interesting.

Lutheran Pastors sometimes have a phobia of Covey, Agendas, DayPlanners, Palm Pilots and all things that smack of business organization. While at the seminary, students who were assigned to take the Personal Growth Class in Organization gnashed their teeth, jumped through the hoop, and perhaps later, quietly admitted that there were some good ideas there.

Some of the disdain for planning, personal goals, 7 habits and the like stems from the fact that these tools are children of the business and world and almost every pastor made the decision to flee corporate life or never enter it in the first place. Add to this the fact that the CEO model of Evangelical pastoral practice is often at odds with Lutheran pastoral practice and theology. Business tools and business-speak are not welcome among us.

Furthermore, some Lutherans make a theological argument against planning personal and business goals. It goes like this: God is the author and perfecter of our faith. We can do nothing to contribute to our justification, and neither does our personal sanctification have anything to do with our being remitted our sins. Justification is divine monergism–God’s Work Alone.

But what ends up happening is that this divine monergism becomes imported not only into matters of sanctification, which is false and wrong, but also into church life…and all of life. How can you set goals to increase church size, we say, for it is God who creates and sustains faith? How can you set goals for the future at all, for God’s will for our future is hidden, and all the blessings ultimately derive from His gracious right hand?

Needless to say, this is not good theology. It leads to an aversion of sanctification, as McCain has noted numerous times on his blog. It’s more of a parody of Lutheran theology than anything.

It also makes many of us disorganized, inefficient and lazy, present company included.

Mr. Hyatt becomes all the more interesting then. A successful man, at the top of the business world, extolling the value, and power of setting personal and business goals, and the ordered and disciplined life, while at the same time serving as clergy in a very spiritual, even mystical Church. In fact, Orthodox Christians often joke about the inefficiency, illogical practice and life in their Church.

So for the first time in years, thanks to Michael Hyatt, I’ve set goals for this New Year–not resolutions, per se, but personal and professional goals I will accomplish with the help of God. It seems a little “corporate” and “name-it, claim-it” to my inner Lutheran brain, but I’m doing it anyway.