My interview with Matt Perman on Gospel Productivity.


I recently read a book entitled What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done” By Matt Perman. Here is my review of the book I did a few weeks back. I loved the book how it tackled the whole issue of productivity from the standpoint the great commandment and the great commission. I often talk with my team and tell them we are not efficient with people we are efficient with problems so we can extend grace to people. That’s the heart beat of this book. After I finished reading this book I reached out to Matt to do a blog interview below is that interview.

1. You talk a lot about the need to eliminate and create larger chunks of time – Drucker starts time management by telling executives they need to “Know thy Time” You didn’t mention in your book to specifically track where your time goes. Was this on purpose?  

This is a great question, because originally I did have a section talking about the importance of tracking your time. Tracking your time is an important step because, as Drucker points out, you can’t manage your time unless you know where it actually goes. And, unfortunately, our memories are almost always wrong on this. The only way to truly know where your time goes is to track it. Once you track your time (for a period of about two weeks), then you identify the time wasters, cut them out, and consolidate the time that remains.

I cut those pages out in part due to the need to reduce page count and in part because tracking your time is just plain really hard to do. I wanted to develop a system that was as uncomplicated as possible and that people would actually do. I didn’t think most people would actually take the advice of tracking their time. If I had it to do over again, though, that is something I would probably update, or at least include in a footnote.

2. I loved your list of books to read at the end of each chapter. As a reader I found it exciting and also expensive. If you could recommend just one book as the next book to read after reading What’s Best Next what would that book be?

The one book I would recommend reading after What’s Best Next is Tim Sanders’s book Love is the Killer App. The reason is that it is all about the importance of generosity as the best way to succeed at work, which is one of the most important principles I emphasize in What’s Best Next.  

3. I have a pet peeve, I feel that many pastors are obsessed with being a CEO rather than a shepherd. I love how you made productivity about other people. As someone who reads lots of business books as well as theology books do you see a dangerous trend with too much business reading by pastors or is that just me?

I think the issue with business books and pastoral ministry is this: there are good business books and bad business books. A lot of times, pastors read what are actually “bad” business books. Then, when they seek to implement the things they’ve learned, things go wrong and business thinking as a whole gets rejected.

Note that the problem there wasn’t business thinking per se. The problem is that this pastor read the wrong business books altogether. The books he read gave advice that was bad not just when implemented in a church setting, but advice that is bad even in the business world.

I don’t advocate bringing that kind of business thinking into the church. But there is a whole set of business books that lays out principles that are based not first on the bottom line or controlling people like a domineering leader, but on treating people well (with respect and generosity) and building a business based on character and virtue. These business books are very useful for pastors. This good business thinking should not be rejected because of the bad apples out there.

One could ask, though, whether there is still a difference between even this good business thinking and leading a church. The answer, of course, is yes. A business aims to earn a profit, and a church does not. So we do need to make distinctions. But the best business thinkers point out that, even in business, the businesses that are most successful actually put values before profit. So good business thinking is not all about the bottom line, and emphatically does not set up money as the ultimate bottom line. That’s why there are indeed many universal principles that pastors can learn from reading (the good) business books.

4. I have never seen so many amazing quotes about effectiveness from theologians I respect such as Edwards, Spurgeon and Bonhoeffer. Pastors today seem to be either intensely theological or overly practical. How to we do both well?

That’s a very important issue. One of my aims in the book was to show that we don’t have to choose: we need to care immensely about both doctrine and practice. In fact, doctrine is the foundation of practice and, conversely, without being expressed in practice, doctrine is incomplete.

That said, for some reason it’s tough to figure out how to do both well. I think one of the reasons for that is that a lot of pastors who are practical are reading the wrong theological books, which then gives theology in general a bad name for them (it feels dusty and dry). Likewise, many of the more theologically-oriented folks, when they do read practical stuff, tend to read the wrong practical books—the books that are fluffy and superficial. This gives the practical side a bad name to them.

Part of the solution, then, is to make sure we read the right books. I’ve found that reading Peter Drucker, for example, feels a lot like reading Jonathan Edwards in certain ways because both have that incredible depth of insight that goes right to the core of what they are talking about.

Theologically-oriented folks don’t need to make practical stuff their main reading diet, and practically-oriented folks don’t need to make theological stuff their main diet. But we should each read more from the other arena, and when we find the right people to read (in the practical arena, people like Peter Drucker, Daniel Pink, Marcus Buckingham, Andy Stanley, and Jim Collins), we typically find that it is actually much more beneficial and enjoyable than we may have thought.

I think the solution, at the end of the day, is probably something I’ll call principle-centered practice. We need to realize that the best practice is based on correct principles, which means theology. If more and more people recognize that theology is practical, and get a sense for what that is actually like, I think we can bring down this wall between theology and practice.

5. What do you wish you could add to the book?

I had so much more to say! I cut about 350 pages from the book. The biggest thing I wish I could have kept in was the chapter on suffering. After that, the chapter on “a biblical view of working in your strengths.”

6. What is the best way this book could be implemented in the staff culture of a church? Leading so many different personality styles not everyone loves GTD. How would you suggest this book be used to make church staffs more productive?

I would suggest going through it as a staff over the course of about two months or so, meeting every week to discuss the next part of the book (there are seven parts in the book, plus a toolkit).

During that time, debate and discuss. Push back on things. People don’t have to do everything the same way. In fact, I did my best to set forth a system in the book that allows for people who aren’t in to GTD (without compromising the core principles). I tried to create a system that was a bit easier and less complex.

Even with the reduced system I outline, people still don’t have to do everything. It would be great if they did, but some people just have different preferences and energy levels. Look for the underlying principles, and find the best way to apply those. Along with that, use the fully fleshed out system in the book to help you establish a common vocabulary for talking about these things.

7. How do you read books? Do you have a system and how do you decide what to read next?

It typically feels like I’m reading over 100 books at once—which is overwhelming! That is not by design. I identify books based on interest and reading projects I feel I need to have, and put them into an organized set of piles on some bookshelves I have. Then when I have time to read, I’ll pick a book based on what I’m most interested in at that moment. That’s how I end up having so many books going at once.

This is not the best way to read, however, and I am slowly transitioning to a better system where I read just one or two books at a time, all the way to the end, before moving onto the next. Because there are so many different things I want to read about, this is hard for me to do. But I’m finding it much more satisfying.

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