Battling Distractions

by John Meador

John MeadorSome time ago, lacking the motivation to run regularly, I took my wife's suggestion to enlist a new running partner.

Instead the usual marathon-type running buddies (those guys don't like to stop as much as I do) I enlisted an entirely different partner. My buddy is not a "he"-my running buddy is a "she." Her name is Jess.

She is a beautiful, young, brown-eyed Australian who is in fantastic shape. She can run all day-and keeps me quite motivated to run. Oh, did I mention that she is a dog? She is my Australian Shepherd pup.

There is just one problem. She is easily distracted. I've never worked my arms out so much in running, because I am constantly pulling her back to my pace and keeping her headed in the same direction I am running in. She's prone to chasing dogs, cats, ducks, other runners, and even birds flying 40 feet above us.

In fact, I think I've spent more time getting untangled from the leash than I actually spend moving along my route these first few weeks with her. It is exhausting, but then I guess that is why we run anyway.

I find my study of God's Word is a lot like that. And therein is a huge problem with the modern-day preacher. He is easily distracted. Seriously distracted. You know the culprits: E-mails. Letters to answer. Problems to fix. Calls to return. Then there are those crazy Web searches that take us off course. People drop in on us and insist we see them, when we both know the problem they want to talk about has been around for years.

The preacher who wins this battle has something seriously powerful to say to his people on Sunday. The preacher who does notwell, he's not going to see the kind of results he wants to see.

So what is a preacher to do? Taking a cue from Paul's writings in Ephesians, we must be "making the most of your time, for the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). Here is how I do that practically:

I set aside mornings for study. I'm a people person, and if I don't get this study in early, I'm easily distracted by the people I work with and those I serve. My mornings belong to God, and I do my best to keep that focus.

I almost never set appointments with people in the mornings. I rarely accept breakfast meetings, and I really, really try not to accept phone calls. I let callers leave a message. They understand, and if they don't, I may feel like I'm cheating them, but I'm certainly not cheating God of His time. If you have an assistant, he or she can be trained to help you, and if you don't, learn to use a voice messaging system.

I shut down the e-mail, and answer it only during breaks. Man, what a world of immediacy we've created with text messaging and e-mails! Long, long ago, I determined never to use the IM feature of my computer. People pop in on me when they simply have nothing else to do-but I DO have something to do.

When I struggle, I call myself back to the priority of study. I remind myself of what God intends me to share with our people. I set up an accountability team that monthly asks me the hard questions about life and how I spend my time.

Periodically, I take two or three days and go away to a new place to study. Sometimes that is a lake house that I've borrowed and on rare occasions it is a hotel I'm staying in for the purpose of study. I look down the road to see what I need to be preaching in the days ahead and I ask God for wisdom and direction.

I get up and walk around in the study quite frequently so I can stay fresh. It can be mentally exhausting to spend hours studying, and I need the break to stay alert.

I set marker points and deadlines for myself during the week. I need to finish the word studies and grammar studies by Monday. I need to interpret the text by Tuesday. I'm outlining on Wednesday, and checking commentaries later on Wednesday mornings. I'm searching for illustrations, introductions and conclusions on Thursday-and it is my goal to have the presentation 90 percent finished by Thursday noon.

There are times I have to pull hard on the leash of my life just to accomplish what you've read above. At other times, I get behind and have to work harder to catch up. But week by week and year by year, I've learned that dealing with the distractions of everyday life is a spiritual battle, and I'm determined to win through His power.

So, dear preacher, put a leash on your time, and make the most of it. As you invest, God will bless.

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad