In 2016, Zondervan released What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. The book is on the intersection of Christian faith and productivity and, as the subtitle suggests, Perman teaches how the gospel affects the way Christians think about personal productivity. Gospel-Driven Productivity, or GDP, as Perman calls it, is the distinguishing mark that separates a secular understanding of productivity from a Christian one. The book has sold well and was named on Zondervan’s “Best of the Decade” list. Perman is also the author of a second book on productivity.
Less than a year before the release of Perman’s book, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity, hit the market by Cruciform Press. Written by Tim Challies, the book is about productivity from a Christian worldview. Whereas Perman’s book is on the theory of productivity, Challies’ book is on the practical side of productivity. The book is short and succinct. Five plus years after reading the book, I am still daily applying some of the material to my life.
Before Challies’ book, I’m not sure I had ever heard of a book on the subject, or if it was ethically permissible for Christians to talk about being productive. I’m not alone. When Christians hear the word “productivity,” they often think of secular business. But Challies debunks this mischaracterization. Challies, instead, teaches that productivity is about stewarding your life for the glory of God and the good of others. Apathy about productivity means negligence in stewardship which means disobedience. Do More Better recently inched over 700 Amazon reviews.
A book that has not garnered the same amount of attention as the titles mentioned above, but is still worthy of consideration, is Brandon Crowe’s Every Day Matters. “I know of no better book to place in the hands of aspiring Christian men and women who want their life’s trajectories to be productive for Christ and his kingdom,” says Kent Hughes in the foreword. The premise of the book is captured in the title: Every day matters or, as R.C. Sproul used to say, “Right now counts forever.” Crowe’s book is practical, well-written, and theologically sound.
But the CPM movement is more than books. It’s also courses, email newsletters, and online communities. Enter Reagan Rose, the founder of Redeeming Productivity, a web-based ministry that teaches “Personal productivity, from a Christian worldview, for the glory of God.” The ministry began as a hobby. But in early 2021, Rose took a leap of faith and went all-in with Redeeming Productivity as his full-time vocation, and by the end of the year, the ministry was financially sustaining. The fact that Rose was able to turn an internet ministry on Christian productivity into a full-time job in less than a year reveals Rose’s adept business savvy, but it also reveals the desire for Christian resources on productivity. Turns out, Christian productivity is not a viability. Rose has a book bearing the name of his ministry forthcoming with Moody this fall.
Have you noticed? There is a resurgence of Christians seeking to understand work, productivity, habits, and time management from a biblical worldview. It’s a movement that makes a difference but does not get the recognition it deserves. Christians all over the world are interested in productivity and are looking to voices to lead the way. Take, for example, Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, which is considered the best productivity book among productivity aficionados (along with David Allen’s Getting Things Done). I recount the podcast episode in which Newport says he hears from pastors more than anyone else. A secular book on productivity! And it’s pastors who contact him most (Speaking of pastors, Kevin DeYoung shares that he read five productivity books in 2021).
Productivity is not what you think. When you think of productivity, you think of an upper-class CEO yelling at his employees for not getting more done, threatening consequences if the report isn’t completed by Wednesday. This is tyrannical leadership, not productivity. “Stewardship” and “productivity” are interchangeable. Or, as Tim Challies put it: “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” Seen this way, every Christian should care about productivity since every Christian is called to steward what God has entrusted to him or her, and will one day give account for this stewardship.
None of the voices mentioned above put Christian productivity on the map. The goal to be faithful with one’s talent, time, money, and energy is not a distinctly 21st-century phenomenon. One can hardly read 50 pages of a Church history book without noticing the men and women for whom God raised up to accomplish the greatest works were often men and women who were disciplined, productive, and time-conscious. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” the Psalmists proclaim (Psalm 90:12). If numbering your days is wise, then not doing so is folly. Seeking to steward one’s time, money, and spiritual gifts for the glory of God and good others has marked the people of God since the 1st Century.
Still, before we learned that Joel Beeke works from 8:30 am to Midnight (or something like that), or that Charles Spurgeon worked 18 hours a day, or that Martin Luther rose at 4:00 am to pray for four hours, it was Paul who declared that he “worked harder than any of them” (1 Cor. 15:10). It was also Paul who told the Ephesian church to redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16), and the church at Colossae to make the most use of the time (Colossians 4:5). The origin of biblical productivity derives not from men, but from God.
One intriguing aspect of the movement is that most of the content I see on the subject derives from the hands of men and women who categorize themselves as Reformed (or broadly Reformed). This is significant, for the Reformed movement is often pictured by the naysayers as “the frozen chosen,” for not doing evangelism, and for not caring about neighbors. But these stereotypes do not align with the actions and output from Reformed Christians. The doctrine of justification by grace through faith has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past 20 years. Movements like TGC and T4G have helped remind the people of God that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). We are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Eph. 2:1-10). But we are saved to work. Good works are not the basis of salvation, but the evidence of salvation. The voices I read in the CPM movement seem to strike the right balance of this tension between faith and works.
CPM is not a flashy acronym but neither is the movement. I have read most of the books on the subject, and I hope to one day add value to the conversation. But for now, I want to bring your attention to this movement. I want to invite you to rejoice with me in God, for I am brimming with thanks over the men and women who are speaking about this important topic. The caricatures are being removed, and those who are learning the basics of productivity are seeing life-changing results. Christians are growing in self-control, discipline, and getting up earlier to pray and read their Bible, and walk into the works God ordained them to do. May God continue to grow the movement for his glory. And may God’s people seek to steward their lives well for the glory of God.