Here’s an interesting book: What’s Best Next by Matt Perman. It’s basically a Christian book about getting things done in a Christian way. The book has seven parts (24 chapters) that span around 350 pages. The book might be summarized like this: Glorify God in all that you do, love your neighbor, and do this deliberately/intentionally.
From a “big picture” view of the book, there is nothing overly innovating – this is basic Christian teaching. Perman adds detail by weaving in helpful insights from “common grace” authors like Steven Covey and Peter Drucker as well as lessons from Christian authors like John Piper, Rick Warren, William Wilberforce, and Jonathan Edwards.
Here’s a simplified outline: 1) How to be God-centered in our productivity, 2) How being saved by grace frees us for joyful service and love, 3) Defining our mission – creating a mission statement, 4) Creating a flexible schedule, 5) Freeing up time, 6) Doing what’s most important first, and 7) Living it out. There are also a few appendices that summarize the key thoughts and give more resources.
First, I’ll give my critiques. 1) The book was too tedious, wordy, and detailed for me. I was overwhelmed with all the tips and insights and strategies and outlines. At the halfway point of the book, I thought, “I can’t do all this stuff! There’s just too much!” If the book would have been shorter and more to the point, I would have liked it a lot more. 2) The way Perman used the popular “gospel-driven” phrase was confusing (GDP – Gospel-Driven Productivity). He seems to be using the term “gospel” in a broad way. That’s fine, but it is a bit confusing because everyone says “gospel-driven” this or that (it’s becoming a buzz-word, unfortunately). I think a better term for his use would be “Scripture Based Productivity” (see p. 28). He does discuss the gospel, but he also (rightly) uses the law for his counsel on productivity.
3) I disagree with Perman when he says “the ultimate result of GDP is the transformation of the world socially, economically, and spiritually, to the glory of God.” 4) A few times Perman used Scripture references in a way with which I wasn’t comfortable. One example is where Perman says that “good works…are anything we do in faith,” including mundane activities of life like “tying our shoes” (p. 78). He says a good paraphrase of Matt. 5:16 is “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your clean parking lots and give glory to your Father in heaven (p. 79; quoting the Chick-Fil-A president). A little nuance on these things would have been helpful (i.e. Westminster Confession of Faith ch. 16.).
There are also many strengths of the book. I appreciated his emphasis on getting the most important thing done first. I appreciated his emphasis on loving our neighbors and serving them in everything we do. I resonated with his discussion of having direction, purpose, and passion in life – aiming one’s life at God’s glory and our neighbor’s good. It is true: we shouldn’t be lazy Christians who don’t think about what we’re doing in our lives and with our lives. His emphasis on routines and basic schedules was good. Perman also noted that we don’t have to be slaves to our schedules, but said flexibility should be built into our lives and schedules. Finally, he was right on when he said we should always treat people as people (not products!) when we interact with them in a “scheduled” way. There is a lot of wisdom in this book.
Is this book for all Christians? Probably not. If you’re a structured person who knows the basics of what it means to love and glorify God while serving others, you might not need this book. Some of Perman’s suggestions are common sense for people who know how to manage time (i.e. “plan your day”). I also hesitate to recommend it to average Christians who don’t have time an energy to read a huge and tedious book like this. I wouldn’t hand it out to a stressed-out mom who is at her wits’ end, since the book would be a big overload for her. It’s not a book for everyone.
So who should get this book? Christian readers and thinkers who have a tough time managing their schedules/lives. If you need help with scheduling and time management, and if you like detailed and longer reading material, you’ll like this book. If you’re a reader whose life is an unscheduled whirlwind, I recommend this book! What’s Best Next would be a great addition to a Christian college business class reading list.