Work Ethic

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had a legendary work ethic, travelling thousands of miles by horseback, preaching thousands of sermons over the course of his long life, and starting a global movement, in the process.

Wesley was very disciplined. In fact, it’s no surprise that the UMC’s official book is called the “Book of Discipline.” Included in this book is a series of questions Wesley asked of candidates for ordination, including this one …

Will you observe the following directions?

(a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary.

(b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time.

Recently, I read Michael McKinney‘s post, distilling some lessons for leaders from Leaders in Gear by Rhett Laubach. One of the lessons especially struck me, and fits here. McKinney writes …

The Threshold Thread concept states that all high achievers have developed the ability to push their capabilities further than the average person. Their threshold for hard work is higher. Their patience threshold is longer. Their commitment threshold is stronger. Will Smith has been quoted as saying that the true secret to his success is an insane work ethic. He uses running as an example. If you were on a treadmill beside him he knows one thing for certain—you will get off first.

I love that. “If you were on a treadmill beside him he knows one thing for certain—you will get off first.” That’s determination (I recently wrote about Developing the Discipline of Determination).

A few months ago, Thom Rainer wrote about Pastors and Time, noting some research that revealed differences in how effective pastors and ineffective pastors use time. Through research, they discovered differences in how much sleep pastors of effective and ineffective churches got, how much time they spent with family, in sermon preparation, etc. The point is that our use of time matters, and our use of time is largely dependent on our work ethic.

One of the questions I’ve wrestled with while writing this post, though, is, how do you have a strong work ethic without becoming a workaholic. I think the answer lies in having a strong work ethic for life, not just for work. We become workaholics when we work hard at work only, but we’re healthier when we value and spend time with our families, by having a strong work ethic at home.

“Work hard at whatever you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9.10, CEV)

2 thoughts on “Work Ethic

  1. You’re right on point. “Work ethic” doesn’t mean “work all the time.” It has to do with showing up on time and as promised, meeting expectations with excellence, demonstrating integrity in all things, and (in ministry especially) maintaining fitness for the calling!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Pam.

    I need to review an idea from Bishop Schnase’s “The Balancing Act.” First, I need to find the book, then write a post on it (someday). The basic idea, as I recall, is that (like a tightrope walker) we’re never “balanced,” but always “balancing.”

    I like that. Never been crazy about the word balanced. But maybe it’s because I know I’m not. 🙂

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