There are countless books out there on the topic of productivity—religious and secular. I have read many of them. They sit heavily marked up on my bookshelves. I have my favorites; and I refer to them often. Each one has its own distinct philosophy and presuppositions, its own unique set of values and goals, as well as its innovative purpose and plan. Whether the focus is on self-improvement, time-management, goal-setting, better efficiency, or guaranteed success, the push for productivity is most often driven by a self-focused and utilitarian ethos. But Redeeming Productivity is different.
Well-read and extensively informed, Reagan stands on the shoulders of all who have written on productivity before him. What he provides is a thoughtful interaction with, synthesis, and critique of mainstream productivity literature and offers a revolutionary, paradigm-shifting approach. With thoughtfulness and care, he challenges, redeems, and sanctifies productivity for the glory of God, the good of others, and your own wellbeing. What I appreciate most about his book is 1) its distinctively Christian worldview, 2) its sharp emphasis on the heart, and 3) its refreshing accessibility.
Its Distinctively Christian Worldview
Reagan’s love for Christ and passion for the truth are evident on every page. Although he clearly appreciates the common grace found in every productivity resource, he aims to be distinctively Gospel-centered in his approach. He warns against the uncritical application of secular self-improvement systems as we may unwittingly adopt values contrary to our worldview. He shows that our view of work has been primarily shaped (literally hijacked) by the Industrial Revolution and is therefore exclusively viewed from a mechanical framework—one that is often naturalistic and dehumanizing and that often leads to meaninglessness, purposelessness, desperation, a lack of satisfaction, and burnout. By examining productivity in light of the Lordship of Christ, he infuses our work with transcendent value by reminding us that the Scripture speaks about productivity in organic metaphors rather than mechanical terms. This redeems, rehumanizes, and reenchants our work. It is not for self or its own sake; it is for the glory of God and the good of others. God has uniquely gifted his children and entrusted them with resources to steward for his glory. Productivity is an integral part of being an image-bearer and a Christian.
Its Sharp Emphasis on the Heart
Motivation matters. As much as I benefit from and enjoy secular, self-improvement literature, I appreciate his critique and exposure of the fundamental pitfall of non-Christian productivity—”a selfish desire for self-improvement for self’s sake.” God is not in the picture. Throughout the book, we are constantly reminded that more important than who we are is whose we are. More than the what (or summation) of our life’s work, we should be attentive and attuned to the why and the how—the inner, deep-seated motivations of our hearts and the methods we employ. He reminds us that our chief end is to glorify God—that our our productivity should be “an expression of quiet worship, not desperation.” Our Christian identity, purpose, and meaning bring security and opportunity. We have everything we need in Christ, so we don’t work for his approval but from his approval; and we don’t work from our own strength but from his. Productivity—or more biblically, fruitfulness—should organically flow from our union with Christ (rather than our own effort) and should ascribe glory back to him (rather than ourselves). “If the vine is the source of our productivity, then maintaining the vitality of that connection is our prime directive.” He argues that productive fruitfulness should be driven by worshipful dependence and sustained by the hope of eternal reward.
Its Refreshing Accessibility
Unlike other productivity books which can often be filled with theory and unworkable solutions, the helpful skills set forth in this book are truly accessible and attainable. This book has considerable balance and maintains equal parts theology and practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) throughout. Every other chapter is filled with proven practical steps that can be implemented in your life today bringing realistic change to your productivity goals tomorrow. His approach is simple, direct, and to the point. Your God-centered ambition will be led through the journey from realistic goal-setting, thoughtful planning and implementation, God-dependent effort exerted through healthy habits and routines, sacrifice and risk, to satisfying temporal and eternal reward. Whether you’re overwhelmed by the deluge of literature on this topic or just struggling with low motivation and ambition, this book will arouse something deep inside your soul, something that’s already there—your redemption in Christ. And from it, you will find ample motivation to live fully for the glory of the one who redeemed you.
I think this book may be my new favorite Christian book on productivity, but, if I may, here are some other Christian resources on productivity that I have found to be helpful—What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, Heart & Habits by Greg Gifford, Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung, Do More Better by Tim Challies, and Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck.