My Stop Doing List

Benjamin Kane —  October 28, 2015

I love books on leadership.  They are inspiring, enlightening and offer tangible help to my ministry.  While there are many out there, my favorite leadership writer is Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great (a must read for anyone in leadership or thinking about being in leadership).  Recently I came across a speech he gave at the Drucker Institute (click here to view the speech). The entire speech is worth listening to, but the last 10-15 minutes are pure gold.  He offers 10 pieces of advice to emerging leaders, two of which are: “If you woke up tomorrow and found out you inherited $20 million dollars while also finding out that you had a terminal disease and would be dead in 10 years, what would you stop doing right now?”  His next piece of advice is, “Create a stop-doing list.”  I immediately created one and here it is:


1. Stop trying to memorize my sermons. I thought great preachers memorize their sermons and I want to be a great preacher.  So I tried, worried, tried some more and ultimately felt unfulfilled because I never found the time to do it.  I realized that I was setting myself up for failure and my gifts and time could be used elsewhere.  I know great preachers who use notes—and I know great preachers who don’t.  To each her own!

2. Stop thinking I’ve made it. I became the pastor of HMPC in May of 2014.  It is a well-known church in the area and I thought that my career was golden from here because of the history.  Wellford Hobbie became a beloved pastor here before becoming a notable professor at Union Theological Seminary; Bob Burns was an institution here for 34 years and well-known around the denomination; Christopher Edmonston was called to White Memorial in Raleigh in 2011, which is one of the top ten largest churches in our denomination.  Sitting in the same office where these giants sat and preaching from the same pulpit would afford me the same prestige—I thought.  But then I realized I had to preach, teach, lead, and be an administrator.  The call to HMPC felt like I’d made it; but folks around here wanted a pastor—not someone who’d “made it.”

3.  Stop trying to not care about what others think. This seems counterintuitive given that most of us are hearing that we need to stop caring what others think about us.   I can’t do that.  The more I try to quiet the voices around me the more I wonder what they are saying.  Instead of avoiding all the voices, I continue to develop ways to listen to the important ones (congregants, confidants, people I respect) instead of those who simply wish to hear their own voices aloud.

4. Stop being lonely. I need other pastors to be my pastor.  I don’t mean someone who tells me to read scripture or pray more or be a better Christian, but someone who tells me to take Sabbath, go see a movie, work out regularly and calls me up to allow me to share my innermost doubts, annoyances and joys without retribution or judgment.  We talk a lot about how lonely a profession ministry is—well I’ve stopped talking about it and done something about it.  I’ve befriended people I want to be around, people who I can trust and those I want to emulate.

5. Stop shopping around.  This one has more to do with productivity and focus.  I like clothes and things and can spend hours looking before I make a decision.  What I realized when I wrote this list is that I know what I like, I know how it fits and where I like to buy it.  I don’t need to try the latest and greatest thing; I need to focus my attention elsewhere.  This is a time saver thing; once I stopped “window shopping” I gained hours back to my life and was able to focus on important things.

6. Stop thinking I have enough friends and colleagues: When I felt called away from my previous church I picked up the phone and called friends of friends and point-blank asked them to tell me their call story, what I could be doing while I sense where God is calling me and how to navigate the call process; once I arrived at HMPC I called and emailed those same folks (and others) to seek advice, counsel and guidance.  There are too many seasoned pastors and young folks like me who I want to befriend so I keep calling, emailing and connecting with them on social media.  Trust me, we all need all the help we can get.

What’s on your Stop Doing List?

Benjamin Kane

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Ben is a husband, father, son, brother, and a PC(USA) minister. These identities provide him myriad glimpses of God's unconditional love and grace. He is a Duke basketball fan, NPR listener, reader of almost anything, occasional writer & runner, hopeful New Yorker cartoon creator, and discerner as to who God is. He is the Pastor at Howard Memorial Presbyterian Church in Tarboro, NC--"the crossroads of western civilization."