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"Essentialism" by Greg McKeown

The word “no,” as I recently argued, may simultaneously be the most important word in the Christian’s lexicon, and the most difficult one to pronounce. Fear of man, a reluctance to disappoint, poor stewardship, or a thousand other reasons make it a word that too infrequently crosses many Christians’ lips.

Yet, you cannot faithfully steward all God has entrusted to you without developing the ability to say “no.” Even if you are comfortable saying no, rightly evaluating opportunities, resources, and commitments is a science unto itself.

To this end, I have found Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism most helpful. Though it is not written from a Christian worldview, or specifically for Christian leadership, it is eminently applicable.

McKeown’s thesis is straightforward: Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all – to stop saying yes to everyone – can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.[1]

McKeown offers much more than a pep talk. The book gives step-by-step counsel on how to inventory life’s responsibilities, cull through what does not really matter, and give your best energies towards the right ends. These are processes many of us do intuitively, but McKeown offers clarity, counsel and processes toward these ends.

Perhaps it is by God’s common grace, but Essentialism overflows with application for the Christian life and ministry. Clutter, distraction, and over commitment stymie one’s spiritual growth. Excessive busyness typically leads to spiritual barrenness.

McKeown cuts the legs out from under pride, materialism, fear of man, and other ill founded motives which prompt one to over-commit. A distracted, out-of- balanced life may earn short-term gainss, but it rarely leads to God’s ultimate glory. It usually results in a neglected family, a distracted ministry, a shallow spirituality, and a life of regret.

So, if you are looking to up your “no” game, Essentialism is a must read.


*”On Books Old & New” is intended as a brief introduction and commendation of books, both old and new, which are beneficial for the Christian life and ministry.

[1] 4.

topicsOn Books Old & New

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