Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Skip The Big Bang Theory and make your dreams come true. That’s right. In the time it takes to watch a TV show, you can significantly alter the course of your life for the better. That’s the contention of popular pastor/bestselling author Tommy Barnett (pictured) whose new book is, appropriately enough, titled The Power of A Half Hour: Take Back Your Life Thirty Minutes at a Time (WaterBrook Press). I recently spoke with him on the phone while he was waiting for his wife to finish up some shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.
JWK: So, how’d you come up with the concept for the book?
TOMMY BARNETT: I pastor a church (Phoenix First Assembly of God) that was recently listed as one of the five largest churches in America. It has 25,000 people. I’m also chancellor of the university so an opportunity opened in California to start a place called The Dream Center. It had been a vision of mine for 40 years…I thought to myself “How in the world can I take on more than I (am) right now?” I knew it was a vision and I had it all my life. How in the world was I going to do that with the time that I had? And, of course, I know that you don’t grow by subtraction. You grow by multiplication. For instance, if you want to be stronger you lift more weights. You don’t take away. So, I knew that principle and then I thought, you know what?, I can use my wasted time — the time waiting for an appointment at the doctor’s office, the time waiting for a plane, 30 minutes on an airplane, the time that we just waste away. I can use that to do what I need to do to bring this to pass. So, literally, the idea came to me when I ran out of time and I had more to do. So, that’s how I got the idea for the 30-minute concept.
JWK: And you’re, basically, applying that principle right how — speaking with me while waiting for your wife.
TB: That’s exactly right. For instance, the book that I wrote — The Power of a Half Hour — was written in 30 minute segments. Every great idea that I have gotten, I got by (going to) the mountaintop behind my church…and I spend the first 15 minutes every morning in prayer. The next 15 minutes I spend reading The Bible. Then I just sit on the mountaintop for 30 minutes and just meditate and contemplate what I want to do. There have been many times going to the side of the mountain when I didn’t know how I was going to solve the problem — maybe it was overwhelming — but I never came down from that mountain without either having the answer or being able to cope with the problem. So…a half hour on the mountaintop is what gave me the idea for The Dream Center…Every big vision and dream I got I got by just being still for 30 minutes because, you know, we’ve got a busy world that we live in and I’ve come to find out after (the many) years that I’ve been in the ministry that people have hopes and dreams but most people are frustrated in trying to reach their dream because they don’t have 30 minutes quiet time every day to think about what theywould do.
I found that a half hour will help you in relationships. A half hour really releases me (to spend time with) my family….I used to go to all my son’s football practices — not just their games but their practices. You know, you can throw a lot of balls in a half hour. You can buy your daughter a dress in a half hour. You can get awfully close to someone in a half hour. You can express a lot of love in a half hour. So, I found that half hours have helped me in my relationships. I spend a half hour four days a week just writing little notes saying “thank you” to people — maybe people that have contributed to The Dream Center, somebody that’s touched my life. Those little half hours I have used to build relationships and I found out that, when you go somewhere in life, it’s the relationships that really help get you to where you want to go.
JWK: So, you’re not saying one half hour every day will change your life. You’re saying several half hours — scheduled well — will change your life.
TB: Yes, I say use your half hours. For instance, I do all my counseling in half-hour segments. I kind of segment my day into half hours. I’ll spend a half hour here, a half hour there, a half hour in another place.
I’ll give you another example (why) half hours are so important to help us reach the vision and the dream that we’ve had. There was a man that came from London to visit The Dream Center and I gave him a half-hour tour. He was really touched. is life was literally changed. I came to find out he was a multi-multimillionaire. He was so impressed that he flew all the way from England once a month to attend our Dream Center church that we have there. One day he said “Would you give me 30 minutes before the service tonight? I need to talk to you.” Well, I thought if a man could fly all the way (from England) to come to church, I can give (him) 30 minutes.
He said “You know, I saw a movie that changed my life. It was entitled The Bucket List“…It’s about two men dying of cancer. They’re both in the same (hospital) room. One is quite wealthy. The other is a very poor man. They each had less than a year to live and were despondent and discouraged. The rich man…noticed a wadded-up piece of legal paper on the ground. He picked it up and opened it up and it said at the top “Bucket List.” And then it had underneath there “Jump out of an airplane. Drive a race car. Climb Himalayas. Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world.” And he said to the poor man he was sharing the room with dying of cancer “What’s this?” The fella said “Well, that’s a list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket.”
And (the visitor to The Dream Center) said “Mister, when I saw that movie I thought of you.” He said “I’ve got all the money in the world…I want you to make your bucket list up and just take off for a year to do anything that your heart desires. Well, that was an offer that was hard to refuse so I sat down. I took 30 minutes and I thought what do I want to do? I thought “Well, I don’t want to jump out of an airplane.” The Bible says that ‘Lo(w) I am with you'” — not high (laughs).” I said to myself “I don’t want to drive a race car and I’ve already kissed the most beautiful girl in the world” which is my wife. And then I thought and I thought and I thought — and I thought “You know, I don’t know of anything I’d rather do than feed some hungry people” — like we do at The Dream Center — “(or) rescue a girl from human trafficking (or) help some young despondent person get a will to live.”
Now, the point of that story is that 30 minutes with him…let me know that I was on the right track with my life. It helped me to know how to finish my life out and finish strong. So, I am convinced that if people would just stake out a 30-minute period of their life to accomplish anything they want to — to improve a relationship, to be better in business, to live a more valuable and fulfilling life — especially as we face a new year — if people would learn to value the wasted time, and take back their lives 30 minutes at a time, their lives could be greatly enriched.
JWK: Like you say, these are busy times. What do you say to someone who’s holding down two jobs? It can be hard to find that 30 minutes.
TB: That’s a good question. You know, I’m asked that especially by mothers who are single, have two jobs and have children to raise. I have a story that I love to tell them and that’s (about) John and Charles Wesley. They’re the fellas that started the great Methodist organization. Their mother had 18 children. Her husband passed away. So, she had an unbelievable job — taking care of the children, 18 of them — but she gave a half hour every week individually to every one of her 18 children to teach values, to teach things that they needed to know…in life. And she did it with 18 children — and she produced some of the most amazing children of that generation.
So, I say to those people there’s always a half hour. There’s a television program that we can turn off. You know, TV has learned how to master the half hour, to use them. Maybe it means turning off the television for 30 minutes. Maybe it means just giving up something that frivolous…Instead of letting my time control me, I’m taking control of my time — and it’s my best friend, these 30 minutes, because it releases me to have a whole evening with my family…I don’t think you should become a slave to (half hours) but even if you use a half-hour once or twice a week on some project — maybe something that you always wanted to do but it looks like an impossible dream, to think about it (and) prepare yourself for when the opportunity arrives — it really could enrich and change your life.
(Note: A while back I interviewed Matthew Barnett, Tommy’s son, who he recruited to pastor at the LA Dream Center.)
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11