Just finished Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. I thought it was a great read.
The paradigm these authors represent is that everything in the Christian life has to be done in community.
What they present is in fact more “radical” than just making sure you’re in a weekly small group or Bible study. Theology, Parenting, Apologetics, Evangelism, Church Planting, Pastoral Care – all of these things happen in collaboration in a side-by-side relationship with other people following Jesus.
My favorite example came from evangelism. Instead of just talking out key issues together, doing key issues together is key. Possibly the best outreach content is giving people the opportunity to observe or experience the love and sacrifice going on within the family of Christ. Yes, words still need to be shared, but what they see would be as powerful as the words… not to mention that it would help the words make sense! One-on-one personal outreach is not the most effective route.
In short, church is not another thing to juggle in your busy life, it’s a community that juggles everyday life together.
Richard Florida did a book called Who’s Your City. It builds on his prior work Rise of the Creative Class in which he places a city’s potential and future upon the body of creative people in creative fields contained in that city. Who’s Your City is then about how do you get creative people to your city… and how to get them to stay there.
The book’s primary goal is to dispel the myth that job opportunities are the only thing moving creative people from one city to another. Yes, this makes a difference, particularly if your city has a track record in their industry of choice. There are many other aspects to a city’s culture that draws and keeps people.
- Aesthetics - was there intentional effort to beautify with architecture, public parks, arts, and urban development?
- Services – what’s the quality of schools, health care, rest activities, and religion?
- Leadership – is there alignment with the liberal or conservative climate the city’s leaders are known for?
- Economic Security – will the jobs there be staying there?
- Relationships – is there ample opportunity to meet others from your same walk of life.
Sometimes people have to switch cities to chase a job, but if they’re going to stay for the long run a list such as this is considered.
The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard is a nifty little book – can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read a New York Times best seller like this!
It’s written in narrative/fictional format, but drives at specific lesson.
The One Minute Manager attacks his key leadership functions with brevity and clarity… approximately in one minute.
- One Minute Goal Setting. A person should be able to write their job description, responsibilities, and goals… all on one sheet of paper (something that can be reviewed in one minute or less). You can get out a new sheet of paper for different hats you ware, but you get the point. Great leadership comes from clear expectations. A one-minute goal statement, that stays flexible and current, that everyone agrees on, allows the manager to hold their staff accountable, and gives the staff clear direction on what is expected of them. Continue reading
Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley is the best book I’ve read on teaching in Church settings. He’s got his particulars, that’s for sure, but it’s a great framework for thinking through message prep.
He’s an advocate for “one point” sermons. Just tell them one thing, with enough repetition and creativity, that it sticks. That concept has given me freedom and focus in my teaching.
With one point in mind, Stanley suggests a format of ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE. Introductions that help people connect with “Me” gives some credibility and voice to listening for the time that follows – and it creates some tension that the listener wants to see resolved. “We” is a transition to how this topic matters to everyone – not just me. Then go to what “God” has to teach us on the subject, which should relieve the tension. Finally, hit a conclusion that aims at individuals (“You”) as well as vision for what the church (“We”) would look like if everyone applies this.
Neil Cole did a book on Organic Leadership.
It was a great reminder to invest the time into building leaders from the ground up, rather than just recruit, re-recruit, and over-extend established leaders. Some of his key points are doing so are:
- Showing leaders what to do instead of teaching.
- Only train if needs for the skill are known and felt.
- Take it one lesson at a time… then move on to the next.
- They learn it best when they have to teach it to someone else.
- Keep it on the job training – not classrooms/workbooks.
My greatest agreement with Neil is the idea of earned influence. It’s very easy for a leader of lesser influence to lean into the platform of a greater, but that misses the point of leadership. Leading within the circle of influence you have is what earns the following of an increasing circle. If you can’t lead two people well, you won’t get the chance to lead 10, 100, or 1,000. We have to respect the “organic” process of becoming a leader.
My strongest contention with Neil is ideology of completely flat leadership structure – no leaders. I just don’t see it… in practicality or in theology. Ever been in a group or team with no leadership present? It’s not a pretty sight. Theologically speaking, “leadership” is one of the stated spiritual gifts, so no one should shy away from playing that role. Titles aren’t necessary for leadership, but if a title helps explain what a persons role will be, then it’s an asset.
Who likes book reviews? I know I do. Actually, I’m more into notes and highlights on books than reviews – that way I might not have to read it myself!
I’ve got a back-log on books I’ve read. Looking forward to posting notes and thoughts from these readings in the weeks ahead.
If you have a favorite book you’ve read recently, I’d love to hear from you too!
Just read The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson, and Eric Bramlett. Great book on keeping a central theme to Sunday morning experiences at churches. What I found particularly helpful was there outline for prepping Sunday Services well in advance. Here’s the short of it… Continue reading
Greg Ogden’s book, Transforming Discipleship, is an outstanding look at Biblical models of discipleship, followed by a contemporary “triad” model that condenses the Biblical approach. His “triad” proscription is the perfect complement to the discipleship taking place in small group setting. My only critique is that his specific systems and curriculum suggestions take away much of the organic nature these relationships could have.
Ogden encourages same-sex triads. He emphasizes triads because pairs foster hierarchy/dependency, and limit interaction/varying perspectives. He encourages these relationships to be same-sex, due to the intimate nature that is fostered.
Ogden boasts a 75% multiplication rate for triads, while pairs rarely multiply. Page 137 is a nice diagram showing how one disciple who disciples another to disciple another every year will bypass and blow away an evangelist’s reach in 12 years even if they reach a new soul daily.
Three ingredients that need to take place in the triads to make them transforming environments include: 1) Transparent Trust (Safety and Affirmation fosters Confession and therefore Repentance), 2) God’s Truth (Corrects, Directs, Trains), and 3) Mutual Accountability (Support and Challenge).
It’s interesting that God invites so much involvement from us in his kingdom’s work. I suppose if I were playing God’s role, I’d be less trusting and do most of it myself.
For all the scripture, spiritual gifting, and responsibility that he’s imparted to us, I don’t think he ever designed it to be the blueprint and tools whereby we make a run at it without him. He keeps everything in relationship with him. He wants us to find ways to rely on his strength to show up, by his spirit, through us. It’s a balance I find myself going back to especially on my busiest of weeks.
For a little more reading on the subject, consider Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee. I’ve got some cliff notes if you prefer.
Search to Belong by Joseph Meyers is one of the better books I’ve read in years past on connecting people in relationships. It’s not a “how to” guide, but his insights are loaded with thought provoking insights that readily lead to application. In a context where people seek to belong before they believe, Joe’s work carries implications for nearly all social sectors.
Joe analyzes everyone’s search for community; especially those unsatisfied in their search for church community. He dispels the pressure for everyone to be “intimate” with everyone by validating public and social connections as indispensably vital. Community happens best when it happens naturally and comfortably – easily the greatest challenge for church leaders in this book (see chapter 4).
Also insightful and challenging was Joe’s push for “front porch” experiences as being vital to ones connection (see chapter 6). Myers certainly did not sell me on his anti-small group bent, yet his thoughts have settled me into a non-programmed angles on community.
A full read of my book notes would be well worth your time.