I read a fascinating book recently about management and performing well at your job called First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham.  It is written from a business perspective and is about managing people and helping them realize their full potential as employees.

If you are employed at all, it is worth reading from cover to cover, but he laid down a quote on the last page that, I feel, has implications for those of us who disciple students.  He said this,

“Don’t try to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in” (pg. 245).

So often, discipleship becomes about cramming in bits of information to students to help them know how to “be good” and “follow the rules” (don’t drink, don’t party, don’t watch rated R movies, etc.), but I have been in ministry long enough to see this form of discipleship fail.

I wonder if, instead of focusing students on what they should not do, we should draw them to their potential in the Spirit of Christ inside them. Some thoughts:

  1. Jesus did it. With those he discipled, he said very little about “following the rules,” in fact, many times he actually told them to break them.  He sent them out in pairs pronouncing the kingdom, he called him to walk on the water, he spoke at length about the Spirit who would give them power when he left.  He enabled them to focus, not on what they were doing wrong, but on what they could do so right.
  2. Those times when students don’t “follow the rules” were died for.  Our goal is not to try to turn bad people into good people, it is to try to help turn bad people into saved people.
  3. Any behavior change will likely be intrinsic. A heart in love with Jesus is the best help for students to follow the rules I have ever seen.  If people are going to change, it has got to come from the inside (a heart which has been redeemed).  Words of Paul ring a bell here, “Let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:16).
Perhaps, our goal in discipleship should be to help people realize that a follower of Christ is less pushed by following rules and more pulled into the salvation they have already attained.
Thoughts?
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Let me start this review by saying that I am not an avid biography reader, so I picked Washington: A Legacy of Leadership by Paul Vickery and Stephen Mansfield up for a change of pace.

The bright side of this book was to see some of the mistakes Washington made (especially in his early military career) and how he prevailed when he was presented with similar situations in the future because of his lessons learned.  It was also interesting to see how he drew his strength from his calling from God, and how he perceived himself to be singularly qualified to do what he was able to do.  I did walk away with a greater respect for this man who sacrificed much for his country.

I am not sure if it was how a biography writing style differed from my regular reading fare, but I never found myself in a groove while reading this work.  It seemed to drag along with infinitesimal details about Washington’s life at times and it was a bit like being hit with a birage of information with little reflection as to the significance of what the information meant.

If you are a history buff or a biography lover, you will no doubt love this book, but if not, be prepared for a long and, at times, laborious, read.  Writing styles aside, however, this man was an amazing character from American History.

Thank you to Book Sneeze for giving me a chance to review this book.  These opinons are my own.

In true Erwin McManus style, his book Unleashed, paints a beautiful, all be it incomplete, picture of what life as a Christian is supposed to be.  Namely, this:

. . . a life lived in the simple belief that all we are meant to do is the outflow of faith, hope, and love (pg. 12).

He relies heavily on his ethos that,

“. . .  the life you long to live is not waiting in the future; it is waiting in the inner recesses of your soul.  You don’t need to go find faith you need to unleash it.  You don’t need to go find life; you need to unleash it.  In fact, everything that is good or beautiful and true that you will spend your entire life searching for is simply waiting to be set free through a life that follows Christ with reckless abandon” (pg. 18).

If I have one criticism of the book (and, having heard McManus speak on many occasions, I would say it is not an accurate portrait of his beliefs), it would be that he seems to find this “unleashed” life in simply taking huge risks with your life in Christ; risks which take place largely outside of the community that is the Church.  In fact, I would go so far, at times, to call his deconstruction and treatment of the Church, harsh.

Aside from his individualistic approach (again, which I have only found in this book) to a faith meant to be lived out in a community, I would say his words are extremely motivational and many of them resounded in my Spirit as truths to live by (see the two quotes above for examples).

Tempered with an attitude of love towards the Bride of Christ, I recommend this book heartily to someone seeking to grow in their Christian walk.

Thank you to Book Sneeze for giving me a chance to review this book.  These opinons are my own.

I recently read Rob Bell’s, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, a book which, before it was released had Christian leaders rejoicing at the demise of a preacher who was preaching heresy (which I think is ridiculous; not only because I can point to some of their teachings and call them heresy, but because, why is it okay to rejoice in anyone’s demise, ever?).

Now to the book. . .

Rob Bell, in this book, does what Rob Bell does well; namely, he asks questions (in this case about God, heaven, hell, the afterlife, etc.).  He does not claim any of his theories to be absolute truth or that he owns the topic of God.  Rather, he asks questions for people to wrestle with in community because as he says in the introduction, “I believe the discussion itself is divine.”

A few thoughts to spark questions (in Rob Bell’s words) . . .

  1. “Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now.  It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death” (Pg. 58).
  2. “There is hell now, and there is hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously” (Pg. 78).
  3. “To be clear an untold number of serious disciples of Jesus across hundreds of years have assumed, affirmed, and trusted that no one can resist God’s pursuit forever, because God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest of hearts”  (Pg. 108).
  4. “Whatever objections a person might have to this story, and there are many, one has to admit that it is fitting, proper, and Christian to long for it” (Pg.111).
  5. “While we may get other opportunities, we won’t get the one in front of us again.  That specific moment will pass and we will not see it again.  It comes, it’s here, it goes, and then it’s gone.  Jesus reminds us in a number of ways that it is vitally important we take our choices here and now as seriously as we possibly can because they matter more than we can begin to imagine.  Whatever you’ve been told about the end – the end of your life, the end of time, the end of the world- Jesus passionately urges us to live like the end is here, now, today” (Pg. 197).

This book came highly recommended to me and I have to admit that after I read it, I was disappointed.  The plot centers around David Ponder, a man who possesses a gift which enables him to speak with people from history.  He is charged to have a “summit” with several great leaders from history to save humanity.  They only have seven chances to meet and come up with an idea of what humanity can do to go on.

The good: The book had some interesting stories and some good quotes from history.  Also, the final answer which ended up saving humanity is not the predictable phrase one would expect in reading a book like this.  I liked how those answers were all given in the previous chapters and ended up being the wrong ones.

The bad: Each chapter, which you knew would end with the summit giving the wrong answer, seemed to drag on with much dialog and I found myself always wanting to skip all of it so I could get to the answer they gave, which, again, I knew would be wrong.

Bottom line: The story line was not that interesting; it was predictable and, at times, tedious.  But at the same time,  it offered some good thoughts from history and the final answer, I felt was a good one.

Thank you to Book Sneeze for giving me a chance to review this book.  These opinons are my own.

In a world where Christian practices have a tendency to become repetitive and redundant, Nora Gallagher writes The Sacred Meal.  In this work, she details her journey of practicing the Holy Meal and recounts her significant experiences at the Table.  She encourages the reader to look past the ordinariness of the bread and wine and past the doctrinal squabbles that have a tendency to overshadow the sacred.  She invites the reader to be fully present (with all our sins, with all our questions, with all our doubts, with all our victories) at the Eucharist of Christ so that we will be free to experience the glorious mysteries that surround it and use our experiences at the Altar to propel our work for the kingdom.

I found Gallagher’s work to be both insightful and challenging.  I appreciate that she does not dwell on the various doctrines that people hold for Communion and focused more on what it means to experience and remember Christ.  It is a simple read as it is mainly biographical and does not rely on big theological words to get her point across.  She simply presents her three-step approach to Communion (the waiting, the receiving and the afterward) and attempts to persuade the reader that communion is not something that can be mastered, but a place we should return to often so that we can exercise our Spiritual muscles and have experiences of the Holy in our world.

I would recommend to anyone who has ever come to the Table of Christ in a passive manner or who has interest in Christian practices that you take a look at Gallagher’s work as it is a practical and extremely readable guide to an event that we participate in often, but might not think deeply through often enough.

Thank you to Book Sneeze for giving me a chance to review this book.  These opinons are my own.