Category: leadership

Review: The Evangelicals You Don’t Know

The-Evangelicals-You-Don-t-Know-Introducing-the-NJournalist Tom Krattenmaker is not a Christian, but he does an excellent job of introducing progressives to a new kind of Evangelicalism in his new book, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians. I wasn’t sure how a person who is not a part of the evangelical sub-culture would do writing a book like this. Can you really “get us” if you’re not a part of us? Like, really get us?

Y’all, he does.

Krattenmaker speaks with knowledge, respect, and insight as he introduces his readers to evangelicals whom they may not  have heard of, but who are  indeed the faces of the next generation. Of the eight leaders he choose, I hadn’t heard of one of them (Kevin Palau from out in Portland). And although I had heard of the others, Krattenmaker’s research shed light on aspects of their ministry that I maybe hadn’t thought about before. It’s interesting to hear an “outsider’s” perspective.

Krattenmaker told stories of Christians making a real difference in the communities in which they were involved. He didn’t chalk them up to “doing good”, but clearly communicated that the good that these faith communities were doing in their neighborhoods were, a.) because of the gospel, b.) loving and b.) actually good for the communities. I was surprised that he chose to include Jim Daly (the new head of Focus on the Family), but glad that he did.

Evangelicals should go into this book knowing that it is not necessarily written for them, although it will probably give a sort of encouragement to many who read it. Krattenmaker is not writing to say, “good job, keep converting!” (although he’s clear about what evangelical means). His goal may be to help others understand the Evangelical world, and figure out how they can partner with us in working towards a common good.

Overall, I’m thankful for this book. Part of me hopes that people who have a bad taste in their mouth about evangelicals will read this and walk away feeling hopeful. But most of me hopes that this kind of evangelicalism will make it’s way to peoples’ real lives, that they won’t just have to read about it to know that it exists, and friendships will form despite the “faith divide.” I must admit, though, I do wonder how many non-evangelicals will actually read this book.

I received this book through SpeakEasy in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Review- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

quietIt’s no secret that being an extrovert puts one at an advantage in American culture. For many introverts, they have learned (sometimes the hard way) that in order to be successful, they have to pretend to be an extrovert. Why is the case?

In Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, she explains how the “Extrovert Ideal” came to be here in the West, as well as how the extrovert ideal isn’t the “ideal” in other parts of the world. This has powerful implications for the global neighborhood- whether it be doing business with people from other countries, working with NGOs, long-term missions, or simply interacting with neighbors from a different culture down the street.

In addition to HOW this ideal came about, Susan shares some interesting research on temperament (is it biological? environmental? both? can we change it? are all introverts the same?). Also, she shares some great stories about how introverts and extroverts think differently, and how that affects decision making, creativity, sensitivity, etc. I enjoyed learning about how some very “successful” people are introverts, and how their success had a lot to do with their introvert uniqueness.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the section titled, “How to Love, How to Work.” In it, Susan discusses when an introvert should act more extroverted than they are, how to encourage our introverted children, and how extroverts and introverts can communicate in a more effective way (helping meetings everywhere to be more enjoyable and productive!). I not only think this is an important discussion to have in the working world, but also in families and in the church body.

Even if you are not an introvert, this book could be an interesting read for you- because it’s guaranteed that you work, play and live with someone who in an introvert. Being able to understand introverts better can lead to being able to better serve and love those around you. Introverts grow up learning about extroverts, but rarely do extroverts slow down and think about what it would be like to be an introvert.

For some additional resources, you can check out Susan’s website, which includes bonus content, discussion guides, and an introvert/extrovert quiz.

Also, you can listen to a Catalyst podcast featuring Susan here.

And see below for a video of her famous TED Talk:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Futurecast Review

Futurecast, by George Barna, is a book describing his lastest research on American trends related to religion, technology, family, and values. Barna wrote it to encourage Americans (specifically Christian Americans), to hear “reality” and then to live the change that they would like to see.

This book is heavy on the research findings, and if you are unaware of what is going on in the above categories of American life, it may be quite useful. If you don’t put a lot of stock in statistics, don’t read this book. I found that by simply talking with people and being a careful observer of life, I could have come up with these conclusions myself. Some people need statistical data to validate their everyday life, so if you work with people where this is the case (or are one of those people), this could be a handy book for you to use as a reference tool.

A few of his findings were surprising, one of them being that couples who co-habitate before marriage are no longer any more likely to divorce than couples who do not!

I enjoyed Barna’s sentiment with the book, and I think the points outside of  his statistical reporting could have been written in a short online article. This isn’t a book that I would really recommend to friends.

“Do you eat too much?” and other leadership questions

I’m reading a book about leadership development in the local church, and the authors include a sample leadership questionnaire for people who want to be leaders to complete as a first/second step to leadership. Several of the questions have to do with whether the person has had a moral mishap or gray area at any point of their lives (smoking, drinking, divorce, pornography, drugs, crime). This makes up over half the questionnaire.

My question is why in the world are we still asking these questions? Why are these the “bad things” that we have to continually admit to and revisit? Why do I have to write it down? Why can’t it be something that church staff find out as they get to know me? Also, why is this particular list the dirty laundry list? Why don’t we include questions like:

1. Do you habitually eat too much or too little? If so, how often? Please explain.

2. Do you frequently lose your patience and speak out of anger to your spouse and/or children? Please give an example.

3. Do you find yourself spending money on things you don’t need? Do you give money generously to those around you? Please attach a copy of your most recent bank statement.

4. Do you have a problem with working too much or too little? Please attach a time sheet.

5. Please tell us a recent story of you sharing your faith with an unbeliever.

A little uncomfortable, huh? Perhaps people who look good on the traditional questionnaire begin to be uncomfortable because they begin to feel that they aren’t superhuman.

Entertainment and Hospitality- Can They Co-exist?

Today I came across a post in Out of Ur about the clash between the church’s values of entertainment and hospitality. In the article, a church asked a family to leave their service on Easter Sunday because their 12-year-old son with cerebral palsy made a loud noise after the opening prayer. In the comments, a visitor to the church (in 2009) also was asked to remove their 2-year-old after she made a few loud noises after the singing was over. The church did this because the wanted to provide a distraction-free environment for the congregation to worship in.

I understand this to an extent. I get that it IS distracting when a baby is crying in the service. Or a kid is talking loudly. Or a teenager is laughing.

Then I think about how the disciples were mad when some little children were approaching Jesus- Get them away! Jesus got ticked and rebuked the disciples- Let them come to Me.

As we think about our church’s worship services, we MUST think through our values. Is it our value to entertain people? SHOULD we have the value of entertainment? What happens when we turn a worship service into a show? How is this value supported in Scripture? What values do we teach our congregants when we remove people who are not conforming to the right behavior?

And we also must ask- what is the option for this family with a 12-year-old son with cerebral palsy? The church has no special needs ministry, nor do they want one (or so it seems from the blog post), so the 12-year-old has no class to go to AND the 12-year-old is not welcome in the worship gathering. It seems like the only option is for them to be in a different part of the church, watching the church service. From my experience with small children in a similar situation, this makes the family not want to attend a worship service at all (and participation is out of the question).

WHAT in the world are we doing, American church? It is not our job to provide a slick show to convince people to come to Christ. We are NOT competing with television or movies. If we are not making space and WELCOMING those who are on the edges of our society, we are not being the Kingdom of God. We are putting on  a musical and verbal show that gives off a putrid smell before Him.

I think some churches have some serious re-evaluating of policies to do. Let’s talk about it– what are your thoughts? Can entertainment and hospitality co-exist? Should they co-exist? What are some alternative practices to this situation?

Half the Church

Women make up at least half of the worldwide church. What is the church’s message to women? How does it encompass God’s whole message for us? The author of Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James, argues that the church far too often only focuses on marriage and motherhood. Isn’t there more to being a woman?

Carolyn carefully constructs a case for God’s purpose for all women’s lives- a message grander than being “beautiful in God’s eyes” and a purpose beyond “having a daily quiet time.” Carolyn is an intelligent theologian who is committed to the flourishing of women in the Kingdom of God.

What I particularly like about this book:

→ Carolyn desires to include the voices of all women, and not just the middle-class white American woman. She insists that our conclusion about what the message of the church for women is MUST be universal, meaning, applying to all women. To do this, we need the voices of our international sisters.

→ She begins to scratch the surface of what it means to read Scripture through a lens that is not male-oriented. And she does this in a way that is not overly “feminist.”

→ She handles the beginning of Genesis well as she unfolds what it means for women to be an ezer.

→ She brings up serious issues going on with women around the world (sex trafficking, selective abortion of females, etc.), and isn’t afraid to leave us with unhappy endings.

→ She doesn’t set up a man versus woman kind of discussion. She’s pro-man too, something that is unusual for women who are talking about gender issues in the church. She is pro-humanity, which is REFRESHING.

Thank you, Carolyn, for writing this book. And thank you to Zondervan for giving me this book (for free!) to allow me to review.

Zondervan wants to give one of my blog readers a copy of this book too. Would you like one? If so, leave a comment telling me why, AND tweet or facebook about this post so others can join in.

What is Vision?

Good question, right? We think about companies having vision statements, but we don’t often think about having personal or family vision statements ourselves. Andy Stanley says that “visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be” (17).  What keeps you up at night? What do you find yourself daydreaming about? What is it that creates in you a holy discontent– that thing, maybe injustice, that you see and feel like you MUST do something about? “Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo” (17).

Some things to remember when thinking about our visions…

….they always begin as a concern about something. What has grabbed your attention? What are those things that God has been bringing back into your mind again and again?

…the vision’s end is never us, but God. I know, sounds cliche, but I think it’s important to remember. It’s not about fame, money, or significance. It’s about advancing God’s Kingdom and bringing Him glory.

…just because we have a vision doesn’t mean we should immediately advance on it. Sometimes God needs us to wait for one reason or another. It’s helpful for me to think about this through the image of pregnancy. Just as a baby doesn’t have a high chance of survival when s/he is born 3 months early, neither does our vision. Allow God to do the work He needs to do to mature it in us.

How do we know if our vision is from God or from ourselves?

1. “A God-ordained vision will eventually feel like a moral imperative.” If we don’t follow through with our vision, we’ll feel like we’re being disobedient.

2. “A God-ordained vision will be in line with what God is up to in the world.”

So, here are the reflection questions for this stage in the experiment. Jake and I will be working through them over the next month or so.

**In one sentence, describe your vision for the following areas of your life- career, family, ministry.

**Are you living with a tension between what is and what should be? Do you have a holy discontent? If so, what is it that bothers you and how do you think it should be?

**How does your vision line up to what God is already doing in the world?

[thanks to Andy Stanley’s book, Visioneering, for these great thoughts and questions]

Visioneering Experiment

I’m beginning to work through the book, Visioneering, by Andy Stanley. I haven’t read too many books by him, but I’ve heard him speak many times at Catalyst, and have really enjoyed his practical, down-to-earth personality and style of teaching. I’m coming into this book with moderate hopes that this will provide me some tools to ordering the next chapters of my family’s life.

I’ve only made it 12 pages, but already Andy has said something that stuck out to me.

Before having children, Andy had bought a lot of musical equiptment. There would be times when he would stay up all night in his studio, making music. Boy #1 came along and then 20 months later, Boy #2 arrived. Before the arrival of Boy #2, Andy started thinking about his vision for family life and decided to sell everything in his studio. Why? Because Andy knew that music would get in the way of his vision for family life. Music could, and maybe likely WOULD, prevent him from being the kind of dad he wanted to be.

I realized that Jake and I need to have a family dream time soon. I think our last one was in Kenya, when we decided to come back to the U.S. We made some hard and fast decisions to support the vision we have for us individually and as a family.

Much has happened since then– 2 years of life! Our family has grown from 3 to 5. We’ve moved several times. I’ve started and almost completed a masters degree. Jake has been accepted to a graduate program. And I feel like God is asking us to re-visit, and maybe state for the first time, our visions. And after that, decide what needs to start and what needs to go in order to make that vision happen.

I think this dream time will be encouraging (as they always are), but sad too. If we really cut things out, there will be grief. But there will also be much joy, knowing that we are intentionally walking towards a vision God has set in our hearts.

I don’t want to get to the end of life, feeling a bunch of regrets and always wondering what might have been. Of course there will be some of that. I remember having an idea of what life would be like when I’m 30, and I’ve been feeling sadness lately over how real life is not going to match my vision. Perhaps I had some unrealistic expectations. Or some competing ideas. Opportunities have been offered and choices were made. I’ve accepted the decisions we’ve made. But I want to move forward intentionally.

I think after I graduate I will also bring back my yearly goals, also something I stopped when I got back from Kenya. They really did help me with some aspects of personal development.

As Jake and I process all of this, perhaps you could join us in our Visioneering Experiment.

What is the vision God has given you for life? What decisions have you made that have moved you towards that? Where have you made decisions in spite of that vision?  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting, helping to facilitate some ideas for how to do this. If you want to join in on this experiment, leave a comment and we can all share together over these next couple months, sharing our struggles, victories, insights, and prayers.

Managing the Tension

In a couple of my classes over the past couple years, we’ve talked about varying models of the Kingdom, and hence models of ministry. This semester in particular, I have been challenged to choose a model of ministry for campus ministry, explaining why I think that one best fits my ideas of effective discipleship, evangelism, and leadership development. I really believe there are various models that are “best”, meaning one model can’t claim a corner market. However, there may be one that I simply like best and am best able to work out of.

So, saying all of this, I’m feeling a tension between two: 1.) Doing ministry by living out countercultural models, trusting that God will bring people close to Him through this alternate lifestyle. I like this because I primarily see the Kingdom as a subversive kingdom with countercultural values and practices, and 2.) Being missional, meaning instead of being attractional by countercultural values, going out into the marketplace and finding ways to meet them on their turf, engaging with them in all ways that we can.

Perhaps this tension is an appropriate one? If I didn’t have this tension, perhaps I would either promote Puritanism or syncretism. I think this is why I’m intrigued and drawn to the New Monastic Movement— a movement who is committed to spiritual practices, community, generosity, etc. BUT is also very concerned with living in the world- playing with neighborhood kids, opening their homes to strangers, and sharing meals with those who can’t offer back an invitation.

This is a tough tension for me to live with, but as Andy Stanley said at Catalyst 2010, tension is good! In order for us to be successful in leadership, it’s our job to monitor and leverage the tension. The tension between discipleship and evangelism. Between global missions and local missions. Between feeding the hungry and creating spaces for worship. Money creates tension. Relationships create tension.

Where do you most feel this kind of tension in your life and/or ministry?

Is your church promoting consumerism?

For my Foundations of Campus Ministry class, we’re reading Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways. It exegetes the attractional church culture pretty well, revealing some things about it that I hadn’t really thought of. Hirsch spends a good part of a chapter discussing consumerism’s effects on how we do church, particularly as the typical middle-class community.He goes as far to say that consumerism has become the driving ideology of the contemporary church growth model (110).

As you reflect on your church community, do you see aspects of this?

If so, what are they and do you think it’s helpful to the mission of the church?

If not, what are some counter-cultural practices that you have adopted as a church to guard yourselves against this?