Friday, January 28th, 2011
Multnomah Publishing recently put out the book Radical by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. My friend Ashley was reading this book when she came to visit and she was enjoying it, so I decided to pick it up as well.
I must say that I did like this book. I think Platt had important things to say, and he did so in a way that many will enjoy reading. He seems authentic, down-to-earth and passionate about living a life obedient to Scripture. Platt challenges his reader to live in radical abandonment to Christ. He calls American Christians on their consumerism/materialism idolatry issues, and challenges us to live more simply so that we can love God and others (who live in poverty) better.
I have read other books like this, and heard other sermons about this, so most of the things in this book were not new for me. I mean, a lot of what he said is what Scripture says. But, maybe for those who need to be specifically challenged, this is a good book.
BUT, there is one insight that I gleaned that has made me think…and it’s related to the idea of the American Dream. Anyone who knows me knows that although I may desire some sort of the American Dream at times, I am pretty vigilent to guard myself from the temptation to be lured in. Plus, I have a husband who probably is rarely tempted to buy into the American Dream, which helps me out too . But, Platt brought up a really good point about the American Dream that I have definitely folded into my life. He says on page 46, “The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.” He goes on to say that we here in America prize what people can do when they just work hard, believe in themselves and trust in themselves. Did your parents ever tell you growing up that you can do whatever you want? I agree with him that we have mistakenly adopted this mentality as maybe even biblical. However, throughout Scripture we are given example after example of people who were unable to do something, but God helped them do something because he loves to display His power. It leads to the question- are we dependent on ourselves or desperate for God? I think most in America (definitely myself included) need some desperation for God. So, for me, this point was a real impactful one, and something that I’ve been talking and praying and thinking about over these past couple weeks.
One beef I have with Platt is his understanding and expectation of overseas missions. I have been overseas doing missions- and in several different contexts- so I obviously agree that God does call people to go and go they must if called. BUT, Platt tells many stories of how he went overseas and taught pastors about the Bible. My question is- should we be teaching Western Christianity to non-Western nations and people? Why should I go and teach a bunch of pastors in China about the Bible. They have Bibles, they know how to read, they know how to think, and they see God working in their context. I don’t think we have to go and teach them. I think we need to have exchanges of ideas and information. Sure, they could benefit from our thoughts, but also could benefit from their thoughts. I felt like he (and not just him, but others do this too) sees our role as a little too vital to their faith development. However, like I said before, we need to help meet physical needs (however we choose to do that) and we need to go. Sometimes we need to go for our exposure and growth, sometimes we need to go for others’ exposure and growth. And we won’t really know until we go. The reality is we can’t just throw money at them and the churches and say “go do ministry”, because we are a church, one body, and we are created to be in relationship with one another. Sometimes we need to go (and to welcome those who come) because we need to build and foster those relationships. One question he was asked was – “Should I really spend $3500 to go to a country in Africa for a couple weeks when I could just give them the money?” Yes, you should. Because the kingdom of God doesn’t come through money. It comes through relationships. I think we sometimes think that money is what makes the world go round. We need money, or the church needs money, or we need more stuff to do cooler ministry. But the reality is, we don’t need that. We need the Spirit. We need to be desperate for the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of the church body. I need to be desperate for the Spirit to work in and through me and my faith community.
[I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
I’ve been thinking about the idea of personal branding.
What should I use twitter for? To communicate with friends? To network with others in the college ministry field?
What is the purpose of my blog? Do I write about my family? My school experiences? College ministry (which I’m not actually really involved in right now)? Who are my readers? What are they most interested in? Should that affect what I write?
Why do I have facebook? How is facebook different than my blog and twitter account?
Do I even want to “brand” myself? I have a hard time creating a one-sided online persona of myself.
Being a mommy blogger is not sophisticated. It’s not even that interesting to a lot of people, outside of our family and friends who are curious about my kids. But that’s who I am and that is what comprises most of my day- kids. Asante, Aly, and Ada (well, and Jake of course) are who I think about most of the day. It makes the most sense to write about them. About being a mom. BUT, that’s not all I am. I am a mom, yes. But I’m a student. And I’m an avid reader. And I’m a wife. And a part of the Church. I have opinions about lots of things, but not just one thing.
So do I brand myself as a mommy blogger? Do I brand myself as a seminary student? Do I brand myself as a campus ministry wannabe guru?
Just some thoughts.
What are your thoughts on personal branding? What questions have you asked yourself when deciding whether or not to brand yourself? What are the ethics behind personal branding?
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
When I worked in college ministry, one of the most stressful issues that I had to deal with (with students) was the issue of drinking alcohol. The policy for our student leadership on this issue changed each year- at one point, we asked all student leaders to abstain. At another point, we said it was fine, as long as they were 20 miles outside of Columbia and didn’t put it on facebook. And I think there was also awhile when we said it was okay, just to use wise judgment when doing it. Each policy brought it’s own issues of conflict and discussion.
So when I saw that NavPress had the book, Chasing Elephants: Wrestling with the Gray Areas of Life, I was curious to see what author Brent Crowe had to say about how to deal with this gray area. What I liked about this book was how Crowe used the first half of the book discussing what freedom in Christ is and what it is not. After establishing this base, he turns to 5 issues: homosexuality, the cyber world, social drinking, entertainment and humanitarian issues, and walks the reader through some helpful questions when approaching these issues. Crowe does come to some conclusions on these topics, but he is clear to point out that some of his conclusions are not the “right” conclusions. Right for him, but maybe not right for someone else. The role of the Spirit, circumstances, and whether one is a “strong” or “weak” believer in certain areas affects some of the conclusions (but not all of them). I think this is a must read for people who are working with college students and are having trouble communicating how freedom is not license to just do whatever one wants. It’s some good stuff. This is a book that offers a very biblically sound and wise teaching on freedom, responsibility, and discernment.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. 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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Monday, January 3rd, 2011
At the Catalyst Conference in October, Gabe Lyons, co-founder of Catalyst and co-author of UnChristian, spoke about the kind of Christians that are making a difference for Christ in the post-Christian culture that we are living in. Most of what he spoke about at the conference is found in his new book, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith. While UnChristian highlighted the negative perceptions that people have of Christians, The Next Christians features the kind of Christians who are helping people to change their perceptions.
Gabe gives six characteristics of Christians who are restorers. Restorers are focused on bringing about restoration to the world because they believe that not only does the gospel bring good news about life after death, but it offers good news in the here and now. The Gospel provides hope today, as well as tomorrow. He has observed that these types of Christians are:
- provoked, not offended
- creators, not critics
- called, not employed
- grounded, not distracted
- in community, not alone
- countercultural, not “relevant”
I think the most important emphasis that Lyons makes is that “the next Christians are offering a new way forward- a way to act, live, and bring others along with them into the new reality of how things ought to be” (203). When he was discussing this observation, I kept on thinking of Shane Claiborne and his “Another World Is Possible” video series. Instead of focusing on how things are, he encourages us to imagine how things ought to be (as inspired by Scripture). In the same way, Lyons gives examples of people who are living that out.
While this book did not provide new information to me, it did provide encouragement to me to continue to pursue living a life of restoration instead of separation. Lyons did a great job of communicating the need for Christians to care about and live well in a post-Christian world out of a love for Jesus and a deep hope in the gospel message. Many college students and young adults that I interact with do care about social justice issues and caring for those around them, however, all too often it comes out of something besides a deep love for the Gospel message found in Scripture. Lyons says it beautifully:
“The first thing for the Christian is to recover the Gospel- to relearn and fall in love again with that historic, beautiful, redemptive, faithful, demanding, reconciling, all-powerful, restorative, atoning, grace-abounding, soul-quenching, spiritually fulfilling good news of God’s love” (192).
What about the Gospel is most impacting to you right now?
p.s. I received this book, The Next Christians, free from Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program.