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Moving beyond The Status Quo….

I admit from the outset that I am not a great fan of catchy titles especially ones that mimic a best seller so the book GOOD TO GREAT IN GODS EYES: Ten Practices Great Christians Have In Common by Chip Ingram (Baker Books, 2007) sat in my “to be read pile of volumes for months before I began to read it. Having loved GOOD TO GREAT by Jim Collins I was not full of high expectations for  a book riding its title’s coat tails. But after reading the volume from cover to cover I was very pleasantly surprised and I am delighted to have been wrong about the value of this book.

The opening words of chapter one set the stage, “Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day” Ralph Waldo Emerson. Each of the 10 chapters begin with a series of quotes and then continues to some general thoughts and personal reflections from the authors life and ministry. This is intern followed by a clear concise list of principles related to the topic. The chapter concludes with specific Action Steps and Questions for Reflection and Discussion. The 10 chapter headings include:

  1. Think Great Thoughts                                        6. Take Great Risks
  2. Read Great Books                                                 7. Make Great Sacrifices
  3. Pursue Great People                                            8. Enjoy Great Moments
  4. Dream Great Dreams                                          9. Empower Great People
  5. Pray Great Prayers                                              10. Develop Great Habits

The reality is these are not the finest paragraphs ever written on Thinking, Books, Prayer and Risk Taking but the chapters are uniformly well written, easy to understand, short enough to easily read but long enough to inform and motive growth in behavior. It is the breadth of the topics covered as well as the interesting writing style that give the book is value.

I teach a class of incoming university freshmen every fall. I plan to make this book a part of the curriculum in the semesters to come. I can’t think of a single volume that covers all these diverse but important topics in a unified and applicable way. If you are looking for a solid overview of steps to spiritual and personal growth this book would serve you well!


Life Skills On Display

As a big fan of “The One Minute Manager” series over the years I was very pleased to have found a copy of THE ONE MINUTE ENTREPRENEUR By Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson and Ethan Willis (Currency/Doubleday, 2008). The focus of the book is creating and sustaining a successful business but I found the issues raised in the parable of the book was applicable to all of life. The story involves a fictional couple who is mentored by “real life” people who’s names are well known in the  personal growth world. The parable includes a rough start and the lessons learned to transition to a successful mindset. The body of the work lays out the skills and principles necessary to establish a career on an upward trajectory.  The end portion does not ignore common pitfalls and temptations that trip people up as they move through life. At less than 130 pages the book is a short read but the appendix covering the “top 20 attributes of successful entrepreneurs” is a nice value added. This is an excellent book for someone starting out as well as someone in the middle of their careers as a course affirmation or road map for correction. A very worth while read!

The Power Of Encouragement!

I have read a shelf load of John Maxwell books and enjoyed and learned things from everyone of them. I did not think there could possibly be a new format to John’s books that I had not seen before, but I was wrong. In the book ENCOURAGEMENT CHANGES EVERYTHING by John Maxell (2008, Thomas Nelson) the subject of encouragement is explored using short quotations, stories and materials gleaned from all of John’s other books and resources. The short 125 page book designed to be given as a gift is divided into 6 chapters including specific focus on teams and hope. There was nothing really new but the stories and quotes as would be expected are great for sermon illustrations (I am using one from the book this Sunday) but having all the topical content on a given subject was refreshing. I remembered reading the material before but the constant emphasis on encouragement on page after page was still full of impact. Worth the price and the reading time.

“There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else”   George M. Adams  (p. 31)

How True!

Don’t Do This

Everyone who is involved in ministry of any kind has had their share of mistakes, errors and just plain mental lapses. It is nice to know one is not alone in this fraternity of failure and even better to learn from the mistakes of others. This brings us to the wonderful youth ministry book, DON’T DO THIS: Learning From The Screw-ups of Youth Ministry Leaders edited by Len Kageler and Jonathan Hobbs (The Youth Cartel, 2016). In this hilarious and thoroughly uplifting book youth leaders ranging from the famous to the anonymous share personal ministry stories to allow others to learn from their mishandling of relational and ministry situations. the 200 page book is divided into 5 sections; Failure in the Fundamentals, Failure with Youth, Failures with Parents and Volunteers, Failure with Church Leadership and my personal favorite Failures that Defy Categorization. Each section has about 10 stories told in the fist person along with sidebars  and a closing reflections portion that include Questions for Reflections or Discussion and Major Project Ideas For The Classroom. This makes the book not only a wonderful book for individual reading and personal laughter but also a excellent classroom, network, or internship resource. I love the idea of teaching the next generation of youth ministry leaders utilizing our failures and not just our successes which seems to be a natural proclivity. I found this book so personally helpful and encouraging that I am adding into the required reading in one of the CCU youth ministry classes next academic year. If you pick up a copy and read it you won’t be disappointed!

A Rich and Multi-Faceted Life

As a fan of John Stott for many years I was delighted to find a small volume of his life titled, JOHN STOTT Pastor, Leader and Friend By Chris Wright (Hendricks/Lausanne Library 2012). This biographical collection contains tributes from friends and coworkers, and thematic explorations of Johns life and leadership in specific contexts from local church preaching to student ministry. These contain insights in to the impact his pacifism, which he later renounced had on his personal passion for mentoring was due to not having pastoral mentors he could trust to help him reflect and discern God’s mind in that crucial area in world war 2. John’s impact on Latin America, Wales and Africa are explored by those he impacted most on those continents. Os special interest were the sections about John’s influence on the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism and his relationship with Billy Graham around those gatherings. I also especially enjoyed the tribute poetry that was included as well as  the side-bar John Stott: Orni-Theologian chronicling the rise of Dr. Stott to a world expert in birds(p. 44-45) Overall I truly enjoyed and was benefited by this small easy to handle book. I recommend it to all who care about role models for ministry in an ever changing world.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

I had the privilege to attend the 2016 Global Leadership Summit and hearing from a number of impact-full speakers, but none impacted me more than Travis Bradberry. In his presentation he shared concepts from his book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves,Talent Smart,2009. The book provides value in three main areas. First it explains the step by step overview of why emotional intelligence is critical and how it is the #1 predictor of success and excellence in life. Secondly, 66 specific strategies are arranged under the headings of self-awareness, self-management,social-awareness, and relationship-management. Lastly a purchase of the book includes a code for a new enhanced online version of a personalized emotional intelligence inventory. I found the book easy to read filled with interesting stories, good statistics  and clear suggestions. The best recommendation I can give for the book is that it provided information and suggestions that I put in place that have greatly influenced my personal life in the area of caffeine use and timing and how it impacts sleep patterns. The research and scientific material presented made such sense that I changed this area of my life in August and my sleep patterns have not been better in decades. At this stage of life any book that promotes a positive life change is a great book. I would recommend this book as an excellent mentoring tool to work through slowly and with another person for discussion and accountability.

A “Must Read” on Preaching!

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City is a vibrant congregation founded in 1989 it has a tremendous influence in large part to its vision for ministry and Scriptural exposition for the 21st century articulated weekly from the pulpit. The answer to the questions, why is this pulpit ministry flourishing? and what can churches around the world learn about preaching from this congregation? are answered in the book PREACHING: Communicating Faith In An Age Of Skepticism (2015, Viking/Penguin) by its preacher Timothy Keller. In a word this book is AMAZING! It is a clear compelling cal about why our views on preaching must be fined tuned but then step by step instructions with liberal illustrations on how to answer the call to preach the gospel as the whole counsel of the Bible is declared. Keller calls on his background as a popular seminary teacher to organize the material and present it in a very interesting way leaving the footnotes (98 pages of them) as the final third of the book. It is worth noting that the 100 pages of footnotes were so interesting I read each and everyone of them with great delight and found them almost as interesting as the text of the book its self. Keller has read and includes thoughts from most of the significant books on preaching in the average seminary library. This gives the book a gravitas as well as a practical focus that is a truly winning combination. Of special note are the laser sharp focus on Preaching Christ Every Time(p.56) and Preaching To Culture(p.93) and a brief but powerful side bar on Legalism and Antinomianism utilizing quotes and insights from Reformed Theologian Sinclair Ferguson  to name just a few and not even scratch the surface. My only slight complaint if I can call it that is the book  at a couple of points does not seem to appreciate  fully the contributions of Haddon Robinson and his book, BIBLICAL PREACHING to restoring the discussion on preaching to include “Big Ideas” and an “expository expectation when preaching a text. I see Keller’s book working very well when read and implemented side by side with  Robinson’s. This book is absolutely must reading for any one preparing to preach or who is currently preaching. Its Christ centered focus and understanding of the mind of the 21st century listener give insight and correction that will make the reader more effective and Biblical in their ministry of the Word.