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Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 15)

Add “A Fellowship of Differents” to Your Reading List

fellowship of differentsI left the re:group conference with a list of books to add to my reading stack. First up? A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together by Scot McKnight. If you’re not familiar with McKnight, he is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL, and the author of a numerous books including The Jesus Creed, The King Jesus Gospel and One.Life.

In A Fellowship of Differents, McKnight wrestles with a couple key questions:

  • What is the church supposed to be?
  • If the church is what it is supposed to be, what does the Christian life look like?

The answer to the first question? He finds it in the metaphor of “the salad bowl, which reflects the ways all us ‘differents’ — from different socioeconomic groups, genders, educational and ethnic backgrounds, and life situations — struggle to come together in fellowship as the church God intended (p. 13).

The answer to the second question is that “if the church is a fellowship of differents” six themes “become central to the Christian life”:

  • Grace: “the challenge is to establish a grace-created and grace-creating fellowship of differents (p. 48).”
  • Love: “the church God wants is one brimming with difference, and that will mean the Christian life is all about loving whoever happens to be with you in this fellowship of differents (p. 63).”
  • Table: “When God’s people live in fellowship with one another, when they ‘do life’ together, the church embodies the gospel about King Jesus and peopel respond to the gospel about them (p. 112).”
  • Holiness: “Christians are in the process of transformation, all of us without exception. Some are more mature in one area than in others, but no one is perfect –and that means we both desire mature Christian living and know maturity takes time (p. 133).”
  • Newness: “Everything about this early church life was new for everyone, including Paul. They were trying out a new kind of community under a new Lord with new people around them all kinds of new ideas about new morals. What God was doing was so full of promise, so altogether…well…new (p. 147).”
  • Flourishing: “Flourishing in this new community is what God wants for us, and when we let that work of God shape us, we will discover something that transcends what anyone could expect (p. 228).”

A Fellowship of Differents is an important read. It’s not a difficult read, as challenging understandings are interwoven with clarifying stories and illustrations. My copy is marked up and plenty of sections ended up being read more than once to make sure I fully caught the implications.

If you’re searching for a better understanding of how the Church and Christians are to live in changing world, I highly recommend you add A Fellowship of Differents to your stack.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

Add Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice to Your Coaching Resource List

reno of the heart in daily practiceIn keeping with my belief that whatever we want to happen in the lives of the members of our groups, must happen in the lives of the leaders first, it stands to reason that we can’t expect the lives of our coaches and leaders to be something that we are not.

With me?

As a result, I’m always on the hunt for books that can help shape me and resources that might better equip me to develop and disciple my coaches (so my coaches can develop and disciples the leaders they coach).

In the course of my hunt I discovered a book this week that I think you should know about. Published in 2006, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson contains “61 carefully chosen selections from Dallas Willard’s best-selling book Renovation of the Heart.”  The selections were chosen to guide you through Dr. Willard’s “plan for renovating the complete person.” Each chapter also includes Jan Johnson’s suggestions for “making the concepts come alive in your own experience.”

Dallas Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart is a book that has shaped me. At the same time, I’ve learned that the point or the application of Dallas Willard’s writing doesn’t always pop immediately into my mind. I don’t know about you, but it is often the case that I benefit most from the reference to or interpretation of a Dallas Willard phrase or quote by someone else (for example, John Ortberg).

I’m finding the format of Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice to be very helpful, both to me personally and in my thinking about the patterns and practices we need to introduce into the developing and discipling of our coaches. If you’re on the hunt for this kind of resource, I highly recommend this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

Don’t Miss Happy Hour – Hugh Halter’s Newest Book

happy hourThe newest book from Hugh Halter arrived this week. I’ve loved every one of his previous books (especially Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth) and couldn’t wait to see this one.  Happy Hour: Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment is a simple book–just 58 pages–“that will give you a little theology, a little missiology, a ton of stories, and all the best practices of how to throw a party Jesus would want to being his friends to (p. 11).”

Happy Hour is a very inspiring read with an introduction and five short chapters:

  • Party as Sacrament: The Theology and Missiology of Party (You may have never thought about it in quite this way, but true hospitality is a central element of Jesus’ gospel culture.)
  • Public House: How to Party at Home (Tremendously practical, this little chapter is packed with ideas and tips on how to make your home a warm and inviting place where people feel welcome.)
  • Party Favors: It’s 5:00 Somewhere (This chapter includes a great set of options when it comes to the kind of party you might throw. Happy hour, liming, pot luck, and dinner club are all options and each are different.)
  • Party Killers: How NOT to Cross the Line (What about alcohol? This is a really practical chapter written to help you navigate the space between “set apart” and “sent.”)
  • The Last Call: The Best Party I’ve Ever Thrown (This is my favorite chapter because it explains the real goal of the party. “For me (the goal) is simple–people will want to party again. I’ve come to realize that the spiritual growth of any person is a long process. The conversion of the heart and soul never happen overnight. People find God because they first have God’s people. Belonging therefore leads to believing, so the party is the pathway for social and spiritual connection (p. 54).”

Happy Hour is available in bundles of 5 because it really is the kind of book you’re going to want to read “with friends, small groups, or a church plant team.”

Please don’t miss this one.  I have to tell you, I love this little book! I’ve added it to the short list of must-reads for anyone who hopes to connect with neighbors and co-workers in the 21st century (along with The Next Christians, The Art of Neighboring, and a few others).

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

Don’t Miss Perry Noble’s Latest: The Most Excellent Way to Lead

the most excellent wayI spent some time this week with The Most Excellent Way to Lead, a new book from Perry Noble. Noble is the senior and founding pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 35,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. If you’re not familiar with Perry Noble, in addition to being a pastor, he is one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever heard and an author of books like Overwhelmed and Unleash (Overwhelmed was developed into a very powerful DVD-driven study).

If you didn’t catch it from the title, The Most Excellent Way to Lead is based on 1 Corinthians 13. Often referred to as “the love chapter,” Noble points out in the introduction that while these verses are commonly used  in wedding ceremonies or as advice for newlyweds, chapter 13 is “primarily a chapter on how to lead, not how to have a great marriage.”

The Most Excellent Way to Lead: Discover the Heart of Great Leadership is a very good read. If you’ve ever heard Perry speak, you’ll easily recognize his voice right away in the book. Definitely a speaker that grabs attention and holds onto it, his writing has a very similar quality. Packed with stories that you can just hear him telling, it is a page-turner and an easy read.

In addition to being an easy read, The Most Excellent Way to Lead is also very practical and would be a great book to read with a team. Ever chapter concludes with two sets of questions (one to ask yourself and another to ask your team). I can definitely see this book being used by many to disciple and develop leaders and coaches.

If you want to become a better leader or to grow in your leadership capability, you’ll want to devour The Most Excellent Way to Lead. Perry Noble is a leader God is using in an amazing way and this book offers many great insights into the process God used to make a great leader. Don’t miss this one! I loved it and I think you will too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

Books that Have Shaped My Thinking

booksI read continually. I can’t remember the last time there hasn’t been a stack of books on the bedside table and another in my office. One of my early mentors told me you could tell when someone’s brain died by the copyrights dates on his library shelves. I believed him.

Still, not every book truly shapes my thinking. Some I simply skim. Some I never finish. And some I read again and again.

There have been a number of books that create an indelible mark on my brain. They shape my thinking.

I’ve been thinking about which books have made the biggest difference in my thinking.

For now, these are the lists:

Thinking Strategically

Leadership

Productivity

The Changing Western Culture

Spiritual Formation

Image by Sam Greenhalgh

Good Faith: Must Read from David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

good faithSpent some time this week with Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme, a new book from David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. An encore for Kinnaman and Lyons, their 2007 collaboration unChristian was an eyeopening book that “presented the North American church with an ‘outsider’s view’ of itself and challenged individual Christian and church communities to seriously consider the critiques offered by young nonbelievers.”

The book’s title is an interesting play on words, contending that “faith, when it is done right, is good. It is good not only for the faithful but for non-believers as well. Lived well and practiced consistently, good faith may be the best hope for our neighbors and society as a whole.”

Research-based, the Barna Group “interviewed thousands of US adults and more than one thousand faith leaders, including Protestant pastors and Catholic priests, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Mormon and other clergy. The goal was to get an accurate lay of the cultural landscape, particularly of the places where communities of faith feel friction with their surrounding culture–and vice versa.”

The essence of Good Faith can be found in three questions:

  • “What does the future hold for people of faith when people perceive Christians as irrelevant and extreme?
  • In what ways can faith be a force for good in society?
  • How can people of faith contribute to a world that, more and more, believes religion is bad?”

Good Faith is delivered in three parts. Part One carefully illustrates the current and rapidly changing cultural landscape of North America. Part Two wrestles with how to live good faith and peers with new insight into many of the most challenging aspects of our fractured landscape (i.e., sex and sexuality, race, politics, and public life, morals and virtues, and many more). Finally, Part Three wraps up with a compelling look and vision for the Church and its future.

Like unChristian, my copy of Good Faith is heavily marked up, underlined, starred, and dog-eared. So much to absorb, it already begs a more careful second reading. I’ll definitely be challenging our staff and leadership team to dig into it as well.

While there were many sections that grabbed my attention and caused me nod my head in agreement or shake my head in sadness, this is a tremendously hopeful book. Like The Next Christians, Gabe Lyons’ 2010 book, a way forward is compellingly presented. For example, I can’t wait to begin to apply the principles delivered in Love, Believe, Live (an important chapter in Part Two).

If you have any interest in being salt and light in your neighborhood or workplace, Good Faith is a must read. Please don’t miss this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

The Coaching Habit Is a Must Read for People Developers

coaching habitSpent some time with a new book from Michael Bungay Stanier this week. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever is probably something you ought to be taking a look at.

Stanier first caught my attention with Do More Great Work, an engaging book about productivity I discovered a few years ago. What I loved about Do More Great Work was its simple practicality; a set of simple and powerful exercises designed to help you find, start and sustain great work.

You’ll never guess what I found in The Coaching Habit. A set of simple and powerful questions designed to help you bring out the best in the people you coach (or should be coaching).

Stanier draws on years of experience training more than 10,000 managers around the world in practical, everyday coaching skills. I was immediately caught up in the easy-to-read and at the same time profoundly practical delivery of the ideas in the book.

At the heart of the book are 7 essential coaching questions that can be used very effectively to develop the people you are coaching. Yes, I am a fan of great questions and this is a very powerful set of questions.

A 21st century resource, The Coaching Habit references a number of podcasts and engaging training videos that enhance the experience (the videos are actually linked to in the Kindle version).

Don’t be distracted by the fact that this is a business book. If you lead a team or are responsible for developing and discipling coaches and leaders, your copy of The Coaching Habit will be just as marked up and highlighted as mine is.

If you’re looking for resources that will help you grow as a developer of people, don’t miss The Coaching Habit. I’ll be recommending this one to my whole team!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

God Dreams: A Great New Playbook for Vision and Execution

god dreamsI’ve spent some time with the newest book from Will Mancini this week. If you’re involved at all in your church’s leadership team, you’re going to want to know about God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.

If you’re not familiar with Will Mancini, he is the founder of Auxano, a growing nationwide non-profit church consulting group. He’s also the creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement. I’ve long counted Church Unique as a must read for church leadership teams charged with identifying and developing vision and mission.

What does God Dreams bring to the table? I think Mancini’s words from the preface may say it best: “I hope God Dreams provides you with a deeper sense of meaning personally as a leader, [helps] you experience significant improvement in your ability to inspire others, and see your team focusing in a new way on God things and not just good things.”

In Church Unique Mancini introduced the vision frame, four essential questions that help frame who you are as a church. God Dreams is primarily about what’s inside the frame and introduces the horizon storyline, a new tool that “will help you build a visionary plan that integrates the best practices of long-term thinking and short-term execution.”

The 12 vision templates identified in the book are really the result of an insight developed over 12 years working, listening and praying with church teams around the country. Patterns developed and settled into four broad categories of vision. Each of the four categories opened further into three variations revealing a total of 12 vision templates.

God Dreams is an inspiring book, but not in the sense of great stories that fan vision into flame. It’s not a quick read. It’s one that should be read carefully. What I love about God Dreams is that like in Church Unique, Mancini skillfully and methodically lays out the path to a great discovery and a potentially powerful implementation. There were a number of sections that begged to be read again a little more carefully in order to discern and glean the finer points.

The 12 vision templates are laid out in part three in a very innovative way. This is genius! In a 60 page section right in the middle of the book, the 12 vision templates are laid out in a way that allows leadership teams to “discern which might be a primary template for your church and which might be a secondary template.”

God Dreams is much more than a theoretical presentation. It really is about implementation. “Part four develops the long-range vision and how to use it. Part five shows how to build and execute your short-range goals.” I can definitely see the horizon storyline tool helping many churches clarify vision and then move beyond simple clarification to implementation.

If you’re looking for a way to help your church take meaningful and intentional steps in the right direction, God Dreams ought to be on your radar!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

H3 Leadership Is the Best Book on Leadership I’ve Read in a Long Time

H3 LeadershipI don’t know how it will be for you, but H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle is a book I just about couldn’t put down! So good! The newest book from Brad Lomenick, is a great read and one I will come back to again and again.

Brad Lomenick is the former Executive Director and key Visionary of Catalyst for 12 years, helping to build it into a dynamic and world changing organization, a community of change makers. He is a leadership consultant, speaker, founder of BLINC, and author of The Catalyst Leader and H3 Leadership. He also has a great blog where he writes about leadership, the next generation, creativity, innovation, social media, teamwork, and personal growth.

H3 Leadership identifies 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters Lomenick calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?).

I read my copy on a Kindle, but it is still highlighted and bookmarked throughout. I’m not surprised. Actually I noticed in the about this book section that 1413 passages had been highlighted 48956 times! Clearly…I am not the only one thinking this is a great read, packed with powerful insights into leadership.

H3 Leadership begins with a chapter zero that sets the tone for the book. Chapter zero tells the story of the end of Lomenick’s time with Catalyst and the sabbatical that produced the reflection that led to the book. More importantly, chapter zero introduces the idea that “leadership is more than hard work; it is habitual work” and that “the path to being a better leader is paved with the asphalt of the habits we develop.”

Each chapter covers one of the 20 essential leadership habits and every chapter is literally full of great personal stories, quotes and insights from world leaders past and present. Very readable (although I was constantly turning back a page or two to reread something I had just highlighted or bookmarked), I read the first section in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down!

Every chapter also includes a set of very practical takeaway practices, a set of practices that if built into habit will be life-changing. These form the basis for what could be (and should be) a set of powerful daily practices.

Honestly, I cannot recommend H3 Leadership highly enough! This is without a doubt the best book on leadership I’ve read in a long, long time. If you’ve not picked it up yet, stop what you are doing and get it right now. You will be very glad you did.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”

Take a Look at Max Anders’ Brave New Discipleship

brave new worldI spent some time with a new book from Max Anders that I think you’re going to want to know about. I really stumbled across it as I worked my way through a stack of books that had been submitted as part of Outreach Magazine’s resource of the year project. Hadn’t heard of the book. Was only vaguely familiar with the author, but was very impressed with Brave New Discipleship: Cultivating Scripture-Driven Christians in a Culture-Driven World.

The title is a reference to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in which “he imagined a very unpleasant future resulting not from everything being withheld from us, but from everything being made available to us, regardless of its value.” It is Anders’ observation that Huxley’s vision of the future is coming true and that “twentieth-century models of discipleship will not effectively translate widely into this Brave New World of twenty-first culture (from the introduction).”

In Brave New Discipleship Anders offers a set of 17 principles for discipling others. You can also “use the same principles to disciple yourself.” The principles are presented in short chapters and every chapter includes a set of exercises designed to “increase your memory, understanding, and application of the material in the chapter.”

The 17 principles include what Anders calls “the 7 marks of a complete Christian.” A few examples are, “a complete Christian worships God individually,” “a complete Christian worships God corporately,” and “a complete Christian impacts the world.”

Brave New Discipleship as a stand alone resource is definitely worth adding to your thinking about designing a discipleship pathway that works in the 21st century. There is also a video series that I’ve not seen or had an opportunity to review that might be worth taking a look at.

If you’re looking for resources that will help you build a discipleship pathway, I think you need to take a look at Brave New Discipleship. There are several ideas here that I know you will find helpful.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 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.”
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