Monday, December 31, 2012

"Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership" by Ruth Haley Barton (Top 20)

I was actually supposed to read this book over a year ago as part of my learning community in Chicago. Ironically, the busyness of summer ministry pulled me away from it, and it ended up on the shelf. This past summer (2012) I carved out time in the mornings to read through this book, and I am grateful that I did. This is a leadership book that I will often refer back to because of its emphasis on "life giving rhythms" for leaders, primarily seeking God's presence in the crucible of leadership. This was a timely and relevant book for me (a doer/achiever type). I would recommend it to all ministry leaders. Here are some "power quotes" from the book...

“Behind my heroic image of myself I saw my tiresome perfectionism, my resentment of those who did not try as hard as I did, and my huge appetite for approval…Drawn to care for hurt things I had ended up with compassion fatigue. Drawn to a life of servanthood, I had ended up a service provider.” (pg. 23)

“What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul – the place of my own encounter with God – rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? What would it look like to find God in the context of my leadership rather than miss God in the context of my leadership?” (pg. 25)

“(Leadership tensions) There is the tension of being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things. There is the tension between the time it takes to love people and the need for expediency. There is the tension between the need for measurable goals and the difficulty of measuring that which is ultimately immeasurable by anyone but God himself….There is the tension between the need for an easy discipleship process through which we can efficiently herd lots of people and the patient, plodding, and ultimately mysterious nature of the spiritual transformation process…The temptation to compromise basic Christian values – love, community, truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation, silent listening and waiting on God for discernment – for the sake of expedience is very great.” (pg. 27)

“But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.” (pg. 29)

“…he allowed his leadership challenges to catalyze and draw him into a level of reliance on God that he might not have pursued had it not been for his great need for God which he experienced most profoundly in the crucible of leadership…The discipline of solitude is a key discipline for all those who seek after God. It is the primary place where the leader’s soul is nourished.” (pg. 30-31)

“But at the heart of spiritual leadership is the capacity to notice the activity of God so we can join him in it. Amid the welter of possible distractions, an essential discipline for leaders to craft times of quiet in which we allow God to show us those things that we might otherwise miss. We need time for the chaos in our soul to settle so that we can turn aside to look at the great sights in our own life and seek understanding about what they mean.” (pg. 68)
“(On God’s calling on our life) It is to say yes to his summons to serve him in a particular way at a particular point in history. To say yes to our calling is one more step in the journey of faith which involves a glad, joyful self-surrender. It is living in the awareness that the most wonderful thing in the world is to be completely given over to a loving God.” (pg.79)

“What is God saying to me these days about my calling? …Is there any place where I am resisting who I am or have lost touch with who I am? Where am I still wrestling with God and needing assurance of His presence with me? Am I willing to say yes again?” (pg. 85)

“…the place of waiting is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing…In solitude we learn to wait on God for our own life.” (pg. 98)

“God help us live within the limits of what you have called us to do. Help us live within the limits of who we are – both as individuals and as an organization. Help us give our very best in the field that we have been given to work and to trust you to enlarge our sphere of action if and when you know we are ready. Help us to know the difference between being driven by grandiose visions and responding faithfully to the expansion of your work in and through us.” (pg. 110)

“It is impossible to overstate how dangerous we can become as leaders if we are not routinely inviting God to search us and know us and lead us in a new way. It is impossible to overstate how needy we ourselves can become if we do not have times for allowing the healing love of God to touch our brokenness in ways that can restore us to health and wholeness.” (pg. 127)

“(when faced with decisions such as adding services, building a new building, and adding new ministry initiatives) When making decisions spiritual leaders ask, “How will this decision affect our quality of life, the quality of our relationships in community, our families, our attention to prayer and spiritual journeying, our ability to maintain sane rhythms of work and rest?” Spiritual leaders think these thoughts, ask these questions, and initiate conversations and forums for addressing these issues in a proactive way, rather than assuming that people can figure such things out by themselves.” (pg. 130)

“(leadership as intercession)Who would we be if the practice of intercessory prayer shaped our leadership? How might it change the dynamic between us and those we are leading if they knew that we are regularly and routinely entering into God’s presence with the intent to speak and lead from what transpires there?” (pg. 151)

“(your greatest freedom) freedom from being so driven by visions of future possibilities that you are distracted from seeking God in the here and now…the nearness of God is your ultimate good and you are not willing to go on without it.” (pg. 166)

“We affirm tat we are in our very essence a spiritual community gathered around the presence of Christ. What we do flows out of who we are in Christ. Learning to come together and stay together in unity is our first and most enduring task as we pattern our relationships after Christ’s relationships with his disciples. ‘He loved his own to the end (John 13:1; John 15 and 17).’ To compromise community would be to compromise our essence and then we would not have much that is of value to offer to others.” (pg. 176)

“(Rather than’s) I am leading from a self that is being transformed by my encounters with God in solitude and silence…I am discovering rhythms of work and rest, silence and word, stillness and action that God built into the universe for our well-being…I am operating out of a deep sense of God’s call upon my life…I am regularly and routinely carrying the people that I am leading into God’s presence and interceding on their behalf.” (pg. 211)

“Is it possible for a leader to have encountered God so richly that no matter what we are working toward here on this earth, we know we already have what we most deeply want – the presence of God, that which can never be taken way from us? Is it possible to get to a place where we are so given over to God that physical death is just one more step towards the intimacy and union we seek? - …”For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – He was willing to stay faithful as long as that was needed, but he had come to a place of such union with Christ that everything else paled in significance.” (pg. 215)

If you are interested in buying this book, you can get it here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"The Disciple-Making Pastor" by Hull (Top 20)

I first got introduced to Bill Hull through his book "The Complete Book Of Discipleship" (which I also highly recommend!). That book is a comprehensive look at disciple making: a Biblical theology & philosophy, historical models of disciple making, and practically what it looks like today. "The Disciple Making Pastor," as its title indicates, focuses more on the role and responsibility of pastors in disciple making. I believe this is an important read in our given cultural church context in which pulpit ministry is celebrated/elevated. This book challenges pastors to open their homes and their lives to both non-believers and believers alike in order to give their (our) lives to making disciples. I especially appreciated the later chapters on the decentralization of the pastor's ministry, the pastor as coach, and how this looks in local bodies. If you want to check this book out you can get it here. Here are my top 20 quotes:

“The Great Commission has been worshiped but not obeyed. The church has tried to get world evangelization without disciple making.” (pg. 27)

“Eugene Peterson puts it this way: ‘Forming people in Christ is a slow work, so it can’t be hurried; it is an urgent work, so it can’t be delayed.” (pg. 33)

“The disciple making pastor is dedicated to placing disciple making at the very heart of the church. This requires three things: 1) Declare it from the pulpit, 2) publish it in church literature, and 3) model disciple making at the leadership level.” (pg. 44)

“Taking the Great Commission seriously means the church leaders themselves are evangelists. They share their faith; they make disciples. - …They have placed it at the heart of the church and do the most important thing in communicating its value; they model it.” (pg. 46)

“The culture (American) is individualistic; the church is to be strongly communal. The culture is impatient; the church is to be persevering. The culture is celebrity-ridden; the church is to be a culture of humility. The culture celebrates competence; the church’s first priority is dependence.” (pg. 63)

“The Great Commission without multiplication is evangelism paralyzed from the neck down.” (pg 69)

“(to) ‘make disciples’ includes the entire disciple-making process, from conversion to trained disciple maker.” (pg. 77)

“The church best glorifies God by making disciples, simply because fruit bearing believers glorify God (Matthew 28:28-20 → John 15:8).” (pg. 90)

“The work of pastors/teachers is to ‘prepare God’s people for works of service.’ (Eph 4:12) Simply stated, the preparation is designed to ‘build up’ (v. 12-14) the body so it may grow up (v. 15-16).” (pg. 113)

“It is a sad fact that the continuing crisis of Christians is that they don’t read their Bibles or pray very much. Therefore, they have a religious scrapbook understanding of their faith. This heightens the need for pastors to have a comprehensive understanding of the gospel. They need the ability to hold it in their own minds and also get the core of it into the minds (and hearts) of their congregation.” (pg 147)

“Scriptural convictions concerning disciple making must be proclaimed again and again. The effective disciple making pastor never allows the vision to slip from the people’s minds.” (pg. 153)

“One of the deepest rooted church pathologies is exhortation to action without a means to action. The ugly results are frustrated, guilty, angry Christians who give up on making their lives count for Christ.” (pg. 159)

“Not to train and unleash all willing members is the greatest pastoral sin.” (pg. 164)

“Only healthy disciples reproduce. If the church fails to make disciples it fails to multiply. If the church fails to multiply, it fails.” (pg. 168)

“Jesus advocates a two-fold choice: First, make yourself available for work in the harvest field; second, pray for God to send others into the harvest. Pray because it’s God’s harvest field. Pray because only God can convince someone to work in his field. Pray, because no one can recruit enough personnel from his sphere of influence alone. Pray for workers to enter the harvest field from all over the world.” (pg. 179)

“If Christians don’t become comfortable with outreach, Bible study is academic, prayer is boring, and fellowship is superficial. Without outreach, the church has failed, and Christians fail.” (pg. 218)

“People grow in the mundane, sometimes tough trenches of life. Spiritual growth comes an inch at a time; it consists of little daily battles over Scripture memory, prayer time, Bible reading, faithfulness to attend a group, or to share their faith. Without help, normal people cannot sustain protracted spiritual growth. Therefore, they are left to haphazard, sporadic growth that is generated by crisis or special events (on the need for small discipleship groups).” (pg. 219)

“The disciple-making pastor’s belief in and practice of the decentralization of pastoral care grows out of the NT’s most comprehensive pastoral job description, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The text’s main thesis is that leadership has the role of preparing God’s people to do ministry. Pastoral care, one part of that ministry, is a work given to the entire body of Christ, not the clergy alone.” (pg. 223)

“There are several ways to express Jesus teaching method, and the one I have chosen contains six steps:
‘Come & See’ - 1) Tell them what & 2) Tell them why
‘Come and follow me’ - 3) Show them how & 4) Do it with them
‘Come and be with me’ - 5) Let them do it, & 6) Deploy them.” (pg. 245)

“Jesus has told them what must be done (make disciples), but in order to sustain commitment, he must give them a passion for why. - …Why disciple making, why dedication to multiplication? Because people need forgiveness, new life, to be rescued from the penalty for sin and eternal separation from their Creator.” (pg. 249)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Emotionally Healthy Church by Scazzero (Top 20)

My brother, Curtis Zackery, recommended this book to me and even bought me a copy. I was sold after the first chapter. I believe this is an important read for anyone serving on staff at a ministry (church or parachurch). This book caused healthy personal reflection for me, and is helping me dig deeper into how people who I serve in ministry truly grow in Christ. You can get a copy of the book here. Here are my top 20 quotes...

“The overall health of any church or ministry depends primarily on the emotional and spiritual health of its leadership. In fact, the key to successful spiritual leadership has much more to do with the leader’s internal life than with the leader’s expertise, gifts, or experience.” (pg. 20)

“(When resolving conflicts in community in a healthy way) This includes an awareness of how one’s family historically resolved conflict; one’s dominant conflict style – for example: avoidance, attacking, distraction, shutting down – a healthy awareness of one’s brokenness; and the ability to enter into other people’s perspective in a Christlike way.” (pg. 47)

“It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” (pg. 52)

7 Principles of An Emotionally Healthy Church
1) Look Beneath The Service (chapter 5)
2) Break the Power of the Past (chapter 6)
3) Live in Brokenness and Vulnerability (chapter 7)
4) Receive the Gift of Limits (chapter 8)
5) Embrace Grieving and Loss (chapter 9)
6) Make Incarnational Your Model For Loving Well (chapter 10)
7) Slow Down To Lead With Integrity (chapter 11)

“In emotionally healthy churches, people take a deep, hard look inside their hearts asking, ‘What is going on that Jesus Christ is trying to change?’” (pg. 71)

“The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in your place.” (pg. 83)

“(Because of the gospel) I don’t have to prove myself to anyone – which is how I was unconsciously living my life. I am perfectly loved and accepted by God because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for me.” (pg. 84)

“The knowledge that I stand before God as His beloved, because of Christ, has freed me to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am.” (pg. 85)

“It is impossible to help people break free from their past apart from understanding the families in which they grew up. Unless we grasp the power of the past on who we are in the present, we will inevitably replicate those patterns in relationships inside and outside the church.” (pg. 96)

“We call come into the family of Jesus with broken bones, wounds, and legs shot up in the war of life. God’s intention is to heal our brokenness and patch up our wounds. He allows the scars and weaknesses to remain. We are then to go out and heal others as wounded healers. Discipleship then must include honest reflection on the positive and negative impact of our family of origin as well as other major influences in our lives. - …God’s invitation is to welcome Him into those areas so we might break free to live life as joyfully and freely as he intends.” (pg. 103)

“In emotionally healthy churches, people live and lead out of brokenness and vulnerability.” (pg. 114)

“Finally, two years before his death and perhaps after walking with Christ for thirty years, he is able to see clearly, ‘I am the worst (of all sinners) 1 Timothy 1:15.’ What happened? Paul had grown in his understanding of the love of God in the gospel.” (pg. 122)

“I learned that leadership is not always being the strong one; instead, it is being the weak one who is made strong by God alone.” (pg. 127)

“Emotionally healthy people understand the limits God has given them. They joyfully receive the one, two, seven, or ten talents God has so graciously distributed. As a result, they are not frenzied and covetous, trying to live a life God never intended. They are marked by contentment and joy (in Him).” (pg. 137)

“Understanding and respecting our boundaries and limits in one of the most important character qualities and skills leaders need in order to be long-term lovers of God and others.” (pg. 141)

“The process of forgiveness always involves grieving before letting go – whether you are the person giving forgiveness or asking for it. - …I understand now why people in grief commit reckless sins. They don’t know what else they can do to escape the pain of their present situation. They haven’t learned to grieve.” (pg. 165)

“To reject God’s seasons for grief and sadness as they come to us is to live only half of our lives. What makes this particularly tragic is that Jesus Christ came to set us free to engage life fully, not escape from its reality.” (pg. 169)

“The model and teaching (in Scripture) is for us to deal honestly and prayerfully with our losses and disappointments (big and small) and all their accompanying confusing emotions.” (pg. 170)

“In emotionally healthy churches, people intentionally follow the model of Jesus. They focus on loving well, recognizing that the indispensable mark of spiritual maturity is not about recognition, numbers, spiritual gifts, or biblical knowledge. The essence of a genuine spiritual life is to love – God, ourselves, and other people.” (pg. 180)

“It (incarnational presence) costs time, energy, and almost always, a disruption to our risk-free world.” (pg. 196)

“Cultivating an intentional life with our Lord Jesus requires intentionally focused time – for silence, prayer, meditation on Scripture, and reading. - …But work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated.” (pg. 206) - …”From this place of rest, our work is to flow.” (pg. 209)

Monday, December 17, 2012

"A Cross-Shaped Gospel" by Loritts (Top 20)

I have decided to review the books I have read this year, by blogging "20 key quotes" from each one. A good friend of mine recommended that I check out the sermon podcasts for Fellowship Memphis. It is a multi-ethnic church located in Memphis, TN. "A Cross-Shaped Gospel" is written by the lead pastor there, Bryan Loritts. I think this book is both inspiring and challenging as he lays out what a cross-centered, gospel saturated life looks like practically. Specifically, he looks at how the message of the Cross compels us to courageously and graciously cross lines of race, class, and political tribes. Here are the top 20 quotes that impacted me from this book (a highly recommended read):

“Jesus drew a parallel between the cross and life – a life that doesn’t just begin when I’m buried, but a life that begins in the present, the moment I give my life to Jesus and cling to the ‘old rugged cross.’” (Introduction)

“The good news, however, is that because of what Christ has accomplished on the Cross, when He died in our place for our sins, the dividing wall of hostility has been removed. - … Paul sees the gospel as providing both our reconciliation to God and our reconciliation to one another!” (pg. 25)

“You can’t reach out without first reaching up. But once you reach up to the Savior – or He reaches out to you – the response to His grace is to reach our to your neighbor.” (pg. 31)

“Loving God must be first, and our obligation to love our neighbor must be seen through the lens of our love for God.” (pg. 32)

“Diversity is a beautiful thing, but when we pursue it apart from the Cross of Christ, we are guilty of idolatry.” (pg. 60)

“Biblical community has always celebrated diversity, but because of the centrality of the gospel, diversity does not become a rallying cry; Jesus does.” (pg. 63)

“By far the most powerful racial diversity strategy a church can ever hope to have is the clear preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. - … Genuinely redeemed people engage the poor (Matthew 25), cross racial lines (Acts 10), and any other sinful barriers because they understand that the gospel is for all people.” (pg. 65)

In Revelation 5:9-10 there are 3 keys to diversity:
(1) Celebration of God
(2) Intentionality
(3) Sacrifice (being willing to give up our preferences
(pg. 67-71)

“What leaving margin (the gleaning system) really comes down to is the question of enough. Every follower of Jesus Christ must learn to ask the questions, “How much is enough?” Specifically, How much house is enough? How much is enough income? How much is enough clothes? How much is enough purses, shoes – savings even? These questions run counter to the society in which we live.” (pg. 81)

“The simple truth is, we will never build economically diverse lives or churches until we come to esteem all people as neighbors.” (pg. 90)

“Gospel living is done ultimately for the glory of God.” (pg. 95)
“When we see the glory of God as the apex of the gospel, and not our happiness or holiness, that changes everything…everything!” (pg. 98)

“True life, a life rich with meaning, can only come when we die to the idols of this world, embrace the gospel, and follow Jesus.” (pg. 99)

“Forgiveness is irrational. What makes the most sense is to settle the score, to get even, or to put up walls and ignore, all the while refusing to release the debtor of the offense. But when your infected with the gospel, your relationships are affected radically…The gospel becomes the only operating system that will propel us to generously forgive again and again.” (pg. 107)

“Majority culture leader: steward white privilege for the sake of all.” (pg. 120)

“The sacrifice of Jesus reminds us that the call to be Christ-followers is a call to a life of sacrifice, being misunderstood, and on occasion, times of great discomfort. A cross-shaped gospel involves a total revisioning of not only how we see the world, but also how we navigate relationships. The gospel is hardly just another tweet.” (pg. 121)

“The gospel nudges us to embrace a life of dis-ease.” (pg. 121)

“In the pantheon of American gods, comfort is right near the top, even in the church.” (pg. 123)
“We cannot worship comfort and cling to the old rugged cross at the same time. It’s only when we turn our backs on comfort and go the way of the gospel that we will be able to serve others and bring ultimate honor to God.” (pg. 129)

“If you’re like me (when hard times hit), your temptation may be to turn inward to look to yourself and your own network and resources to ‘figure it out.’ I want to encourage you, don’t turn inward: focus on the cross. Let Christ be your focus point.” (pg. 139)

“Paul’s preaching – and living – the gospel shook the economic, cultural, and religious foundations of Ephesus. I want this for my neighborhood. I want this for your workplace, athletic league, schools, and community. I want to so preach and live Jesus Christ that I leave huge gospel footprints wherever I go, being an agent of change. - … “(to often) we settle for our comfortable and normal lives and miss out on the impossible movements of God. We will never seen our own Ephesus changed until we believe.” (pg. 159-160)

“Do our neighbors know that we love them? …do they feel compassion from us? The people we long to see transformed must know that we care deeply for them. The people of Ephesus knew Paul loved them, and that opened their hearts to the truth of the gospel that he shared with them, setting the stage for citywide transformation. May the same be true of us.” (pg. 164)

If you are interested in buying "A Cross-Shaped Gospel" you can purchase it here.