Is Your Gospel Too Small? Book Review of “Revangelical”

Is there nothing more to being an “evangelical Christian” other than simply voting conservative in politics, embracing a capitalistic view of economy, and preaching the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, meant for establishing the morality code of a society? Is the developed and free world, namely the United States of America, really a foretaste of Heaven’s coming reality on earth? Does Jesus’ command to “love your enemy” include Muslims and liberals? These questions, and the gross misconceptions they represent, address just some of the issues that Lance Ford tackles head on in his new book Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be published by Tyndale Momentum.

Unfortunately, my preceding list of general inquires captures the heart’s concern and stereotype of many whom claim to be in the evangelical camp. As a self-identified, evangelical, I myself am thankful for this new book and the gentle correction it brings, not just to poor theology, but more importantly, for a repentance and renewal of the genuine Christian life.

Lance is a speaker, consultant and cofounder of the Sentralizled conferences. He is also on the national leadership team for the Forge America missional training network and is a board member for Missio. Like his previous books, Right Here, Right Now”, coauthored with Alan Hirsch, (2011) “Unleader” (2012), andThe Missional Quest” coauthored with Brad Brisco (2013), “Revangelical” (2014), is a prophetic call to action for the Western Church at large.

As the title of this book suggests, Lance believes there is a need in the North American Church to “recalibrate”, “reunite”, “restore”, and “reposition” (just some of the chapter titles), our current understanding of the Gospel and how it is shared with others.   

As a native Texan who came to faith during the Cold War era, Ford learned early on that the Pledge of Allegiance held equal, if not more weight, than the Lord’s Prayer. In the time period that saw the emergence of Ronald Reagan and the “Religious Right”, the Good News of the Kingdom of God was also sadly reduced to the articulation of “four spiritual laws” and a sales pitch for cosmic fire insurance. Indeed for some, the gospel has become too small.

So what is a “Revangelical”? Lance gives definition to his made-up word by stating that revangelicals are really just a new breed of evangelicals that are converted to the entire gospel in authentically living by the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, to be Good News people in the world. Lance writes that “Revangelicals are followers of Jesus who have moved beyond merely favoring Jesus with their belief in him and have committed themselves to actually following him with the substance of their day-to-day lives. They take Jesus’ words very personally, and often quite literally, and are convinced that his example is indeed a livable model and standard for us to emulate. Revangelicals are those who seek to live their lives as Good News people for the Kingdom of Heaven, even if it costs them the American Dream” (p. 19). 

He goes on to explain how the word “evangelical” comes from the same word as “gospel” and that as Christians or followers of Jesus; we are to be disciples who embody the Good News, right here, right now.  Continuing, Lance states that “Revangelicals have come to the conclusion that if what Jesus taught and commanded is too impractical for the real world, then the real world must be false” (p. 20).

Recently I had coffee with a young “twenty-something” who is currently attending a small Bible college. As we sat talking to each other from across the table, my spirit became troubled. He told me of how during the first two weeks of his evangelism class, the professor focused more on teaching flashy communication techniques, apologetic arguments, and models for conversion that seemed all too formulaic. Not a single mention of the Kingdom, no talk of mercy and compassion, and an apparent absence of anything that sounded like a pleasant and joyful announcement. However, as Lance Ford explains, that is the very kind of exclamation Jesus made as he embarked upon his public ministry. In Luke 4:18-19, we read that just after his baptism, Jesus walked into the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath, and declared that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NRSV).

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus makes a public announcement that preaches grace, justice, salvation, and abundance. The Good News Jesus made known, resembled the declaration of the year of Jubilee. During this time, family, freedom, and forgiveness were available to all. This is the kind of Good News evangelicals should be known for. Instead of messages of hate and damnation, revangelicals preach heaven come near and demonstrate it in both word and action. As the saying goes, revangelicals are more known by what they stand for, what Jesus stated as love, rather than what they stand against. Truly, love is the greatest gift; ripest of all spiritual fruit and the number one marker by which the world can tell we are Christ’s disciples.

Through stories from his own life and the lives of other revangelicals, Lance makes clear that this love, the love that compelled God to send His only Son into the world to die as an eternal sacrifice, is exhibited in the Church when we incarnate the Gospel into our neighborhoods, identify with the poor and marginalized, value stewardship over ownership, and confess salvation in Jesus more than condemning sinners and casting judgment.

Revangelicals share the earth shattering news of God’s Kingdom breaking forth into our reality by the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. They place their hope in a bloodied and wooden cross, stained red by the shedding of God’s life for the reconciling of creation, instead of a flagpole. It is not the stars and stripes of the good old red, white, and blue revangelicals commit their life to, but the scars of Christ and the stripes of His wounds in which we find our healing.

Ford clarifies the Kingdom of God as being neither communist nor socialist, but admittedly communal and social. Revangelicals put their trust in the Lamb not the elephant or donkey. They understand life as exiles sent on mission to live in but not of the world.

As a millennial Christian leader, pioneering missional communities on multiple university campuses, I have become all too familiar with the research on the “nones” –those that identify as “no religious affiliation” and the negative attitudes postmoderns have towards all things church. Ford makes clear that it is not relevance that will attract younger generations, but a fresh encounter with the Risen Lord. This type of ministry service brings the Kingdom of God right into the center of the local community. One of my favorite stories of how Lance fleshes this out with the church planters he coaches involves driving around Kansas City’s Troost Avenue, the line of socio-economic demarcation with U2’s song “Where the Streets Have No Name” on a constant replay loop in the car.

Through the practical experience of Lance’s frontline ministry adventures and his engagement with the current missional church movement, he shares how advancements in the Church’s future can be found in the remembering of great missionary heroes of years past. For this I am thankful Ford draws on the rich well of wisdom found in the missiological writings of E. Stanley Jones. First addition copies of “Christ at the Round Table” (1928), “The Christ of Every Road” (1930) and “Conversion” (1959) sit atop my office desk. In our current pluralistic age, there is much to be learned from this great peacemaker and missionary to India. Jones truly embodied the Good News of Jesus Christ to a country that had nearly as many Hindu gods as its population count.   In a brief statement to close a chapter section, Ford summarizes his argument by saying “Revangelicals are those Christians who seek to live their lives as Jesus would live if he were us” (p. 51).

Complete with an accompanying website (www.revangelicalbook.com), supplementary videos, small group resources, and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, “Revangelical” is a timely resource for the Church and presents an incredible opportunity for ambassadors of the Kingdom to embrace the Good News.

Revangelical

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An Essential Guidebook for Journeying With the Missional Church

The Missional QuestThere have only been a handful of books that I have really, really anticipated the release of in the last few years. While there are always new books on the publishing horizon, there are only a select few that I eagerly await for their arrival.The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church for the Long Run” (2013) by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco was one such book. I had it “saved for later” in my Amazon shopping cart since the day it became available for pre-order online. However, thanks to my friends at InterVarsity Press, I was provided a complimentary review copy in exchange for this honest critique.

While I know that at the time of this writing we are already more than halfway through 2014, I still contend that “The Missional Quest” is not only one of the best new books available for understanding the missional church, but is also one of the best books to date, as an introduction  to the theological implications of the subject. Scripturally sound and full of practical advice, I recommend “The Missional Quest” as essential reading on the topic. But don’t just read the book, live its’ message, as echoed from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: Here I am, SEND ME!

Divided into two parts –Section One: Fostering a Missional Mindset (How Should My Church Be Thinking?) and Section Two: Fostering a Missional Posture (What Steps are Necessary?), Lance and Brad spend nine chapters fleshing out what it means for a church to think with  missional orthodoxy and live with missional orthpraxy. With back and forth chapters written by each author, Lance and Brad cover relevant themes such as the theology of the missio Dei (chapter one) “Rhythms of Inner Formation” (chapter two), and the missional opportunities presented by post-Christendom (chapter three).  It is in these beginning chapters that the authors lay the foundation of a gathered and scattered church, explain the spectrum that exists between attractional-extractional and missional-incarnational, and promote a dependency on the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps my favorite segment of the book is chapters four through seven. Each of these chapters focuses on building authentic relationships and being intentional about incarnational mission. Starting with chapter four “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the authors look at Jesus’ greatest commandment of showing love by creating vibrant communities, ministering to those next door, seeking the welfare of the city, and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Chapter five presents a biblically radical case for hospitality and offers tangible insights to making it happen. Chapter six discusses the value of what are called “third places”, a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his seminal book “The Great Good Place” (1989). Building on Oldenburg’s definition, the authors describe third places as “a public setting that hosts regular, voluntary and informal gatherings of people. It is a place to relax. It is a place where people enjoy visiting. Third places provide the opportunity to know and be known. They are places where people like to ‘hang out’ (p.136). Lance and Brad then cover the eight key characteristics of the conventional third place as defined by Oldenburg and essentially synthesis his work with that of Robert Putnam’s bestselling title “Bowling Alone” (2000) and Peter Block’s “Abundant Community” (2010). While these books are more sociological than missiological in study, with their acumens combined, Lance and Brad do an incredible job at highlighting the church’s opportunity for mission, our culture’s desperation for community, and the pitfalls of individualism that has undergirded our increasing postmodern society.

However, it was chapter seven, subtitled “Small Groups Becoming Missional Communities” that really grabbed my attention during my initial scan of the table of contents. Missional Communities seem to be all the rave right now. And while there have been whole books written on the subject matter (see for example “Missional Communities by Reggie McNeal, and “Leading Missional Communities” by Mike Breen), there is still some confusion as to how a church can “launch” missional communities out of a preexisting small group structure. In a short and clear definition, Lance and Brad explain that “Misisonal Communities are groups of people who commit to living their lives with devotion of heart, mind, soul, and strength in the three spheres of relationship with the Lord” (p. 153). These three spheres, described by founder of the Vineyard movement, John Wimber as Father, family, field, or perhaps more commonly known as “up, in, and out”, courtesy of 3dm, are basically the Christian’s relationship to God, the Church, and the world. As Mike Breen has noted elsewhere, missional communities are not the end goal in and of themselves. But rather they operate as a vehicle to take people to the desired outcome of “oikos”, a Greek word meaning “household” or in this context, a spiritual family on mission. While Brad and Lance do not use the term oikos in their chapter, they do mention the Greek word “koinonia”, translated as fellowship or more accurately, partnership. They state that “It is a mistake to think of missional communities as groups that do mission together. We prefer to think of them as groups of missionaries” (p. 155). Therefore, they suggest building community around the mission, and providing opportunities for everyone to join in.

After outlining the principles of mutual commitment, accountability, and devotion, found in Acts 2:42-46, they then unpack several of the “one another” passages in Scripture and present the acronym “LIGHT” to help memorize and embody five missional habits. The letters in LIGHT stand for Listen to the Holy Spirit, Invite others to share a meal, Give a blessing, Hear from the Gospels, and Take inventory of the day. Similar to Mike Frost’s “BELLS” and Dave Ferguson’s “BLESS”, Lance and Brad describe how living by the acrostic LIGHT, taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16), “becomes the outline for the sharing portion of the group time” (p. 165).

Chapter eight tackles developing leaders, or servant followers, through the discipleship process, raising up and sending out the priesthood of believers, and equipping each and every church member in his or her fivefold ministry of Ephesians four. Finally, chapter nine addresses how to create a new scorecard for “success” in the local church by ultimately asking a series of self-diagnostic questions that measure the missional effectiveness of activity outside of the four walls of the church. Celebrating stories to create a “tipping point” for mission, embracing risk, and prayerfully discerning what God is already doing, are all also parts of “Having a Great Trip”, the heading of chapter nine. Finally, an appendix of the “Sending Passages” in the Gospel of John is included for personal or corporate reflection.

Lance and Brad are thinking practitioners and participant observers who provide an immense amount of wisdom. Through their ministry as authors, church planters, consultants, and co-founders of the Sentralized Conference in Kansas City, I am thankful for the voice and influence of these two in the continuing conversation of the missional church.

In closing I would like to take a moment to recommend all of the other books in the Forge InterVarsity series, especially, “Incarnate(2014) by Michael Frost and “Sentness” (2014) by Kim Hammond and Darren Crownshaw.

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“He Said… She Said… & You?” Guest Interview with Blogger and Author Paul Sohn

'He Said, She Said, and You' - Paul SohnIf you haven’t picked up my good friend Paul Sohn’s revised edition of “He Said… She Said… & You? A Pitstop for Inspiration”, then you need to immediately. This is an incredible resource that Paul is offering, simply as a service and blessing to others. While I am glad to have endorsed the book, I am even more grateful to call Paul a dear brother in faith. He has a genuine heart for equipping a generation to be Christ-centered and intentional world changers. This book is a perfect example of how he is doing it. One of my favorite quotes that Paul mentions in the “C” chapter is a statement made by D.L. Moody : “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” This book shows how Paul’s reputation, and character, precede him. Below is my guest interview with Paul. Way to go! I’m proud of you brother.

1) Your book “He Said, She Said and You?” is full of inspirational quotes for intentional living. But I’m curious, what is your all time favorite quote?

One quote that has made a profound impact in shaping my life and worldview comes from C.S. Lewis. He said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” As this quote percolated through my mind, I could appreciate the richness, depth, and beauty behind this truth. This is my first encounter of a quote that has made a lasting, life-changing transformation in my life.

2) Similar to the quote question, what is your favorite Bible verse or Scriptural passage?

In the season of my life today, the Bible verse that God seems to have planted in my heart comes from Job 8:5-7 which says, “If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.”

3) You and I are both avid readers, would you mind explaining your book selection process?

I’ve always believed that reading the “right” books matter. Franz Kafka said it best: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” First, I generally focus on several topics that interest me most that align with my passion and purpose. For me, that would be leadership, purpose, growth, and Christianity. Then, I usually search for books that thought-leaders in these respective areas recommend as “must-reads.” I also follow magazines and periodicals in these areas for book reviews, which is a great source of reading great books. I also tend to rely on Amazon reviews for selecting the right books as well. I use Amazon.com Wish List to catalogue all the books I need to read based on each category. There are other great books currently in the market that serves as an excellent resource to help find read great books such as, “The Best 100 Business Books of All Time.”

4.) Besides the Bible, what three books have had the most impact on your life?

I can’t forget the time I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The book was written by holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who observed that people who survived were those who had a laser-like focus on living which was undergirded by a sense of hope. The narrative Frankl writes in his story utterly changed my perspective on how I appreciated life and the importance of finding purpose and meaning in life. The second book which were formative in my development as a leader is John Maxwell’s classic “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” I learned how leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less. Leadership is a mindset, lifestyle, skillset that needs to be intentionally cultivated to fulfill the purpose God has given me. Lastly, I have been profoundly impacted by the ministry of Ravi Zacharias. “Walking from East to West” is a biographical account of his life story. His passion to serve the Lord through articulating his faith through philosophy and science helped me strengthen my faith.

5) What is God currently teaching you?

God is teaching me to build a strong foundation in this season of my life; that is, to build a godly foundation by cultivating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I’ve experienced and realized the seduction and lure of attaining power, money, and status. Without a strong sense of character, it’s so vacillate back and forth and succumb to the flesh. Everyone has vices that are like “thorn in the flesh” that must be overcome to fulfil God’s calling in our lives. For me, it’s a sense of pride in myself and the work I pursue. I need to always remind myself to surrender myself, crucify my flesh and let God take the reign. I believe God is leading me instill a sense of unshakable foundation so that as John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  

Paul Sohn blogs at www.paulsohn.org. Paul’s an organizational chiropractor, kingdom-minded influencer, and intentional leader and works for The Boeing Company. He writes about his perspectives on intentional living, growth, leadership, and the Christian life. You can also find him on Facebook. For a limited time, he is offering his new quote book, “He Said, She Said, and You?” for FREE. To download his book, click HERE.

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[Book Review] “People-Pleasing Pastors” by Charles Stone

people-pleasing pastorsThe subtitle of this new book says it all: “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership“. The author is Charles Stone, lead pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario and founder of StoneWell Ministries.

There is definitely a need in the Body of Christ for this very important book. I know first-hand from church consulting, that often because of their public position; pastors and ministry leaders feel they can’t be open about their weaknesses, past wounds, or sense of inferiority. Unfortunately, those without any appropriate accountability and encouraging relationships, often have the tendency to fall into a rut of confusion, frustration, and potentially an extremely immoral sin or crime.

Hopefully, with the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the findings presented in this study, more pastors will seek inner-healing and will be able to serve the Bride of Christ fruitfully and faithfully.

People-Pleasing Pastors” is part pastoral care for ministers, part personal discovery and self-awareness, and part psychology and neuroscience. The author describes his work as a “3B” approach: the first B is for the “Bible”, the source of all written truth. The second is for the “brain” and corresponding functional MRI research. And finally, the third B is for “Bowen” as in Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist who developed a perspective on how people process their internal world, as well as relational issues and dealing with difficult emotions like anxiety.

The seven steps Stone provides for a solution can be remembered with the acronym “PRESENT”. In sequence they are “probe your past”, revisit your values”, “expose your triangles” “search for your gaps”, “engage your critics”, “nurture your soul through mindfulness”, and “tame your reactivity”.

Stone has a pretty extensive family genogram exercise that he recommends, in chapter 4 “The Rearview Mirror Look”. For me this was the most helpful chapter of the book and has surprisingly stayed in the background of my thinking, far longer than I thought it would. This process of reflection is especially helpful when it comes to analyzing your family’s history and how that shapes your personality. It is also eye-opening when the topics of unhealthy generational cycles and the effects of ancestral sins are exposed. Some of the questions Stone suggests pastors work through include asking “what effect did birth order have on your family?” “Do any addictions run in your family?” and “How did your family handle anger and conflict? The good news is that Stone also offers advice on how to find freedom in Christ, and reminds pastors that they are not imprisoned by the negative events of their past. These unresolved issues however if not addressed, are typically the main contributing cause for the desire pastors have to please congregants and avoid confrontation.

Statistically backed up by a large survey of one thousand pastors done through LifeWay Research, Stone presents his “PRESENT” solution with relevant findings, sound biblical reference, and helpful practices for moving forward, listed in Appendixes’ A and B: “The Seven-Day Personal Development Plan” and “The Eight-Week Team Development Plan”, respectively. In the first addendum, Stone unpacks two more acrostics, “BEETS” and “RIPE” and explains how each can help pastors move from trying to make people happy, to ministering to their felt needs.

Each section of the book has a “chapter snapshot” and includes a “take away” list of comments and questions. Included are snippets of advice and wisdom from some well-known pastors, such as Dave Ferguson, Pete Scazzero, Lance Witt, and Dr. Elmer Towns. With a foreword by Ed Stetzer, and supported by strong endorsements from Thom Rainer, Larry Osborne and Aubrey Malphurs, I highly recommend “People-Pleasing Pastors” and the lessons it teaches on the inner-workings of a leader’s life. That’s why I am so thankful to Charles Stone for producing this study and to IVP Praxis publishing the book and providing this reviewer with a complimentary copy.

For further reading on the inner health of pastoral leaders, I’d suggest Kevin Harney’s book “Leadership from the Inside Out: Examining the Inner Life of a Healthy Church Leader” (2007), “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction” (1997) by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima, and “Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness” (2006) by Dan Allender.

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[Book Review] “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians”

SentnessAbout a year and a half ago, I got the pleasure of meeting with about two dozen other young leaders at 11:00pm at night…in a hotel room… in downtown St. Louis. This impromptu gathering of student leaders had been organized to take place after the first day of one of the largest mission assembles in North America – the 2012 InterVarsity Urbana student missions’ conference. As I walked into the hotel room, my eyes made contact with a very gentle and very gregarious Australian man named Kim Hammond. He noticed me in part because I was carrying a newly purchased copy of one of his friend’s book’s, “Movements that Change the World” by fellow Australian mate, Steve Addison. Kim was quick to pull out his smartphone and ask for a picture of me holding the book so he could post it to his Instagram (Ha Kim, I’m still waiting for that photo tag). That’s the story of my first interaction with Kim and the lessons he presents in his new book, coauthored with Darren Crownshaw, “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians” (IVP, 2014).

What I like most about this book, is that both men are missional practitioners and church planters from the land down under. They also serve with Forge Missions Training Network, so these thoughts aren’t merely empty theories. But rather they have been “forged” in the frontline trenches of ministry and years of experience.

In commenting on his Urbana experience, Kim writes in the introduction to his book “We need to help emerging leaders dream again about mission in the West. Forge functions like that– we gather living prophets and apostles and evangelist, along with pastors and teachers, to share their stories and learn from one another… The challenges of contemporary Western society demand that our paradigms for mission change (p.24).

“Sentness”, therefore is essentially a collection of stories meant to help Christians dream with God again. Stories come from the author’s personal lives as well as the lives of various missional churches across the globe. These first-hand accounts illustrate the shifts that need to take place in order for the Western Church to partner with the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the missio Dei. These testimonials, and the six postures they represent, are sure to spur the missional imagination required for a radical and incarnational approach to the grassroots, Jesus movements of the future.

After advocating that the Church repent and move beyond consumerism to begin believing the Good News of Jesus again, and living that belief out in behavior for Kingdom contribution, Hammond and Crownshaw show how biblical sentness also means Christ-centered servanthood. This high emphasis on a Christological focus to mission shows how an attitude for equipping the saints instead of entertaining spectators, releases Christians, or “little Christ’s” to partner in the mission of God.

What follows then are the six chapters that identify the corresponding practices of effective missional living. In brief, the six postures are 1.) Sent people, 2.) Submerged ministry, 3.) Shalom spirituality, 4.) Safe places, 5.) Sharing life, and 6.) Standing in the gap.

While each section contains a wealth of frontlines experience, my favorite parts of the book were chapters 7: “Standing in the Gap” for empowering pioneering leaders and the conclusion titled, “Starting Something New”. In this last portion, the authors state that “Like patches and wineskins, new moves of God, Jesus implies, need new forms and frameworks to make the most of them. Jesus’ lesson inspires us to ask what new patches and wineskins God might be calling us to imagine. And how can we empower a new generation of out-of-the-box practitioners to start something new?” (p.182).

Integrated among the personal stories are movie vignettes from popular films like “The Blind Side”, “Remember the Titans”, and “Dances with Wolves”. Examples from other current movement leaders like Dave Ferguson and the New Thing Network, Neil Cole of CMA, and Mike Breen from 3dm are also shared.

While Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, cofounders of Forge, wrote the foreword to “Sentness”, their presence is felt all throughout the book, via quotes and chapter epitaphs, that include references to Hirsch’s mDNA and Frosts BELLS method.

In the endorsement section to “Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians”, house church expert Felicity Dale references the Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich’s remark about changing a society by telling an alternative story. The effects of my hotel room meeting with Kim Hammond and Beau Crosetto, discussing the missional postures needed for American churches, sharing stories, and releasing the APE, has already changed the story of the city in which I live, and has replaced an old and helpless drama with the life-giving Gospel story of Jesus Christ.

Don’t just read “Sentness”, but assume the six postures of a missional Christian that this book preaches in your life, starting today!

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True Richness, is Being Blessed by What You Give, Rather than What You Receive

Be RichAt the beginning of January, with the start of 2014 underway, I began reading classic success literature and self-help books that specialized in the areas a personal growth and finance. After speed reading the typical motivational authors, it quickly became apparent to me that the techniques of becoming rich quick through multilevel marketing schemes, sly salesmanship techniques, and becoming a millionaire overnight, were the perceived values of that popular genre. While I am a student of personal develop and study the practices of goal setting strategies and time management methods, through this reading, I was reminded how being rich as defined by the world’s standard, is vastly different than that described in God’s Kingdom.

This revelation brought me back to with wisdom of Proverbs and other biblical stewardship books on financial management as found in the writings from authors like Dave Ramsey, Ron Blue and Larry Burkett. Then I found this new title from Andy Stanley, “How to Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have. It’s What You Do With What You Have” (2013). In this short book, one of my favorite communicators stresses that being rich is not so much about all the possessions we own, but rather richness is found in the one who possess us, and after all, God owns it all anyway.

“How to Be Rich” is broken down into seven chapters that can be easily digested in the reading of a couple pages each day and over a week. Topics covered include the disease of consumption assumption, how to plan ahead for giving effectiveness, what to do to get a greater gain, and the aspects of a spiritual “ROI” -or return on investment.

I was so inspired by my reading of the book that I actually went online and watched the four sermons delivered in this message series through North Point Ministries. One of the exciting things I learned through the exposure of this material is that near the end of each year North Point takes up a special offering to partner with extraordinary nonprofits, both globally and locally, to maximize their ministry effectiveness through their giving of financial support and the offering of time and hard work from church congregants.

This is a similar to a year-end effort that my own church takes a part in. Though we call it “Genero-City”, the concept to partner with specific care ministries remains the same. At Pathway, we give to a variety of organizations in our local community ranging from partnering with a crisis pregnancy center, to working alongside a men’s homeless and recovery shelter, and continually supplying donations for a local food bank.

The thesis for Stanley’s book comes straight from Scripture. In 1 Timothy 6:18, The Apostle Paul writes “Command them to do good to BE RICH in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” After helping us understand that the majority of Americans are indeed rich, (that is compared to global standards) Stanley does a nice job up unpacking the biblical practices of charity, as well as instructing readers in the historical and encouraging insights of the words of Christian leaders like Jesus and John Wesley. The author goes on to support his claims by incorporating modern reports from the contemporary magazines Money and news facts from CNBC where appropriate statistics on world poverty emphasis his point.

Some of my favorite idea expressed, include Stanley’s reminder that our commandment of stewardship should yield first and foremost a biblical responsibility to care for the poor rather than to incite a feeling of guilt, that instead of trusting in our riches we should trust in Him who richly provides, and that praying to God for the things we need and placing our hope in Him, is a better outlook for life and hoarding items in an attempt to enlarge our material wealth. Also, covered in the book is the issue of proportionate or percentage giving that charity should be a lifestyle, not just a budget item.

When we remember just how much God gave out of His love for us, we should be spurred on to give to others likewise.

 

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[Guest Post] Dr. Kathy Cramer on The 5-1 Principle

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Kathryn D. Cramer, author of the new book Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do (Jossey-Bass, 2014).  Dr. Cramer is a licensed psychologist and leadership expert well known for her signature approach called Asset-Based Thinking (ABT). She is a New York Times bestselling author and has been featured on media outlets such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Forbes.com.

This blog was originally published on December7, 2013 at http://www.drkathycramer.com

THE 5-TO -1 PRINCIPLE FOR GIVING FEEDBACK

A few years ago, I attended a conference on Leader As Coach, facilitated by Mark Rittenberg, Founding Director and CEO of Corporate Scenes, an international communication consulting firm based in Berkeley, CA. Mark has done extensive research on what people want the most at work and here’s what he shared with us. At work, what people want the most is:

  • To be seen
  • To be heard
  • To be recognized
  • To make a contribution

Think about these four desires. Through asset-based thinking, you can be the type of inspirational leader who delivers on all four of these desires, and by doing so energizes and motivates the people you work with to higher levels of performance. The ABT five-to-one principle for giving feedback is all about unleashing the strengths in other people for powerful results.

5 to 1 ABT Performance Feedback

Over 20 years ago, world-renowned psychologist John Gottman, PhD discovered that the secret to a great marriage was a five-to-one ratio of positive-to-negative commentary. He and his team of observers were able to predict with over 90% accuracy which marriages would survive and thrive simply by counting the ratio of positive-to-negative comments.

Since this five-to-one ratio was such a powerful indicator of successful marriages, I wondered if it could predict the outcome of other types of relationships. What if leaders spent five times more intention and effort on praising people for their proficiency and progress than they did on criticizing poor performance? At the Cramer Institute, we have been coaching leaders on how to do just that for over 20 years and the results have been astounding.

When Giving Feedback To Team Members

  • Speak concretely about five things you admire about the person.
  • Emphasize what is going well and where you see their potential.
  • Link your praise to the skills and effort (the “assets”) that are driving the results you want.
  • Keep the discussion of the person’s shortcomings (the “deficits”) to just one specific criticism.

Remember – constructive, improvement-oriented critiques are only helpful when they are within the context of appreciative, strength-oriented feedback. This ABT practice provides the necessary foundation for capitalizing on the strong suits of your team members while encouraging their improvement in one well-defined area.

About the Author

Kathryn D. Cramer, PhD, is passionate about possibilities and potential. Emmy-winner, business consultant, psychologist, and author, Dr. Cramer has written nine books, including the best-selling Change the Way You See Everything. She created and has dedicated her life to asset-based thinking (ABT), a way of looking at the world that helps leaders, influencers, and their teams make small shifts in thinking to produce extraordinary impact. Her latest book, Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say & Do (Jossey-Bass, 2014), shows leaders how to increase their effectiveness through her revolutionary mindset management process, Asset-Based Thinking.

Follow Kathy on Twitter @drkathycramer and connect on Facebook.

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