Every couple of weeks, I meet with some guys here at LifeWay and we discuss the books we’ve been reading. Our seventh meeting took place a couple weeks ago with Micah Carter, Philip Nation, Devin Maddox, and myself. Here’s what we discussed:
Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God
Micah Carter had just finished David Platt’s follow-up to his bestselling Radical. We were all wondering if this book is different than its predecessor, or if it’s just a repackaging of the ideas in book one. According to Micah, the perspective in the sequel is broader. It’s all about the need for churches to buy into the vision of Radical. The book emphasizes the sufficiency of Scripture, the importance of God-centered worship, and the need to get our motivation right when it comes to radical obedience (gospel, not guilt).
Radical confronted the American Dream; Radical Together confronts the MegaChurch Dream. The irony, of course, is that David pastors a megachurch. That’s why the discussion of prioritizing funds, choosing the best things instead of just “good” things, and the need for global/local ministry is so pertinent. David isn’t destroying sacred cows; he’s knocking down bronze serpents – practices and methods that were once helpful that now are now supplanting the truth that Scripture is sufficient to enable the church in fulfilling her mission.
Devin Maddox brought the new book by Russell Moore. Moore’s book on temptation helps soften (or un-sear) the conscience that is often unaware of sin’s subtleties. By analyzing the temptation of Christ, Moore demonstrates how common these temptations are to all of us. The goal is not for Christians to panic once they recognize the potential of their evil and sinfulness. Instead, Moore says that those who should really be worried are those who aren’t. All of Moore’s hard-hitting insights on temptation are imbued with the compassion of Jesus, friend of sinners. We look past our sin to the righteousness of Christ.
Summoned to Lead
Philip Nation brought an older leadership book by Leonard Sweet. The book uses the example of Admiral Shackleton, who led an exploration to Antartica, never made it to the destination, and yet was able to lead his men to safely. Leadership is an acoustical art, not a text-driven theory. You don’t rise up to leadership; you bow to the opportunity when it comes your way. Leadership isn’t something you aspire to; it’s something that is thrust on you. Sweet emphasizes listening before speaking. He also values plurality and teamwork, recommending that we recapture the “lost chord” instead of relying on the “single note.” Sweet also talks about the value of humility, a quality that wins over the most powerful organizations in the world.
Parts of this book are contrived. Though Zondervan is the publisher and Sweet is a well-known Christian author, this is not a biblically based book. Still, the conventional principles of leadership found in this book are helpful as general knowledge.
Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations
Thom Rainer & Ed Stetzer
I brought Transformational Church, an important book that takes note of the common characteristics of churches that are particularly fruitful in making new disciples. This book can’t be classified as “church growth.” It’s not a list of principles telling church leaders what to do. Instead, it’s a picture of churches doing effective ministry in their communities. The book is easy to read, and its tone is encouraging. Though people constantly bemoan the current cultural setting of the North American church, this book is evidence that God continues to work through various people in various places.
The chapter on prayer was particularly challenging. It is interesting to note that research demonstrates that disciple-making churches are praying churches. I also liked the ongoing emphasis on relational intentionality, and how everything is geared toward mission. I was a bit disappointed in the chapter on worship. It had great insight into how and why the worship wars should end, but I wanted to learn more about the (non-stylistic) commonalities present in a transformational church’s worship service. Still, overall, this book was encouraging and helpful.
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