All For Nought April 2, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Church Leadership, Critical Thinking, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Book Reviews, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church
Zero is an interesting concept. Is it the presence of nothing or the absence of anything? Is it a baseline from which to measure or a null point? Is it normal or is it failure? Is it a goal for which to strive or a default by which to reset? If you answer “yes” to any or all you are on good footing.
Gil Rendle entitled his contribution to the Adaptive Leadership Series, Back to Zero, and it qualifies on so many levels. First, let me say the positive: there is some good and solid thinking here. I don’t disagree with many of the central ideas: paradigms shift and we are experiencing them all the time; the church is a system and systems are made up of processes — you can’t change the system if you don’t understand how it works; organizational theory offers a number of competing models for change (and the Spider/Starfish model is one of them — Jim Collin’s variation on Isaiah Berlin’s Fox/Hedgehog is another); and, leadership is the key to maximizing our potential. However, Back to Zero could easily have been called Back to the Eighties, or Back to the Twentieth Century, or Forward to the Past — there is nothing new or innovative here, but a mere rehash of the church leadership thinking in United Methodism twenty to thirty years ago.
God Bless You, George G. Hunter, III! March 29, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, Evangelism, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church
Our United Methodist Publishing House released five titles in their new Adaptive Leadership Series, and I have had the pleasure of reading each one. I will be weighing in on each in time, but far and away my favorite is George Hunter’s, “The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement.” What a fine little book. Those who know me well will instantly see my bias — he agrees with me, so therefore he must be brilliant! Guilty as charged. I have been saying the things in this book for years, but I haven’t said them nearly as well. Among those items that George Hunter nails with clarity and conviction:
- Our core problem is not one of structure, or even leadership, it is one of identity; we have forgotten who we are.
- The professionalism of the clergy class shifted our center from a laity movement and diminished our impact immensely.
- We have allowed church to become “all about us” instead of God’s gift to those outside the fellowship
- We perpetuate the myth that our existing institution is “normal” and therefore “right”
- That our current obsession with tinkering will bring about any real change.
A Most Excellent Read: The Hole in Our Gospel August 1, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Christian discipleship, Mission of the Church.
Tags: Book Reviews, Christian discipleship, Mission & Purpose
The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? by Richard Stearns is a beautiful book. First of all, what I love about this book is that it was recommended to me by my brother-in-law, Jim, who is not an active church-goer, who has some serious misgivings about organized religion, and often wonders if Christians are more of a problem than a solution. The fact that he alerted me to this book keeps me believing in miracles and reminds me that God has a sense of humor. But, beyond that, this is the first new book that I have gotten passionately excited about in a looonnnnggg time. It is a book that the entire theological spectrum should appreciate. It cuts through the liberal-conservative, progressive-fundamentalist bovine excrement to raise Christian love and compassion front and center. This isn’t about debating right and wrong — this is a visionary book about being Christ in the modern world. I love this book.
Best Book: The Wisdom of Teams June 4, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Small Groups.
Tags: Book Reviews
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Once in awhile, a book comes along that is so seminal, so formational, that it stands as a standard for a long time. One such book, for me anyway, is Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith’s, The Wisdom of Teams. For congregational leaders, who do so much in small group settings, this is an essential resource. There are few practical resources that offer as much valuable counsel.
The definition of teams, “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (p. 45), is an incredibly helpful description, and one which bears careful analysis:
Small number of people
Too often, we make it impossible to be effective by trying to include too many people — wanting everyone to have a voice. Research from a wide variety of disciplines confirms that in situations of decision-making and learning/personal formation group of 5-7 members are ideal, and benefits begin to decrease dramatically in groups exceeding 8-9 members. If we want to be inclusive, we may include as many people as we want, but if we want to be effective we need to think small.
Best Books: A Trip to Port William April 16, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews.
Tags: Book Reviews
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Over the past few weeks I have reread the first two books in Wendell Berry’s Port William series — Nathan Coulter and A Place on Earth. If you have never had the pleasure of a visit, both these books introduce the reader to one of the most wonderful places on earth — Port William — and the colorful and memorable characters who live there. For a more complete review, check out the Best Books page.
Tags: Book Reviews
You think you know resurrection? Bet you can learn something from Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson (two Harvard professors, one a Christian and one a Jew) that you didn’t already know. In their book, Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews, Madigan and Levenson trace the history of the resurrection of the dead — the bodily resurrection of the faithful dead at the end of time — from its origins on through the Jewish faith into its central mythological position in the Christian faith. Mythological, not because it isn’t true, but because our modern day understanding of resurrection has been shaped as much by opinion, philosophical and theological debate, and miscommunication as it has by good, careful, thorough biblical study and interpretation. The book challenges readers to revisit what we “know” about resurrection.
A Minority Opinion — Shack Attack March 25, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends.
Tags: anti-intellectualism, Book Reviews, Spiritual seekers
Within the past week I have received four different emails regarding William Young’s, The Shack. The attention this book receives is interesting to me, and I posted a review in May 2008 that voices a minority opinion — while I observe a widespread, gushing adoration for the book, I found it to be a poor book at best. In response to those asking for the review to be made available again, I am posting it here.
Periodically, I will share some reflections from my reading journal — which I keep in hope that by writing about what I read, I will somehow retain and remember things that would otherwise disappear in a short period of time. Often, books are released that become very popular, very quickly, and I am often asked my opinion (for what it’s worth…) Here are my notes on William P. Young’s, The Shack.
When I was eight years old I liked nothing better than the sugary treat of a Hostess Twinkie. Soft, sweet yellow cake with an even sweeter creamy filling – no thought of nutritional value or long term health consequences, just simple enjoyment of something that tasted so good. Left to my own devices, I would have made a steady diet of Twinkies – which in no way would have been good for me.
The Shack is a spiritual Twinkie – sugary sweet with little or no nutritional value. The fantasy tale is very unevenly told, but framed as a might-have-happened second-person narrative (Mack is the narrator/protagonist; Willie is the narrator/author), the spiritually naïve and immature might find this to be a deeply satisfying treat. Without a sound theological basis or the application of even the most basic critical thinking skills, a reader might mistake this as more than just a fairy tale.
Building a Better Bible March 17, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews, The Bible, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Biblical interpretation, Book Reviews, The United Methodist Church
It’s hard to justify the need for yet another Bible — there are a whole bunch out there from the ridiculous to the sublime — but the new Wesley Study Bible distinguishes itself as a worthwhile addition (edition?). Not that the Bible needs improvement, but anything that illuminates and explains it is a step in the right direction. See, Christianity — a book-based religion — faces a real dilemma in the United States. We love – absolutely love, revere, adore, worship, honor, praise, admire, idolize, and cherish — the Bible. We treat the Bible with the utmost care, binding it in leather, gilding its pages, and emblazoning its cover with the word “Holy.” The only problem is, we don’t actually read the Bible much anymore. It is estimated that over 90% of American households possess at least one Bible. However, only about 50% of Bible owners read the Bible “occasionally,” and just over one third read it at least once a week — the majority of these read it at church. Women are more likely than men to curl up with “the Good Book,” but neither gender spends more than ten minutes at a time with it. While many better, more accessible and understandable versions exist, the good old King James Version of the Bible is still a favorite, by a solid 3-to-1 margin over any contender. When it comes to “serious study” of scripture, only 1-in-7 (14%) Christians are guilty. Back in 1997, George Gallup reported in, The Role of the Bible in American Society, that only half of a random sample of American adults could name any of the four gospels, 37% could name all four gospels, and 42% could name five or more of the Ten Commandments. Various studies show that 75% of regular church goers think the adage “God helps those who help themselves,” comes from the Bible. Stephen Prothero’s 2008 book, Religious Literacy, updates these and other facts, but not in a positive way.
Tags: Bill Moyers, Book Reviews, Pakistan, Three Cups of Tea
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While my recommendation may not pack the punch of say, Oprah Winfrey, I would be remiss not to promote this remarkable story. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book offers a simple and powerful message: fighting terrorism through violence is a losing proposition and a stupid idea. Our real enemy is not terrorism. Terrorism is a symptom, not the root disease. Our real fight is against ignorance, and Greg Mortenson’s story is a parable of hope for our time. Of equal importance to our church, this book is the perfect antidote to the persistent complaint that “we can’t make a difference, let alone change the world.” Mortenson is actively engaged in the transformation of the world, and we would do well to study his story.
A Time to Celebrate (and Some Books to Read) February 3, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Book Recommendations and Reviews.
Tags: Black History Month, Book Reviews
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I am so excited this year. I live in a country that finally elected an African American as president for no other reason than he is the best, most qualified person for the job. It makes me feel like we’re growing up as a culture — becoming more mature, more rational, and more just. I may be fooling myself, but hey, that’s my right.
This past year was one of many changes in my life – one of which was a broken leg – and in all my “free” time I read some truly remarkable books by and about African Americans. I offer them to anyone who might be interested as we celebrate Black History Month.