Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

This is a tiny little book of letters and memoirs from brother Lawrence. He was a Carmelite monk who was first a soldier and a hermit.  God had his hand on Lawrence’s life and we benefit greatly from his humble and holy approach to Christian spirituality.  Personally, I really adored this book, yet the dualistic bias in the afterward (written by an anonymus editor/publisher from Whitaker House) totally disturbing.  They actually go so far as to say a monastic profession is more holy than being a soldier.  That is not found anywhere in Scripture and is false.  It’s disturbing.

Anyways, if you’ve never read any monastic classics, this is a great book and it’s small enough that you won’t feel destroyed.  Here’s some great quotes:

  • p.12 “The church’s only road to the perfection of Christ is faith.”
  • p.13, “Brother Lawrence wasn’t surprised by the amount of sin and unhappiness in the world.  Rather, he wondered why there wasn’t more, considering the extremes to which the enemy is capable of going.”
  • p.17, “If Brother Lawrence didn’t sin, he thanked God for it, because only God’s grace could keep him from sinning.”
  • p.21, “With this assurance, Brother Lawrence wasn’t afraid of anything.”
  • p.24, “He said that our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God rather than for ourselves.”
  • p.39, “I haven’t followed any particular steps in my own spiritual growth.  On the contrary, I found methods to be discouraging.”
  • p.34, “God often allows us to go through difficulties to purify our souls and to teach us to rely on Him more (1 Peter 1:6-7).”

pages read= 95 ~ year to date= 4548 ~ 2009 goal=9,000 ~ (51%)

Mancini, Church Unique 4: Advancing Vision

The fourth section of Church Unique concerns the movement from articulation to real-live traction of the church.  Getting the church moving in a unified direction and daily delivering vision to people.  The church must be strongly opposed to status quo because of such a heartfelt commitment to the vision.

  • p.219, “If your church is more than four hundred people, I would caution against hiring a person without the demonstrated spiritual gift of leadership…To assist you in discerning this gift, look for the traits identified by Russ Robinson and Bill Donahue: (1) a strategic orientation, (2) conceptual thinking, (3) intellectual curiosity, and (4) others-focused mind-set.”
  • p.231, quoting Bruce Wesley, “Religious people have preferences; missional people have stories.”  [this quote has become manta-ish for me!]

pages read= 235 ~ year to date= 4453 ~ 2009 goal=9,000 ~ (49%)

Mancini, Church Unique 3: Articulating Vision

In the third section of Church Unique, Mancini helps the reader to effectively communicate the mission/vision.  He takes a missional approach to the mandate, values and strategy of the church.  This leads to strong and effective metrics and a visionary life in the church.  The end game of this part of the process is that the ‘vision proper’ is well communicated and effective as a rally point for the church.

  • p.122, “In discussing barriers to growth, most churches lose sight of the taproot issue: the redemptive passion of their people’s hearts.  Someone once said that a thousand people hack at the branches of evil for every one that hacks at the root.  Turning the statement around for church growth, I would say there are a thousand who fertilize the branches for every one who fertilizes the root.  When it comes to growth challenges, leaders jump too quickly to the branches: parking lots, seating capacity, finances, staff, and so on.  But when God’s people are deeply stirred with redemptive passion, the church becomes and unstoppable force, hurdling other barriers with ease.  The question then becomes, What is keeping your people from strengthening their redemptive heartbeat?”
  • p.149, “programs don’t attract people; people attract people.”
  • p 156, “A shared definition of a follower of Christ takes blood, sweat, and tears to develop.  It also takes a lot of egoless clarity.  One exhortation I often give leaders is that they don’t have the right to invent their own language with every initiative or every ministry department.  There is too much at stake.  Even a small church has so much communication complexity that people won’t catch the measures if the language is not clear and aligned.  In fact, it takes consistent use of the same language over three years for the culture to be affected.  If various team members change the language, they are always resetting the three-year counter back to zero.”
  • p.175, “As soon as we define [the vision] as living language, we can rearrange the expectations of what vision is about.  As soon as vision is unshackled from the vision statement, we put it back into the people’s hands and it becomes a part of daily life.  Missional leaders crystallize their reality to see life as a sequence of vision-casting opportunities.  Pushing the future forward is the natural inclination of the apostolic bent.”
  • p.176, “Missional leaders must excel beyond their mentors at developing teams that cast and carry vision daily.”

Mancini, Church Unique 2: Clarifying Vision

The second section of Church Unique leads into the movement from task focus to contribution focus.  Helping people see they are doing more than making bricks; they are building a beautiful cathedral!  Mancini walks through the ways to discover God-given vision and how to navigate the discovery process.

Here’s some of my highlights:

  • p. 55, Mancini begins the section by building a case for clarity in a leader.  He quotes Marcus Buckingham, “By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear; to define the future in such vivid terms, through your actions, words, images, pictures, heroes, and scores that we can all see where you, and thus we, are headed.”
  • p.56, Then, four clarity gaps are identified: between a leader’s perception and reality, between what the leader is thinking and what the leader is saying, between the leader’s words and how the followers receive the leader’s words, & between the followers’ understanding and the words they use to communicate their understanding. (btw, for the most thorough treatment of this subject read Gangel’s ‘Communication and Conflict Management in Churches and Christian Organizations‘)
  • p. 85, Kingdom Concept = intersection of the local predicament, the collective potential and the apostolic esprit.

Mancini, Church Unique 1: Recasting Vision

I super love this book.  Mancini (founder of Auxano, a church consulting group) presents a stunning look at what’s next after the church leadership model based on business principles and he doesn’t land in a laissez-faire wonderland where pastors no longer have to work hard (he actually says they will have to work harder!).  I ate this up, yet it is not a quick read because it is technical and thorough.  I’m going to break my review/quote collection up into parts, so that it is most useful to me later.

The first part of Church Unique is focused on “Recasting Vision” and talks about the fall of strategic planning and the tendency for churches to cut-and-paste missions and visions.  Mancini effectively calls churches to do the hard work of finding out their God-given identity and God-sized opportunities for gospel advancement.

Here’s some highlights:

  • p. 10, Mancini identifies 6 common dangerous activities/attitudes that keep churches from “thoughtful self-knowledge”: ministry treadmills, the competency trap, needs-based slippery slope (and an addiction to crises), cultural whirlpools (BuzzChurch & StuckChurch), the conference maze and the denominational rut.He also gives a chart of solution-based thinking on p. 16.
  • p.25, refering Reggie McNeal, “Leaders must focus more on preparation than on planning.  Planning relies on predictability.  But preparation helps leaders stay clear amid uncertainty.
  • Mancini does an amazing treatment of the demise of the Strategic Planning process.  It is stellar.  Stellar.

MMC June 13, 2009

weekend in review: I had a fab weekend.  Highlight had to be hanging out with Grovers last night, talking dreams and talking about REAL live church ministries that are filling out and happening.  The Grove Band is premeiring at Annual Conference on Tuesday night this year, which we are looking forward to.

Also had fun refinishing Chris’ furniture for his new place up in Seattle.  I fixed a sketchy looking extension cord and using paint thinner to get silver spray paint off Khobi’s hand.

on my list this week: My first softball game with my own glove is tonight.  I don’t know why it’s called softball, it’s kinda hard.  Also, my folks are coming to town late on Friday night.  I’m pretty amped for it, we’ll have a lot of fun with the grandparents.

current books: I’ve got just a few pages left of brother Lawrence and then Sweet’s 11.  Then I think I’ll do more summertime fiction.  Maybe.

current writing: helping to work on a co-teaching for annual conference Tuesday night with Pastor John.

culture that’s caught me: This is fun.

how i’m feeling about this week: Really great.  This afternoon I am meeting with the new youth pastor for the Grove, Aaron.  He’s absolutely outstanding.  Seriously, I want him to be the Grove’s youth leader because soon L.J. will be looking for a mentor and Aaron is what I hope L.J. will become like.  I’m going to bequeath Aaron a bunch of books this afternoon and then he’s gonna help me throw a softball better.

quote for the week: “You become like what you worship” ~ Driscoll @ Advance ’09

running report: I ran last week.  So freeing!  I will have to do this again.

Frost and Hirsch, ReJesus

When I did my church planting assessment (before they were positive, encouraging, affirmations, 😉 it was recommended that I eat up as much Frost and Hirsch as possible.  So, because of my addiction to being awesome, I have read as much of them as I can handle and find them really encouraging and provoking.

This new book, ReJesus: A wild messiah for a missional church, was only ‘alright’.  For me, since I’ve read a lot over the years, there wasn’t a lot of brand spanking new material.  At times, it even seemed like a summary of other books condensed into a single volume; there were far too many quotes!  I did like the book, though I thought it would be really great to someone new to the emerging/missional conversation.  For me, there wasn’t a plethora of new information, but if its goal was to present Jesus as central to the emerging/missional conversation (like it sort-of claims on page 6) then it was a successful book.

I’m not gonna post my highlights, because so many of them are taken from quotes from other people.  Bummer.  If you are wondering if you should read this, I’d ask what exactly are you looking for, and I’d point you to a book that ReJesus used for quotes.

pages read= 196 ~ year to date= 4218 ~ 2009 goal=9,000 ~ (47%)