Lyons, The Next Christians

The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring The Faith by Gabe Lyons was even better than I expected it to be. It was refreshing and to the point, with solid research, meaningful illustrations and relevant applications.I had this on my shelf for a couple months now, and it was in my reading list for this month, but when a friend suggested it, I bumped it up first on the list and read it in two days.  We are now using this book for a young leaders event that we are doing in April to network and encourage pastors in our conference.

Lyons, who works with Q (kind of a Jesus-ified TED), has done research for a few years now and is seeing trends in emerging christianity that matter and will shape future expressions of christianity, in the western world. I really appreciate his take because he does not descend into despari and begin to motivate people with fear, which would sell more books for sure. Rather, Lyons sees a hopeful future for christianity in america, jsut one that may not closely resemble the mainline and/or evangelical structures that we currently see.

If you are at all interested in future expressions of Christianity in America, this book will be insightful and inspiring to you. I mean seriously, when you find yourself underlining parts of the endnotes, you know you’ve found a decent text!

Here’s some stunningly interesting material from the book:

  • p.8, quoting Billy Graham, “Back when we did these big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving – and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God…But today I sense that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those around them, not just with words, but in deed.”
  • p.28, “These Christians sense the deep hunger for meaning and purpose in the lives of their friends. They recognize these longings aren’t really all that new. They are actually quite old and completely human. In the midst of change, the promise of good news is palpable. For those attuned to it, enormous possibilities await.”
  • p.30, “Christianity has become a parody of itself”
  • p.35, “…when the faithful saturate their schedules with Christian events at Christian venues with Christian people, the world has a hard time believing we hold the rest of the world in high esteem.”
  • p.37, “evangelizers see it as themost important or only interaction they can have in the world. For them, the ability, courage, and boldness to witness – in hopes of winning converts – is the defining mark of the truly faithful.”
  • p.43, “The Gospel is a radical call to a stark existence, not a shallow assimilation.”
  • p.52, “Knowing God’s image exists in every human being explains why all of us – not just Christians – know how to love and be generous, creative, kind, and caring.”
  • p.79, “God’s holiness did not prevent him from entering our messy depravity; it provoked him to show up.”
  • p.95, “Andy Crouch, in his seminal book Culture Making, reminds us that these approaches aren’t best. Cultures aren’t changed by being condemned, critiqued, or copied. He concludes, ‘The only way to change culture is to create more of it.’ “
  • p.96, “…each cultural artifact tells a story about the inventor’s view of the world.”
  • p.132, “Success on the new Christian frontier looks a lot like Daniel’s. By observing a few crucial practices, the next Christians are restoring brokenness without disconnecting from the Restorer himself.”
  • p.171, “Today, the latest influence on the pop culture-driven church is the push to be involved in social justice work. Many churches that have showed little interest in justice work before are now simply following the latest social fad. They need to draw in a younger crowd, so social ministry has become another way to appear relevant. Taken to its logical conclusion, the pursuit of pop-culture relevance creates an endless cycle that removes the church (Christians) from its historically prophetic position in society.”
  • p.202, “Bubbling just underneath the surface, the next Christians are looking for others who have found this new, old way of serving Jesus. They are on the lookout for language, stories, and models that will assist them in pioneering this new frontier.”

 

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Jay-Z, Decoded

One of my favorite Christmas presents was from Heather – the only book with my name on it, Jay-Z’s Decoded.  The book is the story of Jay-Z’s life, with his lyrics mixed in.  The book also had pictures to mix with the words, to try and create a more artistic approach to the story.

Jay-Z grew up in New York’s projects and had enough personal drive, and opportunities to leave the inner cities and become an international rap artist.  His book goes back and forth between apparent genius, politicking for rap’s acceptance as actual art, and posturing Jay-Z as the guy with the solutions to the problems.  It’s impressive while feeling silly for taking it serious at the same time.  Plus, this book had more f-words than I had ever seen in any book I’d read before.

Here’s some decent words from the pages:

  • p.27, “Che’s failures were bloody and his contradictions frustrating.  But to have contradictions – especially when you’re fighting for your life – is human, and to wear the Che shirt and the platinum and diamonds together is honest.  In the end I wore it because I meant it.”
  • p.31, “Money and power don’t change you, they just further expose your true self.”
  • p.39, “In the game there’s always a younger guy who has an old soul and an understanding of things beyond his years…An older guy will see a kid and think, Man, that kid moves differently from the rest.  He’s ready for this life. They know that if they find the right kid, they can put him under their tutelage and he’ll get it fast, step right into the rhythm of the life.  But it starts by the other guy watching him, trying to pick up clues.”
  • p.41, “He’d forgotten why I put him on in the first place.  I loved his hunger.  But he got full real quick.”
  • p.49, “It’s always the one who knows the least who is the first to start trying to tell someone what to do.  The farther outside the circle someone is, it seems, the more they want to stir up resentment, mostly because they don’t know better, or they’re bored and have nothing better to do.”
  • p.100, “Everybody look at you strange, say you changed / Uh, like you work that hard to stay the same / Uh, game stayed the same, the name changed”
  • p.220/1 There’s an interesting examination of giving and charity in a capitalist society, with a Jewish approach.
  • p.276, “But I wasn’t looking for church, anyway; I was looking for an explanation…I believe that religion is the thing that separates and controls people.”
  • p.279, “The truth is always relevant.”

 

Hopefully you can see, as I did, that this book’s contribution to the church may well be in the area of discipleship and leadership development.  It approaches both of these in real ways that are actually helpful.

Bell, Drops Like Stars

One of the things I love about Rob Bell is the way he’s pushing theological thinking and pushing the medium as well.  He’s been a part of a church plant, then developed the Nooma series and has done speaking tours with his work also.  He pushes mediums forward as he pushes theology forward, both of which complement each other.

So, his most recent book, Drops Like Stars, Bell has put out less content with more art.  This hasn’t diminished the impact of the work, though.  The book takes about 30 minutes to read, and when you walk away you feel a trippy mix of sorrow and joy.  Drops Like Stars is about suffering in our lives, and the what that creates.

The book doesn’t lend itself to quotes, it more has to be experienced as a whole.  I’d totally pick this up if I were you, I think a soft cover version just came out, but that’s like listening to an mp3, when you could have enjoyed the vinyl.

Gladwell, The Tipping Point

A lot of people I know have read this book, so I picked it up to.  Organizational leadership is something I have become obsessed with lately because of what God has done in growing the Grove so quickly.  If Andy Stanley is right and leadership is a stewardship, then we want to make the most of this movement of God.

Gladwell walks readers through different situations in society where growth was exponential and seemingly instant.  In reality, each of the situations had a tipping point where the spread (whether epidemics, fashion or even ideas) took a strong upturn.

Here’s some interesting lines:

  • p.36, “Six degrees of separation doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps.  It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.”
  • p.70, “In a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks.  They provide the message.  Connectors are social glue: they spread it.  But there is also a select group of people – Salesmen – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups.”
  • p.102, about children’s television programming, “Kids don’t watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored.  They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused.”
  • p.172 and following has a sociological look at Wesley’s Methodist movement in America
  • p.173, “Wesley realized that if you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”
  • p.188, “Wegner argues that when people know each other well, they create an implicit joint memory system – a transactive memory system – which is based on an understanding about who is best suited to remember what kinds of things.”
  • p.255, “…she took the small budget that she had and thought about how to use it more intelligently.  She changed the context of her message.  She changed the messenger, and she changed the message itself.  She focused her efforts.”

Things I learned in January 2011

I feel like all my blog posts are bookk reviews.  HOW BORING!  Does anybody acutally read those?  (I like to have a record because I can search my blog later for key ideas and connect those ideas into bigger and more dangerous ideas!).  So, this is now my effort to be more creative.  If ind when my stress is high, I blog less.  When I am busy, I blog less.  So, maybe if I blog more, I’ll be less stressed and busy?  It’s a dream, but whatever.

So, here (in Larry King style) is what I learned in January of 2011:

  • A 50 pages a day reading schedule is too much for me.  Especially with some boring books.  I don’t know why I put myself through some of the junk I read.  So, I’m going to just 40 pages in February with Sundays off reading.
  • Khobi has a vicious hammer punch, don’t let her take your back.
  • 3am is a perfect ending time for a New Year’s party.
  • filing cabinets are surprisingly costly.  Why haven’t more people gotten into the filing cabinet business?
  • The Grove has thousands of people serving on it’s first impressions team.  Thousands.  Or they just move around a lot and it seems like thousands.  And if it’s raining, they bring an umbrella to your car and rain doesn’t get on my glasses – it’s awesome!
  • The gospel is as deep as it gets.  When people say they want ‘something deeper’, they should start with the gospel.
  • Families are forever.
  • I am the third best guitar player in my house.  Soon to be fourth.
  • The suit I bought in 2003 still fits like a glove.  Like a childrens glove.
  • Mistakes are normal.  What you do with mistakes shows character.
  • Focus on the Family has a Father-of-the-Year award.  I’m going for it in 2011.  I started by giving the kids ice-cream sandwiches for breakfast.
  • There is live bluegrass music in Peedee.
  • If you don’t pay attention, your son will bust you at battleship.
  • If you throw a large brick in a washing machine, it will basically explode
  • Leadership is a gift that God gives – not just talent-wise, but also opportunity-wise.
  • Pellet stoves are great, but no one yet has developed an engine for one that runs off a wind turbine placed in the chimney.  That would be a self-sustaining power generator, a miniature coal plant in your living room!