Tag Archive | Christian Books

A Quick and Dirty Review of “Giving Up Control” by A.J. Dejonge

What It’s About: A.J. Dejonge tells the autobiographical story of their time as Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) University missionaries when he and his team made a transition from a staff-led campus ministry to a student-led campus ministry. This allowed CCC staff to start and oversee multiple campus ministries at different colleges. Based on this experience, he argues that student-led (or lay-led) ministries can reach more people than any revival through the means of disciple multiplication. Dejonge contends that only catalytic ministry styles will allow CCC, other college ministries, and even the church itself achieve the multiplication disciples it is called to.

What I Liked: There was so much to like here!

First, Dejonge is clearly interested in starting movements where people need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something people who have fallen in love with Jesus should be pursuing and his passion to reach the lost is contagious. Everything that is found within the pages of this book is focused on getting more people involved in reaching those who haven’t come to love Jesus.

While the book tells the story of their campus ministry expansion, it’s organized around different proverbs that their ministry has discovered. These proverbs help tease out the wisdom of their approach of putting every day students in charge of the ministry of reaching the campus. A few of the proverbs include: “Lead only to train,” “Value transferability over personal genius,” and “The empowered masses will always outperform the professionalism of a few.” Many of these proverbs are designed to help navigate the tricky balance between being a too-heavily centralized ministry or a healthy decentralized movement.

I love how the principles found in this book don’t just apply to CCC. While everything he learned during his time is taught through the lens of a college ministry, many of the concepts of multiplication have been borrowed from experienced church multiplication experts and can be easily implemented in multiplying ministry in the church. Dejonge essentially said part of this process was designed to help his college students start churches if they graduate and move to towns where no churches exist. At the very end of the book he acknowledges he is now in the process of planting a church outside of CCC using the very principles he is writing about.


What I Didn’t Like: There’s really only one chapter of the book I didn’t like. Chapter 10 is called “Ownership and Control” and Dejonge wrestles with the question of who really owns the ministry in this chapter. By the end of the chapter, it’s clear that while Dejonge is clearly in favor of giving much of the ministry happening on each campus to the college students on each campus, at the end of the day it’s still the staff who are ultimately in charge. This seemed odd from a book called “Giving Up Control.” He talks about a nearby college ministry that wanted support, but ultimately did not want to become a CCC affiliate and then goes on to speak about the wisdom of franchises. I think here, he misses the point of humility, being teachable, and healthy response to mentors in favor a business model that is man-centered. He makes some understandable points about why CCC staff is still ultimately in control of each ministry and yet there is a sense in reading this chapter that the name and brand of the ministry may still occupy a little too high of place in the author’s mind.

Should You Get It: Probably! If you’ve never been in ministry or never thought about multiplying disciples and churches, I would likely point you to an easier entry point like “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman, because it’s more accessible for every Christian. However, if you are in any kind of leadership capacity, if you have a heart for making disciples that make disciples, if you have apostolic leanings, or you’re part of a house church or church plant, I would seriously encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It has a lot of practical wisdom about instilling skills and competencies in people so that you can entrust the work of the Gospel to them with minimal oversight and this is critical to raising up movements of the Gospel.

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A Quick and Dirty Review of “God is Good” by Bill Johnson

What It’s About: Written by Bill Johnson, the book sets out to convince the reader that their current perception about God is wrong. Johnson argues that God is not like the abusive step-father we believe Him to be and more like a good Father that Jesus portrays in the Gospel. Johnson invites us to believe in a God who is good and desires good things for His children.

What I Liked: I love Johnson’s approach to healing and the supernatural. He pushes us to not settle for hopelessness and the idea that God desires sickness and defeat. There is war in his spirit that comes out in this book that will be helpful to the body of Christ. I found myself encouraged to pursue God more, believe Him more, and contend in prayer for the things He wants to do.


What I Didn’t Like: Unfortunately, while I love Bill and some of the things he represents in the Kingdom, there are some things I didn’t like about this book at all.

The first thing I didn’t like is his spurious treatment of the Old Testament. He spends an inordinate amount of time talking about it, defending his love for it, and even showing the goodness of God in it in places, all while he simultaneously seems to diminish its importance. It should be said that I’m a big believer in the following statement from Paul: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). So, when Johnson makes arguments that the Gospels/Jesus reveal the true nature of God and juxtaposes that argument with a quote from C.S. Lewis that pits the doctrine of the goodness of God against the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Johnson dances dangerously close to setting up a set of books in the Bible that is more inspired than other parts of Scripture. I believe the fullest and most exact expression of God is Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2), but I don’t believe we have to dismiss the rest of Scripture in order to get there.

Secondly, this book would have more aptly been titled “The Failure of Man: We’re God’s PR Problem.” I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I had bought this book to wash my spirit in the goodness of God and hoped not only to get a theological treatment of the topic, but an experiential one that Johnson would be able to provide. Instead, the main thrust of Johnson’s argument is that God is not perceived as good because we have failed to represent Him (especially in the area of manifesting His power) the way He really is. In Johnson’s view, more people would think God is good if we got our act together and believed for the things God wants to do.

Do I believe God wants to do more through his people? Absolutely. Do I think sometimes we focus too much on unclear passages in Scripture and what they say about God’s character than we do about the clear example of God we see in Jesus? Yes. Can we believe God is better than we currently think and become a sign of God’s goodness to others? Undoubtedly. But is diminishing the importance of God’s inspired word and pointing to our failures a good way to help us see God’s goodness? I don’t think so.

Should You Get It: There are a lot of good books by Bill Johnson. I just finished “Raising Giant Killers” by Johnson earlier this year and LOVED it. There are some beneficial things in the book and if you can “eat the chicken and spit out the bones” of this book, you may grow from this book, however, for most, I find it generally hard to recommend.

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Books I’d Like To Read

Yesterday I discovered myself leafing through my copy of “Houses that Change the World” (Affiliate Link).  In my head I added it to an imaginary list of books I’ve been wanting to read or re-read for a long time.

So I thought I would share my list of “need to reads” and see if anyone else wanted to share theirs.

If I had all the time in the world to read, here’s what I’d be reading:

(Those are all affiliate links, by the way.)

So, just out of curiosity, what have you been hoping to read lately?

Photo Credit: Stack of books, Ballard, Seattle Washington by Wonderlane

Thoughts on “Stuff I’m Reading”

It became really obvious to me last week when I was writing “Stuff I’m Reading…Err…Listening To” that my little breakdowns of the books I’m reading are becoming more like reviews and less like short run downs on the books I’m reading.  And, while reviews are great, I’m thinking that in the interest of me actually writing one of these more than once a year (which has about been my track record) I’m going to write shorter, more promo-style blurbs for my “Stuff I’m Reading” page in an effort to keep things short, interesting, and more timely.

With that said, I’m moving my behemoth of a blurb to the “Stuff I’m Reading” Page to take its place in the pantheon of books that I’ve read.  I’m also kicking around the idea of sponsoring a communal reading of a certain book over a certain period of time and posting thoughts and comments about content here and on my Twitter account.  A good example is I just started reading Watchman Nee‘s “The Glorious Church” and I think it would be really interesting to either here or on Twitter discuss things we’re reading as we’re finding them in a common book.  Let me know in the comment section or by tweet if you’re interested.

Until then, that’s all for tonight, folks!

Stuff I’m Reading…Err…Listening To…

crazylove

In a continuing effort to keep the world updated about my reading habits, I now bring you the newest finished book in my collection.  Before I go into the book, I have to say that I actually did not read this book, but I downloaded the audio version from Christian Audio.  They make a free audio book available for download once a month and this was July’s freebie.  You may see “Stuff I’m Reading” books corresponding to their free book of the month more often.

I just want to go on the record by saying “Crazy Love” was a lot better than I expected.  I’ve seen it on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores for at least a year or more and had sortof written it off as the kind of book that would last a few weeks and fade in everyone’s memory.  The whole book looked like it was written to get a sale but not change anyone.  It took a recommendation from (I think) Frank Viola before I would actually read the book.  Who would ever believe that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover?

The first thing I loved about this book was the time that Francis Chan spent delving into attributes of God at the beginning of the book.  Most modern books present a problem and then tell you how to fix it.  Chan takes us into the character of God before he takes us anywhere and I believe that is part of the reason this book is so successful. In a way, this section reminded me of the book “The Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer, but it’s written in a way that would move the heart of any college student.  Because the remainder of the book calls the church to action, Chan spends the first three chapters describing a God worthy to act on.   The book succeeds because it’s not a response to a problem but a response to God as He really is.

Chan then spends the next several chapters looking at what it looks like to not be moved by God in an appropriate manner.  Unfortunately, we find more of ourselves in these chapters than we care to admit.  The chapter entitled “Profile of the Lukewarm” was probably the hardest chapter of the book to listen to because it challenged me at a very deep level. Chan takes a look at a number of “religious people” in the Old and New Testament who thought they had it all together but really had no relationship with God.

I think a lot of people who read/listen to this chapter and the following chapter could very easily get offended because in a lot of ways it challenges what most of us feel satisfied with in our religious lives.  But because Chan packs these chapters with biblical truth and an unfolding of God’s character from the earlier chapters, his observations make sense.  There will still be many who will be offended as they read and my hope is that their offense will lead them to go back to the Bible and decide if what Chan is saying is true.  This may be the beginning of some of us, including me, waking up.

From there Chan begins to unpack what it looks like to be moved by love for the God he described in the first few chapters.  This is the “practical” section of the book where he begins to describe his journey and the journey others took to change their lifestyle to match what they see in scripture.  My favorite chapter of this section is “Who Really Lives That Way.” Most books like this one leave you feeling like you could never do what the author suggests. But  Chan introduces you to person after person who has lived radically for Jesus.  Some of these people are from a century or so ago but most of them are still alive today.  The beauty of this chapter is that most of the people he describes are not famous.  They don’t even think they are special.  They are all just changing their lives to respond to the God they have fallen in love with.  If you want to get a picture of what that looks like, I highly suggest you read this book.

If I have one beef with the book, I would have loved to see more of Chan’s personal story to see how these things have been worked out in his life. While he doesn’t give us the whole story, he does give us quick glimpses.  They are helpful, but I think readers would profit from a more personal perspective to encourage them that they can live whole-heartedly as well.    I’m convinced from his writing that his life has significantly changed… I was just looking for more than a snapshot here or there.

But the book was a great read listen and I would highly recommend that if you have a chance, you pick up this book.  I have to say I was moved by this book and am seriously rethinking some different aspects of my life, especially how I relate to the poor of the Earth.  Chan provides one of the most balanced arguments for Christians living their lives differently that I’ve seen in a book in a long time.  It will challenge you for the better.  And, if you want more when you’re done, you can hop on over to Christian Audio and listen to his new book “Forgotten God” by clicking here.

[Btw, if you’ve read “Crazy Love” and have thoughts of your own, either leave a link to your review in the comment section or leave your thoughts in the comment box below.]