Monday, April 02, 2012

To keep growing I need to keep listening

The Holy Spirit gives the church teachers.

One of the ways to access teachers is through books.

You can learn from books. And you can learn from life. Usually more from the latter, but "both-and" is better than "either-or".

Four of the best I've read so far this year are THE GOOD GOD, GOOD TO GROW, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, COMMUNICATING FOR A CHANGE.

1. The Good God (Michael Reeves)
Long awaited, this book gets the reader right on the most important of questions - the God question. 
You've almost certainly never read such an accesible book on God. 
Mike looks at the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and shows how good they are. 
The Good God contrasts the Triune God with classic approaches to a solitary god, providing clear answers to interact with Islamic and Atheist approaches, and also to root out the incredibly unhelpful thinking about "god" that slips into our doctrine of God, usually depersonalising and debeautifing him.
I'm reading the book with a group of students, gathering for breakfast, discussion and prayer. The Good God manages to be simultaneously light and weighty, introducing us to the God we know when we know Jesus.

2. Good to Grow (Steve Tibbert & Val Taylor)
Tibbert tells the story of how his church in London has grown from 150 to 1250 people...  a story of progress that draws attention to the Jesus who builds his church relentlessly.
I recently had the privilege of two days of training from him on the Leadership course I'm doing - here is a well developed leadership gift that I have a lot to learn from.  
As the story unfolds you can pick up the lessons he's learned along the way and the clarity he's found to help church grow. 
I'm thankful for the way he's able to look at things with clarity and let vision and true priorities govern rather than countless unspoken commitments. 
We have a nation to reach and Good to Grow might help us to get out of the way and start making some better decisions about how we do church.

3. How to win friends and influence people (Dale Carnegie)
I'm an introvert and I'm ok with that. It comes with at least two problems.  Firstly, sin seizes on this I become uninterested in people and curved in on myself. I need the gospel to draw me out of myself - Reeves book is very helpful for that as are Carnegie's examples in this classic book.
Secondly, introversion simply wont do in all the situations I find myself in. 
I need to develop my skills with people - I love spending my days with people - I've deliberately pursued work that puts me with people all day long. 
That doesn't mean I don't need some time to recharge down the line, but I want to maximise the opportunities I have, to value and love people. Carnegie's book is really practical and helpful for how to be refreshing company better. Some of it is incredibly obvious - like smiling and asking questions, but help with even the obvious things is helpful. You might have mastered life but I'm still learning.  
My pastor asked me to read this, and its done me good.

4. Communicating for a change.
Communicating is at the heart of my life and ministry. 
I preach. I sit with people and coach them. I cast vision. Or at least I try. Half the time I realise I've said a lot and not communicated very much.
Andy Stanley stands in the Tim Keller - Dick Lucas tradition of "one thing" preaching, with a freshness that I've found incredibly clear and useful. 
A little like Carnegie much of it obvious - but rarely done well. 
Stanley observes that we try to convey a lot of information that is immediately lost - but if we tried to say less and say it better we might actually say more.
The first half of the book is a story, and the second outlines the principles contained in the story. I think reading Andy Stanley has improved my preaching in the last two months, and if you communicate - in any context - he'll be helpful to you too.

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