This was a great book. It has helped me do better in relationships. There were so many necessary skills that were helpful in this book. This was one of the best books of the year for me so far. As a talker, learning to listen better was nice. The book helped me think through relationships and some of the hidden dynamics that take place. Here is a fascinating insight. "Shame and insecurity are the wounds that make people react violently to criticism. Some people retreat from hurt feelings, others attack. The most shame-sensitive individuals flare up at the slightest sign of criticism. Such people are hard to live with. But reacting to criticism with hurt and anger is something we all do. What varies is only the threshold of response." There are helpful, practical sections too, like the skills in listening to a complaint. The author gives you real tools to use in those situations. Here is some wisdom. "The greatest lesson in humility may be learning to say "I'm sorry I hurt you" without having to protest your innocence." Another needed section was dealing with anxious listening. Throughout the book, some parts walk you through the listening process.
This is a thought-provoking book that all people should read. It is a study about how people order life. The author tracked his classmates at Harvard and watched them progress through life. He noticed that the majority of them were successful with money, but he noted that often these same high achievers struggled with marriage and parenting. Instead of finding joy in marriage, or having a strong bond with their kids, the way that life turned out was focused on career success. He talks about how to measure that which is essential to us. There is a ton of great wisdom in the text. Here are some: "The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward." "I had thought the destination was what was important, but it turned out it was the journey." "To find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder. There's an old saying: find a job that you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." "Tell them that if they're not occasionally failing, then they're not aiming high enough." There is so much more that could be quoted from the book, but it would take too much time. The book helps you to reflect on your life, helps you in your job, as a parent, and as a spouse, it helps you to be a better person. It was a great way to think about the world and your role in it. I would highly recommend this text — a worthy read.
How do you evangelize within a Post Modern culture? The approach of proving certain theological truths that build on one another has been used for years. In studying with someone that is a non-believer in God, the method has been to prove the existence of God, verify that the Bible is inspired, and go on to show that Jesus is the Christ. All of these truths stack on one another like a pyramid. In the foundationalism of the modern age, each fact was justified by an epistemologically prior truth. But in coherentism, there are no epistemologically prior truths. Each truth is free floating, unanchored, and not founded upon a previous truth. Instead, each truth coheres with another truth. Rather than a pyramid of truth, you get a web-like matrix of coherent truths, or a free-floating raft made up of planks of truth loosely tied together. These truths are a product of context—culture, tribe, language, community, and upbringing. They are free floating, but they are also coherent, true to each other. If I claim these truths for myself, I am being true to myself. Instead of a truth that supersedes another truth, in the age of postmodern thinking, context trumps truth. The setting that someone grew up in or is experiencing is more influential than a definite statement. For example, people can justify being a Hindu because that context is more important to one's framework than the statement that there is only one way to the Father, which is Jesus Christ. So instead of layering truth statements, postmodernism filters through one's personal context. That is why you hear people say "that might be true for you, but that is not true for me." For a postmodern thinker, you do not have to be consistent like a modern thinker would believe because the truth is contextual, not logical. To counteract the postmodern approach, one needs to invite others into experiencing Christianity, which will help shape the context, before going through the logical progression of Christianity.
Chan, Sam. Evangelism in a Skeptical World (p. 108). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
One of the most essential roles in life is to be a spiritual leader in the home. This has always been a struggle for me and something that I had to work on. What does spiritual leadership look like for a man in the home? I wanted to read this book because it is a classic. Sometimes ministers are trained to lead Churches, but not families. This was a good book, and it is a classic for a reason. When I talk to other men about this topic, I typically find that there is little advice or knowledge. I think it is a weak area in the Church. The book provides a lot of useful information and leans into some of the hard areas like talking about sex with your kids, and there is talk about tenderness and being firm, and keeping yourself in the word. I could relate to a lot of the book and have seen a lot of my struggles throughout it. It is not going to give you some mind-blowing insight, but it will talk about the classic areas that men need to focus on to be a success in being influential leaders in the home. It was an excellent foundational book that all men should read.
There are a ton of statements about the role of influence in one's life. A few weeks ago, two events were happening in the West within the churches of Christ. At one event a Facebook poster was lamenting the dwindling attendance. He stated that the keynote sessions that were historically packed had declined significantly. He noted that the crowd was much smaller than in years past. A few people commented on his post. One comment was interesting. The person stated, "the people that agree with……have already moved on." In the context of the post was that those who agree with the particular beliefs of the event have given up on the churches of Christ. On the other hand, there was another event that was taken place that same weekend. At this event, the attendance increased by almost 300 percent. At this event, which is more conservatively centered, the attendance increased significantly. The people attended to invest in the future of the Church. At this event, there was a yearly commitment and sizeable financial commitment, but it was made because of being “all in” for the Church. For years the churches of Christ have gone through an unofficial splitting process. One can agree or disagree with this, but the reality is that the churches of Christ have separated to a certain extent. For years the call has been sounded. The Church is dying, and something has to be done. There are articles, suggestions for solutions, and a reaction to conservativism among the left. Sadly, sometimes the conservative right has been labeled unloving and uneducated. One would think that those on the left who are more loving and smarter would have fixed the decline by now. But that is not happening. The left-leaning events are not increasing in numbers, and those who still attend are sad to see the slow demise. There is a decline in conservative events, too, but there is also growth. The traditional event that was previously mentioned increased size. So to think about influence again. Leaders that join with the “moved on” might be siding with a declining group. It has been decades since a progressive wing of the churches of Christ has influenced the Church. There has been the restoration of grace, the renewal of the spirit, the lack of legalism, and a Christ-centered focus, but once again, where is the growth in disciples. Indeed, these leaders are smarter and more loving, so the results should be growth in disciples. But I do not see that. It was promised but not fulfilled. On the other hand, the conservatives cannot point to off the chart growth, but there is still a sense of strength among them. But think about it this way. Who would you instead work with? Those who have moved on or those who are all in. As for me, I need my kids influenced by those who are all in, not those who are moving on. The old case was that you had to change because the churches of Christ are dying, but looking at the situation, the promise has not been fulfilled. There is no left-leaning promise land, just more decline, and perhaps even more rapid decline from the left than I see on the right. So no thank you, I think I will stay with the people who are all in.
This was a fascinating book. The book is about these three untruths in our culture. This is a book about three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years: The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people. You see the world changing around us. Like you have a new "call out culture." When someone disagrees with you, instead of opposing, there is a shaming that takes place. It might be about the conduct or the person's attitudes. People will write about how judgmental someone is, instead of dealing with the issue. There is public shaming of those who disagree with them. The authors state, "Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture”; anyone can be publicly shamed for saying something well-intentioned that someone else interprets uncharitably." There is a lot that is happening, but instead of making people stronger, we are becoming weaker. When people disagree, instead of healthy interaction, it is now called hate speech quickly. Here is another thoughtful insight. "There is a principle in philosophy and rhetoric called the principle of charity, which says that one should interpret other people’s statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible." Instead of assuming someone is judgmental or hateful, think that the person has good intentions. Another great insight is how we "other" people. We see people as "us" and "them." This thinking always causes increased polarization. There is talk about victimhood too. Overall, this is a thought-provoking book and makes a lot of excellent points — an excellent read to be better at dealing with us and understanding the current culture.
This book was fantastic. The author does an excellent job of writing about the theory of evangelism and the practical "how to" of evangelism. The book was thought provoking and helpful in dealing with people in this current culture. Over and over again, I found myself interested in the material and gaining new thoughts into how to evangelize others. This is great up to date book about evangelism. The only downside of the book was a couple of chapters about delivering an evangelistic talk. This is because the author wrote a book about preaching, but the sections on preparing an evangelistic talk felt like an add on, instead of staying connected to the flow of the book. Looking past those couple of chapters, everything else was super helpful. I could give a few of the insights from the book, but I want to note something. He does not come up with some new idea, but he talks about ideas that have worked and are working. Sometimes in evangelism people are searching for some magical program for evangelism, but often our approaches are simple. The difference between them working or not is from people doing evangelism instead of people talking about doing evangelism. This is a great book.
Yesterday, I was reading about a question that Warren Buffett would ask a Presidential candidate. He would want to ask about a view that the majority of the people that would be comfortable voting for him would disagree with. Buffett would desire to see if the individual has the ability, to be honest, or attempt to tell him what he believed Buffett would want to hear. This is an excellent test for character.
To purposely disagree is to have two character traits. One is courage, and the other is creativity.
To Have Courage
The world is creating echo chambers because of filtering. One can pull up the internet or social media and have the articles and advertisements curated to fit that person's perspective. Curating one's experience can lead to even more profound, more radical thinking because the counter positions are removed from the person's skills. We tend to seek that which confirms ourselves instead of challenging ourselves.
There is also the human desire to be liked. Humans want to fit into the tribe. Because of this natural inclination, people will take on views that cause them to fit into the majority. So in an interview with a preacher or with an eldership, ask "what view do you personally take that the group does not agree with?" Usually, there is little fun in being disagreeable in a group. But with this approach, you see two things. The level of Biblical knowledge. You have to be creative enough to know enough to take a view on a topic that might not be readily discussed. Also, you have to see if the group can handle constructive disagreement in which the best ideas win out instead of groupthink.
To Have Creativity
In asking the question about which matters that you individually hold that the group might disagree with, you can see the depth of thought. If the answer is some pat response, this could be an indication of shallow Biblical knowledge. Does the person have the ability to think outside the box? Can the person think for themselves or does the person disagree with the standard points of contention in a church? You can see the level of self-defining the person has.
A healthy group is seeking the best path forward, not always the easiest route. Will an eldership or preacher disagree in a group? If this is hard for the individual, it is a sign the person could be overly concerned with fitting in. A good leader wants to hear the truth, not what makes them feel good.
So how do you get attention in an attention deficit world? How do you get your message across in a society that is competing for time and eyeballs? It is a cut-throat game. So in the realm of evangelism, how do we spread the gospel of Christ in this current age? This book is a good read. It talks about how stuff becomes viral or popular. One solution is to create a scandal. Here is the fundamental principle of the book. "This is the first thesis of the book. Most consumers are simultaneously neophilic—curious to discover new things—and deeply neophobic—afraid of anything too new." To gain attention, you have to stay within these walls. A lot of the material is good insights for a sermon. Finding the balance between new thoughts and old thoughts can be profoundly connecting to the hearer. Another useful idea is that the new favorite topic online is the readers themselves. Putting the place as the subject is the best way to get views. This book also helps you to know which stories will connect and which ones will fall dead. It is a good book for leaders and communicators. It helps you to see what is behind gaining the attention of others. What tactics work and which ones will fall short. It is a good read and a good help for communicators.
So what would happen if a gunfighter, a teacher, and a baby walked into a Church? What would happen? Conflict happens. It happens at home, offices, and even in Churches. People disagree. Correction occurs, defensiveness erupts, and feelings are hurt. There are typically three mindsets that church members can take on in a conflict. Here are the three:
The Honor Mindset.
The “honor” mindset should be pictured like an Old Western gun fight. Someone has insulted another party, and there is some sense of needing to defend themselves from the slight. There is no way the person can overlook the offense. The family name, the position in the congregation, the reputation in town, whatever, has to be defended with swift revenge. The desire to protect one’s “honor” is a must. So when a person has an “honor” mindset, conflict is escalated. You can see this in ministers when someone questions them. He goes on a tirade. Elders can fall trap to this too when someone questions their authority. That person is put in their place. Members leave over honor being questioned. Having the “honor” mindset means that every fight has to be answered. Sometimes we channel the inner Saul by being hurt that a David has killed more men.
The Dignity Mindset.
The “dignity” mindset is healthier than the "honor" mindset. Instead of feeling the need to fight at the “drop of the hat,” the “dignity” mindset can overlook a slight because of the inherent respect the person has for themselves. The mature person can be patient with a slight. People will say inappropriate and rude stuff. In a Church, Office, or even a home, there are numerous mean spirited comments given, and people are socially posturing to gain a “one up man ship” on another. Having the urge to fight back is minimal. One has enough self-respect to overlook “put-downs easily”. The “dignity” mindset has confidence that is rooted in the Lord. Jesus did not need to fight back to those who mocked him because he knew his Father loved him.
The Victim Mindset.
The “Victim” mindset is a "poor pity me" perspective. Someone has hurt your feelings, and instead of moving on with grace, the person desires for others to feel sorry for them. People with the “victim” mindset cannot take correction. Instead of growing from experiences, the “victim” mindset believes that the world should adapt to them. Minsters can have this when getting negative feedback from members. Oh, it is so hard to be a preacher. Members can feel that the church is not treating them right. Whatever happens in the “victim” mindset’s life is outside of their control. The person is at the mercy of others. There are too many Jonah’s sitting on the beach whining about what God needs from them. People with a “victim” mindset rarely grow in the faith because instead of taking ownership of behavior, these people blame everyone else for all the problems.
Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity and two precious children named Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies, and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master’s of Divinity degree, and Harding School of Theology with his Doctorate of Ministry degree. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, the Gospel Advocate; and the Rocky Mountain Christian.