Monday, July 21, 2014

Three Tiny Books with Mega Messages

I love to read. I really do. I just don't do it much anymore. I don't know if that's because I don't make the time, I'm a slow reader and thus it takes more time than I have (or am willing to commit), or I simply can not find books that hold my waning attention, but I read very few complete books anymore. Oh sure, I read lots of "parts" and "sections" - my bookcase is full of those - but no so many that I've spent time with from cover to cover.

That's why me reading three books this past week is huge! Yeah, I know - for some of you that's just a good day, but not for me. And who's counting how short the books were (102, 122 and 126 pages respectively) - these were three powerful books that made me think about stuff that really matters! If I don't read another book during my break, these three have given me quite enough to dwell on and try to live out in both my life and ministry. Rather than do any kind of review, here are just a few quotes and thoughts from each book that I personally believe are worth remembering:

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive (Thom Rainer)
  • "As many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline toward death."
  • "It is rare for a long-term church member to see erosion in his or her church. Growth may come rapidly, but decline is usually slow... the members have no sense of urgency to change."
  • The nine major chapter titles speak to many of the causes: 1) The Past is the Hero, 2) The Church Refused to Look Like the Community, 3) The Budget Moved Inwardly, 4) The Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission, 5) The Preference-Driven Church, 6) Pastoral Tenure Decreases, 7) The Church Rarely Prayed Together, 8) The Church Had No Clear Purpose, and 9) The Church Obsessed Over the Facilities.
  • Rainer's estimates of existing American churches are that 10% are healthy, 40% are showing symptoms of sickness, 40% are very sick, and 10% are dying.
  • (BTW, this was the July assignment for my Fusion small group. I rarely finish the month's assigned reading but instead "skip" to my section - just being honest - but this month I am so ahead!)
  • RCC's elders have long-discussed having a tool to create conversations with potential church elders. I think this might be it. I read the book in a single sitting (but I'm not going to tell you how long that was) but was taken in very early when Rinne said, "Though elders are typically godly and well-intentioned, they are often confused about what being an elder entails."
  • "Almost all of the New Testament authors address elders. There are more than a dozen texts. It became clear to me that Christlike elders are not an optional church feature; they are central to God's plan for shepherding his churches."
  • Again, the major chapter titles speak to the characteristics of elders (both paid and unpaid): 1) Smell Like Sheep (engage in relationships with individuals), 2) Serve Up the Word, 3) Track Down the Strays, 4) Lead Without Lording, 5) Shepherd Together, 6) Model Maturity, and 7) Plead For the Flock.
  • While I don't personally have the title, I took the following as a personal challenge: "Your congregation needs to see not only a godly elder, but a growing elder."
  • "When we are crazy busy, we put our souls at risk."
  • "For most of us, it isn't heresy or rank apostasy that will derail our profession of faith. It's all the worries of life."
  • "The disorder of daily life is a product of disorder in the innermost places of the heart," including the many manifestations of pride - people-pleasing, pats on the back, performance evaluation, possession, proving myself, pity, poor planning, power, perfectionism, position, prestige, and posting (social media).
  • "Taming busyness is not as simple as saying no to everything and refusing to please anyone. Real life applications get tricky..."
  • "We get worked up and crazy busy in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned about looking good than doing good."
  • "It's okay to be busy at times. You can't love and serve others without giving of your time."
  • "[Jesus] did not try to do it all. And yet, he did everything God asked him to do... He was busy, but never in a way that made him frantic, anxious, irritable, proud, envious, or distracted by lesser things... He was not driven by the needs of others... He was not driven by the approval of others... Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit."
  • "We don't expect to be able to buy anything we want, because we know there is a limit to our money. But somehow we live as if time knew no bounds, when in fact time is much more limited than money."
  • There is no such thing as multitasking - "We can do two things at once [only] when one does not require mental effort." (Interestingly enough, we watched a BrainGames episode last night that verified this.)
  • "We don't realize we have to work hard just to rest."
  • "What if pastoring a congregation is supposed to be challenging?"
  • "If God expected us to do nothing but sit cross-legged on the floor and journal, the Bible could have been much smaller. Mary's example is not a summons to the contemplative life in a cloister. But it's a pretty strong reminder that we had better keep first things first."
Pick one, or read all three... but if they deal with any areas of your life where God wants to speak, get ready to be challenged!

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