Community, Hope, and Revival

I am a big supporter of what has been called the “New Monastic Movement”, which are groupings of communities of people that live together with a focus on Jesus teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. This one expression of Christianity is growing in recognition as a response to a new thing I believe God is doing among this generation.

In his most recent book, The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes “for people who have a hunch, whether you like the language of revival or not, that God is stirring a new movement in our world today” (p. 13). This new revival is based on community, hope, reflection and action trusting in God’s providence.

Jonathan goes on to say that “the mission of the church is always to connect God’s story with society’s deep need” (p. 14). What deeper need is there than our Father’s desired relationship with his creation? The Fall has harmed our divine relationship with our Creator, but also our relationship with each other and our world. Jesus meets these needs and shows the way to make things new. Restoration, repentance and resurrection are bigger themes than they are often realized. Not only are they truths about our Savior’s desire, but they are ideologies that are to be lived by the Church as God’s redemptive plan for the world.

Jonathan tackles the “why” behind big questions like consumption, feasting and fasting, promises to one another, confessing sin and sharing the Good News with others. Through these reflection and actions pictures, the reader will be inspired by stories of God’s people being a peculiar type, living purposefully yet counter culturally for the Kingdom.

Shane Claiborne, in the Introduction, states that the movement of God” embodies the Good News” and that “our real challenge today is not just about right-believing—but right living.” (p. 9-10). Right living is about maintaining the mission of God and continuing the momentum of His movement. It includes living with “holy habits that transform ordinary people into saints” and takes doctrine as a discipline and discipleship.

In addition, the book is accompanied by a six session DVD series which along with the discussion guide offers an incredible small group study.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Awakening of Hope


Life by the Words of Christ

Shane Claiborne is one of my favorite authors. He’s straightforwardness is always heightened by compassion and action. By far, Shane is one of the most prophetic voices in our generation and I pray God continues to use him to stir a passion for Christians to actually live by the words of Christ.

In his new book, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, Shane with his long time mentor, and bestselling pot-stirrer (I mean that in a good way), Tony Campolo offer their take on Jesus words from the New Testament. The two socially conscious and biblical convicting Christian writers discuss many of the hot button issues facing the Church and our world as they present Scriptural principles for navigating through globalization, postmodernism, and religious extremism among other topics.

The book is broken into three sections and reads as a dialogue between Claiborne and Campolo. This is a similar format to Shane’s book, “Follow Me to Freedom” of which he coauthored with legendary Civil Rights leader, John Perkins. I actually enjoy this type of book presentation because the reader can follow the conversation and see how each author presents his ideas in a comprehensive and thought out response.

The three sections are: Part I: Red Letter Theology which addresses the Church, hell, economics, and Islam for starters. Part II: Red Letter Living tackles family matters, racism, immigration, and homosexuality. And finally Part III: Red Letter World speaks to politics, war and violence, the empire and missions as well as reconciliation.

The thing that I love most about Shane’s books, which is also present here, is that he and Tony are not afraid to ask questions and go to Scripture, looking for a biblical response. Both authors are also leaders and have done incredible work for the Kingdom. We read in the epistle of James that faith without works is dead. So also then, Jesus’ words aren’t meant to be static for His followers. Instead, we are to live out our faith by walking the walk and not leaving it at just talk. God’s incarnation through Christ sets the example for words to always take on flesh and be put into action.

While not every believer will agree with the stances taken, they will nonetheless be challenged to reexamine the Bible and see what Jesus really said and decide if it matters.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Red Letter Revolution

The Pumpkin Plan

As I have entered into a new entrepreneurial season in life, I have been eager to read as many books for first time business owners as possible. Though I have not yet begun a new company myself, I do have several friends and family members I am helping coach through the idea birthing process. As an organizational consultant and someone who has experience in starting nonprofit groups, I was pleased to see that this new book by Mike Michalowicz is more than just a series of mantras and fads, but rather offers a recipe for starting and sustaining an effective business with strategy.

The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field presents seven surefire steps to grow a large and even legendary, company. Using the metaphor of a giant pumpkin farmer, Mike teachers entrepreneurs how to 1) Identify and leverage their biggest, natural strengths, 2) Sell, sell, sell, 3) Fire rotten clients, 4) Discern opportunities as distractions that need weeding, 5) Cater to your top, most promising customers, 6) Nurture the biggest and best products, services, and clients, and 7) Watch and enjoy your company’s growth to giant size.

The thing I like most about Mike’s writing is that he speaks with a convincing and convicting truth that can only come through the trenches. He is not shy about stating the hardships and dirtiness that accompany planting and maintaining your own business, but is also optimistic in sharing the wisdom that has helped him launch three multimillion dollar businesses, from the ground up. Instead of writing like a MBA professor, Mike sounds more like a frat boy with the determination to make it in the real world. Clearly he has. Some of his language can be crude if you’re use to uptight management books, but I enjoyed the rawness of his talk, as I have learned that same grit and tenacity are two key qualities of successful entrepreneurs.

Though the principles presented aren’t necessarily “new” the format in which they are explained will certainly reach a different type of audience, eager to begin their new business. Planting the right seeds, know when to water and weed, assessing the vine, and celebrating the harvest are essential steps to grow any organization.

One of my favorite reoccurring stories is a quote Mike received by Frank, his sage mentor, “Entrepreneurs identify the problems, discover the opportunities, and then build process to allow other people, and other things, to get it done” (p. 12). In addition to the seven steps, Mike presents examples at the end of each chapter with ideas on “How to Pumpkin Plan Your Industry”, sharing inspiring stories from his own experiences as well as others.

Pumpkin Plan

5 Questions to Continually Revisit with Your Organization

5 Most Important QuestionsPeter F. Drucker has been an incredible influence on me. Not only am I an admirer of his seminal work in management but also the good he advocated in his consulting service with many social sector institutions. This most recent edition of his “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization” is like having Drucker sitting right next to you, offering his sage advice on effectiveness. In addition to Peter’s writings, are chapter insight offered by leadership experts such as Frances Hesselbein, Jim Collins, and James Kouzes among others.

Drucker’s Five questions are: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? And, what is our plan? Though they may seem simple, an adequate answer to each should take much time and thoughtful consideration among your organizations leadership, staff, board, and customer response. All answers should also lead to action and then again assessment, asking more questions, and more answers with action and so on. The distinction between primary and secondary customers and discussion on measuring changed lives quantitatively and qualitatively is far worth the price of the book for anybody who works in the nonprofit world.

I have used these questions to direct the birth of my first organization this year as a catalytic leader, and also as a consultant and coach to several first time business owners. I have family in politics, peers in ministry, and entrepreneurial friends, all of which have benefited from working through the self-assessment process this book offers. As Drucker states; “Properly carried through, self-assessment develops skill, competence, and commitment. Active and attentive participation is an opportunity to enhance your vision and to shape the future” (p. 85).