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I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, And Life of Following Jesus (It’s Never Been About Leading) by Leonard Sweet

20/01/2012 Comments off

Published by Thomas Nelson

Thank you Booksneeze.com for the opportunity to receive this work and review it

Leonard Sweet does it again, a meditative analysis of the current professionalization of ministry, addressing the leadership-laity divide and reminding us to be thinking Christians rather than ABC (already been chewed by others) Christianity.  The first time I was confronted with this contemplative Christianity was with John Piper’s Brothers We Are Not Professionals.  When I read Piper’s book I was was in my first year at seminary and I changed my major to an Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling and started working on my NANC certification.  Many turning points later, “I Am a Follower” brought the same timely conviction and gospel-centered reminder that I was ready to hear. In short, an attempt at a summary, one could say this work is about the ‘function’ versus ‘form’ of what it means to be a disciple… a Follower versus entrepreneurial leader.  A fresh and engaging paradigm shift away from leadership classes, coaching, seminars, and webinars so saturating the church today.

Some challenging quotes,

The Place:

Somewhere in the back in the past half century, we diagnosed the churches problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following.  It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. 

We have come to believe that we have a leadership crisis while all along we have been a drought of discipleship.  The Jesus paradox is that only Christians lead by following.

That’s our problem.  The church has become just what Eisenhower predicted:  a place where everyone is trying to get everyone else to do what they want don but don’t want to do themselves.

The Truth:

We are commissioned not to begin a new ministry but to carry on Christ’s ministry on earth.

God does not ask if we are able.  God asks if we are available.

Until we die to the idea that we are somehow ‘ahead of’ or ‘above’ the community of faith around us, we will continue to be frustrated in our attempts to have authentic community that combines real relationships with real discipleship.

Titles are dividers

The ideology of leaders as shepherds does not let God be God.  It is based on the notion that Jesus can’t possibly lead by Himself, so someone has to do it for Him.

The Life:

Disciple makers are above all nudgers.  Rather than preach or pressure, they gently nudge those they meet toward a God who is already active in their world and in their lives.  Nudgers are followers making followers.  Nudge disciples make disciples; they are not followers making leaders.

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

End of Construction.  Thank you for your Patience – on Ruth Bell Graham’s headstone.

The leadership paradigm of sages and gurus is a solipsistic celebration of ‘people with answers’ who easily hide behind a façade of success and a mask of entitlement.  Sages and gurus give advice—or, more commonly, market it.  But they rarely have any intention of sharing a live with those they give advice to.  A followership community, on the other hand, is an authentic fellowship of disciples bound together by the incarnate Spirit of Christ.

Leadership literature says, “Seek balance.” But did Jesus live a balanced life?  Of did Jesus catch people off balance and leave people unbalanced on the path of a harmonious life?

Jesus was less about giving the right answers than He was about getting His disciples to think about the questions—and sometimes wanting them to marinate in the questions without reaching any definitive answers.  He did not negate the Law, be He went beyond the Law.  Jesus taught in parables, metaphors of living that called for followers to make life decisions holistically.

This book was timely and very interesting to me.  It challenged me, inspired me, and enlightened me even as I struggle with my own selfish ambition.  Sweet made me think long and hard about what it means to be a follower versus the selfish need to lead for my glory. The format and outline held my attention, however I wish the footnotes were on the actual page, flipping back and forth for the great references for further study broke up the flow of reading in my opinion.  I thought Leonard did a great job of presenting this material in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I am also convinced that that the author successfully challenged the moral relativism of our idol factories and successfully conveyed Biblical truth.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in remembering first things… the main thing.  Excellent read!

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F40028016-40028020(ESV)

946387: I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus
By Leonard Sweet / Thomas Nelson

"Leadership" has become a runaway obsession for those who are called to equip the body of Christ for service in the Kingdom of God. The concept of "followership" is all but lost in the wake of this leadership fetish, a near hypnotic obsession. Jesus’ clear call, and the pattern of New Testament leadership, are actually found in a pattern of followership. We’ve been told otherwise but when it comes to a movement in our churches, our families, or the workplace, everything rises or falls on followership.

Sweet proposes an intentional shift from leadership cults to followership cultures. He critiques the issue of leadership obsession but focuses on reigniting a passion for the "follow me" theme found throughout the gospels and the entire New Testament. Building on a set of metaphors/images, he stirs the imagination by showing what it means to be a follower of Christ and explains the vital cog that followership and the first follower play in helping others enter into the Kingdom of God.

I Am A Follower moves readers:

  • from leaders that are over to followers that are among
  • from sages and gurus to scouts and guides
  • from Saul’s armor to David’s sling
  • from having the right answers to asking the right questions
  • from architects to gardeners

Awesome John Piper quote–Biblical Counseling discernment moment

19/11/2011 Comments off

As I look across the Christian landscape, I think it is fair to say concerning sin, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly” (Jeremiah 6:14 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F24006014(ESV); Jeremiah 8:11 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F24008011(ESV). I take this to refer to leaders who should be helping the church know and feel the seriousness of indwelling sin (Rom. 7:20), and how to fight it and kill it (Romans 8:13 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F45008013(ESV). Instead the depth and complexity and ugliness and danger of sin in professing Christians is either minimized—since we are already justified—or psychologized as a symptom of woundedness rather than corruption.
 
This is a tragically light healing. I call it a tragedy because by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease but its symptoms. They feel a general malaise and don’t know why, their marriages are at the breaking point, they feel weak in their spiritual witness and devotion, their workplace is embattled, their church is tense with unrest, their fuse is short with the children, etc. They report these miseries as if they were the disease. And they want the symptoms removed.
 
We proceed to heal the wound of the people lightly. We look first and mainly for circumstantial causes for the misery—present or past. If we’re good at it, we can find partial causes and give some relief. But the healing is light. We have not done the kind of soul surgery that is possible only when the soul doctor knows the kind of things Owen talks about in these books, and when the patient is willing to let the doctor’s scalpel go deep.

Foreword to Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen

This reminded me of the classic CCEF Journal of Biblical Counseling Article; Counseling and the Problem of the Past by John Bettler, The Journal of Biblical Counseling • Volume XII • Number 2 • Winter 1994;

IV. Propositions

  1. We believe that a counselee’s personal past has a significant influence upon his development of his manner of life.
    We do not believe that the counselee is a helpless victim whose manner of life is determined by his past.
  2. We believe that a person creatively interacts with and interprets past events and incorporates his interpretation into his manner of life.
    We do not believe that a counselee so constructs his past that it has no necessary existence in history. Just as God acts and explains or interprets His actions, so the person interprets the actual events in his life.
    3. We believe that the Christian should seek to interpret his past as coming from God and for God’s glory; the unbeliever will distort the event with an explanation that does not honor God’s truth. He will resist the truth and endeavor to believe the lie.
    4. We believe that a counselee is not always aware of the assumptions, values, and habits which shape his manner of life.
    We do not believe there exists within the person an “unconscious,” i.e., an unexplored and largely unexplorable entity which drives his behavior.
    5. We believe that exploration of a person’s past may help to reveal to himself his manner of life.
    We do not believe that such exploration is always necessary to produce biblical change.
    6. We believe that change occurs in the present. It involves repentance for the distorted values and habits of a false manner of life, and the putting on of godly values and behavior patterns in the present.
    We do not believe that change occurs in the past through the reliving of past experiences or through emotional release of stored-up emotions (a process commonly called catharsis).
    7. We believe that God is sovereign over all the events of a person’s life and works providentially through those events to make Christians more like Christ.

My wife are currently involved in biblical discipleship with a couple and it was a great reminder of these things when we were reviewing the audio messages of Dave Harvey’s great book, “When Sinners Say I Do.”  Thanks Babe for 14 years of grace and mercy with this sinner.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

07/03/2011 Comments off

I want to thank the christianaudio Reviewers Program for the opportunity to listen and review this excellent work.

Author:  John Piper; Narrator:  Wayne Shepherd; Runtime:  4.73 Hrs. – Unabridged; Publisher:  Crossway

Reviewed by Derek R. Iannelli-Smith

 
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

If I could summarize the topic of Think I would define thinking; as a balance between stewardship, critical analysis, meditation, and God’s holiness in light of our sinfulness and Cross getting bigger.  

This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love. It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God. Thinking is one of the important ways that we put the fuel of knowledge on the fires of worship and service to the world.

What if relativism, Mortimer Adler and anti-intellectualism were addressed with scripture and we heard what God really wanted to communicate?

think

Piper outlines succinctly in the introduction how he is going to map out the book, giving the same introduction discussion that was done 70 years ago with Mortimer Adler’s classic, “How to Read a Book.”  I thought this was quite helpful but also affirmative in that he reflected a compliment to Adler’s challenge to us from the past.

This book addresses the anti-intellectualism of the evangelical mind quite well by addressing the many facets of thinking.  I was struck by the “both/and” tone throughout the book in which Piper addresses our hearts when we feel the need to swing the pendulum one or the other ways (all we need is the holy spirit or holding to a critical thinking level as a sign of maturity).  Regularly throughout the book Piper brings us to BOTH, and many times shows through the scriptures that it is BOTH.  His work on expositionally addressing the longstanding anti-intellectual arguments of Luke 10:21 and 1 Corinthians 1:20 is fantastic!

I thought the book was exceptionally done!  Many years ago, someone recommended J.P. Moreland’s book to me because of my love for wrestling with the text of the Bible and what it means for the modern day disciple.  Piper’s book, Think is another I will have as a reminder of the importance biblical balance when it comes to challenging myself and others with doing the hard work of meditation and studying as well as reminding me that it is not easy work and that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  Piper states,

In summary then, all branches of learning—and this book about thinking—exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God, and loving man through Jesus Christ. And since loving man means ultimately helping him see and savor God in Christ forever, it is profoundly right to say all thinking, all learning, all education, and all research is for the sake of knowing God, loving God, and showing God. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

I highly recommend this book for all believers who desire to know God more fully and enjoy Him forever.  This book will challenge our apathy to study, to swallow relativism, and to jump on the anti-intellectualism in our age.  I like the fact that Piper takes our souls to task and reminds us that it is NOT about us, our victory, but a result of the victory of Christ at the Cross.  I like that THINK embraces critical thinking versus ABC (already been chewed) Christianity.  I also appreciate Piper’s reminder that this is not a new occurrence in the body of Christ but through the historical references (Jonathan Edwards and others) that they too attempted to address this deterioration that is so prevalent in the Christian worldview.  I highly recommend it and would see this being a great small group study or even a sermon series to bring about revival in the evangelical mind.  It was amazing to me that not much was said about this book like many others out there and it slowly vanished the ‘popular’ Christian book lists.  However, I think this book is right up there with Mortimer Adler’s classic – How to Read a Book and should be a part of any Christian’s reading as they journey on the road of discipleship.

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