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Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job

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Quitter by Jon Acuff

“I wanna ___________ when I grow up!” is a statement we all made.  It’s Halloween time when kids all over the place will dress up like the roles they hope to play later in life.  After years the statement changes to “I’m a _________, but I want to be a ______________.” Jon Acuff’s book Quitter is part how-to, part biography, that challenges the reader to better understand how to transition from the job they are in now to the job they hope to have someday.  John, only recently transitioned into his dream job, spent years trying to balance what he felt he was created to do and what he had to do to feed and house his family.  Jon’s book Start was his challenge to begin utilizing gifts and talents in a way that would bring fulfillment and a greater sense of purpose.  Quitter is about finding more time to embrace them.

This book did a couple things for me personally.  First off, it completely changed the way I view my current job situation.  When I was let go from youth ministry in a Church, I was completely lost as to the next step.  Luckily the school that I had been partnering with offered me a job as a para.  Most para’s are gifted and qualified for many things, I, however, am not.  I am a babysitter, the only one at the school I am at.  Everyone else has a niche, a certain job, I take unmotivated kids and sit next to them the entire day, trying to get them to get a pencil out.  I dislike a lot of it.  Acuff, however, is completely devoted to “falling into like” with the current job and helps his cause by bringing up many positives about keeping a 9 to 5 instead of quitting to follow your dream.  I have great insurance, a quitting time (unlike ministry), and the perfect place to understand middle schoolers and how they think.  I am “falling into like” with my job.

Secondly, he devotes a significant amount of time to helping the reader define what their dream job is.  He cites many times that a dream job is taken captive by tangental responsibilities and requests.  It is often in pursuit of a dream job that the things that were once thought to be part of it actually fight against it.  Defining what it is that we aspire too will keep our dream job in sight and eliminating the extra stuff.

Finally, the thing that stuck out to me most in this book was the passion in which he talked about “hustling”.  His greatest piece of advice was “to hustle” meaning do the little things.  His advice was both practical and inspiring.  Getting up early and spending time practicing.  Putting out good work, because you will never feel great about everything.  Taking time to invest in your craft and learning from others.  He didn’t go into great detail probably because he knew Start would come out.  But still, his words about “hustling” helped make the book a great read.

So don’t quit your day job, keep hustling, and fall into like with your current job.  Make every second at your current job a chance to learn something about your dream job and be patient.  That is what Acuff did and why his book is so perfect for a man in my situation.

How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry

How to Build a Life-Changing Men's Ministry by Steve Sonderman

How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry
by Steve Sonderman

The most neglected ministry in the Church is Men’s ministry.  I know this from experience.  I have sat in a meeting with a senior pastor who told me that “for the amount of effort it takes to do men’s ministry well, it wasn’t worth the time to do it.”  I have been part of Churches where women bible studies out number the mens 4:1.  I have been to churches that women not only ran the ministry, but served in the ministry 10 times more than men.  I have been in churches where men’s ministry was relegated to setting up chairs and tables.  I have been on church websites that contain curly letters and every shade of red, in sanctuaries that have more floral arrangements than flower shops, and worship services that try to help us dance with Jesus (complete with ballet slipper background on powerpoint) or fall in love with Jesus.  Each of these scream that churches are after women, designed by women, and full of women.  Men are the outsiders or at least the minorities.  It makes sense at times, because some of the most successful ministries to men, in recent months have seen their leaders (Mark Driscoll and Ignite) come under scrutiny.  It poses the question that David Murrow answered in his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church! (not the book I’m writing about but a great read none-the-less!)

Steve Sonderman has written his book, How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry, as a both a testament to the ministry that he started 20 years ago at Elmbrook Church and a pattern for others to follow in starting their own men’s ministry at their Church.  First off, this book is chalked full of practical ideas for events and leadership in men’s ministry.  Sonderman hits the nail on the head with his advice about staying on vision.  Men, above all other groups in the church, are vision oriented.  When it comes to doing ministry, men want to the know the purpose first and foremost.  There are busier groups in the church, but none more careful with how they spend their time.  When men get together, they want to accomplish something.  Vision is vital to doing men’s ministry.

The second major point that Sonderman emphasizes in this book, is the involvement of others in leading the ministry.  There is no doubt that he was the point man, however, his teams, from outreach to small groups to retreats, are full of men who share his vision and his purpose.  They are well trained, highly committed, and extremely responsible.

This book is really about how to create a ministry, not necessarily a mens ministry.  It covers vision, teams, small groups, and purpose.  It was very well written, extremely practical, and very well researched.  His bibliography is well rounded and his text is well sourced.  Sonderman has written a great book that is a valuable tool for anyone wanting to start a ministry.

8/10

 

Just a Walk Across the Room

Just a Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels

Just a Walk Across the Room
by Bill Hybels

My wife gets left behind an awful lot.  When we both exit the car, she often has to hit a full sprint to keep up with me.  It gets real bad at the Taco Bell parking lot, pulling up to a rodeo, or going into the house.  But there are also times when she has to drag me out of the vehicle, bayonette me in the back to start me moving, and threaten with a hotshot every step of the way.  These are times when we are headed to the mall or grocery shopping.  The point is: depending on what is at the other end of the walk, determines how you walk.  This is the point of Bill Hybel’s book, Just a Walk Across the Room.

Hybel’s has written a book that is a straight forward look at how to do evangelism.  He begins the book by explaining the missionary mindset of God as he sent his Son on the ultimate walk across the room to save us. In his work on the Earth, Jesus showed that people were his number one thing.  This, according to Hybel’s should be reflected in our own walks.   He points out, correctly I believe, that those who make the most walks across the room are the ones who most strongly believe that God is about people and that He is worth knowing.

The second section of this book is what I would call the “pre-work” of Evangelism.  It seeks to resolve the issue that many Christians don’t live in community with anyone who really needs Jesus.  Bill doesn’t take it to the extreme that I would argue it is, that people need to redefine “with”.  When living “with” people, most don’t understand that anyone around you is someone “with” you.  I had a woman one day at Church tell me she didn’t live “with” any non-Christians or lost people.  I asked her if her son played sports.  When she responded “yes”, I pointed out that for 5 innings a week, watching T-Ball (which is like watching paint dry) she had a completely captive audience for sharing her faith.  Hybel’s makes the same argument that the “pre-work” of Evangelism is about living in 3D meaning: Developing friendships, discovering stories, and discerning next steps.  In other words, find people, get to know them, and serve them.

Hybel’s transitions into the message that we are trying to share.  He talks about our stories and how in 100 words we can share the life changing message of the cross.  The power of our own testimony is something that we are experts in.  This lately has become my passion and I loved this chapter.  He follows this by showing a few methods for sharing the gospel, but this was not nearly as complete and thorough as I would have liked.

His last section is devoted to challenging us to commit to living with and loving those around us and committing to the work of evangelism.  Bill calls it a “bigger-fish mentality”.  When Peter dropped his nets, he chose to live for others (the big fish) as opposed to fishing (little fish).  Hybel’s refers to it as Grander Vision Living.

What is most fascinating about this book is the personal stories that it includes.  Hybel’s tells nearly 20 different stories of evangelism that he was part of during his life.  Each one shows subtle differences in how he presented the Gospel to someone.  This was a great book to learn from, not because of his outline or logic, but because of the way he linked together conversion stories.

This was a solid book to read and one that was extremely challenging at times.  There were times when he seemed to get off topic, but for the most part he clearly communicated the need and the process of evangelism.

7/10

Exponential

Exponential by Dave Ferguson

Exponential
by Dave Ferguson

Napkins are rarely important unless you are the Amazon founder who mapped out his company on a summer drive on one or Dave Ferguson who began a movement of Church’s on his.  It was on a napkin, with a map of Chicago drawn on it with circles indicating where churches could be placed, that was the beginning of Community Church. It is one of the largest church networks in America, with campus’ all over Chicago and the midwest.  Dave Ferguson, in his book Exponential, casts the vision for multisite churches and provides the methodology in which Community took to cause that vision to become a reality.

As noted above, the vision for Community as a multi-site Church began on a napkin, but the physical reproduction of Churches began with their reproduction of leaders.  Solid leadership has led Community to where it is now.  The first section of this book focuses on the leadership path that Community takes all of its leaders on.  The Exponential team uses the term “apprentice” for all the people they train to lead ministries and campuses.  Dave breaks this process down into 5 stages to show how easy it is to equip someone for leadership.  They are:

  1. I do.  You watch.  We talk.
  2. I do.  You help.  We talk.
  3. You do.  I help.  We talk.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk.
  5. You do. Someone else watches.

Ferguson points out that creating reproducing churches is bigger than just finding leadership from the pulpit but also in the arts.  He devotes one full chapter to training, leading, and empowering artists…a facet largely neglected by churches today.  He says that this is is the second most important thing to do (after reproducing leaders) in creating a missional movement.

The next section of the book is largely concerned with reproducing small groups.  Small groups is where Ferguson sees people become 3C followers of Jesus (meaning those who Celebrate, Connect, and Contribute).  Within their small group paradigm each facet of the sold-out follower of Christ (the 3C’s) is exercised.  Like their Churches, each group is begun with the expressed purpose of reproducing itself.  This comes forward in the apprenticing of Small group leaders that Community has turned into an art.

The final section of the book focuses on the reproduction of sites.  When Community began, it started with the vision and purpose of reproducing.  This idea was at the forefront of their decision and planning.  This, in itself, is part of what makes their schema work.  They are committed to reproducing.  Though it happened quicker than they thought (137), they have now reproduced enough to provide their process to starting another site.  In this section, Ferguson points out the advantages of a multi-site church over planting a new church, and in doing so really helped me to understand how a multi-site church could answer a lot of questions in my own area.

I loved every page of this book.  It was sparsly sourced and at times a little too “trendy” for what I would like, but there was challenge after challenge and bits of wisdom after wisdom that helped put much of my career and frustrations in ministry in prospective.  I want to work for a guy like Dave who has a passion and purspose, vision and drive.  I hope to utalize much of his apprenticing advice and method in my own line of work.

I give it an 9/10!

 

Generation iY

Cover-GeniY

I work with computers, it is my job. All day I type on them, look at them, think about them. Its how I make my living. When I’m at home, computers and other electronics are everywhere. I can’t escape them. When someone in my family has trouble with their device they often come to me and say, “my iThingy” isn’t working, can you fix it?” The truth of the matter is that my job revolves around enterprise databases and UNIX operating systems. So, I”m really not too good with iThis and iThat electronics.

I believe Tim Elmore correctly asserts that the so-called Millennials or Generation Y is best understood by those born pre-1990 and those post 1990. The line of demarcation is based on the explosion of the Internet into the daily lives of humans throughout the globe. This generation of young people are not merely influenced by technology they are “defined” (p. 13) by it. Elmore does a wonderful job introducing his readers to the life of an iYer as he calls them.

As anticipated, Elmore explores the positive and negative impacts of social media and the like. I felt he gave a pretty balanced analysis of the pros and cons of the connected iYer.

Elmore provides many two column charts showing contrasting ideas. For instance, on page 35 he has such a chart highlighting the pros and cons of the typical iYer. Here is a sample:

PROS CONS
They’re adept at multitasking. They have difficulty focusing.
They hunger to change the world. They anticipate doing it quickly and easily.
They own the word of technology. The expect easy and instant results.

Elmore uses many stories and analogies to drive home his points. Most were helpful and effective. One in particular stood out. He tells the story of some young African elephants that had strayed from their heard. Upon being found some time later they were found to be extremely aggressive, even killing other animals for “fun” which is unlike a typical elephant. Elmore then relates his point, “Like the young elephants, young people who spend most of their time with peers may drift into a lifestyle that won’t work in the real world. Many are truly lost and need to find their way back to a path that lead to maturity” (p. 110).

A criticism of this book is its repetitive nature. Elmore spent three-fourths of the book describing the iYer and the remaining one-forth of the book showing how we as mentors and teachers can best reach them. I felt he could have condensed the descriptive narrative.

Some of the most helpful content was in the final three chapters that dealt with how mentors, teachers, and parents can best shape and move the iYer into maturity. Specifically helpful was Elmore’s seven stages of learning an iYer moves through has they incorporate truth and information into their world view. He then gives an example of how these worked out in the life of a young “cocky” iYer named Justin (p. 181-183).

Although not an overtly Christian book, Generation iY is certainly helpful to anyone who is trying to lead and mentor young people in the context of a Christian relationship. Elmore has a passion for developing these young people into leaders and I found his enthusiasm contagious. For more tools and information about growing iY leaders you can find them at Elmore’s organization. I would recommend this book anyone who is trying to get inside the mind of an iYer.

Start

ImageWhat if your life was more awesome? Before you break out the neon colors, your Zach Morris mobile phone, and your cassette tapes, you must be ““brutally realistic about present and wildly unrealistic about the future.” (35) Jon Acuff, in his book Start, wants you to know that your life can be filled with awesome, if you are willing to leave behind good! The thing for you to know is that “the starting line is the only line you control.” (28)

I am the type of guy that lives with: 1) regret for not starting a lot of things earlier; 2) paralysis from not knowing what to do now that I was fired from what I thought I was supposed to do; 3) fear that it might be too late to do anything else. This book is a challenge to all of those ideas.

Acuff blends his humor that he perfected on his blog “Stuff Christians Like” with a devotional bent, creating a book about discovering and implementing your passions and joy, in effort to change this world. His purpose in writing was to help his readers find their awesome. In doing so, he gives an overview of the cycle that we go through in life. He notices that everybody goes through these stages during their time on this earth:

In our 20’s we are learning. This stage is all about finding out what you like and don’t like, what brings you joy and what wears you out. Trying, experiencing and learning as many skills as possible. Asking the question, “If I died today, what wouldn’t I get to do?”…At this stage, Acuff suggests, finding 30 minutes a day to devote to a task that drives you and gives you the most joy. Only by experimenting do we really learn.

In our 30’s we edit. Taking what we learned in our 20’s, we begin to pare down our options. We define priorities by asking the question: “What gives you the most joy?” Discover what brings you joy and how you can spend the most productive time on that. Acuff reminds us that: “time really is the only indicator of what matters.”

In our 40’s we master. This stage is where we become the experts. Dr. K. Anders Ericsson has found that it takes 10000 hours of practice to make an expert.   During this section Acuff explains how to deal with criticism, how to leverage your abilities and gifts, and how to get more experience. When it comes to criticism, Acuff points out exactly what we all deal with: 1 criticism + 10000 praises = 1 criticism. I think that rings true for most of us, but he points out that criticism needs to looked at from the source, asking “who said it and why?”

In our 50’s we harvest. After years of practicing, editing, and mastering, we finally come to the point that where our passion, joy, abilities, and experience meet. Acuff reminds us that we will work harder at this stage than any other. But there are some ways that we can shorten this stage up: like being a jerk, letting fame get the better of us, or becoming lazy.

The final stage is guiding. This is Acuff’s mentoring challenge to all those who have mastered something. He is passionate about seeing people guide and influence others. Though we don’t have to be in this stage to lead another person (we just have to be a step ahead of them), this is where we get to utilize our gained experience in order to help others. The key, Acuff says, is to not try to do to much. Be selective on who and when.

This book was a fantastic read. Acuff writes very clearly about the cycle that we go through in mastering any task. The most important thing he would have you do is “START”. I ate this book up as he told his story. If you get the chance to read one book this summer, this one needs to be it. It helps to put everything in perspective.

The Land Between

The Land Between by Jeff Manion

The Land Between by Jeff Manion

Life and sin happen.  The question of suffering and why, is irrelevant in the current discussion because it doesn’t make the desert more or less real. It surrounds everyone of us at one time or another. Jeff Manion, in his book The Land Between, writes about the reality of the desert and attempts to put perspective on our time spent there. In tracing the interaction between Moses and God in Numbers 11 (the primary text) and the life of Abraham (secondary), minion makes a case for our desert tour as a time of learning who God really is.

Manion’s book is an extended study of Moses and Israel’s complaint to God in Numbers 11. The people are stuck in the desert and have been dining on manna for quite sometime. They are tired and hungry! They want meat, a complaint made clear to God! Deserts are fertile ground for very few things, but complaining, bitterness, and worry are a few of them. When we find ourselves in transition, in the desert, minion reminds us to fight against there things with all our will. God answers their complaints by giving them meat, but it doesn’t go the way they want. A plague comes upon the people. Minion observes that the things we want in the desert arn’t always the best things for us. The life in transition is life lived learning to walk in step with The Lord!

The Land Between was a series of sermons originally. It reads just like that. There are many illustrations and a lot of application woven throughout the book. The book doesn’t cover the entirety of the wilderness wandering but attempts to exegete this passage and use it as a pattern for the rest of Israel’s time in the desert. This was a solid book that brings wisdom to those who find themselves in the midst of the desert.