book review

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

“What’s God’s will for my life?” I’ve asked that question and heard that question asked a thousand times in my ten years as a pastor. It’s a go to question I deal with when talking to middle school, high school, and college students.

Kevin DeYoung insists that the answer to the question is as simple as his title. How do I know God’s will for my life? “Just do something.” At first blush that answer sounds as reckless as it does callous.

But DeYoung builds his case scripturally that a faithful Christian life is not a life waiting to hear the whisper of God about what parking spot to take, school to choose, career to select, and spouse to marry. Instead, again and again, scripture frames the will of God in terms of the character of God. What is God’s will? The fruits of the Spirit. In DeYoung’s words, “God's will is always your sanctification.” 

Obsessing over choices God wants us to make actually shackles us from living in the freedom of God’s purposes. DeYoung says, “The only chains God wants us to wear are the chains of righteousness--not the chains of hopeless subjectivism, not the shackles of risk-free living, not the fetters of horoscope decision making--just the chains befitting a bond servant of Christ Jesus. Die to self. Live for Christ. And then do what you want, and go where you want, for God's glory.” Applying Christ’s words, it sounds like this, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we're going.”

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury

In his 1961 Inaugural Address John F Kennedy famously said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." For most of us, negotiation is almost synonymous with fear. How do we move to a place of negotiating with confidence and peace? Getting to Yes is as good a place to start that process as any I could imagine.

Getting to Yes was first published in 1981. In this, the third edition of this time tested book, the authors begin acknowledging the flattening of the workplace. If anything, flatter organizations make Fisher and Ury's work all the more important. It's not surprising then, that they note that "a generation ago, the term 'negotiation' also had an adversarial connotation. In contemplating a negotiation, the common question in people's minds was, 'Who is going to win and who is going to lose?'" Fisher and Ury suggest there is a better way in Getting to Yes and then show you how to get there.

As a pastor, you might think that negotiation isn't a skill I have to use very often, but Fisher and Ury's book was not only helpful to me in my personal life (over the past three years I have negotiated a home sale, solar panel contract, a car purchase, and a job contract). But our lives are filled with negotiation. Even in my role as a pastor, negotiation is a daily occurrence, from negotiating sermon series to recruiting people into ministry roles, to navigating ministry direction, to negotiating staff culture and church vision documents. Simply put, we all need Fisher and Ury's book.

In their clearly outlined book, they suggest that the most significant problem is that we bargain over positions. To transform our ability to successfully negotiate we must do the following four things:

1) Separate the people from the problem;

2) Focus on interests, not positions;

3) Invent options for mutual gain;

4) Insist on using objective criteria.

Playing God by Andy Crouch

Playing God by Andy Crouch

There is a strange dissonance today. In a time where we embrace conversations about developing our leadership and influence, we are allergic to power. Andy Crouch wants us to have an honest conversation about power and recognize that it is a gift given by God and “rooted in creation… intimately tied to image bearing.”

The oft-quoted Lord Acton quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” shows our distrust of power (the fact that we usually drop the “tends to” in the quote shows our hand even more. We are cynical about power. But we typically define power too narrowly, in ways that exempts us from possessing it. But that is false.

What is power? “Power is simply (and not so simply) the ability to participate in that stuff-making sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.” We ought not flinch, then, from owning up to the fact that we all have power. In fact, if we did not have power, even our purest impulses for love and justice would be impotent (the word itself meaning “without power”).

And we serve a God who we worship, in part, because he is all-powerful. If God was not omnipotent, he would “not be a God worth worshiping,” unable to bring justice. The question, then, is how to we steward our God-reflecting power well? How are we leveraging our power for justice? How are we creating margins in our power in Sabbath? And how are we leaning into institutions which utilize power in holy ways and chasten our desire to play god?