Dec 072013

I was delighted to meet Jon Ido Warden earlier this year and receive a review copy of his self-published book, “Resisting Grace: Our Avoidance and His Persistence.” I confess that I have only read one-third of it, so what I can write is a book reaction and a first impression of the book overall, so you may consider this book as a resource for your life and/or for someone you know. How the author described the book on its about page:resisting-grace-preview

Writing this book has been a five year process in my life. The book worked on me as much as I worked on it. Resisting Grace is about God working to bring about changes in our lives and we resisting it. It is about understanding what his grace is doing as well as understanding our resistance so as to learn to cooperate and experience greater works of grace. It’s about what is God trying to do in my life. It is about hearing him, being stirred by him, moved by him, stripped by him, filled by him, transformed by him. It’s knowing He wants to change you. It’s knowing change comes from him. It’s knowing it is not in formulas of self-helps techniques but in the dynamic power of grace that only comes from intimacy with a God who works within. It’s knowing why we resist him and how we can start moving with instead of against with such a good work of grace.

What I think is particularly and specifically about this book is the context from which the text emerges. I’ve heard of Jon’s reputation and renown for his ministry and impact among Asian American Christians, a topic that I personally also have great interest, and he’s clocked in over 35 years in ministry both in the church and in clinical settings. Jon draws from insights from the Scriptures and his personal, professional, and ministry life (like most other Christian authors) but his voice is distinctly Asian-American (and there is no one Asian American context, but rather, many Asian American perspectives.) Jon is Japanese-American, grew up in the US, and has experienced first hand the cultural & identity struggles. Thus I find the book to be written from a contemplative and reflective perspective, with occasional allusions to a bicultural context; the majority of the book is written with our shared common humanity in mind and thus accessible to non-Asian-Americans also.

The word grace is a very powerful word, because it points to the power of God, the infinitely powerful God, but it’s kind of lost its meaning because the word grace is used differently by different Christians. We say we want amazing grace, but do we really? Do we recognize grace when it shows up? Jon helps us to see the power of grace at work by taking a closer look at our human tendencies to resist God’s grace, and gently helps readers to remove those hurdles and barriers by raising our awareness and kindly showing our blind spots. I think what’s most valuable is the book’s description of the 5 stages of grace: illuminating, awakening, determining, deconstructing, and empowering. Just as the 5 stages of grief (popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, adapted as 6 stages of grief by Pastor Rick Warren,) has helped so many through the intensive and essential process of working through loss, Jon’s 5 stages of grace gives a useful framework to guide others to experience life change by responding to God’s grace. (Granted, thus, and I’ll say, that, this book is not an easy read, think more Dallas Willard and less Francis Chan.)

Also want to mention that Jon Ido Warden is part of a team blog, the Slanted View, where they share reflections on faith, brokenness, culture and manhood from a Pan-Asian American perspective: “We are a group of men meeting to explore our stuff regarding faith, culture and manhood. We come from several Asian American cultures: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Philipino, Vietnamese, East Indian, Thai, Taiwanese.

Aside: for those of you that are still reading to this point, I’m going to shift gears and share a personal commentary on my book-reading habits. The printed book is big, 265 pages in a paperback. I get more than my share of printed books to review, in the mail, because of this blog, and I’m no longer able to read nor review most of them, unfortunately. In this season of my life (and I can’t say how long these personal seasons last for me, but I can say that’s my current pace and phase of reading habit), the momentum of my content input is currently predominantly listening to podcasts, scanning social media via tweets and status updates, occasionally skimming blogs, reading ebooks on my Kindle app (either on tablet on smartphone), with printed books at the bottom of the stack. So to get my attention, at least in this season of my life, social media is best, digital media is second, and printed media last. All that could change in an instant. And that’s the nature of digital life in the 21st century. Change happens fast. What a contrast to grace, something that more often does its work slowly over time, with an occasional burst of dramatic transformation.

Feb 142012

Last week was Jeremy Lin’s breakthru on the basketball court. This week is Charles Lee‘s breakthru on the bookstore charts as his new book launches today, Good Idea. Now What? How to Move Ideas to Execution! Keep an eye on this guy, he’s going places. I’m not predicting a New York Times best-seller just yet, but with endorsements from the likes of Seth GodinSoledad O’Brien, and Scott Harrison, anything could happen. 

On this lovelee Valintine’s Day, I ideated 10 ways that Charles Lee is like Jeremy Lin:

  1. They have pun-able last names, they realee do
  2. They’ve extended their platform and visibility through social media like Twitter and Facebook: @charlestlee @jlin7 [what are you waiting for?]
  3. There’s talk about their legacy already – Charles opens his book with a preface titled “Born into a Legacy of Idea Makers”
  4. They’re team-players and collaborators
  5. They make everybody else look good (even great!) – Jeremy for his teammates every time, Charles for creating a platform for unknown idea-makers thru The Idea Camp and The Ideation Conference
  6. They’re unapologetically Asian American Christians
  7. They both know what it feels like to be overlooked, misunderestimated, and being an underdog
  8. They’re pastors – Charles is a has-been and Jeremy is a wanna-be :)
  9. They’re humble and not self-promoting
  10. They’re my Linspiration!

I’ll say one thing about the book. When I first heard about it and chatted with Charles by phone, the aha for me was his genius to avoid using the E-word (entrepreneurship) and empowering not only leeders but everyone to make their ideas and dreams come true! (I know I need the help as an ideator purist.)

And, Charles Lee throws the best parties, hundreds have connected at boutique events like the i2i Social Entrepreneurs Gathering at cool venues like the Toyota automobile museum. This Thursday is a book release party at the hipster Project 7 office space in Costa Mesa. This is the place to be! No cover charge! Live music! Free food! And Charles will be there in person!

Jul 132011

I confess that when I receive review copy of books from publishers, I don’t have the time and energy to read every word in every book to give it a proper book review. Not having read them, I can’t review them.

What I can do is mention them and to skim them with my initial impressions of what questions the book answers, and questions I’ve got for the authors and/or about the book. Here’s 3 book previews:

Weird: Because Normal isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel

The premise of this book is that the world has its conventional lifestyle that’s normal. Being a Christ-follow aka Christian is not normal and should be a stark contrast to how the rest of the world lives. Craig is a popularly influential church leader, so the book will be popular and well-marketed. I’m not so sure the title fits Craig for me; Craig is notably innovative, and has a leadership style that appeals to the masses. When I think of someone being weird, I’m thinking really weird that’s unpredictably unconventional– more of a Joaquin Phoenix, Crispin Glover, or the sword-throwing Bible answer man.

Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World by Lynne Baab

This book pinpoints something about friendship I don’t recall hearing, that the central friendship skill is the ability to initiate. The author adds that listening is another important friendship skill. And these are 2 skills that can be practiced in contexts online and offline. The book goes on to unpack the various skills of relating: initiating, listening, remembering, praying, asking, giving, thanking, sharing, caring, being together, being apart, pacing, choosing, accepting, forgiving.

On the Verge: a journey into the apostolic future of the church by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson

The 2 leading voices about the missional church team up to co-author this big volume. I know they’ve been hanging out quite a bit, even before Google+ Hangout came into existence. As for the book’s form factor, I sure don’t see many paperback books an inch thick these days, except in academia. This book covers a lot of ground.

Aside #1: What I am noticing in (some of the) newer books is discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Friending has them. Verge has them. Church Diversity has them.

Aside #2: In this day and age of shorter presentations that are 18-minutes or 6:40, or 5:00, it’s hard for me to sit for hours to read an entire book. There are a few ideas worth the extensive treatment of a book length, but not necessarily all of them — for me. And a big factor for me is interestingness – not every book idea provokes me to curiosity. That’s not to take away from the quality of the book and its relevance to (many) other people who may well benefit a bunch from one.

May 032011

How long will it take? How long? A diverse society is all around us in the United States and yet most of our Christian churches do not match that diversity. Most would agree the church should, whether a church leader or the average joe.

Scott Williams weighs in with another voice to reiterate this truth in the new book, Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week. There are dozens of other mentions and book reviews already via the blog book tour. It’s a message that needs repeating because it hasn’t sunk in yet.

As I read the book (which I confess I have not yet finished), it did prompt me to consider some other elephants in the room regarding church diversity.

1. A majority of churches are still working in the shadow of the decades of teachings and thoughts on church growth and the so-called “homogeneous unit principle.” And the commonly cited cliche, “birds of a feather flock together.” For overly practical reasons, it is often easier to gather a larger group of people to sustain a church organization that’d employ staff and pay for meeting space. What will it take to rethink the purpose of church is developing fully-devoted followers and that does not mean catering an “evangelistic” message that’d concede to one’s “natural” racial preferences.

2. @scottwilliams does a great job reviewing the best practices from the business world and outlines the strategies from top innovative corporations that have leadership diversity. For churches that love and value innovation, does incorporating more diversity result in more innovation? In other words, if diversity did accelerate church innovation, wouldn’t the most innovative churches be more diverse? Diverse not only in attendance, but especially in leadership?

3. Looks like church diversity will just take a lot more time and effort, and perhaps more books, more events, more training. Mosaix Global Network is one of the bigger efforts that’s connecting church leaders all over for collaborative efforts – most recently hosting a multiethnic church planting track at the Exponential Conference. This Church Diversity book has a pretty robust campaign to kick off a “movement.” It’s going to take a lot more of what @scottwilliams calls: “right message at the right time.”

I’ve got many more thoughts about this issue, having tracked it for years at my web page of multiethnic church resources, launched at least 5 years ago. Often it feels like we’re back to square one on this topic. But I suppose that’s where most people are, and that’s where we to help each other to learn from each other and work together with each other.

Aug 032010

Eric Bryant‘s book gets a reboot as Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World, the book formerly known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas. The book now has its own website, sermon series, small group materials, blog tour

This book is an accessible and easy read. It’s filled with real-life stories of how to step out of one’s comfort zone to build real relationships with real people of all kinds: someone of a different ethnicity, a different economic class/ different pay grade, different political persuasion, different lifestyle, different religion. And interspersed with Biblical stories and guest authors chiming in too.

I know for me, if I only looked for people just like me to befriend, I’d be all alone. I’ve rarely ever found anyone who is like me. And that’s ok. It’s really a good thing to get to know people who are different. The Bible has something to say about people being made different anyways: having different gifts, different roles, different parts.

For those of us who find it challenging to step out of our comfort zone, it’s good to have a friendly voice come along, like this book, to show us how to get past our discomforts and to live out of faith and not out of fear. I know I can use the help. Thanks Eric.

May 102010

Jesus Christ was certainly a man of prayer, the ultimate prayer warrior. The text in James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that all who believe in Christ will “be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” Is this an unanswered prayer? Was it ineffective? If effective, what does unity look like?

In a new book by John Armstrong, Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church, the author meticulously walks through the Scriptures and church history to show what church unity has looked like. He wrestles with the more recent efforts at church unity among ecumenicals, and then among Catholics and Evangelicals. Armstrong’s concludes with his proposal for a vision of church unity best described as “missional-ecumenism.”

What is missional-ecumenism? There’s a whole chapter in the book that describes what this is. (I wasn’t able to find a concise definition over a web search, and I didn’t want to type paragraphs from the book.) One reviewer noted that: [B]y “missional-ecumenism,” the author means that believers should have relational unity with God and one another, including unity in our mission as God’s “sent ones.” The author described that A missional-ecumenist will focus on sharing in the unity of the Trinity with other believers with the intention that the church really becomes a community for outsiders. We exist for them!

A blog tour in March 2010 had kicked off over 75 blog posts about “Your Church is Too Small,” many with thoughtful reflection and critique of the book’s subject.

In a day and age where our society is buckling under a scarcity of time (cf. attention economy) I don’t see the momentum of the American church moving towards slowing down to build into the relational equity needed for unity around God’s mission for the world. Unfortunately, there are too many pressing concerns of sustaining the organizational side of a local church and the watching over doctrinal & theological purity. As beautiful as Jesus and John’s vision may be for unity of the church, it would take more than prayer to see this come to pass.

Mar 182010

Through my work with Leadership Network, I’ve had incredible times to connect with church leaders all around the United States, and even a few around the world. I love to connect people to people and people to resources. The resource I want to connect you with is this new book by Scott Wilson, Steering Through Chaos: Mapping a Clear Direction for Your Church in the Midst of Transition and Change.

Scott Wilson is pastor of The Oaks Fellowship just south of Dallas. I first met him in Dallas at the Multi-Site Churches Leadership Community that I’m a part of managing, along with the church’s leaders, which included Justin Lathrop. What I love is the inviting vibe of their leaders, doing amazing things (by the grace of God) as a fast-growing church while also being personable, relational, and accessible. That’s what came through to me in my interactions with Scott and Justin, and this came through in Scott’s new book too. (cf. Download a sample chapter of Steering Through Chaos)

Watch this video of Scott Wilson talk about the book (cf. extended version):

What caught my attention with Steering Through Chaos were these things:

(1) Scott quotes so many other people in this book, like a synthesis of all that he’s gleaned from other church leaders! I didn’t fact-check, but the acknowledgements section would be dozens of pages if he were to list all the names of leaders mentioned in the book!

(2) Scott shares his own story of going through a massive church transition, that included relocation, building campaign, leadership transitions, personal challenges, and managing healthy relationships. This narrative approach sure makes the underlying principles much more understandable and practical. Yes, this book covers a lot of ground.

(3) The book speaks to personal health. In an early chapter, the author lists a stress chart to honestly show the reality of what changes do to people, and doesn’t ignore or overlook this in the name of being “spiritual” or bieng a “leader.” Being emotionally healthy is vital for short-term and long-term success, for both personal and organizational health. And, it means getting the help you need, whether a life coach, counselor, or whatever. I’m glad this is weaved in throughout the book.
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Jan 302010

Thanks to Chris Hornsby of Next Generation Mentoring, I got a review copy of Mentor Like Jesus, by Regi Campbell with Richard Chancy.

This book lays out a very clear mentoring process to reproduce leaders of a particular type. Regi Campbell is an entrepreneural leader and knows how to get results in the marketplace. The book unpacks his value for being strategic with time, finding what works, and adapting principles from Jesus’ process of disciple-making, in order to invest in next generation leaders who have high potential to impact the world. I can see how this book will be very useful to develop mentoring programs for churches, especially with book royalties going towards funding this purpose.

What the author means by mentoring may not be what some people mean by mentoring. This excerpt contrasts the typical commonly-held meaning of mentoring, and what Regi means by mentoring:

Traditionally, the mentoring relationship is almost always initiated by the mentoree. He has something he wants… a felt need… for guidance, wisdom, advice, or help. Most often these conversations get started around job stuff. The younger man needs advice or access to the older man’s network of contacts. Sometimes it’s a crisis at home… a breech with a wife or child; and the less experienced person wants to confide in someone who’s “been there, done that.” …

Now, is this a type of mentoring? Yes. Is it what Jesus did? No. Jesus initiated the mentoring relationship with His disciples… [p.120]

I don’t know how many people have described what Jesus did with his disciples as mentoring. I have heard of many people who describe what Jesus did as disciple-making or discipling. Certainly what Jesus did with his disciples has changed the world forever. If the goal is to change the world through intentional formative relationships, the terminology doesn’t matter.

One reviewer of Mentor Like Jesus noted the confusion of terms:

It’s no secret that the word “mentor” is a loaded term and can mean something wildly different for people. Some may think of a mentor as someone who meets with them weekly to speak about their professional lives, others may imagine someone on more of an on-call basis who gets together a few times a year. What are healthy expectations in a mentoring relationship?

And that’s what it is. Get clear expectations on both parties, the mentor and mentoree — do you want mentoring in the traditional sense or mentoring in the disciple-making sense?

This is a great book to get everyone on the same page for mentoring as disciple-making, to have a reproducible process that you can “add water and stir” and run with it to pour into leaders who change the world.

Nov 062009

Conflict is something that will always be. It is neither good nor bad, it simply is.” [cf. Sam Chand]

The incident regarding Deadly Viper had set the online world ablaze, and very uncomfortable words of pain festered in the open space [cf. read this summary]. My prayer was that the key leaders at the core of the conflict would resolve it privately, walking through their respective pains together with each other. This direct conversations has since happened offline in private, and an appropriate resolution is in the works. A public statement has been issued. I commend all involved for giving of their time and energy to walk thru this via dolorosa.

There’s already quite a number of thoughtful reflections about this incident posted::

I want to offer a few more ideas in debriefing, with which I’d anticipate some people would disagree with. Conflict in the open was a good thing for 3 reasons [cf. The Necessity of Open Disagreement by Stephen Shields] ::

  • This shows us what conflict resolution can look like. Conflict is not a pretty thing. We’ve all seen how ugly it can get, how destructive it can be, how it can ruin relationships. By being in the open, via social media, we saw how the conflict surfaced and moved towards live offline discussions, apologies, forgiveness, working towards resolution. There is a better way through the conflict. After all, conflict simply is. And I for one am tired of overly-positive spin that’s all too common in evangelical circles; I think the younger generation can smell spin a mile away.
  • We heard new voices open up their heart and soul. While I did not read every single comment in the initial blog posts, a wide range of voices from new names spoke up, both Asian and non-Asian. It is not easy for anyone to share their pains, particularly Asian Americans, for fear of being misunderstood, misrepresented, or shamed. Asians tend to be a little more (or a lot more) sensitive than non-Asians because of its shame-based culture. Social media empowers anyone and everyone to speak out. This helps us to empathize with the offended much more than signing a petition. (Now, not every Asian American finds this publication offensive, granted.)
  • We’ve got a long way to go with racial sensitivities in the church. A loooong way. Conflict that arose up over a relatively minor incident, in the whole scheme of things, shows how little experience we collectively have to just start any discussion about faith and race. And, yeah, these issues are complicated and messy. They don’t sell books nor increase conference attendance nor make churches grow rapidly in size. It doesn’t fit neatly in the systematic theology section.

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