Left to our well-honed, pattern-seeking tendencies, we will begin paying attention to those parts of our environment that fit our frames. Just as significant, we will ignore or downplay those parts of our environment that do not fit our frame. Not only is our brilliance unquestioned, it is inappropriately reinforced by our search for evidence, according to John Austin in his book Unquestioned Brilliance: Navigating a Fundamental Leadership Trap.
In Part One of the book, the author describes learning management systems, the characteristics of an online course and the characteristics of a successful online course teacher, recommending that online courses are best created in partnership with a skilled course designer who can ensure that the course takes advantage of an appropriate range of interactive technology while keeping the focus on the learning. Part Two discusses ways in which character formation can be integrated into the online learning experience, and Part Three considers ways of assessing and improving the effectiveness of online courses.
The book is fairly short, but easy to read. It is particularly suited for people who currently teach face-to-face Christian courses but are considering whether it is possible to offer those courses in an online format in a manner which does not compromise the quality of the learning experience, particularly those elements of character formation which are caught rather than taught. There are other books which give a more detailed description of the different things you can do with online courses, but this book gives a very carefully considered idea of how Christian spiritual formation can occur during such courses.
Fifteen short years after he became Lakewood Church’s senior minister, Joel Osteen had become the embodiment and achieved the fulfillment of his own message—positive thinking, self-encouragement, and belief that God’s consequential blessings inevitably bring progress and advancement—the story of salvation with a smile, according to Phillip Sinitiere in his book Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity.
The book starts with the story of John Osteen’s background, his transition from Southern Baptist into neopentecostalism, and his philosophy of ministry at Lakewood. It then goes on to describe how Joel stepped into the senior pastor position upon his father’s death in 1999, and his own distinctive philosophy of ministry.
Based on analysis of Joel’s sermons, the author says that Joel’s prosperity gospel has four parts: positive thinking, positive confession, positive providence, and the promotion of the Christian body as a site of improvement. It seems to me that there are parts of the Bible which can be used to support each of those themes, but those themes are not an accurate representation of the message of the Bible.
The author did not have access to Joel Osteen or other key people while writing the book, and as a result the book often feels like an academic analysis of writings and sermons rather than a lively personal story. Nonetheless, it does provide some interesting insights into the senior pastor of the largest church in North America.
Faced with the emergence and speed of growth in the information economy, organizations have an urgent need to adopt IT governance best practice, according to Alan Calder and Steve Watkins in their book IT Governance: An International Guide to Data Security and ISO27001/ISO27002. The authors define IT governance as ‘the framework for the leadership, organizational structures and business processes, standards and compliance to these standards, which ensures that the organization’s information systems support and enable the achievement of its strategies and objectives’.
Fit leaders and fit companies mindfully and intentionally pursue a well-defined course of action that makes them stronger, faster, and more agile over the long run; they engage in rigorous, scientific thinking at all levels of the organization to analyse and solve problems, and they eliminate the fear that shackles employee creativity and liberate employees to close the baps between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow, according to Daniel Markovitz in his book Building the FIT Organization: Six Core Principles for Making Your Company Stronger, Faster, and More Competitive.
Whatever the cause of a sense of entitlement, the end result is that the entitled person believes that he or she doesn’t have to play by the rules of responsibility, ownership, and commitment. And the end result of entitlement is predictable: The entitled person feels good and lives badly, while those around him feel bad about the situation but have more successful relationships and careers, according to John Townsend in his book The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way.
The common characteristics of entitlement identified by the author include:
An attitude of being special
An attitude of being owed, of deserving something
A refusal to accept responsibility
A denial of one’s impact on others
While it is usually fairly easy to diagnose someone else as a sufferer of entitlement disease, it is often harder to admit that you are suffering the disease yourself. The book is ostensibly written to show readers how to help others who are stuck in an entitlement rut, but it also provides a helpful range of ideas for identifying and dealing with your own failings. The various chapters discuss motivation, discipline and structure, creating a helpful self-image, assuming responsibility, doing hard things first, keeping inconvenient commitments, respecting the future, admitting errors, facing up to pain, and taking meaningful risks.
I am not confident that entitlement can ever really be “cured”, but I think that this book provides a range of useful things you can do to help manage the disease.
Extreme brutality is not incompatible with establishing a new state. It may not be the wisest course of action, and it probably won’t create a state many people would want to live in. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work, according to William McCants in his book The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. The book provides a range of sobering insights into the organisation which has overtaken Al Qaeda as the most obnoxious in the world.
Where did it all start? The author traces the rise of the Islamic State back to 1999, when a hot-headed Jordanian named abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi visited Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda. After the collapse of the Taliban, Zarqawi relocated his operations to Iraq, ready to conduct guerrilla warfare during the anticipated American invasion, and to conduct sectarian warfare on behalf of the Sunnis against the Shi’a. By 2006, Zarqawi’s ambitions extended beyond al Qaeda to the formation of an Islamic State and, although he was killed by the US in June 2006, an Islamic State was proclaimed in October 2006 by his followers.
The Islamic State foundered for its first several years, being a state in no more than ideology. However, the organisation strengthened significantly in 2013 and 2014, and in June 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named caliph. As a Caliphate, it now claimed authority over all Muslims in the world, and many Muslims from other countries who found the Islamic State’s apocalyptic worldview persuasive flocked to take up arms is support of the Caliph in Iraq and Syria.
The book provides extensive insights into the Islamic State’s history, leadership and beliefs. Some of the most interesting insights are based on correspondence between al Qaeda and various Islamic State leaders which has come into the public domain. The motivations and modes of thought of Islamic State leaders are poorly understood in Western countries. This book should help to address that lack of knowledge.
A church without volunteers is an unhealthy church, because the act of volunteering is an expression of worship, it serves people, and it builds relationships. Churches are among the few organizations where the same people are the owners, the funders, the staff, and the customers, according to Leith Anderson and Jill Fox in their book The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness.
Part 1 of the book addresses the issues involved in building a volunteer culture, Part 2 discusses ways of recruiting volunteers, and Part 3 covers volunteer training and care. The best method of recruiting volunteers is said to be using other volunteers. Happy volunteers are keen to recruit others, so one of the key ways of maximising recruitment is to take good care of the volunteers you already have.
In addition to providing the theory, the authors provide some useful practical tools. Appendix 1 provides a training plan for staff and those who lead volunteers, covering 5 key steps of volunteer development: recruiting, training, building the team, appreciating and celebrating, and empowering. Appendix 2 provides an outline for a personal Volunteer Development Plan.
I am not a big fan of the distinctions large churches tend to make between “staff” and “volunteers” which tend to assume that staff have the skills and volunteers are unskilled. Nevertheless, church staff are usually the ones responsible for making sure the ministry gets done, and in my opinion this book provides some useful ideas to help with recruiting, organising, deploying and maintaining lay ministry teams.