Thinking and acting in new ways is not safe for many congregations, according to Jasmine Rose Smothers and F Douglas Powe Jr in their book Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations. Some in the post-civil rights generations do not look like us. They wear different clothing, have various piercings, and are tatted up. They are not safe for our congregations.
The authors’ “commandments” for older church members include:
Thou shall chill (Be willing to let go)
Thou shall not front (Be authentic to God’s mission and calling)
Thou shall not trip (Be willing to discuss difficult subjects without getting upset)
Thou shall sample (Be ready to combine the old with the new)
The authors’ choice of language and the issues discussed suggest that the primary target audience for this book is leaders of African American churches. As a non-American reader I experienced difficulty in understanding some of the authors’ terminology and style, and many of the issues which they have raised are not ones which I have encountered. The overall message, though, is an important one in any context: churches need to keep listening to younger generations and including them in leadership in order to stay relevant.
Jesus did not come to start a religion; I doubt that he ever said to himself, “okay, now I am going to begin something called Christianity,” according to Mike Slaughter in his book Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus. Instead, the rebel Jesus came with a renegade gospel to start a revolution that would be propelled by a countercultural community of people on planet earth. The book aims to describe what it means to live a revolutionary lifestyle when we get serious about the real Jesus.
Hard-hitting statements made by the author include:
It is a heresy to value, honor and prioritize a worldly system, ideology and politics over the Kingdom of God
Too often we allow talk-show pundits to become the genesis of our values, rather than looking to the Kingdom, will and Word of God
When we privatize our faith we cease to be salt and light in the world
We don’t pray to get to heaven; we actively work and pray to get the Kingdom of Heaven into earth
Faith is acting on Jesus’ directive to follow, which means that his lifestyle becomes our lifestyle
We act as if the narrow way belongs to the pastor, the wide way to the lost, and the middle way, somewhere between the other two, to the rest of us
Through the ages and continuing today, the church has used the written word as an excuse or justification for not obeying the directives of Jesus
Although it is short and written in an engaging style, this is not an easy book to read, just as the lifestyle which Jesus proclaimed is not an easy one to live. Most readers are likely to find their political and theological positions challenged by the author’s forthright assertions. If you are open to having your comfortable Christianity shaken by a prophetic voice, then this might be the book for you.
Boko Haram, once a Salafist sect based in Nigeria’s northeast, has become something far more deadly and ruthless: a hydra-headed monster further complicated by imitators and criminal gangs who commit violence under the guise of the group, according to Mike Smith in his book Boko Haram: Inside Nigeria’s Unholy War. However, the lack of faith in both the government and the military has remained one of the most important reasons why the insurgency has not been stopped.
Boko Haram began around 2002 when the charismatic preacher Mohammed Yusuf attracted a following by denouncing the corruption and injustices of the Nigerian government, army and police. Yusuf, who believed that the earth is flat and that Western education is evil, was arrested in 2009 and killed in police custody following an uprising by his followers which had resulted in over 1,000 deaths. The group has since engaged in violent attacks against police, the military, schools, mosques, churches, government institutions and unarmed civilians.
Interestingly, the group’s current leader Abubakar Shekau appropriates the rhetoric of peace when describing one of the group’s main aims: “Seeking Allah’s help to establish Sharia so that Muslims will have peace to practise their religion.” After being named a “global terrorist” by the United States, requiring his assets there to be frozen, Shekau responded in a video message: “I know the United States exists, but… I don’t know where it is, not to talk of freezing my assets there.”
To understand the environment in which Boko Haram thrives, it is necessary to comprehend the extent of corruption and injustice in Nigerian society. The army typically responds to Boko Haram raids first by running away during an attack, then by returning in numbers to slaughter some people indiscriminately and burn down houses, on the conjecture that some of them might have assisted or supported boko Haram.
Today as I write this review, the newspaper has six full pages including the front page discussing terrorist attacks in France which have resulted in 17 deaths. There is a small article on page 18 describing a Boko Haram attack on the town of Baga which may have resulted in 2,000 deaths, with all of the houses burnt and destroyed. There are plenty of photos on the Internet of burnt houses and dead bodies from Baga, but they are from an attack by the Nigerian army almost 2 years ago when the army killed about 200 people and burnt down houses as revenge after Boko Haram fighters had ambushed some troops near Baga.
With global terrorism on the rise, it has become increasingly important for all members of society to gain some understanding of the causes of terrorism. While this book reassures us that Boko Haram is essentially a Nigerian problem rather than a global problem, it does give some insight into how heavy-handed official responses to terrorist acts serve to intensify the terrorists’ grievances, resulting in amplification rather than suppression of the problem.
Today, strategy in business has fallen into disrepute; the expensive large-scale strategic planning exercises that were common in the late twentieth century are no longer perceived as providing commensurate returns in terms of contributing to the firm’s success. What really sealed the fate of these exercises was the fast-changing, increasingly dynamic and complex business environment, according to Johan Aurik, Martin Fabel and Gillis Jonk in their book The Future of Strategy: A Transformative Approach to Strategy for a World That Won’t Stand Still. Nonetheless strategy, when properly understood and executed, has never been more important.
In the decade since the first edition of their book was released, the ferocity of competition in existing industries and the pressures on costs and profits have only intensified, according to authors W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in the latest incarnation of their best-selling book, “Blue Ocean Strategy Expanded Edition”. That is why there is a rising call for creative new solutions and such an allure in the idea of escaping from cut-throat “red ocean” markets into competition-free “blue ocean” market space.
It requires courage to voice your vision, to stand up for it, and to battle the resistance you’ll inevitably face in return, because an effective vision by definition has to be original, and therefore to some degree be provocative, maybe even slightly controversial, according to Rob-Jan de Jong in his book Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead. That is one of the reasons why leaders are often reluctant to espouse a compelling vision, and yet vision casting is one of the key components of effective leadership.
Unfortunately, the history of the human species suggests that all too often groups fail to live up to their potential. Many groups turn out to be foolish; they bet on products that are doomed to failure; they miss out on spectacular opportunities; they develop unsuccessful marketing strategies; their investments and strategies go awry, hurting millions of people in the process, according to Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie in their book Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter.
At the most basic level, leadership succession and transition is a continuous process of organizational transformation: a people decision, an organizational decision, and a strategy decision all rolled into one, with not infrequently a crisis call thrown in for good measure, according to Noel Tichy in his book Succession: Mastering the Make-or-Break Process of Leadership Transition. Leadership succession and transition is simply the most politically and culturally charged, technically challenging, and critical leadership assignment of all the many judgments that business leaders are obliged to make in the course of doing their day jobs.
In our schools and workplaces, groupthink is rewarded. Those who question decisions and advocate for different ways are often ignored, ostracized, or fired. Yet without rebels, our systems, companies, schools, churches, government agencies, and healthcare organizations become rigid and sometimes even dangerous, according to Lois Kelly, Carmen Medina and Debra Cameron in their book Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within.
Christian leaders who stay in love with God embody something that the world deeply needs; they possess an ethos characterized by love, servanthood, and sacrifice that is distinctive and more important than other skills or insights that leaders acquire; they may not have all the latest leadership techniques, but quite often people will follow them anywhere, according to Tom Berlin and Lovett Weems in their book High Yield: Seven Disciplines of the Fruitful Leader.
The seven leadership disciplines recommended by the authors are:
Build trust, which includes the importance of attending to people in their time of need
Lead the journey, including engaging the past, naming the present and envisioning the future
Set high standards, by insisting on excellence, expecting accountability without being controlling, and counting people carefully
Communicate, communicate, communicate, which includes speaking the whole truth and preaching well
Redeem conflict, by getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and being assertive while remaining humble
Cultivate leadership practices, including teamwork, appropriate delegation, and consulting wise counsel; and
Keep growing, by finding mentors, seeking and using feedback, and staying in love with God
Unlike many leadership books which are written from the perspective of a megachurch senior pastor, this book considers leadership from the perspective of everyday non-superstar pastors. It is a short book, easy to read, and should be a source of great encouragement to those who are called to lead a church in the current difficult times.