Review of ‘Between Pain and Grace’ by Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer


Between-Pain-and-GraceGerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer, Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering (Chicago: Moody, 2016).

American Christians don’t know how to suffer well. On the one hand, we think the life of faith should be victorious and joyful, so suffering seems like a defeat and a downer. On the other hand, because suffering seems like a defeat and a downer, it must be caused by insufficient faith or obedience on our part.

Neither hand is biblical, of course. Instead, both reflect the chirpy optimism and can-do individualism of modern culture. “If it’s going to be,” we often hear, “it’s up to me.” The corollary of this sentiment is obvious but ignored: “If it doesn’t happen, it’s my fault.”

What American Christians need is a biblical theology of suffering—one that recognizes life’s hardness without blaming the victims. Between Pain and Grace by Gerald Peterman and Andrew Schmutzer does just that. It situates Christian experience smack dab in the middle of the now-but-not-yet of the gospel:

In our current metanarrative—the overarching narrative of human life for those of Christian faith—we find two opposing qualities existing side by side; indeed, they are sometimes mixed together. First, there is death and those things that go along with it, such as suffering, sin, frustration, betrayal, violence, corruption, and groaning. Second, there are blessings of the gospel: new life, redemption, the indwelling Spirit, adoption, hope, life in God’s community, and ongoing transformation.

Truly, the Christian life means to exist between two worlds: the old world of sin, alienation, and death and the new world of righteousness, holiness, and life.

Until Christ returns, this both-and quality cannot be resolved. God alone can “wipe every tear from their eyes” with finality (Revelation 21:4). That doesn’t mean there are no actions the Christian community can take to ameliorate existing suffering or to prevent future suffering. We can and must do both. Indeed, “God always uses human agents to carry his plan forward” (emphasis in original).

Still, suffering is an intrinsic part of life in the present age, so it is a duty of Christians to understand it better so they can minister to its victims with greater compassion and healing. The authors contribute to a better understanding of suffering by outlining the “basics of affliction in Scripture” in chapter 1. Chapter 2 turns to “the relational ecosystem of sin and suffering,” that is, the relationship of God to humanity, of humans to one another, to animals, and to the inanimate created order.

Chapters 3 and 4 are theological. They describe the suffering of God and of Jesus. Against classical philosophical theism, which teaches that God does not suffer, and against panentheism, which teaches that God is not sovereign over suffering, the authors describe God as a “caring King,” the One characterized by “willing vulnerability” (emphasis in original).

Chapter 5 argues that the Church needs to recover the practice of lamentation, that is, “the language of lament.” The lament—whether individual or corporate—is the most common form of prayer in the Psalms. Contemporary Christians are often uncomfortable with laments’ frank complaining to God—e.g., “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1). Without lament, however, sufferers can’t make sense of what’s happening to or in themselves. “The very structure of lament brings shape to the formlessness of suffering.” For me personally, this was the best chapter in the book.

The remaining chapters discuss a variety of topics: “redemptive anger” (chapter 6); “suffering, prayer, and worldview” (chapter 7); “leadership and tears” (chapter 8); “family toxins” (chapter 9); sexual abuse (chapter 10); mental illness (chapter 11); and the role of the Christian community in ameliorating and preventing suffering (chapter 12). Each of these chapters mines Scripture for wisdom on the topics, as well as draws on the best of the social sciences. The discussion of “family toxins” in chapter 9, for example, puts the story of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) into fruitful dialogue with family systems therapy. It is a tour de force. Chapter 13 brings the book to a conclusion by reflecting on the “metanarrative” of Scripture, which progressives in the arc of “Creation è Devastation è Restoration.” In Christ, God’s devastated creation is being restored—at the individual, social, and cosmic levels.

Between Pain and Grace is not always easy reading, and like most books on hard topics, readers will find all sorts of nits to pick. Nonetheless, Gerald Peterman and Andrew Schmutzer have written a valuable treatment of a difficult subject. I highly recommend it.

_____
P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

 

Review of ‘The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation’ by Mary Schaller and John Crilly


The-9-Arts-of-Spiritual-ConverationMary Schaller and John Crilly, The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation: Walking Alongside People Who Believe Differently (Carol Steam, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2016).

Not long ago, I was standing in line behind a man at the checkout stand of a gas station. He paid his bill and handed the cashier something, which she received with a look of befuddlement on her face. Then he turned around, handed me something, and walked out the door. He never said a word the whole time.

I looked down and realized I was holding a self-printed evangelistic tract. My first thought was, His motivation is right. That guy took the Great Commission seriously, and good for him for doing so! My second thought was, His method is wrong. All wrong, in fact. Personal evangelism is supposed to be personal, after all. This guy had passed along information to the cashier and me, but personal evangelism is not about information. It’s about relationship, both with God and with others.

Unfortunately, too many Christians view personal evangelism through an informational lens. “What should I say?” they ask. “How should I respond to this or that objection to Christianity?” “How can I turn everyday conversations into eternal conversations?” These are excellent questions, by the way. Absent relationship, however, even the best answers aren’t likely to change the minds. Psychologically, we are more likely to change our minds or believe new things when we trust the person telling us about them. And trust is a relational issue.

Studies bear out the importance of relationship in evangelism. Research commissioned by well-known evangelist Luis Palau reveals that 75 percent of people who convert to Christianity do so through relationship with a Christian family member, friend, or colleague. The Institute of American Church Growth puts the number even higher, at 90 percent. If 75–90 percent of conversions happen because of personal relationship, the conclusion is inescapable: Billy Graham is not the best evangelist to reach your neighbor. You are.

In The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation, Mary Schaller and John Crilly show readers how to walk “alongside people who believe differently,” so that evangelism, discipleship, and spiritual growth take place organically in an authentic relationship. Schaller and Crilly are the president and former national director, respectively, of Q Place, a parachurch ministry that trains people how to start and facilitate evangelistic small groups. They write about such small groups in chapter 12, “Starting a Q Place.” As a former small groups pastor, I like Q Place’s approach to things and encourage you to check out that ministry.

However, the majority of the book isn’t about Q Place’s ministry focus. It’s about the skills necessary to form authentic relationships in which evangelism can occur organically. Schaller and Crilly divide the “9 arts of spiritual conversation” into three broad categories. Let me outline their presentation for you:

Getting Ready

  • Noticing those around me and paying close attention to what God might be doing in their lives.”
  • Praying for those I meet in my day-to-day life and asking God to show me what he wants to do to bless them.”
  • Listening with genuine care, interest, and empathy as I interact with others without editorializing or offering my own unsolicited opinions.”

Getting Started

  • Asking questions that arise from genuine curiosity, drawing others out with great questions and seeking to understand more than to be understood.”
  • Loving others authentically because I personally know God’s love and see them with his eyes.”
  • Welcoming people by valuing their presence so they feel that they belong.”

Keeping It Going

  • Facilitating good discussions in a group setting so that every person feels honored and respected, even when they believe different than I do.”
  • Serving together, gathering people to serve and know God and each other better through service.”
  • Sharing my own story, learning others’ stories, and expressing God’s story of forgiveness through Jesus in a way that is respectful and meaningful.”

With this outline in mind, you might think to yourself, Thanks, George! Now I don’t have to read the book. That would be a mistake, in my opinion, for each chapter goes into helpful detail.

For example, as I read chapter 3, “The Art of Noticing,” I was struck by how much and how often I don’t notice others. Schaller and Crilly identified four barriers to noticing—pace of life, self-focus, Christian bubble, and attitude—and I realized that I am on the wrong side of each of those barriers. I live too fast, focus on self too much, don’t get out of my Christian bubble often enough, and tend to be “judgmental” rather than “open.” Realizing this, I read the chapter with much more personal interest. My guess is that you too will find valuable insights in the authors’ treatment of at least one—if not more—of the “9 arts.”

So, who should read The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversation? Obviously, any Christian interested in doing personal evangelism. Small groups pastors and small group facilitators might want to use this book in for self-development and training purposes. It’s a good book, and I’m happy to recommend it.

_____
P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘The Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud


The-Power-of-the-OtherHenry Cloud, The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have on You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond—and What to Do About It (New York: Harper Business, 2016).

Leaders often say, “It’s lonely at the top.” That’s true, of course—at least to an extent—but it’s also tragic. Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely.

In fact, as Dr. Henry Cloud argues in The Power of the Other, success depends on relationship. “The undeniable reality,” he writes, “is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do and how you do it, your skills and competencies, but also on who is doing it with you or to you” (emphasis in original).

But not just any relationship! What leaders need is “specific qualitiative relational connectedness” (emphasis in original). This is what Cloud calls “True Connection” or “Corner Four relationship.”

In Corner One relationships, leaders feel “disconnected.” He writes: “True connection always means being emotionally and functionally invested in other people, in a give-and-receive dynamic. Disconnection lacks something, in one direction or the other—either in the giving or the receiving. Truly connected people do both. They are emotionally present and able to give and to receive.”

In Corner Two relationships, leaders have “a bad connection.” They experience a “connection, preoccupation, or pull toward a person who has the effect of making you feel bad or ‘not good enough’ in some way” (emphasis in original). Think of a son trying to gain the respect of a hypercritical dad or an employee trying to please a boss who rarely praises employees.

In Corner Three relationships, leaders form a “seductively false ‘good connection.’” In this corner, leaders gravitate toward relationships that make them feel good. They cultivate people who flatter and praise them but overlook people in the organization who bear bad news. People in high-stress jobs who live in Corner Three often find themselves engaging in extramarital affairs or using addictive substances to maintain an artificial “high.”

None of these corners is a good place to be. Leaders need to go to Corner Four. Here, leaders form a “real connection” with others, “one in which you can be your whole self, the real, authentic you, a relationship to which you can bring your heart, mind, soul, and passion. Both parties to the relationship are wholly present, known, understood, and mutually invested. What each truly thinks, feels, believes, fears, and needs can be shared safely.”

In contemporary parlance, authenticity is often interpreted in non-relational terms. “I gotta be me!” people exclaim. The problem is that this understanding of authenticity is individualistic, not relational. “I gotta be me” is often used to slough off or criticize the counsel others are trying to give us. That’s not what Corner Four looks like.

Instead, Cloud identifies eight characteristics of Corner Four relationships. True connection:

  • fuels,
  • gives freedom,
  • requires responsibility,
  • defangs failure,
  • challenges and pushes,
  • builds structure,
  • unites instead of divides,
  • and is trustworthy.

When we truly connect with others, they help us draw out the full potential of who we really are and what we can truly be. Relationship makes authenticity possible.

Cloud opens the book with a story that I’ll close with. It’s about “Hell Week,” the final week of training for Navy SEALs. That week is “a grueling exercise requiring the utmost physical and mental endurance, pushing these already-at-the-top specimens to their absolute limits.” Cloud’s brother-in-law Mark was a Navy SEAL who was later killed in Iraq. In the days after Mark’s death, Bryce, one of Mark’s fellow SEALs told, how he almost failed “Hell Week.”

He was swimming in the cold Pacific Ocean after a week of grueling training. A way from the shore, he “hit the wall.” Cloud comments, “He tried to will himself to keep going, but his body would not obey.” It was at that moment that Bryce looked up and saw Mark, who had already reached land. Mark caught his eye, gave him a fist pump, and yelled an encouraging, “You can do it!” And that was all Bryce needed. “His body jumped into another gear,” Cloud writes, “into another dimension of performance that he had not had access to before…That is the ‘power of the other.’”

To be one’s true self, to reach one’s full potential—whether as a leader, a spouse, a parent, or whatever—you and I need others. Authenticity requires relationship. That’s what The Power of the Other is all about.

I recommend the book highly.

_____
P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.

Review of ‘The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep’ by David Satter


The-Less-You-Know-the-Better-You-SleepDavid Satter, The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016).

“In the absence of justice,” asked Augustine in The City of God, “what is sovereignty but organized brigandage?” Organized brigandage is a good way to describe the Russian state that has emerged under the leadership of first Boris Yeltsin and now Vladimir Putin. Indeed, without mentioning Augustine, Satter describes Russian government as “banditry in the guise of a state.” The first five chapters of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep provide the evidentiary basis for this claim.

Chapter 1 argues that Russia’s Federal Security Service—the FSB—organized the bombings of several apartment buildings in the fall of 1999 and blamed them on Chechen terrorists. This provided newly elected president Vladimir Putin justification to launch the second Russian war in Chechnya, a “patriotic” war that unified the country behind his leadership against “terrorism.” Satter’s case is circumstantial, but it is also strong.

Chapter 2 describes the “chaos and criminality” that permeated the Russian government, economy, and society during Boris Yeltsin’s tenure as president. Yeltsin had emerged as a popular reformer after the fall of the Soviet Union. The goal of his reforms was to ensure a “point of no return” for socialism. This entailed a rapid privatization of state industries and properties. Privatization sounds like a capitalist goal, but as Satter points out, “by carrying out the largest peaceful transfer of property in history without benefit of law, the reformers created the conditions for the criminalization of the whole country.” He goes on: “The new society that emerged had three outstanding characteristics: an economy dominated by a criminal oligarchy, an authoritarian political system, and, perhaps most important, a moral degradation that subverted all legal and ethical standards and made real civil society impossible.”

During the 1990s, the Russian people experienced a massive decline in wealth, health, and personal security, and their discontent endangered the Yeltsin regime. This sense of endangerment, Satter argues, explains why the FSB carried out the apartment bombings against its own people. The provocation helped focus the Russian people’s attention on an external enemy and presented the government of newly elected president Putin as their national savior. (Interestingly, one of Putin’s first acts was to grant Yeltsin, his family, and cronies immunity from prosecution.)

Chapter 3 picks up the story with the transfer of power of Yeltsin to Putin. Satter writes: “The creation and consolidation of the Putin-era system involved installing a vertical chain of command and eliminating alternative centers of power.” This “power vertical” coincided with rising Russian fortunes due to its revenue from oil and gas sales. When the economy is bad, people are more likely to pay attention to deficiencies in the regime. On the other hand, when it’s good, they’re less likely to do so. Rising wealth led many Russians to overlook Putin’s consolidation of power, or even justify it. (Interestingly, Putin’s personal wealth is estimated by some Western governments and media to approach $40 billion, carefully hidden, of course.)

Chapter 4 focuses on two hostage-taking incidents that demonstrated the “negligible value of human life” in the eyes of the Russian state. In October 2002, Chechen terrorists seized a theater in Moscow. In September 2004, they seized a school in Beslan. In both cases, they took a thousand or more hostages. And in both cases, the state responded with lethal violence, killing not only the terrorists but hundreds of the hostages too. Satter provides circumstantial evidence that “the government had a role in instigating the original attacks [of the terrorists].” Unfortunately, both hostage-taking incidents “were immensely helpful to Putin’s efforts to depict himself as a foe of terrorism and to legitimize the war in Chechnya to both Russia and the West.”

Chapter 5 deals with the Russian invasion of the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. In 2011, Putin, after a four-year hiatus as Russian prime minister, ran once again to be Russian president, successfully. Tens of thousands protested against his fraudulent election. At around the same time, Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev to protest their own corrupt president, successfully driving him out of the country. Taking stock of what could be his fate, Putin decided to act and invaded Ukraine, conquering the Crimea and backing a faux independence movement in eastern Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians lived.

Chapter 6 turns from history to the future, asking what is Russia’s fate. Unfortunately, the answer is grim. “Russia faces a darkening future.” What is needed, Satter believes, is “a truth commission, like South Africa’s Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, that is able to examine dispassionately the crimes of postcommunist regimes and make then known to the Russian people.” Given the violence that Satter argues the Russian state has been willing so far to perpetrate against its own people to ensure its own survival, however, how likely is such a commission to come about?

The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep is a dark book, and for those raised in the West, a confounding one. How can a government be organized along the lines of such criminality? We Westerners, with our ideals of individual rights and good government have difficulty wrapping our minds around the kinds of things Satter reports. They don’t make sense to us; they’re not believable, which makes the task of understanding Russia complex.

“Understanding Russia is actually very easy,” Satter counters, “but one must teach oneself to do something that is very hard—to believe the unbelievable.” He goes on: “Once one accepts that the impossible is really possible, the degradation of the Yeltsin years and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power make perfect sense.”

_____
P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘The Bible in America’ by Barna Group


The-Bible-in-AmericaBarna Group, The Bible in America: The Changing Landscape of Bible Perceptions and Engagement (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2016).

Barna Group’s new report, The Bible in America, contains good news and bad news.

First, the good news: “Americans hold the Bible in high regard.” Eighty-one percent of them consider it a “holy book.” Sixty-eight percent think it’s a “comprehensive guide to a meaningful life.” Fifty-one percent believe it has “too little” influence on American society. Among U.S. adults, 49 percent of men and 59 percent of women consider the Bible either the “actual word of God” or the “inspired word of God.” In both cases, they believe the Bible is inerrant.

Switching from beliefs about the Bible to engagement with it, Barna reports: “More than half of the U.S. population is engaged with or friendly toward the Bible. The term Bible engaged describes a person who “has a high view of Scripture and reads the Bible four or more times a week.” Seventeen percent of American adults fit this description. The term Bible friendly describes a person with “a high view of Scripture but who reads it less frequently.” Thirty-seven percent of Americans fit into this category.

Here’s the bad news, which Barna president David Kinnaman outlines in his introduction to the report:

  1. Increasing skepticism. More people have more questions about the origins, relevance and authority of the Bible.
  2. A new moral code. Self-fulfillment has become the cultural measure of what is good, setting up a conflict between society and the Church.
  3. Digital access. New tools and technologies are making the Bible—and everything else—more accessible than ever before.

Barna’s conclusions track with what other researchers are finding. For example, “increasing skepticism” correlates with what the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life describes as the “rise” of the “Nones,” i.e., adults who have no religious affiliation. Both increased skepticism and decreased religious affiliation are more noticeable in younger generations (e.g., Millennials) than in older generations.

Similarly, the “new moral code” of “self-fulfillment” tracks with what sociologist Christian Smith refers to as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Americans, even younger Americans, believe in God. However, the god they believe in basically wants people to be nice (“moralistic”) and happy (“therapeutic”). In such a culture, Jesus’ statement about denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Him (Matthew 16:24) doesn’t resonate with many.

Kinnaman doesn’t describe “digital access” as bad news. I do. Greater access to the Bible is indisputably good news. It’s the easy access to “everything else”—including skeptical information about the Bible and a media saturated with messages about self-fulfillment—that worries me. Perhaps we should say that digital access is ambivalent, good or bad depending on how it is used.

So, on the one hand, a majority of Americans hold high views of the Bible and are “engaged” with or “friendly” toward it. On the other hand, a rising number of them dispute its divine origins and/or don’t engage with it at all. This is the contemporary cultural context in which Christians live and serve.

Barna concludes its report with ten “insights to propel [readers] to prayer and action.” Let me cite just two.

First, priority should be given to reaching younger generations. “Without intervention, the future of Bible engagement is less bright than the past, and there is no clearer portrait of this reality than the Millennial generation. Although Millennials Christians continue to stoke a bright flame of passion for the Scriptures, their numbers are dwindling and their non-believing and non-practicing peers have put the Bible on a dusty shelf.” To prioritize their concerns requires taking their hard, skeptical questions seriously. It means showing how the Bible addresses their concerns—for justice, for example—in a meaningful, substantive way.

Second, “digital tools are tools, not magic bullets.” Too many churches and Christian leaders think they can reach younger generations with lights, sounds, and a digitally hip ambience to church. The problem with this line of thinking is that the club down the street has a better audiovisual setup. Applied to the Bible, yes, the available digital tools are amazing. But skeptics have good digital tools too. Churches should use digital tools—for worship and for Scripture study—wisely. But they should also remember that tools are just that: means to an end, a method for achieving a solution. They’re not the end or the solution themselves.

The Bible in America was commissioned by the American Bible Society and draws on what Kinnaman describes as “one of the largest sets of aggregate data [Barna] has ever collected on any single topic.” It’s an eye-opening, suggestive report, and if you’re a pastor or church leader, I recommend that you read it.

Check out my Influence Podcast interview with David Kinnaman on The Bible in America!

P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

Review of ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth


GritAngela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York: Scribner, 2016).

Every year, approximately 14,000 high school juniors apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Of these, about 4,000 secure the necessary nomination from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate or from the vice president. Of these, around 2,500 meet West Point’s standards for academics and physical fitness. Of these, only 1,200 are granted admission. And among these, approximately 20 percent drop out before graduation. In other words, only 7 percent of high school juniors who apply to West Point actually graduate from it.

Angela Duckworth cites these statistics at the outset of Grit in order to ask a simple question: Why do some people succeed? That question is relevant to military training, of course, but also to a host of other endeavors: business, education, athletics, entertainment, artistry, technical trades, etc. In any field of effort, some people rise to the top. What psychological factors explain their achievement?

A common answer is “genius,” which describes a knack or talent for something. We look at child prodigies and think, They will do great things. Success is simply in their nature. Angela Duckworth thinks the “genius” argument is not helpful. When we focus on natural talent, we begin to think that success in a given endeavor is pre-determined. And we overlook other factors that might be in play.

Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2013 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship—the so-called “genius grant.” Over the years, she has amassed a growing body of research to indicate that “grit” is more important than “genius” when it comes to determining success. Her book explains what grit is and why it matters (Part I), how to grow grit from the inside out (Part II), and how to grow grit from the outside in (Part III).

First, the definition: Grit is a “combination of passion and perseverance.” Duckworth writes: “no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. [That’s perseverance.] Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. [That’s passion.] They not only had determination, they had direction” (emphasis in original).

In defining grit this way, Duckworth isn’t knocking the role of genius or talent. She’s simply putting it in a larger context. A genius may fail through lack of grit, whereas a non-genius might succeed through abundance of it. Indeed, her data indicates that grit is a better predictor of success than genius or talent. (The smartest and most physically able West Point applicants did not necessarily make it through to graduation, for example.)

A crucial tenet of grit theory is that grit can be developed. And if it can be developed, then greater levels of achievement can be earned. That brings us to the second part of Duckworth’s book: how to develop grit from the inside out. These chapters focus on the psychology of the would-be achiever. Gritty people have four key “psychological assets”:

  • Interest: “intrinsically enjoying what you do”
  • Practice: “the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday”
  • Purpose: “the conviction that your work matters,” that it is “integrally connected to the well-being of others”
  • Hope: “the expectation that our efforts can improve our future”

Duckworth describes each of these assets using both anecdotes and data, and she offers practical advice for how to develop these assets personally.

The third section of Grit shows how passion and perseverance can be instilled in us through the example and advice of others. Here, Duckworth focuses on the roles that parents, teachers, extracurricular activities, and culture—corporate or team culture, not national culture—can play in growing gritty individuals. There’s sound, practical advice for leaders in these chapters. As a parent, I was particularly drawn to her advocacy of “wise parenting,” which strives to create an environment for children that is both supportive (“I love you”) and demanding (“You can do better”).

Although Grit examines the psychology of achievement from a secular point of view, I cannot help but think, as a minister, that it can shine some light on the ministries of the local church too. In the Pentecostal tradition, we often look for “calling” and “giftedness,” which are the spiritual analogs to “genius” and “talent.” There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because God does call and gift people for ministry, whether ordained or lay.

The problem is, too often, we only look at those elements. So, we hire the charismatic preacher or the enthusiastic youth pastor or the worship pastor who’s a musical prodigy and are surprised when they crash and burn. Worse, we overlook the less-charismatic preacher or the slow-and-steady youth pastor or the worship pastor who has to work hard to get the song service ready because their “calling” and “giftedness” are less obvious at first glance. Perhaps what we need is a more thorough way of examining grittiness in ministerial candidates, of their passion for and perseverance in ministry over time. The slow burn is far stronger than a flash in the pan.

I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend Grit, whatever your context. As a husband, parent, minister, and PhD student, the book kept shining light on areas where I can cultivate greater passion and perseverance regarding long-term goals, and in the process, experience better results. I think you’ll find the book similarly illuminating.

_____
P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review.