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Welcome to the May, 2008 edition of Leader's Edge Book Summary. The following summaries are provided by The Mission Exchange and David Mays, Director of Learning Initiatives. Click on any image below to read the full summary. Send your thoughts and ideas to .

Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God

Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder

Raising More than Money

Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God
Spirituality for the Rest of Us

Author: Larry Osborne

Publisher: Multnomah Books, 2007, 219 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-59052-794-8

Visit The Visual Church

Larry Osborne is the pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, CA. He challenges many of our accepted ideas about what produces spirituality because we often focus on the procedures more than the results and set standards that God doesn't require. Osborne defines spirituality, describes growth, and examines what God desires from us. The book is not as contrary as the title might imply. If you feel comfortable grabbing information you like and letting the rest go, you will find it very refreshing.

Chapter 7. The Dimmer Switch Principle

When people ask for advice they often want confirmation. We've all had times when we knew what God wanted us to do but we decided to follow our own wisdom or desire. When that happens, we treat God as a consultant rather than as God. We are asking for advice but we are making the decisions. However, God doesn't do consulting. When we don't respond to his direction, he pulls back some of the light he's already given. This is the "Dimmer Switch Principle." When we respond to the light we have, God gives us more. When we don't, he takes away some of the light we already have.

As we walk in obedience, the spiritual picture becomes clearer. This is incredibly encouraging. I can please God because it's not a matter of how much I know or how long I've been at it. It's a matter of what I do with what I already have that matters to Him.

This involves three parts. First, we must remove as much static as possible by obeying what we already know. Second, we must be open to the help and insight of other believers. Third, we must be willing to let God really change us. When I don't want to do what God wants, I pray that he will help me want to do it.

"Have you noticed that most of our programs and models for spiritual development follow a strict linear pattern? Step one, followed by step two, and so on. Yet, if we stop and look back at our own spiritual journey, few of us will find anything close to a neatly laid out linear path." "Most spiritual growth happens on a haphazard need-to-grow or need-to-know basis." "Life happens, and growth kicks in." (53-4)

"The primary reason to be in a small group...is connectedness. ...transparent relationships velcroes me to the people and information I'll need when a need-to-grow or need-to-know crisis shows up." "We're already positioned to get the help we need when we need it." "Close and transparent relationships also allow peer pressure to do its good work." "The best way to produce that kind of spirituality is to hang around those who are already experiencing it." (63-67)

"So what does God want from us?" "He wants obedience to the light we have." "Bottom line: God wants us to trust him - to trust him enough to do what he says, no matter how we feel or how certain we are that things will work out." "It has nothing to do with feelings or mental imagery. It has to do with obedience." "The important lesson is that God is pleased with obedience, even when we expect the worst." "He wants faith that acts and obeys, even when it's riddled with doubts." (102-112)

"The Bible nowhere calls for us to have a balanced life." "When we're juggling competing priorities, our ultimate goal is not to be perfectly balanced. The goal is to fulfill God's calling without falling over." "...we each have a unique calling and role to play. Playing our role well sometimes demands being out of balance somewhere else." "Life ... goes through seasons and ... each season has its own special responsibilities and assignments." "What does God want me to do today?" "Is anything so out of balance that it's harming my health, relationships, or walk with God?" "Appropriate balance can't be defined by a schedule or a checklist. It's defined by that sweet spot where we're pursuing whatever helps us play out our role better, avoiding whatever sidetracks us or causes us to fail, and ignoring most of the rest." (152-157)

"Neither our conscience nor the results of our decisions are accurate measures of our spirituality or our relationships with God. Both can be incredibly deceiving." "Unfortunately, the role of our conscience is misunderstood... It's ... like a thermostat we can adjust to a higher or lower temperature. Once set to the standards we believe in, it clicks in - but only when we begin to violate our own standards, not God's." (160)

The Bible says of King Asa, "Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life." (I Kings 15:14) God had said to destroy the high places and Asa didn't do it? How could he be fully committed? Yet God said he was.

In fact, we all have our "high places," our blind spots, areas where we simply don't get it. Martin Luther was anti-semitic. Many American Christians supported slavery and segregation. Yet God uses people who have blind spots.

In someone else, a blind spot looks like pure disobedience. A genuine blind spot is different from willful disobedience. It is something I honestly don't see, a truth I'm unable to grasp or an issue I've not yet come to grips with. The idea that God makes allowances for some sins is hard to swallow, especially when it's not one of our sins.

Knowing this helps me to see others differently, to be less quick to assail those who hold viewpoints and positions that strike me as out of line with Scripture. What may look like a hard heart or deliberate disobedience might be a "blind spot," like King Asa's. It also helps me to remember that the speck I hardly notice in my eye may really be a log.

If you are harvesting this illustration for future consideration, file it under judging, blind spots, perceptions.

Is it a sin to be average? Reading Christian literature gives the idea that we're all called to do great things for God. But if you're not the ambitious type are you unspiritual? Is there room in the kingdom for mediocrity? Can the average person please God? What about simple people who love God, their family and friends, and never do anything outstanding? And never want to? Some wonderful people of integrity and obedience simply will never register much on the impact meter. Does everyone have to become a leader? The goal is not to lead but to know and please God.

Tools or Rules? Rules must be obeyed. Tools are task-specific. The standard spiritual disciplines are tools. Don't use a tool because people say it's the best tool. Use the tool that helps accomplish the task at hand. Try all the spiritual discipline tools. Keep what works. Look at your life. Be honest and ask yourself where you most need to grow. Where do you need to change? What spiritual discipline will help you make that change? Pick that one. Apply the proper tool to your situation. Know yourself and what kinds of things work for you.

David's Recommendation:
On your own or with your team, make a list of the spiritual tools available to you. What ones do you use routinely?
What ones have you tried rarely or not at all?
Identify a growth area.
What tool(s) do you think would be most useful?
Outline a plan for employing the best spiritual discplines for that area.
Check in with your team in your regular meeting time. How is God working in your life through your spiritual tools?

To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the link below:

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Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder

Author: Paul R. Ford

Publisher: ChurchSmart Resources, 2006, 213 pp.,
ISBN: 1-889638-58-7

Paul Ford is a leadership and teambuilding specialist working with church leaders in several countries for Church Resource Ministries. Ford argues that too many churches have become enamored with the business climbing-the-ladder leadership model. The first half of the book explores the problems that face us and the second half gives prescriptions for change.

The gift of leadership is one among a number of gifts, a subset of a larger group of equipping gifts. Leadership actually consists of several functions best fulfilled by a group of people. God's ultimate strategy is relationships. Gifts are for the purpose of serving others.

Chapter 4. The Body of Christ and Biblical Leadership

The Body is more like a growing, life-giving organism than a highly structured organization. Throughout most of the world, authority is based on relationships. Teaching or leading without a relational bond doesn't work. The business leader model encourages us to pursue the end result; however, God appears to be more interested in the process of relationships. By living with twelve men, Jesus showed how community develops. God is the composer of his masterpiece and he designs the parts of the body for their respective roles; we don't get to choose our part. We are all on the same level; there are no ladders. Perhaps God does not need as much organizational and strategic help as we have thought.

"Historically, the leadership gift was a subset of the larger group of equipping gifts that God has given so that the whole body of players can be prepared, mentored, or trained for their God-designed role. However, the equipping gifts have become a subset of leadership." "Let's move the leadership gift back into its proper place, as one of the valuable equipping spiritual gifts that are used powerfully for kingdom-building purposes." (30)

"If the American dream is based on anything, it is on the idea that anybody can make it to the top." "When people are climbing, this has a dramatic impact on how they work together in a given ministry." "There is no ladder to climb in the kingdom, only relationships in which to be faithful." (52-55)

"More and more evangelical leadership spends its energies promoting leadership- or vision-driven organization rather than healthy, multiplying relationships." (69)

"Jesus, the gift-giver, gives certain believers gifts that are to 'equip, prepare, establish or strengthen' Christians for service to the Lord and to fellow humankind." "The biblical priority is that the saints be prepared for ministry, not simply led." (101)

"We simply cannot reach the world as the living body of Christ with current Christian organizational models." "The wisdom and power flow primarily through our relationship with Christ and our organic or natural interconnectedness within the body - relationships!" (137-138)

"People are looking for authenticity and truth revealed in real people and genuine relationships, where the message and the messengers have the same integrity." "With unbelievers, in fact, using our gifts becomes our most supernatural means of serving and loving them." (191-192)

"When I began to train national Christian leaders in their own countries, I was full of content! I was a 'master trainer' with impeccable Christian credentials from the U.S., with great biblical vision and clear principles. I thought I knew what would work in their settings. I had a clear picture of what my desired results were, and how my prepared curriculum of material would help these first generation leaders effect changes in the Christian movement in their countries."

"However, a funny thing happened on the way to my training objectives. I discovered that the Russians, the Kazakhs, and the Tamil-speaking Indians were not applying the principles I was giving them. It turns out that I did not yet have 'right relationships.' As a teacher, I learned over the next several trips that content presented without relationship brought little learning and no fruit in application. I could not get even a fair hearing no matter how great were the principles I was teaching!"

"As I returned for the third and fourth and fifth times, something noteworthy bgan to happen with those brothers and sisters I had come to train. Suddenly people began to listen to me and to apply the biblical principles. I was beginning to understand the primacy of relationships was significantly different from the individualistic U.S. culture from which I came."

"I was beginning to understand cultures where the key for doing business or creating change was relationship - not money or position or power or education. I had no position or power or value without relationship." "The content had to be wrapped in relational clothing or it would not be received."

This illustration gives us a real clue to the centrality of relationships in the first century. Jesus called his disciples "friends" and the church was referred to as "households." "God appears to be much more interested in the process of relationships along the way - whatever the goal or end result." (78-79)

If you are harvesting this illustration for future consideration, file it under relationships, biblical leadership, or biblical authority.

All the commotion about leadership is a recent phenomenon. There was no distinction between ministry and leadership in the early church. Ministry is not about the leader but about the relationships and gifts of the body. The focus is not on the leader but on being stewards, equippers, and ministers. The tasks of leadership are fulfilled most powerfully by a number of gifted players, not one.

God's leadership plan is that it be a shared process wherein the Holy Spirit distributes gifts and empowers a group of equippers.

David's Recommendation:
In your team or group, discuss Ford's thesis. Select the most appropriate of the following questions. With regard to your church or organization:

  • How much emphasis should be on the leader?
  • Is "climbing the ladder" a hidden problem?
  • Are we taking sober estimation of ourselves individually?
  • How are our relationships?
  • Is reconciliation needed anywhere?
  • What would it mean in our organization for leadership to be a shared process of gifted equippers?
  • How does God desire to orchestrate the equipping and ministry of our group?
  • What could we change that would encourage and assist team members to exercise their gifts in our body?

To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the link below:

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Raising More than Money
Redefining Generosity - Reflecting God

Author: Doug M. Carter

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2007, 159 pp.,
ISBN: c978-1-4185-1957-5

Dr. Doug Carter is a Senior Vice President of EQUIP, the global leadership development ministry headed by John Maxwell. Givers are more than donors: they are partners in ministry. The development representative views every individual as a unique creation with the potential to make a difference. He or she provides an opportunity for real people to meet real needs in the lives of real people.

Chapter 12. A Closer Look at L.E.A.D. Them

L.E.A.D. is an acronym for Lay out the dream; Explain the strategy; Ask them for partnership; and Deliver what you promise. Good development representatives and all conversations are motivated by the organization's vision of needs met and lives changed. The giver, however, is not just a source of income but a partner in ministry and the gift is one step in a journey of ministry together.

The request for funds must be "personal, passionate, and purposeful." Make your requests face-to-face, with a sense of urgency. Spell out the difference that the donor's gift will make. Talk freely about the size and scope of the need. Be honest. And don't ask for too little. Relationship building takes time. If you receive a negative response, assume the 'no' means 'not now.' Continue to build the relationship.

Asking implies that the funds given will bring about a specific result. Underpromise and overdeliver! It's great to report to a giver that his gift has produced better results than expected. Communicate results accurately and honestly. "Givers don't expect organizations to be perfect, but they do expect organizational leaders to be honest - 100 percent of the time!"

"When most people reflect upon their years on earth they will realize they did not live a significant life precisely because it was so easy to settle for a successful one." (27, quoting Dave Anderson)

"There's no such thing as being right with God and being wrong with your money." (79)

"But 'raising money' has never been the objective. My passion has been to minister to God's people by helping them experience the fulfillment of practicing biblical stewardship. After all, development work done God's way isn't about raising money. It is about helping people understand that as faithful stewards, we are reflecting the giving nature of Christ." (93)

"William Sturtevant, in his book The Artful Journey, asserts that the first important characteristic of an outstanding fund-raiser is impeccable character. 'The second most important characteristic,' he then declares, 'fortunately one that can be learned, is effective listening.'" (107)

"If I could offer only one word of advice to nonprofit organizations, it would be: Involve your givers in hands-on ministry." (131)


According to Timothy Smith (Donors Are People Too), a good development representative begins with this question: Is there a way I can minister to this person? Can I invest in, be helpful to, pray for, and love this person? We become stakeholders in each other's lives. Raising money is not the objective. If the person eventually gives to my organization, that will be a by-product of the relationship. I focus on them. I'm growing friends.

Honest and frequent communication is the key to maintaining relationships. Acknowledge gifts promptly by a phone call or a handwritten note following the receipt of a gift. Thank them often. Gratitude is the underpinning of every contact with givers. Keep several key issues in mind: Results, Competence, Trust, Significance, Relationships, Results. Begin and end with results.

David's Recommendation:
Whether you are a professional fund raiser or are raising your own financial support, ask yourself some questions about your relationships with your donors:

  • When was the last time I wrote a handwritten note?
  • When was the last time I had a face-to-face visit?
  • How frequently do they hear from me by email?
  • What have I told them about my plans and results?
  • Do I express my gratefulness in every contact?
  • Do I pray for my donors as friends?
  • What step do I need to take?

To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the link below:

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Although readers may not agree with all the statements or positions of the authors, we believe, on the whole, books summarized in Leader's Edge will inform, stimulate, and provoke profitable discussion.