Book Review: “Leading From Your Strengths” (Jun-Jul 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by Greg Taylor
June – July, 2004

Leading From Your Strengths: Building Close-Knit Ministry Teams
John Trent, Rodney Cox, Eric Tooker

(Broadman & Holman, 2004). | $12.99 hardback 112 pgs ISBN 0-8054-3061-X

There is scant scientific evidence to prove this, but in my fifteen years of ministry experience, ministry teams break apart more often because of “team shock” – personality conflict and tense team dynamics – than any other cause.

Can teams do anything to lower the chances of blowing apart due to personality conflicts and tensions? Yes. John Trent’s new book and Leading From Your Strengths process is “all about knowing your God-given strengths, understanding and valuing the strengths of others, and blending the differences to reduce frustration, increase closeness, decrease conflict, and dramatically increase caring and commitment on your team.”

Trent and co-authors Cox and Tooker use an analogy of your ministry team rafting a river as a way of describing the process of learning to work together to navigate the torturous white water of life together and ministry. Also, the book comes with an offer for a free online personality assessment. The book has a reference number that you enter on their Leading From Your Strengths Web site. In addition, Trent uses his classic system of dividing personality types into Lion (conductor), Otter (promoter), Beaver (analyzer), and Golden Retriever (supporter). Of course there is much more depth to the system explained both in the book and web site.

The mission team I worked with in Uganda talked about personality both as a way to understand each other and a humorous way to break the ice of tense situations: when a lion roared or an otter embarrassed others, a golden retriever tried to please everyone and made the rest of us look like chumps to the Ugandans, or a beaver would expect everyone else to work the same long hours as he or she did.

I began talking about “team shock” when individuals both on my own mission team in Uganda and on a variety of other teams I have come in contact with over the last decade expressed personality conflict in their ranks. This anxiety missionaries and ministry team members anywhere in the world – not only overseas missions – feel about their work, their environment, very often is a symptom of deeper relational problems with one or more team members.

Before we ever launched into ministry, our mission team spent years together, meeting, getting to know one another’s families, backgrounds, stories. We knew the mess that each of us brought to the table and we eventually came to accept one another as we were as we challenged one another to become what Christ is making us daily.

If you are involved with a ministry team, church staff, supporting a mission team or an elder overseeing a church staff, Trent’s book can be a helpful guide down the white water of “team shock.”New Wineskins

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Book Review: The God of Second Chances (Apr 2013)

By Matt Dabbs

By Greg Taylor

What stands out about Ron Clark’s book is that he stands with one foot planted firmly in the world of the text and one foot planted firmly in the world of incarnational ministry. This reminds me of N.T. Wright, who has made it his life’s work to stand in the middle of the academy and the church. Sometimes neither of those worlds truly appreciates what is being done for us, but what Clark does is one notch up the ladder of concrete ministry from N.T. Wright.

Clark’s book is the first in a series of three for ministers, Christians and anyone wanting to participate in an incarnational approach to God’s mission in the world, “the vision Jesus has for all people.” Clark plans books on Luke and Acts as well.

Where Wright is dealing with the text for the academy and the church, Clark is dealing with the text for the church but also doing real incarnational ministry himself on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

In a way, Clark is doing what Charles Campbell calls, “Dislocated Readings.” He is taking texts of the prophets of Israel’s exile and bringing them to bear on the world today, on the streets, to and with people in pain, suffering. For example, he wonders what Obadiah would say to us when we form opinions or “positions” on illegal immigration.

<blockquote>When it comes to the current conversation about “illegal immigrants” in our country God’s people are forced into the discussion. While I understand both sides of the arguments involving the effects of having people come to the United States without the proper documentation, I know that Obadiah calls us to ask the question, what does compassion say to the issue? Are we bringing this question to the table when we work in our community?</blockquote>

What Clark does instead of taking positions is to go to the prophets. What did they say to these same kinds of situations, and he doesn’t do that by standing above the text but by loving the people in the Agape Church, neighbors, and friends. And it seems Clark knows no strangers on the streets of Portland.

<blockquote>I have for years taken homeless people in Portland to lunch and asked if they were safe. I have at times eaten lunch with them on the sides of streets. The homeless are correct when they tell us that people criticize them, ignore them, or look at them with disgust. I have sat by their side when this happened. It is intimidating. It is embarrassing. It sometimes is a reminder of what I have done to them in the past.</blockquote>

After surveying and deeply explicating texts from Jeremiah, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Joel, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, Clark turns to what these and other prophecies say about the Messiah, and he discusses Jesus Christ (Messiah) and his role as “Lord, Savior, and Messiah” and “The New Moses.”

<blockquote>Jesus came to save people. However, this salvation does not refer to a simple prayer or guarantee that we will one day go to heaven. Salvation involved restoration, reconciliation, and reunion with God. Jesus brought people into relationship with the Creator. Salvation suggests relationship and peace with God. The pouring out, baptism, and covering with the Spirit also symbolized human relationships with God through Jesus. Christians today must embrace Jesus as the God of second chances in both their own lives and the lives of others.</blockquote>

‘The God of Second Chances‘ by Ron Clark’
The crossover book is a difficult one for some people to swallow. Those who like Christian books that tell true stories from the experiences of the disciple writing the book, personal stories that show faith lived out, will find a book full of these challenging, inspiring stories that may even make you cringe, look at yourself and your own life and what the exilic prophets might say to you today. On the other hand, those who expect weighty biblical explications and not lightweight fluffy prooftexts — unfortunately too often found in a lot of popular books these days — will find in Clark’s The God of Second Chances a book that speaks truth through solid exegesis and exposition of the exilic prophets, who still speak to us today.

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