Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: February 2017

The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish: A Review

What an oddly enjoyable book. I am sure you have heard, never judge a book by it’s cover, but I did. In a good way. I mean, come on, what an odd title – The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish. I thought to myself, either this guy Hal West is either uber creative or he’s just mad at the state of the church and trying to sneak in judgment through creativity. First impressions had me leaning towards the later. For those that know me, I am man enough to admit defeat and say I was wrong, and boy was I wrong.

Hal West in The Pickled Priests and the Perishing Parish is like traveling with a older, wiser, and humorous mentor who has watched and participated (and at times shunned) the radical changing trends of the church through a life of faithfulness. Nevertheless, when many boomer-aged pastors are looking for the greener pasture of a ninth hole fairway, West feels his time to truly make an impact is now. Not only is this a solid read for pastors who are just now coming into their own  and needing advice on what church was in the past by a true practitioner, but it is also a wonderful read for boomer age pastors to realize the value they still can add to the church. West is truly the humorous and whimsical Gandalf for the hobbit-like pastors who need guidance on their journey and for the elders who still need to stick around to share the wisdom of the past so we all do not make the same mistakes previous church leaders have made.

Before we go too far, one important note, Hal West is not a priest and has not ever lived in a parish. He utilizes this terminology because of the power it elicits for spiritual guidance and the longevity inherent within.  Pastors are to be the long term, spiritual leaders of their community. With modern pastors moving and changing jobs so often, no wonder little to no impact has been made over the last decade or more. Being the constant figure in the community someone can go for spiritual insight and reprieve from a world gone wrong, this is the message many boomer pastors can pass down to their proteges. Instead of lamenting the rise of the young, rock-star, self centered pastor, those who have pastored faithfully for years can pass on wisdom only found in the truly faithful – those on whom we build our legacy.

The overall message is one all spiritual leaders must face – to get past our “pickled” perspective, regardless of tenure perspectives to approach the transformation of the church with an open mind as to proved spiritual vision and restoration to the modern church and to the souls they serve regularly. West does the best I have seen from a boomer leader through humor and through poignant experiences that qualify him to be a coach and consultant to other boomer leaders and especially to the rising generation of spiritual leaders.

I highly recommend this book to two major groups – boomer age pastors and young pastors. Truly the book does such an amazing job speaking to the issues of older leaders fighting change and younger leaders feeling like everything must change. There is a middle ground that is often ignored, but not by West. I also recommend this book to anyone who feels that their aging pastor has become too “pickled” to change and transition which can be hurting the overall health and growth of the church. West understands how they feel and where they are coming from and his book can offer needed advice to change for the betterment of their spiritual journey as well as the church they love and serve.

The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish is a humour, heartfelt read by a pastor with a huge, humble heart for his contemporaries and the next generation of rising spiritual leaders. Younger pastors need the wisdom of the experienced pastor and seasoned pastors need to hear out the new perspectives the next generation brings so that everyone can reach their full redemptive potential in the communities they serve.

This book is a wonderful primer for such a timely, needed conversation!

West, Hal. The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish: Boomer Pastors Bouncing Back. Nashville: Westbow Press, 2016. 130pp. $15.00.

*I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. 

Killing Us Softly: A Review

 

Growing up, one of my favorite groups was The Fugees. One of their hit songs is Killing Me Softly. In this song, an unsuspecting lady listens to this master musician as he sings a song that somehow unmasks her hard exterior and speaks deep to her at the soul level. How could this man know her so well? Where was this coming from? Was she dying to one thing only to be born into another? The song is deep on so many levels.

Pastor, nonprofit president, author, and innovative, biblical leader, Efrem Smith is one of my favorite Christian leaders to follow, listen to, and read. His other books have been a huge inspiration, and his 2008 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit talk has been one I’ve yet to forget. In a nutshell, his passion is contagious. Plus, his love for the downtrodden, poor, disenfranchised, imprisoned, and hurting as potential kingdom partners and those who have been radically converted to be the ones who will be those who help bring about radical change in the world is inspiring, to say the least.

In Killing Us Softly, Smith provides a biblical framework for understanding what it means to die to ourselves so that Christ may truly live and move through us to a broken and upside down world. Not only is it full of Scripture, Smith shares stories from his own life and those who have been impacted by the message of bringing hope to an upside down world. The upside down world we live is, according to Efrim, is one full of broken lives, relationships, and systems and institutions. Therefore, self-help, the government, charities, and programming will never bring hope to this world that is turned upside down. The only hope is Jesus and his work to slowly kill that which is not of him and replace it with his mission to turn the world rightside up.

I have read many books in this vein and most tend to be overdone on stories and practically void of Scripture (or Scripture used inappropriately). Smith only uses stories from his life and a few other pointed stories to build on his dialog of being people who bring turn the world right side up through the slow death to self to birth in our new life in Christ. Further, his use of Scripture to allow Scripture to speak for itself is absolutely refreshing. About half way through the book, Smith utilizes the story of John 4 and the women at the well with Jesus (the entire story) interweaving other stories about her journey and the journey we all take to become the right side people who will bring hope to an upside down world.

Overall, the writing was clean and clear. It was an easy read for someone who may be new in Christ to those who are needing to be reminded of why we serve Jesus – for the poor, hurting, imprisoned, and downcast. The pace is rapid and yet at the end of each chapter you can stop to answer the reflection questions. One oddity, the only one really, which popped out at me was the book simply ends. The pace and story was so such a journey that in my opinion could have ended with a more profound criscendo. I would compare it to hearing a wonderful speaker who gets only an hour to share and ends leaving you wanting more, even after an hour! Smith’s ending was one that seems like he simply came to an ending, but not really the ending the book deserves.

I would highly recommend this book to four types of people:

  1. Pastors who desire to see more compassion ministry being done in their church and town.
  2. Nonprofit leaders who need inspiration to keep on doing what they do best.
  3. Youth and/or young adult pastors who speak to the next generation of leaders who need to hear this message.

And the fourth person is the most needed and unique:

4. Those who work with men and women in prisons, homeless shelters, juvenile programs, and inner city ministries because they can benefit in such a special way from the encouraging message of Efrim Smith.

Killing Us Softly is as much a message for Christ followers to die to self as much as it is a call to living a reborn life empowering the least of these. Further, it is a message to help empower the least of these to reach the least of these. Who better to reach those in prisons, shelter, and in poverty than those in the same position. WHo said God can’t empower them to do so? If that thought made you stop and think for a moment, than read this book to take the idea deeper. You won’t regret it!

Smith, Efrem. Killing Us Softly: Reborn in the Upside-Down Image of God. Colorado Springs; Navpress, 2017. 275pp. $14.99.

*I was provided this book at no cost for reviewing purposes. 

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