(I say "theology" because most of what I consider to be good theology books have immensely practical aspects to them, not dry and boring reflections on surface areas of pins and angels.)
Since I've been reading more recently, I'm also going to take some time and post brief discussions about influential books in my life. After that, maybe I finally write my Yoda post.
And the first book is...not a book. (Okay, so I'm doing books and other influential events.) A long long time ago, I heard a teaching on leadership by some pastor - "Dan". The core idea that I remember I call "Death of a Vision": That God almost always lets a leader's vision fail - horribly - before granting it. That the test of how we handle failure is a vital part of being a successful leader.
I remember Dan walking through the Old Testament and demonstrating leader after leader that faced significant and lengthy deaths of their dreams prior to their major successes. For example:
Abraham - Promised to be a great nation, then spent 25 years waiting for a son, then asked to sacrifice his son.
Joseph - Dreamed of being great, then 13 years in Egypt as a slave, much of it in jail.
Moses - Wanted to free his people, then 40 years in hiding
David - Anointed the future king of Israel, then 10 years on the run from Saul
Paul - Called to be a messenger to the Gentiles, then 14 years in obscurity in Arabia
I dug up my notes on the outline of the talk. Here's a few of the points that haven't stuck with me as clearly, but have definitely impacted my outlook:
Leadership is not based on position: People must choose to follow; they must see God in us. Leadership is first about gaining a vision, being gripped by a call of God. Then occurs the death of a vision because God almost always lets our vision die. Great leaders go through long dry times - think about fears, concerns, etc., etc. - yet God calls them great men.I didn't realize until I was rereading my notes from that teaching that was also where the speaker challenged the men to consider being pastors, and where I first started seriously thinking about the idea. (The core comment I remember was something like "If you don't have anything else to aim at, why not aim at being a pastor? If you want to be like Christ, you need tho character aspects of a pastor anyway." But that's probably another blog post.
God does this because he wants to test us - to know our humility, our heart, our motivations. The devil's purpose is to get us to compromise; God's goal is to refine us. Secondly, failure allows us to know, deeply know, that our success is God's work, not our own. If we endure failure, God gives a supernatural fulfillment to our vision. Therefore, do not compromise, do not lower your vision to match your abilities.
[Photo: Abraham & Isaac]