The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church That Has Abandoned It Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Read by the authors.
Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel invite you on a journey to uncover Jesus’ seemingly contradictory way to power: weakness.
Why do so many rock-star pastors implode under the spotlight? Why do modern-day churches become so entangled in growing their brand that they lose sight of their true purpose? Because, according to Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, Christians have succumbed to the temptations of power and forgotten Jesus’ seemingly contradictory path to power - first giving it up.
In The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, Goggin and Strobel paint a richly biblical vision of power through weakness. They invite you to join them on an adventure around the world, seeking out great sages of the faith with uncommon wisdom to offer those traveling the path of Christian life. As you eavesdrop on the authors’ conversations with people such as J. I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson, you will begin to piece together the new-old reality of following Jesus today. In the end, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb offers a compelling vision of the way of Jesus that will challenge both individual believers and the church as a whole.
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|Listening Length||7 hours and 38 minutes|
|Author||Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel|
|Narrator||Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||31 August 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 104,351 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
2,953 in Christian Living (Audible Books & Originals)
11,996 in Christian Living (Books)
77,907 in Teen & Young Adult (Books)
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Good parts 1
The early chapters underline where leadership motivation can come from, and we can't often discern it except to blame one person if things go wrong. 'When we see the way from below embraced or even heralded in the church, we tend to blame it on the vices of one individual leader or on bad theology. Once again, these are aspects of the problem, but they are not the only powers of evil at work. The problem of power in the church is a deeper and more complex issue than we had ever imagined.' They highlight well our inability sometimes to see behind closed doors.
Good parts 2.
Power of the tongue.
Chapter 8 (Discerning the Way) includes the comment, 'The heart of a person is the kind of thing that spills over, leaks out, and exposes itself, and it does so in and through speech. People cannot help it. What we say and how we say it is a clear window into our heart.' While we can't see into the inner workings of abusive contexts, it made me think of some of the more abrasive comments some preachers have made in public who years later have gone on to be exposed as abusive to those around them, and their ministries crashed, as did the church they were allegedly serving. This underlines the power of the tongue and the allure of 'success' to deceive preachers and people alike, especially with faulty views of success, and consumerism.
Good parts 3.
Other insightful comments include: 'The church had become a vehicle to achieve his vision (one of the greatest idolatries among pastors) - chapter 9. 'Leaders rarely advance in worldly power without the aid of a community’s warped values fueling their misguided quest for grandiosity' (chapter 8). 'People’s perception of the purpose of Christian life and ministry had changed from faithfulness to success' (chap 7).
Missed an important issue.
'Toxic leaders subvert the systems designed to hold them accountable' (chap 7). Since 'Board elders' in many churches often don't shepherd the flock but hire staff to do it, and such elders usually rotate every few years, it's little wonder some of our governance structures are so vulnerable. So it would have been good if they also tackled the issue of the nature of eldership in the bible and what we actually see in most local churches. They barely touch on elders / eldership at all except in reference to the elders - the older wiser people - they interviewed. Any structure can be abused, but a properly functioning one will help counter such power abuse and address the anomaly of eg pastors acting like CEOs or rotating Board elders that are not involved in shepherding people but pay staff to do it. Major miss as its worldly wisdom, not part of the way above, yet central to many church structures.
We reap what we sow, or keep allowing to be sowed. But as the authors try and show, there is another way. Very stimulating. Would be 4 stars except important governance issue miss.
Why, ask Goggin and Strobel, do abuse of power and money not also count as immorality? Why it only sexual misconduct that is a serious enough sin to remove a pastor from a pulpit?
This is a tough, clear-eyed book about the ways churches are unwittingly world in their love of power, the damage we do to each other in our abuse of it, and has a call for us to stand up, stand out and be different. Money, sex, and power are one triad they explore, and the world, the flesh, and the devil are a second. There is something deeply devilish, or dragon-like, in the seduction of the church into the ways of the world. And the alternative ways of prayer, love and generosity are deeply counter-cultural, even in church.
They analyse the issue, and provide an alternative, by way of a series of (slightly artificially staged) interviews with seven mature Christian thinkers: Jim Packer, James Houston, Myra Chave Dawn, Jean Vanier, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and John Perkins. Most of those were familiar names to me; the exception was Perkins, who is a pastor, and was a leader of the black, non-violent resistance movement in Mississippi in the 1960s.
The description of the problem is an American one; therefore question is whether we face our own encultured variant of it, and therefore whether their medicine is relevant.
They aren’t the first to analyse the problem, of course. They rightly name-check Os Guinness and C.S.Lewis, but they indicate that there are deeper and tougher roots to this weed. Augustine used a similar critique in his day, and deployed a third biblical triad in his Confessions: ‘the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life’ (1 Jn. 2:16).
So to state the obvious, of course the problem is real, because the bible is true. Our Enemy will always seduce us with those devious but delicious alternatives to gospel work. The cultural form varies, though. In England, our church’s love of money shows itself less in high salaries and prosperity teaching, than in the hidden expensive educations of our preferred preachers, pastors, and writers, as shown in their accents and connections. Tie that with our love of power, and you have us in the grip of the very English problem of class. In fact a recent news story about an English evangelical scandal put money, sex and power together in a uniquely class-ridden context. (To be clear, I keep using the word ‘English’ because the issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland take different shapes).
I have known churches - more than a few - where the minister is feared rather than loved, and where the word ‘bully’ has been used to describe the relationship.
Does their answer fit? Again, it must do, if the bible is true.
Here is the single, most devastating sentence in the book: ‘“I am pretty sure a smart, productive atheist could do my job well,” said a successful pastor’ (p.167).
Let that sink in, and say it again to yourself - can you hear your voice there? The terrifying moment in that phrase, the word that kills us, is of course ‘successful’, and the authors interrogate that with clinical skill. What does it mean to your daily practice as a pastor, that we wrestle against principalities and powers, who are only cast out by prayer?
But we ought to be open to seeing that the authors’ answer is also culturally determined - to an extent. Their choice of interviewees is by and large the wise, older, slightly hidden sage, slightly mystical, and almost a Christian Yoda (Packer is the exception to this role: he is older, but not a passivist - he has engaged in theological battle and conflict). I am not quite sold on the guru-in-the-woods model, and there is something slightly sentimental it. I’m being careful here, because Perkins was and is a brave man, Vanier extraordinarily generous, and so on. Goggins and Strobel rightly point to the way the evangelical industry wants new, young, attractive stars, not the older, wiser but less photogenic Christians with deep roots. So my quibble is more with the authors, not the interviewees, and with they way they have crafted the work. They have described the polar opposite of the celebrity, market-focussed pastor, but done so in a way that does not quite help me, also a pastor. I live in a deeply secular north London, surrounded by intellectual and cultural hostility and content; retreating to a log-cabin to read and write books is not the template for my week.
So there’s something American-pastoral about the answer which does not quite sit right in my setting, something on the Whitman/Waldon axis. It might be a problem with me, and I admittedly have a similar problem with the wildly popular Marilynne Robinson.
Overwhelmingly, though, Strobel and Goggins have reminded us once again of our perennial temptations and our Tempter, and the only weapons at our disposal to deal with them. The way of weakness, suffering, servanthood, obedience, prayer, preaching, love - those Lamb-honouring spiritual disciplines are not culturally restricted, whatever forms the way of the Dragon takes in your church.
The Message of the Church (Bible Speaks Today) (The Bible Speaks Today)