Finished up a little book on the airplane on the way out to plan the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this week. One Word (That Will Change Your Life) by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page is a simple book that is a perfect read here at the beginning of the New Year. The book is a short read- literally took me 44 minutes but has a chance to profoundly impact your focus each year. Instead of a resolution to start 2013, the book challenges you to start your year in reflection, prayer and a search for a word that will define you in the 365 days ahead. I had so much fun with this little twist on the typical beginning of the year process. I’ll write more about the word I chose a little later in the week. Loved it!


Rick Lawrence is the editor of Group Magazine and author of the new book Shrewd. It releases August 2nd and he was kind enough to take some questions about the upcoming book! 

Because “shrewd” is not a commonly used word, could you expound on its meaning?

In my book, I describe “shrewd” this way: “It’s a weapons-grade relational tactic—a way of thinking and acting—that Jesus long ago urged His followers to use in their uprising against the powers and ‘spiritual forces of wickedness’ of this world. Shrewd people (and Jesus is the Exemplar) first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of the right force at the right time in the right place.” Most Christians have a negative reaction to the word “shrewd,” but Jesus not only exemplified this way of relating to others in His redemptive mission on earth, He gave us a mandate to grow much, much more adept in our practice of it. The point of His “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-8) is specifically to highlight the behavior of a lazy, lying, good-for-nothing servant who has no qualities we’d want to emulate except for one: his shrewd way of saving himself from the consequences of his terrible behavior. Jesus highlights this anti-role-model for one purpose: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Later, in preparation for sending out His disciples on their first ministry journey without Him, He tells them to take nothing with them (no clothing, money, or “insurance” of any kind)—instead, He tells them they need just two things: 1. Be as shrewd as a serpent, and 2. Be as innocent as a dove. The word He uses here for “serpent” is the same one He uses for Satan. And the word He uses here for “dove” is the same the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit. He’s telling His disciples to be as shrewd as Satan is, but as innocent as the Holy Spirit is. Shrewdness, then, is a way of living and relating that Jesus first modeled for us, then commanded us to do likewise.

Would Jesus’ disciples in New Testament times have found this a startling command?

Absolutely. When Jesus told His disciples the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, they were surrounded by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law—their own private “wolf pack” encircling the “sheep.” In the midst of this pack of predators, Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them this startling, scandalous, but crystal-clear story—a story that challenge everything we think we know about Him. He chooses His words, and His setting, well. He’s essentially pointing to the “pack” and outlining for His disciples exactly how to defeat its tactics and innate superiority. They are, He asserts, just like sheep—an animal that is wholly helpless to defend itself against predators. When Jesus ends His story with a pointed reference to “the people of the light” and their “shrewdness deficit,” He’s not only telling them something that is shocking to their sensibilities, He’s likely offending them with His assessment of their abilities.

Why was it important to you to write about this concept?

Five-or-so years ago I was locked in what felt like an all-out war over a ministry dream that was in danger of dying, because a man who was much shrewder than me was bent on stopping it. One day, in my grief and fear and anger over what was about to happen, God sort of “sat me down” and challenged me—it was clear that my “frontal” way of dealing with this situation was not going to work, and He was asking me if I was going to have the courage to move more shrewdly. I asked Him to teach me what I needed to know about shrewdness, and He (of course) brought me to Jesus, the source of all good things. Unlike us (by His own assessment), Jesus is “more shrewd than the people of this world,” and that means He’s perpetually taking what His enemies intend for evil and morphing it into good. Jesus is always and everywhere out-leveraging Satan and his allies, using the destructive momentum he creates against them, like a martial artist.

Your last book was titled Sifted. On a lighter note, do you look for one-word titles in Scripture?

People have joked with me a lot about this—believe me, I have plenty of suggestions for my next one-word “S”-titled book. There are endless possibilities, if you think about it. Salt, anyone?

You been the editor of Group Magazine for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Does your youth ministry side show up in the book?

I’m still deeply embedded in the world of youth ministry. This year marks my 25th year as editor of GROUP Magazine. Youth ministry has been the perfect community for learning about the confluence of life and the power of the gospel of Jesus. I’m around people who, every day, are working to translate Jesus’ life and message and calling into real-world situations. In the end, the key to an effective youth ministry is in making Jesus the “orbital center” for everything you do—and my role in youth ministry (and in the rest of my life) is to reveal the beauty and worth of “the pearl of great price” and “the treasure in the field.” Once you understand the inestimable worth of the treasure, it’s simply human nature to “sell everything you have” to buy the field where that treasure is buried.

Just finishing up the way-too-long but really incredble life story of Steve Jobs as told by Walter Isaacson in the authorized biography. The book is an incredible tale of one of the great innovators, inventors and marketers of our time. I’m just wrapping up the massive book this week after devouring the 600+ pages since just last Sunday. I think I’ve learned as much what TO do as what NOT to do by reading about Steve’s life and management style. The book holds nothing back and chronicles Jobs’ favored opinion on drugs, his devotion to Buddhism and his ruthless pursuit of perfection at the expense of his employees and family. The book is one of the great explorations of a flawed giant of our generation. His influence is undeniable. In some ways, my greatest emotion as I read the story was respect for what he did … and sadness for how he did it. I think Steve was honorable in allowing his greatest acheivements and his greatest weaknesses be chronicled in what appears to be brutal honesty. Really, really interesting tale. If you’re even slightly into Apple/geek/tech stuff or want to learn how to/not to lead people, this is beyond a must read.


Book Review: Messages

Josh Griffin —  November 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’m not going to lie to you: I’m not a big Christian fiction reader. But when author John Michael Hileman offered to shoot me his book Messages over to my Kindle app, I thought it might be time to give another one a try. Messages is the story of a guy named David Chance who has the special ability/gift to see messages from God in the words that surround him every day. The words give him cryptic clues about events that are about to unfold, including a massive terrorist plot to kill the president. Woven into the story is his own spiritual journey as well. So not a book I would typically make time for – someone online said it was classified as Christian Suspense – but one I’m glad I did. An enjoyable story that will engage fans of shows like 24 and bring in some solid faith-based elements as well.