The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader – John Maxwell (a review)

John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t usually like this kind of book. Everything within me recoils at ‘The 12 Indistinguishable Keys to Success’, ‘The 32 Incomprehensible Laws of Leadership’, or ‘The 7 Insufferable Characteristics of a Winner’. 

But we have a free library at Jubilee where people drop a book and take a book and I check the shelves once a week to make sure no Watchtower publication sneaks in unnoticed. And my son-in-law, a mild-mannered, gifted administrator, gave me a few books for the library including this one. Easy to read, with short chapters largely dealing with the character of a leader, I thought I would read it before adding it to the collection.

And now I’m recommending it! It has some features which could put you off. So better to consider those up front. This is a ‘90s book written for the US market. So it is very ‘American’ in that kind of celebratory way that can grate on some readers. This comes through primarily in the illustrations of against-all-the-odds achievers in sport, business, war, although there are non-US characters in there too.  But is there really anything wrong with Maxwell drawing primarily from his own context? A second drawback for some Pastors might be that Maxwell doesn’t open a passage of Scripture and expound it (we might be grateful for that), nor does it include many specific church-related illustrations. But, seriously, we read lots of those books. You may already be a good preacher, or counsellor; this book is to help you become a better leader. 

I was challenged and helped by both the content and structure of the book. Maxwell’s insistence that you actually examine yourself and your leadership style as you progress through the material is excellent. Each chapter takes a leadership quality, illustrates how that quality has helped a leader move forward, gives three or four reasons why this quality is indispensable for you and those you lead, and then gives several practical applications to your own life so you can assess where you are and make improvements. It’s not just theory; it’s practical. It’s the good stuff that we need.

Some of the leadership qualities are: Character, Charisma, Communication, Competence, Discernment, Generosity, Initiative, Listening, Problem Solving, Relationships, Self-Discipline, Serving, Teachability. 

OK. Some quotes to whet your appetite (excuse the generic masculine pronouns)
Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it.
Unaddressed cracks in character only get deeper and more destructive with time.
Quote from Charles Schwab: ‘I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greateer effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.’
When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is othermindedness.
Good leaders, the kind that people want to follow, do more than conduct business when they interact with followers. They take the time to get a feel for who each one is as a person…If you’re in the habit of listening only to the facts and not the person who expresses them, change your focus – and really listen.
More than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in college…And more than 50 percent of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college.
The truth is that you can never lead something you don’t care passionately about.
Insecure leaders are dangerous – to themselves, their followers, and the organizations they lead – because a leadership position amplifies personal flaws.
An insecure leader [is] someone who cannot genuinely celebrate his people’s victories.
Learn to walk slowly through the crowd…The next time you attend a function with a number of clients, colleagues, or employees, make it your goal to connect with others by circulating among them and talking to people. Focus on each person you meet. Learn his name if you don’t know it already. Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants, and desires. Then later when you go home, make a note to yourself to do something beneficial for half a dozen of those people.
If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.
Quote from Ray Kroc: ‘As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.’

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell, Nelson Business

©2019 Lex Loizides

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Steven Pinker – The Sense of Style (a review)

Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style (pic:mosiacscience.com)

Words. Communication. Style
I saw this book in a book sale a while ago and knew I’d enjoy it. Steven Pinker is a charming, wild-haired Psychology Professor at Harvard, a cognitive scientist with a passion for words. He’s written an informal yet rigorous writer’s guidebook in which he debunks both the grammatical pedant and the pretentious academic, and pleads for an easy  ‘classic style’. He acknowledges that changes are happening, that the English-speaking world seems to have become less formal. He’s not pushing for plain English (although that movement has done much good) but acknowledges the real need for clarity, grace, and coherence in our writing. Just good well-designed writing style. ‘Bad writing makes the reader feel like a dunce.’

There’s plenty of advice on sentence construction, grammar and punctuation, all of which is given in a disarmingly conversational style and with much humour. The humour makes the medicine go down easily: The compulsion of writers to ‘call a spade successively a garden implement and an earth-turning tool’ is just silly.

At the end of the book there’s a large section devoted to the technical problems you’ve always wondered about (and even that is very interesting). 

I was continually pleased with his critique of the pretentious use of latin words which tend to make us sound clever but often don’t help us communicate clearly. His mockery of business-speak is both welcome and satisfyingly merciless, and he emphasises the importance of being more aware of how we are coming across, rather than how we think we’re coming across. That’s a key issue for every preacher, and every writer. Very helpful.

So, if you’re keen to improve your writing skills this would be worth buying (even at full price). Here are some juicy quotes for fun:

  • Dickens describes a man “with such long legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else.”
  • The nominalization rule takes a perfectly spry verb and embalms it into a lifeless noun by adding a suffix like -ance, -ment, -ation, or -ing. Instead of affirming an idea, you effect its affirmation; rather than postponing something, you implement a postponement. The writing scholar Helen Sword calls them zombie nouns because they lumber across the scene without a conscious agent directing their motion. They can turn prose into a night of the living dead.
  • A writer who explains technical terms can multiply her readership a thousandfold at the cost of a handful of characters, the literary equivalent of picking up hundred-dollar bills on the sidewalk.
  • if your intuitions about who and whom are squishy, insert he or him in the gap instead
  • and ‘Shakespeare and his contemporaries frequently used who where the rules would call for whom and vide versa.

Some thoughts on the so-called multiverse
My only regret regarding this excellent book is that Pinker inserts his own belief bias into what otherwise would be an objective treatment of language. But then, why shouldn’t an author subtly slip his own bias into his own book? It’s not so much the commendation of Richard Dawkins (the quotation is indeed an excellent piece of writing), but the addition of an unexpected segment on the multiverse. If you’re not familiar with the idea of the multiverse it is a fantastical idea which is offered as an explanation of why Earth is so uncannily suited to life. And unless you’re in a very generous mood it merely presents itself as a rather opportunistic Design Avoidance Mechanism. Christians believe God created the universe and the life that exists within it. Cosmologists, whatever their personal belief, have spoken with awe of the incredibly finely tuned universe, of the balance of multiple constants in nature without which life wouldn’t be possible. These variables are so precise, and so stable, that it’s almost beyond belief that there isn’t an intelligent mind behind it all: the presumption of Darwinian-style unguided evolution doesn’t seem to fit the evidence. It’s all too precise to just have happened. So an unprovable and unfalsifiable idea is suggested that maybe there are millions, even trillions, of universes (a multi-verse). If there were then it might be possible that amongst all those universes just one might turn out by chance to have exactly the right conditions to sustain life. And it just so happens that that’s the one we’re in. In Pinker’s defence, after demonstrating the writer’s skill in explaining this idea he does, a couple of pages later, mention that the author points out that the idea is not yet proven (in fact there is, of course, absolutely no evidence for it). But it’s a convenient Design Avoidance Mechanism. One does sometimes feel that by the appeal to millions and millions of years for the evolutionary magic to work, and now the appeal to trillions and trillions of unseen universes for the context in which that magic could work, that we may be just blending fact with fiction, like in all the best magic stories. 

Having said that, it’s not something that hindered my enjoyment of the book, or that restrains my warm recommendation of it.

Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, Penguin Books.

©2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

AN Wilson on CS Lewis

CS Lewis by AN Wilson
CS Lewis by AN Wilson

[Also of interest: CS Lewis on the Puritans, and CS LEWIS: THE POET]

CS Lewis and John Betjeman
When I picked up A.N. Wilson’s highly readable C.S. Lewis – A Biography I thought Lewis might get a little rough treatment. That’s because I’d already seen how Wilson dealt with him in his biography of John Betjeman.

It’s true that Lewis and Betjeman couldn’t stand each other, but it wasn’t entirely Lewis’s fault. Lewis, a young man, had become a Tutor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford. Betjeman was one of his first difficult students. To Betjeman Lewis seemed overly serious, unimaginative and hard. To Lewis Betjeman appeared affected, unintelligent and lazy, regularly failing to hand in essays on time. In fact, on one occasion Lewis was pleasantly surprised by Betjeman submitting a decent essay and looked forward to the tutorial. He later wrote in his diary, ‘I soon discovered [the essay] to be a pure fake, for he knew nothing about the work when we began to talk. I wish I could get rid of the idle prig.’[i]

He did eventually, and possibly unnecessarily. Betjeman never forgave him and, in letters written years later, referred to Lewis as ‘my old enemy’.

His career
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898 and died on November 22, 1963. Although bright, he hated school and was moved from place to place until his father finally agreed to have him privately tutored. After gaining a triple first at Oxford he became Tutor of English Literature and Language at Magdalen, Oxford, a position he held for nearly 30 years. Shockingly, he was never made Professor until he was invited by Cambridge University to take the Chair of Medieval English Literature where he served until retirement.

A British postage stamp featuring Lewis's Narnia characters
A British postage stamp featuring Lewis’s Narnia characters

His literary ambition was to be a poet, but he is best known for the Narnia Chronicles a series of children’s books. Through the influence of friends such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others he moved from atheism to theism and finally to Christianity. He wrote some of the most influential Christian books of the 20th Century and was the central member of an influential literary circle called ‘The Inklings’.

A.N. Wilson’s C.S. Lewis – the best bad biography I’ve read!
It’s a speedy, engaging, infuriating read. Wilson is rightly peeved by attempts to ‘canonize’ Lewis. ‘There are those readers who are so uplifted by the sublimity of Lewis at his best as a writer that they assume that he was himself a sublime being, devoid of blemishes.’ Even though that is an exaggeration one can understand Wilson’s desire to describe the man more realistically. There’s a difference, however, between bringing a man back down to earth and burying him.

After reading Wilson I also read an earlier Lewis biography to get a little balance. Wilson refers to (and draws heavily from) Green and Hooper’s biography from the early 70s. Undeniably less well written, I didn’t, however, find it gushing with hero-worship. Surprised by Joy although frustrating for different reasons, is also essential reading.

Why is ANW’s biography of Lewis ‘bad’?
Where to begin? First of all, it must be said that since writing about Lewis, A.N. Wilson has had a change of heart about Christianity itself, and has moved from atheism to the Christian Faith. This does, in some degree, temper our response to what appears to be one of his aims in the biography: to discredit Christianity itself. This constant sneering disrupted my enjoyment of the book, like an irritating fly.

From the cover endorsements to Wilson’s clunky misunderstanding of ‘A Grief Observed’ (Lewis’s most authentic, mature expression of belief was doubt, supposedly) the reader senses a quiet celebration that this is the book that humiliates Lewis and his faith. With a silent nod and smile, we can breathe a sigh of relief, congratulate Wilson and go back to our skepticism unscathed: Lewis has been put in his place.

My copy is the Harper Perennial 2005 edition (which I understand includes some revisions based on reader’s reactions to the first edition of 1990). Before this, I don’t recall ever seeing the cover of a biography which says more about the biographer than the subject:
‘Wilson’s biography is probably the best imaginable…he is a brilliant biographer.’ Anthony Burgess (front cover).
‘The more biography Wilson writes, the better he gets – this life of CS Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests makes him an ideal match for the subject.’ Andrew Motion
‘It seems fitting that AN Wilson should have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.’ John Bayley

The fact that the cover endorsements are primarily about Wilson’s literary skill, rather than Lewis’s, should be a clue: this is a take-down!

But enough of covers. It’s an odd thing to be forced to ask yourself a series of distracting questions as you move through the book: Does the biographer respect the subject?

Cover of the first edition of 'Mere Christianity'
Cover of the first edition of ‘Mere Christianity’

Did he understand the nature of religious conversion and its implications? Does he understand the role and limitations of Christian apologetics?

He exposes the jealousies and nastiness of CSL’s peers but is ANW himself entirely free from such nastiness given that he appears to support their criticisms?

Why the persistent schoolboy name-calling, likening CSL to a low-class ‘police court solicitor’ (a disrespectful mocking of CSL’s father’s occupation)? Yet, even schoolboys have an opportunity to respond. Lewis has no ability to respond.

While there may be some debate about the nature of CSL’s relationship to Mrs. Moore in the early days, are we to believe that CS Lewis cherished being both a domestic and sexual masochist? You needn’t be a Freudian scholar to have a few chuckles at some of Wilson’s psychoanalytical observations.

The bigger question is if Wilson is so repelled by Lewis’s Christianity and by Lewis as a personality, then why on earth write a biography of him? May we ask for a proper revision?

What we have here is a gossipy attempt to cut the puffed-up Lewis down. Positively tabloid my good man! It just makes Wilson appear pompous and mean-spirited.

In an attempt at balance, Wilson writes, ‘Insufferably annoying as he may have been in life, there was also something glorious about him.’[ii] Seriously? Glorious?

C.S. Lewis at his desk
C.S. Lewis at his desk

Lewis’s Reluctant Conversion
It may have struck you as odd that Lewis is usually quoted as describing his conversion negatively. He says that in 1929 he ‘gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’[iii]

But actually, as both ANW and Green/Hooper helpfully point out, this was an intellectual assent to theism, not his decision to follow Jesus Christ which came about two years later. Wilson adds that Lewis, at the time, was emphasizing his unwillingness to accept any high sounding ‘divine call’ which might undermine him.

He still considered himself a ‘prodigal’ looking for any opportunity to escape the inevitable. Green/Hooper write of Lewis’s 1929 experience, ‘This conversion was, however, to theism pure and simple, and not to Christianity. He knew nothing about the incarnation at this stage.’[iv]

The young J.R.R. Tolkien
The young J.R.R. Tolkien

Lewis, Tolkien and Dyson
Although in his autobiography Surprised by Joy Lewis only touches on the events surrounding his Christian conversion Green/Hooper describe it in some detail:
‘Lewis was still thinking about myth and resurrection when, on Saturday evening (19 September 1931), he invited Tolkien and Hugo Dyson to dine with him at Magdalen. Probably none of them had any idea what a momentous impact this night’s conversation would have to Lewis…In Lewis’s rooms they talked about Christianity till 3.00am when Tolkien left to go home. After seeing him through the little postern door that opens on to Magdalen Bridge, Lewis and Dyson continued the discussion for another hour, walking up and down the cloister of New Buildings…On Monday, 28 September, Lewis and Warren [his brother] took a picnic lunch to Whipsnade Zoo…But something happened to Lewis on the way to Whipsnade for, as he says in Surprised by Joy: ‘When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did…It was…like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.’
A few days later (1 October) Lewis wound up a long letter to Arthur Greeves with the news: ‘I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ…My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it.’[v]

Lewis on ‘Low Church’ and ‘High Church’
Lewis was not a so-called ‘high church’ Anglican. In fact, he was forthright on this point. ‘I’m not…what you call high. To me the real distinction is not high and low, but between religion with a real supernaturalism and Salvationism on the one hand, and all watered down modernist versions on the other.’[vi]

Lewis on Adam as an Historical Figure
On one evening, fellow academic Helen Gardner was dining with Lewis and a number of others at Lewis’s home. Wilson writes:

‘Conversation at the table turned on the interesting question of whom, after death, those present should most look forward to meeting. One person suggested he would like to meet Shakespeare; another said St. Paul.
‘But you, Jack,’ said the friends (or, as Helen Gardner felt, the disciples), ‘who would be your choice?’
‘Oh I have no difficulty in deciding,’ said Lewis. ‘I want to meet Adam.’ He went on to explain why, very much in the terms outlined in A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost’, where he wrote: ‘Adam was, from the first, a man in knowledge as well as in stature. He alone of all men ‘had been in Eden, in the garden of God.’…He had ‘breathed the aether and was accustomed to converse with God ‘face to face’.
Be that as it may, Adam is not likely, if she has anything to do with it, to converse with Helen Gardner. She ventured to say so. Even, she told Lewis, if there really were, historically, someone whom we could name as ‘the first man’, he would be a Neanderthal ape-like figure, whose conversation she could not conceive of finding interesting.
A stony silence fell on the dinner table. Then Lewis said gruffly, ‘I see we have a Darwinian in our midst.’’[vii]

The inclusion of this incident may be intended to make Lewis appear either misogynistic, self-serving, rude, a fundamentalist or all of the above. The point, though, is that Lewis did consider Adam to be a real historical figure.

T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot

C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and J.R.R Tolkein
There are numerous other small points of interest like this one. Lewis’s resistance to modern poetry alienated him from the emerging generation of poets. His own relative failure as a poet, especially as a narrative poet, even after publishing two books of poetry, was a source of sadness to him. And indeed, for those of us who have actually put in the hours to read every published poem by Lewis, we concur that he wasn’t a success (although there are a few brilliant pieces).

Some may, however, sympathise with him when considering the work of the modernists’ leading light T.S. Eliot. Lewis wrote:

‘For twenty years I’ve stared my level best
To see if evening – any evening – would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn’t able.’[viii]

Wilson also describes such fascinating moments as when CSL and Tolkien decide they’ve had enough of the popular novels being published and made a commitment to each other that they will write ‘better’ books: ‘I’m afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves!’ What a result!

C.S. Lewis – never Professor of English at Oxford
Is it not strange that Lewis never became a Professor at Oxford?
Wilson gives us the reason:
‘It could be said that Lewis was exiled, in some sense, for his refusal to toe the line. It was not his failure to be a good graduate supervisor which cost him the Oxford chair, it was Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.[ix]

In 1954, however, Cambridge established a new ‘Chair’ of English and Lewis was invited, and accepted the position: Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. His lectures were sensationally popular.

Wilson also suggests that modern admirers of Lewis would be shocked to discover that he smoked.
Wilson also suggests that modern admirers of Lewis would be shocked to discover that he smoked (and even drank)!

Other Biographers
Towards the end of Wilson’s book, apart from a somewhat rushed feel, there is an attempt to undermine other biographers and historians of Lewis. Hooper is dismissed as unreliable. Wheaton College is snubbed with characteristic upper-class English pomposity: It’s not a real University is it, after all? Once again, we hear the persistent drone undermining Lewis’s Christianity: it’s that pesky fly again.

There is much to enjoy in Wilson’s biography but so much that is disappointing. In a book so littered with uncharitable moments, perhaps Wilson’s final paragraph gives a typical example: ‘Those who knew Lewis in the days of his flesh might suppose that he would chiefly be remembered as a vigorously intelligent university teacher and critic who also wrote some children’s stories.’

So that’s it then! Lewis, phenomenally popular during his own lifetime and an inspiration to thousands of Christian intellectuals, is triumphantly minimised and dismissed: not a Professor, not a best-selling author, just a ‘university teacher who wrote children’s stories’.

It’s time for a better CS Lewis Biography
To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis’s death in 2013, when he was  honoured in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, Alister McGrath released a new biography of Lewis.  For a review in Christianity Today check here. Readers of that biography may still feel we need something more like Wilson in style and more like Hooper in appreciation. But that’s another story.

© 2013/2019 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


[i] John Betjeman, Letters Volume One (London: Miverva, 1995), p.17

[ii] A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis A Biography (London: Harper Perennial, 2005), p. 252

[iii] ibid, p.110 (from ‘Surprised by Joy’)

[iv] Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis A Biography (Glasgow: Fount/Collins, 1979), p. 103

[v] ibid. p.116

[vi] ANW, p.174

[vii] ibid, p.210

[viii] ibid, p. 263

[ix] ibid, p. 246

Small Town Jesus in the Big City

Kloof St

I’m about to move my office out of a suburb of Cape Town into the city centre. It’s an exciting time. We’re launching a congregation of Jubilee Community Church in the heart of Cape Town and we’re ready to go!

There has been, in recent years, a much-needed focus on cities. Christians have been moving steadily away from the city centres and into the suburbs, often leaving the city without a strong witness.

Yet, we’re told, that the creative culture-making heartbeat (the heart that sends its influence to the rest of our culture) is right back in the place the believers left. If we reach the cities (so the argument goes) there will be a ‘trickle down’ effect that will effect the rest of society.

Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor at One Harbor Church, Morehead City, NC
Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor at One Harbor Church, Morehead City, NC

Small Town Jesus by Donnie Griggs is a robust response. Griggs, who pastors a large church in Morehead City, North Carolina (a town of about nine thousand) raises a banner for the myriad of small towns that may, therefore, seem less significant.

While not denying the importance of cities, he makes a plea for the importance of mission to smaller towns. He speaks from his own experience of being known and getting to know the folk in Morehead, while seeking to build a church that cares for its community and is engaged in a wider mission.

Now, why would I spend time reading a book devoted to mission in small towns when I am about to relocate my work space into the heart of the world’s most beautiful city (I could easily support that assertion with sources, but it’s just a fact).

And – I’ll go further – why am I recommending this book to you, whatever size town you’re in, but especially if you live in a city?

Cape Town City Hall
Cape Town City Hall

Being a Good Local
Simply for this reason: that I have realised, both as I’ve been traveling into the city regularly over the last year, and as I’ve read Donnie’s book, that, in my section of the city centre, I need to become a local.

That’s not something we tend to think of in our cities. We have the dubious luxury of being anonymous much of the time. We expect speed. We expect quality. If something’s not good we complain. And we complain properly. We’ll put a bad review online. We’re helping raise standards by complaining. Griggs has a technical term for this that’s worth remembering. It is called ‘being a jerk’. Hmm. Maybe it’s time to change.

Here are a few pointers Griggs gives for being a good local in a small town. I want to encourage you to take these on board in your locality especially if you’re in the city centre. And feel free to add your own thoughts and comments below. Let’s learn from each other.

Your reputation matters in a small town
Things are really close in a village or town. Yet, in the city, you can also develop a different kind of reputation by deliberately seeking to serve those around your work space. Be different from those who rush by. Do good in the city. Be honest. Build a good reputation by being consistently compassionate.

Learn to Enjoy Small Talk
In the city, people are often in a rush. But people are also incredibly lonely. Slow down and look around. You’ll see lots of people who are alone and who would benefit from your friendship. Cape Town is not a European city. It is an African city with a lot of Europe in it. People are very open to making connections. There’s a warmth that you sometimes don’t feel in a European city. Griggs writes, that ‘always acting like you have somewhere better to be will eventually lead to unnecessarily offending’ people. That’s good for your city too, even if the rush is tolerated.

Shop Local as much as possible
He writes, ‘I would encourage you to see shopping local as an opportunity to become a good local.’ Whether it’s caterers, lunchtime appointments in the city, printing, or just where you regularly purchase coffee or church refreshments, I want the businesses in my section of Cape Town to know we’re part of the neighbourhood. We’re buying local and eating local because we are local. Griggs talks a lot about loving local food and then there’s a whole section about soft-shell crabs. Normally you’d expect an editor’s intervention but these guys in Morehead City love their soft-shell crabs.

Donnie Griggs out on the boat
Donnie Griggs out on the boat

Don’t be a Jerk
(It’s worth mentioning again) He prefaces this section helpfully by noting, ‘I’m not saying that everyone who lives in a big city is a jerk.’ Followed by the word, ‘But…’ and then so helpfully corrects how, even we as Christians, can act in an unnecessarily discourteous way when dealing with folks in a city.

But, ‘in a small town, you should take every opportunity to be kind and courteous.’

There’s a danger in city life because we probably won’t see a person again, and can therefore treat them with less respect than they deserve, especially if they’re serving us poorly. In a small town our bad responses will get known very quickly. But that behaviour is no less acceptable in the city. And will also be known. You reap what you sow. As in the town and suburb, so in the city, a Christian’s rudeness can have a deadening effect on mission.

Be a Blessing
I am taking this on board for our city site: ‘When considering how you can engage the culture of your small town with the gospel, please don’t just settle for contextualized church programs and church facilities. Love where you live and serve where you live. Let everyone know that you really care about them, whether they come to your church or not.’

Donnie has written a highly readable book with a great and simple message: be a blessing to your town. Be deliberate and consistent.

I want to add that, if you’re in the city, see your section of the city, whether you work there each day, or whether you live there, as your own locality, your own small town within the city, and act accordingly.

Small Town Jesus is available on Amazon here

Jubilee Community Church’s City Congregation will begin meeting on Sundays from 25th September, 10.30am, 33 Kloof Street, Cape Town

For a 30-Day Prayer Guide to pray for the launch of the site click here

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

 

The thing about Gandhi…a review

Gandhi, the controversial biography
Gandhi, the controversial biography

A Review, with quotes, of Jad Adams’ biography of the much-loved Mohandas Gandhi.

This biography of one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century is impossible to put down. It’s a fresh look at the man through his own writings and the testimony of those closest to him.

One aspect of the book, unsurprisingly, dominated the reviews: Gandhi’s risqué experiments in testing his own commitment to Brahmacharya (celibacy).  The claim is that the presence of the two young women who regularly slept in his bed was necessary in order to test that commitment and thus help preserve his spiritual power for the benefit of others.

Astonishing as that may sound, there’s much more to the book than that…

To read the review click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Beginnings – a new resource for new believers (FREE 1st Chapter)

US edition
US edition

Helping those who’ve trusted Christ to implement change in their lives

A downloadable, easy to understand, follow-up study for anyone who’s just become a Christian!

‘A brilliant resource for new believers.’ Bryan Mowrey, Pastor, Jubilee Church, St. Louis, MO

Every new believer in Jesus Christ has questions and needs guidance

– What are my responsibilities as a follower of Jesus?

– How does this affect my relationships at work and at home?

– Do I join a local church?

– What aspects of my behaviour should change?

– What kind of purpose do I have in life?

UK edition
UK edition Now ONLY £2.99

In this much-needed and helpful study, the practical ‘first steps’ of the Christian Life are covered. Each chapter includes discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.

You no longer have to wait until you can get to a Christian bookstore to find follow-up material for someone who just gave their lives to Christ. You can download this affordable book onto both your devices and get going straight away – one on one!

What Pastors are saying about ‘Beginnings’

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‘This book makes the perfect gift for anyone who just became a Christian.’ Adrian Warnock, Blogger and author of Raised with Christ

Topics include: The importance of the Bible, the central role of the local church, prayer and the Holy Spirit, baptism in water and breaking bread, life and pressure in the workplace and home, living life with a new mission.

Lex Loizides is a Pastor based at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town and has nearly 30 years of ministerial experience. He has worked closely with local churches in many countries, helping them become more effective in evangelism. He is the author of several published hymns and is the author of the evangelistic study, ‘Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ’.

Click here for the first chapter FREE!

Click here to purchase from Amazon UK

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C.S. Lewis ‘humbled’ by A.N. Wilson – a book review

Lewis cover

A review of Wilson’s biography.

Wilson claims, ‘There are those readers who are so uplifted by the sublimity of Lewis at his best as a writer that they assume that he was himself a sublime being, devoid of blemishes.’

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis

In this review I examine some of Wilson’s claims and comments as well as including fascinating material about Lewis’s ‘reluctant convert’ comment, the animosity between Lewis and John Betjeman, the conversations with J.R.R. Tolkien which finally led to his conversion and his resistance to modern poets such as T.S. Eliot.

If you’ve not read anything about Lewis’s life the review also serves as an introduction to one of the most inspiring Christian writers of the 20th century.

To read the review click here

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Up Close and Personal with Nelson Mandela’s Defence Lawyer

George Bizos' stunning autobiography, 'Odyssey to Freedom'

‘Early in the afternoon of 11 July 1963, a fine winter’s day, the telephone rang in my chambers.

‘I heard a coin drop into the call box and then the muffled voice of Harold Wolpe. He named a corner in the city centre and asked me to meet him there.
‘Our meeting place was outside a bookshop and I found him staring intently into the window at the books on display.

‘He didn’t turn round when I greeted him but pointed at a book.

‘We stood side by side, facing away from the pedestrians while he whispered that the leadership of the ANC had been arrested at its Rivonia headquarters and that he was going into hiding.

‘He handed me a file, asked me to find some excuse for his absence from court, and to report what had happened to his brother-in-law and partner, James Kantor.

‘I was not to see Wolpe again until he returned from exile almost thirty years later.’ (p.204)

In his autobiography ‘Odyssey to Freedom’, Nelson Mandela’s defence lawyer takes us on a journey on the inside of the legal processes and secret ANC meetings that ultimately led to democracy in South Africa. It is a tremendous story of how one modern day ‘Daniel’ helped influence a nation towards freedom.

Full the full book review and article on xenophobia, and how we, as Christians, should regard foreigners in our home countries click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Review of ‘Betjeman’ by A.N. Wilson

A.N. Wilson's biography of John Betjeman
A.N. Wilson’s biography of John Betjeman

John Betjeman was a much loved modern poet whose unashamed ‘Englishness’ and chummy loyalty to the Church of England won him a place in many English hearts. His light and amusing poetry made him a popular hit giving him access (and sales) where other more serious poets stayed on the fringes of popular culture. He was tutored briefly by CS Lewis, was a keen lover of church architecture (including Edward Irving’s London church buildings) and a muddle of emotions and guilt when it came to relationships.

Read the full review here
To read a review of AN Wilson’s controversial biography of CS Lewis click here

Lost for Words – a tough week for John Humphrys

(from June 09 – but still relevant!)

John Humphrys, respected journalist and host of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme found himself verbally scrambling twice this week.

Those of us who appreciated his timely and humourous book, Lost for Words certainly felt for him.

First of all, on Thursday during a live interview with a Conservative MP, Humphrys was surprised to be asked how much he earned. The Times said he ‘stuttered’. Fair enough. Lost for words. We get it. No biggie.

But on Friday he was struggling again, and couldn’t find just the right good word when a naughty one came out instead.

Although he apologised for it, he also exonerated himself on two counts:

Firstly, he claimed it was a technical error, by mistakenly using one consonant instead of another. No, seriously! According to the Telegraph he said, ‘it came out slightly differently and had a ‘b’ at the front instead of an ‘r’ i.e. rollicking), and secondly he brought in the star witness, Professor of English Literature (University College, London), John Sutherland to submit convincing evidence that the mistakenly pronounced word was nevertheless ‘entirely innocent.’

Has this particular word therefore officially passed into general innocent usage? Also, as with many of these public apologies, do the words ‘an apology’ mean anything beyond the suggestion of moral weakness in those who feel they may require one?

One of the most surprising assertions in Lost for Words is that journalists themselves are the ‘guardians’ of language. I must admit, although I greatly enjoyed the book, and have recommended it, I had to laugh. I had wondered what the poets, novelists, playwrights, preachers and – even – English professors might think of that.

His appeal to a Professor of English in this instance may reveal that he is no longer as certain, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that journalists are not, thankfully, our linguistic guardians after all.

The moral of this story for anyone regularly involved in public speaking is surely the statement in the Book of Proverbs 10:19 ‘When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.’

I am not suggesting that Humphrys admission/denial of transgression is so serious, but simply that even the most experienced communicators get lost for words, get tangled.

The funniest instance of this I ever heard was from Simon Pettit, a pastor, who, when conducting a wedding gave out this mind-boggling spoonerism: ‘We are here today to witness Gareth and Nadine being joyfully loined in holy matrimony!’ The congregation tried, but could not repress their laughter for long until Simon was forced to ask, ‘Why are they laughing?’

Being lost for words can produce embarrassed silence, an outburst of laughter or the need for a humble apology all in one week, one day, even in one conversation! Maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on good Mr. Humphrys after all.

A review of Humphrys’ ‘Lost for Words’ can be read here
You can also purchase ‘Lost for Words’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Healing – how to pray successfully, a book review

Doug Jones 1

What kind of faith do we need to exercise to see the sick healed in answer to prayer? What expectation should a person have who comes for healing prayer? These and other questions are considered in a review of Doug Jones’ book ‘Positioning yourself to receive Healing’.

Click here to read the review

Steering clear of pulpit nonsense: Lost for Words, a Book Review

lost-for-words1

In order to achieve optimal outputs, the bottom line is we need to step up to the plate, raise the bar, push the envelope and think out of the box 24/7! It’s a no-brainer!

If you’ve either been impressed or nauseated by hearing someone speak like that then this short but punchy book by John Humphreys will help!

For the full review click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Book Review of CH Spurgeon’s ‘The Soul Winner’

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon

‘Even if I were utterly selfish, and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose, if I might, under God, to be a soul-winner…’

Click here for the full review:

https://lexloiz.wordpress.com/ch-spurgeon-the-soul-winner/

Book Review – Jonathan Edwards on Revival

Jonathan Edwards’ first-hand accounts of the revival in Northampton have become authoritative classics on the subject. I hope this brief review will steer you to further study of the amazing ‘Great Awakening’ that took place in the 18th Century and included such heroes as George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and John and Charles Wesley.

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Jonathan Edwards on Revival

Click here to read the review

Click here to purchase the book