Pastor Jamin Goggin and theology professor Kyle Strobel invite readers 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 readers 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 readers eavesdrop on the authors’ conversations with people such as J. I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson, they 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.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Jamin Goggin serves as a pastor at Mission Hills Church. He has been in pastoral ministry for eleven years, including several years as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church. Jamin speaks and writes in the areas of spiritual formation, ministry and theology. He holds two Masters degrees and is currently earning a PhD in systematic theology. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Kristin, and their three children.
Kyle Strobel is a professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University and is an emerging voice among evangelicals on spiritual formation, discipleship, and theology. Kyle speaks regularly and has written for Pastors.com, Relevant magazine (and Relevant Magazine.com), ChurchLeader.com, and DeeperStory.com. Kyle lives in Southern California with his wife, Kelli, and their two children.
Read an Excerpt
The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb
Searching for Jesus' Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It
By Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin
All rights reserved.
THE WAYS OF POWER
I (JAMIN) HAD BEEN IN MINISTRY LONG ENOUGH TO HEAR the stories. It's a familiar narrative these days: pastors disqualified from ministry due to moral failure. For years I had listened to devastating tales of infidelity and broken families in the lives of fellow pastors. My immediate reaction, in all honesty, was typically swift judgment. I mentally distanced myself-from such pastors, believing I was cut from a different sort of spiritual cloth than such sinners. How on earth could this happen? How could anyone, let alone a pastor, ever do such a thing? These stories, while far too commonplace, were quite removed from my immediate life and church world. I couldn't imagine any of my pastoral peers ever experiencing such a fall from grace.
Then it happened. I remember the phone call vividly. A dear friend, a fellow pastor, called me to confess his infidelity and ask for prayer amid the consequences he was going to face from the leadership of his church. As he talked I felt numb. The shock of the moment gripped me in a way I had never experienced. I knew this man. I thought I knew him well. All of a sudden, I found myself living in one of those distant stories.
A few days later we met. My friend shared his grief, his pain, and his overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. I listened. As he continued to share his heart, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the conversation. Not uncomfortable in the way you might imagine. I didn't squirm at the details of his sin. Rather, something in what he shared struck a chord in my own heart. I couldn't conveniently distance myself from his sin.
As he talked about the dynamics that contributed to his infidelity, at the forefront were pride, status, and grandiosity. While there were unhealthy dynamics in his relationship with his wife, his hunger for power had played a large part in this painful and tragic saga. He recently had been promoted to a significant leadership position and was being showered with the affirmation and accolades that went along with it. The recognition and status he had received emboldened an already unhealthy desire for power and a vision for pastoral life informed by his own grandiosity and quest for significance. In recent months he had incrementally given himself over to such things, and as a result was doing ministry apart from dependence upon Christ. As he invited me into these deeper channels of his heart, I found myself all too familiar with the current. I knew the temptations of status and recognition. I was well acquainted with the hunger for power he spoke of and the temptation to craft a false self worthy of praise. I could not distance myself from such a "horrible sinner" because I could see the ingredients of such behavior in my own heart.
For years Kyle and I had no trouble looking critically upon others in their quest for power. We bemoaned the rock-star pastors who were in the spotlight, whose churches appeared to be more concerned with growing their brand than proclaiming the gospel. This is the first temptation of power: We view the problem as "out there." We recognize it in other churches, pastors, fellow Christians, or political and cultural leaders, but we ignore the problem in our own hearts. For Kyle and me personally, this remains a strong temptation. As men with a calling to teach and lead, we can often default to analyzing the error of others without honestly assessing the truth about ourselves.
Accordingly, it is easy to allow the word power to trigger a mental list of tyrannical and narcissistic leaders. Likewise, it can be much harder to find examples of those who have embraced power properly. Mother Teresas are rare. In a fallen world, this is reality. In contrast, our first inclination should not be to identify the problem of power as somewhere "out there," but as "in here," within our own hearts. Jesus says, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye" (Luke 6:42). We find it much easier to become burdened and angered by sins that are not our own. When those sins are committed by those in leadership, we find it even easier. Notice, Jesus is not saying the solution is to ignore the sins of others. We should name sins, just as Jesus did. However, we must recognize that only after naming the truth of our own sin can we come in grace and truth to name the sins of others. Only when we see the truth of ourselves can we have mercy to address others in God's grace. As those forgiven by God, we pray, "Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us" (Matt. 6:12 nlt).
During my tenure as a pastor in the last decade, I have had a front row seat to witness the beauty in the church. I have seen lives transformed, relationships healed, and the outcasts of society loved. However, my years in the church have also given me enough time to see abuse. I have seen leaders in the church destroy the careers of other staff members because they viewed them as threats to their authority. I have known pastors who focus their energy on the members of the church with money and influence while neglecting the rest of the congregation. More importantly, I have felt the weight of the log in my own eye. I have seen my thirst for power driving my ministry. I have viewed other pastors as competition and the church as a means of self-glory. I have acted in ways that place me alongside the powermongers I so readily critiqued.
Paradoxically, as I began to acknowledge my longing for power, another temptation appeared in my heart. I became tempted to reject power altogether. It simplifies things quite a bit if we can reject power wholesale, viewing any position of influence as intrinsically evil. For our generation — which is drowning in a sea of political, social, and religious examples of power gone awry — this is an alluring temptation. The abuse of power seems pervasive, committed even by the people we expect to love us and care for us the most. Some of us have been abused, misled, and manipulated by "shepherds" who turned out to be wolves. Abuses have caused some to leave the church altogether. It is difficult to return to the house where you were abused.
As painful as our experiences in the church may have been, we must avoid the temptation of viewing power itself as bad. From the moment of creation God intended for people to have power. Adam and Eve were given rule and dominion over creation by God himself (Gen. 1:28). Part of being created in God's image is having the power to shape the world around us. Power is a grace of God. And as a grace, it is not generic, but a part of God's self-giving. Grace is God's giving of himself to his people, and in Christ, we come to receive the kind of power God offers: the power of the cross. This is a power known through death and resurrection — moving through our weakness to a new kind of strength — strength in abiding in, submitting to, and resting in God alone.
Power is the capacity to affect reality. We human beings have the capacity to physically, emotionally, and spiritually influence the world around us. God has given us this capacity for good — to glorify him and bless the world. But as Christians, our primary interest is not simply in affecting reality. Our primary interest is to bear fruit of the kingdom — the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We were not created to pursue power as an end in itself, but rather to pursue God, the powerful one, and abide in his power to bless the world. But because of our sin, our ability to use power is disordered and is damaging the world around us. Just as Adam and Eve grasped for power apart from God, so do we. Just as Cain wielded his power to destroy his perceived competition, so do we. A way of power exists that is good, true, and beautiful; but there is also a way of power that is evil, false, and ugly. After the fall, two ways of power are always before us. Even those of us who are followers of Jesus will be tempted to embrace the sinful way of power rather than the way of power embodied on the cross. We may happily receive the good news of Jesus' cross, but we often shy away from his call to pick up our own.
THE WAYS OF POWER
"You are so wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?"
"No!" cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. "With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly." His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. "Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused."
In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the wizard Gandalf is the embodiment of true wisdom, but his wisdom may appear foolish — as when he refuses to take the ring of power. Gandalf is powerful, yet his is a power found in weakness. Other characters reject Gandalf's way, believing that the only way to truly defeat the enemy is by wielding the ring. But in the end they are unmasked as fools. Their eyes can see worldly power, but they are blind to the power of wisdom.
As with Middle Earth, so with our world. Two ways of power are presented to us. Only one is the true path of wisdom. James unfolds these opposing ways: Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
James draws here from a long biblical tradition of wisdom literature. Earlier in the letter, James says that wisdom is to be desired and that it has one source, God, who gives wisdom and delights in doing so (James 1:5). As with all good gifts, wisdom comes from above (James 1:17). Godly wisdom is not achieved, but is received. This way from above has descended in the person of Christ, who is the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). Wisdom is not essentially about making right decisions, but about living by the power of God in Christ Jesus. Wisdom and folly are right and wrong ways not only of thinking, but also of living in the world. There are two paths, but only one is the path of true wisdom and power.
According to James these two paths are the way from above and the way from below. They are two opposing ways of power in the world. These ways of power are distinguished first by their source. The way from above is power from God. The way from above is embracing God's power and depending upon him. As we will see in the next chapter, embracing God's power involves embracing our own weakness and abiding in Christ (John 15:1-5). Conversely, the way from below is a rejection of God's power and a dependence upon ourselves in sinful autonomy. The way from below rejects abiding in God in favor of our own willpower, turning to the power of the self to make a difference in the world. Ultimately the source of this power, as we will see in chapter 4, is the world, the flesh, and the devil.
As important as our source of power is, we cannot simply ask where power is from. We also have to ask, What is power for? These are two sides of the same coin, even as they are distinct questions. The way from above and the way from below are distinguished not only by the source of power, but also by the fruit or results of power. The way from above is power for love. As we walk the way from above, our lives are "pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17). By contrast, the way from below is power for the sake of being powerful, for the sake of control. As we walk the way from below, our hearts grow full of "jealousy and selfish ambition"; and the fruit we produce is "disorder and every vile practice" (James 3:16). James builds upon the Old Testament wisdom literature, which also couches wisdom in journey imagery.
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Prov. 4:10-15)
We are constantly confronted by these two ways, and we can easily delude ourselves into believing that we are walking the way from above when in fact we are walking the way from below. I (Jamin) have seen this in my own journey. In my early years of ministry I was convinced that my quest for power was merely a fervent commitment to the important work of the kingdom. My grandiose fantasy of success was excused as an embrace of God's big plan for my life. I had big dreams because I had "bold faith." My emphasis on building a strong resume and winning the approval of others was about making the most of my talents and abilities for God's glory. I found it surprisingly easy to adorn the way from below in the platitudes of Christian leadership, magically transforming evil into good.
James warns us of this very reality. He tells us that the way from below masquerades as the way from above. This is worldliness pretending to be wisdom. False wisdom deludes us into believing it is the truth (James 3:14): "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Prov. 14:12). In Christ we have been born anew into the way from above (John 3:3), but there are places in our hearts that still long for the old path of Adam and Eve's quest to be like God. The question we must face is whether we will abide in the way of Jesus — continuing to trust in him — or return to the way of Adam. Whereas the way of Adam will feel right, and often will give us the results we desire, the Scriptures are clear: The way from below is the way of death, and the way from above is the way of life (Matt. 7:13-14). These paths lead to drastically different places.
Jesus offers us an invitation into the way from above in John 15:5: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." The power from abiding in Christ produces kingdom fruit. We can only embrace the way from above by embracing the one who descended from above and is now seated above (Col. 3:3). It is only as we depend upon Christ, by the Spirit, that we can hope to produce kingdom fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). Jesus simplifies things even more a few verses later in John 15 when he says, "Abide in my love" (v. 9). And so we see that the way from above is power from love and for love. Love here is not sentimental — a romantic comedy kind of love; love directs our attention to God himself, the all-powerful Creator of the universe (1 John 4:8). As Martin Luther King Jr. noted, love and power are not mutually exclusive:
One of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love ... What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love, implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.
BAD TREES WITH GOOD FRUIT?
What Martin Luther King Jr. recognized is that the way of Jesus is power in love: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Such love is not self-generated or merely external, but comes from an abiding relationship with Jesus and is first and foremost an issue of the heart (John 15). To produce kingdom fruit, both internally and externally, fruit that is from God and for God's glory, we must abide in Christ by the Holy Spirit. But the flip side to this is that kingdom fruit can seemingly be produced by those who reject the way from above. Outward fruit is not a guarantee that a heart is truly abiding in God. And such fruit does us no good at all (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Excerpted from The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin, Kyle Strobel. Copyright © 2017 Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Seeking the Way xvii
Part 1 Discovering the Way
1 The Ways of Power 3
2 Power in Weakness 19
3 Becoming Powerful 37
4 Standing Against the Powers 59
5 The Power of Love 81
Part 2 Embracing the Way
6 Unexpected Power 105
7 The Power of the Lamb 127
8 The Power of Faithfulness 145
9 Walking in the Wilderness 165
10 The Way of Resistance 191
Conclusion: Living the Way 211
Interviewee Reading List 223
About the Authors 227
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel craft a wonderful path for readers to discover the difference between power that is obtained for self, by self (the dragon) and power that is from God, for love (the lamb). They do this by bringing readers back to the one of the chief tenets of the gospel: in our weakness Jesus is strong. Or in this case, Jesus way to power is through admitting weakness and leaning into God. The authors did a great job incorporating interviews and personal stories into their telling of the way, even becoming vulnerable on more than one occasion. Something that is lacking in many areas including the church. They discuss the norms of church leadership in new light and bring to the surface the very real truth that it can be tempting to turn to the quick answer for power, and not rely on God to bring about His own. Frighteningly Goggin and Strobel are correct in their synopsis that church leadership has rested on the way from below for a while now. Rockstar pastors, charismatic personalities and reliance on the ‘show’ to fill seats. It is also mentioned that in some churches the gospel has disappeared. I found the book to be cohesive and very interesting, keeping me turning pages and seeking more knowledge for the subject. The use of scripture appeared correct and not simply using a passage to prove a point. This isn’t a book I would suggest for the average reader, to be honest some may be lost in the theological standpoints and often hard hitting structure of the writing. But if you are in leadership within the church I would say it is worth the read. Examine the way you do church and if the path you are on is one of Jesus, or one of self. You may be surprised by what you discover. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This book is called The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb. It's written by two authors who share personal experiences in the struggle for power. I think overall this book takes an honest look at the struggle each of us faces in living this life, either by our own strength and slapping the word God on it, or being truly submitted to God and letting our pride die. A struggle for sure, especially in the church where so many are run as a business endeavor and not as extensions of Christ. I give this book a solid 4 stars. **I was given this book in exchange for an honest review by BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own.**