“Paradigm” is a way over-used word in describing books, but in Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, Andy Crouch genuinely presented a new and better paradigm that helped me think about all my interactions with others and with God.
If that sounds overwhelming, keep in mind he did it in about 180 pages. That’s why I say he created a paradigm. It is a way of viewing and understanding interactions – parenting, marriage, work, leadership, ministry, neighborly, political, etc. I won’t give away or try to explain his framework for fear of cheapening it. Just buy and read this book. It is one the will genuinely reshape your thinking and, with a little effort, your living too.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak.
Much of the dysfunction in our lives comes from oscillating along the line of false choices, never seeing there might be another way.
There really is no other goal higher for us than to become people who are so full of authority and vulnerability that we perfectly reflect what human beings were meant to be and disclose the reality of the Creator in the midst of creation.
Becoming a saint is about quite a bit more than ‘working harder’ – or perhaps better put, it’s about a great deal less.
Think of authority this way: the capacity for meaningful action. When you have authority, what you do, or do not do, makes a meaningful difference in the world around you.
Above all, meaningful action participates in a story. It has a past and a future. Meaningful action does not just come from nowhere, and it does not just vanish in an instant – it takes place in the midst of a story that matters.
The vulnerability that leads to flourishing requires risk, which is the possibility of loss – the chance that when we act, we will lose something we value.
Sometimes suffering is simply the painful payoff of risking love in a broken world.
It is almost never enough to reduce vulnerability – even though that is what most of us seek to do in our own lives. We must also restore proper authority to individual persons and to whole communities.
‘Helicopter parents’ have been replaced by ‘bulldozer parents,’ who clear ever obstacle from their children’s paths, and ‘drone parents,’ who hover invisibly overhead and then swoop in with overwhelming force when their progeny is endangered.
The greatest challenge of success is the freedom it gives you to opt out of real risk and real authority.
In social media you can engage in nearly friction-free experiences of activism, expressing enthusiasm, solidarity or outrage (all powerful sensations of authority) for your chosen cause with the click of a few buttons.
Amidst safety the world has never before known, the greatest spiritual struggle many of us face is to be willing to take off our bubble wrap.
Our affluence has left us unready for the tragedy and danger of the world.
The twentieth century sexual revolution’s promise of “freedom” has given way to a twenty-first century epidemic of attenuated, mediated sexual escapism.
Our idols inevitable fail us, generally sooner rather than later.
The first thing any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships.
In the end the justice of God will abolish the authority of those who have purchased their power at the price of others’ flourishing, those who refuse to enter into relationship with the God who is authority and vulnerability together.
Leadership does not begin with title or position, it begins the moment you are more concerned about others’ flourishing than your own.
This is what it is to be a leader: to bear the risks that only you can see, while continuing to exercise authority that everyone can see.
Jesus drains the cup of wrath to its dregs. He does not take one taste of death, spit it out and fly up to heaven. He descends to the dead, and there, for all that his disciples can see or know for Friday to Sunday, he stays.
Death is the last enemy not just because it takes life but because the fear of death prevents real life.
It is hard to think of many things that do more damage to an organization than leaders who have no plan for how they will hand over power.
Only those who have opened themselves to meaningful risk are likely to be entrusted with the authority that we all were made for and seek.
Barnabas Piper serves on the leadership team at Lifeway, and is the author of several books, including The Pastor’s Kid, and Help My Unbelief.