When you hear the word “organic” where does your mind head? To that tasty snack from Whole Foods marketplace? Or perhaps you immediately begin to think about the gardening that needs to be done in your yard. Well, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “organic” is the Organic Church authored by Neil Cole in our Leadership Network Series with Jossey Bass. Neil's “claim to fame” (better stated as his deep calling for those of you who know him personally) is a call to help people know how to “plant the seeds of the kingdom where life happens and where culture is formed – restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, parks, locker rooms and neighborhoods.” That's organic church. Key to the success of any endeavor, Kingdom or otherwise, is the strength of leadership. In Neil's latest book, Journeys to Significance, Neil charts a leadership course for organic church leaders from a look at the life of Paul. Enjoy the following insights from the life of the author.
Why is reading important to you, and how do you find or make time to read books and blogs?
We must always be learning and growing. You cannot lead people where you do not go, so if I wish to lead I must learn. I usually read in spurts. Certain seasons I get more reading done than others. Summer is a big reading time for me. It is usually the summer months where I read some novels, which is also important to me because reading needs to be fun if you want to engage in it. Usually the 3-4 months where I am writing a book is full of reading as well but that reading is very specific addressing literature that is current and relevant to the specific topic I am writing about. I have a pretty strong conviction that if the book I am reading doesn’t grab me in the first chapter I will not read the whole thing. Some books are research oriented and I do not need to read every page, but even then I will scan the whole book because context supplies meaning and then I focus on what is pertinent to my own needs. I usually read about 25 books a year, but I do not read in a very disciplined manner, so I may read 10 or 12 books in two months and then scatter the rest over the year.
What books are you currently reading that you would recommend to our readers?
The Faith of Leap is a good read by my friends Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost. I also really liked Skye Jethani’s new book With: Reimagining the Way you Relate to God. Tim Chester who co-wrote Total Church has a great little book that just came out on what seems like an obscure subject, but as you read the book you begin to realize how important it really is. The book is called A Meal with Jesus. My friend and co-worker, Ross Rohde has a new book coming out called Viral Jesus which is quite good. And my friend Jon Zens recently came out with a very profound work on the clergy myth called The Pastor has No Clothes. I read Love Wins to see what the fuss is all about. Those books I read in the last 3-4 months. Last summer I read the Hunger Games Trilogy and enjoyed it. I’m still looking for what fiction to read this summer…any ideas? Please no vampires or teenage love triangles; I’ve had enough of that!
How do you make time to write books or blog?
Wow, that is a hard question because I do not really do it very systematically. I have a family, travel two to three times a month, lead our non-profit organization (CMAResources.org) and coach a handful of church planters at any given time. Writing works around all of that. I am not a driven personality, I can accomplish a lot, but I am not living a driven life to get things done. I will throw a few things at you that address the question, but the reality is I just do what I need to do…today (and it all gets done if it is supposed to). First, I usually do not blog in the months I am writing my book. The day I released the pressure to blog every day was a good day! It usually takes me 3-4 months to write a book that can be acceptable to the publisher. That is usually full time writing yet still interrupted with travel for training that I do all over the world. I can’t write on a trip (except occasionally on the flight out when I am more rested). I see myself as an artist and always have (my undergrad degree is in art and I have illustrated some books), so I see writing as a creative outlet. I am a person that is more creative with a deadline, so I like deadlines…I also like editors, so I may be a little weird to some people. One weird habit that I may need to break at some point is that I cannot write a second book in the same location that I wrote a previous one in. Why? I don’t know. It’s just a weird quirky thing with me. My wife turned our daughter’s bedroom when she moved out and into a home office for me to write in. I wrote Church 3.0 in it. Now I can’t write another book in there! This is not a good habit. When I am in that space that book is what comes to mind, and I need to get to a new place to free my creative focus on a new work.
What is the “big idea” of your latest book in a Leadership Network book series?
Journeys to Significance is different from all my previous works; it is more narrative and tells the story of the apostle Paul’s life and mission. There are many breakthrough observations of how Paul did mission and how he continued to learn, adapt and improve with each missionary journey until he turned the world upside down and finished strong.
If leaders only had time right now to read one chapter of your book, which one would your recommend… and why?
Well, because the book tells a story it is hard to isolate one chapter. I am an author who actually puts a lot of creative thought into the preface and introduction of a book, so if you tend to skip them you are missing some of the best writing in my books. I would suggest you start there, and if that doesn’t grab you the book isn’t worth reading.
Stay tuned for next week's notes from John Bishop, author of Dangerous Church.