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Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (Transforming Center Set) Hardcover – June 18, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Ruth Haley Barton is a gifted distiller of historic best practices for community discernment and direction. Exercising her counsel on the rare 'vow of stability' would by itself rescue multiple organizations from broken strategic trajectories. I highly recommend Pursuing God's Will Together for leaders, teams and organizations." (Dr. Bruce McNicol, president, Truefaced Inc.)

"Pursuing God's Will Together is a much-needed corrective to our headstrong individualism today. It drills down deep into rock-bed practicalities for any community seeking to discern the will of God together. I recommend it highly." (Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and Sanctuary of the Soul)

"Fabulous! I look forward to giving copies to our staff and elders. Ruth provides a practical, powerful road map so we can discern the most important question as a leadership team: What is God's will for us on a particular issue?" (Pete Scazzero, pastor of New Life Fellowship Church and author of The Emotionally Healthy Church)

"While there has been a revival of interest in spiritual disciplines for some time, there is precious little available about how to practice them in community. More specifically, there is almost nothing about helping Christian leaders discern God's presence and activities together. That is, until now. With Pursuing God's Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton―a recognized leader in spiritual formation―fills this need admirably. This is an important, unique book that will be sure to transform Christian corporate leadership from a pure business model to a more spiritually integrated approach. I highly recommend it." (J. P. Moreland, professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and author of The God Question)

"I have been grateful for Ruth Haley Barton's wisdom in the past on spiritual disciplines so crucial for the soul of a leader. I am sure her latest work will be of great benefit to those who seek the grace of discernment in their work and ministries." (Gary Haugen, president and CEO, International Justice Mission)

"Pursuing God's Will Together is a powerfully convicting and timely book for those of us who are fully aware that we are incapable of effective leadership apart from God's wisdom and direction. How to discern God's purposes individually and as a dynamic team is the genius of this compellingly creative call to kingdom movement. Ruth Haley Barton presents us with a proven―if at times painful―practice that can ultimately take our finite efforts to where our infinite God wants them to go." (Harold B. Smith, president and CEO, Christianity Today International)

"I like this book. It is wise, thoughtful, gracious and a little bit disturbing―Ruth will surely upset some of your preconceived notions. If you are like me, you believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but you want to be wise and not presumptuous about knowing God's will for your group. This book is a real gift to folks like us. It provides us with much more than simply a plan of action. You can use it yourself, but it will also be quite useful to you with your fellow decision makers, so that discerning God's will together becomes an experience in spiritual growth for the whole team." (John Yates, rector, The Falls Church)

"In Pursuing God's Will Together [Ruth Haley Barton] weaves her own wisdom with others in bringing forth a beautiful tapestry of spirituality in community." (Chuck Olsen, founder, Worshipful-Work, and author of Transforming Church Boards)

"It's impossible to overstate how needed, valuable, timely and timeless this book is. It is as wise as Methuselah and as practical as a slingshot. Ruth has rendered a massive service to church leaders everywhere, and to all the churches they lead. Herein lies the remedy for the sad but common malady we see today: otherwise godly men and women pursuing God's kingdom with worldly navigational equipment. I plan to buy a case of Pursuing God's Will Together upon its release and make it mandatory reading for all of our leaders. It can hardly come soon enough." (Mark Buchanan, pastor, New Life Community Baptist Church, author of Spiritual Rhythm and Your Church Is Too Safe)

"This book needs a warning label: 'Content may be disruptive to your understanding of Christian life, leadership and community.' Ruth Haley Barton has provided every Christian with an invaluable resource for discerning and fulfilling the purposes of God. In a world where Christians and Christian leadership and communities have largely succumbed to secular processes for decision making, Barton brings a clear, challenging and compelling call for a radical alternative. This book is not the product of a 'theorist,' but the mature distillation of Barton's own journey into a life hid with Christ in God for the sake of others. This is a must-read for every Christian leader and leadership group, and a primer for every Christian." (M. Robert Mulholland Jr., professor emeritus, Asbury Theological Seminary, and author of Invitation to a Journey and The Deeper Journey)

"Ruth Haley Barton knows only too well that discerning God's will requires a personal commitment to transformation as well as an openness to engage in a group process. In Pursuing God's Will Together, she shows us in a systematic way how it's done. Every Christian leader will benefit from such a practical approach to such an ancient practice." (Albert Haase, O.F.M., author of This Sacred Moment)

"Ruth Haley Barton has identified an important issue in spiritual leadership and in how we make decisions, revealing where our integrity as leaders lies. Do we really believe that God has something to say, by his Holy Spirit, in terms of what direction we take? Ruth does a great job of describing practices that can help teams become more adept at hearing God's voice in the practical areas of leading and serving." (Doug Nuenke, U.S. director, The Navigators)

About the Author

Ruth Haley Barton (DD, Northern Seminary) is founding president of the Transforming Center, a spiritual formation ministry to pastors and Christian leaders. A trained spiritual director (Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation), teacher and retreat leader, she has served on the pastoral staff of several churches, including Willow Creek Community Church. A sought-after teacher, preacher and consultant to leadership teams, she is currently adjunct professor of spiritual transformation at Northern Seminary. Educated at Wheaton College, Northern Seminary and Loyola University Chicago Institute for Pastoral Studies, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life, including Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Sacred Rhythms, Longing for More and Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. She is also the author of an online resource titled eReflections, spiritual guidance via e-mail. She contributes regularly to Conversations: A Forum for Authentic Transformation.

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Product Details

  • Series: Transforming Center Set
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; First Ed 1st Printing edition (June 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830835660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830835669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center, a ministry dedicated to strengthening the souls of pastors, Christian leaders and the congregations and organizations they serve. [www.thetransformingcenter.org] A sought-after teacher, retreat leader and trained spiritual director, Ruth is the author of numerous books and articles on the spiritual life.

Educated at Northern Seminary, the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and Loyola University Chicago Institute for Pastoral Studies, she has served on the pastoral staff of several churches including Willow Creek Community Church and is Professor of Spiritual Transformation at Northern Seminary.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Warning! This is a dangerous book (I'll explain). And it's certainly a no-brainer Top-10 book for 2012 for pastors, ministry leaders and board members.

Ruth Haley Barton has the audacity to write, "Just because something is strategic does not necessarily mean it is God's will for us right now."

She says that our staff meetings and board meetings must move from decision-making to discernment. "Spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish between good (that which is of God and draws us closer to God) and evil (that which is not of God and draws us away from God)."

She adds, "Many of us have been taught that leadership is having the answer, and we come into meetings we are leading prepared to bestow that wisdom on our trusty followers; we might ask God for wisdom in a prayer that sounds very spiritual, but the truth is, there isn't much room for God to do or say anything other than what we already have in mind."

Spiritual leadership has a different flavor believes the author. "There are many qualities that contribute to good leadership, but it is our commitment to discerning and doing the will of God through the help of the Holy Spirit that distinguishes spiritual leadership from other kinds of leadership."

And there's the problem: most of us want to do the will of God, but few of us are willing to invest the time to learn, practice and facilitate a spiritual discernment process. (Raise your hand if your board has a designated "discernmentarian." How about a wise sage? Barton says you need both.)

About 75 pages into this dangerous book, I grieved the wasted years of clever PowerPoints, flipchart busy-work, 31-tab binders and too many frequent flier miles...just soldiering on...when, in fact, I was focused on the wrong thing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Most Christian leaders have a vague sense that our approach to decision making should be different from secular models, but we are not quite sure what that difference is, according to Ruth Haley Barton in this book. Spiritual discernment requires us to move beyond reliance on human thinking and strategizing to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us.

A problem with spiritual discernment is that it seems subjective and mystical, whereas typical leaders are more drawn to objective and pragmatic decision-making techniques. Many poor church decisions have been made by leaders who thought God was telling them to move in one direction when the objective evidence indicated that the wise course of action was in a different direction. So how does the author recommend proceeding?

Before even starting on discernment, the author recommends that each member of the leadership team go through a spiritual transformation process involving adopting a number of spiritual practices, and that the team as a whole agree on values that will undergird their community. The recommended discernment process itself involves the following steps:

* Preparation: clarify the question, gather the community for discernment, affirm guiding values and principles
* Seeking leading: pray for indifference (i.e.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the challenges church leaders have faced is the idea that a business model of leadership works in the church.

Quite simply it does not.

To choose leaders based on their ability as a secular or business leader is erroneous. A secular or business leader does not make a good spiritual leader. To sit down at a table as part of a church leadership requires a completely different set of gifts and a different approach. One very important gift required in spiritual leaders is that of spiritual discernment.

This is what Ruth Haley Barton attempts to navigate leaders towards in Pursuing God's Will Together.

Her basic thesis is that we must regain a view that church leadership is spiritual and that leaders must therefore be spiritual. It may sound obvious, but in many churches and denominations people have lost sight of this truth. What does spiritual leadership look like? It begins with leaders actively and deliberately seeking God and leading from a position of godliness and a desire to DO God's will, both in their own lives and the life of the church.

There are no major `new' revelations in Barton's book. What the book does well is to frame the issue of spiritual leadership and discernment within the context of community. While you can read this book and benefit from it as an individual,the most effective way for the insights of this book to be mined is through group interaction, reflection and discussion. Barton's purpose is to bring leadership teams together. She does it well.
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