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Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing Hardcover – March 11, 2016
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"Crouch has a good grasp of both the text of Scripture and also our cultural context, and he's a good translator, taking robust theological ideas and making them accessible to the general interest reader. His thesis that human flourishing is embedded in the paradox of both greater authority and greater vulnerability echoes Jesus's incarnation and teaching, and inspires the reader to pursue the far-reaching implications of the gospel in our broken world, even our broken work." (2016 The Gospel Coalition Book Awards)
"There are very few books that speak candidly and biblically about the nature of power. Christians tend to err in one of three directions with regards to power. Either they worship power as the ultimate goal; they naively deny the power they are capable of and responsible for; or they avoid leadership for fear that power might corrupt them. Strong and Weak gives a theologically grounded approach for a biblical alternative. By embracing vulnerability while exercising authority, power can be used to serve the kingdom of God. This is a worthwhile and needed encouragement for the church and its people." (Paul Taylor, Themelios, August 2016)
"Church leaders looking for a new lens to view the impact of sin on a lost world will be well-served by this book. It's also an excellent book to read together with a group of friends to discuss the nature of the gospel―and its impact upon both individuals and communities―from a fresh perspective." (Tobin Perry, On Mission, Summer 2016)
"A book whose entire message can be summed up in a 2-inch by 2-inch chart at first may seem overly simplistic and unworthy of its 186 pages, but Crouch effectively digs beyond the surface of his message. He rewards readers with helpful insights into how Christians can flourish by acknowledging vulnerability instead of suppressing it. Both the pastor and the layperson will walk away from Strong and Weak with a fresh outlook on how God's power is perfected in weakness." (Daniel Camp, The Baptist Standard, May 2016)
"Strong and Weak is a small book―approximately 175 pages. But for me, it packed a large punch, almost with the force of a revelation. As a Christian and as a leader, I try so hard to insulate myself, my family, and those around me from risk, all the while enlarging the scope of my effective action and theirs. Far from contributing to my flourishing, however―or theirs―this effort makes it impossible to grow spiritually or to minister effectively. To do either, we must like Jesus descend from privilege into pain, for only by accepting meaningful risk can we also develop capacity for effective action. To borrow Paul's phrase, when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). And only then." (George P. Wood, Influence, May 10, 2016)
"This book challenged me to think authentically as a leader and to bring my real self into the work of leadership. Andy Crouch offers a simple yet profound framework that examines the important relationship between authority and vulnerability―and how various combinations can either help or hinder human flourishing. This roadmap exposes the all-too-easy pitfalls of withdrawal and exploitation while reminding us that it is in vulnerability and suffering that strength dwells. Strong and Weak is an empowering guide for anyone who seeks to live against a culture of safety and into a life of meaningful risk and flourishing." (Jena Lee Nardella, cofounder, Blood:Water, author of One Thousand Wells)
"God's Word focuses so much on the interplay between weakness and strength―as well as other opposites that drive us toward the greatest opportunities to flourish. All of discipleship seems to center around these opposites. When we experience poverty, we comprehend the riches that God generously bestows on us. When we experience helplessness, we recognize the might of his strength! Andy Crouch's excellent book gives insight into understanding all this more clearly." (Ravi I. Jayakaran, director, Community Transformations, e3 Partners, senior associate for integral mission, Lausanne Movement)
"Andy Crouch has done it again! Strong and Weak is an intellectually insightful, socially relevant and prophetically passionate book that shows us how to multiply our power to create a world where people from every tribe and nation can flourish and reach their full God-given potential. I love it!" (Brenda Salter McNeil, Seattle Pacific University, author of Roadmap to Reconciliation)
"This book is going to have a profound impact on our world. It's built on a clear, deep, life-changing insight that opens up vast possibilities for human flourishing. Classic, elegant and utterly illuminating." (John Ortberg, senior pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, author of Soul Keeping)
"In his latest, Andy Crouch asks: What virtues of character will guide most directly toward the sort of flourishing God desires for us? He suggests the answer lies in the combination of two paradoxical virtues: authority and vulnerability. The book nudges us to reimagine the shape of our faithfulness." (Relevant Magazine, March/April 2016)
"Strong and Weak gives biblical substance to the call to stewardship in the broadest sense―stewardship of self, vocation, gifts, resources and suffering. The stewardship of suffering is perhaps the most critical work of a leader, and often the most overlooked. This will become required reading for our leadership and development work." (Lisa Slayton, president, Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation)
About the Author
Andy Crouch (MDiv, Boston University School of Theology) is executive editor of Christianity Today and the author of books such as Culture Making and Playing God. Andy serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and Equitas Group, a philanthropic organization focused on ending child exploitation in Haiti and Southeast Asia. He is also a senior fellow of International Justice Missions Institute for Biblical Justice. His writing has appeared in Time, the Wall Street Journal and several editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing. Crouch served as executive producer for the documentary films Where Faith and Culture Meet and Round Trip, as well as the multi-year project This Is Our City, which featured documentary video, reporting and essays about Christians seeking the flourishing of their cities. He also sits on the editorial board for Books & Culture and was editor-in-chief of re:generation quarterly. He also spent ten years as a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. A classically trained musician who draws on pop, folk, rock, jazz and gospel, Crouch has led musical worship for congregations of five to twenty thousand. He lives with his family in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
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Top Customer Reviews
Crouch does a fine job of crafting a vision of human flourishing as negotiating human realities of authority and vulnerability. Crouch has great prose, and the entire book is full of anecdotes that contribute to a fine exposition on flourishing. There are several vignettes of men and women who are not white, and that contributes to a more rounded concept of flourishing. I might have wanted for him to make matters of ethnicity and justice more explicit and have a greater prominence, but that would not be Crouch's oeuvre.
For the more theologically inclined reader, this book hosts a largely tacit sense of Christology and mission. There are several citations of the NT, but no dedicated chapter to the person of Jesus and his mission, and how both shape Crouch's concept of human flourishing. Again: it's largely tacit, and could be tested and trusted. More on this in a moment
If I had one negative criticism of the book, it would be the following. In discussion of flourishing as a function of authority, there's this: "Authority requires that our action be meaningful, not just willy-nilly activity...What makes action meaningful? Above all, meaningful action participates in a story...Meaningful action...takes place in the midst of a story...The capacity for meaningful action is not something we possess on our own. It is something that others confer on us. Without being given countless gifts—language, nurture, of love—by those who cared for us in our infancy and our childhood, none of us would have the capacity to act meaningfully in the world." (35-37)
I'm not sure that a 3rd-person account of my actions can ever determine or judge the meaningfulness of my activity Furthermore, while I am attracted to the notion of agency participating in a larger narrative of significance, I find myself in sympathy with African American student from Harvard: Whose story is this? Finally, and please, I tread lightly here: I wonder how this account of a human person can square with the life of his beloved niece. This weight that so many Christian pastors, authors, and academics place upon language, making acquisition constitutional of our humanity, while simultaneously insisting the importance of our person is a function of what society communicates to us continues to crush Christians near and far. Don't misunderstand: I'm far from suggesting the other end of the spectrum, in which we are teflon-like in our activities. I would prefer to recognize that we have desires and actions that spring from both what matters most to us as well as our developed experience in the world that includes non-linguistic knowledge. Not everything about our humanity and our human flourishing requires language.
You can take a clever quiz on human flourishing developed by the publisher here :[...]
Finally, this is an easy, but challenging read. The implications for confident, yet fallible engagement with the world in Crouch's conception of human flourishing proposes an attractive, rugged form of mission for Christians.
“Many simple ideas are simplistic – they filter out too much of reality to be truly useful. This one is not, because it is a particular kind of simple idea, the kind we call a paradox. It holds together two simple truths in a simple relationship, but it generates fruitful tension, complexity and possibility” (10).
In writing about flourishing, he also writes about the three other competing categories: exploiting, withdrawing, and suffering. Suffering, different from the other two, has the potential to lead us back into real flourishing, as he notes towards the end of the book. I’m not a leadership book kind of guy, but each of these categories has important lessons for anyone in leadership.
Some books have great content which can be broken down and shared but are, perhaps, too heady for most readers. Other books have great content and are written for the masses. This book, to it’s credit, falls in the later category. I look forward to recommending it to several people and continue to look forward to more work from Crouch in the future.