17 Quotes From “What Matters Most”

What Matters Most is sure to be a thought-provoking, conversation-starting, paradigm-challenging book. You can read my full review of Leonard Sweet’s book by clicking here. To help whet your appetite for this book (that you’re going to read very soon, right?), here are 17 quotes that especially caught my attention…

“To save the world we don’t need the courage of our convictions. We need the courage of our relationships… Especially the courage of our relationship with the Creator, the creation, and our fellow creatures. Our problem in reaching the world is that we’ve made rules more important than relationships.”

“Western Christianity is largely belief based and church focused. It is concerned with landing on the right theology and doctrine and making sure everyone else toes the line. The Jesus trimtab, in contrast, is relationship based and world focused. It is concerned not so much with what you believe as with Whom you are following.” 

“Relationship is one of the things that distinguishes Judaism and its radical Christian revision from other religions: God calls us into a relationship. Christianity is much more than a wisdom tradition or a moral system or a path leading to higher states of existence.”

“We don’t follow Jesus because we understand Him or because we know the truth about Him. We follow Jesus because He is the Truth, and He leads us into truth through our relationship with Him. …The Jesus call to discipleship is an invitation to enter a relationship with the person doing the teaching, not simply an intellectual encounter with the principles He taught.”

“The postmodern quest has been misunderstood as an abandonment of the quest for truth. It is far from an abandonment, but is rather a rerouting of the quest for truth along more relational and less rational paths.”

“If we shift our focus away from truth as right teaching and correct doctrine, and instead center our lives on truth as a Person and faith as a relationship with that Person, what does this do to evangelism? Evangelism shifts from an attempt to indoctrinate a skeptic into a new belief system and makes the gospel proclamation a process of inviting others into a relationship with God. Evangelism is as much invitation as it is proclamation. It is inviting others into a relationship with God so that the Holy Spirit can make Christ come alive in them and live in them and they can live in God’s fullness and providence. Evangelism is not leading people into right beliefs about Jesus. It is introducing people to a relationship with Jesus the Christ.” 

“Obedience, in the biblical sense, is not ‘doing what you are told.‘Obedience is living relationally, even ‘indivisibly,’ with the Holy One so that we honor, uphold, receive, and follow all that God is and all that God is calling us to become.”

“It’s time to end the theological error of talking about how to make the Scriptures ‘come alive.’ The Word of God is alive. It’s we who must ‘come alive’ to the Scriptures.

“I can either be right, or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor.”

“The Holy Spirit is not a gift to individuals. The Holy Spirit is a gift to the body of Christ.”

“Relationship, not numbers, show if growth is biblical, healthy, and truly fruitful. Perhaps it’s times to declare a moratorium on statistics in the church. What if the only thing we reported was the answer to this question: ‘Is spiritual fruit in evidence in your church? Give me the stories, not more statistics.’ My dream for the church? God’s people telling more God stories than golf stories. An authentic Great Awakening is when people can’t stop talking about what God is doing.”

“James Hillman defines deepening growth as ‘work in the dirt.’ Plants can’t grow heavenward without first growing downward. Colorful blossoms are the byproduct of bland, down-and-dirty roots. Relationships that blossom are knee-bending, hands-dirtying digs into the bedrock issues. …If our relationships are to bear fruit, they first must become rooted in the soil of the Spirit. …If you’re concerned about your dignity, think about this: Where’s the dignity in being hung naked on a tree? Where’s the dignity in kneeling down to wash the dirtiest parts of someone’s body? Where’s the dignity in being born in a manger?”

“Prayer doesn’t plunge us deeper into ourselves, but deeper into others. The early church looked at prayer as a conversation with God that brings us into greater intimacy with God and others. Prayer is not what you do to get God’s attention. Prayer is what you do to bring yourself to attend to God and to pay attention to others.”

“For Jesus it was not ‘Poor people and other outcasts, find yourself a church’; it was ‘Church people, find yourself the poor and the outcasts.’” 

“Sadly, the church is too busy connecting people with the memory of Jesus, the Jesus Who ‘once was’ or the promise of a returning Christ Who ‘is to come.’ Meanwhile, the church is neglecting the Jesus Who ‘is right now,’ the Jesus Who lives all around us in the lives of the poor, the sick, the disabled, the persecuted, and the dying.”

“Being a Christian is more about relationship with God than beliefs about God; more about the presence of God than the proofs of God; more about intimacy with truth than the tenets of truth; more about knowing God’s activities than knowing God’s attributes. It is time to move from a religion that seeks to comprehend God to a relationship that seeks to encounter and be a home for God.”

“God does not come to us offering rules; God comes offering relationship. Truth is not found in the solving of difficult theological riddles. Truth is found as we get lost in the mystery of faith. You can maintain your bearings while getting lost… if Jesus is leading the way.”

Negotiating Conflict

Last week I spent two jam-packed days at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. As always, I was on information overload with the great content that is presented every year. So I’ve been taking some time to ponder what I learned.

There are a couple of past post on my blog that consistently rank near the top of the list of “most read”:

With that in mind, William Ury’s discussion on how to successfully negotiate conflict really caught my attention.

Ury pointed out that conflict isn’t bad; it’s natural. Therefore, we don’t need to eliminate conflict, but find ways to deal with it in constructive ways.

I’ve tried to learn to look at myself in the mirror before entering into discussions where the potential for conflict is high. This thought was reinforced when Ury said: The greatest obstacle to successful negotiation is: Me. Why? Because I tend to react. “When you’re angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret,” he said.

The greatest power we have in negotiation is the power NOT to react. 

Here are some strategies William Ury shared for successful negotiations:

  • Separate people from the problem. Be soft with people and hard with the problem. Soft means listening, empathy, and respect. Change the game: instead of squaring-off against each other face-to-face, be side-by-side facing the problem.
  • Focus on interests not positions. Probe behind the position to find out what the underlying interest is. He gave a great example about two girls who each wanted the one remaining orange. Our natural instinct is to divide the orange so each girl gets one half. But in watching what happens next, we see one girl throw away the peel and eat the fruit; the other throws away the fruit and uses the peel to complete her cake recipe. If we had figured out the interests of each girl, both girls could have had a whole orange! 
  • Develop multiple options. Search for creative options that meet the needs of everyone. Ury shared an example of a successful solution to a problem in the Middle East. Egypt wanted the Sinai peninsula because it was their historic possession; Israel wanted the same piece of land as a security buffer. The solution: let Egypt have sovereign control of the Sinai peninsula, but make it a demilitarized zone. Both sides got what they wanted.
  • Expand the pie before we divide it up. Uses standards that are objectively fair to each side.

The final piece of advice William Ury shared was the concept of BATNA = best alternative to a negotiated agreement. I need to think this through before any negotiations start. This is what I have determined ahead of time that I will walk away with if the negotiation doesn’t go as planned. Ury pointed out that we can negotiate with more confidence if we have a BATNA.

I thought this was pretty good advice. What do you think?

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