An Invitation to Deeper, More Joyful, and Rewarding Relationships with God and Others
None of us is lovable all of the time. People are unreasonable, arguments flare, feelings are hurt. And no one can make us feel worse than those closest to us. It's easy to fall into the trap of closing ourselves off in order to protect ourselves, rather than opening ourselves up for relationship with each other. But think of who Jesus invited into his life and ministry. They weren't always lovable. Yet he modeled perfect love for us and showed how the mark of a spiritually mature believer was always love.
In The Power of Together, pastor and author Jim Putman uncovers the core of true discipleship with an in-depth, biblical look at how Jesus always invited people into relationship with himself. He loved them with God's perfect love and, in the process, showed everyone around him that the act of following God is the act of extending and receiving love that endures all things.
Over the last several years, it seems that there has been more attention to the relational aspects of the Christian faith. There have always been some people writing about relationships, often the biblical counselors, but the focus has spread. More and more, Christian authors are recognizing that the Trinity is not simply incidental to Christianity, but essential--not just what is, but what must be, if God is love.
The Power of Together: Discover the Christian Life You've Been Missing (2016, Baker) by Jim Putman is a wonderful addition to this growing body of books. Putman is the pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho and has developed and promoted what he calls "relational discipleship". Matthew 28 reminds Christians that we are to go and make disciples and Putman (rightly) surmises that making disciples happens in relationship. On page 66, he wrote, "That's what discipleship looks like--learning to love in real relationships."
Perhaps what I most appreciated about the book is that Putman brings to it a balanced wisdom. He doesn't come from a naive perspective where every one simply holds hands and tolerates everyone else. He knows, from lived experience as a pastor, that relationships can be difficult. Difficult conversations can and must happen in order to continue to grow as disciples of Christ.
Putman is a churchman in the best sense of the word. He strongly advocates for engaging in a local church and staying in a local church even when things get tough, because they will. Churches are made up of messy, sinful people, yet they are God's plan for the world. If God is relational (He is) and love is expressed through relations with God and others (it is), then it happens in the church.
In sum, The Power of Together captures my hope for the church. I desire to see the church become more intentionally relational in the way that God has called us to. Putman's book helps us on the way.
I received a copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions presented here are my own.
These are important words that I know every believer could benefit from. It addresses the misconception the Church has that a pastor is solely responsible for the growth of Christians, and does a beautiful job redefining the proper role leadership SHOULD play in church and shifts the focus to real, authentic realtionships within the body as the means for actual, sustained, lasting growth and maturity. I would recommend it everyone, leader or not. Maybe even especially for those who aren't. This is the future of how the church moves forward, because really, it is going back to the roots of Acts and Jesus's ministry...discipleship, close relationships, no super-hero leaders in the church but teamwork that disperses responsibility and carries the shared load as they support one another.
Jim Putman’s newest book does a great job of unpacking an essential element of life that is missing for far too many today. RELATIONSHIPS! Not the kind we make on social media but the kind where a group of people truly knows you and who you are.
As a small groups pastor, I am passionate about people connecting in healthy relationships with others who will challenge them to grow in Christlikeness. God is relational and designed us to grow best through relationships with Him and others. But relationships can be messy, challenging and so often times frustrating. Especially relationships with people who are different than we are; yet often times these are the relationships we need most! However, every since sin entered the world we have a tendency to hide. To hide from God and from each other and to point to other people as the problem and not ourselves. It can be challenging to stay committed in a small group with others when our tendency is to hide and not value others. Yet it is one of the things we need the most in growing in Christ-likeness. Putman does well to unpack all the challenges of being in community in a way that expands and builds upon the works of others. Most books on community start with a few pages or a chapter that reinforces the importance of community but then transitions to form and function; whereas Putman stays focused on unpacking this value throughout the entirety of his work. If you are looking for a book that will expand your understanding of community and transforming power of it this is a good one!
Without committed, intentional, loving relationships with other Christians, we are missing an essential ingredient of the faith.
It’s easy to love people when they are kind and gracious to us; even the pagans do that. But it’s much more difficult to love people when they aren’t being kind or considerate or gracious.
I enjoyed Putman’s new book for several reasons. He does well to challenge views of people who tend to be disconnected and stresses the importance of relationships throughout the book from many different angles and by addressing several challenges to doing so. He does well to define spiritual growth through relationships with statements such as:
“We are all called to grow up in the faith, and that means we become more relational, because God’s Spirit lives inside of us.”
"All of the fruit of the Holy Spirit are others-related."
"Our call is to “do life” with others, and as we journey the road together, we not only learn to love others, but we allow them to really know and love us too."
Putman also does well in challenging even Christian leaders of the need and importance of community and relationships with others. He addresses head on challenging subjects such as rebelling against church authority; the need for accountability in relationships; church-hopping for “deeper teaching” and many other such subjects to help the reader form an understanding of the church as more than a place that they attend but a place where they can be real and form real relationships with others as a family, while using their gifts alongside of others where everyone is playing their part and contributing. So often Christian leadership and life is about a solo individual. Everything from leadership to using your gifts can become more about you than the people around you which is never the way God intended it to be. Here are a few quotes from Putnam’s book to drive these points home:
"Spiritual maturity levels are revealed in the way we respond when our authority asks us to do something we do not understand or like."
"So many believers think the church’s obligation is to be there for them— a one-way street."
"We don’t jump around from church to church, shopping for the best “experience.” We stick with our family. Because that’s what family does."
"No matter what role you are in, the solution starts with the affirmation that God’s church is supposed to be a team and you and everyone else are supposed to play your parts."
"Christians have plenty of Christ-honoring work to do, for sure. But unless we see our work and ministries as something we must do together, we’re on a fast track to burnout, misery, depression, and failure."
This is a book that I would highly recommend to others in further understanding the importance and need for healthy relationships and being in community with others in a way that shows the love of Jesus and allows you to be formed more into His image.
"If I could boil all the thoughts in this book down to one idea, it would be this: If we are ever going to grow up in our faith, then we will need spiritual relationships to help us do so. At the same time, our relationships reveal our level of spiritual maturity. A mature person in Christ has deep relationships that help him or her remain mature and even grow further."
The Power of Together: Discover the Christian Life You’ve Been Missing
NOTE: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Summary: A pastor of a thriving church explores what he believes to be the key to both spiritual maturity and the ministry effectiveness of his church--the fostering of relationships of depth between believers throughout the church.
Jim Putnam begins this book by observing a gap that exists in many American churches. People have come to faith, been taught both Christian doctrine and Christian practice and yet seem to lack the vibrant maturity and depth one one would expect in disciples of Jesus. His thesis is that what is lacking is a depth of relationships between believers, where people are deeply engaging with each other week in, week out, practicing the Christian faith with each other in working through conflict, confessing and turning from sin, learning to serve together, learning to go the extra mile for each other, and caring for those who are seeking.
Relationship is central to the gospel, not only a restored relationship with God but also with each other. First Corinthians 13, he observes, is instructions on how people in the church are to love each other and be family to each other. Marriage is only a small subset of that. Pride is often the major barrier to really opening our lives to each other. We fear being known, and we resist the idea of submission when it means we need to be open to others speaking into our lives, calling us to change. This may especially be an affliction of church leaders to whom Putnam writes pointedly:
"Leaders must be submissive too. This might sound counterintuitive at first, but it's not in practice. If leaders are submissive, to whom do they submit? The answer is that leaders must be submissive to God, to other leaders, and even other Christians. Yes, it takes strong leadership to get a church off the ground, and yes, it takes strong leadership to keep a church running smoothly. But Ephesians 5:21, which says, 'Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ,' applies to everyone, not just people who aren't in leadership positions" (p. 121).
He writes of how deeply his church invests in training its leaders to work as a team and how hard they work at it. He recognizes the danger of leaders becoming siloed in their work and how much better leadership is when teams keep thinking about the whole and keep developing their capacity to care for the whole. Putnam argues this is crucial to meet the spiritual battle churches face and to stand out as "a city on a hill."
The style of this book is a consistent movement between biblical principles and stories from various settings of life from Putnam's personal life to sports. One of his most memorable images is that often our investment in relational discipleship is similar to buying an $8 tube to float down a river. Fine for calm waters, but entirely inadequate for white water rafting.
There are points where I felt the writing was a bit of "variations on a theme" where the author was reiterating his point about how important being together in relationships of depth is to our growth as disciples. I thought there were places where he could have fleshed out how this works more in his congregation. For example, thousands of congregations have some form of home groups or small groups. What distinguishes those at his church?
I think this could be a helpful book for a church leadership wrestling with a sense that the congregation seems "a mile wide and an inch deep." Often that lack of depth is in the dimension of relationships. Putnam charts a biblical vision, some practical dimensions of the form this takes, what it looks like for leadership, and both the barriers and crucial spiritual importance of relational discipleship to spiritual maturity and church vitality.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Growing up as a Christian, I had never considered the church to be a place whereby it was a family. Leaders who were once upon a time, the most wonderful of spiritual parents or elder siblings, would disappear from life once they were reassigned to other locations or who left for other churches. Yes we were all taught (what I regarded to be spiritual gibberish) about weekly commitment to youth service, morning and evening sunday service and cell group. Because the church lacked a formal membership structure, and yet exercised discipline over extra-biblical matters (issues which do not have a Scriptural basis), I did not see a good reason to want to belong to such a dysfunctional family. Even when I had moved onto another church, I often debated fiercely with the pastoral team about how unconvinced I was of the value of church community. I thus had read this book with relatively sceptical lenses.
I was pleasantly surprised that I had enjoyed the read. I found myself cheering multiple times when Putman would candidly point out what was wrong with the church, but was happily disappointed that he did not share the same hatred and suspicion for the church and its leaders that I used to have. As I read through the book, I was relived to not have read allegorical assertions based on hermeneutically violent twisting of Scripture. Putman masterfully explains Scripture and sprinkles real-life stories from his church community in between the chapters. The accounts were gripping and authentic - not only providing just the heartwarming fairy tale endings, but also the pain and brokenness of the failed attempts to journey with certain individuals in Christian community and in his own family.
I regard myself to be a highly intelligent young thinker, and it is not too often that I would be brought to a position to consider that my theology is faulty. In reflecting about what I had read, I was compelled to reevaluate my attitude of "if I find that something about this church sucks, I'll just leave and go to another, or not to go to any at all." I think that I caught a bit of Putman's deep passion and love for the church. I hated (probably still vehemently dislike) legalism and dogmatic leadership, but I saw how his church community was based on sacrificial love and rock-solid commitment. Because it was not something imposed upon, but an invitation to enter into, it weirdly makes me want to be part of such a family! The follow up action I would take probably would be to read up on other books that talk about church membership to better understand the reason for such a practice.
I heartily recommend this book to all Christians, even those who (like me) are deeply suspicious of and/or have been hurt by Christian institutions and leaders.
I received this book from Baker Publishing Group's Blogger Review Program for the purposes of providing an unbiased review. All views are my own.
Many of us want to live in a community where we feel that we are accepted, loved, and belong. However, there are many of us that can’t find a place where it all clicks. Instead we continue searching, dejected that the community we envision is out of our reach. But there is hope. A community like that exists and was meant to be, but it will take work.
In The Power of Together, Jim Putnam shares the meaning and importance of having relationships with other people, more specifically, spiritual relationships. He emphasizes the importance this concept has in scripture and therefore in God’s plan for us. We are reminded that it was not good that man was alone, and so another human was created. We are meant to share life with others. We are to mourn with those that mourn and carry one another’s burdens. These are among the few examples that Putnam shares throughout his book.
Each chapter focuses on a different part of his message, whether it be the the problems that arise or how to overcome them. Putnam is passionate about helping others understand the Christian meaning of relationships and encouraging them to grow and mature in this area. He often references scripture to support his claims that God made us for relationships. Throughout each chapter there are also examples from his experiences that help us visualize his words. These stories help enhance the understanding of his message.
While I appreciated the overall concept of the message, its presentation left me wanting more. At times if felt repetitive, and I started to lose interest. The book could easily have been half the length it was with the message still being conveyed. And although I believe that personal narratives and scripture are beneficial, Putnam could have presented them in a more engaging way.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksb... program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Discover the Christian Life You've Been Missing by Putman, Jim
Pub Date 21 Jun 2016
I was given a copy of The Power of Together through the publisher and their partnership with Netgalley in exchange for my honest review which is as follows:
Jim Putnam points out that Jesus wants us to follow his recipe for living. And he points out too that we as Christians don't always follow God's recipes for living as we should. Put an points out that our Spiritual food is succestible to being punished by our Spiritual enemy.
We are reminded too that we are all Created with a Purpose in mind.
Putnam also points out that it is important that we as Christians need to know the Bible. We are warned too of Pastors who try to discover some "New truth" in The Bible.
If you are looking for a book that will help you to grow in your Christian walk then The Power of Together is just the book you need. I give this book five out of five Stars.
This book was not what I Expected. Not really sure WHAT I was expecting, but this wasn't it. This was, however, a good discussion of why it is so important for Christians to have deep, meaningful relationships with other Christians. So true, and something that needs to be said. The message was good. The book, though? Actually a little boring. I feel bad saying that, but it's true. When I find myself skimming here and there, I know it's not holding my interest. Still glad I read it, though. There is enough here to make the read worthwhile. I just would have preferred another run-through by an editor with a red pen.
I won this through a Goodreads giveaway, but the thoughts and opinions expressed here are 100% my own.