Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing
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Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing

InterVarsity Press / 2016 / Hardcover

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Flourishing people are strong and weak.

Two common temptations lure us away from abundant living - withdrawing into safety or grasping for power. True flourishing, says Andy Crouch, travels down an unexpected path - being both strong and weak.

We see this unlikely mixture in the best leaders - people who use their authority for the benefit of others, while also showing extraordinary willingness to face and embrace suffering. We see it in Jesus, who wielded tremendous power yet also exposed himself to hunger, ridicule, torture and death. Rather than being opposites, strength and weakness are actually meant to be combined in every human life and community. Only when they come together do we find the flourishing for which we were made.

With the characteristic insight, memorable stories and hopeful realism he is known for, Andy Crouch shows us how to walk this path so that the image of God can shine through us. Not just for our own good, but for the sake of others.

If you want to become the kind of person whose influence leads to healthy communities, someone with the strength to be compassionate and generous, this is the book for you. Regardless of your stage or role in life, whether or not you have a position of leadership, here is a way to love and risk so that we all, even the most vulnerable, can flourish.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 7.00 X 5.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0830844430
ISBN-13: 9780830844432

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Author Bio

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 Mission's 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.

Endorsements

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Reviews

"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."
"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."
"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."
" 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."
"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."
"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!"
"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."
"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."
" 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."

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  1. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    The Paradox of Flourishing
    April 18, 2016
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 0
    One of the great joys of middle age has been the privilege of watching my oldest son and his wife parent a son who is made in the exact image and likeness of his energetic, curious, strong-willed dad. Like all new parents, they are executing this balance of firmness and warmth, freedom and structure, love and discipline in the midst of multiple distractions and with sleep-deprived brains. Good parenting requires the embrace of two things that seem like opposites, but in Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch shares a useful and inspiring manner of viewing paradox that reveals the myth of our linear model for viewing the world which focuses on the word "or": humble or bold; firm or warm; exaltation or humiliation.

    In the paradox of flourishing we are invited to embrace this tension, for flourishing requires both strength and weakness, authority and vulnerability. Simple and ingenious, Andy Crouch has devised a 2x2 chart that demonstrates "the genius of the 'and'" which results in a melding of authority and vulnerability, and which captures John 10:10-style abundant living, "the very heart of what it is to be human and to live for God and others." Capacity for meaningful action (authority) balanced with exposure to meaningful risk (vulnerability) is the essence of the flourishing life. Failures of authority, vulnerability, or both result in:

    suffering (high vulnerability, low authority)

    exploitation (high authority, low vulnerability)

    withdrawal (low authority, low vulnerability).

    Everyone experiences each quadrant of this 2x2 grid at some point and to some degree: end of life suffering, complete helplessness (withdrawal) in infancy (or when the X-Box One is on in the living room). Andy helps his readers to see, however, that even though both authority and vulnerability are necessary for a full life and for effective leadership, "we do not pursue these two good things with the same wholeheartedness - or even the same halfheartedness." The unwillingness of one person (tyrannical dictator) or one group (a police force that uses extreme methods) to bear any vulnerability at all sheds and multiplies that vulnerability onto another person or group. Ironically, those who pursue authority without vulnerability are pursuing an idol which will rob them of meaningful relationships -- and will not deliver on any of its lofty promises.

    Jesus demonstrated the greatest paradox of flourishing in His own life on this planet by revealing that the abundant life is "only found on the other side of suffering -- specifically, our willingness to actively embrace suffering." Particularly in the case of leaders, we must be willing to take responsibility for the flourishing of others, thereby becoming exposed ourselves to the forces of idolatry and injustice.

    "Only those who have faced loss, who have drunk from the cup of undiluted vulnerability -- and who have been rescued by a power infinitely beyond their own at the depths of their greatest need -- can offer hope stronger than the idol's word of fear."

    This understanding brings flesh and blood to the Apostle Paul's upside-down statement about authority and vulnerability: "Whenever I am weak, then I am strong," I Corinthians 12:5-10.

    With elements of memoir and story, Strong and Weak is deeply informative for leaders, or for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world, and this in itself would be "enough"; however, Andy Crouch shares intensely practical advice that brings principles for flourishing into everyday life, as well as some of the best and most memorable advice for public speaking that I've read anywhere: do your homework, love your audience, be yourself.

    The challenge for the Christian leader is, "How can I take my team into a life of flourishing?" Pastors and executives, husbands and wives, teachers and writers are invited to embrace meaningful risk through accountability, admission of failures, delegation of power to others, and the cultivation of the disciplines of solitude, silence, and fasting. Like the actor who "leaves everything on the stage" but comes away full from his performance, the essence of the flourishing life is to pour ourselves out like an Old Testament drink offering, to go empty to Christ, and then to be rescued from the depths of our own inadequacy, for in this way, our story becomes a tale about our Rescuer, the only One who can truly set us free from suffering, apathy, and exploitation.

    //

    This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. Jimmy Reagan
    Leesville, SC
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Great For Reflecting On Self
    March 7, 2016
    Jimmy Reagan
    Leesville, SC
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    We all want to successfully live a life of purpose and fear failing. According to Crouch we make a false choice between strength and weakness.In fact, we could fail with either much strength or much weakness.

    He divides our lives along where we are in authority and vulnerability. Then he gives us a fine graph of where we end up, which is one of four quadrants. High authority and low vulnerability makes you exploiting. If youre low in both, you are withdrawing. If youre highly vulnerable with little authority, you are likely suffering. That leaves the place you want to beflourishing. The only way to get there is to earn authority while exposing yourself to vulnerability.

    That graph and its careful explanation is the book. It reads well and is not overly long at less than 200 pages. The strength of this volume is its ability to illustrate situations that we can see ourselves in. That helps us see if we are really flourishing or not. Better yet, it will, by its thoughtful discussion, give us guidance in transitioning to a flourishing life. I think you will appreciate this book.

    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. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.
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