Friday, June 25, 2010

More of the Same: Christian Leadership/Self-Help

Andy Stanley tells us at the very beginning of The Principle of the Path that he didn’t set out to write a self-help book, but a book about a principle. But in writing about what he calls the Principle of the Path, Stanley has succeeded in writing a self-help book. How does one avoid future personal problems? By following the principle. How does one make current decisions that may affect their futures? They follow the principle.

In its essence, I think Stanley’s principle is right. In fact, as Stanley admits, it is almost ridiculously obvious and it almost seems silly to write about it. But I can testify alongside him that too many people lack the present-day common sense it takes to get from where they are to where they want to (or ought to) be. So it has to be said, and as far as that goes, I think he has written a useful book.

My primary issue with it is the same issue I have with all Christian leadership/self-help books: they tend to treat Scripture as a grab-bag of tips and tricks. He uses plenty of Scripture throughout the book, but mostly to help identify the problems of the human heart, and when he uses it to help solve the problem, the solutions are a little simplistic. I am not sure how much good it does to suggest to someone who lacks the common sense to make good decisions now to “make better decisions!” Where is the much more needed work of how a person travels from a life of bad decisions and self-absorption to a life of godly wisdom? It is true we need to be told those things and have specific issues pointed out to us, but that can’t be the basis for real change in the human heart.

I think the core of Stanley’s book is right, but I think the solutions he offers are no different from the non-Christian self-help shelf just a few steps over in your local bookstore.

No comments: