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 of love and risk so that we all, even the most vulnerable, can flourish.
- The power of one compelling idea
Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch is an outstanding book. It’s one of those rare books that brings many dissimilar concepts together with one simple, yet powerful idea.
In Strong and Weak, Crouch uses a 2x2 diagram—a popular idea framework in business books these days—to represent the tension between authority and vulnerability. The four options that emerge: Withdrawing, Exploiting, Suffering, and Flourishing (with the latter as the ultimate goal) are applied to a variety of subjects. Crouch touches on leadership, team dynamics, parenting, poverty, mental illness, disabilities, the Incarnation of Christ, tyranny, missions, law enforcement, race, and more. Despite applying his “strong verses weak” framework to so many subjects, the book lands a single powerful punch: authority verses vulnerability is a false choice, and the only way to true flourishing is to embrace both at the same time.
Couch is a straightforward, yet interesting writer. He holds his Christianity with a kind of curious heft; appreciating its weightiness, but honest in his examination of its more mysterious qualities. He reminds me of a Tim Keller or a CS Lewis in his cultural awareness and elegant command of logic. A skeptic could read this book and benefit. His position as executive editor of Christianity Today might lend itself to the editorial quality of his writing, but the reader will also detect strong notes of mercy pointing to his work with the Equitas Group and International Justice Mission. The vision of Christianity that Crouch presents is beautiful and compelling.
I recommend this book for really anyone, but I recommend it especially for leaders, Christian or not. Leaders, we need to live out the message of this book, which is really the example that Jesus himself gave us. The world would be a better place as a result.
P.J. Ochlan does a great job on the narration of the audiobook version. I have reviewed one other book that he narrated, and I hope to hear more from him in the future.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.
- Flourishing requires both authority and vulnerability (or risk).
I have read and appreciated both of Andy Crouch's recent books. Culture Making made the case for why we as Christians need to be creative and speak into culture. Playing God made the case for the real existence of relational power and how it should be properly used.
Strong and Weak seems like a natural follow up to Playing God. Once you have the idea that power actually exists and that as Christians we have a responsibility to use it well, then you have to understand how to actually lead, regardless of whether that leadership is of a large organization or your own life.
The basic concept of the book is simple. Crouch has a two by two grid. High authority and high vulnerability (or risk) leads to flourishing. High authority with low vulnerability leads to exploiting others. Low authority with low vulnerability leads to withdrawing from relationships (and the world). And the final of the four options is low authority and high vulnerability, which leads to suffering.
A simple grid like this works well for illustration. And there is a chapter on each of these four areas. Simple illustrations are memorable and bring insight into a complex world. Some simple illustrations reduce complexity by distorting reality. But I think this, while there can be real quibbles, does point to a real truth. And in the context of a fully fleshed out book, Crouch brings enough nuance to the illustration that is really is helpful.
The final three chapters are about how to encourage a flourishing life and what authority and vulnerability do and do not mean. This is the second new book this year that I have read that is based around the idea of flourishing. I have read some negative comments about the idea of flourishing. It is a vague concept, but I think at root, we all know that some things flourish and some do not. The specific line between when you are flourishing and when you are not may be nebulous, but that is not really a complaint against the concepts, but against the definition.
Andy Crouch is a good author. He writes clear concepts that are well illustrated. This is a brief book that I listened to on audiobook (because christianaudio offered me a copy for review). I listened to the whole thing in just over a day and I would like to wait a few months and read it again in print. It is a book that is simple but not simplistic.
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