Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: The Power of Everyday Missionaries

The cover of The Power of Everyday Missionaries by Clay Christensen is not one that will jump off the shelf and grab you, but it is most definitely an excellent read, so pleeeeeeeeease don't judge this book by its cover!  I don’t think I would have picked it up, except for the fact that I had previously seen a few videos online of Clay Christensen and had been impressed by his personality and the way he tries to share his best insights.  (One was on his ideas for how to reform the healthcare system, and it was amazing to see how he was able to break down some of the complexities of the system and give some very simple ways to fix it.)  Christensen has a way of densely packing his thoughts and going to the root of the matter in a simple-to-understand manner that delights.

Soooo, when I saw this book with his name on it, I thought to myself, I need help finding ways to be a better missionary.  I bet this guy has some excellent perspective on it. And I picked it up and started reading. 

Now, you know and I know that there are right ways and wrong ways to try to motivate people to do missionary work.  Wrong ways tend to fill you with guilt without actually addressing your deepest concerns.  Wrong ways tend to assume that we somehow want to keep the gospel to ourselves.  Wrong ways assume that there are no obstacles (cultural/political/social/psychological) facing us, so they don’t even begin to give you techniques to cope with these internal or external obstacles.  Wrong ways leave you feeling defeated before you’ve even tried.

Very soon after I started reading, I found Christensen’s book to be one of the right ways to motivate.  It was full of ways we can change our thinking, principles to act by, and so many inspiring stories of how Christensen had used those principles to share the gospel with others.  In short, it is a major game-changer.  

Can I just say that again? 


Yes, I am yelling, and this is worth yelling about!

The first helpful thing Christensen does is show that changing our idea of what member missionary success is can help us get involved.  We tend to think we have succeeded when someone we have invited and referred to the missionaries decides to get baptized.  However, this is not a good measure of our missionary success because it is dependent upon someone else’s choices, which we can’t (and shouldn’t) control.  Christensen instead suggests that we see ourselves as successful member missionaries when we invite others to come to church or take the missionary discussions.  He says that if we invite we succeed, whether others accept our invitation or not.

Christensen also explodes some mistaken notions that we may have such as:
·      Supposing that religious discussions aren’t allowed at work
·      Supposing that we must be friends with someone before we invite them to church or to hear the missionaries in some way. 
·      Supposing that we can predict or judge who is most likely to accept an invitation to meet with the missionaries and thereby accurately refer the best candidates
·      Supposing that there is something wrong with us if we have experienced a rejection, which may cause us to think there is no point in trying to invite more people.

Christensen shows that religious discussions can’t be prohibited at work any more than can discussions of politics and sports, which can get pretty heated.  He asserts that in 20 years of member missionary work he has observed no correlation between depth of a relationship and probability that a person will be interested in learning about the gospel.  He also says that we should not alter our relationship with others in order to invite them, as it will keep our interactions genuine.  While it may seem like a problem to find out that we can’t predict who would be the best people to refer to the missionaries, it actually widens the field considerably.  (Christensen's discussions of these different points are detailed and very helpful, so read the book to get the full beneficial effect!)

Christensen knows that to be member missionaries, we want to know how to do it:
·      We want to know how we can talk about the church to others in a way that is natural and invites them to talk to us about religion or faith.  We want to encourage further conversation without being blatant.
·      We want to know how to phrase our invitations in a way that will be friendly and not put pressure on our friends, neighbors, and coworkers or scare them away from ever talking to us again.
·      We want to know how we can engage with people uninterested in organized religion in a way that will address their concerns and help them grow without feeling uncomfortable ourselves or getting defensive.
·      We want to know how to interest people in the church who are well off, satisfied, and don’t think they need God.  

Christensen addresses all these needs with inspiring stories and even shares conversation templates that will help us invite naturally, with love, based on the needs of those we talk to.   For me as a reader, this had the effect of building substantial confidence and faith that I can do this!  I didn’t see the conversation templates as something I had to say, but as an example of how to dial down the pressure significantly and how to make a conversation open-ended and driven by the needs of the other person.

Who is this book for?  This book is for those of us who want to be better missionaries but feel intimidated or stymied by worry about how to do it in a natural and loving way.  It is for those of us who have been demoralized or de-motivated from missionary work, and it is for those of us who feel lacking in opportunities to share the gospel or who feel isolated.  It is a perfect gift for bishops, for ward mission leaders, for auxiliary leaders..  heck, just about everyone in the church could benefit from this book!

How has this book helped me?  It, along with the worldwide missionary broadcast, galvanized me to action and that’s what led to my efforts to introduce the missionaries to my neighbors, which I described in my post “In which I confront my fears about introducing the missionaries to my neighbors”  This experience boosted my courage appreciably.  Also, since then, I have felt more confident and have been able to talk naturally about the church, mentioning it in everyday conversations with nonmembers.

See?  Game-changer, people!

If you are budget-conscious, the paperback edition will save you $15 or so.  (My link at the top of this post goes to Deseret Book's paperback edition)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Nat said...

Hey thanks for the review! Are you on Twitter?

Michaela Stephens said...

You're welcome!

Yes I'm on Twitter, but I haven't done much of anything on it. The distract-ability factor is too high for me, and I already have enough distractions!