What’s Pastor Kevin Reading: “Do Over” by Jon Acuff

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Last week, I finished a month long journey of forcing myself to read a 500 page monstrosity on the Pentateuch.  Since then I have been rapid firing, or rather “rapid reading” books off my “to read” list.

And next up was a shorter, way easier but just as brilliant career book by Jon Acuff.

Last November I bought Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like” from a clearance book store stand and loved every word of it.  I still use samples of it in meetings, devotionals and even sermons. (You can read my review of here.)

So a few months ago, when I heard Jon was coming to Salt Lake City, I eagerly signed up to go meet him.  I had incorrectly assumed that he was a pop Christian author, only writing for the highly unique, niche market of suburban Evangelicals.

I was delighted to discover I was wrong and that Acuff actually specializes in writing career advice books.  Ironically, I think this makes him a much better servant of the Lord than writing humor for Evangelical moms.

When I went to meet him, Acuff explained that the secret to pulling off a successful career transition (or career in general) lies in 4 simple things:  you character, your work ethic, your friends and your skills.

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Not one of those four things is life changing.  I don’t think anybody is going to read “Do Over” and say, “I actually have to work hard to be successful!  Who knew!?”  In fact, Jon points that out in the book.  And yet, as he also points out, the number one reason people get fired is for not showing up to work.  I know some of those people and want to give them a copy of “Do Over” in the hopes that they will slap their foreheads and say, “Now I know what I have been doing wrong!”  Then I can say, “I told you so” and we will have a special moment centered around my smugness.

With that aside, the focus on relationships, skills, character and work ethic are not what makes the book great.  Instead its genius lies in the “how.”  Acuff litters every page of “Do Over” with great suggestions for how to improve your skills, how to build a huge relationship network, how to work harder and how to become a better person.  (Hint: you will need a lot of notecards!)  While everything is carefully studied and well documented, most of his advice comes from his own personal journey, which he carefully narrates along the way.  This almost makes “Do Over” as much an autobiography as it is a career book.

And that is what makes “Do Over” rise above the rest.  Acuff displays his full personality on every page.  His careful and excellent writing serves to infuse himself into every word, every example and every piece of advice.  When you spend time with “Do Over” you feel like you are hanging out with Acuff personally.  I love this because after getting to know him for a quick half hour in June, I wanted to hang out with him that much more.

If a month from today I forget all the suggestions and details of “Do Over”, and have lost all my note cards, I still will have been a better person for having read it.  The wit, humility and teach-ability of Jon Acuff transcends anything else in the book.  It drips off the pages into your soul so that you find yourself a much better employer, a much better friend and just a much better person for having spent time learning from the master of career transitions.

So go buy the book all ready!

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What’s Pastor Kevin Reading: Stuff Christians Like

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I am not going to lie.  I like stuff, particularly stuff that makes me laugh.  That is why I enjoyed Jon Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like.”  His 2010 collection of lists and diagrams and essays is one of the funniest books I have read in awhile.  He uses a brilliant blend of irony, sarcasm and heart touching roasting to unmask the hidden truths behind current American Evangelicalism.  This wonderful cocktail also makes “Stuff Christians Like” one of the most honest books I have read in awhile.

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Like many, I would love to think that Evangelicalism as a subculture is ceasing to exist.  However, Acuff proves me wrong.  Our subculture has gone nowhere, though it has changed drastically in the last 50 years.  And John Acuff describes and unmasks this new evangelicalism in brilliant detail.  He mocks everything from pushing on your eyes during prayer (which I do) to the different roles people play in prayer circles to metrosexual worship leaders, to feeding 3 year olds their body weight in fish crackers during “Preschool Life Groups,” (because we can’t call it Sunday School anymore).

The most brilliant aspect of the book (and his blog) is that its critique of evangelicalism is surprisingly current.  In my experience, most recent blogs and books about Evangelicals are 10-50 years too late.  They are still complaining about our legalistic, politically motivated, angry and fundamentalist past.

But that time has come and gone.  Now, as Acuff perfectly describes, we are an over-emotional, cliche drowned, hipster loving, logo touting movement of missional, radical, postmoderns.  In one of Acuff’s more brilliant observations, if there is a copyright infringement expert standing at the door to heaven, not one of us is getting in.  Likewise, our hesitance to boycott Abercrombie and Fitch for severe human rights violations shows how sold out we are to “soft, cotton T-shirts.”

So after reading, “Stuff Christians Like” I have to ask “what next?”  Now that our legalistic, fundamentalist and conservative movement has morphed into a showy, sentimentality infused, hipster monster, what is a devoted pastor to do?

I suppose the answer is that I will continue to do what God called me to do.  I will speak truth to the monster.  I certainly do not advocate for a return to our legalistic and conservative ways.  Instead by, “speak truth” I mean a way of living and being among the evangelical culture that questions its assumptions, practices and worldviews.  The hope is to bring about a truer form of faithfulness, one that transcends rock choruses and prayer circles and fish crackers in “life groups.”

This faithfulness might encourage a rock star metro sexual worship leader to lead a smaller, rural congregation from time to time.  It might include a deeper commitment to more ancient forms of prayer that move beyond “prayer circles.”  It might be more generous towards those churches that are so out of date they still call it, “Sunday School.”  It would probably mean not judging those who have to use the Table of Contents in their Bibles or come to church with a head cold.

It would certainly include treating copyright law respectfully and humbly and being inventive over clever.  And it might even suggest caution when it comes to corporations like “Abercrombie and Fitich.”

And it would most certainly mean not pressing your eyes out during prayer.