Book Review: Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret

Osborne, Larry. Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail (leadership Network Innovation Series). Zondervan, 2013.InnovationLittle Secret

Thanks to Zondervan for providing a preview copy of this book for an unbiased review.

This book provides some good common sense advice for leaders in the corporate and church world. Thus, pastors can learn from this book. But there is a caveat. I write this review as one who served as a former military officer and currently serving as pastor. At times I am uncomfortable with some of the language that is used because it can draw attention away from the true nature of the Church.

There many good sections in this book regarding the “business” end of leading in the church. Thus, most of the ideas are corporate oriented, very practical and useful. From that perspective, Chapters 1 (“Have and Exit Strategy”) and 6 (“Why Vision Matters”) seem to be the most useful for church leaders. The questions at the end of each chapter help focus the reader on critical application of the material.

Observing pastors for many decades I have discovered that sometimes we begin to think that when we plan something, it is obviously the best, maybe even describing it as “God’s will.” But such presumption can not only hinder current plans for the church, it can blind us to faulty logic and dead ends.

The chapter “Have and Exit Strategy” offers a planning alternative to avoid dead ends and cramping future plans in church activity. Perhaps the best advice given is the subsection: “Never Make a Change When You Can Conduct an Experiment.” As the author notes, “Unfortunately, this is a hard concept for many leaders and organizations to grasp” (p. 35).

Another helpful insight comes in the “Igniting Innovation” section, namely the difference between artistic and organizational innovation. “The unfortunate byproduct is confusion: it encourages leaders and organizations to take risks and behave in ways that are perfectly appropriate for artists, but foolhardy for leaders of organizations” (p. 44). Thus, something looks flashy, innovative, challenging may not be the solution for the pastor, church leaders. Good advice for church leaders.

Part 4 (“Sabotaging Innovation”) in the book shows the negative aspects of leadership pitfalls and failure. Sometimes in churches we are blind to the destructive effects of leadership failures. One of the weaknesses of the chapter is that the focus is on failure, but within the Church, there is another critical factor: forgiveness and restoration. This does not excuse or worse encourage leadership failures, but it is the heart of what the Church is. Interestingly in contrast the Part on Breakout Decisions highlights that the “two new keys to reaching the current culture: authenticity and compassion” (p. 125).

I am less enamored with the section on “Champion” mentality. This seems to contradict the notion earlier presented about avoiding the “curse of hype” (pp. 90ff.). As for pastors serving congregations, this book leaves a gap in leadership. In addition to serving as pastor, I teach seminarians and pastors. Hence my recommendation: this is a qualified good read. But…

Behind all the leadership advice and insights, however, is the issue of proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). That is the center, motive, and goal of the pastor. The pastor uses the Word and the Sacraments (Baptism and Lord’s Supper), the tools of the Holy Spirit, to lead, strengthen, nourish, and equip the saints for the work of serving (Eph. 4:11-12). This central focus is not the center focus of the book. Administrative skills, “championship leaders,” etc. are all fine, but they must always take a secondary place relative to the proclamation and teaching the Word.

That is, the business side of decision making (even mission statements and vision statements) consumes the the reader’s attention. Much good insights for leaders. So, for the reader, enjoy and learn, but keep that secondary to that which is most important. You will need to supplement this with books that address such issues. Consider theses:

Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work by Eugene Peterson

Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today by John Kleinig

Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity by Eugene Peterson

The Preached God: Proclamation in Word and Sacrament by Gerhard Forde

In the Face of God: The Dangers and Delights of Spiritual Intimacy by Michael Horton


Greek Grammar and La Femme?

I am rereading the book Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, by Frederick W. Danker (Fortress Press, 2003). This is my 3rd or 4th time (having read the original edition of 1960 back 35 years ago).multipurpose-tools-for-bible-study-265x200

Each time I gain knowledge and some tidbit of interesting history and commentary. This one grabbed my attention this morning. After quoting Browning’s “A Grammarian’s Funeral”

So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,
Ground he at grammar;
Still, thro’ the rattle, parts of speech were rife:
While he could stammer
He settled Hoti’s business let it be!
Properly based Oun
Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De,
Dead from the waist down.

Danker continues:

After quoting part of this dirge, Archibald T. Robertson goes on to assure his readers that grammarians are not such dull creatures after all and that they lead happy, normal lives. He then relates how the professor of Greek at Bonn reacted when he received a copy of the first volume of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve’s Syntax of Classical Greek. He brought it to the seminar and “clasped and hugged it as though it were a most precious darling (Liebling).” His reaction is understandable for a grammar is like a woman who does not make the cover of La Femme—to appreciate her real charm and beauty requires sensitivity and repeated association. (p. 139)

Danker’s comparison seems apt: a good lesson for those dating and for those who doubt the value of Greek grammars.

Review: What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About

What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: a Survey of Jesus’ Bible. ed. Jason DeRouchie. Kregel Academic, 2013.What OT Authors Really Cared

I had high expectations when I first read about the book. The approach was rather unique because the book does not present the OT according to the order of books in the English Old Testament.

Rather, following the arrangement of the Jewish canon, this survey attempts to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament. (p. 13)

For that I commend the editor and authors for taking this approach. Regarding Isaiah, DeRouchie follows the conjectures of Beckwith regarding the Baha Bathra (tradition in Babylonian Talmud). Thus, Isaiah is placed after Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the Jewish canon (BHS [Hebrew] and TNK [JPS English]), Isaiah is placed first among prophets. Not a major issue, but interesting that he would follow this arrangement. Not sure that it helps the thrust or the overall view of the book.

All of the authors are committed to inspiration, historicity, and the miraculous aspects of the text of the Old Testament. It is refreshing to read a book in which the focus is on the text itself and not on conjectures of sources, redactions, etc. This makes it imminently practical for pastors in congregations.

The authors provide many good insights into the Old Testament as they work their way through the material. Each chapter has a heading page in which four questions are addressed, which act as a summary of the book: Who? When? Where? Why? At the end of each chapter is a table with Key Words and Concepts. This inclusion pattern aids the reader going into the chapter and then reviewing afterward. Excellent pedagogical practice.

For me the chapter on Ezekiel (by Preston Sprinkle) was exceptionally well done. He presents the glory of Yahweh, the departure of the glory, and the restoration of the temple in light of the fulfillment of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. I found the placement of Figure 12.2 (Mosaic Covenant Blessings, Curses, and Restoration Blessings) odd. Since there was nothing specific about Ezekiel in the Figure, it seems better fitted as an introduction to the prophetic writings or as a conclusion to the prophetic writings.

Psalms (John C. Crutchfield) also ranks as one of the best. The three major types of psalms (praise, lament, thanksgiving) are presented in simple terms with appropriate tables and lists. Particularly helpful were Figures 16.5 (Psalms by Genre Category) and 16.6 (The Continuum of Emotions in the Genres of the Psalter). In many discussions of psalms, emotions may be noted, but little else. This second figure shows the range of emotions of the person of faith. Equally helpful in visual display is Figure 16.7 (Movement from Lament to Praise in the Psalter); the reader easily notes the emphasis move from lament in the beginning section (Book I) to praise in (Book V). Appendix 1 adds even more table data for the study of the Psalms.

Minor Concerns

The primary concern is with the heavy “covenantal” emphasis especially in the introductory chapter and Appendix 3. It appears that the kingdom covenant grid is laid over the Old Testament, but seems a little forced. A secondary concern is that by highlighting the covenant in that way, the nation of Israel is raised as the center of the Old Testament. Yet for New Testament writers (and Jesus himself) the key point is the covenant (of promise) with Abraham, with Israel as a subset of that greater promise (I.e. Galatians 4).

Design and Presentation

As with all recent books from Kregel, the presentation of the material, the aesthetic detail prove extremely helpful in a book of this nature. The authors provide excellent aids for the student of the Old Testament: charts, maps, outlines, high quality photos, and lists. The data sections are well done, easily read, and understandable. Kregel is to be commended.


Despite my concerns this is a valuable book and can be used effectively for teaching and for lay people to learn more about the Old Testament. Well done, Jason DeRouchie and Kregel Academic.

Note: Thanks to Kregel Academic & Professional for the review copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.