Bobby and Chad Harrington review RelationShift by Jim Putman to help you decide about using it for your group.
I’m Chad Harrington with HIM Publications interviewing Bobby Harrington, the CEO of Discipleship.org and Renew.org, about Jim Putman’s book RelationShift. He’s going to give you the main message of the book, his three biggest takeaways, and how you could use this book in discipleship groups.
The Main Message of RelationShift
Bobby Harrington: The main message of this book is that we need close relationships to be able to survive the difficulties that we face as Christians and as church leaders.
RelationShift is a follow-up to DiscipleShift, Jim’s book about shifting churches toward becoming disciple-making churches. RelationShift comes out of Jim’s heart that relationships are so important.
Jim Putman starts RelationShift talking about being on rafts on a river in Idaho for a family outing. It was Jim and his wife, Laurie, with their children and grandchildren, and they’re all in different rafts.
As they’re going down the river, they’re coming up to rapids. Jim thinks: What is going to enable this family to keep the children and grandchildren safe in the midst of these rapids?
Jim’s answer is close, tight relationships with each other. He uses the metaphor of having good rafting tubes and keeping the tubes all tight together as they go through the rapids.
So the message of the book is like these tubes tightly meshed together. We need close relationships in Christ with each other to be able to withstand the difficulties of church leadership, the difficulties of faithfully following Jesus today, and the difficulties of making disciples.
Note: Read our blog, written by Jim Putman himself, on “What Is a Disciple?” to learn how Jim defines a “disciple.”
Bobby’s Three Biggest Takeaways from RelationShift
1. Have honest conversations about relationships.
So many of us in North America — and I think this is probably true around the world — are not good at conflict and difficulties in relationships.
Often, we simply put on an attraction, a church service where people come and watch a production from the stage. Your typical church in North America aspires to have what I call the three p’s:
- Good preaching
- Good praise and worship
- Good programs
We are passive participants in that kind of church, and it’s actually not good for us in the long run. It might help us come to faith, but in the long run, we won’t grow.
The biggest difficulty once we want to be a part of a disciple-making church is that conflicts are going to come. These conflicts have been swept under the rug, and personal difficulties have been swept under the rug. But those things are going to come out because we’re going to be involved with people. We’re going to be talking about our lives, and we’re going to be interacting with one another.
So the first takeaway is that relationships are important, and we have to learn to work on them if we’re going to be the kind of people God wants us to be.
2. We need to be aware of ourselves in relationships.
We don’t just have to help other people with their difficulties. Each of us has to acknowledge, “I’m actually a problem too.”
I don’t handle everything the way that I should. Just yesterday, a good friend of mine and I had a big conflict. I told him he was a bit of a jerk, and he didn’t like that. I’d been kind of blunt, and we had to work through that.
And so, as Jim guides you through this book on how to navigate relationships, you’re going to learn that part of being a relational, disciple-making church is knowing, “I’ve got to realize what it’s like to be in relationship with me.” That’s important, and it’s difficult to do that.
3. RelationShift provides exercises and tools for living out the book’s principles.
Each chapter ends with exercises for you to walk through the practical side of relationships. And then at the end of the book, Jim shares some really good tools to help you and your team of leaders.
You could use this in a small church, in a medium church, or in a big church.
The key leaders actually have certain practices and principles that they go through so that they not only have conversations around the difficulty of relationships but also learn about themselves. Then they have tools to help everybody on the team become more effective at relationships, supporting each other, working through conflicts, and creating a culture where everybody does all these things.
Who Should Read RelationShift?
This book is a really good book for everybody. My only concern is that in smaller churches, if group leaders are reading through it, they will think that Jim is only talking about big churches, and they’ll feel like they don’t relate to it.
Now, I don’t think that’s true. I think you can work through this in your church with your leaders, regardless of church size. There is also great value and benefit at the same time for larger churches.
This is a great book to work through because it’ll force the key leaders — and I would say the elders, the staff, and other lay leaders — in a church to talk through these things to develop some exercises and accountability around really dealing well with relationships through the book.
So I recommend it for everybody.
I think people of bigger churches will find it even more helpful. I think that’s true because the bigger you get as an organization, the healthier structure and systems you have to have. And so you can easily neglect relationships.
How to Use This Book With Your Church
The key person in the church who needs to read through this book is going to be the senior minister or senior pastor. I think he needs to be aware of the book.
You’re also going to have your elders work through this book. And by the way, that’s why we wrote this book for Renew.org network — for your elders to go through it.
Finally, you’re going to want your key staff to read this, if you’re privileged to have staff. The bigger the staff, the better this book is.
Vital Information About RelationShift for Groups
- Chapter Count? 11 chapters
- Weeks of Study? 5–12 weeks
- Recommended size of group? 8–12 people
- Age of target audience? Adult
- Gender specific? No
- Reader difficulty? 4 out of 10
- Appropriate for New Believers? No
- What level of maturity does RelationShift assume? This assumes the reader understands the basics of discipleship and wants to engage at a deeper level.
- Discussion questions in the book? No
- Homework required? No
- Video series available? Yes, The Disciple’s Journey (forthcoming)
Theology of RelationShift
- Theological red flags? No
- Denominationally specific content? No
- Author’s preferred Bible translation? NIV
- Publisher? Nashville, TN: Renew.org, 2023
What can RelationShift accomplish for your group?
- Walks you through five shifts that can help you cultivate real relationships with real people
- Maps out how to become a true friend to those you disciple
- Prevents church leaders from ending up lonely and burnt out
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