Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Area speaks about developing new leaders, one of the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus during an April 29 session of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Review by Rev. Darrell Reeck | Originally posted to his Blog

This is the book every United Methodist pastor in the Oregon-Idaho, Alaska, and Pacific Northwest annual conferences needs to read.  Any pastor, anywhere, in any organization, as well as any lay person, will benefit too.

The book brings together disciplines that are rarely joined:  Kaizen, a Japanese word, simply means “good change.”  But Hagiya uses it to convey the sense of continuous improvement, particularly in Christian church leadership.  Kaizen helps Hagiya to interpret his affirmation of “going on to perfection,” a question put to every prospective elder seeking orders in the Methodist tradition.  “Going on” for Hagiya means continuous improvement in the life of faith and church leadership.

If Kaizen is the means, what is the end?  It’s primary for Hagiya that the purpose of ministry is rooted in the Gospel, with its solution for pervasive personal and social sin.

Karate figures into the book along with Kaizen.  Hagiya explains that the breaking of boards or even of a brick requires “focusing beyond the break.”  To me, that’s the single most helpful concept in the book.  Focus, he seems to advise, beyond the anticipated difficulties in the forthcoming council or board meeting to the resolution that lies beyond.  Focus beyond the sorrows of many pastoral situations to subsequent healing and recovery. Such a focus, rooted in karate, can help us enter an adversarial or sorrowful situation with confidence.

So much for Asian traditions.  What about North America?  Drawing on capitalist business management, Hagiya presents many lists of organizational techniques and analytical methods.  He draws on top quality business literature, such as the Harvard Business Review.  The lists can get confusing unless you find a way of organizing them.  Personally, I found it helpful to prioritize the many points put forward according to the needs of my specific situation.  You may be tempted to overlook the welter of lists, but don’t.  One of Hagiya’s assets is his knowledge of management techniques and his application of  them to continuous improvement in the ministry of Jesus.

This book could become the burial rite of our sense of entitlement in ministry, if that still exists.  The situation has changed for us.  Our legitimacy stems from the genuineness of our calling, as always, but also from our effectiveness.  Beyond the break between entitlement and effectiveness lies newness of vision and renewed strength of leadership.

Hagiya is an influential bishop and we all need to understand the path upon which he leads us.

The book is available for $12.59 at Cokesbury (LINK), a saving of 37% off retail price, and under the price at Amazon. A Kindle version (LINK) is available for $9.99.

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