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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: "Killing Cockroaches"

TITLE: Killing Cockroaches - And other Scattered Musings on Leadership
AUTHOR: Tony Morgan
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2009, (256 pages).

This is a clever book with an interesting title. The cover looks like an introduction to methods on how to eradicate an ugly insect. (My family literally hates this bug.) The introduction looks like an Index column that normally appears at the back of a typical book. The main text in the book looks like snippets of blog posts on the Internet put together. While the structure of the book, the cover, the table of contents, and the chapter snippets are somewhat unconventional, the advice given out are brilliant and creative. Tony Morgan does have a way with words. Many contain flashes of innovation and remarkable insight.

Written in point forms, with quick hits on important observations and ideas, the author manages to make this book one that is quick to read, easy to understand, and convenient to pick up where one has left. Due to the brevity of the chapters, one can finish a chapter quickly, and then ponder on the thoughts slowly. Written with a Christian leader in mind, Morgan, himself a pastor, begins by using the cockroach metaphor. Too many well-intentioned leaders spend their time addressing the symptoms (killing cockroaches) instead of dealing with the source. For the fun of it, the author puts in some standard advice on how to actually get rid of cockroaches. On the serious side, the author has important things to say about a wide range of things.

He dispenses advice on traditional topics like leadership, agreeing on God's will, getting people to be more involved in decision making, generating ideas to make church services more interesting, and so on. At the same time, he gives good tips on building up good church web sites, how to blog, anticipating and encouraging change, communications, making church more inviting, and so on. This book seems to hit on so many things that it is quite difficult to hem the book down into any one genre. Perhaps, the 'a fresh new kind of church movement' may seem like a more appropriate label.

My Comments
Personally, I find the book filled with starts and stops. There is not much of a narrative to follow. Neither is there a central teaching theme to adopt. The more I read it, while there is much to learn from Morgan about his thoughts, and brilliant ideas, I have the strangest feeling that this book is itself a victim of the cockroach killing paradigm. In other words, all the individual chapters are by themselves various methods of killing various cockroaches. For a book that tries to teach people to get out of the killing cockroach paradigm, there is a sense that the book is itself unwittingly doing that. In this manner, the book is an oxymoron.

I will read this book cautiously, (especially for young Christians) because of the lack of explicit biblical references. I am not sure if it is a deliberate exclusion, to garner a wider readership. Thus, I will hesitate to recommend this as a Christian book. It is more a book written by a Christ-following pastor. It is a book of good ideas rather than a book on godly behaviour.

Here is how I will suggest the book be read. Use the chapter headings well. When there is a need to get fresh ideas on any topic, read the appropriate chapter. Then consider the ideas with an open mind. Brew the thoughts. Compare the ideas with the Bible as a guide. Always let the Bible have the final say. If you need to eliminate scattered 'cockroaches' in your organization, this book seems like a good spray.

Ratings: 3 out of 5.


This book is supplied to me free by B&H Publishing and NetGalley without financial compensation. I am not obliged to give a positive review, and all opinions expressed are freely mine.

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