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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Get Off Your Donkey!" (Reggie McNeal)

TITLE: Get Off Your Donkey!: Help Somebody and Help Yourself
AUTHOR: Reggie McNeal
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013, (176 pages)

If a face can launch a thousand ships, and a snowflake can cause an avalanche, as far as Reggie McNeal is concerned, it takes a random statement to launch the writing of a book. As a believer of helping others, McNeal uses the title, "Get Off Your Donkey" as a way to get people off their highs of comfort to go down to the trenches of real life ministry, and servanthood. It is written to three groups of people. The first group is for people who are already out there, raring to go and do something. Here, McNeal aims to help them "recalibrate" their efforts so as to be more effective. The second group comprises of leaders who are determined to make changes to their "ministry scorecards" for greater "kingdom engagement." The third group is for the non-believers (or non-Christians) to catch a vision of service, so that they too can go serve and bring help to the communities they are in. When it comes to serving one another, faith is no barrier. How McNeal does it, is through storytelling and challenging.

Beginning with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he asks readers to first put themselves as an observer of the various characters of the parable, and then to make a choice which one they want to be. He asks probing questions like:
  • What is keeping you on the donkey?
  • Are the distractions of life such as busyness and unavailability preventing you from stepping out to help others?
  • What are the fears that are stopping us from proceeding a life of service?
  • Are we under the shroud of apathy? 
  • Are we unwilling to change at all, even when we know there is a lot of good we can do?
Slowly and surely, McNeal moves for the jugular of fear. Why let fear keep us from helping our neighbours? As we step out of our comfort zone, get off our donkeys, and get our feet wet, we can be of help to people and to share the love of God with all. We are made for a reason, and often, our calling is discovered in our service of people. We can discover more of the meaning of life. We can effect a smile from God as we work out his will and his purposes for our lives. Saying is not complete until we actually do it. Talking is nothing until we actually walk it. Theory must be put into practice. Love is shown through service. Service demonstrates the values we hold. Values put meaning into relationships. As we serve, we see more of our strengths to build upon, and our weaknesses that remind us to depend on God.

McNeal does not end there. He believes that every learning is not just about learning new stuff. It is also about unlearning old stuff, especially those that are not helping one move forward in cultivating new skills, talents, and competencies. The "unlearning curve" involves knowing one's own history, personality outlook, family of origin, psychological makeup, spiritual condition, and many others. This helps one gain a sense of self-awareness and identity. Then, we can decide which stuff we need to deduct in order to move forward. For example, the habit of wanting to please everyone is not a good thing to retain. This habit must either be reduced or negated. Secondly, there are life skills to consider adding to. One can then develop the required skills for the required work involved. Thirdly, there is a need to manage the resources we have, like time, money, and our physical health.  Fourthly, it is vital to grow as a person. Service is important but mere serving without any self-awareness only leads to haphazard activities that can wear one down. Serving needs to lead to a path of growing as a person. Finally, McNeal introduces a life "scorecard" that encourages us to celebrate wins, coaching tips, dealing with relationships, and many more. He makes this crucial observation that the purpose of such a scorecard is not about the final score, but about "keeping score." 

I find McNeal's idea refreshing. It is an intentional book written to challenge people to live intentional lives themselves. The first step is often the hardest. Sometimes, we tend to wait forever for something to happen before we take the plunge. The fact of life is, staying stuck in the rut, in our comfort zone will only cause us to rot and to be depressed about life. It takes risk and faith to step out to make a difference. It requires courage to move forward to an unknown lifestyle to put the interests of others as more important than ours. It demands our willingness to offer something for nothing initially, and at the end gain a lot more. I once heard from a friend that there are three types of people in this world. The first kind are those who wait for things to happen. The second kind are people who make things happen. The third kind are those who wondered what happened. Reading this book makes me dream up of a fourth kind of people. This kind are the people who serve in order to make others achieve their dreams. In the process, I believe that in helping others discover their dreams, in some special ways, we discover ours too.

Great read!

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy by Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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