The Me I Want to Be Participant’s Guide with DVD: Becoming God’s Best Version of You
By John Ortberg
Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010, ISBN 9780310823421. $37AUD)
Our church AuburnLife Baptist Church was looking for a resource as a follow up after hosting an Alpha course. We wanted a series of DVD talks of about 15 minutes each with English subtitles so participants of Non English Speaking Background can easily follow that talks. We were looking for a discussion guide that would help our diverse group grow in their understanding of God and discipleship. We are a small-sized church, so a small group discussion series would suit us well.
John Ortberg is senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, and is a master teacher and bestselling author of several books on discipleship. His frameworks on spiritual formation are shaped by Dallas Willard, and his teaching helps show how Jesus-centred spirituality is relevant in everyday life (see http://www.johnortberg.com/).
The Me I Want To Be is Ortberg’s teaching series on growing from who we are into the unique and flourishing people who God wants us to be (rather than the “me” I pretend to be, or think I should be, or other people want, or that fails to be, or that I’m afraid God wants). Ortberg teaches about what this means in general and for renewing our mind, redeeming our time, deepening our relationships and transforming our experiences. The material is spread over five talks of 12-15 minutes, that introduce a suggested one hour total session including engagement with 11-16 pages of notes and discussion points per session.
Ortberg captured my imagination when he said on the DVD in a message to pastors that many Christians want to go deeper in their faith, and yet we all need different approaches and frameworks for helping us grow deeper. For example, he discusses different personality types and the sins that particularly tempt each one, and offers checklists to diagnose where we draw life and what most gives us passion. It also urges participants in their encouragement of one another:
Every day, everyone you know faces life with eternity on the line, and life has a way of beating people down. Every life needs a cheering section. Every life needs a shoulder to lawn on once in a while. Every life needs a prayer to lift them up to God. Every life needs a hugger to wrap some arms around them sometimes. Every life needs to hear a voice saying, “Don’t give up.” (Participant’s Guide, p.61)
The discussion guide offers thoughtful, open-ended questions for discussion, and growth exercises for between sessions. It can be complemented by the more complete book by the same title.
One of the things I most appreciated about the resource is the inviting picture of God whose heart for us is to thrive and to dream big, to enjoy God’s gifts and to be dangerously threatening to forces of injustice and apathy. A feature of Ortberg’s teaching is the agency of God – the encouragement that your life is God’s project not just your own. The Me I Want to Be may sound individualistic and self-centred, but it leads participants to think bigger than our own needs and agendas, for example:
How will you recognize your mountain? There is no formula. Just as in every other area of your growth, your mountain will not look exactly like anyone else’s. But often you will recognize it because it lies at the intersection of the tasks that tap into your greatest strengths and the needs that tap into your deepest passions. You know this for sure: God has a mountain with your name on it. (Participant’s Guide, p.83)
John Ortberg’s The Me I Want to Be is a thought-provoking DVD teaching series relevant for small groups or churches interested in exploring spiritual growth, identity, life-giving relationships and vocation.
This review was originally published in Journal of Contemporary Ministry Number 3 (2017), 134-135, accessible at http://www.journalofcontemporaryministry.com