Holding Out Hope: a book review

Since Howard Gardner first popularized the theory of multiple intelligence, there has been a burgeoning publishing industry exploring different ways of knowing. Daniel Goleman’s landmark Emotional Intelligence (EQ) made the case for the importance interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence as a prerequisite for success in business and in life. Ray Johnston makes the case for developing our ‘Hope Quotient’ (HQ). Johnston is a speaker for Youth Specialties, the founder of Thrive Communications, Thriving Churches International, the Thrive Leadership Conference and the founding pastor of  Bayside Church in Sacramento, California. In The Hope Quotient  Johnston makes the case for the value of hope and describes the seven factors which raise your HQ These include:

  1. Recharging your batteries–investing in relationships and activities that enliven hope.
  2. Raising expectations–don’t settle!
  3. Refocusing on the future–you can’t strain ahead while looking back.
  4. Playing to your strengths–Be who you are.
  5. Refusing to go it alone–developing supportive relationships.
  6. Replacing burnout with balance–how margin and rest keeps you from losing all hope.
  7. playing great defense–avoiding the hope killers.

An accompanying online assessment (code comes with purchase of the book) identifies areas of strength and growth for becoming more hopeful people. In the final section of this book, Johnston discusses how to unleash a culture of hope in marriage and family, in our careers, in our church, our communities and our world.

This was a good book for me to read. It really underlies the importance of cultivating a hopeful outlook. Because Johnston is a pastor he points to a number of biblical stories which illustrate the factors and principles he describes. He does not engage in a sustained way with a particular biblical story, but people like Peter and Elijah (and others) make these factors vivid. Additionally Johnston shares lots of stories from his leadership and ministry contexts.

While I was reading this book I had two big questions. First: what is the difference between hope and positive thinking? There are plenty of business and self books which repeat the truism of positivity. People who are confident and believe in the possibility of success are more likely to succeed. Some of the rhetoric in this book sounds similar but hope, and Christian hope in particular, is much more robust concept. Christian hope evokes the idea of redemption for those in Christ, the consummation of the Kingdom of God and the restoration of all things. I believe this and Johnston believes this too, but this only ever partially unpacked. I had hoped to hear a thicker concept of hope here.

My second question was a bit more practical: How do you avoid unhealthy people and is that even right? Johnston repeatedly asserts that critical and emotionally unhealthy people are ‘hope killers’ and suggests we limit our time with them (46-7).  Critical people are wounded people who need their hope enlivened. Sometimes they are significant people in your life. Avoiding them may be impractical (what if it is your spouse?). From a ministry and missional perspective I wonder if what we really ought to do is deepen our relational investment with these hurting and hopeless individuals. Still I take Johnston’s larger point about cultivating friendships and networks of support which keep us from becoming despondent ourselves. Johnston is wise to say that the critical crowd are not our ‘go-to-guys’ and that we need people who help cast vision, dream and spur us on to something bigger.

What is good about this book is the practical advice that Johnston gives for growing our hope, trusting deeper in God knowing the good things he has in store and casting vision for big things. I give this book a qualified four stars. I like what it says, I just wish it said more. But this could be read fruitfully and I think many will find it helpful.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from  the Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

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