Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Uh Oh, I am in WAY over my head

Written by: on November 15, 2017


When my family eats at Cracker Barrel, we play the triangular game where we try to jump and remove as many pegs as possible.  If you are not very good at the game, the game describes you as an IGNORAMUS. (Christian comedian Timothy Hawkins does the funniest show on this game).

I have to be honest, I feel like an total ignoramus after reading Elliott’s book on Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. I was also bored beyond belief. Here’s why, but even more importantly, here is what I did about it…

Just reading the word THEORY puts me into a deep comatose sleep. I nearly drowned in every theory class I ever attempted. I am a practical guy. Theory seemingly has got me nowhere in my life.

So, I cheated. That’s what I did, I cheated! I remember someone in our chat saying they read LGP7’s papers from last year (you might remember Jake said he slept with one of them). So I peeked at what last year’s authors blogged. I picked out main words from their posts like, “post-modernism, globalization, capitalism and individualism” and dug into those. It was a start for me, at least I could break the book down into a few bite sized pieces I partially understood.

By the way, in LGP7’s blogs, I was not able to find a quality review of our book, which made me think I wasn’t the only ignoramus out there!

I also did a study on the author. Anthony Elliott is off-this-planet intelligent. Honestly, I get a picture in my mind of a guy who has never, not for one second, done a single fun thing his whole life. He must spend his every waking minute burning brain cells in the research lab and reading all 10 volumes of the XYZ theory of blah, blah, blah. He has job titles that are so deep, I still don’t understand what he does. Of the 40 books he has authored, this one appears to be his masterpiece.

Elliott amazed me that he even included a criticism section to several theories he highlighted. Here is a guy who is so smart, he fully understands the complex CRITICISMS of the very theories I struggle to grasp.

I even had to go outside his book to get a definition of “social theory” that I understood. From GoogleScholar I found this beauty, “Social theory is a system of generalized statements about social phenomena.”[2] Yes, now I was getting somewhere! Generalized statements about social phenomena. My critical thinking skills say he made some of this up, but then he backs it up.

I am making progress. More about that later.

Now I could BEGIN to try to understand sections like “The reproduction of mothering”[3] and “The gulf war did not take place.”[4] After I performed the X-RAY tool contained in the Kindle App, I found myself enjoying the sections on the capitalism of Levi-Strauss and McDonalds (McDonaldization?). [5]

I realize we are all wired a little differently. To some of you reading my blog, this book made perfect sense. You probably thought is was well worth the $58 bucks to purchase it. You understand “social theory” and it charges your battery to read it. Please take no offense, but I am not wired that way–at all! This is no excuse, I am still going to give this a try.

So, here we go…

The best key theme of this book from my perspective is “social theory” highlights the relationship between the individual and society. [6]

I will attempt to connect my dissertation topic of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to my new understanding of Elliott’s theories–from the individual to society. Here we go, this is my attempt at social theory from my perspective.

For many individuals, the American dream issue of commercialism has fueled an insatiable desire for acquiring more goods. Beginning with the industrial revolution, continuing forward with the rapid growth of consumer credit (debt), individuals in the West elevate their standard of living equal to or above their parents, even though their parents have thirty extra years to achieve this. Society then places undue pressure on young families to keep up with the Joneses. Enter covetousness. Families flee cities and build in suburbia. Houses grow larger while families shrink smaller. The BMW becomes the status symbol of choice. [7] Prioritization gets out of whack. Contentment-less is introduced.

The pace quickens with the technological age. In addition to additional car and real estate expenses, connectivity now demands computerization, cell phones and the internet. Throw in cable television and other societal pressure for instant gratification and time pressures dominate. Disposability enters the scene, simplicity exits. Buy more, throw it away quickly, move on as fast as you can–even if you have to pay more. Online shopping hammers the mall industry.

All of a sudden, the attention span of our society is miniscule. Debts rise because decision making skills have been compromised. People don’t bat an eye at paying for bottled water. Somehow, even God gets squeezed out because time management skills are also compromised. Before most realize what has happened, the “trials of life” [8] (some of which are self-inflicted) usher in the age of distractibility and the age of elevated stress levels. To add insult to injury, communication becomes null and void, we don’t even notice our neighbors in need. Nobody has time to pause and find out.

Church participations suffers. Child centered parenting [9] dictates Sunday travel sports teams for 4th graders in hopes of achieving college scholarships, and again society tells the individual you can do it all and have it all. Train wrecks are present everywhere. Marriages crumble. The rat race is on…

BUT, then the Bride of Christ, HIS church, opens the scriptures, preaches the gospel, disciples young believers, replaces lies with the TRUTH. Individuals, with God’s grace, begin to put the brakes on this insanity. Jesus does what he promises as he transforms hearts and minds.

Shadows of the age of gratitude and generosity appear. Those who practice these principles mature and change their family tree. [10] They step away from the mousetrap of the “deceitfulness of wealth” explained in the parable of the sower. Some of their neighbors notice. Society now desires wise stewardship.  Being faithful stewards becomes more important–with the environment, with our time, with our families and with our resources.

And the church leads the way as it takes God’s tithes and offerings and stewards them for Kingdom causes.



{Please understand, I am not a social theorist. This was simply my attempt to explain phenomena that I am seeing related to my dissertation. Every bolded word could be a chapter in my social theory book, as I understand it. It’s not perfect, but I believe I have made progress in my knowledge of what social theory is…}

[1]  Abstract Word Cloud for Sociological Theory (Royalty Free Stock Photos from 123rf.com: accessed November 15, 2017)

[2] Williams, Berenice. Introduction to Social Theory: Part 2 (Quick Time on slideplayer.com: accessed November 14, 2017)

[3] Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. Routledge, 2014. p. 217-219.

[4] Ibid., p. 267-269.

[5] Ibid., p. 23-26.

[6] Ibid., p. 11.

[7] Ramsey, Dave. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Member Workbook. Lampo Licensing, LLC, 2012.

[8] Mark 4:19. Barker, Kenneth L., ed. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

[9] Ezzo, Gary, and Anne Marie. Ezzo. Growing Kids God’s Way: Biblical Ethics for Parenting. Louisiana, MO: Growing Families International, 2002.

[10] Ramsey, Dave. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Member Workbook. Lampo Licensing, LLC, 2012.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

6 responses to “Uh Oh, I am in WAY over my head”

  1. I loved your approach to this week’s post. Your summary of social theory and how it relates to the church was very creative and kept my attention. I am often leading my clients through the process of replacing the lies in their thinking with the truth. I’m curious if you have any ideas on how to help people do this. Also by the way, one time I actually got down to one peg on that stupid game at Cracker Barrel…I was pretty proud of myself! 🙂

  2. Jay,

    Believe it or not, I think you’re on to something with your post and how social theory applies to your dissertation. You are trying to discern if giving to the local church increases after individuals attend a Ramsay course. So, in essence, you are trying to discover what is impacting the graduates and why. A great sociological study! What is in their worldview and what values do they hold that make them amenable to giving more/less? It would be interesting to think along these lines as you develop your research.

    I pray you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving.


    • Jay Forseth says:

      Mark, I hope you get some time away from the studies this week, too. I love Thanksgiving here in America, and one thing I am thankful for is you and our other cohort members. This is quite a journey and I am enjoying the ride together…

  3. Kyle Chalko says:

    Jay, I’m in way over my head too. I think I just have been learning to “fake it ’till you make it” for about 20+ years now. ahaha. Frank Abignail Jr is my hero btw.

    But for real great thoughts at looking at the social influences that affect your topic. To be honest this book was very difficult to me and I did not even attempt to apply to my topic.

    good job!

  4. M Webb says:


    So, you finally cheated! (not really) That is what Bayard would call gaining a peripheral viewpoint, so you can learn ideas and connect themes between ideas, authors, and books. Non-reading, reading-around the author, and pulling-in reviews is the new study and learning norm.

    I hate paying for bottled water! When I was in public safety I can attest to your dissertation chapter titles. For example, people do not know their neighbors, the schools and police raise children, and when their lips are moving, they are lying.

    My dad always told me, too much of anything is bad for you. It is not original, but coming from your dad makes it stick in your mind for life. And of course, his translation of Proverbs wisdom still applies. I suggest you review “lived theology” and add that to your strategy on how you will tackle the Ramsey problem. I’m sure his program has value and good parts to it, or you would not have invested so much time and energy supporting it over the years, but like everything else, Satan finds ways to move it just too far left or right and ruins the whole idea for many.

    Stand firm,

    M. Webb

  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    You are correct, this is tough stuff, somewhat abstract, full of jargon and often difficult to understand. But, you did it. You worked around the text to get at the meat of the issue to make sense of it and connect it to your own experience. That is what pragmatists do and we are all better for it. Even though challenging and highly academic you were able to recognize how the discussion applies to your future thesis question and as a result started to formulate some potential chapters of your dissertation.

    Don’t sell yourself short brother. You are plenty intelligent to understand and utilize material like this as you have demonstrated. I wonder where you feel Ramsey’s material would fit in the Social Theory lexicon. What branch of Social Theory do you think Ramsey’s material is most influenced by?

    You might be surprised about Elliott. He may be a closet outdoorsman who desires to understand how to really hunt and fish like you, who is jealous of your knowledge of the outdoors. Keep plugging away.

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