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A model for Elder Leadership

Acts 6:1-7 displays a model of leadership applicable to the modern Church. It models the importance of internal structures, the priority of values-based decision making, and the equipping of called individuals to carry out their God-ordained ministry.

In those days, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food

  • Acts 6:1

As a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, the early Church grew rapidly. This presented challenges and opportunities for Christ-centered leadership. As the Church reached out to Gentiles and grew from a small group to a multi-ethnic body, the number of widows that depended on the local Church for their daily bread increased. Greek-speaking believers saw a discrepancy where their widows were not receiving the same level of care as the Jewish believers.

So, the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and ministry of the word.”

  • Acts 6:2-4

The Apostles recognized a problem among the body and took steps to lead based on their understanding of Christ and their own calling.  The decision was made to choose those best fitting the ministry to carry out the ministry.  The Apostles themselves understood that while this service was Godly, necessary, and important to the body, their calling was to prayer and ministry of the word.  This was an important values-based decision. This decision displays an intentional decision to create an internal structure to meet the needs of the Church. Growing and healthy churches need to constantly evaluate their temporary and time-bound strategies to meet needs and live out timeless values.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

  • Acts 6:5-6

This new ministry strategy pleased the believers. The leaders choose those best fitting the ministry, Greek believers were chosen to solve the problem for Greek widows. The apostles prayed for them and bestowed upon them the authority and responsibility to care for the widows with the laying on of hands.

So, the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

  • Acts 6:7

Intentionality and wise, spirit-led decision making guided the Apostles through what could have been a disaster for the infant Church. What could have divided the body of Christ along ethnic lines became an opportunity for service and showed the surrounding community the love of Christ. As a result, the Church remained unified and multiplied!

Implementing this Model for the 21st Century Church

Following the model of the Early Church, the ministry of the Eldership is a constant focus on the timeless values and how they are lived out in the people and ministry of the local church. Strategies change, values do not. Elders are primarily responsible for the timeless aspects of local ministry; Mission, Vision, Values, Limitations, and Evaluation. This creates a picture of a preferred future for the staff and congregation to work toward in their unique areas of giftedness and calling. While there may be overlap in the responsibilities and tasks of Eldership and Staff, the work of the Eldership is primarily big-picture work, focused on asking guiding questions related to our identity and ministry while staff and congregational ministry if focused on implementation and strategy. This partnership is possible because of the following commitments and guidelines for the Eldership.

  • Elder leadership is focused on Church mission. Asking and answering the questions; Why do we exist? What does scripture say? Why does it matter?
  • Elder leadership is focused on Vision. Vision is the picture of who we, as a Church, will be in the future by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the Glory of the Father. The work of the Eldership is to hold all ideas, strategies, and, ministry proposals up to the standard of this Christ-centered vision and determine the proper course of action. Asking and answering the questions; Where are we going? What does that look like in our specific community?
  • Elder leadership is focused on Values. Congregational values are what make us unique and separate our ministry from other congregations called by Christ. It is these values that drive the Elder decision-making process and policy development. Decisions are based on whether or not the means or ends help us display our values to the community and live out those values. Asking and answering the questions; How do we make decisions? How do we live out the mission and vision?
  • Elder leadership is focused on Limitations. Limitations are not negative. They help us define our focus to best utilize limited people, talents, and finances. The Eldership’s most important role in limitations is the determination of Church Doctrine; what will and what will not be taught by leaders of all levels in our Congregation. That is why the most important characteristic of a godly Elder is ‘apt to teach’. Elders also have the responsibility and privilege to protect the ministry staff. Protecting, praying for, nurturing, and equipping staff is of the utmost importance to the Eldership. Ministry is most effective when Elders encourage, equip, and protect staff from the hazards and pitfalls of ministry. Asking and answering the questions; How do we protect doctrine? How do we protect the staff?
  • Elder leadership is focused on Metrics. Not attendance, buildings, or finances, but the continual desire to question and evaluate whether or not our course of action will move us closer to the vision. Asking and answering the questions; Are we making progress? Does it get us closer to the Vision?

 

As a result, the primary functions of the Eldership are:

The ministry of Prayer and Teaching of the Word

Establishing guiding policy

Biblically evaluating ministry progress

Equipping and resourcing the Church Staff

 To carry out this ministry, Elder Leadership is based on the following commitments

 

  • The Elders speak with one voice or not at all
    • The strength of the Eldership is a united voice
  • The Elders decisions are focused on policy
    • The Eldership leads by guiding ministry in a specific direction by clarifying policy
  • The Elders determine and evaluate Vision
    • The Eldership must clearly and concisely define who God has called Cornerstone Community Church to be and what that looks like in the future
  • The Elders measure progress toward the vision
    • The Eldership must monitor our progress but only against vision criteria
  • The Elders lead by limiting rather than prescribing
    • The Eldership sets boundaries for the ministry of the church rather than managing day to day staff decisions

The Elder-Staff Leadership Model 

Elder Leadership


Empowerment and the Church

Empowerment is an important topic in leadership and especially important in contemporary Church development literature. Ciulla (2004) writes, “Empowerment is about giving people the confidence, competence, freedom, and resources to act on their own judgments” (p. 59).  Empowerment is essentially a transfer of power from the leader to the follower that puts the follower in the position to act.  Ciulla views most empowerment in leader-follower relationships is ‘bogus empowerment’ and summarizes, “I describe bogus empowerment as the use of therapeutic functions to make people feel better about themselves, eliminate conflict, and satisfy their desire to belong (niceness), so that they will freely choose to work toward the goals of the organization (control of individualism) and be productive (instrumentalism)” (2004, p. 64-65).   Bogus empowerment gives the follower the feeling of empowerment while keeping them under the same system of responsibilities, duties, and relationships and it is something that the Church is all too experienced with.

                Bogus empowerment is most prevalent in the Church in discipleship/spiritual formation/leadership development ministries.  The goal of many of these Church ministries across denominations is the faithful and noble attempt to live out Ephesians 4 command to, “equip his people for works of service”.  In practice the approach is strikingly similar wherever one goes; take an inventory, take a class, join a small group or some other ministry to discover your passion and giftedness.  The goal of this is to empower believers to use their gifts, passions, and abilities in kingdom services.  The catch is that more often than not the church takes those discovered divine designs and fits them to a specific volunteer staffing need the congregation has.  Many leadership development programs in congregations function similarity.  The Church says it wants leaders but what it really wants is a warm body supervising the sugared up Jr. High kids.  This represents a good example of bogus empowerment because the relationships never change.  We say we want to empower believers but in the end they are still under the same staff lead and controlled ministry model, working toward the same goals as before but operating at a higher level.  While this is not the case everywhere, it is typical.  To be fair, many Churches have true empowerment programs for spiritual and leadership development but they are severely outnumbered by programs for staffing the busy work of the church disguised as spiritual and leadership development.

Ciulla’s characteristics of leadership as an empowering moral relationship could bring a powerful, transformative, and missional impact to the way the Church views equipping and empowerment.  The key to empowerment is in relationship.  “Bogus empowerment attempts to give employees or followers power without change the moral relationship between leaders and followers.  Empowerment changes the rights, responsibilities, and duties of leaders as well as followers” (Ciulla, 2004, p. 80). In a Church context the end result is almost a role reversal.  The leader becomes a resource serving and helping the follower carry out their passion, goals, and heart for ministry whether or not it takes place in a traditional ministry setting.  This results in the responsibility for ministry being turned over to the follower. “When leaders really empower people, they give them the responsibility that comes with that power” (Ciulla, 2004, p. 77).  A leadership model that seeks to equip and release congregations to pursue their own calling takes great risk on the part of the Church as it may lose members who choose a new direction to fulfill their calling but could make a real impact in the big picture of advancing the Kingdom. 

 

Justin

 

Ciulla, J. B. (2004). Leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment. In J. B. Ciulla (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (2nd ed., pp. 59-82). Westport, CT: Praeger.


Change in the Rural Church

Creating change in any organizations is a vital and healthy practice but can be difficult to successfully accomplish.  This is especially the case in rural congregations.  Kotter (2012) believes that many organization’s change efforts fail due to a lack of holistic approach.  Although his process is one among many, its step by step approach would be extremely helpful to organizations that are resistant and unfamiliar with change.  Change, in many cases is a time consuming process.  In rural areas, this can be even more so.  Wells writes, “Remember that change in the town and country church is a marathon, not a sprint” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 77).  change-roadsignWith that in mind, let’s look at some steps.

Step 1 is to “Create a sense of urgency.  Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  The shepherding of others to see change can be one of the more difficult areas of a change event, especially in a rural area/culture where many churches are located.  Changes in general are typically so gradual they are not noticed (Wells et. Al., 2005, p. 59).  The responsibility of a leader in change is to help everyone see the same picture of the need.  Good can sometimes be the enemy of the great as moderately successful congregations would have a hard time seeing the need for change as attendance and giving are doing well, programs are well attended and staffed, etc… An effective way create urgency and knowledge of the need for change in an organization with a false sense of security like this is to help the leaders see the need for change themselves.  For example, asking “Have you seen so-and-so in a while” to bring attention to their high turnover rate.  The bottom line is that no change will take place until the vast majority see it as not just helpful but necessary.

Step 2 is “Pull together the guiding team” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Change events need teams.  Kotter’s focus on a team with a diverse set of skills and attributes is Biblical (1 Cor. 12) and would be essential to change in a rural congregation. In that context, it would be important to build a team to leverage the relational aspect predominant in the church.  Wells writes, “If relationships are intact, then the congregation will be much more responsive to their leaders’ proposals for change” (2005, p 85).  It would be important to build a team representing the diverse membership of the congregation.  Looking for team members from new members, old members, young age, old age, with or without children, young adult, and others would give all in the church  someone to ‘make their voice heard’ in regards to change.

Step 3 is “Develop the Change Vision and Strategy.  Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Vision and Strategy go hand in hand and are crucial for organizational success.  They become all the more important in change management because they give the organization concrete images and plans in a time of uncertainty. In many rural and town and country churches, this may be the toughest part of change management.  No change takes place until people can see it with their minds-eye.  Preach it, teach it, talk about it over coffee, anything to get the picture of the preferred future off of paper and into hearts.

Step 4 is “Communicate for Understanding and buy-in. Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  This is where the real legwork of a congregation would happen.  The communication strategy must be comprehensive; from the pulpit down to the publications, a church needs a unified communication plan so everyone understands the change.  Realistically, no church can expect 100% buy-in on change but it is important that everyone at least have the opportunity to voice their opinions or objections.  “It is the leader who has done the hard work of listening to the concerns of the other who will then be listened to” (Rendle, 1998, p. 120).  It would be helpful to roll out any change plans on an evening dedicated to such purpose.  In that service the leadership could lay out plans, explain reasoning, and have dedicated time to voice concerns and field questions.

Step 5 is “Empower others to act.  Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Empowering others during change is especially helpful for buy-in to the change process and closely linked to Step 4.  But empowerment is not only for buy-in but Biblical reasons as well.  Empowering others is the role of congregational leaders (Eph. 4:12) and is supremely important in organizational change.  “Leaders need to nurture the natural gifts of the congregation and help provide new learnings in order to help it mange a time of change” (Rendle, 1998, p 70).  The typical congregation form of empowerment is a clipboard or signup sheet and that will not cut it here.  A solution would be an individual who is familiar with the gifting of the members of the congregation and whose specific purpose on the change team is to recruit people to help and act as a resource for those people.

Step 6 is “Produce Short-Term Wins.  Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  These short term wins toward change build momentum and trust as Wells writes, “Before tackling some of the more important or challenging changes, build momentum and trust by starting with some of the obvious changes that most everyone can see need to happen, or some of the simpler and more doable changes that won’t be hard to accomplish, or some of the less controversial changes” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 77).  This is especially important in the rural setting due to cultural considerations.  “Given the historical and cultural context, mini-changes are generally preferred in town and country churches.  In rural areas change has tended to come more slowly and with some reluctance.  In such a context, revolutionary changes may cause more harm than good, even when the change itself is successfully implemented” (Wells et al., 2005, p. 62).  A taste of change that works creates a hunger for more.  Here again communication is essential.  Congregational leaders would do well to celebrate every small win toward change in a formal way; a bulletin board, newsletter, illustrate the wins during sermons, etc…

Step 7 is “Don’t let up.  Press harder and faster after the first successes.  Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  This step is self-explanatory.  To keep enthusiasm high and work toward progress change must come at a steady and familiar pace.  This in itself will help Step 8.

The 8th and final step is, “Create a New Culture.  Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions” (Kotter, 2006, KL 723).  Leadership is vital to this process.  It is not just about a singular event but a new culture that must be upheld.  “Leaders do not just need to make things right.  Theirs is the far more difficult role of introducing people to the new condition and helping them to learn new ideas, behaviors, and alternatives that are more appropriate to the new condition” (Rendle, 1998, p.41).  The new culture, familiar to change is a healthy one.  All organizations need change over time but a culture that embraces change, when it is needed and necessary, will be quicker to react and able to change in a healthy and God-honoring way.

One thing that should be noted about change, especially in a congregational context, is that the end result should not be the only consideration in change.  Kotter’s steps help illustrate that the process matters.  “Process is as important as the end result.  Process is ministry.  Ministry doesn’t begin after the change is completed; ideally ministry will happen during the process of change.  Both route and destination hold great promise” (Wells et. al., 2005, p. 62).  There are many reasons and resources for change available to the Church from the business world that can and should be used but it would be disastrous to see it as only an organizational change and not a spiritual one.  “Leaders in congregation need to remember that some of their most essential learnings will come from their Bible study and not from their budget reports” (Rendle, 1998, p. 23).

 

Justin

 

References

Kotter, J. P., & Rathgeber, H. (2006). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions St Martins Press.

Kottter, J. (2012). The 8-step process for leading change. Retrieved 4/15, 2013, from http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/changesteps/changesteps

Rendle, G. R. (1998). Leading change in the congregation: Spiritual and organizational tools for leaders Alban Institute Herndon, VA.

Wells, Barney, Martin Giese, & Ron Klassen. (2005). Leading through change: Shepherding the town and country church in a new era Church Smart Resources.


Effectiveness, Discipleship, and the Mission of the Church

What is the mission of the Universal Church and how can we evaluate its effectiveness today? To assess the effectiveness of this generation in advancing the mission of the church we must first understand the universal mission of the Church.  Daft (2004) writes, “the overall goal for an organization is often called the mission – the organization’s reason for existence.  The mission describes the organization’s vision, its shared values and beliefs, and its reason for being” (p. 55).  The overall goal for the universal Church was given by Jesus to the Apostles in Matthew 28.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20a, NIV).  The mission of the Church is to make disciples.  Going, baptizing, and teaching are all subordinate participles in the original langue and the imperative is ‘make disciples’ (Wilkins, 2004, p. 951).  “Implied in the imperative “make disciples” is both the call to and the process of becoming a disciple” (Wilkins, 2004, p. 952).  I may be splitting hairs but the commission of Jesus and thus the mission of the church is not worship, glory to God, loving others, serving the community, or even soul-winning.  All these things fall under the umbrella of being a disciple of Jesus.  If the church is carrying out its mission of making disciples then it will be nurturing people into a relationship with Jesus that carries out all these things.

follow-me     The more difficult question to answer is whether or not this generation of the Church has been effective at carrying out its mission.  Wilkins writes that part of the discipleship strategy (and thus the goal of making disciples) has failed in the modern church; “It is perhaps in carrying out the directive of the final participle that we have failed the most: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Do we have a personal strategy for carrying this out? Because most of us personally and most of our ministries lack such a strategy, many have called this the Great Omission of the Great Commission” (Wilkins, 2004, p. 971).  Others believe that the Church has lost focus on making disciples; “The Church is in crisis today because we have wandered from our core mission and we must get back to it” (Ogden, 2003, p. 1).  Honestly it is hard to measure an abstraction yet Jesus gives us an outward product of an inward reality.  Jesus says in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world you are my disciples” (NLT).  I will say that the universal Church has made disciples.  I personally cannot say that they have been particularly effective at it.  There are a lot of believers but not nearly as many fully committed, transformed, and growing followers of Jesus that make being transformed into the image of Christ their consuming passion.  Likewise there are a lot of believers out there who love Jesus unconditionally but put strict limits on whoever else could be worthy of love.

As already stated, we are given the mission and strategy of the universal Church by Jesus in Mt. 28.  The strategy (going, baptizing, and teaching) is the same but looks different in every context.  Wilkins writes about going;  “’To obey Jesus’ commission may require some to leave homeland and go to other parts of the world, but the imperatival nature of the entire commission requires all believers to be involved in it.  The completion of the commission is not simply evangelism.  Rather, it means calling unbelievers to be converted and embark on the process of being transformed into the image of Jesus in lifelong discipleship” (2004, p. 954).  Disciples are locally and globally minded followers but everyone’s ‘go’ is unique.  Still there is no denying that the strategy is to go.  Baptism throughout the NT is the starting point for new life in Christ.  Teaching is where many congregations fall short.  Many are good with the basics of discipleship but have few lifelong resources for growth outside of popular and topical small group/Sunday school options.  Every Church needs a plan to help each person take responsibility for their growth in Christ.

To raise up the next generation of globally minded, culturally aware disciples the Church must be intentional about discipleship.  Personally I think the best structure for this is the method Jesus used with his first disciples; an intentional, relationship-based journey of continual learning of who Jesus is and what it looks like to be like him.  Every congregation’s unique context and values will determine the form this takes.  The modern small-group movement is a good tool for this but small-groups are just another way, not the only way, to encourage community.  A congregation that is successful at making disciples will make an intentional effort to build community between a diverse sampling of believers and equip them with the tools to understand where they are in their own discipleship journey and help move them along in their journey of Christlikeness.

 

Justin

 

References

 

Daft, R. L. (2004). Organization theory and design (8th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.

 

Ogden, G. (2003). Making disciples of Jesus: The unique mission of the church. Retrieved 10/4, 2013, from http://gregogden.com/PDFs/UniqueMissionOfChurch.pdf

 

Wilkins, M. J. (2004). The NIV application commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing,


Organizational Theory and Leadership

Organizational Theory is a complex and wide-ranging study.  Even defining the organization can be a highly debated topic.  Daft (2004) defines organizations as “Social entities that are goal-directed, are designed as deliberately structured and coordinated activity systems, and are linked to the external environment “ (p. 11).    Organizations are social entities because they ‘people-centered’.  “Entities are social because they are dependent on human activity for their existence” (Fleetwood, 2005, p. 201).  Organizations exist and function because of complex human interactions.  Organizations exist to “bring together resources to accomplish specific goals” (Daft, 2004, p. 12) and are designed with that purpose in mind.  Finally, organizations are linked to the environment.   It must gather resources from outside itself, produce, and function in a complex set of external relationships including but not limited to stakeholders, suppliers, customers, community, market, and competitors.  An organization, “draws its very sustenance from the environment, and if it cannot, it ceases to be a viable organization” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 153).  The bottom line is that, “The survival and prosperity of an organization depends on effective adaptation to the environment, which means marketing its outputs (products and services) successfully, obtain necessary resources, and dealing with external threats” (Yukl, 2002, p. 16).  In the modern world organizational environments do not only concern local variables but international ones as well.  “One of the most significant changes in the external environment today is globalization” (Daft, 2004, p. 13).  Organizational theory is the study of the complex internal and external relationships, structures, and functions, of the social structure that is the organization.

It is important for leaders to understand the organizations they serve.  “Understanding organizations is more than just an academic pursuit, it is a primary requisite for good leadership” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 153).  Leadership is deeply tied to organizational theory.  “There is no single “correct” definition” of leadership  (Yukl, 2002, p. 7).  Organizations are social entities and leadership is a social process.  “Leadership is a social process, and though it may be institutionalized through defined formal roles, it is present at entry level and enacted in an ongoing way though continuous processes of communication, inspiration and dialogue throughout the organization” (Bate, Kahn, and Pye, 2000, p. 199).  Yukl (2002) sees organizational leadership as a process of influence that can be carried out by individuals or a group to bring about understanding and facilitation in effort to accomplish goals (p. 7).  Leadership, as it relates to organization theory, is the application of knowledge and influence while considering internal and external factors and forces in an effort to “reasonably balance, integrate, and harmonize the two while leading their organizations toward productive goals” (Hunsicker, 2001, p. 158).  The connection between organizational and leadership theories is complicated and strong.  Some leaders work best in certain organizational theories and certain organizations are more effective with certain leadership theories.  To say the two are interconnected is an understatement.

Organizational theory seems like a field of study that has few practical applications.  Many of the topics and subjects of study are complex and the very nature of the organization, as a social structure, is hard to observe.  The reality of the field is that organizational leaders who can stand in the gap between organizational design (structure) and organizational development (culture) make the field extremely practical.  The theories, when in practice, make a real difference in the implementation and outcome of organizational goals.

 

Justin

 

References

 

Bate, P., Khan, R., & Pye, A. (2000). Towards a culturally sensitive approach to organization structuring: Where organization design meets organization development. Organization Science, 11(2), 197-211. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640284

Daft, R. L. (2004). Organization theory and design (8th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.

Fleetwood, S. (2005). Ontology in organization and management studies: A critical realist perspective. Organization, 12(2), 197-222.

Hunsicker, F. R. (2001). Organization theory for leaders. In Lester, Richard I. & A. Glenn Morton (Ed.), Concepts for air force leadership (4th ed., pp. 153-158). Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press. Retrieved from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/au-24/hunsicker.pdf

Yukl, G. A. (2002). Leadership in organizations (5th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


360-DEGREE LEADERSHIP: PREACHING TO TRANSFOMRM CONGERGATIONS – MICHAEL J. QUICKE

 

Although many in the world and in ministry believe there is a difference between the two disciplines, to preach is to lead and to lead is to preach. In 360-Degree Preaching Michael J. Quicke presents the case that not only can there be a conversation between preaching and leadership but there must be for creating and encouraging healthy change in any congregation. 360-Degree Preaching is thoroughly practical and aimed at all preachers; “I write this book for average preachers whom God loves and uses.”[1] Quicke develops his book in two parts. Part one “shall describe how preaching and leading seem to operate in different spheres.”[2] Quicke explains the historical and cultural ideas behind leadership and preaching and while they have been traditionally seen as separate disciplines they must work together because God has always used preaching to move his people. Part two is a model “for a working relationship so preaching and leading can “do business” together.”[3] This is where Quicke spends most of his time and effort. It is a practical section that helps develop a place to start and keep growing as a preacher-leader.

The strength of Quicke’s work is in his practicality. Most of his book is practice and not just theory. Many leadership books are heavy on theory and lite on why it matters. Quicke presents enough theory in part one to give the preacher-leader a basic understanding of the issues and their importance and then dives into why it matters in part two. Part two, along with the appendices is an excellent resource of skills, steps, charts and examples. These strengths make 360-Degree Leadership not just a read but a resource. I find 360-Leadership weak in two areas; first in the area of other Church leaders, second in the area of discernment. Quicke’s Baptist background is reflected in his leadership style; a strong, central pastoral figure and a limited role of other Church leaders. There are only four mentions of Elder in the entire book. I assume Quicke believes in the plurality of Church leaders but in leaving this out he missed the opportunity to explain how preaching leads leaders and encourage the Preacher to lead and teach communally. The Church is the community of God. Even if it has one central, vocal, preacher-leader (I believe the Church should have a plurality of voices and this is possible under Quicke’s model) a congregation still needs the unique gifts God has given the Church and no one leader has them all. Secondly, although Quicke is heavy on how and why the pulpit leads he is light on where the pulpit leads. I wish the author would have included a way to help people completely new to the process get starting in understanding how the Preacher leads the Congregation in finding their vision and values. He is very clear on how to preach together there but is fuzzy finding where there actually is. He clearly presents a strong case on how to Change but nothing on knowing what to change.

Quicke challenges me in chapter six on Learning Skills. Each section has a reminder that has helped me; Every Sermon Matters.[4] Beginning with realistic full-blooded preaching he writes that every sermon has to create some tension. Change is by nature a pull between where you are and where you need to be. If the sermon is not helping to stretch the hearer then it is not ultimately serving a purpose. Every sermon matters because “preacher/leaders must learn how to preach powerfully about God’s biggest picture – by emphasizing his kingdom.”[5] Preaching that transforms congregations has to deal with something bigger than the moralistic and individualistic sermons that preachers are prone to preaching. These reminders help give me some important questions to ask in my own sermon development. I need to ask; “What is the big picture for this message?” “How does it fit into getting us where we need to go?” and “Would it matter if I didn’t preach this sermon?” If every sermon matters then every message has a point and purpose that gets the church a step closer to realizing its vision.

360-Degree Leadership has encouraged me with my struggle to see the importance of preaching and worship. If preaching leads the congregation it also leads in worship. Preaching is first worship and it requires worship to even begin. “Nothing sabotages spiritual leadership more savagely than missing personal worship.”[6] Preaching is spiritual leadership so preaching needs personal worship. Sometimes I get too caught up in studying, preparing, and preaching sermons that I neglect personal worship. It is an important reminder that the preacher cannot lead where the preacher has not been and if the preacher has not worshiped and wrestled with God through the text then it will be difficult to get the hearer to. “Nothing should receive more care, skill, and devotion than planning intentional worship in order that people encounter more of God.”[7]

Preaching is powerful and preaching leads. 360-Degree Leadership is a call to preaching that matters and preaching about what matters. God-honoring preaching guides the life of the Church because there is no area of its life that preaching does not touch.


[1] Michael J. Quicke, 360-Degree Leadership: Preaching to Transform Congergations, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 16. [2] Ibid., 17 [3] Ibid., 24. [4] Ibid., 109 and following. [5] Ibid.,116. [6] Ibid.. 133. [7] Ibid.


In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians – Graham H. Twelftree

Twelftree’s work on exorcism among early Christians is as deep as it is wide. His book surveys the varying perspectives on Christian exorcism, and its practice among the New Testament through 200 CE. He states his thesis early 51EUUbKCP1L__SS500_on in the book, “Hence I have two principle aims in this study. My chief aim is to determine the place as well as to describe the practice of exorcism among early Christians reflected in the New Testament documents. Secondarily, I will attempt to explain the variety of approaches to exorcism in the New Testament Canon.”[1] To do this he describes and discusses exorcism and exorcists during the first century, including Christian and Non-Christian. Then, he takes a chronological approach to examining what writers of the New Testament have to say about the practice among early Christians. Finally, he considers extra-Biblical sources including the Apostolic Fathers and critics of Christianity to examine their views of the practice up to the year 200 CE.[2] After his vast historical study, Twelftree comes to the conclusion that, “I am obliged to recognize that it (the New Testament) has provided the church with a range of options for understanding and dealing the demonic.”[3] The early Christians were “remarkably restrained”[4] in their interest and imagery of exorcism and that when techniques are discussed it stands in contrast to other ancient sources for its “extreme brevity.”[5] Twelftree’s final conclusion is that the New Testament writers believed “exorcism was a confrontation between the divine and the demonic in which the demonic was defeated”[6] and the defeat was not through any power from the Early Christians but “because they brought about a confrontation between Jesus and the demonic.”[7]

The major strength of Twelftree’s book is his depth of content and research. This is not just a survey of mentions of exorcism in the New Testament but a deep study of the social-historical context and views on exorcism of many different groups during the time that he research. He often includes detailed translation notes and information from other writers and commentators that give solid scholarly depth to his work. It is also to his strength that he limits the scope of his study to 200 CE and focuses on just the early Christians so that the reader can get a picture of early Christian history that is not influenced by stores and traditions that came after 200 CE whose historicity is sometimes doubted. One weakness in his writing is his frequency of offering conclusions based on small amounts of evidence and including conjecture in his conclusions; practices that “may have been known”[8], inferring conclusions from little evidence[9], grammatical contrasts based on what “could be”[10], and writing “although these important conclusions have a slender base”[11]. Twelftree’s should have left these comments out as they may cause the reader to doubt the author’s confidence in his own work.


[1] Graham H. Twelftree, In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians, Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2007, 29.

[2] Ibid, 31.

[3] Ibid. 293.

[4] Ibid, 294.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 295.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 41.

[9] Ibid, 61.

[10] Ibid, 70.

[11] Ibid, 76.


In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History – R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas. E.d.

The Goal of In Defense of Miracles is to present a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding whether or not God has worked in history through miraculous events. The book is organized into a four part structure of chapters written by different authors, “commissioned because of their expertise in each case.”[1] The editors begin with the case against miracles and then the parts explore different approaches to understating miracles. Part two deals primarily with the philosophical problem of the possibility of miracles. Part three discuss the ideas surrounding miracles and the ideas of God’s involvement in creation. Part four presents case studies for specifically Christian miracles. The 51HXKzpq0KL__SS500_major premise of the book comes in the conclusion, the fact that after observing and discussing miracles in philosophy, history, theology, science, etc… the case for miracles stands. The authors believe that the case they have laid out to defend miracles in these disciplines is not just for the intellectuals but for everyone. “In our view, the case for miracles is strong and needs to become better known outside the academy.”[2]

The major strength of the book is the editor’s multi-disciplinary approach. Their goal was to create a comprehensive work and they accomplished it. Their approach leaves no area untouched as they survey many disciplines. The scholarship and authors are very thorough and knowledgeable in their topics. I specifically appreciated how each author takes the space in their chapter to answer counter points or arguments that may be presented from opposing viewpoints. This helps make the book practical for apologetics and even devotional thought. The major criticism of the book is that it seems to be entirely focused on being a rebuttal for David Hume’s Of Miracles from 1779. The editors write in the introduction, “In many respects, the chapters by Hume and Flew set the agenda for the rest of the book.”[3] This seems to make the book feel dated. There must surely be a better work against miracles to respond to since 1776. I believe that the book would reach a wider audience if the authors did not specifically intend to address Hume and Flew in every chapter. Aside from that organizational issue, the book may be too scholarly for some. The language and concepts may be too academic for individuals outside of the academic circle. The authors need to take time to explain complex concepts so that readers can have a conversation across disciplines without needing higher education in each. Overall the book is well-researched and full of helpful information to serve as a primer for a multi-disciplinary study of miracles.


[1] R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press. 1997, 25.

[2] Ibid, 280.

[3] Ibid, 19.


Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity: Imagining Truth – John C. Cavadini e.d.

Cavadini is the editor of the series of papers presented in Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity. He writes in the preface, “The essays in this collection originated in the annual year-long seminar on Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity held in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.”[1] The papers all revolve around miracles in the ancient world. Cavadini presents them first by tracing the history of the problem of miracles and continuing through 51pymBF-e1L__SS500_the Biblical period, post-Biblical period, and drawing on both Testaments as well as Jewish sources. Although they explore different ideas surrounding miracles ,”in the end, all of the essays explore ways in which miracles stories, both biblical and postbiblical, invite us into the realm of the imagination as itself a locus, and in some cases a privileged locus, of truth.”[2] This is the ultimate thesis of Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity; to explore the miracles and how the invite the reader into imagination.

The strength of this collection of papers is in the scholarship. The academic work presented is of the highest quality and writers present their information in a way that acknowledges multiple academic disciplines as they explore the miracle texts of their individual papers. The papers bring to life not only the theological points of their miracle texts but the social and historical developments surrounding the events and interpretations throughout history. I personally found the Cultural and Social Questions Checklist[3] to be particularly helpful in understanding miracles from a multi-disciplinary point of view. The collection of papers does have a downside, the fact that it is a collection of papers. Honestly, I see no reason for this publication other than the fact that they wanted a collection of all the papers presented for the 95-96 seminar on Miracles. Each stands alone and there is no interaction between chapters and thus no development of a main idea or thesis. The individual papers have development and purpose but the book seems as if it lacks direction.


[1] John C. Cavadini, Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity: Imagining Truth, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1999,vii.

[2] Ibid, ix.

[3] Ibid, 39.


Healing in the Bible: Theological Insight for Christian Ministry – Fredrick J. Gasier.

Healing in the Bible by Fredrick J. Gasier is a conversation between the healing stories of the Bible and our modern world. Gasier approaches the healing texts with a different method than most scholars. He does away with the typical methodologies of critical exegesis and thematic study to use a case study approach Imageof what he calls “a hermeneutic of appreciation”[1]. The case study method attempts to consider each text individually and how it contributes to the overall theme of healing in the Bible. Gasier’s thesis is presented on page 5, “The goal of this book is to explore the ways in which the Bible amplifies the claims and promises of both Testaments – “I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex. 15:26); “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt. 4:23) – and then to think about all of this in our own cultural perspective.”[2] Healing in the Bible is more of a conversation with scripture than a conversation about scripture.

Gaiser’s strength is in his method of developing his thesis. Considering each text by itself makes his work very approachable and understandable. In general, his reflections tying the ancient healing texts to the modern world are refreshing. Discussing the texts and miracles without a fight over worldviews or apologetics puts more focus on the text and allows for appreciative reflection regardless of one’s view of the text or miracle. There is something for everyone in this approach. However, his strength is also his weakness. The case study approach makes his book feel like he does not ultimately get anywhere, like meandering around scripture with nothing to prove. It is hard to understand exactly what one is to take away from the book as a whole. Some readers will be turned off by the amount of speculation and opinion Gaiser includes in the chapters, specifically in chapter 11 where he draws too heavily on what he calls Israel’s “radical monotheism”[3]. Overall, Healing in the Bible is insightful and well-developed. 


[1] Fredrick J. Gaiser, Healing in the Bible: Theological Insight for Christian Ministry, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010, 4.

[2] Ibid, 5.

[3] Ibid,148.


Lost and Found

The younger generations are largely absent from the Church.  Lost and Found by Stetzer, Stanley and Hayes is a study into the 20-29 year old un-churched population that aims to help Church leaders better understand the mindset, values, and culture of this generation to better reach them for Christ.  The results of their surveys and studies are surprising.  Although underrepresented in the Church, the 20-29 year old generation is more likely to be interested in God and spirituality than any generation before.  What is keeping them out of the Church and what can the Church do to better reach them?

altLost and Found is divided up into three parts, beginning with the presentation of Data.  The Center for Missional Research and LifeWay provided polls of a large group of young adults as well as conducted interviews.  Many churches that are reaching young adults were interviewed through various forms.  From the presentation of Data the authors moving on to what they call “Listening” (Part 2).  This is where they set down with all the responses and boiled them down to four markers of what defines the 20-29 year old age segment.  The final Part, (3) “Reaching” describes Churches that are reaching this age group and what they are doing.  Lost and Found is organized in a logical way that presents the data and offers ways to act on it; the book is not so much a collection of statistics but a window behind the statistics to see what is really going on in the lives of young adults.

The survey produced some surprising results.  81% of the age group believe in God or a higher supreme being (p.21); four out of five.  57% believe that it is the God of the Bible; a majority of the unchurched surveyed (22).  66% believe Jesus died and came back to life (27).  The numbers turned south as they asked about the Church.  Only 39% believe their lifestyle would be accepted by Christians, 67% believe the church is full of hypocrites, and 90% believe that they can have a relationship with God without being involved in the church (32).  It is clear that the unchurched young adults do not have a problem with God or Jesus; they have a problem with the Church.

What is most interesting about the age segment is that although they were opposed to the Church they were open to hearing about Jesus; 89% would be willing to hear about Christianity, 61% willing to study the Bible with a friend.  These numbers are encouraging.  The problems seem to lie in a few different areas;  63% would be willing to try Church if they presented truth in an understandable way (38) and 58% would come if the church “cared about them personally”.  Most surprising is that music is not the problem for the vast majority; only 31% said they would go if the church played music similar to their favorite type (38).  From reading the responses it seems to indicate that the 20-29 year old segment finds “contemporary” praise music shallow and boring; they prefer hymns.

Part two contains some “Markers” of the 20-29 year old generation.  The first was community.  At the deepest level, young adults want to do life together, they want to travel along and know that they are not alone.  In some ways this may be recoil from the individualism prevalent in modernity.  Everyone wants to be a part of something; they want to feel connected to other people.  Lost and Found believes that the church will have to experience a radical paradigm shift to move to a community driven model.  The Church is supposed to be a model for community; with God and other people.  Sadly many churches do a poor job at creating the kind of deep, personal community that young adults want and Christ intended.  The authors believe that the church has operated under a “behave/believe/belong” model for years (83) that will not reach postmodern generations.  Many want people’s act cleaned up before they come to Church whether they will admit it or not.  They say that to reach young adults we have to move to a “belong/believe/become” model (84); letting people come and be a part of what is happing, be accepted, then come to faith and growth on their own terms.

The second marker is depth.  The 20-29 year old segment is educated and informed.  Growing up surrounded by information and connection, “If they were ever to make a decision for Christ, then it would be an informed, educated one (88).”  They want personalized, deep content.  Most sermons that middle aged individuals latch onto are simple with four points and a poem; the young adults don’t want it easy.  Young adults want something more, “they are hungry for the unanswerable (92)” and want to struggle with content, not be told what to do or think.  Older generations have typically reasoned from a, “tell me what to do and I’ll do it” faith (practical then reflective), younger ones want the content to sort out on their own.  The depth of content is “about engaging people at every level – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and even physically (95).”  The responsibility here lies squarely at the feet of preachers.  Preachers are not reaching younger audiences because they are not connecting with them.

Marker three is responsibility.  20-29 year olds have a strong desire to make a lasting impact on the world.  They want to serve and help others and be responsible for the environment.  This is excellent news for the Church; there is a willing army of volunteers what want to change the world, we just have to reach them and point them toward something eternal.  66% say that “the opportunity to meet the needs of others (locally and globally) is extremely important in their lives (111).   The key for young adults is where the service and responsibility is; they are not interested in handing out bulletins or passing plates, “Opportunities for responsibility must extend beyond the walls of the church building (116).”  Lost and Found even proposes that “we must focus our efforts toward establishing social action as a major element in the strategies and programs of our church (117).”  The modern church must recapture the heart of service that Jesus had if it wants to connect with young adults.

The fourth marker is most surprising, cross-generational connection.   Young adults deeply want to learn life skills and spiritual disciplines from experienced Christians (127).  They want to learn life from someone who has already been there; they are looking for places to turn in difficult times.  It seems that some of this is due to the absence of their parents at younger ages.  Young adults are interested in things that have stood the test of time.  “An appreciation for hymns and liturgy is resurging among younger adults and the churches that are reaching them.  Things of substance and age are being embraced (131).”  Un-churched Americans prefer Churches that look like traditional medieval cathedrals compared to the mall like mega-churches 2 to 1.  Young adults want to be a part of something that will outlast themselves and has come before them.  This is the place the Church needs to step up; we desperately need older believers who want to mentor younger ones.  It is the Biblical model.

Overall, younger generations are more open and willing to investigate Christianity than any other generation of our time.  The real question is; do we have Churches with leaders and believers who are willing to step up, and out, to meet the needs of people passionately seeking real significance in life or will we be content to sit and hope they just show up one Sunday?  The 20-29 year olds are waiting on you; care for them, engage them, invite them, hug them, serve with them, show them incarnational love.

Lost and Found is one of the most revealing and thought provoking books I have read in some time.  It has given me insight not only into others but into myself.  This book should be read by someone in leadership at every Church.  If you have ever looked around a Church and asked; “where are the young people?”, then you need to read this book.  The more you understand the culture, thoughts, needs and attitudes of this group the more effective you will be in reaching them.  It is time for Churches to make a commitment to younger generations.  Don’t do it because you want their tithe, don’t do it because you want their service, don’t do it because you need to fill a seat.  Do it because they are searching for something that only Christ can give them; Life, and life to the fullest.

Ed Stetzer is a writer and researcher of culture and Christianity with LifeWay Research.

Richie Stanley is a team leader with the North American Mission Boards Center for Missional Research.

Jason Hayes is the young adult ministry specialist at LifeWay.


Meetings That Work – Alexander Strauch

Meetings That Work: A Guide to Effective Elders’ Meetings by Alexander Strauch is a short, practical read about what Church Elders should actually be doing.  His thesis is that most modern elders meetings are not what they should be.  If elders can focus on real spiritual matters of the Church and get the Big Picture, the Church will be more effective and Elders meetings will become a place of spiritual growth, God-honoring community and Christ-Centered leadership that shepherds the Church into a healthy direction.

Strauch believes that “elder’s meetings affect the spiritual health of the church (8).”  Positively or negatively there is a correlation between the health of the church and the effectiveness of elders’ meetings.  If the meetings are pointless and the leaders are not growing, how can they expect the church members to have purpose and grow?  Biblical leadership is an “Eastern-Shepherding” model as opposed to a “Western-Driving” model; the picture looks like shepherds vs. cowboys if that image makes it any clearer.  Most Elders meetings want to direct with a top-down, western, model of leadership whereas the Church needs Christ like leaders who model growth and incarnational love.  “the Elder council is a microcosm of how the whole congregation should live and work together (8).”

Strauch believes that Elders meetings are important because they affect the spiritual health of the Church; they build Character, develop leadership skills, enhance Group Moral and accountability and train future leaders.  If your Elders meetings are not the place for this than maybe it is time to refocus your meetings on things that matter.

The trick to having effective elders’ meetings is having effective elders.  Effective elders are individuals who are Biblically qualified (see 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, 1 Peter 5 and others to understand the qualities and qualifications of church shepherds).  They have to not only be qualified but individuals who conduct themselves with Christ like attitude (20), Love (21), and Service (22).  These individuals are people who understand what really matters to the Church.  Far too often Elders do things that other members should be doing; they discuss finances, building issues, plan dinners, and others things that don’t ultimately help the Church.

The key to effective elder’s meetings lies in the idea that Elders deal with Eternal matters; elders should be shepherds of not only the present church but stewards of the future church.  To do this, they have to have to care about the things that Jesus cared about.  “The proper functioning of the eldership revolves around three core responsibilities: people, prayer, and the Word (42).”  People are the focus of the meetings; understanding needs and caring for others, providing “soul-care” for the family of God they have been trusted with.  To carry this out Elders need significant Prayer time.  It is a shame that elders meetings have been reduced to a 15-second blessing at the beginning of the meeting followed by two hours of building needs talk.  “Prayer should, therefore, be a significant part of all elders’ meetings (44).”  If you are not praying you are not connected to Christ and how are you going to lead his Church without even consulting him?  Finally, elders deal with issues of the Word.  “A fundamental task of the elder council is to define, clarify , state, and continually restate the church’s foundational, nonnegotiable beliefs, its unique doctrinal distinctive, its ministry priorities, its direction its spiritual values, and its mission and vision (47).”  These are the Biblical tasks of church shepherds.

Meetings that Work includes practical wisdom to get organized to be more effective as well.  These ideas are more cultural suggestions than Biblical imperatives.  Keeping records, having a well thought out

agenda, minutes, and evaluations are important to managing things well regardless of what shape they take.  Strauch includes prayer guides, discussion questions, and a sample agenda to help a board get reorganized and start dealing with things that matter.  These are very helpful and easy to implement into elders meetings.

This book would be an excellent, quick read (87 pages) for preachers or any elder.  It would even make a good quick study for an elder group that wants to be more effective.  I encourage anyone who is in located ministry and wants their church to be truly effective to get this book, read it, and pass it along to members of the board.  For the Church to be effective in today’s society it cannot continue on the maintenance mode that has sustained it for the past century.  If you want your church to be effective you need leaders that are effective.

Alexander Strauch is a gifted Bible teacher and elder at a church in Littleton where he has served for over 40 years.  (Inside Cover).


The Leadership Baton – Forman, Jones, and Miller

The Leadership Baton by Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller is a practical guide to leadership development.  There are many different leadership development programs out there but what makes The Leadership Baton unique is the “Church Based” approach that they take.  The authors have a strong believe that, “the church has a God-given capacity to engage in whole-life leadership development (25).”  They agree with many others who have stated that, “the church is only one generation away from extinction (22)” and the solution to this problem comes not from outside sources such as seminary and training groups but from an in-house leadership development culture at every local church.  Their book is divided into three parts; Vision for Church based training, Process, and Implementation.

The most important part of Church-Based training is the culture of the church itself.  “Leadership development has more to do with who they are as a church than what particular things they do (30).”  This culture is prepared from the top down with any church’s current leadership.  The elders of a church must be willing to grow and develop and most importantly, always be looking for potential new leaders to empower and raise up to release into ministry.  The Leadership Baton gets its title from this constant searching mentality.  Their idea is that they give each leader a relay baton, and it is that leader’s responsibility to pass it off to someone else.  Then when that individual completes the church-based training for leadership they are given a baton to pass off to someone else.  This system is effective because it recognizes leaders, encourages them, rewards them, and challenges them all at the same time.    The authors believe that this mirrors the structure that Jesus and the early Church used.  They trace this “apprenticeship” method from the first century on and show that our current form of leadership development (seminary) is a product of the enlightenment and birth of the university.  They do not believe that seminary training is bad but that “Local churches have both neglected the training of leaders within the congregation and largely abdicated to professional schools for the responsibility for training pastoral leaders – and this has had profound consequences for the church (48).”  Because the leadership responsibility is placed on another intuition there are usually insufficient numbers of godly leaders for local churches, many local churches are often pragmatically driven without deep theological understanding, and governing board member are unequipped to shepherd.  The solution presented in The Leadership Baton is their leadership development curriculum and philosophy of leadership development.  In some places the book starts to read like an advertisement but their system seems to be well-suited for the local church development model.

Their process involves starting with the end in mind.  The best place to begin leadership development is to ask, “What kind of leaders do we want to create?”  They state their goal, “By God’s grace, we want to produce wise leaders who are sound in their knowledge of God’s Word and his world, strong in character and compassion, and skillful in ministry and mission (62).”  The Church-Based training focuses not just on knowledge but on creating wise leaders, Godly leaders, and skilled leaders.  The key is to not just get leaders full of Bible knowledge but Biblical wisdom.  They want leaders with Godly character and believe that this is the key to successful leadership.  Finally they want to create leaders that have the hands to equip others.  The authors strongly believe, “We don’t develop leaders; God does (65).”  But we can create a strategy that provides an avenue for God’s development.  The Church-Based program basically revolves around a combination of graduated courses, a biblical community approach, and purposeful spiritual mentoring.  They discuss each of these in individual chapters that have a very practical, step by step approach.

The implementation section is very practical as well; including surveys, discussion questions, and readiness inventories.  The implementation phase begins with the church eldership.  “A key responsibility of a pastor is to spearhead efforts to equip board member to be effective in their role as church leaders (134).”  They believe that this kind of training will do away with the “lobbying” that happens in church leadership by creating leaders that can prayerfully discern spiritual issues at work in a congregation and break the cycle of the board functioning as an “approved” or “denied” stamp on a pastor’s idea.  To effectively empower a church board the process must be intentional, regular, and communal.  Have goals of what you want the board to become and measure progress.  Make it a regular ongoing time (it must be more frequent than monthly or community is lost).  Most importantly, take training out of the business meeting; it will always get pushed aside by budget or other agenda items.  “Developing and unifying your board is one of the best possible investments of a pastor’s time (144).”  Developing emerging leaders takes a similar approach.  It is best led by the church leaders and elders because the leaders that have gone through the program can now develop others and “pass the baton” off to future generations.  There are many different approaches to designing a strategy for implementing this at a local church level and that will take a different shape in each local church.  The authors offer an important reminder; “It’s easy to get so busy in doing ministry that we fail to devote attention to developing others.  Yet, the development of people is our real job – even more important than accomplishing the tasks (155)…. If we are not doing this, then what are we doing?  Developing people always has been and always will be the church’s most important job (156).”

In the final sections of The Leadership Baton the authors propose that Church based training could take the place of seminary in a post-modern society where formal education does not hold as much power.  I am skeptical of this approach but see their point.  The Church-Based training philosophy helps the church operate in the way that God intended it to; making disciples who make disciples.  I still believe that there will always be a need for the highly trained specialists that seminaries can train.  The church based approach (not necessarily curriculum) has already seen much success in the “mega-church” world as evidenced churches such as Willow Creek and Saddleback that predominantly hire from within.  The Leadership Baton would be an excellent read for any church leader that wants to see what a leadership development program could look like.  Its focus on practicality and implementation makes it an attractive choice for a program that a local church can build off of to become more effective in disciple making.

Rowland Foreman is the director of curriculum development for the Center for Church-Based Training.

Jeff Jones is the Executive director of the Center for Church-Based Training

Bruce Miller is the chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Church-Based Training and senior pastor of McKinney Fellowship Bible Church.   www.ccbt.org


Building Leaders – Malphurs and Mancini

Building Leaders is a joint project between Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini. They describe their book as “Blueprints for Developing Leadership at every level of your Church” and the book truly functions like blueprints. The authors provide a framework for understanding Leadership Development while leaving the finishing touches of the program to each reader. You will not find a specific program for Leadership development in this book. They present “a process, not a product (239).” Toward the end of the book, they write, “If this book has served its purpose, it has provided essential information for building a leadership-development process (211),” not the process itself. Malphurs and Mancini divide their book into four parts; preparation for developing leaders, practices for developing leaders, process for developing leaders and product of developing leaders.

Some Churches are making disciples, some are making leaders. Very few are intentional about developing both. Some of the material in Building Leaders sounds like it was a copy-paste from Strategic Disciple Making but is still excellent material and worth reading again due to its importance to the mission of the Church. Leadership development was at the core of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that it was the twelve, not the crowd that would impact the world and then make more disciples who would impact the world. Leadership development is crucial to the Church today not only because it was important to Jesus but, “That the ministry payoff is not the size of the ministry – the crowd – but the size of the leader’s trainees – the core (24).” It is the core that makes a Church an effective and transformative power in the world through the power of God.

Malphurs and Mancini take some time to give readers a proper understanding of terms. “Discipleship targets everyone (33).” Evangelism and growth includes all people in and out of the Church. Leadership development builds on discipleship. Every leader is a disciple but not all disciples are leaders. Leadership development requires empowerment; “the intentional transfer of authority to an emerging leader within specified boundaries form an established leader who maintains responsibility for the ministry (40).” Leaders are set apart from disciples in the fact that they have decision making power in some kind of ministry. Essentially, leadership development strives to implement the principles of Ephesians 4:12; that the church leaders’ responsibility is to equip disciples and release them to do work.

The process for leadership development must follow the design that God had for it and that Jesus used. Building Leaders suggests that Jesus had a three phase process for leadership development. Phase one was “from seeking to believing (64).” Jesus called seekers to follow him and his teaching. He did the same with the twelve. Phase two moves from “believing to following (65).” Here he calls people to not merely follow but be committed. Malphurs and Mancini measure “committed” by sections of scripture in John’s gospel; they abide in his word (John 8:31-32, love one another (13:34-35), and bear fruit (15:8, 16). The purpose is to take these committed followers and make them “fishers of men.” Phase three takes them from following to leading. “Not only did Jesus train his disciples for ministry, he sent them out to do ministry – his ministry (67).” Jesus’ practices were not prescriptive, but descriptive. The modern church does not need to find twelve individuals and walk the countryside but they do need to be intentional about turning non-believers into committed leaders in ministry.

Malphurs and Mancini provide a four step process that Jesus followed and that the modern church should as well (68-73); Recruitment, Selection, Training, and Deployment. All of these are important to developing leaders. Recruitment must be intentional. Jesus took the initiative and called his disciples. “Jesus teaches that we should recruit the leaders we want to develop (69).” The church cannot take just any person who wants to be a leader because not all believers are leadership material, God has gifted them in different ways and it is the responsibility of the current church leaders to help people discover their gifts and get them doing what they were made to do. Selecting leaders is a prayer bathed process as Jesus shows in John 17. Training is the biggest part of the entire process and Building Leaders does not provide a script for it because each church is different (although there are examples and helps in the Appendices). Malphurs and Mancini provide an important reminder for all churches by saying, “we can measure our success not by the numbers of people we attract but by our relating to and training a competent, godly core of leaders who will have significant ministries long after we have been forgotten (71).” The final phase, deployment, may be the most crucial. If a church trains leaders and doesn’t let them lead they might as well not even bother. Many churches drop the ball on this one. When most churches “get people plugged in” it usually means having them greet people, pass a tray, or be a part of some team that serves the needs of the institution. This is not leadership deployment. Leaders should be developed and equipped (with finances and resources) to do ministry in the real world, not just in the Holy Clubhouse that many churches have become.

Malphurs and Mancini spend most of phase three discussing the process from an administrative standpoint. This is very helpful in sorting through the options for making leaders. They discuss getting a paid staff member or very competent lay leader to orchestrate the process. This individual will be responsible for laying the foundation then following some important steps. These important ideas must come before strategy or the group has missed the point. The leader needs to recruit a team to help with this process and their most important duty is defining what a leader is. Then they will need to identify potential leaders in the congregation to come into the process. The key with all of these people is that they are always looking for an opportunity to bring someone alongside and develop. Each church must create a disciple-making, leader-developing culture or the entire process will slow down and die in a short time.

Part four gives examples of leadership development in large and small churches. These are helpful in seeing how leadership development can and should be implemented in every church. Part four is made up of only two chapters but they show how this blueprint has been taken by different people in different contexts and turned into a process that works for God’s glory.

Building Leaders is a helpful resource. Malphurs and Mancini repeat what they have said else ware about development but package it well. It is recommended to any church who wants to start a leadership development process. This is something that should be read before even considering strategy or outcomes because it provides a biblical understanding for the process and gives the reader many practices to consider that will make the leadership develop process more effective and efficient. The most powerful insight from I gathered was that the church needs a leadership development culture. This means that Leadership development is not just an extra activity that the church does but it is at the heart of what every Church does. Jesus practiced it, the early church practiced it, and so we should practice it. I believe that this is the key to insuring the future of the Church and most churches will never break certain growth barriers because they have no intentional leadership development process in place, but that is for another book review. If you have never considered intentional leadership development you should read this book. If you do not know where to start in the process you should read this book.

Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is a professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than fifteen books as well as the president of the Malphurs Group (www.malphursgroup.com), training and consulting firm.

Will Mancini is an author who has a passion for vision and clarity. He has worked with numerous Churches on leadership development and vision. His consulting ministry (www.auxano.com) is unique in the fact that he focuses on vision and clarity.


Strategic Disciple Making – Aubrey Malphurs

Why is the Church here?  What are we supposed to be doing?  Aubrey Malphurs writes in Strategic Disciple Making that the answer is not hard to find.  “Two thousand years ago, the Savior predetermined the church’s mission.  It’s the Great Commission, as found in such texts as Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21; and Acts 1:8 (13).”  Make disciples.  Malphurs believes that the Church has lost focus of what is really important.  There are many churches who do not know why there are there.  They meet to have a good time, sing some songs, and see their friends.  Many churches are organized around caring for people, teaching the Bible, evangelism, worship, family ministry or anything else.  These are all good things but cannot be the main thing for a church that wants to follow the direction of the Savior.  Strategic Disciple Making is not an in-depth guide but a very helpful overview of reorganizing or organizing the Church around its God given purpose; making disciples.

Discipleship is not a ministry of the Church; it is the ministry of the Church.  Malphurs lays out what the church is supposed to be doing by making some observations of the Great commission.  “The Great Commission has both an evangelism and an edification or spiritual growth component (18).”  In the Great commission we see that Jesus was clear that the Church’s mission was to take unbelievers and move them to mature believers.  Malphurs stresses in the practical sections of his book that this can be done many way but the key is intentionality.

So what is a disciple?  Malphurs starts by defining what a disciple is not.  A disciple is not a learner who follows a teacher (28).  One can be a learner and not be a disciple.  There were many crowds that followed Jesus and learned from him but not all decided to follow him.  A disciple is not only a committed believer (29).  Disciples are committed but there is more to it and it gets tricky to define committed.  “As we have seen, the Scriptures are clear that a disciple is not necessarily a believer who has committed his or her life to following the Savior, but simply a believer (30).”  Congratulations; if you believe, you are a disciple.  “The concept of biblical discipleship begins when a person accepts Christ (31).”  The amazing thing about being a disciple of Jesus is that it does not end when you believe but only begins.  Discipleship is the “ongoing process that encourages the believer to follow Christ and become more like him (35).”

Malphurs explains that it is first God who makes a disciple.  Father, Son, and Spirit, all work together to call, grow and mature a believer.  In 1 Cor. 3:5-7 Paul writes that he and Apollos are just servants and it is “God who makes things grow.”  Without God the Son, there would be no church.  “God the Holy Spirit is the one who is in the transformation business (39).”  It is also the responsibility of the disciple to continue growing.  “Too few disciples are taking personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth and development (41).”  We can and should choose to grow; it takes the intentionality of an individual working in God’s designed path to move in the direction of maturation.  The responsibility of the church “is to come alongside and complement what each person is doing personally to grow and mature in faith (41).”

While Jesus was here on earth, he made disciples.  How did he do it?  First he preached.  When Jesus taught the crowds his primary focus was to turn them into disciples (believers).  Then he focused on small groups of people.  He specifically called 12 to be his own.  They became his apostles; the ones who were sent.  Then he spent time with a few individuals and “took the inner circle aside for further disciplining (58).”  Finally he counseled individuals in one-time meetings with people who needed some help; such as Nicodemus and Peter.  The Church is to follow Jesus’ lead.  “It is not to be one of several programs of the church; it is the program of the church (67).”

Disciple making is a process of moving people closer to Jesus.  You will need to know what a disciple looks like to make one and have a way to evaluate where someone is in the process.  There are excellent quantitative and qualitative questions in Strategic Disciple Making that Malphurs gives to help nail this idea down.  Malphurs believes there are three basic steps to putting a Disciple making program in place and making it the heart of your ministry.  First you have to determine the church’s mission.  This is simple; Make disciples.  Articulate this in a short, memorable statement to make sure that everyone inside and outside of the church understand what the church does.  The second is to ask “the sanctification question.”  Look at what the Bible teaches concerning the characteristics of a mature believer.  It is very important that this are (at least two but not more than five (79)” so they can be memorable and organized under your current primary ministries.  Then communicate it to people; this is the most important process.  People have to know how you are going to aid them in moving closer to God.

In the rest of Strategic Disciple Making Malphurs discusses important issues such as organization, staffing, and funding issues to get the Church firmly rooted in disciple making.  In my opinion the book could be bigger and more in-depth but is still very helpful.  It is theological and practical and is one of those resources that I see myself coming back to; similar to a compass, guiding the way to make sure I am on task.

The most important thing that I gathered from the book is the fact that the church has no other business than making disciples.  Everything else is secondary.  It truly reinforces the desire in my life to make disciples who make disciples.     Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is a professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is the author of more than fifteen books as well as the president of the Malphurs Group (www.malphursgroup.com), a training and consulting firm.


Values-Driven Leadership by Aubry Malphurs

Values are the single most important element of an individual or a Church.  If you do not know what yours or your church’s values are you are probably in bigger trouble than you realize.  A valueless church has no present and subsequently, no future.  Values-Driven Leadership by Aubrey Malphurs could be one of the most important books you read about the direction of your Church or even the reorganization of your ministry.  The core values conversation goes much deeper into who you are than the popular “purpose-driven” literature.  Malphurs’ short (143p.) book is geared toward Church leaders but would be beneficial to anyone looking to help their ministry (professional or lay ministry) understand itself, their future, and direction.  Values-Driven Leadership includes discussion questions and many helpful resources that would make for an excellent book to study with a Church board, ministry team, or staff.

Malphurs first describes what core values are not.  Values are not Vision, they are not strategies, and they are not doctrinal statements.  “Vision answers the question, What are we going to do (30)?  Values answer the question, Why do we want to do it (30)?”  Values lay underneath vision, mission, and strategy as the primary driving force explaining what a Church does and why it does it.  “I (Malphurs) define a church’s core values as its constant, passionate, sacred core beliefs that drive its ministry (31).”  Constant because they never change, passionate because they grab hold of your heat and tell you where you stand, sacred because they are found in things that God values.  Values drive a ministry because they determine what makes one church different from another and provide the shaping priorities that get a ministry where it wants to go.  For a church, values “often serve to unify the church and communicate the church’s central thrust (51).”

Whether you know it or not, you already have default values.  Every person does and every ministry does.  With that being understood, you may not have articulated them or gotten to the point where you have flushed them out.  Some values are good, some are bad.  For example:  If you spend more time at work than you do with your family, then you highly value work.  For in a ministry context: if you spend more time, effort, and money on worship than anything else, than worship is a core value for your church.  (Too much work is bad.  A high value or worship is neither good nor bad but would help you understand what makes your church unique.)  The question you ask here “is not, what values should you hold? But, what values do you hold (61)?”  Malphurs suggests finding out your personal core values before working discovering an organizations values.  How are you going to do it?  Malphurs has a “values audit” in his book (165) that is helpful along with other resources in the appendices that are worth the price of the book alone. Self-understanding is critical to not only church leadership but life itself.  Take some time to describe and write out what your ideal church looks like, that shows you what you value.

Malphurs gives ten reasons for discovering core values (58).

  1. Values discovery and clarification empower a ministry to know its distinctiveness.
  2. Values help people outside the ministry determine if it is a ministry for them.  This answers the question; Do we join or look further?
  3. Values communicate what is important to the organization.  People know where to focus their energies.
  4. Values help people embrace positive change.  They determine what change will be helpful or harmful to the ministry.
  5. Values influence overall behavior.  They drive the decisions made, problems solved, goals set, and so on.
  6. Values inspire people to action.
  7. Values enhance credible leadership.
  8. Values clarify a ministry’s character.  They affect how it conducts its ministry.
  9. Values contribute to success in that they generate deeper personal involvement.
  10. Values determine ministry’s vision.  They are the hidden motivators that guide the selection of the vision.

Shared ministry values are important to discover.  You can find these out by observation or talking with people who have been involved in it for a long time.  Asking, “Why is this church here?” and “Why do you come here?” are helpful questions.  Even ask for a copy of the budget.  “Like people, churches spend money on what they value most (63).”  Malphurs spends the rest of the book working from a very practical standpoint.  In chapters 4-7 he discusses writing your values credo, communicating core values, implementing them into the church or sub-ministry, and how to preserve core values.

The thing that sticks out to me the most is “that when ministries know and are explicit about their core values, they can legitimately expect people to abide by them (59).”  For example: if worship team decides together that they value excellence and hard work to glorify God, people who are always late, lazy, or put out shoddy work know they will not fit here.  Everyone would know they are expected to work their best and they can hold each other accountable when someone breaks a value.

Values-Driven Leadership is an excellent resource for any ministry.  If you are the primary leader of a church you need to read this with some leaders and define who your church is and what it stands for.  If you are in youth ministry, worship ministry, or any other sub-ministry you should read this and work through it with your volunteers so everyone knows what your ministry stands for.  Once you understand your values you can move on to vision, mission, and strategy but discovering and casting the core values for any ministry is the most important thing you will do to set your ministry up for future growth and success.

I have done this myself and you can take a look at my refreshed core values under my Philosophy of ministry page.

Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is a professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is the author of more than fifteen books as well as the president of the Malphurs Group (www.malphursgroup.com), a training and consulting firm.  


Evil and the Justice of God – N.T. Wright

The problem of Evil is a big deal.  I make no claims to understating it before or after I read Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright but I think he may have helped point me in the right direction.  In the aftermath of events such as 9-11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquakes in Pakistan and Kashmir, Wright set out to add to the conversation about the problem of evil in a world ruled by a Just God.  He admits that he will not

“solve” the problem and that solving the problem is not even his primary task (11) but he wishes to point to signs of God’s New World on the basis of Jesus’ victory on the cross and his resurrection.

Evil and the Justice of God is a relatively short book (165p).  What he lacks in length he makes up for in the time I had to spend reflecting and processing what he wrote.  Wright’s book is intended to be read by all Christians and his language and length makes it accessible to anyone with interest in the subject.  The book is laid out into five chapters.  In the first he outlines the problem and describes it as deeper and more serious than the world usually takes it.  Chapter two deals with the Old Testament and God using Israel as part of the solution.  Chapter three shows how the Gospels present Jesus as God’s rescue plan for the world.  In chapter four, Wright discusses the hope Christians might have imagining a world without evil.  Chapter five deals with our present responsibility in relation to the problem of evil.

Wright puts out some interesting philosophical ideas in regards to the problem of evil and surmises that the problem cannot and has not been fixed in the way that Modernism has proposed; a philosophy rooted firmly in the steady march of an assumed doctrine of progress (22).    He comes to the conclusion that the world either a). ignores it when it doesn’t hit us in the face, such as not rocking the economic trade boat because human rights would stifle business, or b). act surprised when something evil does happen, and c.) react to it in immature and dangerous ways; “Just as you cannot eliminate evil by act of congress or by a philosophical argument, so you cannot do so with high explosives (28).”  He says we often project evil on to others, generating a culture of blame and claiming that we are all victims of (insert choice evil here) or we internalize it; neither is healthy.  He concludes that we must not soften the blow and we must name evil for what it is and take responsibility for it.  The most powerful idea I took from this chapter was that we often turn the problem of Evil into an “us” vs. “them” game when in reality, “the line of evil runs through all of us because of the fall.”  There is evil in the world and we can not ignore it.  “Evil may still be a four-letter word. But so, thank God, is Love (41).”

Chapter two looks at how God deals with evil in the OT.  At the tower of Babel (Gen. 11) he confronts it, judges it, and keeps it from having its desired effect.  The Flood (Gen. 6-7), one of the most depressing events in the OT, is a “reminder that God hates evil and what it does to his creation, that he can and sometimes will take steps to stop it in its tracks (50).”  The Fall (Gen.3) shows again that God judges evil and will not allow man to live forever in a fallen state.  The OT shows us that God will ultimately contain Evil and not let it have full run of his creation and he foreshadows deliverance in his Servant of Isaiah 40-55.

In Chapter three Wright takes us to the foot of the cross and proposes that at the cross all human systems and evil put Jesus on the cross and in the grave but it was not enough to keep our loving creator from bursting forth new life out of the deepest darkness.  “Evil at all levels and all sorts had done its worst and that Jesus throughout his public career and supremely on the cross and dealt with it, take its full force, exhausted it –(that’s) why the, of course, death itself had no more power (89).”

Four and five give practical applications to the previous content.  Wright wants us to envision the world as God intends it to be; full of love, justice, beauty, and peace (102) and work toward redeeming it now as much as we can.  As the people of God we now partner with him in his restoration of all creation until it reaches a climax with the return of Christ.  He believes that we can partner with God through prayer as in Romans 8, Holiness, living presently by the rule of what will be in the future, and in Politics and empire.  “Medical care, education, work on behalf of the poor – all these are signs that Jesus is Lord and that the powers of the world are his servants (123).”  The most personal application Wright gives for us is that of forgiveness; forgiveness through the cross and forgiveness for each other, just like Jesus taught and lived.

Wright says the central point of his book “is not only that in the new world God himself will be beyond the reach of the moral blackmail of unresolved evil, but that we shall be as well (143).”  Not that we have to wait for the second coming but it will be the ultimate end.  Until then, the Cross has transformed us into God’s agents in the world, and it is our joy and responsibility to be a light in the darkness.

I cannot answer all or many of the “Problem of Evil” questions, all I can do is pray that he gives me understanding and thank him for the grace and work of Jesus on the Cross.  Still, I see that maybe God has not done away with evil entirely in the world because it would take an act of de-creation counter to his character to get it out of his creation.  But, he did start the process of creating anew with the Resurrection and victory over Evil and Death on the Cross.

Give this one a read, if you do, let me know what you think.  Blessings.

N.T. Wright is the former Bishop of Durham and current Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


Practicing Greatness – Reggie McNeal

Practicing Greatness by Reggie McNeal is a call for leaders to be great.  The Church is moving in to a new age that brings with it different hopes and challenges.  Now, more than ever, is it crucial that the Church have great leaders.  McNeal writes, “Jesus’ idea of greatness revolves around humility and service – a far cry from our typical associations with this concept (3).”  This is the basic premise that lies behind his book; great leaders look different from good leaders.  Good leaders of the world are those who have power, position and privilege (3) while great spiritual leaders humbly practice the disciplines laid in his book.  A book like Practicing Greatness is necessary in the world today.  Throughout the history of the Church it has needed leaders who “are passionate about God and about helping other propel experience eth life God intended for them to enjoy (8)” and that is certainly the case in the world today.  McNeal’s book is organized by different disciplines that great leaders practice; Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Self-Development, Mission, Decision Making, Belonging, and Aloneness.  It is a logical outline that serves his purpose well.  His primary audience is church leaders or potential church leaders.  The fact that the book is not overly academic but biblically based is refreshing.

The content of McNeal’s book is helpful.  In chapter one he writes, “The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness (10).”  I whole-heartedly agree with this idea.  If a leader does not know oneself then it is much harder to know others.  To lead one must understand the way that they have been shaped to do so by the many varying influences in life.  He believes that self-awareness is foundational because it is at work in all other disciplines.  Understanding oneself is the only way to know boundaries, agendas, strengths and weaknesses.

The next discipline that had the most impact on me was the discipline of self-development.  This is something that I am passionate about and have grown to appreciate more through McNeal’s book.  I believe the key to self-development is what the author touches on in page 65; intentionality.  Great leaders are intentional about what they are learning and the fact that they need to continue.  This may not necessarily mean formal education but always being aware that education is an opportunity for growth regardless of the venue.  One thing that McNeal writes about I may not agree with is his attitude on strengths and weaknesses (68-80).  Essentially, he suggests that we need to focus on our strengths, understand and develop them, and no worry about being “balanced”.  I agree that all should focus on strengths and the gifts that God has given his but we should not neglect our weaknesses.  A great leader should take the time to understand their weakness so that they can find those in a team based setting that can support them and partner with them through their difficulties.

The final discipline that stuck me was the discipline of aloneness.  God practiced Sabbath after creation and his creation should as well.  Time away gives a leader increased self-awareness, missional clarity.  “The loss of Sabbath is one of the major failings of contemporary church life in North America (149).”  I believe this statement has great relevance now but I wonder what will become of it after the shift out of the modern world.  The age of post-modernity may be much more receptive to getting back to the Sabbath time of rest and aloneness.  As modernity has shunned it, those churches stuck in this model have only built toward burnout busy work without moving toward clarity and real results.  The main enemy of aloneness is time; “every leader battles the issue of time management (153).”  This goes back to the previous discipline of self-management.  A leader who can manage themself properly is one that can be disciplined in aloneness.  As I read Practicing Greatness I was enlighten to the connections that McNeal makes between the different disciplines.  Each discipline is a separate concept and practice that a leader must work hard at to become disciplined in.  With that being said each discipline builds up each other one; be a better self-manager and you will have more valuable alone time, understand your mission better and you will become more effective at disciple building.  Each discipline is equally as important in part or as a whole.  To be a great leader, one must grow across each of these disciplines.

I find Practicing Greatness applicable to my life and ministry.  It has many principles and practices that I hope will contribute to my growing in leadership through service.  All of the disciplines that stuck me are already at work in my life.  I have been applying those for some time although I did not realize it or understand it as fully until I read McNeal’s work.  With that being said, the most important discipline I need to apply in my ministry context is the discipline of belonging.  Honestly, I neglect this discipline because I a terrible at it.  My personality is one that is not wired to seek out belonging even if I am longing for it.  This is especially true in the area of belonging to friends.  Possibly the most important statement I need to apply in his book states “Friendships will not develop without the expenditure of time, priorities, even ministry efforts.  Friendships are reserved for those who count the cost, then pay it (132).  I know that I need to reflect and apply this discipline not only to be a great leader but to grow closer to God.  Christian leadership is not a one man show and neither is the Christian journey.

I would recommend McNeal’s Practicing Greatness to anyone who may find themselves in a leadership position.  This is not just for preachers and leaders of local congregation but any believer could find formative practices in his book that could help them better understand how to lead for God regardless of their setting.