Blessed to be a Blessing

Leadership

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.


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


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.  


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.