Today I finished reading a book that spoke to me very powerfully about what it means to be an effective church leader. The good thing about it, is that the teaching doesn’t just necessarily apply to church leaders (such as pastors) but to Christians who are leaders in any other sphere as well. The book (see left) is called The Book on Leadership, and is authored by well-known American pastor John MacArthur. The book is very timely because we live in a world where many leaders are anti-heroes who have questionable integrity and lack of character. This means that many, even in the church, have given up on finding leaders of character and have settled for men and women who lack depth. They appoint people over them who are well-schooled in leadership programmes and worldly methods of leadership, but are shallow and lack the deeper stuff of real godly character. They are people who become autocratic tyrants who use and devour the people they lead and abuse trust – which, in turn, causes people to distrust authority even more.
The Book on Leadership is absolute GOLD, because it comes up with a list of 26 characteristics of godly Christian leadership by looking at the life and style of the apostle Paul. It does this by 1) examining how he provided leadership in Acts 27, when he was sailing to Rome as a prisoner to be interrogated by the emperor Nero; 2) examining how he defended himself and withstood attack by the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians; and 3) how Paul managed the end of his days when friends deserted and attacked him. As MacArthur examines these topics, he draws out 26 practical suggestions, such as delegating responsibility, being Christlike, being disciplined, by being humble, and many other things.
I personally enjoyed the most the beginning of the book where MacArthur traces out Paul’s leadership in the sea storm of Acts 27, because a lot of extra-biblical information is used to explain why the sea journey was so bitter and why everyone was in such a rush to get it over with. I felt like I was on the boat with Paul, a man who was so responsible that his Roman prison master implicitly trusted him only one day after assuming responsibility for his welfare. The rest of the book, however, is by no means disappointing, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone in ministry, contemplating it, or training up for it. If every Christian in leadership, even that outside of ministry, read this book and did what it says, this world would be a radically different place and many would trust the goodness of God’s authority. Here are some insights from the book that struck me in particular:
This is the one snare that has probably caused the downfall of more leaders than any other hazard: a lack of personal discipline – p. 145.
I occasionally hear Christians say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that famous person over there, or this stunning beauty over here, or some great genius in the academic world became a Christian? Wouldn’t they be amazing spokesmen for Christ? What an impact they could have!’ God does occasionally use such people, but as Paul says, ‘not many’. He generally ignores that strategy [and the elite] and employs plain clay pots – in order that it may be clear to all that the power is of God and not from us. Even the notable and talented of this world must learn to become [simple, unremarkable] clay pots in order to be used by God to maximum effectiveness – pp. 113-114.
Optimistic enthusiasm [in leaders] inspires followers. People will naturally follow a leader who arouses their hopes, and they will just as surely back away from someone who is perpetually pessimistic … You cannot be an effective leader and be pessimistic. People who are cynical and gloomy debilitate everyone they speak to. They’re like blood-sucking leeches. They make people pale, weak, and passive – pp. 39, 40.