Book Review: Spiritual Leadership: Moving People onto God's Agenda
About the authors:The name Blackaby carries a great amount of influence in many church circles, particularly with those in the Baptist denomination. Both Henry and Richard have pastored churches and written books together, Experiencing God is one of their more well known projects. Their background is conservative, but their influence reaches beyond those on the Theological right, which is evidenced by the glowing endorsements they receive from ministry leaders. Training leaders is a huge part of what they do and the heart of this work is to point leaders, and especially pastors toward drawing primarily from God as a source of ministry strength.
Thesis: The authors use their thesis to claim effective leadership is dynamically connected to a leaders correctly understanding God’s calling on his or her life (Location 141). For a leader to function at full capacity, an understanding of “God’s call” and “God’s agenda” is absolutely critical (Location 140).
Structure: The Blackabys organized this book by topic. There is a linear flow to the way the topics progress beginning with the challenge of leadership in section 1, establishing the leader’s role in section 2, sections 3 through 9 deal with practical issues facing a leader such as casting vision, time management, and the kind of person a Spiritual Leader is. Sections 10 and 11 warn of leadership “pitfalls” and unveil potential rewards of leading God’s way. These sections support the thesis by unpacking leadership principals and then showing the positive and negative consequences of leadership decisions. Though there is a flow to the logic from definition to outcomes, these sections need not be read in order and can be used as a reference for anyone interested in specific topics.
Application: Since I have a Christian worldview, the thesis is difficult for me to argue with. I know that if I’m not dependent on God to lead effectively. I find this thesis important because sometimes we can become so familiar with a truth that we forget it (Willard 1998). I came away from our seminars with a preconceived notion that somehow this resource would not be my cup of tea because of its linear more modern structure. I still would prefer that the authors celebrate the interconnectedness of these principals, but I found the information practical to my ministry experience and beneficial to my day-to-day life.
The section on making decisions (Location 3216) immediately drew my attention because I am self-conscious about this leadership competency. My grandfather was a ‘big time’ church leader and showed strong leadership in our home as well. I learned to follow, but did not exercise decision-making capabilities. This regularly hampers my ministry life. The Blackabys gave me much comfort in this area by relieving the pressure to come up with the right answer on my own (Location 3244). I was hoping that the topic of people pleasing would come up more but I did find the thought of being first and foremost accountable to God very helpful (Location 3403). I have already gone forward with a change in youth ministry teaching format to a more “guide on the side” approach because I know it’s the right thing for our group to do, instead of worrying about what people will say.
Practically, I plan to use this book in meetings with my paid staff, our volunteer youth workers, and Leadership college. Each chapter lists key ideas outlined in bullet form and they lend themselves to serve as a map for discussion, which will be great for my staff meetings and monthly volunteer meetings. This content would be beneficial to our leadership college students at Shoreline Church, but I will have it on our ‘suggested reading’ list because I feel its language is more readily beneficial to paid staff members of a church who oversee several people.