Tale of Two Books on Leadership
I don’t really like books on biblical leadership. Typically they border on cheesey or are elaborate rehashing of each other. And rightfully so. You can only examine leadership qualities in a 1000 page book so often before your conclusions become redundant.
All that being said, I tend to avoid them. But I recently finished two different books on spiritual leadership that I wanted to write a bit about.
1. Spiritual Leadership – J. Oswald Sanders
Sander’s book is, in many ways, the stereo-typical book on biblical leadership. He walks through biblical examples of great leaders and their qualities as seen in the Bible. There are the typical passages about prayer, accountability, uprightness (which always makes me think of the evolutionary chart) etc.
He consistently references many people who are now out of the lime-light of Christianity and world missions so many of his examples are lost in translation because most readers don’t know who these men are anymore. But his examples are sound and serve as examples of modern day Ezras, Nehemiahs, Elijahs and Peters walking on the earth today (or in this case, the 1950s). His examples show that biblical leaders are not just found in the Bible.
Though in many ways this book is cookie cutter, I think that he deviates in some serious ways that made the book interesting and impact to me personally. In his ladder chapters he compellingly lays out a case for leaders being learners and implores the leader to never stop reading, watching, hearing, consuming and considering new ideas all the time. He talks about the value of writing: journaling, letter writing and just putting ideas down on paper. He talks about the value of humor for a leader. He points out that a leader must consider the cost for all of those he is associated with before he undertakes and endeavor because the cost of leadership doesn‘t just effect the leader.
Sadly, those nuggets of wisdom are all contained in the last third of the book. I found that the first two thirds were difficult to want to pick-up but the last third was hard to put down.
This book was the inverse of the last. From page one I was loving this book. Cole has an attitude toward modern organized church that is at best indifferent and at times borders irreverent.
Having come out of a Bible college in the south, a lot of the things Cole was saying have become shockingly clear to me. I am glad that I have only found this book now however, because I am sure that I wasn’t ready for it while I was in my early years in college. It could have put me over the edge as far as being a Christian who is negative about the church. He takes on many issues he sees as being hindrances to the church including Bible Colleges, paid staff, the separation that ministers and preachers have developed between themselves and the laity, etc.
Where Sanders book was person-focused (A good leader is humble.), Cole’s book is very mission-focused (This is how you model humility to the world). After reading Sanders, Cole was a breath of fresh air to my practical mind.
Of the two, I would say that Cole’s book spoke more into my context as a church planter in a major urban area trying to meet and engage new people for Christ. His insistence on not being sucked into a Christians-only vacuum that can result from being a full-time, paid, employee at a church was something that I needed to hear as I came across it. His theology and preference for house-churches instead of larger congregations was interesting and I think could offered some valuable insights and ideas for how to go about structuring some things if I was ever in a position to do so.