It sounds ridiculous, but I have to confess that though I’ve spent the past twelve years studying, practicing, and becoming a pastor, I’ve consistently had an allergic reaction to books, conferences, and materials that fall into the category of “church leadership.” Three things have tended to bring on these allergies:
- I share my generation’s commitment to (and frequent idolization of) authenticity, and have perceived church leadership materials as formulaic and inauthentic. The way many church leadership materials have been marketed as “quick fixes” has always made me want to run in the opposite direction.
- When I was a full-time student, I found an emphasis on practical ministry applications to be frustrating, as I had limited, part-time leadership roles in which to inadequately (I felt) implement what I learned. I preferred my imaginary ecclesial ideals.
- Quite simply, I’ve been arrogant. There have been moments where I’ve dismissed the suggestions of experts and vowed to figure it out myself. Adam introduced Richard Rohr’s idea of “infantile grandiosity” in his last post, a term which accurately describes this toxic attitude.
Parenting three little kids, leading a church for three and a half years, turning thirty, and encountering all the messiness therein has increased my openness to the expertise of others.
All this is to say that over the past few months I’ve discovered with new appreciation the rich field of church leadership. For what feels like the first time, I’m excitedly engaging these materials. I’m discovering a world of theologically thoughtful, spiritually deep reflection that engages the complex and accelerating world in which we seek to serve and lead faith communities. In my last post, I found myself affected on a personal level by a church leadership text by Soong-Chan Rah, and in my next post, I will do some reflection on Samuel Chand’s Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code.
You might struggle with some of the same cynical impulses I do, and I think that’s okay, because maturity is being able to roll your eyes at something and keep on reading. Dismissiveness is the easy road that leads to despair, but engagement the hard road that leads to maturity.
This is a short list, but here are some of the church leadership books I’ve read recently:
- Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah
- A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope by Peter Steinke
- The Ministry of the Missional Church by Craig Van Gelder
- Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision & Inspiration, by Samuel Chand