A review of 'Leadership by the Book' by Galen Wendell Jones

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A review of 'Leadership by the Book' by Galen Wendell Jones

Review by John Watkins

Over the years there have been many books on leadership, both secular and sacred. They examine the characteristics of a leader and/or what a leader does. In spite of this the discussion continues as to whether leadership is inherent in a person or can be taught – nature or nurture. Can Galen Jones add anything to the examination of leadership, particularly as it applies to spiritual leadership? Yes, he can and does.

Leadership by the Book is part of the Hobbs College Library series originating in Oklahoma Baptist University and published under the B&H Academic imprint. The library trains its readers in three major areas: Bible, theology and ministry. Aimed at both existing and would-be leaders, though short (137 pages) this title packs a heavyweight theological and practical punch. It is the sort of book which makes you think and consider in depth what is being said. The sort of book to be read with a pencil to underline key phrases and sections for a second look.

The book is split into two halves with Part 1 explaining the theological basis for leadership and Part 2 explaining what kingdom leadership looks like from a more applied perspective.

Crucial to Jones’s overall thesis is the God (sic) News. ‘The God News as I define it is the announcement and experiential presentation of the King in all his glory’ and this presentation is ‘especially the responsibility of those the Messiah calls to be in leadership’.

Chapter 1 expounds the God News of Jesus as King through both the Old and New Testaments. During the course of the chapter he helpfully explains the contribution of theologians of the African diaspora and ‘their ability to rightly ascertain the intellectual depth of the text, as well as their ability to capture the emotional content of the text’.

In the second chapter he uses Abraham as a Bible character who embodies the characteristics God intends for those who are called into leadership. Summed up by IROR – Immediate, Radical, Obedience, Response ‒ the emphasis is on the character of the leader rather than what a leader does, demonstrated through seven principles. The seventh, ‘leaders must learn to walk righteously before the Lord’, is seen as ‘likely the greatest of the list in that it brings together all the other principles’. So often Nehemiah is used to expound biblical leadership. Abraham brings a fresh perspective.

The sections expounding the God News are followed by the four chapters containing more application. The key to this is that ‘All leaders are chosen, appointed and authorized by the God of Heaven.’ The call to kingdom leadership is the opposite of the secular model in that ‘to be a leader in the Christ’s kingdom is to serve – even to the point of death!’ Not only does the leader lead but, while always learning, is also tasked with mentoring others in a sort of apostolic succession. There is a warning that ‘you simply cannot lead others where you have not gone or are not planning to go’.

Another key characteristic of the leadership is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Jones talks of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit) in the life of the leader for the benefit of the Christian community and beyond. This is particularly evident in his section on forgiveness. He contends that leaders are ‘forgiven forgivers’ with a mission and mandate to bring forgiveness to others. It is however somewhat unclear if leaders are proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness or forgiving in their own right as ambassadors of the King. We can forgive those who sin against us, but can we forgive original sin? The author himself seems to dodge the answer. But this is a minor quibble in the totality of the book.

Scripture is used throughout, and there are extensive footnotes and a wide range of theologians are referenced and acknowledged, e.g. John Stott and N.T. Wright. Many of the ideas provoke and encourage further study and perhaps here is the basis for a longer treatment of Christian leadership. However, this is a good title to start with for study and serious thought.

Together Magazine

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Leadership by the Book (Hard Cover)
Galen W. Jones, Heath Thomas
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