The Leadership Journey Podcast: Gary Burnett on ‘Paul Distilled’

Gary Burnett

Gary Burnett is the author of ‘Paul Distilled‘, an accessible introduction to the theology of Paul. He has previously written The Gospel According to the Blues.

In our conversation we chat about Gary’s own story as well as discussing some of the themes from his book.

You can check out ‘Paul in Ten’, a series of ten-minute videos that Gary recorded, covering the themes of Paul’s theology.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Sharon Garlough Brown

This week’s guest on the podcast is the author, Sharon Garlough Brown, well-known for her ‘Sensible Shoes’ and ‘Shades of Light’ series of books.

Sharon will be visiting Northern Ireland towards the end of the month, leading several retreats, including a morning for people involved in leadership and ministry.

In our conversation Sharon talks about her writing, but also about her own journey of faith. We talk about some of the themes of spiritual practice that occur in the book and discuss why men are probably more likely to attend an event promising ten principles for effective leadership than a spiritual retreat!

Sharon also answers the regular podcast question about what she might say to her twenty-year-old self (she’s not sure that her younger self would have known how to take the advice).

Details of Sharon’s visit to Northern Ireland can be found on the Cleopas website and leaders may be particularly interested in the event at Edenmore on Monday 23rd May (not Monday 24th as incorrectly stated on the podcast).

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Richard Venable on ‘Worship Leading Essentials’

This week’s guest on the podcast is fellow new author Richard Venable. Richard and I connected via our publisher, Instant Apostle.

Richard has written Worship Leading Essentials, a thoughtful and extremely practical book that explores a range of areas related to leading corporate worship. Join us as we chat about Richard’s own story and about the topics in his book.

To get hold of a copy of the book, you can follow some of the links on the Instant Apostle page: if you are anywhere near Southampton (where Richard lives), call in with the folk at Oasis Christian Centre in Romsey.

Watch out for future podcast episodes with literary agent Tony Collins, theologian Gary Burnett (talking about Paul on leadership), author Sharon Garlough-Brown, and Patrick Regan, founder of Kintsugi Hope.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Nicki Copeland

Nicki Copeland is an author, editor and speaker: she leads the team at Instant Apostle, a Christian publishing house that is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

In our conversation Nicki talks about her interest in books and her journey to being a writer as she discovered how God had created and gifted her. We talk about some of the history of Instant Apostle and get an overview of what is involved in the publishing process. Of course – as is customary in these conversations – Nicki shares some of what she would say to her twenty-year old self.

Nicki has written two books: Less than Ordinary, in which she tells her own story, and Losing the Fig Leaf, in which she discusses ways we hide ourselves behind such things as possessions and perfectionism.

I’m grateful to Nicki and the team at IA for giving me the opportunity to publish my first book – The Crucible of Leadership – which will be available in June.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Hwa Yung on ‘Leadership or Servanthood?’

This week my guest is Hwa Yung who joins me via Zoom from Malaysia. Hwa Yung has served as a minister and a bishop in the Methodist Church, and was principal of Malaysia Theological Seminary; since his retirement he has remained active, giving himself to working with the Malaysian Church, to writing, and to working with leaders in the Majority World.

As well as talking about his own – sometimes very moving – story, we talk about his book, ‘Leadership or Servanthood’ (which I summarised in a previous post). The book is a challenge to the Church’s tendency to follow the cultural understanding of leadership – something that easily leads to a neglect of foundational biblical themes like discipleship and servanthood.

The book is published by, and available from Langham on their website.

Leadership is the result of practicing genuine servanthood wherever we are and whatever position we are called to by Christ. By living and ministering as servants, our loving and humble service will impact those around us as great leadership.’

Hwa Yung, in ‘Leadership or Servanthood?’

Leadership or Servanthood?

I’ve been reading this recent book from Langham and next week I hope to have the author, Malaysian church leader, Hwa Yung, as my guest on the podcast.

As the title suggests, the book sets out to question the Church’s fascination with leadership. It’s not that Hwa Yung denies the importance of leadership per se, his concern is the way the Church speaks of it ‘in terms that are not very different from the way the world around us does.’ In contrast, he argues, ‘it appears that the key emphasis in the Bible’s teaching is that we are called first and foremost to be servants and not leaders.’

The book consists of nine chapters and follows a clear path. The starting point is the focus on servanthood (‘the fundamental nature of the ministry and leadership to which [leaders] are called is defined by servanthood, and not by position, status, and power.’) From there we move to a discussion of authority: after all, if we are servants, what authority do we have? The answer is found in a spiritual authority that is founded on submission to the Father, as seen in the example of Jesus.

Just as the path of true spiritual greatness lies through humility and servanthood, so the path of genuine spiritual authority lies in submission to the Father.

Hwa Yung, Leadership or Servanthood, p50.

Next is the question of where we are to find confidence and again the answer is seen in the example of Jesus who was sure of his identity as the Son of God: he lived ‘in the security of his Father’s love and protection’. We are called then to face our own insecurities and live in the security of the Father’s love.

From this we are led to consider the importance of character and spirituality for those called to leadership – and this is illustrated from what we can learn from Paul in his farewell message to the elders at Ephesus as he reflected on how he had served with humility, compassion, faithfulness, sacrifice, and a lack of self-seeking ambition.

Chapter 8 uses the examples of Jacob, Moses, Peter, and Paul, to illustrate God’s transforming work in the lives of those whom he calls. The book concludes by revisiting the relationship between servanthood and leadership (note: ‘Servant Leadership’ won’t really cut it!). It’s well-summarised in these words:

Leadership in the cause of Christ does not come from our striving to be leaders but is the by-product of a life of humble service to him and others.

Leadership or Servanthood, p129.

There is some rich and challenging material in this. The question is a vital corrective to the lure of power and status.

Paul Tripp on ‘The Crucible of Leadership’

“I am drawn to leadership books that reinforce the truth that successful leadership is about more than how many people follow you or what you have accomplished, but rather, about who you are becoming. Christian leaders need to always remember that they are being called and crafted by God, are in an ongoing process of spiritual growth, and are dependent on the gifts of others. Leadership doesn’t belong to us but to the One who has called us and loves us. Employing the story of Moses, The Crucible of Leadership is a powerful, personal, and practical reminder of all of these things. There is no leader who wouldn’t benefit from this book.”

Paul David Tripp, Author, Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church and New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

‘The Crucible of Leadership’ is scheduled to be released in June.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Debbie Hawker on Resilience

This week’s guest on the podcast is Dr Debbie Hawker. Debbie is a clinical psychologist who works along with her husband, Dr David Hawker, to support mission partners and humanitarian workers. Their work includes providing assessments and reviews as well as retreats and training. The organisations she has worked with include Tearfund, Latin Links, Interserve and YWAM. Debbie has provided training or consultations in a significant number of countries, from Argentina and Australia to The US and the UK.

In addition to her contributions to specialist publications, she has written a couple of recent books that are aimed at a wider audience – including ‘Resilience in Life and Faith’, which she has co-authored with Tony Horsfall, a recent guest on the podcast.

In the podcast we talk about the book and Debbie shares about a model for thinking about resilience that she sums up with the acrostic SPECS.

  • Spiritual aspects of resilience;
  • Physical aspects of resilience;
  • Emotional aspects of resilience;
  • Cognitive and Creative aspects of resilience;
  • Social and systemic aspects of resilience.

If you’d like to get a copy of the book Debbie and her family have written on creation care, it is ‘Changing the Climate: Applying the Bible in a Climate Emergency’.

For more information on Kintsugi Hope, which we mentioned in the conversation, you can list their website.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Ruth Garvey-Williams

Ruth and her husband, Andrew, have been living in Buncrana, Donegal for the past 17 years where they have been involved in a range of ways with their local community and have recently facilitated the start of a new fellowship. Ruth is also the founder and editor of Vox magazine and has recently published, ‘Gloriously Ordinary’ which she has written with Andrew and several other people involved in mission.

‘Gloriously Ordinary’ sets out several principles that Ruth believes are key to incarnation mission in Ireland: you can order a copy of the book from Teach Solas, an Irish Christian bookshop in County Cork (Teach Solas is Irish for Lighthouse).

In our conversation we talk about Buncrana’s ‘Amazing Grace Festival’ (are you aware of the connection between Donegal and John Newton?), about team ministry, incarnational mission, and signs of hope for the Church in Ireland.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: ‘Canoeing the Mountains’ with Tod Bolsinger

This week Tod Bolsinger returns to talk about his book ‘Canoeing the Mountains’ (he previously talked to us about his more recent book, Tempered Resilience). The title is a metaphor for the situation church leaders find themselves in when what lies ahead of them and their leadership looks very different from what they have been trained for and grown accustomed to: leaders need to be aware of the changes that have happened in the Western World and of the need for ‘technical competence, ‘adaptive change’, and ‘relational congruence.’

We also get the opportunity to hear a bit about the man behind the books, including what Tod would like to say to his 20-year-old self.

Feel free to add your own caption!

The guest on the next episode of the podcast will be Ruth Garvey-Williams, editor of VOX Magazine.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Tod Bolsinger on ‘Tempered Resilience’

In this (shorter) episode of the podcast the guest is Tod Bolsinger from Fuller Seminary in California. Tod is the author of several books, including his most recent book, Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change.

It’s a follow on from Tod’s previous book, Canoeing the Mountains in which he discusses what it means for Christian leaders to lead in the uncharted waters of a rapidly-changing culture.

In Tempered Resilience, he walks us through a blacksmith’s forge and compares the steps in preparing a metal tool with the spiritual formation of a leader who is being prepared to ‘hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope’ (quoted from Martin Luther King).

The smithing process involves working (‘leaders are formed in leading’), heating (‘strength is formed in self-reflection’), holding (‘vulnerable leadership requires relational security’), hammering (‘stress makes a leader’), hewing (‘resilience takes practice’), and tempering (‘resilience comes through a rhythm of leading and not leading’).

Next week Tod will return to the podcast to talk about his previous book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.

The Crucible of Leadership: Learning from the Story of Moses

This week I have signed a contract with Instant Apostle for the publication of a book I have been working on. The book is The Crucible of Leadership: Learning from the Story of Moses, and it should be available in May/June of next year.

His formative years were spent in Egypt where he had been born into a family of Hebrew slaves but remarkably ended up being raised as a member of the royal family. A failed attempt to lead a liberation movement resulted in his being pitched unceremoniously into the wilderness years – forty years spent in the Midianite desert where the peak of his career appears to have been taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep – quite a contrast with some of the traditional understandings of his time in Egypt which tell tales of military prowess! Finally, after a remarkable encounter with God on the edge of the desert, his life takes another dramatic turn and he becomes a reluctant leader, going on to spend the next forty years navigating the highs and lows of leadership in the desert.

The Crucible of Leadership explores the life-shaping journey of leadership by weaving together a series of reflections and framing them in the context of the remarkable story of Moses as it has come down to us in our Bible.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Chris Green on ‘The Gift’

This week’s guest on the podcast is Chris Green. Chris leads a church in North London and this month IVP has published his most recent book: The Gift.

I’ve already written about the book, so you can get a quick idea of what the main ideas of the book are. In our conversation, Chris talks about some of his other work, including other books he has written, including The Message of the Church, a biblical theology of the Church, part of the Bible Speaks Today series, and Cutting to the Heart, on application in preaching.

He talks about the key ideas of The Gift, including some cautions about whether and how we should think of Jesus as the Model Leader, why church leaders could think of their work in terms of the twelve slices of pizza, and what he means when he defines church leadership as ‘Corporate Application’.

Along the way we mention the work of Patrick Lencioni and his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which is well worth your while checking out.

And we have a discount code: you will pick up the code if you listen to the podcast and it will give you IVP’s best price when you order from their website.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Justyn Terry on The Five Phases of Leadership

This week’s podcast episode features another author interview. My guest is Dr. Justin Terry and the book is The Five Phases of Leadership, recently published by Langham (you can order a copy from their website). You can read a quick overview of the book on the blog and the podcast conversation will allow you to get a bit more detail.

The basic premise, as the title suggests, that there are five phases to a leadership assignment. You could almost call them stages, but thinking of them as phases allows for some overlap between them.

  • Establish trust
  • Cultivate leaders
  • Discern vision
  • Implement plans
  • Transition out

Justyn Terry is Vice-Principal at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. Previously he served as Dean/President of Trinity School of Ministry in Pittsburgh and as Minister of St Helen’s Church in North Kensington.

The guest on the next episode of the podcast will be Chris Green, and he will be talking about his book The Gift: How your Leadership can Serve your Church. The book will be launched next week and you can read my review on the blog.

The Gift: How your leadership can serve your church

Continuing the theme of posts on my summer reading (especially for leaders), this one is a little different in that the book in question has not yet been released: it’s due on August 19. In preparation for the launch, the author made an electronic copy available ahead of time and I have been having a read.

The book is The Gift and it is aimed at church leaders. The author, Chris Green, is the vicar of a church in North London and previously served as Vice-Principal at Oak Hill Theological College. He has written or edited several other books, including Cutting to the Heart, on application in teaching and preaching.

It hardly needs to be said the there is no shortage of books and resources on leadership, including Christian leadership. Some, like Emma Ineson’s book on ambition, or Tod Bolsinger’s recent offering on resilience (review and podcast to come), have a particular focus on a specific area of the leader’s life; others, like James Lawrence‘s Growing Leaders, or Ian Parkinson’s Understanding Christian Leadership take a wider look at a range of relevant issues. Chris Green’s focus is on the task of church leadership, and the primary audience to benefit from the book will be pastors and ministers, for whom the book will serve as an opportunity to recalibrate their understanding of their role, and rediscover the core of their calling.

For there is a plethora of voices and leadership models, clamouring for the leader’s attention. Is the pastor essentially an ecclesiastical CEO? At the other end of the spectrum, a teacher? A counsellor? What does it mean to lead a church, and to do so in a way that is shaped by biblical priorities and values? This book will go some way to answering those questions.

The book falls broadly into two parts, though there is a third element – one of those leadership fables that draws you in and sets you up for the teaching content of the book. The fable unfolds in three parts: in the book’s prelude, in an interlude between the two main parts of the book, and in a postlude. It imagines a number of people involved in ministry who get together for a seminar with an old college professor.

The first part of the book (‘Who needs leaders?’) starts by seeking to establish some some biblical and theological reasons why we need leaders at all and moves on to discuss how healthy rule breaks down, resulting in what appear to be opposites, but which are theological twins: anarchy and tyranny. Anarchy seeks freedom at the expense of rule while tyranny imposes rule without freedom. From there (and there is a biblical-theological logic in the progression) we move to a chapter on celebrity, comparison and the sin of Babel: the problem of the ‘Peacock Pastor’. Let we conclude too quickly that Jesus might be the model leader, the author warns us about the serious danger of trivialising him. It’s too easy for us to find our own leadership ideas illustrated in Jesus. we need to heed this warning:

If you see [Jesus] as a ‘Great Leader’, but don’t put that in the context of his being the ultimate, eternal King, then all you’ll get is someone general common sense on teams and priorities. YOu’ll quote him, Confucius and Winston Churchill in the same breath.

Nonetheless there is ‘buried treasure’ for us in the study of Jesus. We can note his passion and his focus, but it’s important to see him more as our pattern than as our leadership guru. When Jesus taught his disciples about leadership, he called them to service, in contrast to the self-exalting ambition of the Gentiles. And he still leads the Church: through his word, through the Spirit, and by gifting members of his Body, empowering them to lead through the gifts of the Spirit.

That idea prepares the way for the second part of the book, ‘The Gift’, in which the author carefully and methodically works towards his definition of leadership: we have to wait until chapter 14 before we get there!

The first few chapters of this section focus on the particular gifts of teaching and leading which the author argues should come together in the Church’s pastors/elders/overseers. To be a leader only, at its most dangerous, is to lead in ways that come adrift from Scripture; to be a teacher only, is to run the risk of applying Scripture in purely individual, rather than corporate ways. And since the proposed definition of leadership is ‘Corporate application’, this matters.

It matters too that the leader’s method and message are integrated (the case of Diotrophes is summoned as evidence). As it matters where we source our wisdom, and it matters that we remain attentive to the reasons why we do what we do.

The author loves pizza and as he gets closer to his definition of church leadership and how it works out, he talks about ministry as a 12-slice pizza. It’s worth noting the slices:

  • Study
  • Small groups
  • Preaching
  • Praise
  • Counselling
  • Mutual Care
  • Discipling
  • Evangelism
  • World mission
  • Training
  • Self-discipleship
  • Leadership

Sprinkled all across the whole pizza – every slice – are olives. They may not be to everyone’s taste on a literal pizza, but in this leadership model, the Acts 6 ministries of prayer and ministry of the word are to permeate everything.

Leadership then is ‘corporate application’: it is bringing the word of God to bear in all facets of the life of the church: its formal organisation, its family dynamics, and its future intentions. One chapter is given over to a practical illustration of what this approach would look like in addressing a pastoral issue and the final chapter concludes with the exhortation to ‘preach the word’ but to remember that its application needs to be bigger than the pulpit (think of those pizza slices).

If you are looking for something to guide you step-by-step through how to discern a vision, how to apply Belbin to your ministry leadership team, or how to find tools that will help you to communicate more effectively, or strategies for managing change, The Gift may not quite be the book you are looking for. It doesn’t aim to answer all those questions. In many ways it is more fundamental than that and that is why you will benefit from reading it! As I said at the start of this review, it will provide you with an opportunity to recalibrate your ministry and remind you how the Lord of the Church has equipped you to do what you do.



For more on the book, you can watch out for a podcast conversation with Chris in the second half of the month, after the book has launched.

Meantime, for those of you on Facebook, you can join the book launch team (https://www.facebook.com/groups/thegiftlaunch/) and you can even join in a ZOOM session with the author on Wednesday evening (August 12).

The Five Phases of Leadership

Another of my summer reads has been Justyn Terry’s book (published by Langham earlier this year) on the five phases of leadership. The author is Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and has previously served as a parish minister and the head of a theological seminary in the US.

The basic premise of the book is simple but very helpful: a leadership assignment can be considered as consisting of five phases: establishing trust, cultivating leaders, discerning vision, implementing plans, and transitioning out. While there is likely to be a logical and chronological flow between each of the five, it’s best to think of them as phases rather than stages, as there may well be overlap between some of them.

The chapter on the foundational task of establishing trust is a chapter on the character of the leader. Obviously the subject of a leader’s character could be approached from a number of different perspectives: here, the author uses Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit – the fruit are by no means limited to leaders, but they are explored here with a leader-perspective.

While ‘developing trust never ends’ and therefore phase one remains relevant throughout a leadership assignment, there are other things a leader must do: cultivating other leaders is one of them. The author dips in to his own experience to illustrate the kinds of leaders that might need to be developed and also includes a helpful short section on ways we might identify potential leaders, summing them up with five ‘i’s: integrity, initiatives, influence, intuition, and intelligence.

Next, leaders need to discern vision: what does it mean to clarify the future of your church or organisation? ‘How would you describe it in five- or ten-years’ time if it fulfilled its God-given potential?’ The chapter discusses vision, purpose, and core values. I wondered in reading this chapter if what is presented is more relevant to existing organisations than to new ventures: part of the counsel is to explore the past with a view to discerning a trajectory for the future.

The fourth chapter is by far the longest and most ambitious in the book (it is twice as long as the next-longest). There are a lot of nuts and bolts to work through – all very useful and helpful to leaders who want to do a better job of implementing the plans that arise from their discernment of vision. For example there is wise advice on communication and on the use of time across a church’s year. I wonder if the chapter might have been written differently, with some of the detail (like finance management) covered in a short series of appendices.

Finally, the book discusses transition: when is it time for the leader to move on? Leaders leave too soon or, conversely, hold on too long – especially if Howard Gardner is right in his claim that ‘sooner or later, nearly all leaders outreach themselves and end up undermining their causes’!

Justyn Terry has served us well with this overview of the phases of a leadership assignment: each of the five chapters has something to say to leaders wishing to lead well, regardless of whether they find themselves in phase one or phase five.

The book is available to purchase from Langham.

**Justyn will be joining me on next week’s Leadership Journey Podcast to discuss the contents of his book.

Ambition: What Jesus Said about Power, Success and Counting Stuff

Summer can provide extra time and opportunities for reading and over the past few weeks I have been working my way through a few newish books around themes of Christian Leadership. One of these is Ambition: What Jesus Said about Power, Success and Counting Stuff , by Emma Ineson, Anglican Bishop of Penrith and previously Principal of Trinity College in Bristol.

The book’s chapters basically form a series of thought-provoking and helpful theological reflections around the theme of ambition, particularly as it relates to Christian leaders.

As Christians, how should we think of ‘success‘? Does failure actually have a part to play in success? Would we be better talking in terms of excellence (even if that has pitfalls of its own)?

What about ambition (the title of the book)? Is it OK for a Christian to be ambitious? Perhaps the answer to that is ‘it depends’! The author suggests that leaders need not to be afraid of ambition, but must pay more attention to character, learn to be accountable (‘The more ambitious you are, the more you will need others alongside you’), and develop a keen sense of theological reflection.

Then there is a chapter on counting (Goodhart’s law on measures and targets would have fitted well here). Counting can be useful (it helps us to know where we are) when done for the right reasons, but there are various wrong reasons for counting, not least the temptation to validate our existence by numbers).

Not too far from counting is the trap of comparison, and this too gets a chapter in which we get to meet the ‘approval monster’ (‘those with a high aptitude for performance have an interior approval monster who is very, very greedy’) and note some ways he might be tamed.

The final two chapters take a slightly different direction in that they focus less on traps related to ambition and more on positive leadership characteristics. First, we are encouraged to reflect on what it means to lead in the image of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are ambassadors of our King; we take our place in ‘the cross-shaped gap and mediate between what is and what could be’; and we lead with the vision that is inspired in us by the Holy Spirit who points us forward to the completion of the Kingdom.

The final chapter is a reflection on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, reading them as ‘key spiritual dispositions’.

Overall it’s a very good read, not only for the thought-provoking way it tosses up important questions for leaders, but also as a model of good theological reflection.

The Leadership Journey Podcast – Rick Hill on ‘Deep Roots of Resilient Disciples’

This week Rick Hill returns to the podcast (you can listen to the story of his leadership journey here and here) to talk about his new book on discipleship. Rick has written out of a deep concern to see followers of Jesus put down deep roots that will enable them to persevere in the long haul.

I had the opportunity to read the book ahead of its publication and write an endorsement.

Rick Hill is an outstanding young Christian leader, and this book expresses his heart for his generation and for those of us of any generation who are willing to listen. Simply put, it’s a renewed call to follow Jesus. Rick writes out of a deep and authentic pastoral concern and grounds his message in the realities of everyday life. What he proposes is a fresh discovery of the heart of discipleship - a call to follow Jesus and obey him, to cultivate a relationship with him, and in the process be changed to be more like him. While his style of communication is fresh and relevant, he is never faddish; and while he writes with compassion and genuine understanding of the issues that turn some people away from the Church, he never softens the call or downplays the cost. In a rapidly changing world, here is an invitation to rediscover the significance of a two thousand year-old message. Read it and digest it. Then go out and buy another copy to give away! 

For more on the book, visit Rick’s website, where you can order a copy.

Rick Hill on Resilient Disciples

The Crucible of Leadership: Learning from the Story of Moses

This week I have been wrapping up some editing of a book manuscript that I have been working on for a year or so. I’ve sent it to a publisher who has expressed some interest, so we will see how that goes.

I’ve called it ‘The Crucible of Leadership’ and in it I’ve set out several things that I think Christian leaders need to come to terms with in their leadership. My reflections are framed in the context of the remarkable story of Moses.

His formative years were spent in Egypt where he had been born into a family of Hebrew slaves but remarkably ended up being raised as a member of the royal family. A failed attempt to lead a liberation movement resulted in his being pitched unceremoniously into the wilderness years – forty years spent in the Midianite desert where the peak of his career appears to have been taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep – quite a contrast with some of the traditional understandings of his time in Egypt which tell tales of military prowess! Finally, after a remarkable encounter with God on the edge of the desert, his life takes another dramatic turn and he becomes a reluctant leader, going on to spend the next forty years navigating the highs and lows of leadership in the desert.


Here are the chapter headings:

  • Introduction: (Yet) Another book on Leadership!
  • Chapter One: Wise leaders know that they don’t get there by themselves.
  • Chapter Two: Wise leaders learn to navigate the desert.
  • Chapter Three: Wise leaders get over their excuses.
  • Chapter Four: Wise leaders understand that ministry is best shared.
  • Chapter Five: Wise leaders know that God loves them.
  • Chapter Six: Wise leaders know that they cannot escape criticism.
  • Chapter Seven: Wise leaders realise that they are not the finished article.
  • Chapter Eight: Wise leaders understand when to hand on the baton.
  • Epilogue: Wise leaders don’t get in the way of Jesus.

Here is how the book’s epilogue concludes:

The final piece of biblical narrative that involves Moses comes in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration.

Peter, James and John, the inner circle of his disciples, accompanied him to pray on a mountain where Moses and Elijah appeared and engaged in conversation with Jesus about his impending death in Jerusalem. After Peter’s misguided suggestion about building a shelter each for Jesus and the two Old Testament figures, a cloud covered them and a voice spoke:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him (Matthew 17:5).

When their vision cleared, the only leader they could see was Jesus.

And that is a good place for us to conclude. Our reflections have been framed in the story of a towering leader-figure, but one who was flawed. At the start of his leadership he attempted to wriggle out of God’s call; later he sabotaged his leadership through anger and his story ended with disappointment.

The only flawless leader is Jesus, perfect in obedience, love and humility.
Listen to Him!

Wise leaders set themselves to walk in His ways, and they take care not to get in His way!

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Terry Virgo on ‘God’s Treasured Possession’

This week Terry Virgo is back on the podcast and he’s talking about his new book, ‘God’s Treasured Possession: Walk in the Footsteps of Moses’, which has just recently been published by IVP.

We start our conversation by asking ‘why Moses?’ and go on to talk about a number of the themes arising from the book.

There is a special offer for listeners in that IVP, the book’s publishers, are offering a discount when you order from their website: you can get the code at the beginning and end of the podcast.

Terry was previously on the podcast in November when we discussed his leadership journey. You can listen to that conversation here.

On striking rocks and getting in the way of Jesus

(This is drawn from ‘The Crucible of Leadership’ – a book project I am working on, based around the story of Moses.)

Moses Striking the Rock (Chagall)

For leaders to lead in the way of Jesus is one thing (a good thing, if it means they are seeking to be like Him), but for leaders to get in the way of Jesus is something else.

By way of a final word on Moses’ leadership journey (and our own), we return once more to Meribah, and the rock-striking episode.

It was at Meribah (Numbers 20) that Moses’ anger re-emerged. What had been an arguably justifiable attribute when he responded either to injustice or to the people’s unfaithfulness was this time an expression of frustration as the complaints of the people tipped him over the edge. It led him to take a situation into his own hands, to deal with it in his own way, instead of trusting God, leaving room for Him to work, thus acknowledging His holiness.

Centuries later, referring to Israel’s history by way of warning the members of the church in Corinth about the dangers of an array of sins, including putting Christ to the test, Paul writes about the spiritual food and drink that were available to Moses’ followers. They drank spiritual drink from a spiritual rock, ‘and that rock was Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:4).

I don’t think Paul’s reference requires a non-historical understanding of the incident at Meribah, but it does point us towards a typological understanding of the incident: in the desert, Christ was the true source of the people’s nourishment.

The task of New Covenant ministers is to share Christ with people. He is the source of spiritual life and nourishment that people need. Beyond what Paul says here in this somewhat enigmatic paragraph, Jesus referred to Himself as both the Bread of Life and the Source of living water. Our task is to help people to engage with Him. 

May God forgive us when our words and actions get in the way of this and we drag His name into disrepute. How many people have been turned away from the Source of living water because of the behaviour or attitude of a Christian leader? It’s a tragedy when people cannot see past us to Jesus. Our calling is to point to Him, to guard the sense of Him holiness, and make sure that we do not make ourselves the focus.

May God forgive us when we make ourselves the focus of our leadership. It’s not simply the big platform, high profile leaders who are at risk (wittingly or not) of this. Any of us has the capacity to attempt to put ourselves at the centre. What good is our leadership if we get in the way of Jesus?

Those of us who are preachers need to be aware of the temptation to allow our frustrations to come out in the administration of harsh verbal lashes.  There is something wearisome about the kind of preaching that seems to see listeners as a badly-behaved class of children who need to be brought into line. Some good friends in our church in Switzerland were once kind enough to ask me if I liked Christmas (I do). They had noticed that in my zeal to ‘challenge’ the once-a-year visitors to our Christmas services, I was coming across as angry: Ebenezer Scrooge in the pulpit!

A few months ago I heard the story of advice that the Puritan, Richard Sibbes, gave to Thomas Goodwin. In Goodwin’s own words, his preaching could be described as ‘battering consciences’. After hearing him preach, Richard Sibbes said this: ‘Young man, if you ever would do good, you must preach the gospel and the free grace of God in Christ Jesus.’ 

There are times when, in our zeal, we simply try too hard. It’s for the best of motives but our ministry and leadership are all about ‘challenge’. Our preaching is always about the big stick. Our leadership is always about the next hill to climb, rarely pausing long enough to be thankful for the distance we have already covered. Of course there is such a thing as a sense of urgency, but it’s possible to try so hard that we end up getting in the way of Jesus. People grow weary and it seems as though we are only offering stale bread and lukewarm water while all along Jesus wants to invite people to taste the bread of life and drink of the living water.