Christian Leadership Essentials: A Recommendation

Of the writing of leadership books there is no end. Fortunately, some of them are quite useful for pastors and other Christian leaders, especially when they are uniquely focused on ministry-related leadership. One particularly helpful example is Christian Leadership Essentials: A Handbook for Managing Christian Organizations (B&H Academic), edited by Union University President David Dockery.

Christian Leadership Essentials includes a number of helpful essays that address such topics as vision development and communication, the nuts-and-bolts of management, leadership development, fundraising, and biblical and theological reflections on leadership. While most of the chapters are written from the perspective of Christian higher education leadership, the principles advanced have a wide application, especially in denominational agencies and parachurch ministries. Pastors and other church staff will also find many of the chapters helpful, even if not all are directly applicable to local church ministry.

The book includes the following chapters:

Introduction – David S. Dockery

Chapter 1: A Biblical Model of Leadership – Robert B. Sloan

Chapter 2: Christian Leadership and the Identity and Mission of an Organization – David J. Gyertson

Chapter 3: Leadership, Vision, and Strategic Planning – Bob R. Agee

Chapter 4: Governance and Board Relations – Robert Andringa

Chapter 5: Managing the Organization – R. Judson Carlberg

Chapter 6: Financial Oversight and Budget Planning – Jon Wallace

Chapter 7: Development, Campaigns, and Building Projects – Evans P. Whitaker

Chapter 8: Institutions, Organizations, and Foundation Relations – Alvin O. Austin

Chapter 9: Leadership, Organizations, and External Relations – Carl Zylstra

Chapter 10: Relationships with Multiple and Various Constituencies – James Edwards

Chapter 11: Selecting and Building Leadership Teams – Thom S. Rainer

Chapter 12: From Peer to Manager – Carla Sanderson

Chapter 13: Employee Relations in a Grace-Filled Community – Philip W. Eaton

Chapter 14: Engaging the Culture – Barry H. Corey

Chapter 15: Crisis Management – Kimberly Thornbury

Chapter 16: The Leader as Mentor and Pastor – Randall O’Brien

Chapter 17: Leadership for a Global World – Charles A. Fowler

Chapter 18: Leadership Transitions and the Search Process – Tommy Thomas

Some Closing Thoughts – David S. Dockery

Each of the chapters is well worth your time, but one of the great advantages of Christian Leadership Essentials is that it can be read through in one shot or can be delved into here and there, based upon interests and/or responsibilities. From my context as a younger leader working in a theological seminary, I particularly enjoyed the chapters by Sloan, Rainer, Sanderson, and O’Brien, along with Dockery’s brief introduction and conclusion.

I highly recommend Christian Leadership Essentials for current ministry leaders or those who aspire to such positions. It is the perfect complement to more introductory overviews of Christian leadership such as J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership or John Stott’s Basic Christian online rpg mobile

Theology & Culture (11): Why The Academy Matters to God

The university is perhaps the most influential institution in American society. It certainly is a funnel though which hundreds of thousands of young people pour out annually into every sector of American life. Further, many universities and academic disciplines have become breeding grounds for adamant (if not militant) resistance to Christian belief and practice. In fact, when 18 year old believers enter college, they will often find a scenario in which the smartest people they now know are opposed to the core convictions of Christianity. It is likely that these same students are utterly unprepared to think critically and therefore tend to either (1) compartmentalize their religious life and their academic life, allowing the two lives to run on parallel tracks and holding the two in an ever-unresolved tension; or (2) allow their academic influencers to overturn their Christian convictions, largely because they (the students) are unaware of any top-shelf minds in their disciplines who take seriously the charge to integrate their Christian faith with their academic learning.

By the time I entered seminary, I had begun to read widely in various academic disciplines because I had encountered faculty members and students on multiple university campuses who seemed to make a good case against Christianity from within their own disciplines. In other words, the broad intellectual milieu in the United States is one in which secular forms of rationality are privileged. As David Dockery puts it, “The ‘cultured despisers’ of religion regard faith, Christian faith in particular, as irrational and obscurantist. They consider that it may be necessary to tolerate and perhaps even accommodate faith on campus by providing or recognizing denominational chaplaincies, student religious groups, and so forth. But religious faith, even when tolerated, is understood as at best irrelevant to, and at worst incompatible with, serious and unfettered intellectual inquiry and the transmission of knowledge to students.”*

I was driven to “vindicate” God. In reality, I knew that I did not have to, and was not able to, “vindicate” God. But I did want to be able to show God’s glory and the truth of his word in every academic discipline and by extension in every dimension of human intellectual life and culture.

After seminary, I lived in the former Soviet Union for two years, at which time I gained an even clearer grasp of what the university looks like bereft of Christian influence. My best Russian friends were taking undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy, psychology, philology, and physics, as well as other disciplines. They continually articulated to me a sort of nihilistic worldview, as well as a fragmented and disordered view of the academic disciplines, which is precisely what one would suspect when truths of God’s existence and creation are “banned” from the classroom. Those truths are exactly the truths upon which the academy was founded and began to flourish.

In fact, the founders of Harvard College published a pamphlet in 1643, containing their mission statement: “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed, to consider well [that] the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life, Jn 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.”** Other Ivy League schools had similar Christian foundations which enabled them to view their colleges as “uni-versities,” places of learning in which one could find a “u-nity” of truth, a unity that revolved around a God who created all things, who sustains all things such that they consist in him, and who endowed man with the ability to learn about what he created.

The founders of many of our best universities understood that one of the most profoundly good ways of loving God is to know his handiwork and the most fruitful way to do our learning is to approach the data of our discipline with a Christian framework and core presuppositions. For this reason, Cornelius Plantinga writes, “Learning is therefore a spiritual calling: properly done, it attaches us to God. In addition, the learned person has, so to speak, more to be Christian with.” Indeed we should want to “knead the yeast of the gospel” through everything that happens on campus, so that all of a student’s rational, creative, and relational capacities would be “permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity.”***

As we discussed this in our seminar, I observed that my Theology & Culture students came to a consensus on at least several matters: (1) the university is an institution of formidable and formative influence on many or most of our American young people, and God’s people would be naïve and even unfaithful to neglect it; (2) our attempts to be faithfully present in the academy should not be limited to explicitly Christian universities, but also should extend to our public and private universities; (3) a robust biblical theology of culture is deeply consonant with a robust biblical theology of education, such that we should be driven to foster an environment in which our evangelical young people seek earnestly to glorify God in their studies. In a sentence, we should fight the a-theological, non-academic, and even anti-intellectual impulses within the evangelical community; and (4) everything we had discussed in our Theology & Culture seminar, and therefore everything we have discussed so far in this blog series, finds its expression and its deepest and most abiding challenge within the four walls of our educational institutions.


*David Dockery, Renewing Minds (Nashville: B&H, 2008), xiii.

**”New England’s First Fruits,” quoted in Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, The Puritans (New York: American Book, 1938), 702.

***Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World: A Christian View of Faith, Learning, and Living (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), xi; online

Two Important New Pro-GCR Articles

Dr. Frank Page, who currently serves as Vice President for Evangelism at North American Mission Board (and is very likely the next President of the Executive Committee), has written an endorsement of the GCR titled “I Believe One Can Stand and Vote for This Final Report and be a Supporter of the Cooperative Program.” This article is important for two reasons. First, Dr. Page has long been recognized as a Cooperative Program champion, so his endorsement carries considerable weight. Second, he tackles one of the most common misconceptions about the GCR–that it is really a move to undermine the CP. This claim is utter balderdash, so we’re pleased to see Dr. Page weigh in on this topic.

Dr. David Dockery, who serves as President of Union University, has written an endorsement titled “A Great Commission Resurgence: Toward a Both/And Vision for the SBC.” This article is vintage Dockery because it is comprehensive, balanced, and irenic. We wish more Southern Baptists shared Dr. Dockery’s love for the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, his commitment to taking every thought captive to Christ, and his appreciation for Southern Baptist history and identity.