Toxic Leadership: 5 People Churches Should Never Hire, by Tobin Perry
From time to time  I like to read books about church leadership and how it is viewed from a somewhat worldly perspective. There are a wide variety of leadership consultants whose markets are churches and at times it can be immensely intriguing to see what is said by such people about how churches should be led and what kind of people should be put into positions of paid leadership, or, as this book deals with, what sort of people should never, under any circumstances, be hired by a church. Beyond my own intellectual curiosity in the subject, I find books like this to be of interest as a way of self-examination and reflection. Am I the sort of person that is toxic to a church culture? If so, and if it can be recognized by consultants, then clearly I have a great deal of work to do on myself. It is with that mindset that I approach material like this, both as something interesting to see from the point of view of another and as something that encourages me to work on my own issues with all the help I can get from God above.
In about 25 pages or so, this book gives an interesting picture of 5 types of people that should never be hired for the ministry by a church. The five types are as follows: Blaming Bonnie, who never takes responsibility for her own failures and is quick to cast blame on others, Old-School Ollie who has nothing good to say about new technology or a changed approach in reaching others, Do-Everything Dan who burns himself out on serving too much and leaving no room for others to develop their gifts, Prayerless Patty who has an essentially unspritual approach to leadership, like a John Maxwell, and Ivory Tower Ivan, who is very knowledgeable about the Bible and very intellectual but not very interested in other people. I could certainly find elements of myself in these various types, and was intrigued by what sort of questions the author recommended to draw out their natures and what sort of help the author suggested in helping such people who were already employed on staff. It should be noted, of course, that I belong to a religious tradition that hires far fewer people and relies far more on volunteers than is regularly the case within the wider professed Christian world, which even hires musicians for services on many occasions, and so this book is not as relevant to me as it would perhaps be to others.
Be that as it may, a book like this is relevant on at least two levels. On the one level, this book is a reminder of the sort of qualities that hinder our ability to lead in a Christian context–a refusal to own up to our faults, a hidebound reliance on tradition that fails to recognize where God would want us to change, a lack of ability to encourage and motivate and build up others because of our own insecurities, a lack of an intimate relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, and being trapped inside our own mind and uninterested in those around us. All of these tendencies are potentially fatal to our own walk with God, regardless of what position if any we hold in a congregational or denominational hierarchy. And this, in turn, ought to encourage us all to reflect on our own spiritual state, to repent to God where necessary, to reconcile with others where possible, and to work on overcoming where we struggle and fall short. At 25 pages, this e-book provides plenty of food for thought and reflection, and fulfills its purpose well.
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