Paul And His Team: What The Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership And Influence, by Ryan Lokkesmoe
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
There is no shortage of books that seek to mine the Bible for leadership advice , and this book seeks to stand out from the pack by pointing to obscure leaders who assisted Paul. The author thinks, probably correctly, that many people are daunted by the more obvious leaders of the Bible like Jesus or the twelve disciples, and appreciate learning about leadership from those figures who are more obscure. The appeal, for the writer, of writing about more obscure biblical personages, is at least twofold. On the one hand, obscure people allow one to fill in the gaps with reasonable surmises and plausible speculation, all the easier to demonstrate one’s point, while on the other hand it allows the author to show his bona fides as an expert on Paul and the early New Testament Church, which is a bit of a mixed bag because there are some aspects of Paul’s beliefs that the author gets woefully mistaken because of his antinomian perspective. Fortunately, most of this book does not discuss the author’s mistaken thoughts on Paul’s beliefs or the doctrines and practices of the early Church, and talk instead about generally useful leadership principles and practices that one can learn from the New Testament and a few references to the apostolic fathers.
In about two hundred pages the author gives an introduction and conclusion as well as eleven chapters that seek to provide a discussion about various aspects of leadership that can be found in the life and example of Paul and his associates. The author begins by looking at Paul’s evangelical approach of building common ground with his audience, and then cautions leaders to avoid putting too much of a burden on others, which is an easy thing for Christian leaders to do. After this the author looks at offstage leaders, defining them as people without a public or blog presence, which I suppose would not include people like me. Two chapters on conflicts follow, including some thoughts on how relationships can be revived after conflicts like Paul’s conflict with Barnabas over John Marks, as well as some thoughts on conflicts that are worthwhile, like the author’s ferocious struggle against negative book reviews (/joke). The author then looks at how leaders can find genuine collaboration as well as build diplomatic bridges over cultural chasms, such as the chasms that are all around us at present within our own divided cultures. Chapters follow on making people feel visible and valued in being a relational steward and also how to restore relationships even when it hurts, something that is of deep interest for many of us who are prone to being involved in conflicts. The last two chapters look at how to lead when it appears as if one is losing in the political and cultural conflicts of our age, and how to room replacements as one faces one’s inevitable demise, something many institutions do poorly.
Looked at in its totality, there are many aspects of this book that are appealing, despite the author’s antinomian worldview creeping up occasionally. Where the book is at its weakest is where the author is trying to show off his supposed knowledge of the Bible and how Paul’s practice and theology addresses aspects of obedience to God’s laws, something this author appears woefully ignorant of. For the most part, though, the author is trying to look at Paul’s behavior as a leader, and in this the author has some worthwhile principle to provide. I was a bit surprised that the author spent so much time talking about conflict, and spent so much time being so negative about the leadership that one tends to find within churches, but that tends to come with the territory, I suppose. This is certainly a book well worth reading for those who are Christian leaders who want to find within Paul’s complex life as it is discussed in Acts and his letters some worthwhile leadership insights, and that is always something to appreciate, regardless of what one thinks of the author’s scholarly pretensions regarding the theology of the early Church.
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