Spiritual Leadership ~ A Book Review

In the course of reading J. Oswald Sander’s Spiritual Leadership, it is fascinating that the Lord brought me to a conversation that contained the usual perception about church leadership. Earlier in the evening, a gentleman had expressed interest in being a pastor and then over dinner reiterated that when talk turned to his current work. He expressed a displeasure in his current vocation and so when I asked what type of work he would like, he indicated that in reality, he doesn’t like to work which is why being a pastor interested him.
Unfortunately, spiritual leadership is often thought of in this way. This mindset is both saddening and maddening. It indicates a very low view of not just pastors, but all of those in leadership within the body of Christ and explains why we are content with just warm bodies rather than placing those both qualified and called into positions of leadership. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to read Spiritual Leadership for the first time and have considered it necessary reading for all believers. This month Moody Publishers is offering a redesigned of the updated version released 10 years ago. It’s worth noting that the only versions I have read have been updated and not the original, and in this latest release I see no discernible differences in the text from the 2007 update.
Originally put together as a series of lectures, the book version is both logical and thoughtful. One cannot read the book without appreciating the effort that Sanders has put forward in conveying the material. The author delves deep into the realm of leadership addressing not just qualifications as many are so used to, although Sanders elevates these points to higher integrity than most, he also tackles topics such as the pastor’s ability to read, write, and communicate. The final chapters convey the necessity of building up other leaders. Therefore, despite the shortness of the chapters, the material requires time to read because of the need to be both reflective on it and convicted by it. While deep, the points are cleanly made and the path of reading is done in a logical and sequential order so that readers can ponder all aspects of leadership from beginning to end. Therefore, readers can expect the initial chapters to cover qualifications of leadership, who should be a leader, and some basic insights for becoming a leader, while the rest of the book continues to cover the process of leading itself to the eventual stepping aside from leadership and training up others to continue the work.
J. Oswald Sanders discussion points can be considered the ABC’s of leadership in that they are (a) advanced, (b) balance, and (c) comprehensive. Sanders conclusions about leadership are advanced beyond basic thinking. Instead, he challenges both modern notions about leadership and conveys just how much is involved in leading God’s people God’s way. Additionally, the author presents many aspects with a very balanced way, avoiding the pitfalls of going to one extreme or the other. For example, in discussing essential qualities of leadership he tackles the topic of anger in such a way that shows its necessity, but cautious about unloving anger. Finally, Sanders is comprehensive, covering many topics that are easy to overlook like those mentioned earlier about abilities to read and write or spiritual qualities such as prayer. He also looks at areas that many are prone to put off or avoid, like disqualification, replacing leaders, and training up new ones. Such details combined with an emphasis on biblical authority makes Sanders book an easy recommendation.
Perhaps my one complaint is not with Sanders’ teaching at all, but rather with the additions that the publisher and editors have chosen to put further. The updated edition includes questions for discussion, which generally are very appreciative because they stimulate thinking and application. However, the questions are often asked in such a way that suggests that all believers are called to spiritual leadership and seem to ignore whether or not that person has been called to such a position. To be clear, Sanders nowhere advocates this. I have never had access to the first release and so lament my inability to comment on the editor’s updates and faithfulness to Sanders’ intentions in the original publication.
One thing is certain: Sanders has a high regard for spiritual leadership as God’s work. Therefore, he conveys the seriousness with which it must be undertaken. It comes with great costs of energy, patience, pride, and so much more, and the author is certain to convey that to readers so that they understand the importance of spiritual leadership. Because he does this, the book is beneficial for all persons within the body of Christ and not just leaders (or potential leaders). It is a timeless book that has the propensity to be used by God to transform his church if people would invest the time to read it.

To purchase a copy of Spiritual Leadership click here. This book comes as part of a trilogy that also includes Spiritual Discipleship and Spiritual Maturity which can be purchased as a set by clicking here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purpose of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by outside sources and instead is the result of my own response to the reading of the book (in fact, I did a review of this book several years ago also highly recommending it and my opinion of it has not changed since).