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Book Review Fridays: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

I wanted to venture into the world of Christian leadership. I have already read many books on leadership, but aren’t distinctly Christian in its nature. Thankfully, I learned about Dave Kraft’s Leaders Who Last (Crossway, 2010). I asked a friend to buy it for me in the States. And after a period of waiting, I finally got my copy.

The Goal/s of the Book

Clearly, Kraft’s book aims to help leaders “finish well.” This is the important to him since “many leaders are not doing well and are ending up shipwrecked” (20). He cites a book by Professor Bobby Clinton of Fuller Seminary, in which the author concludes that only 30% of leaders finish well. Thus, the cover of the book states: “Only 30% of Leaders Last.” This actually what grabbed my attention and made me buy the book.

The book is “written from a Christian perspective,” and is “primarily, but not exclusively, addressed to the following types of leaders: Senior pastors, ministry staff members, volunteer leaders, Sunday school teachers, small-group leaders, leaders in local parachurch organizations.” Truly, it is distinctly Christian in nature. In fact, Chapter 6, entitled The Leader’s Calling, is even written “primarily for leaders in full-time vocational Christian ministry” (77). Obviously, the chapter deals with calling.

Initial Observations

The book is divided into 3 parts: Foundations, Formation, and Fruitfulness. In Foundations, Kraft focuses on “leading from the inside out.” He means that a leader must live with Jesus Christ in the center of his power, as he develops a purpose and a passion, as he sets priorities, and as he develops pacing for how much he needs to accomplish and how fast he does it.

In Formation, he deals with the leader’s calling, gifts character, and growth, while in Fruitfulness, the leader’s vision, influence, and legacy.

At the end of every part, Kraft includes a Thinking Things Through, which are questions and points for discussion. This is helpful for readers since it makes them remember what they read, reflect on it further, and put it into action.

The book is also readable. Once can finish a chapter in 5-10 minutes (Consider the fact that I’m a slow reader).

Additionally, the book is full of personal stories, illustrations, and practical insights. Kraft writes:

Most of the leadership books in my library are based on surveys and studies that attempt to crystallize key principles and proven methodologies for discovering, developing, and deploying leaders. These books are written by successful CEOs of large organizations or professors in MBA programs who use the business world as their model.

In contrast, this book is written from my personal leadership journey for over forty years. It is not the result of interviews and surveys from the business sector, nor is it the product of analyzing and dissecting successful leaders from the Bible or history. Instead, it is a personal and extremely practical account of essential leadership principles I have learned and used. (21)

Gospel-Centered Leadership

Kraft uses this definition of a leader throughout the book:

A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God. (25)

I agree with Kraft. But take a look at the opening sentence of Chapter 1:

As a leader, everything I am and everything I do needs to be anchored in my identity with Christ. Leadership begins and ends with a clear understanding of the gospel and being rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ as a free gift. (29, emphasis added)

When I read those words, I immediately knew that this book will talk about a Gospel-centered leadership. I’m so glad I have such a book!

Leaders are Gifted to Speak

Before I end this review, allow me to highlight a point of Kraft which I deeply agree with. It’s about speaking gifts. He asserts that the leader who least must be gifted to speak:

After many years of teaching on the subject of spiritual gifts and working with hundreds of people to help them determine their gifting, it seems the gifts of a leader tend more toward speaking and serving. Bobby Clinton of Fuller Seminary refers to these gifts as word gifts. A true leader is gifted and skilled at using words to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower followers and potential leaders.

The leader who lasts needs to have word gifts. This is not to say they don’t serve. But what distinguishes them as leaders is their ability to use words to accomplish the mission, communicate an agreed upon vision, climb the mountain, and reach the goal. (89)

He goes out on a limb with this statement:

If a person’s gift mix is not predominantly in the speaking category, that person should not consider a major leadership roll. (89)

In my experience, the leaders who made an impact on me are the very ones who have the ability to move me through words, either verbal or written, in the form of preaching or in the form of a simple encouragement.

Conclusion

Leaders Who Last is a Gospel-centered, biblically-grounded, and deeply practical book on leadership. Any leader, especially those working full-time for churches, will greatly benefit from this book. I recommend it to you.


Recent book reviews in The Reading Disciple:

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
God is the Gospel by John Piper
Truth Endures by Phil Johnson and Mike Taylor (eds.)

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Book Review Fridays: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I once confined myself to Christian books. “What’s the value of reading books with a secular worldview,” I thought. But Tim Challies encourages people to “read widely.” In a blog, Challies gives few reasons why Christians should consider reading regularly in the mainstream. I was convinced.

So as part of my “reading widely” practice, I started with Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It was endorsed by a speaker I once listened to, and was recommended by Challies as well.

Initial Thoughts

Outliers, subtitled The Story of Success, is a book that lets readers view success in a very different way. I once thought that success is a product of one’s inherent ability. I believe I’m not alone on this. But the book proves otherwise.

Gladwell points that success isn’t a product of one’s ability and motivation. Rather, it is a product of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies. The book is rightly divided into these two factors. To prove his point, Gladwell explains among many others:

• Why Canadian hockey players born in the earlier months of the year will most likely get to play professionally than those born in the latter months.
• What do Bill Gates and the Beatles have in common.
• Why Korean pilots will most likely crash airplanes than their racial/ethnic counterparts.

What I like about this book is that every chapter builds on the previous one. So as I read further and further, Gladwell’s argument for success becomes stronger and stronger. From the first chapter until the last, he does this. That’s why by the end of the book, I was convinced that success is really a matter of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies.

Also, I found that Gladwell is fond of gathering stories and statistics to illustrate his point. And these stories and statistics weren’t just informative, but also interesting.

Allow me to share my thoughts on a chapter that made the most impact on me.

Constant Practice Makes Perfect

Chapter 2, which is titled The 10,000-Hour Rule and is my favorite chapter in the book, argues that for one to master a craft, he must devote ten thousand hours of practice. In a study done in Academy of Music in Berlin, three groups of violinists were made: Those judged to be world-class performers, those seen just to be “good”, and those unlikely to play professionally or simply intended to be music teachers in public schools.

They all started practicing roughly around the age of five. But as they reached the age of eight, differences started to spring up. Those deemed to be “great” had an increasing hours of practice as they grew, while others didn’t. By the time the “greats” were twenty, the amount of hours they devote for practice totaled to ten thousand hours! And the same pattern emerged for professional pianists.

This shows that the one who gets to practice more is more likely to succeed than the one who doesn’t. This is true for the Beatles. Before they invaded the music scene, they were already playing eight hours a day, seven days a week, for strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany from 1960-1962. And this is also true for Bill Gates, who got to program for a lot of hours during his younger years.

Indeed, practice makes perfect. Or: Constant practice makes perfect!

Conclusion

Outliers is a very good read, obviously a work of a brilliant author. If you want to understand more about success, then grab a copy of this book. Let it change the way you view success. And make this a part of your “reading widely” habit. I recommend this book to you.


Recent book reviews in The Reading Disciple:

God is the Gospel by John Piper
Truth Endures by Phil Johnson and Mike Taylor (eds.)

Book Review Fridays: God Is the Gospel by John Piper

This is my only John Piper reading for the past year. Again, Piper blows my mind away. God Is the Gospel (Crossway, 2011) allowed me to see the Gospel in a very different light. It made me realize what is the greatest good of the Gospel.

Initial Observations

Just like other of Piper’s books, God Is the Gospel is rich in profound, mind-engaging, paradigm-shattering thoughts. But one must be warned that the book isn’t easy to read. I myself had a hard time grasping Piper’s thoughts that I had to reread sentences and even paragraphs to understand what I’m reading. It must be said that diligence and perseverance is required in reading this book.

One of the things I like, or enjoy reading, in this book is Chapter 2, where Piper begins to define the Gospel and considers the biblical scope of its meaning. It seems that he took all the verses with the word “gospel” and explains how the Bible defines it. This gives the reader a clear, even comprehensive, picture of the Gospel.

Why God is the Gospel?

I believe the aim of the book is, obviously, to show that God is the Gospel. Piper keeps on pressing this point throughout the book. I like what he writes:

When I say that God Is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself. Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our since and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence. (13-14, emphasis added)

Piper is right! He’s simply repeating what 1 Peter 3:18 says:

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God… (Emphasis added)

God’s plan of redemption is ultimately aimed to bring us to Himself, who alone can satisfy our souls and make us eternally happy. This is what makes the Gospel, the good news, good.

Furthermore, Piper proves that all the Gospel events and Gospel gifts are meaningless when it does not bring us to the ultimate good, which is God:

My point in this book is that all the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully. Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven—none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him. If we believe all these things happened to us, but do not embrace them for the sake of getting to God, they have not happened to us. (47)

Burden for Gospel Preachers

Piper also shares his burden for preachers:

My burden in this book is to make as clear as I can that preachers can preach on these great aspects of the gospel and yet never take people to the goal of the gospel. Preachers can say dozens of true and wonderful things about the gospel and not lead people to where the gospel is leading. (41)

The last sentence is so true. I have heard of preachers who do this. Most of them preach as if entrance to heaven is the ultimate thing (I will discuss on this in a bit). I believe they are sincere and don’t intend any harm done. But unaware, they’re preaching an incomplete Gospel.

I love the burden of Piper for preachers! This warning and exhortation are very helpful to preachers, including myself. I better learn to preach the Gospel in such a way that it points to God as the ultimate good of it.

On Heaven

I always thought that the ultimate good of being forgiven of my sins through the work of Christ is that I possess eternal life and enter heaven. But Piper challenges that thinking:

Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the Gospel. (47)

So if we desire heaven without any reference to Christ, or we think of heaven as the ultimate good of the Gospel, we must think twice! Maybe we haven’t yet been converted by the Gospel after all, for it brings us to God.

Conclusion

God Is the Gospel really made me understand the Gospel deeper. It made me realized that the aim of all the Gospel events and gifts is to remove any obstacle that hinders us to fully enjoy God. Indeed, the Gospel brings us to Him, the ultimate good of the Gospel. This makes the good news of the Gospel good! I recommend this book to you.


Recent book reviews in The Reading Disciple:

Truth Endures by Phil Johnson and Mike Taylor (eds.)

Book Review Fridays: Truth Endures by Phil Johnson and Mike Taylor (eds.)

It’s been a while since I last reviewed a book. Now, I’m going to do it again (there’s many review waiting on the line). I used to post my reviews in my other blogsite, The Reading Disciple. But since I’m strengthening the reach of Zoy Sauce Etc, I will have to post them here. I will have to figure out what to do with my other blogsite. Anyway…

John MacArthur has been influential to my preaching ministry. He is one of the expository preachers I highly look up to. I’ve read some of his books, including A Tale of Two Sons, The Truth War, and Hard to Believe, and I’m a constant visitor of Grace to You website, where MacArthur’s sermons are archived.

If you haven’t encountered MacArthur yet (I don’t mean face-to-face of course), then Truth Endures (Grace to You, 2009/Crossway, 2011) is a great way to start. This book compiles the best sermons of MacArthur in his forty years of ministry in Grace Community Church. In this review, I’ll be indicating what I liked about the book and will be giving my thoughts (just brief) in 3 selected sermons.

A Biographical Sketch

The copy that I have is the one published by Grace to You (2009). And it includes a short biography of MacArthur written by Iain Murray. The biography takes up more than 60 pages of the book.

Through this biography, I learned about the man behind all those great expository preaching. He came from a lineage of preachers, was sickly as a boy, and was able to overcome his health issues and soon became interested with sports (I was like, for real?).

His turning point in life was a car accident. Obviously, he survived. Here, he realized that he was not in control of his life. God suddenly had his undivided attention. He remembered saying, “Lord, I’ll do anything you want me to do.”

The biography has lots more things to say. But I do like to highlight one more thing. When he left the seminary in 1964, until 1969, he had no clear sense of direction. But at one point during those years, while waiting for a permanent work, he was invited by high school youngsters who wanted him to be their pastor. In his first time to preach for them, he went through Romans 6 and 7…for one and a half hours! His wife, Patricia, thought he won’t get invited back again. But she was wrong. He got invited again, and he preached to those kids all the time. “It was high school kids that started it all,” says MacArthur. The great expositor started with the youth!

Sermons

Every sermon in the book includes a short introduction from the editors. It usually describes the background (including the events in California [where Grace Church is], across the States, and around the world, on that particular time) in which the sermon was given. Anyway, the following are the 3 sermons I liked the most:

A Jet Tour Through Revelation (December 5, 1982)

This sermon is described as uncharacteristic among all the sermons in the book. This sermon covers the whole book of Revelation. When I read it, it feels like I’m in a jet tour, as the title suggests. Nonetheless, it is very informational.

Jesus’ Death Show Us How to Live: A Look at the Seven Sayings of the Cross (March 26, 1989)

This sermon covers the words of Jesus while he hung on the cross. These words are (all verses are in NASB):

• “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
• “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
• “Women, behold, your son…[Son,] behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)
• “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
• “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
• “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
• “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Every saying, MacArthur shows what we can learn from them. These include forgiving others, reaching out to others, committing oneself to God, etc. I never thought that even when Jesus was about to die, he was able to show how one should live. I was amazed!

A Biblical Perspective on Death, Terrorism, and the Middle East (September 16, 2001)

This sermon was given a few days after the 9/11 Terrorist Attack. MacArthur explains the motivations behind this horrible day in the history of the world. First, he deals with the natural motivation, that man is basically evil and is able to do evil things such as the terrorism that occurred. Second, he discusses the historical motivation, recounting the animosity between Israel and its neighboring countries throughout history. Third, the religious motivation, in which he basically deals with Islam. And lastly, the sensual motivation, in which he reveals that terrorists will be rewarded with sex with virgins in the afterlife. Towards the end of the sermon, he gives a theological explanation.

Conclusion

I see Truth Endures as a celebration of a man who toils hard to dig the treasures found in the soils of the Word and scatters them to God’s people. But more than that, I ultimately see this book as a celebration of the enduring truth of the Scripture. John MacArthur is indeed a faithful preacher of the Word. If you haven’t encountered him yet, then grab a copy of this book. I recommend it to you.

My Top 5 Books of 2011

Below are my top 5 books of 2011, along with my short comments on it. I also linked it to my reviews (except for one). So in no particular order:

1. Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris – This is my first finished reading for 2011. And it was a great read to start the year. Unlike his other books, Harris deals with basic theology in Dug Down. He discusses the basic doctrines of Christianity. But his approach in doing so isn’t too formal or academic ala Wayne Grudem. Instead, he does so by using personal stories, showing how the doctrines are weaved with real life. With this approach, readers, including myself, are inspired to live out the doctrines. Theology, then, becomes practical.

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – I always wanted to read a C.S. Lewis book. Of course, this is the book to begin with. When I began reading the book, I immediately knew I was diving into the mind of a great thinker (I had to read and reread the chapters of the book to fully grasp his thoughts). What I like most about the book is the way Lewis explains his ideas. He uses analogies to drive his point home. Complex topics become simple because of the analogies. Indeed, Mere Christianity is rich in deep and provoking thoughts.

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – This is my only non-Christian reading for the year. I did so as part of my “reading widely” habit. In this book, Gladwell helps readers to look at success in a very different way. He shows that success isn’t because of one’s inherent ability. Rather, he proves that it is a product of extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies. What I like most about the book is that as every chapter goes by, his thesis become stronger and stronger, as each chapter compounds the former one. He digs from various sources to illustrate his point. Truly, Outliers is written by a brilliant journalist. (Book review coming soon).

4. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul – A classic from the contemporary Reformed theologian, R.C. Sproul. In this book, Sproul helps readers understand the holiness and justice of God. This book is loaded with expositions (I love his exposition of Isaiah 6), illustrations, and sometimes personal stories from Sproul’s life. Reading this made me held a high view of God.

5. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller – Along with Mere Christianity, this book moved my intellect. Here, Keller writes to both believers and skeptics. He is apologetic in his tone, addressing the common objections to Christianity and explaining the doctrines of the faith. He quotes from different known personalities to prove his point. These include people like the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, atheist Richard Dawkins, Anglican theologian and New Testament professor N.T. Wright, American reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards, and of course, C.S. Lewis, whom Keller quotes in every chapter.

My Christmas (Book) Wishlist

Christmas is just a few weeks away. I’m excited to receive gifts once again. I tweeted my book wishlist yesterday. Now, I blogged it here. Below is the wishlist, and I included my brief thoughts about each book. I hope someone would give me any of them.

1. The Gospel According to Jesus (20th Anniversary Edition) by John MacArthur – It’s a book where MacArthur confronts “easy-believism” and tackles Lordship.

2. The Pleasures of God by John Piper – A follow-up to Desiring God.

3. Radical by David Platt – I already heard David Platt preach. And He’s good. Being a bestseller, Radical should be included in my must-read list.

4. What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul – I want to begin an in-depth study of Reformed theology. Judging on how he wrote The Holiness of God, I believe Sprould would do well in this book.

5. Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen – I’m intrigued with the YRR movement. Should I be a part of it? I must read the book first.

My Musings on Mere Christianity (Series Recap)

Last Friday, I posted the last installment of the blog series on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. To recap, here are the blogs of the series:

1. Sexual Morality – Lewis writes three reasons why it is difficult to desire complete chastity, or the state of being chaste, pure, virgin, or abstained from sexual intercourse.

2. The Great Sin of Pride – Lewis writes about what he calls the great sin. That great sin is pride.

3. Looking Forward to Heaven – The people who had set their minds on Heaven left their mark on Earth. It may sound ironic, but that’s the way it is.

4. On Begetting – I really did not know the meaning of the word begotten until I read Mere Christianity.

5. God and Time – Lewis, as far as I’m concerned, helps in shedding light on the topic of God and time.

Enjoy!

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