The Leadership Journey Podcast: Chris Green on ‘The Gift’

This week’s guest on the podcast is Chris Green. Chris leads a church in North London and this month IVP has published his most recent book: The Gift.

I’ve already written about the book, so you can get a quick idea of what the main ideas of the book are. In our conversation, Chris talks about some of his other work, including other books he has written, including The Message of the Church, a biblical theology of the Church, part of the Bible Speaks Today series, and Cutting to the Heart, on application in preaching.

He talks about the key ideas of The Gift, including some cautions about whether and how we should think of Jesus as the Model Leader, why church leaders could think of their work in terms of the twelve slices of pizza, and what he means when he defines church leadership as ‘Corporate Application’.

Along the way we mention the work of Patrick Lencioni and his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which is well worth your while checking out.

And we have a discount code: you will pick up the code if you listen to the podcast and it will give you IVP’s best price when you order from their website.

The Leadership Journey Podcast: Justyn Terry on The Five Phases of Leadership

This week’s podcast episode features another author interview. My guest is Dr. Justin Terry and the book is The Five Phases of Leadership, recently published by Langham (you can order a copy from their website). You can read a quick overview of the book on the blog and the podcast conversation will allow you to get a bit more detail.

The basic premise, as the title suggests, that there are five phases to a leadership assignment. You could almost call them stages, but thinking of them as phases allows for some overlap between them.

  • Establish trust
  • Cultivate leaders
  • Discern vision
  • Implement plans
  • Transition out

Justyn Terry is Vice-Principal at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. Previously he served as Dean/President of Trinity School of Ministry in Pittsburgh and as Minister of St Helen’s Church in North Kensington.

The guest on the next episode of the podcast will be Chris Green, and he will be talking about his book The Gift: How your Leadership can Serve your Church. The book will be launched next week and you can read my review on the blog.

The Gift: How your leadership can serve your church

Continuing the theme of posts on my summer reading (especially for leaders), this one is a little different in that the book in question has not yet been released: it’s due on August 19. In preparation for the launch, the author made an electronic copy available ahead of time and I have been having a read.

The book is The Gift and it is aimed at church leaders. The author, Chris Green, is the vicar of a church in North London and previously served as Vice-Principal at Oak Hill Theological College. He has written or edited several other books, including Cutting to the Heart, on application in teaching and preaching.

It hardly needs to be said the there is no shortage of books and resources on leadership, including Christian leadership. Some, like Emma Ineson’s book on ambition, or Tod Bolsinger’s recent offering on resilience (review and podcast to come), have a particular focus on a specific area of the leader’s life; others, like James Lawrence‘s Growing Leaders, or Ian Parkinson’s Understanding Christian Leadership take a wider look at a range of relevant issues. Chris Green’s focus is on the task of church leadership, and the primary audience to benefit from the book will be pastors and ministers, for whom the book will serve as an opportunity to recalibrate their understanding of their role, and rediscover the core of their calling.

For there is a plethora of voices and leadership models, clamouring for the leader’s attention. Is the pastor essentially an ecclesiastical CEO? At the other end of the spectrum, a teacher? A counsellor? What does it mean to lead a church, and to do so in a way that is shaped by biblical priorities and values? This book will go some way to answering those questions.

The book falls broadly into two parts, though there is a third element – one of those leadership fables that draws you in and sets you up for the teaching content of the book. The fable unfolds in three parts: in the book’s prelude, in an interlude between the two main parts of the book, and in a postlude. It imagines a number of people involved in ministry who get together for a seminar with an old college professor.

The first part of the book (‘Who needs leaders?’) starts by seeking to establish some some biblical and theological reasons why we need leaders at all and moves on to discuss how healthy rule breaks down, resulting in what appear to be opposites, but which are theological twins: anarchy and tyranny. Anarchy seeks freedom at the expense of rule while tyranny imposes rule without freedom. From there (and there is a biblical-theological logic in the progression) we move to a chapter on celebrity, comparison and the sin of Babel: the problem of the ‘Peacock Pastor’. Let we conclude too quickly that Jesus might be the model leader, the author warns us about the serious danger of trivialising him. It’s too easy for us to find our own leadership ideas illustrated in Jesus. we need to heed this warning:

If you see [Jesus] as a ‘Great Leader’, but don’t put that in the context of his being the ultimate, eternal King, then all you’ll get is someone general common sense on teams and priorities. YOu’ll quote him, Confucius and Winston Churchill in the same breath.

Nonetheless there is ‘buried treasure’ for us in the study of Jesus. We can note his passion and his focus, but it’s important to see him more as our pattern than as our leadership guru. When Jesus taught his disciples about leadership, he called them to service, in contrast to the self-exalting ambition of the Gentiles. And he still leads the Church: through his word, through the Spirit, and by gifting members of his Body, empowering them to lead through the gifts of the Spirit.

That idea prepares the way for the second part of the book, ‘The Gift’, in which the author carefully and methodically works towards his definition of leadership: we have to wait until chapter 14 before we get there!

The first few chapters of this section focus on the particular gifts of teaching and leading which the author argues should come together in the Church’s pastors/elders/overseers. To be a leader only, at its most dangerous, is to lead in ways that come adrift from Scripture; to be a teacher only, is to run the risk of applying Scripture in purely individual, rather than corporate ways. And since the proposed definition of leadership is ‘Corporate application’, this matters.

It matters too that the leader’s method and message are integrated (the case of Diotrophes is summoned as evidence). As it matters where we source our wisdom, and it matters that we remain attentive to the reasons why we do what we do.

The author loves pizza and as he gets closer to his definition of church leadership and how it works out, he talks about ministry as a 12-slice pizza. It’s worth noting the slices:

  • Study
  • Small groups
  • Preaching
  • Praise
  • Counselling
  • Mutual Care
  • Discipling
  • Evangelism
  • World mission
  • Training
  • Self-discipleship
  • Leadership

Sprinkled all across the whole pizza – every slice – are olives. They may not be to everyone’s taste on a literal pizza, but in this leadership model, the Acts 6 ministries of prayer and ministry of the word are to permeate everything.

Leadership then is ‘corporate application’: it is bringing the word of God to bear in all facets of the life of the church: its formal organisation, its family dynamics, and its future intentions. One chapter is given over to a practical illustration of what this approach would look like in addressing a pastoral issue and the final chapter concludes with the exhortation to ‘preach the word’ but to remember that its application needs to be bigger than the pulpit (think of those pizza slices).

If you are looking for something to guide you step-by-step through how to discern a vision, how to apply Belbin to your ministry leadership team, or how to find tools that will help you to communicate more effectively, or strategies for managing change, The Gift may not quite be the book you are looking for. It doesn’t aim to answer all those questions. In many ways it is more fundamental than that and that is why you will benefit from reading it! As I said at the start of this review, it will provide you with an opportunity to recalibrate your ministry and remind you how the Lord of the Church has equipped you to do what you do.



For more on the book, you can watch out for a podcast conversation with Chris in the second half of the month, after the book has launched.

Meantime, for those of you on Facebook, you can join the book launch team (https://www.facebook.com/groups/thegiftlaunch/) and you can even join in a ZOOM session with the author on Wednesday evening (August 12).

Refreshing your leadership

Refreshing your leadership is a 6-part course intended for groups of Christian leaders. It’s been designed primarily for church or ministry leaders and aims to give leaders the opportunity to grow in their leadership by reflecting on their own leadership journey, on the task of leadership, and what it means to lead as a follower of Jesus.

Download a copy of the brochure for more information, and feel free to contact me if you’re interested in running the course.

The Five Phases of Leadership

Another of my summer reads has been Justyn Terry’s book (published by Langham earlier this year) on the five phases of leadership. The author is Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and has previously served as a parish minister and the head of a theological seminary in the US.

The basic premise of the book is simple but very helpful: a leadership assignment can be considered as consisting of five phases: establishing trust, cultivating leaders, discerning vision, implementing plans, and transitioning out. While there is likely to be a logical and chronological flow between each of the five, it’s best to think of them as phases rather than stages, as there may well be overlap between some of them.

The chapter on the foundational task of establishing trust is a chapter on the character of the leader. Obviously the subject of a leader’s character could be approached from a number of different perspectives: here, the author uses Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit – the fruit are by no means limited to leaders, but they are explored here with a leader-perspective.

While ‘developing trust never ends’ and therefore phase one remains relevant throughout a leadership assignment, there are other things a leader must do: cultivating other leaders is one of them. The author dips in to his own experience to illustrate the kinds of leaders that might need to be developed and also includes a helpful short section on ways we might identify potential leaders, summing them up with five ‘i’s: integrity, initiatives, influence, intuition, and intelligence.

Next, leaders need to discern vision: what does it mean to clarify the future of your church or organisation? ‘How would you describe it in five- or ten-years’ time if it fulfilled its God-given potential?’ The chapter discusses vision, purpose, and core values. I wondered in reading this chapter if what is presented is more relevant to existing organisations than to new ventures: part of the counsel is to explore the past with a view to discerning a trajectory for the future.

The fourth chapter is by far the longest and most ambitious in the book (it is twice as long as the next-longest). There are a lot of nuts and bolts to work through – all very useful and helpful to leaders who want to do a better job of implementing the plans that arise from their discernment of vision. For example there is wise advice on communication and on the use of time across a church’s year. I wonder if the chapter might have been written differently, with some of the detail (like finance management) covered in a short series of appendices.

Finally, the book discusses transition: when is it time for the leader to move on? Leaders leave too soon or, conversely, hold on too long – especially if Howard Gardner is right in his claim that ‘sooner or later, nearly all leaders outreach themselves and end up undermining their causes’!

Justyn Terry has served us well with this overview of the phases of a leadership assignment: each of the five chapters has something to say to leaders wishing to lead well, regardless of whether they find themselves in phase one or phase five.

The book is available to purchase from Langham.

**Justyn will be joining me on next week’s Leadership Journey Podcast to discuss the contents of his book.

Ambition: What Jesus Said about Power, Success and Counting Stuff

Summer can provide extra time and opportunities for reading and over the past few weeks I have been working my way through a few newish books around themes of Christian Leadership. One of these is Ambition: What Jesus Said about Power, Success and Counting Stuff , by Emma Ineson, Anglican Bishop of Penrith and previously Principal of Trinity College in Bristol.

The book’s chapters basically form a series of thought-provoking and helpful theological reflections around the theme of ambition, particularly as it relates to Christian leaders.

As Christians, how should we think of ‘success‘? Does failure actually have a part to play in success? Would we be better talking in terms of excellence (even if that has pitfalls of its own)?

What about ambition (the title of the book)? Is it OK for a Christian to be ambitious? Perhaps the answer to that is ‘it depends’! The author suggests that leaders need not to be afraid of ambition, but must pay more attention to character, learn to be accountable (‘The more ambitious you are, the more you will need others alongside you’), and develop a keen sense of theological reflection.

Then there is a chapter on counting (Goodhart’s law on measures and targets would have fitted well here). Counting can be useful (it helps us to know where we are) when done for the right reasons, but there are various wrong reasons for counting, not least the temptation to validate our existence by numbers).

Not too far from counting is the trap of comparison, and this too gets a chapter in which we get to meet the ‘approval monster’ (‘those with a high aptitude for performance have an interior approval monster who is very, very greedy’) and note some ways he might be tamed.

The final two chapters take a slightly different direction in that they focus less on traps related to ambition and more on positive leadership characteristics. First, we are encouraged to reflect on what it means to lead in the image of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are ambassadors of our King; we take our place in ‘the cross-shaped gap and mediate between what is and what could be’; and we lead with the vision that is inspired in us by the Holy Spirit who points us forward to the completion of the Kingdom.

The final chapter is a reflection on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, reading them as ‘key spiritual dispositions’.

Overall it’s a very good read, not only for the thought-provoking way it tosses up important questions for leaders, but also as a model of good theological reflection.