Book Review | LEAD

LEAD by Paul David Tripp is one of the most helpful books I’ve read in a while. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to read it nice and slow. Tripp breaks the book into 12 different areas identifying gospel principles for leadership in the church. I found it very helpful to just focus on one principle at a time in order to really marinate my heart and mind in those thoughts. This book is one that I quickly added to my “read every year or so” list.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below for my own benefit. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this great work for yourself!

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be your life hermeneutic, that is, the means by which you understand and make sense of life.  pg. 12               
  • I want to invite you to examine with me a passage that lays down a gospel foundation for all relationships in the church, from the average person in the pew to the most influential, culture, and mission-setting leaders. Let me say, before we look at this passage, that no organizational or achievement-oriented leadership model should overwhelm the values and call of the gospel as the core structural and functional model and identity for local church and Christian ministry leaders. As I have reflected upon this passage, my mind has gone to the thousands and thousands of pastors, ministry leaders, elder boards, and deacon boards around the world, and I have wondered if the community norms of this passage are their normal experience as leaders. The passage comes in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1–3) p. 23         
  1. Humility means that each leader’s relationship to other leaders is characterized by an acknowledgment that he deserves none of the recognition, power, or influence that his position affords him. p. 24
  2. Dependency means living, as a leader, as if I really do believe that my walk with God is a community project.  p. 25           
  3. Prepared Spontaneity: If you acknowledge the presence and the seducing and deceiving power of remaining sin, you will also acknowledge that everyone in your leadership community is still susceptible to temptation and is still at risk.  p. 25        
  4. Inspection means that we invite people to step over the normal boundaries of leadership relationships to look into our lives to help us see things that we would not see on our own. p. 26        
  5. Protection                
  6. Restoration One of the most beautiful, hopeful, and encouraging gospel themes that courses its way through Scripture is the theme of fresh starts and new beginnings. Fresh starts and new beginnings are a hallmark of the rescuing, forgiving, restoring, and transforming power of God’s grace.  p. 28      
  • Grace means we are not held to our worst moment or cursed by our worst decision. Grace means out of the ashes of sin, leaders can rise because the Savior has resurrection power. p. 28         
  • Do our leadership communities function with a gospel-driven, restoration mentality? p. 29               

Achievement: A ministry community’s time that is controlled by the business of the church is spiritually unhealthy. p. 32      

  • Every leader leads while being in desperate personal need of the full resources of God’s grace. p. 33               
  • Human beings are achievers, meant to build and rebuild, to grow and expand, to uproot and to plant, to tear down and to build, to dream and to achieve dreams. But every ambition and every achievement must bow to the lordship and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. p. 34   
  • Gospel-oriented achievement is a beautiful thing, but the desire to achieve becomes dangerous when it rises to rule the hearts of the leadership community. p. 37                
  1. Achievement becomes dangerous when it dominates the leadership community.   p. 37             
  2. Achievement becomes dangerous when it controls our definition of leaders.  p. 38              
  3. Achievement becomes dangerous when it forms our view of success and failure. p. 40               
    True failure is always a character issue. It is rooted in laziness, pride, lack of discipline, self-excusing, failure to plan well, lack of joy in labor, and failure to persevere during hardship. Failure is not first a matter of results; failure is always first a matter of the heart. It’s failure when I have not invested my God-given time, energy, and gifts in the work God has called me to do. Ministry laziness and unfaithfulness are failure. p. 40               
  4. Achievement becomes dangerous when it silences honest leader communication.  p. 41              
  5. Achievement becomes dangerous when it causes leaders to view disciples as consumers.  p. 42             
  6. Achievement becomes dangerous when it tempts us to see people as obstacles.  p. 44              
  7. Achievement becomes dangerous when it causes leaders to take credit for what they never could have produced on their own. p. 45                 If you take credit as a leader instead of assigning credit to the one who sent you and who alone produces fruit out of your labors, you will praise less, pray less, and plan more. Leadership communities are in trouble when they assign more power to their planning than to their prayer. p. 45                
  8. Achievement is dangerous when it becomes the principal lens of leader self-evaluation. p. 47              
  9. Achievement becomes dangerous when it tempts us to replace prayer with planning.  p. 48              
  • A catalog of ministry achievements should make us even more prayerful, because we want to honor the one who has given success to our work, we want to continue to acknowledge that we cannot do what we’ve been called to do without enabling grace, and we need protection from the temptations that success brings. How esteemed are times of leadership prayer in your community? How often do you go away for a day or a weekend just to pray together? Have ministry experience and success made your community all the more dependent on the Lord? Do you have extended times of worship together? Do you at times meet for the sole purpose of “counting your blessings”? Does success produce worship of God in your community or self-congratulation? In your leadership community is planning central and prayer peripheral? Is your leadership community a thankful, humble, and needy praying community?  p. 48              

Gospel: To minister to God’s people in grace, leaders need to nurture grace in one another’s lives. p. 51

  • If you have given yourself to building people, you have accepted the call to suffer for the sake of the gospel. p. 53              

A Leadership Community Formed by the Gospel

  • A Gospel Community Is Nurturing   p. 54              
    • Would your leaders say that yours is a community that has nurtured their growth in grace and therefore their gospel productivity?  p. 57               
  • A Gospel Community Is Honest p. 57                
    • I need to work in a leadership community that is characterized by forgiveness and fervent prayer so that I can confess the weariness, wandering, and unfaithfulness of my heart to those who will take me to where help can be found. p. 58               
  • A Gospel Community Is Humble p. 59                
  • A Gospel Community Is Forgiving p. 63                
  • A Gospel Community Is Encouraging p. 66                
  • A Gospel Community Is Protective p. 67                
    • Does your leadership community function as a protective community, giving one another sight where sight is needed, thereby protecting leaders from the deceitfulness of sin? A Gospel Community Is Restorative Leaders in the church lead on the front lines of spiritual warfare. There will be casualties, and therefore every ministry leadership community must be committed to the work of restoration. I will discuss this much more fully in a later chapter, but for now, consider how James ends his letter: My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20) I am afraid that in the face of the wandering, failure, or fall of a ministry leader, many of our ministry communities are much more conditioned to get rid of such a leader than to work toward his restoration. Restoration should not be confused with being soft on sin. Gospel restoration never minimizes sin. Gospel restoration never values efficiency over character. Gospel restoration never compromises in the face of position and power. Gospel restoration never puts the needs of the institution over the heart of the person. Gospel restoration never compromises God’s ordained qualifications for ministry leadership. p. 68               

Limits: Every leader is limited in their energy, time, gifts, and talents. It is important to recognize this to lead well. p. 69     

  • So I want to consider with you four areas of limits that God in his Creator wisdom has set for us and how constant recognition and humble admission of these limits help a leadership community assess its plans, assign its work, and evaluate its health. p. 73
  • Four Limits
    • You Have Limited Gifts                
      • A leadership community that humbly recognizes the limits of God-given gifts will establish a ministry culture of respectful, appreciative, and joyful cooperation.  p. 77           
    • You Have Limited Time                
      • A spiritually healthy leadership community always does its work with God-designed limits of time in view.  p. 80             
    • You Have Limited Energy p. 80               
    • You Have Limited Maturity p. 83               

Balance: Leadership must mutually recognize that balance is needed to fulfill the various callings God gives to us. p. 86

  • The Bible has a name for the balance: shalom. Shalom is everything in its right place, doing what it was meant to do, in the way God intended it to be done. Shalom was the way it was meant to be, but like a fine crystal goblet now in shards on the floor, shalom has been shattered. p. 87              

Character: A healthy leadership community understands that character is more important than anything. p. 100 

  • No leader can be left to himself.    p. 112           

War: Gospel ministry is spiritual warfare. p. 113

  • Leadership in the church of Jesus Christ is not just a battle for theological faithfulness, gospel purity, and methodological integrity; it is also always a war for the heart of every leader. Many more leaders fail because they have lost the battle for their heart than because of shifts in their theology or view of the gospel. p. 114               
  • As a leadership community, personal and corporate spiritual war must be a regular part of our ongoing conversation with one another and a central focus of our prayer together.   p. 124          
  • Our Savior is alert, possessing every tool necessary for the battle.  p. 127   

Service: Leaders are called to serve God’s people, not domineer over them. p. 128       

  • God is sovereign, and he writes your story, and because he does, he is in control of where you have been positioned in ministry and all the things you are tasked with there. p. 135               
  • If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Pet. 4:16) p. 139               

Candor: A leadership community focused on the gospel will be approachable and have the courage to love honestly. p. 145

  • A spiritually healthy leadership community is spiritually healthy when it is a safe place for struggling leaders to speak with candor and hope. p. 149

Identity: Where leadership gets their identity from is where they will lead from. p. 160               

  • Nothing good is produced in a leader who has along the way exchanged identity in Christ for some form of identity in ministry. p. 167               
  • In your position as a ministry leader, you have been called to be an ambassador of the Savior, but that leadership position cannot give you what the Savior alone is able to give.  p. 168              
  • People’s appreciation and respect won’t offer you the worth you seek, because the person who praised you today will criticize you tomorrow. p. 168

Restoration: When the gospel forms a leadership community, it will be committed to fresh starts. p. 176

  • Leader restoration is not a romantic dream of people who don’t really understand how deep and serious sin is. Restoration gets at the heart of the gospel that we have given ourselves to.  p. 179              
  • Restoration is much deeper and more foundational than doing what is necessary to quickly get a leader back into his ministry position.  p. 186               
  • My prayer is that every ministry leadership community would model the restorative heart of the Lord. Restoration never minimizes the damaging reality of sin, but while it takes sin seriously, it also believes in the power of restorative grace. It believes in God’s power to turn a heart and rebuild a life. Restoration isn’t motivated by seeing how fast we can get a leader back into the ministry saddle; it’s longing that the lapsed leader would know spiritual health of heart and life. Restoration is not about turning away from a ministry leader, even if he needs to be removed from his position and ministry duties, but turning toward him with grace that takes both sin and restoration seriously. Restoration is but another area in which we are called as leaders to take our ambassadorial calling seriously. p. 189

Longevity: There can be no longevity without a gospel community of leaders. p. 192                     

  • Every leader’s ministry is a community project. Every leader needs the ministry of other leaders in order to grow to the kind of maturity that will allow him to lead well over the long term and end well. Every leader needs leaders who will stand in his way when he is about to choose the wrong way. Every leader needs other leaders to speak truth to him when he can’t seem to speak those truths to himself. Every leader, in order to lead long and well, needs fellow leaders to help him see sin that he is too blind to see if left alone. Longevity is the fruit of spiritual maturity, and spiritual maturity is the result of longevity, and both are the fruit of gospel community.  p. 194            
  • Every leader should long to last and know that spiritual maturity is the key to lasting long. p. 196               
  • Redemption is longevity work. Redemption is legacy work. Redemption takes patience. p. 199               
  • What does a spiritually mature leadership community look like? Consider the beautiful portrait in 2 Corinthians 4:1–18. p. 200              
  • Spiritual maturity in the life and ministry of a ministry leader is about being humbled by the gospel, made courageous by the gospel, and infused with sturdy hope by the gospel. p. 203             
  • Here’s how gospel growth works: you cannot grieve what you do not see, you cannot confess what you haven’t grieved, and you can’t repent of what you haven’t confessed.  p. 204              
  1. Consideration. What do we need to see, and how can we help our fellow leaders to see it?            
  2. Confession. What thoughts, attitudes, and actions do we need to confess individually and collectively, making humble and honest confession to God and to others when needed?                
  3. Commitment. How is God calling us, individually and as a leadership community, to live out new thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions?
  4. Change. How can we ingrain these new commitments, individually and together, into our routine life and ministry as a leadership community?  p. 204-205 
  • Between the “already” of our conversion and our ministry calling and the “not yet” of our home going, God has already given every one of us everything we need to be what we’re supposed to be and to do what we’re supposed to do right here, right now. It is the generosity and surety of this gospel of grace that causes me to write with hope. I hope you have hope, too, in a way that infuses you with humility and courage for the long run. p. 205               

Presence: Church ministry is not possible without the presence of Jesus. p. 208
God will not surrender his glory to another. He is not willing that we take credit for what he alone can do. So he will lead us into those moments when we face the humiliation of our self-glory devastation. Those moments when it all comes crashing down, when sin is exposed or where ministry leadership is taken away, are not judgment but rescuing mercy. We know our judgment was borne by Jesus, so God lays us low because he loves us and is drawing us once again to himself, to live and lead once again inside the wise and loving boundaries he has set for us. p. 217

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