Book Review | The Marks of a Spiritual Leader

I picked up this book after a good friend, former student, and co-laborer in student ministry posted that it was her last ready of 2021…and one of the best books she read all year. I decided that it would be wise for me to make it my first book of 2022 with her ringing endorsement. John Piper’s The Marks of a Spiritual Leader is an excellent read…not surprising from Piper…but excellent because he encourages the reader to consider first their relationship with Jesus Christ and then their relationship with others. He looks at the “inner circle” as well as the “outer circle” when we consider those that God has called us to reach as leaders. At 45 pages, this book is a great read for anyone that is doing their best to live out God’s calling on their life to be a spiritual leader.

I highlighted several things and have pasted those notes below…

  • I define spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power.  p. 1               
  • The ultimate goal of all spiritual leadership is that other people might come to glorify God, that is, might so feel and think and act as to magnify the true character of God. p. 1                
  • Therefore, a spiritual leader must be a person who has strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for his good. Otherwise, he will inevitably fall into the trap of manipulating circumstances and exploiting people in order to secure for himself a happy future which he is not certain God will provide. p. 2               
  • All true spiritual leadership has its roots in desperation. Jesus commended the man who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).   p. 3             
  • The implication of this inner circle of leadership is that in order to lead you have to be out ahead of your people in Bible study and prayer. I think there will be no successful spiritual leadership without extended seasons of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. p. 4               
  • If you want to be a great leader of people, you have to get away from people at times to be with God.                
  • George Mueller is noteworthy for his great faith in the work of his orphanages. In his autobiography, he has a section entitled, “How to be Constantly Happy in the Lord.” He complains how for years he used to try to pray early in the morning and found that his mind wandered again and again. Then he made a discovery. He records it like this: The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.  p. 6              
  • Spiritual leaders have a holy discontentment with the status quo. Non-leaders have inertia that causes them to settle in and makes them very hard to move off of dead center. Leaders have a hankering to change, to move, to reach out, to grow, and to take a group or an institution to new dimensions of ministry.  p. 11              
  • Spiritual leaders are optimistic not because man is good but because God is in control. p. 12               
  • Spiritual leaders long to be free from everything that hinders their fullest delight in God and service of others. p. 14 
  • A good teacher asks himself the hardest questions, works through to answers, and then frames provocative questions for his learners to stimulate their thinking. p. 18               
  • A good teacher analyzes his subject matter into parts and sees relationships and discovers the unity of the whole. p. 18               
  • A good teacher knows the problems learners will have with his subject matter and encourages them and gets them over the humps of discouragement.   p. 18             
  • A good teacher foresees objections and thinks them through so that he can answer them intelligently.  p. 18              
  • A good teacher can put himself in the place of a variety of learners and therefore explain hard things in terms that are clear from their standpoint.  p. 19              
  • A good teacher is concrete, not abstract, specific, not general, precise, not vague, vulnerable, not evasive. p. 19          
  • A good teacher always asks, “So what?” and tries to see how discoveries shape our whole system of thought. He tries to relate discoveries to life and tries to avoid compartmentalizing. p. 19    
  • The goal of a good teacher is the transformation of all of life and thought into a Christ-honoring unity. p. 19               
  • Paul said in Colossians 4:5–6, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” And the writer of Proverbs said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). We must remember that leaders are aiming to change hearts, not just to get jobs done.  p. 19              
  • According to Joel 2:28, in the last days (in which we now live), “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” This is the positive counterpart to restlessness.  p. 22
  • Leaders can see the power of God overshadowing the problems of the future. This is a rare gift—to see the sovereign power of God in the midst of seemingly overwhelming opposition. p. 22

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