Bill Hybels, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008). $18.99, 224 pages.

Twenty years ago, I attended Willow Creek Church for the first time. My first impression wasn’t positive. The church was large, the campus sprawling, and the service a performance. Bill Hybels’ message that day – if memory serves – lasted about 45 minutes. As a college senior about to embark on a career in ministry, I thought to myself, “If this is the future of church, God help us all.”

Ten years later, I attended my first Leadership Summit with my senior pastor and another colleague. This time, I was bowled over by the content of the seminars, the quality of the music and dramas, and the depth of hard-won wisdom that lay behind Bill Hybels’ 75-minute presentation. I thought to myself, “This is the future of leadership.”

Willow Creek hadn’t changed. I had. My experience in local-church ministry showed me the value of what that church was doing. I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of Willow’s methodology, but I’ve stopped pretending that I know how to lead people better than Bill Hybels.

Axiom is Bill Hybels’ distillation of 30+ years of learning about leadership in proverb form. It is a gem that belongs on the shelf of anyone who leads, especially if they are ministers leading churches. I say especially, not only, because while Bill Hybels leads a church, the proverbs in this book have a much wider application.

The book contains 76 chapters divided into four categories: vision and strategy, teamwork and communication, activity and assessment, and personal integrity. The title of each chapter is a proverb. The chapters themselves are short. Each one includes real-life examples that helped Hybels formulate the leadership proverb. My favorite chapters were Language Matters; An Owner or a Hireling; Never Say Someone’s No for Them; Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team; Umbrella of Mercy; The Bias toward Action; Find the Critic’s Kernel of Truth; Never Beat the Sheep; Obi-Wan Kenobi Isn’t for Hire; Always Take the High Road; and Excellence Honors God and Inspires People.

As I wrote above, I don’t agree with everything in Willow Creek’s seeker-sensitive methodology. But Bill Hybels is a leader, and Axiom deserves a wide reading by church leaders.


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