Leadershift | Book Review

“Every advance you make as a leader will require a leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead,” writes John C. Maxwell in Leadershift. He goes on to enumerate eleven specific changes, which he illustrates with stories from his own leadership journey. He also provides practical advice to help readers make necessary shifts in their own leadership practices.

Maxwell defines leadershifting as “the ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth.” Here are the specific changes he outlines:

  • focus: from soloist to conductor,
  • personal development: from goals to growth,
  • cost: from perks to price,
  • relational: from pleasing people to challenging people,
  • abundance: from maintaining to creating,
  • reproduction: from ladder climbing to ladder building,
  • communication: from directing to connecting,
  • improvement: from team uniformity to team diversity,
  • influence: from positional authority to moral authority,
  • impact: from trained leaders to transformational leaders, and
  • passion: from career to calling.

Like all of Maxwell’s books, Leadershift offers shrewd advice in simple language. Some readers may find its advice formulaic. Others, myself included, think the formulas make the advice memorable and therefore easier to act on. Having followed Maxwell’s writing for more than 25 years, I can honestly say that anyone who takes his advice to heart will improve as a leader.

Though written for a broad audience, Leadershift contains illustrations and applications directly relevant to church leaders. “If you want to be successful as a leader,” Maxwell writes, “you need to learn to become comfortable with uncertainty and make shifts continually.” His book shows how to do precisely that.


Book Reviewed
John C. Maxwell, Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.


How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

My friend Carter McDaniel reviewed this book for InfluenceMagazine.com, but I thought I’d give my two-cents’ worth too:

“Influence always outpaces authority,” writes Clay Scroggins. “And leaders who consistently leverage their authority are far less effective in the long term than leaders who leverage their influence.” Scroggins identifies four behaviors that will help readers leverage their influence: lead yourself, choose positivity, think critically and reject passivity. He also gives sage advice for challenging authority as a second-chair leader, when that becomes necessary. His bottom line advice? “Practice leading through influence when you’re not in charge. It’s the key to leading well when you are in charge.” This is an insightful book for second-chair church leaders and young ministers.

Book Reviewed
Clay Scroggins, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Dr. George O. Wood — aka, “Dad” — and I have a wide-ranging conversation on the Influence Podcast about leaving a legacy of influence in ministry. Dad is retiring as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA), and has a lot of wisdom to share about this topic, based on over 50 years of gospel ministry.
  • Dr. Joy Qualls reminds pastors that when a person comes to church, the entirety of what they experience is sending a message. “Too often, when we think about message delivery, we focus only on the pastor’s sermon,” she writes. “I want to challenge that limited notion and encourage the view that the act of moving people toward a response begins the moment they pull into your parking lot…” Joy outlines four questions to help pastors figure out what message their church is actually communicating to attendees.
  • Carter McDaniel reviews Clay Scroggins’ new book, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge (Zondervan), which released today. Carter summarizes the book’ message this way: “Great leaders lead when they are needed, regardless of their position or level of authority. And great leaders know how to lead when they are in charge because they have been leading that way long before they were in a position of authority.” After you read Carter’s review, listen to my Influence Podcast with Clay Scroggins…then buy the book. It’s really good.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Thursday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Chris Colvin helps pastors think more clearly about office hours. His bottom line? “You must give your staff — and yourself — space to be relational and permission to set their own schedules. At the same time, you need to be consistent and available.”
  • Clay Scroggins is my guest for the Influence Podcast. He is lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and author of How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, which Zondervan publishes on August 22nd. It’s an excellent book!
  • I review Thomas S. Kidd’s newest book, Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father. Here’s my concluding sentence: “By describing the religious life of Benjamin Franklin in detail over the course of his life, Thomas S. Kidd helps us better understand Franklin’s faith, which as much as American evangelicals love Franklin, was not our own.”

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘Strong and Weak’ by Andy Crouch

Strong-and-WeakThis review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016).

“Two questions haunt every human life and every human community,” writes Andy Crouch. “The first: What are we meant to be? The second: Why are we so far from what we’re meant to be?” (emphasis in original). Strong and Weak offers an answer to that question which focuses on “the paradox of flourishing,” the necessity of pursuing “greater authority and greater vulnerability at the same time” (emphasis in original).

Crouch defines authority as “the capacity for meaningful action” and vulnerability as “exposure to meaningful risk.” Most people—including many Christians—view authority and vulnerability in either/or terms. To the degree that we exercise authority, we insulate ourselves from meaningful risk. To the degree that we experience vulnerability, we lack capacity to take meaningful action. Given the choice between being a millionaire and a homeless person, who in their right mind would choose the latter?

This choice is a false one, however. Without vulnerability, authority becomes exploitative. Indeed, Crouch argues that “the real root of the problem,” the answer to the question of why we are so far from what we’re meant to be, is “the quest for authority without vulnerability.” Without authority, on the other hand, the capacity for meaningful action, vulnerability reduces simply to suffering. The real choice we face is whether to withdraw from lives of meaningful action and risk or to embrace them both. Authority and vulnerability together lead to flourishing, “the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

“No human being ever embodied flourishing more than Jesus of Nazareth,” Crouch writes. “And precisely for this reason, no other life brings the paradox of flourishing so clear into focus.” Christ “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8–9, emphasis added). Whether in Christ’s life or in ours, flourishing = authority + vulnerability.

Why did Christ live in such a way? For the sake of others, and this fact has a special application for Christian leaders. “Leadership begins the moment you are more concerned about others’ flourishing than you are about your own.” After all, even Christ refused to “consider [His] equality with God something to be used to his own advantage,” choosing instead to make himself “nothing,” taking on “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6–7).

Crouch goes on to note that Christlike leadership carries two burdens: “If we want to be agents of transformation in the world, we must be willing to bear the burden of visible authority with hidden vulnerability.” A leader’s visible authority is what everyone sees, but hidden vulnerability means “to bear the risks that only you can see.” Christ’s visible authority was heard in His teaching and seen in His miracles. His hidden vulnerability, borne by himself alone throughout His public ministry, was His foreordained march to the Cross. Crouch notes the challenge of simultaneously exhibiting visible authority while bearing hidden vulnerability: “This will expose us to the temptation to become idols or tyrants ourselves—and yet without learning to bear hidden vulnerability, we will never truly be able to serve the flourishing of others.” Instead, we will use our manifest vulnerabilities to garner sympathy and manipulate allegiance.

Strong and Weak is a small book—approximately 175 pages. But for me, it packed a large punch, almost with the force of a revelation. As a Christian and as a leader, I try so hard to insulate myself, my family, and those around me from risk, all the while enlarging the scope of my effective action and theirs. Far from contributing to my flourishing, however—or theirs—this effort makes it impossible to grow spiritually or to minister effectively. To do either, we must like Jesus descend from privilege into pain, for only by accepting meaningful risk can we also develop capacity for effective action. To borrow’s Paul’s phrase, when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). And only then.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Jesus Christ, Now! (Revelation 1:17–20)

Have you ever wondered what Jesus Christ is doing at the present moment? His resurrection and ascension into heaven occurred 2,000 years ago, after all. What is he up to now?

Revelation 1:12–20 answers that question. It describes Jesus Christ in glory, standing in the midst of his churches. We have already seen that verses 12–16 are theology not portraiture, and we must make a similar judgment about verses 17–20, which are figurative rather than literal. You should get comfortable with the figurative language, by the way; the Apocalypse is full of it.

How do we know when John’s language is literal and when it is figurative? Well, we must remember that John is simply reporting what he saw. In verses 12–20, John saw Jesus “in the midst of the lampstands,” with “seven stars” in his right hand and “a sharp two-edged sword” protruding from his mouth. So, John is literally reporting what he saw.

But in prophetic visions, what is seen and what is meant by it are not necessarily the same thing. Certainly not here! Jesus Christ himself says to John, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The vision is thus a “mystery” to be explained. On some occasions, John explains the meaning of what he saw (e.g., 17:3, 9–12). On others, he does not. Consequently, we must exercise due diligence as we read Revelation and not assign a literal interpretation to what John meant to be taken figuratively, nor vice versa.

So, what does the figurative language of verses 12–20 mean? It means that Jesus Christ is present with his churches, exercising authority over them through his word, and giving them more than sufficient power to escape the trials and temptations of the present age. Do you see this? Let me help you.

First, Jesus Christ is present with us, his churches. This is the obvious point of him standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, which are the seven churches, as we have already seen. Why portray the churches as lampstands? Because the lampstand was an implement in the tabernacle and later the temple (Ex. 25:31–37, 1 Kgs. 7:49) and thus holy to God, as is the church. And because Jesus Christ calls his church to be a light to the world (Matt. 5:14–16).

Second, he is exercising authority over us through his word. This seems to be the meaning of the two-edged sword that protrudes from his mouth. Elsewhere in the New Testament, such a sword is identified with the Bible (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). In the letters he dictates to the seven churches (Rev. 2–3), Jesus Christ applies that word to concrete issues facing each church.

Third, he is giving us sufficient power to escape trials and temptations. John describes Jesus holding “seven stars” in his “right hand,” the hand of power, authority, and security. These stars are interpreted as “the angels of the seven churches,” but this interpretation is difficult. Is the angel the church’s guardian angel? Its pastor or leader? Its prevailing spirit? All three interpretations have been argued by the commentators. It seems to me that however one interprets the angels, what Jesus is holding is us–his churches. The letters to the seven angels (chapters 2–3), though addressed to the angel of the church, are in reality intended for the church as a whole, as the grammar and overall context make clear.

John’s vision and its meaning both are comforting, for Jesus Christ has not left us alone in a world that is alternately hostile and indifferent (Matt. 28:20). No! He is with us, right now!

Do you sense his presence? Does your life show it?

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