The Soul of a Team | Book Review


“What separates the truly great teams from the mediocre ones?” asks Tony Dungy in The Soul of a Team. His answer is “four simple yet highly effective principles — selflessness, ownership, unity, and larger purpose.” The principles form a memorable acronym: S.O.U.L.

Here’s how Dungy defines the principles:

  • Selflessness: Putting individual needs aside for the good of the team.
  • Ownership: Fulfilling your role by learning it thoroughly and by consistently giving 100 percent.
  • Unity: Understanding and rallying around your team’s mission, philosophy, and culture through open communication and positive conflict resolution.
  • Larger Purpose: Contributing to the wider community in a lasting and significant way.

Selflessness, ownership, and unity constitute the what of teamwork, but larger purpose constitutes the why. Teams often find that defining their larger purpose is a difficult task, but once they have done so, writes Dungy, that purpose “guides their decision-making, shapes their relationships, and influences their conduct,” as well as gives a team “a vibrancy and sense of worth it wouldn’t otherwise have.”

To illustrate the S.O.U.L. principles, Dungy narrates the turnaround of a fictional football team, the Orlando Vipers, in desperate need of a winning season. The principles themselves are transferable to any endeavor that requires teamwork, however, including ministry. Throughout the book, Dungy’s leadership advice is rooted in his Christian faith.

The Soul of Leadership is written in the vein of Patrick Lencioni’s “leadership fables.” If you like the format of Lencioni’s books — tell a story, then explain its meaning — you may like this one too.

Book Reviewed
Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker, The Soul of a Team: A Modern-Day Fable for Winning Teamwork (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 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.

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Is Your Church Disability Friendly? | Influence Podcast


The Americans with Disability Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” How many Americans suffer from a disability? Estimates range from 13 percentof the U.S. populace to 20 percent. That’s between 40 and 60 million persons.

My guest on Episode 165 of the Influence Podcast is Charlie Chivers, founder and CEO of Special Touch Ministry, a non-profit faith-based organization, committed to serving people with intellectual or physical disabilities, their families and caregivers. Special Touch is interdenominational in scope, but Charlie is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and a missionary with AG U.S. Missions. We’re going to talk about how to make your church disability friendly.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influencemagazine and your host. My conversation with Charlie is coming up after a brief word from our sponsor.

Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders | Book Review


Aubrey Malphurs believes that emotional immaturity dooms ministry teams to failure. The purpose of Developing Emotionally Mature Leadersis to raise their “emotional intelligence” and thus contribute to their effectiveness. Toward that end, he proposes a “model” of emotionally intelligence that takes into account four skills: “emotional self-awareness, emotional self-management, understanding others’ emotions, and others’ emotional management.” This Biblically grounded, scientifically informed book is a good reminder that “how you feel impacts how you lead, and how followers feel when around and led by you affects how well they will follow your leadership.”

Book Reviewed
Aubrey Malphurs, Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders: How Emotional Intelligence Can Transform Your Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018).

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

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

Extraordinary Women of Christian History | Book Review


“One Half of the World does not know how the Other Half lives,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. That is certainly true of church history, the standard volumes of which are dominated by accounts of the thoughts and deeds of men. Ruth A. Tucker’s Extraordinary Women of Christian History tells readers about the “Other Half” of Christendom by means of biographical snippets of famous Christian women.

Tucker has served as a professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Calvin Theological Seminary. She is best-known for her biographical approach to both the history of Christian missions in From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya and of church history more generally in Parade of Faith. In 1986, she and Walter L. Liefeld coauthored Daughters of the Church, which is a systematic account of “Women and ministry from New Testament times to the present,” in the words of the book’s subtitle.

Like Daughters of the Church, Extraordinary Women arranges its material chronologically. Chapter 1 begins with the apocryphal, but nonetheless influential, Thecla, erstwhile missionary compassion of the apostle Paul. Chapter 14 ends with Helen Roseveare, missionary doctor to the Congo in a time of civil war. Along the way, readers peak into the lives of women, both Catholic and Protestant, some married but others not, who professed the Christian faith with their thoughts, lives, and deeds.

From the outset, Tucker confesses that her accounts of these women’s lives will be anything but hagiographical. Analogizing her choice of subjects to “the tastiest candy from this sampler box of chocolates,” she notes that “in many cases [i.e., other writes’ accounts of these women’s lives] the candy is too sweet for the palate—sugarcoated heroines.” Tucker’s accounts are anything but sugarcoated. Indeed, if anything, they tend toward bitter chocolate. She writes, “I was struck by how many failed marriages and failed ministries had become added ingredients of this volume” (x). At times, this non-sugarcoated approach becomes too much, as if the failures outweighed the successes, at least to my mind.

Regardless, I appreciate Tucker’s reminder: “These women are anything but the super-saints of pious heroine tales. They are real people, and they are like us” (x). There is hope in that statement. God can make a beautiful thing out of the crooked timber of humanity.

One final takeaway as a male reader—or rather, a question. The women Tucker portrays advanced the kingdom of God despite opposition, especially the opposition that arose because so many of them labored against the grain of traditional gender roles and expectations. Ironically, the Protestant Reformation made the leadership of women even more difficult. “Protestants disdained monasticism,” Tucker writes, “which incidentally had been the primary path to ministry for women” (53). One can feel the sting of that opposition to women’s contributions in the complaint of nineteenth-century preacher and social reformer Phoebe Palmer:

We believe that hundreds of conscientious, sensitive Christian women have actually suffered more under the slowly crucifying process to which they have been subjected by men who bear the Christian name than many a martyr has endured in passing through the flames (148).

Interestingly, Palmer countered this “crucifying process” with a long, rigorous defense of women’s preaching ministry in a book whose title alludes to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2—Promise of the Father.

The question(s), then, that rises from reading Extraordinary Women of Christian History is this: If the Spirit has been poured out upon “all people,” both “sons and daughters” (Acts 2:17, cf. Joel 2:28), why do so many churches continue to erect barriers to the full involvement of women in all of their ministries? Would not the work of the kingdom advance more steadily if its daughters were not unduly hindered? The women whose lives Tucker sketches did much. One cannot help but wonder whether they could have done much more, had they worked without hindrance from within the church.

Book Reviewed
Ruth A. Tucker, Extraordinary Women of Christian History: What We Can Learn from Their Struggles and Triumphs (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016).

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

How to Reach and Retain Youth in Your Church | Influence Podcast


In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Josh Wellborn about what churches can do to reach and retain young people. His vision can be summarized in two words: relationship and discipleship. Take a listen!

Leadership Lessons of the Apostle Paul | Influence Podcast


In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Ryan Lokkesmoe about leadership lessons we can learn from the New Testament church. Lokkesmoe is lead pastor of Real Hope Community Church in Houston, Texas. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Denver, and he is author, most recently, of Paul and His Team, published in 2017 by Moody.

Here’s my review of his book:

Ryan Lokkesmoe is the lead pastor of Real Hope Community Church in Houston, and has a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. In Paul and His Team:What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence, he brings his pastoral and academic experiences into fruitful dialogue about what the apostle Paul teaches concerning influencing others for the sake of the gospel.

“Many leadership books address the mechanics of leadership and primarily focus on what and how questions,” Lokkesmoe writes. “This book will be more concerned with who and why questions. Who are we as influencers, and why do we lead the way we do?”

Among the leadership traits of Paul and his team that stand out most are these: (1) “Their singular focus was Christ.” (2) “They treated others as equals.” (3) “They were agents of reconciliation.”

Paul and His Team is a good reminder that “our leadership within the church should always have that distinctive tone and posture when compared to any other leadership context.”

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

Three Dimensions of Prayer | Influence Podcast


In Episode 122 of the Influence Podcast, I talk with my mentor and friend James Bradford about the personal, pastoral, and congregational dimensions of prayer. Take a listen!