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Book review: Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development

Michael G. Coleman

 

Christian leadership development and discipleship are two integral components of the mission of the church that have received significant attention from practitioners and scholars in recent years. Within the last three decades several authors (e.g., Bill Hull, Michael Foss, Randy Pope) have elaborated on important aspects of Jesus’s method of discipleship and leadership that had earlier been highlighted in Robert Coleman’s seminal work, The Master Plan of Evangelism (1963).

In Designed to Lead, Geiger and Peck build on this body of research by emphasizing two main ideas: (1) it is crucially important for the church to develop leaders that can serve in all spheres of life, both in religious and secular domains, and (2) discipleship is essentially God’s chosen method for leadership development; therefore, our strategy and philosophy of equipping Christian leaders should not be divorced from discipleship.

Geiger and Peck passionately contend that the church has been designed by God to develop leaders who can be deployed to benefit humanity in all spheres of life—in the home, church, community, business, and government. Accordingly, they state, “Because a local church exists to serve her community, to bless the world, to be a light to the nations, then the leaders developed in each local church are developed for much more than each local church” (7).

The book presents an argument that suggests that the church should be the best place for leadership development. The notion that the church is the best place to train leaders for the world is a revolutionary thought that can have enormous missional impact when concretely implemented. The church, in its modern and postmodern existences, has been accustomed to training missionaries to evangelize the world; however, the concept and practice of intentionally equipping leaders to serve the world in secular capacities has not been given the kind of bold attention that is presented in this book.

In this regard, the authors have articulated a subtle and audacious approach to strategic leadership that is simultaneously advancing the mission of the church while altruistically benefitting secular society. The authors substantiate their argument by highlighting theological evidence indicating that leadership development is inextricably connected to discipleship and that the local church is uniquely designed to develop the best kind of leaders. What is refreshing is Geiger and Peck’s emphasis on the local church developing leaders to serve in secular domains and the way they highlight the unique capabilities of the church to accomplish this mission.

For example, they suggest that one quality that makes the church unique is the influence of the Holy Spirit. Leadership can be facilitated in various institutions of the world, but the church offers Spirit-led leadership, which is far more effective than what the world can offer. In the authors’ view, Spirit-led leadership is the best kind of leadership because it seeks to fulfill the values of God’s kingdom. Geiger and Peck also observe that in most secular organizations, leaders work with paid employees who can be motivated by monetary compensation or be terminated; however, leaders in the local church must, of necessity, work with volunteers and, as such, the leaders are forced to develop a variety of skills to successfully motivate and lead the volunteers.

The authors do not presume that once pastors and churches understand the importance of leadership development they will automatically implement a strategy to develop leaders. Their experience and research indicate that, by and large, leadership development is not being implemented in a systematic way in most churches, even in cases where the pastor believes it should be a priority. Hence, there needs to be more than a conviction concerning the importance of leadership development, there needs to be a culture whose experiential beliefs and values are conducive to mentoring leaders, followed by a construct that outlines various levels of competencies and the pathway to reach them. This solution sees the main responsibility of the pastors as that of equipping the congregation for ministry rather than the members relying on their pastor and paid professionals to perform ministry for them.

This book is certainly worthy of perusal and contemplation. The strengths of the book are that it provides a compelling case for viewing the local church as a unique center for developing and discipling leaders that can serve in both secular and religious domains, and that it proffers a pragmatic discussion on the importance of creating a transforming culture and viable constructs for equipping leaders in the church. Thus, for its passionate appeal to implement a biblically based, missional, and civic-minded leadership development strategy in the local church and for its clear and practical approach to achieving this goal, I give this book high recommendations.

—Michael G. Coleman, MDiv, MA, a pastor in New York for 26 years, is completing a doctor of ministry degree in organizational leadership at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

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