Lead Like It Matters: 7 Leadership Principles for a Church That Lasts

by Craig Groeschel, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Books, 2022.

Nelson Silva, DMin, serves as the associate director for youth and young adult ministries for the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, United States.

Craig Groeschel, an entrepreneur, church planter, and best-selling author, revised his 2008 church-leadership book to bring a current perspective to timeless principles responsible for his success in church planting and growth.

Using relational language sprinkled with many personal illustrations and good humor, Craig intrigues his readers with a simple pronoun displayed in the title as well as throughout the book: “it.” A ministry—and therefore, a leader—either has “it” or not. “It” is easier to describe than to define. Unfortunately, a ministry that has “it” can lose “it.” Fortunately, a ministry that loses “it” or does not have “it” can get “it.” More importantly, constant dependence on God causes a ministry to have “it.” Yet, there is more to “it.”

“It” is a group of tried-and-tested principles that fuel ministry and create momentum: vision, divine focus, unmistakable camaraderie, innovative minds, willingness to fall short, hearts focused outward, and kingdom-mindedness. Generously inserting his ministry journey experience and seasoning it with biblical quotes, Craig brings a strong foundation to his perspective.

This is undoubtedly a book written from a practitioner’s perspective for other like-minded leaders. Craig met Christ in college through a Gideon Bible. Soon, his raw passion for the Lord compelled him to invite other peers to simply read the Bible, which transitioned into a church plant in a garage. As an impulsive young naïf, Craig made many mistakes that “are hard to share in print.” However, it is this very vulnerability that makes this book a must-read for church planters, pastors, and lay leaders. It is light on quotes from other authors and filled with countless illustrations, which makes the reading enjoyable, engaging, and motivational.

Some readers may dismiss this book as pop Christianity and not relevant for small congregations. Some may consider Craig’s unique gifts, context, and other factors to be more directly related to his leadership success than the principles he outlines in this book. Despite possible objections, most readers would agree that successful church planting and sustainable church growth are possible only through the power of God. Therefore, beautiful buildings, cool environments, and the right technology are not what really makes the difference, as Craig successfully argues. To have “it” means, therefore, that God is in control and the leader is leading change through vision and innovation while being transparent in the community.

Craig uses simple, contemporary language to express church lingo to model an outward-
looking church (mission). Furthermore, the author ends every chapter with a series of introspective questions. They are meant for group discussions, to stimulate conversations with the core church leadership, therefore, bringing each principle outlined in the book into the open. In this way, the team can wrestle with the simple questions: Do we have “it”? If we do not have “it,” how can we get “it”?

This is certainly an inspirational book for any pastor seeking to refocus his or her ministry. “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, what the world needs are dreamers that do” (90).

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Nelson Silva, DMin, serves as the associate director for youth and young adult ministries for the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, United States.

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