Bill Hull‘s new book, The Christian Leader, which came out at the end of May, is remarkable. In it, he makes the case that Christians have become infatuated with and even addicted to secular leadership principles in the church. We crave pragmatic measures to judge spiritual depth, church success, and ministry fruitfulness. More remarkably, he argues that returning to the leadership style that Jesus implemented will not only change how we view ministry, but will strengthen the primary output of Jesus’ Church: making disciples who will make disciple-makers. I had the pleasure to write the foreword for Bill’s book, which you can read here. If you can get your hands on a copy of The Christian Leader, please do—and then apply what you learn from it to your life.
“My life changed forever on November 22, 1999. An 18-wheeler rear-ended me at 65 miles an hour on the high-rise bridge in New Orleans, LA. My Ford Mustang plowed into the guard rail, dislodging my seat from the hinges as my seatbelt locked. My body torqued, injuring two discs in my back and two in my neck.
After getting x-rays, the doctor said, “Mr. Gallaty, it’s a miracle that you’re not hurt worse than you are,” and then sent me home with four prescriptions: Oxycontin, Valium, Soma, and Percocet. I was twenty-two years old and had never taken drugs before. I took them every four to six hours for pain and, in three months, had become addicted to pharmaceutical drugs. I didn’t want it to happen, but it happened. I realized that my thirty-day supply was lasting me only two weeks, so I was desperate for another avenue for staying high. Two friends approached me with a way to fuel my habit. I took my business knowledge from the world and started a drug import business. I was trafficking in the city– GHB, Special-K, heroine, cocaine, and marijuana. Times were good for a while by the world’s standard. For a season, at least.
Suddenly, my friend Rick died of a heroine overdose in 2000, and it kicked off a troubling time. From 2000 to 2003, I lost not one or two, but eight close friends to drugs and alcohol related deaths. Six others went to jail. My addiction overwhelmed me. I needed to spend $180 a day to fuel my heroine and cocaine addiction.
After two unsuccessful stints in rehab, I remembered what a friend from college shared about Christ in my dorm room 7 years before. In my room, not in a church or revival service, I admitted that I had a problem and cried out for help on November 12, 2002. Like anyone who has been saved from heinous sin, my life has never been the same.
The reason for my two failed rehabilitation treatments is a result of attempting to recover separate from the liberating power of Jesus. The first two times I did it without Him. Sadly, many Christians attempt to live apart from the model of Jesus and the empowerment of His Spirit. We can’t expect to have the ministry of Jesus and divorce ourselves from the method that He used.
The first step of rehabilitation is awareness there is a problem. Many leaders today are unaware of the blind spots in their lives and ministries—precisely why they are called blind spots. If we could see them, we’d fix them. Like a cancer growing quietly in our bodies, leadership pitfalls will eventually sabotage even the best leaders.
No one sets out to be a narcissist. Most do not specifically intend to be a dictator. Few want to selfishly gain at the expense of crippling others. However, we have all seen men and women end up far from where they began.
If everything rises and falls on leadership, we must determine what makes a good leader. Is it eloquence of speech? Is it striking looks or a charming personality? Is it genetic skills from birth? Is it receiving an MBA from Harvard? Unfortunately, you can possess all the above qualities and still stink as a leader.
Leaders, by definition, have people following them. Without followers, you are just taking a long walk alone. Furthermore, good leaders are learners. The fact that you purchased this book proves a desire for growth. Every disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a learner, and the moment you stop learning you stop leading.
The person who typified leadership was Jesus. Jesus was unquestionably the greatest leader to ever walk on planet earth. What made Him a great leader? Was it because people followed Him or because He spoke with authority? Was it because He possessed surpassing knowledge and wisdom or was it that He extended compassion for those around Him? I believe it’s all these and more. Through careful biblical investigation, Bill identifies and applies Jesus’ leadership development strategy for distributing the greatest message of redemption that the world has even known through twelve men after He departed. Next, he dispels the leadership myths that entice so many young and seasoned leaders. Finally, Bill establishes a biblical standard for effective leadership unlike what is being taught in many universities and business schools today.
True Christian leaders, as Bill rightly points out, celebrate sacrifice, seek humility, and endure hardship—not as a spiritual badge of honor of separation from the pack, but as a natural way of life for anyone willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ daily. While the concepts in the book are radical in today’s culture, they were normative in the first and second centuries.
What makes Bill’s book different from every other leadership book on the store shelves, smartphones, or tablets today is that he doesn’t just explain how to act like Christ. He explores how to be in Christ. Our identity in Christ, who we are, motivates us to serve Christ, what we do. As Jonathan Edwards proposed in his classic work Religious Affections, when our minds attention is set upon Christ and his word, our hearts affection will follow suit. In other words, when we believe correctly our behavior will follow.
This book has been a healing balm to my own soul. The chapters on “What Makes a Leader Happy” and “Making a Dent in the World” were edifying and convicting simultaneously. The reader will find him or herself pausing to identify and address areas that need rehabilitation. Come to this book with a receptive heart and allow the Great Physician to perform a deep therapeutic work in your life.
Whenever my mind wanders to wanting more for the wrong reasons in the ministry, the words of the 19th century Scottish pastor John Brown come to mind: “I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ at his judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.”
Little is much in the hands of our God. Jesus suggested that those who are faithful with little could be trusted with more. Let us grow where we are planted and watch God produce a harvest.”
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