Published by Rachel Noel on 15th September 2016

In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God, by Mike Bonem. Reviewed by Roger Matthews

In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God, by Mike Bonem.

Jossey-Bass, 2012, 268pp, ISBN 978-0-470-94742-5. £16.99

Purchase here

Reviewed by Roger Matthews

in-pursuit-of-great-and-godly-leadershipOver the years that I have been teaching leadership concepts and skills to clergy and church leaders, one the most frequent questions concerns the extent to which it is appropriate to use business thinking in the church. Surely the church is not a business; our focus is on mission not profit; we are a community centred on Jesus not a company under a CEO; we are called to be priests not directors. Well yes, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn from the worlds of academia and business.

What is needed is the ability to discern the truth and wisdom that is currently incarnated in a “worldly” context that can be applied with confidence in local churches. This work requires both the ability to uncover the best evidence-based insights from the business world and the ability to engage in theological reflection and biblical study.

Mike Bonem has the background and experience to do this. He has a Harvard MBA, business experience and more recently has been a local church leader and consultant. You may already know him as the co-author of Leading from the Second Chair. Like that book, this one also needs some translation from its US context but that is not too difficult as his principles and values are clear. In his introduction, Bonem sets out these convictions:

  • The Bible provides the core foundation, but not all the answers, on how to be an effective leader
  • Secular leadership principles are not inherently evil or contrary to Scripture
  • Unwillingness to use solid business principles can limit a church’s potential
  • Overreliance on business principles can also limit a church’s potential
  • We have a tremendous stewardship responsibility and leadership opportunity
  • The space in which we lead offers few easy answers.

He invites us on a journey of ‘risk and learning’ which includes refreshing reminders from our own scriptural tradition as well as reference to some of the key business and academic researchers of recent times, including such names as Buckingham, Collins, Friedman, Heifetz, Hybels, Katzenbach, Kotter, Kouzes & Posner, and Lencioni.

This is not the last word on leadership, but it provides a great starting point and I will be recommending the book as background reading for many of the courses I teach. However, it is not just useful for church leaders. I hope it will also be useful for the many business and civic leaders in our congregations who have felt spiritually under-resourced for their work. Not only can the church be helped with wisdom from the marketplace but the marketplace can also be enriched with wisdom from the church. Bonem helps us to break down the un-Godly divide between the secular and the sacred – and might just help us all make a ‘Great and Godly’ difference wherever we are called to serve.

Revd Canon Dr Roger Matthews is the Dean of Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Chelmsford, a trustee and teacher for The Leadership Institute, and teaches on the St Mellitus College MA in Christian Leadership.

This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 24 in October 2013.

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