I regret allowing this book to get pushed aside for too long. I try to read everything John R. W. Stott writes. His unusual ability to expound upon the Scriptures, blending an understanding of the original and the contemporary, plus knowing how to bring God’s Word to us in a fresh and applicable manner, makes him one that embodies the very topic of this volume, Christian leadership.
One thing I appreciate about Stott is his balance, clarity, and his ability to apply God’s Word. He believes that one of the problems among those who are “Christian leaders” is that the world’s model seems to be favored at the expense of biblical teaching. More often, Christian leaders have bought into the “secular” models at the expense of not considering what the Scripture says about leadership. Of course we can, by God’s common grace, learn many things from the world, but not at the expense of ignoring his special revelation in the Scriptures.
Basic Christian Leadership approaches the topic from the perspective of the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians. As Stott points out early on, both Christians and non-Christians share the concept of leadership but they do not necessarily mean the same thing. In Corinth, a strategic city of Paul’s day, a religious center, a trade center, and a manufacturing city, Paul both taught and demonstrated the kind of leadership that we need today. The church itself was fragmented, not so much by a diversity of doctrines or principles, but by personalities. Some were saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” and others “I follow Christ.”
In five chapters plus a conclusion, Stott opens up this epistle to us who are living in a world that worships power and control in so many ways. He examines the tendency and temptations to lead like the Gentiles do, lusting for power and control. Christian leaders must have another focus and objective. For example: Paul underscores the importance of humility in the life of a Christian leader. Humility and power are antithetical. For the Christian, the antinomy is that power comes through weakness. As he deals with both the message and the method of communicating the truth, Stott underscores how that applies to leadership as well.
This statement summarizes what Stott believes to be Paul’s focus:
“The Christian leaders needed in the world and the church today are those who have seen the Lamb on the throne and are determined to follow him wherever he goes (Rev. 4:4); they know that God’s power will be exhibited not in displays of power but in their weakness.”
Therefore he concludes our leadership must not be conditioned by the culture but by Christ whom we represent and serve.
He ends with a great quote from the Scottish minister James Stalker who talked about “falling in love with his congregation.” The reference was to the difference loving his people made in his leadership. Stalker said, “loving my people made it easy to do anything for my people.”
This would be a good study for a group of leaders in the church to bring into focus the biblical essentials relating to leadership. Stott has produced another valuable book for us that will be a blessing, especially if you are or are contemplating a leadership role today.