Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry

I love reading books about leadership, trying to get better as a leader. Recently, I got Ruth Haley Barton’s latest book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. This came at the right time as I have done a lot of soul searching over the last several months as we have moved through the transition we are in the midst of at Revolution. Dealing with people’s expectations, what I believe God has called me and our community to is not an easy thing to reconcile when they seem to be in conflict. This book, several friends, my spiritual director and some alone time with God confirmed a lot of things in me and who I am.

I am at the place where I know who I am, what God has called me to as a follower of Jesus, as a pastor & what he has called Revolution to. I am also at the place where I am comfortable with what that means.

The book is based on the life of Moses. Ironically, he freed the nation of Israel from 400 years of slavery and as he transitioned them to a new way of life, they wanted to go back. He looked at them and said, “God called us to this place, it is better than where we were” but they had a hard time imagining it. The journey from Egypt to the promised land should have taken 11 days, but because of what God needed to teach the nation of Israel, it took 40 years.

This book deals with the calling of a leader, living within limits, knowing who you are, the loneliness of leadership and how to do community as a leader. This is one of those books that I read at the right moment in my life. This book as it chronicled Moses’ life, over and over again I thought, “That just happened to me, that is going on right now.”

Usually I list what jumped out, which I’ll do, but I highlighted more in this book than I left blank, but here are a few things:

  • Many leaders preach solitude better than they practice it.
  • What lies beneath the surface really matters.
  • Solitude is the place of our own conversion. In solitude we stop believing our own press. We discover that we are not as good as we thought but we are also more than we thought.
  • God’s call on our life is so tightly woven into the fabric of our being, so core to who we are, that to ignore it or to refuse it would be to jeopradize our well-being. If we were to try to compromise or to live it only halfway, we’d run the risk of plunging into emptiness and meaninglessness.
  • “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” – Henri Nouwen
  • We are not human beings trying to become spiritual but spiritual beings trying to become human.
  • When people start to fix blame on the leader for all that is going wrong, the loneliness and disillusionment can be blinding. And yet this is one of the predictable patterns we encounter in leadership.
  • “Self-differentiated leadership always triggers sabotage which is a systemic part of leadership – so much so that a leader can never assume success merely because he or she had brought about change. It is only after having first brought about change and then subsequently endured the resultant sabotage that the leader can feel truly successful. When the sabotage comes, this is the moment when the leader is most likely to experience a failure of nerve and seek a quick fix.” – Edwin Friedman
  • Any leader who cannot endure profound levels of loneliness will not last long.
  • This kind of lonliness – being in a position where we must take total responsibility for ourselves and for what God is calling us to do not matter what others are doing – is an absolute truth of leadership.
  • It is easier to belong to a group than to belong to God.
  • What needs to die in me in order for the will of God to come forth in and among us?

Below is the author discussing the book:

If you are a leader, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Buy this book. If you aren’t in leadership, buy this book to understand those in leadership and how best to support them and hold them up.

2 thoughts on “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry

  1. Hey there. Thanks for your great review of Ruth’s books. If you would be interested in additional review copies from IVP, please do let me know!

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