Leading with a Limp – a book review

Read most any book on Christian leadership and you often hear the same approach as secular leadership books.  Sure, the language is shrouded in “christianese” but the underlying emphasis is the same.  Lip service is given to “prayer, bible study, kingdom impact, and servant leadership,” but at the end of the day, the operating principles of Christian leadership are more often ego-centric and gospel denying.  For example, we might package our language this way: “For the sake of the gospel, we should develop strategies to leverage our power as Christian leaders and minimize our weaknesses.   For the sake of the gospel, we should discipline ourselves to learn to utilize our gifted-ness, realize our potential, and produce spiritual fruit.  For the sake of the gospel, we should advance the kingdom, build powerful churches, reach the lost, and overcome darkness.”

This kind of talk sounds good.  “For the sake of the gospel.”  I mean, who can argue with that?  Right?  This is big talk.  This kind of leadership talk is a heady brew that can really get the church planting blood churning and get forward thinking Christian leaders moving.  But there is a deep flaw in this perspective.  Something incredibly significant is lost in the flatulence of vainglorious leadership talk.  Namely – God’s glory.  God’s fame.  Big leadership talk often  misses the idea that all throughout history, God has displayed his glory, not by using powerful people with powerful strategies, but by using broken people.  Foolish people.  Weak people.  God has displayed his glory by using people who had very few gifts.  God has displayed his glory by doing crazing things that humble believers and unbelievers alike.  He does not use the strong.  He uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:18-31). The bible is absolutely filled with this theme.  God favors leaders who make the most of the power that comes from brokenness.  He favors those who are willing to not only repent of their weaknesses but also to repent of their strengths (Philippians 4:3-8).  God prefers leaders who know that they have nothing to offer God but a broken and contrite heart.  God uses leaders who know they are foolish and are willing to look foolish in order to see the fame of God put on display.

Yet, as I said earlier, so many books and conferences on Christian leadership leave out this crucial perspective.  And without this gospel hub informing all areas of Christian leadership development, all subsequent perspectives are deeply flawed.  Thankfully, we have a refreshing and powerful gospel alternative in  “Leading with a Limp” by Dr. Dan Allender.  I believe that every Christian leader who desires to be used of Christ should prayerfully chew on this book.  It is humbling, enriching, worshipful, and painfully honest.  My only regret is that more current Christian leaders have not taken up Allender’s theme of leading with a limp and written more on the subject.  I personally would love to see a book along these lines written specifically to men.  At any rate, “Leading with a Limp” is a wonderful book.  I highly recommend it to all Christian leaders.  Click here to order “Leading with a Limp” on Amazon.

One final note: Dr. Joe Novenson worked through “Leading with a Limp” and wrote a magnificent and detailed summary of the book.  It’s just fantastic.  You can download Novenson’s summary by clicking HERE.

4 thoughts on “Leading with a Limp – a book review

  1. As some one who has quite a severe stutter, I am appreciative of the fact that when I get called into leadership it is not because of charismatic speaking ability.

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    • That’s a great thought Mike. It is so freeing to rest in Christ’s power rather than our own. Just so you know, you’re in pretty good company. Evidently Moses also had a hard time expressing himself verbally. It seems that he, like you, felt more comfortable using a pen (keyboard?). 🙂

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  2. Have you ever read Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory? Your book review reminded me of it, and since you like Flannery O’Connor, I feel sure you would like it. It’s about a very flawed priest in a communist state, trying to minister and survive, while learning every day how great a sinner he is. he is finally brought to the point where he realizes he has nothing to offer God.

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    • Jon, I haven’t heard of that one but I looked it up on Amazon. I’m definitely going to give that a read. One Flannery short story that really resonates with the idea of Christ preferring those that limp is “Good Country People.” In that story a nihilistic young woman named Hulga/Joy is romanced by a bible salesman. Hulga has an artificial leg. At one point near the end of the story the bible salesman asks for Hulga’s leg, which shocks her. He explains that her leg is the most important feature about her. She is moved, and tenderly surrenders herself to him. He is not a country bumpkin, but her savior. The experience is described as “losing her own life and finding it again, miraculously, in his”, paralleling the words of Jesus in Mark, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” His words conquered her. She gave all of herself to him and is at peace. She dreamily imagines a wonderful future where she can “run away with him”. Hulga’s nihilistic atheism is broken, and her life suddenly contains meaning. Then she softly asks for her leg back. In typical Flannery form, this is where the tone of the story abruptly shifts from trust and innocence to panic and alarm. The Bible salesman runs away into the woods with Hulga’s leg, leaving her longing for her lover and her leg. Her self reliance is gone.

      You should check it out. It’s so good. Thanks again for recommending Greene’s book!

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