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.

Don Draper Cool: a deformed version of masuclinity

Yesterday I wrote a post called “His Face Never Changes” in which I called attention to the male tendency to mask our weaknesses by maintaining a calm, cool demeanor.  “Never let ’em see you sweat” is the facade that many men use to gain social capital with other men.   Unfortunately many Christian perspectives on masculinity do not make a break from this fleshly commitment.  The current Christian emphasis does not work toward, or even allow, a ‘gospel vulnerability’ that learns to find strength in weakness (click here to see what I mean).  Instead most Christian teaching joins right in, accentuating a kind of “John Wayne/Don Draper” approach to Christianity.  Don’t cry.  Don’t admit weakness. Don’t admit failure.  Never let ’em see you sweat.  Get stuff done for the kingdom.  Sadly, this works for a while.  It is very appealing.  It sounds good:  Let’s go kick some butt for Jesus.  But, in the end, this emphasis unwittingly legitimates masculine anger, pride, and arrogance.  It also affirms shame and guilt as a proper motivational tool.   Currently, I feel that this perspective is causing a lot of damage to churches, families, and to the cause of the gospel.  There is much fire, but very little heat.

We simply can’t address a “secular” brand of pride, anger, and masculine arrogance by replacing it with a “Christian-ized” brand of pride, anger, and masculine arrogance.  That is not the gospel.  And it is not masculinity.  It’s a deformed version of masculinity.  We Christian men desperately need to recover Jesus’ gospel emphasis on strength that is gained through weakness.  “Blessed are the poor…” (Matthew 5:1-12);  “If any man wishes to gain his life, he must lose it…” (Matthew 16:25);  “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:6-10).”

One helpful book that I have read this past year has been very helpful along these lines – “Leading with a Limp” by Dan Allendar.  Dr. Allendar points out that “God’s criteria for choosing leaders runs counter to conventional wisdom.  Our culture equates strength with effectiveness, but God favors leaders who know the value of brokenness.  They’re not preoccupied with protecting their image, they are undaunted by chaos and complexity, they are ready to risk failure in moving an organization from what is to what should be. God chooses leaders who aren’t deceived by the myths of power and control, but who realize that God’s power is found in brokenness.”

Although this is a book specifically geared toward “leadership” it has given me invaluable help in developing gospel perspectives in my own personal walk with Christ as well as informing my ministry to men.  In the meantime, I pray that the Spirit of Christ will correct the current Christian emphasis of overt ‘anger’ fueled masculinity that is presently hindering the proper ministry of male leadership in our churches.  I also pray that we men learn how to come out from behind the fig leaf protection of “Don Draper cool” so that our shame can be healed and our hearts strengthened with the courage of gospel love and self-sacrifice.