Heart, Mind, and Strength: Theory and Practice for Congregational Leadership
By Jeffrey D. Jones
(The Alban Institute) $18.15
Churches need strong and courageous leadership — people with vision and the ability to realize the congregational mission. But what exactly does that mean in today’s increasingly secular and consumer-driven world?
Ministry position descriptions often abound with congregational demands, easily turning a 40-hour workweek into 50-plus hours. But do we leave enough time for the minister to try something new, to empower the people to hear God’s call and purpose? In a practical way, Jeffrey D. Jones’s book invites us to deal with that question.
The author of several books, Jones is a Baptist pastor and the director of distance learning at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. His experience helps him to explain persuasively the need for renewal in church leadership.
He parses out his topic over several chapters, including “The Who and What of Leadership”; “Attending to Self”; “Modeling Faithfulness”; “Discerning Vision”; Empowering Others”; and “Dealing with Institutional Stress and Conflict.”
Jones includes many theories from secular leadership gurus, adding theological perspectives where needed. Combining both sources strikes a nice balance and illustrates that the church needs to draw from biblical as well as outside sources.
What I value most about Heart, Mind, and Strength is the focus on the essentials of leadership. For example, Jones shows how congregations will reflect their leadership (making me think about the old adage, “We are what we eat”). Trust is a big part of being a church leader. So are self-care and spiritual nurture.
He suggests that the clergy’s role is not to give answers but to encourage people to share what they think. Clergy need to teach people to think theologically — to understand how their faith informs their life and to articulate that. What is God asking of them? How is God supporting them?
Jones also illustrates how a different approach to leadership can, for example, allow conflict to have a new and important place in congregational life. It is a natural part of the system and can be healthy.
The major challenge of the church today is not the ongoing decline (the absence of young people, empty pews, financial woes, etc.). It is a preoccupation with loss and a narrow view of good congregational leadership.
While motivating readers, Jones raises an urgent topic. Without appropriate leadership for solid Christian formation, our sacramental nature as a Reformed church will be further weakened. If the leadership question is not addressed fully, it will continue to keep the church locked up, dragged down in bureaucracy and, most importantly, detached from the free-flowing Holy Spirit of the risen Jesus.
Rev. Daniel A. Hansen is minister of Zion-Mt. Zion Pastoral Charge in Pembroke, Ont. He lives in Renfrew, Ont.
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