Gospel-Led Leadership

Books on Christian leadership abound. Many of them mimic the philosophies of ‘successful’ business men or winning managers in the dugout. But, of course, true Christian leadership is principled according to the Word of God and governed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That’s what makes the new book by Paul David Tripp, Lead, so refreshing. It is grounded in Scripture and governed by the gospel. The book is subtitled “Twelve Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church.” In his Preface the author makes it plain why the gospel of God must govern all we think and do as Christians:

I only have one thing to offer: the right-here, right-now truths of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. All I ever do with each book is put on my gospel glasses and look at another topic in the life of a believer or in the culture of the church. I have jokingly said that I have written only one book; I just retitle it every year. Because the gospel is so infinitely deep, I know I could keep digging into it for the next century and never reach the bottom. I also know that applications of the gospel to everyday life are so wide and varied that I would also never run out of new things to examine from a gospel perspective.

You see, the gospel is not just a set of historical facts. It is that, for sure. It is rooted in divine acts of intervention and substitution that if not real and historical would rob the gospel of its reliability, promise, and power. But the gospel is not just a set of historical facts; it is also a collection of present redemptive realities. Certain things are true now, and are true of every believer, because of what God historically did and is presently doing on their behalf. There is more. The gospel is a living identity for all who believe. We have become something in Christ, something that is glorious and new and filled with new potential. Good gospel theology doesn’t just define for you who God is and what he has done; it also redefines who you are as his child.

That the gospel governs how the author approaches the subject of leadership in the church shows itself plainly in the table of contents:

Introduction: Crisis

  1. Achievement
    Principle 1: A ministry community, whose time is controlled by doing the business of the church tends to be spiritually unhealthy.
  2. Gospel
    Principle 2: If your leaders are going to be tools of God’s grace, they need to be committed to nurture that grace in one another’s lives.
  3. Limits
    Principle 3: Recognizing God-ordained limits of gift, time, energy and maturity is essential to leading a ministry community well.
  4. Balance
    Principle 4: Teaching your leaders to recognize and balance the various callings in their life is a vital contribution to their success.
  5. Character
    Principle 5: A spiritually healthy leadership community acknowledges that character is more important than structure or strategies.
  6. War
    Principle 6: It is essential to understand that leadership in any gospel ministry is spiritual warfare.
  7. Servants
    Principle 7: Being called to leadership in the church is a call to a life of willing sacrifice and service.
  8. Candor
    Principle 8: A spiritually healthy leadership community is characterized by the humility of approachability and the courage of loving honesty.
  9. Identity
    Principle 9: Where your leaders look for identity will always determine how they lead.
  10. Restoration
    Principle 10: If a leadership community is formed by the gospel it will always be committed to a lifestyle of fresh starts and new beginnings.
  11. Longevity
    Principle 11: For church leaders, ministry longevity is always the result of gospel community.
  12. Presence
    Principle 12: You will only handle the inevitable weakness, failure, and sin of your leaders when you view them through the lens of the presence, power, promises, and grace of Jesus.

And that same theme of the gospel runs through his Introduction, which Tripp titles “Crisis.” Listen to this section from that chapter:

Jesus, knowing that there was both doubt and belief in the room, was about to commission this group of fearful believers to carry the gospel of resurrection life to the world. Yes, he would commission these men at this cataclysmic moment. I likely would’ve thought, They’re not ready, it’s just too soon. They need to know so much more. They need to come to a deeper understanding of what just happened. They need time to mature. But in the middle of the most amazing, confusing, and gloriously mind-bending moment in history, Jesus did not hesitate; he simply said, “Go.”

I love the words that follow because they tell us why Jesus was confident to draft these men, at that moment, for his worldwide gospel mission. He was confident not because of what was in them and what he knew they would do, but because he knew what was in himself and what he would do. So he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He was saying to these men that there was no situation, no location, or no community outside of his authority and sovereign rule. He wanted them to understand that everything in heaven and on earth was under his command. Con-sider why this was so vital for these men who desperately needed his grace in order to bring his message of grace to the nations.

I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, but the reliability of God’s promises of grace to us is only as great as the extent of his sovereignty. God can only guarantee the sure delivery of his prom-ises in the places over which he has control. I can guarantee what I promise to you in my house, because I have some authority there, but I cannot make the same promises for my neighbor’s house, over which I have no control. Jesus is saying, “As you go, you can bank on everything I have promised you because I rule every place where you will need those promises to be fulfilled.” God’s promises of grace are sure because his sovereignty is complete.

But Jesus had more to say. He then looked at this room of men, with the mixture of doubt and faith in their hearts, and said, “Be-hold, I am with you always.” These words are much deeper than Jesus saying, “I’ll be there for you.” Jesus is taking one of the names of God: “I Am.” He says, “Know that wherever you go, the I Am will be with you, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one on whom all the covenant promises rest, the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the one who is Alpha and Omega. I am the I Am, and I would never think of sending you without going with you in power, glory, wisdom, and grace.” The disciples would find all they needed for what they were being commissioned to do in the power, presence, and grace of the one sending them.

It is with the same assurance Jesus gave to the disciples that I write this book. Because of the completeness of Christ’s authority, the inescapability of his presence and the surety of his promises, we don’t have to be afraid of examining our weaknesses and failure. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace frees us from the burden of minimizing or denying reality. The gospel of his presence, power, and grace welcomes us to be the most honest community on earth. We are not cemented to our track record. We are not left to our small bag of personal resources. Because he is his best gift to us, our potential is great and change is possible. And so it is the gospel of his presence, power, and grace that gives me the courage and hope to write about a very important place where change needs to take place. May the same grace give you an open heart as you read.

I have read a few chapters into the book now and it is powerful, precisely because it is based on the gospel and is an application of the gospel. This is a review copy that I requested. If you are interested in reviewing it for the Standard Bearer, let me know and the book is yours.

Published in: on September 23, 2020 at 9:30 PM  Leave a Comment