Courageous Leadership is one of the best books I have every read on Pastoral Leadership. Bill Hybels gives some very practical instruction and inspiration about pastoral leadership on a variety of important leadership areas. The twelve areas covered in the book vary from vision casting, team building, raising money, self development both as a leader and a pastor, and sustaining leadership for the long haul. Hybels passion for the local church is clearly expressed throughout the book. He says, “the local church is the hope of the world”. Because the church is the hope of the world, the pastor needs to be a strong leader, who develops a well thought out vision and a team built on character, competency and chemistry, who can carry out the vision in a sustainable fashion.
A vision is the most powerful weapon of a leader. Without a vision a leader is powerless to attract followers. Nothing is more important to the church than a leader who can articulate a God honoring, Kingdom producing vision. Hybels says, “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.”(32) This picture of the future must be so clear and compelling to the leader that it fuels great passion within the leader to live it, breath it, communicate it privately and publicly. A leader who feels the vision as well as sees the vision will be contagious to the church. A compelling vision will lift the morale of a church and create the momentum necessary for the local church to accomplish the vision. Hybels says that vision “creates energy that moves people into action”.(46) It also creates ownership and focus within the church. It cannot just be a temporary plan that seems to change every time a new idea comes along. A compelling vision will help the church stay focused on the main thing and the vision will out live the leader.
Moving the vision to action is never easy. A leader must not only communicate the vision with passion and excellence, but the leader must also develop a strategic plan of action. When I became pastor of Crossroads church seven years ago, the leadership shared with me some of their dreams and visions for the future. It was clear to me and to them what the picture of the future looked like. It had been talked about for over ten years, but nobody took any action. Hybels says the greatest tragedy is for a kingdom honoring vision to be communicated and then for the church to do nothing. (66) The church desperately needs vision, but it also needs leaders who have a get it done kind of attitude and resolve. Recently I met with the men’s ministry leader for lunch and he shared with me his frustration. He has a group of seven men on the leadership council. They have develop a vision for men’s ministry and a plan to execute the vision. His frustration is that nothing is happening. Every month they get together as a leadership team and talk about what needs to be done and then they do nothing. Leaders who want to lead, but they do not want to work are not real leaders. Hybels is so right - we need GET-IT-DONE LEADERSHIP!
Leaders must build a team of leaders in order to carry out a vision strategically. Hybels uses the “three Cs” in selecting people for the leadership team; character, competence, and chemistry. This selection criteria is an excellent method of recruiting people for the leadership team. The leadership team must be made up of people with very high character first foremost. Hybels stresses and I totally agree, that character must be the highest criteria in any selection process. Once the character threshold is met, then search for the highest quality of competence that the leader can possibly find in the specific area of leadership. If the leader is looking for a music pastor, then after the character criteria is met, search for the best possible music leader you can find. But, it is important to remember not to compromise on character to gain competence.(83) This will usually come back to hurt the church in the long run. The last criteria is chemistry. Teams must work together to carry out the mission and vision of the church. A leader must take into consideration how this new leader will work within the leadership team as a whole. Chemistry will allow ministry to be fun and create an atmosphere at work that is enjoyable for all.(85) Hybels points out that the selection process should begin within the church before looking outside the church. Some of the best leaders are home grown. Home grown leaders already have tremendous buy into the vision of the church and the culture the church.
The greatest challenge for any leader will be to raise the resources to carry out the vision. Hybels describes the reality of raising the resources necessary to build an Acts 2 church. He says, “my romance with the notion of building an Acts 2 church had blinded me to the harsh realities of funding one.”(93) Raising money to fund the ministry and move the church out of a maintenance mode and into a growth mode is difficult. If a leader is not able to cast vision effectively and motivate people to take ownership of the vision for themselves, then resources will not follow vision. I have always said throughout the years, that churches do not have money problems they have vision problems or people problems. Hybels lays out three foundational truths that lay the foundation for a leader to be successful as a CRR (Chief Resource Raiser).
- Resource Truth #1: God is the ultimate resource supplier! People are the conduits, but God is the supplier.
- Resource Truth #2: Under the right circumstances, people love to give. CRR need to start from this truth, because a leaders natural fear will be the opposite.
- Resource Truth #3: Funding Ministry proves the character of a leader like no other challenge. “Nothing tests the mettle of church leaders and members more than the resource challenge.”(104)
The CRR must educate the church about stewardship. Hybels recommends and I agree from experience that the CRR needs to preach and teach on this subject every year. Leaders must not be afraid to talk about money and challenge people to see their resources as God’s resource to build His Kingdom! Information about the financial condition of the church should be communicated regularly. Needs of the church should be communicated as well as full financial accountability to the church body done at least annually. Lastly, Hybels has some excellent wisdom about pastoral and staff compensation. Paid staff should be paid as well as possible, but they should be required to perform. Regular performance reviews are essential for all personal who are paid. This is a primary responsibility of the Lead Pastor or Executive Pastor.
In order for a church to live up to its redemptive potential, leaders must constantly be develop. Every leader has been mentored and develop through a variety of ways. The primary way a leader develops is through the investment of another leader. Pastoral leaders need to be constantly looking for emerging leaders within the church. Hybels says that leaders need to look for four qualities in potential leaders; Influence, Character, People Skills, and Drive. These four qualities will be the primary attributes of potential leaders. Once a person is identified with these qualities, then an intentional plan must be implemented within the church to develop these new leaders. Leader must invest in these people through education, one on one time, and asking them to join them in ministry. As a relationship is develop, emerging leaders are given opportunities to be responsible for ministry with supervision and encouragement. This process takes time, but it will allow the church a wealth of strong people to step into ministry as new opportunities are available or positions of leadership are open because of promotions or people leaving the church. A strong bench (using a sports analogy) must be developed in the church.
The second half of the book is primarily about personal development as a leader. Leaders must be very careful to take care of themselves. It is the responsibility of the leader to care for his/her own soul, personal relationships (especially with spouse and children), and leadership development. Leaders must always know their limits. They should not be afraid to say no and take time off for family, personal growth, and recreation. Hybels uses entire chapter in the end of the book to talk about Sacred Pathways, which is a book by Gary Thomas. Spiritual development is not the real emphasis of this book, but I believe that Hybels is pointing to a good resource by talking about this book. If a pastor is going to endure for the long haul in ministry, the pastor will have to take care of themselves through the spiritual disciplines. In order for the Pastor to continue to be the visionary leader and model of God’s presence, then the pastor will have to be careful not to burn out.
As I began this book review, I stated that this is one of the best books on pastoral leadership I have every read. I would highly recommend it to any pastoral leader. Hybels is a gift from God for the church at large. He is a great example for some many leaders today and he has the heart of God. It is absolutely clear, that his agenda is God’s agenda and he really believes that the Church is the HOPE of the world!