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on July 8, 2001
I make it a habit to read several books on leadership or ministry skills every year. This is the best one I have ever read on the former subject.
J. Oswald Sanders left us with a true spiritual classic on what it means to embody the Biblical qualities of true godliness. I found this to be a very FULL book, with incredible insights packed into short epigrammatic sentences which are pregnant with meaning. It demands to be re-read.
Spiritual issues are examined from several different angles as Sanders unfolds the Biblical criterion for leaders chapter by chapter. It seemed to me like the book gets better and better as it goes. The two chapters dealing with "Qualities Essential to Leadership" (discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, humility, integrity/sincerity, humor, anger, patience, friendship, tact/diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, the therapy of listening, and the art of letter writing - quite an interesting list!) are worth their weight in gold.
Several chapters that immediately attacted my attention were "The Leader and His Praying," "The Leader and His Time," and "The Leader and His Reading" - all three instructive and inspiring. Other beneficial chapters deal with the fullness of the Spirit, the cost of leadership, delegation, tests of true leadership, replacement and reproduction of leaders, and perils of the leader (a powerful chapter with a dynamic little section called "Prophet or Leader?").
Get this book and devour it - especially those of you who are pastors, elders, teachers, and deacons. Any one involved in roles of spiritual leadership should read this book.
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on January 16, 2006
Godly leadership is more than being the most qualified to lead. Leaders in Christian ministry must understand and practice servanthood as taught by Jesus. Sanders compares the characteristics of "natural" leadership to spiritual leadership. In "natural" leadership, the emphasis is on power- specifically the ability to get subordinates to do things "they don't want to do" and forcing people to act (27). Spiritual leadership is "influencing others spiritually" (28). Spiritual leaders must not only possess leadership skills, but be ready and prepared to fight a spiritual battle (53). Sanders reminds readers that "God prepares leaders with a specific place and task in mind" (51). Even though many Christians are not called to a full-time ministry, all Christians are leaders since they influence people (109). Sanders insists on a leadership model in which leadership is "from the top down"-"never" from the "bottom up" (113). This philosophy is consistent with his other statement, "no cross, no leadership" (116). His description of spiritual leadership seems bleak by "natural" standards: a leader "lives with loneliness" (117), "fatigue is the price of leadership" (119), and "no leader lives a day without criticism" (119). Sanders' leadership model is very biblical in that it reflects the principle of leadership under God's guidance-" Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The LORD your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you" (Deu. 31:6 NLT). Leadership "from the top down" starts with God at the top. God is the Lord over creation, man, and the Sabbath and all is consecrated to Him. Ezekiel 37:23-24 explains, "They will truly be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and keep my laws." In the same way, leaders should think of themselves as a vessel that is accountable to God.

Review by M. Teresa Trascritti
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on April 18, 2005
Over half a million copies of this book have been sold over the past thirty-seven years, and many ministers and Church leaders have made it their touchstone for ministry. An Updated Edition has been published by Moody Press - modernising the text, and enlarging the format. However, while the book has much to recommend it, it represents an outlook which is unlikely to find universal accord among Church leaders.

Sanders introduces the subject of spiritual leadership with a quote from 1 Timothy 3:1 (NEB). "To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition." It is a telling choice of translation, and sets the tone for all that is to come. By way of comparison, a Greek transliteration puts it as follows: "If anyone aspires to oversight, he desires a good work." Since "ambition" is a word which describes personal motivation, Sanders thus throws the focus back onto the leader. The transliteration, on the other hand, refers to "a work" (Gk. ergos), which is task-oriented. Far from being a question of semantics, this defines the content of the entire book. Sanders focuses heavily on personal character, influence, and motivation, rather than on the task at hand, or on the empowerment of God. In keeping with this, when he deals at length with "essential qualities of leadership", he chooses qualities of character, rather than what one might call core spiritual qualities, such as trust in God, or an understanding of the Holy Spirit's anointing. The consequences of this are a heavy obligation on self - "God, harden me against myself" - and the book is characterised by demanding "the utmost" of oneself.

This approach does find a rapport in many Churches. The book is required reading in a number of Bible seminaries and Churches. It contains a treasure trove of quotations and insights from well known leaders - and by and large it forms a rounded summary of the qualities of a spiritual leader. However, it needs to be read with the understanding that it lacks a spiritual dimension that many would consider crucial to survival in spiritual leadership.
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on August 14, 1999
I was recommended this book by one of my spiritual mentors who trains young adults for ministering to young people.
Sanders offers straightforward and practical teaching on leadership in the church.
Especially appealing to me were the chapters on prayer, time, and reading.
There is also helpful advice on delegating authority and reproducing leaders through mentorship and personal training.
The study guide is very helpful for use in leadership training courses for your church.
Chuck Colson says that this is the best book on Christian leadership he's read.
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on March 27, 2010
I was extremely disappointed to learn that this 2007 edition was so significantly edited by Moody.

The preface says it all. "Our purpose was to revise Spiritual Leadership for Christians living in the twenty-first century ... Perhaps Sanders meant his references to 'man', to 'men', to 'him' and to 'his' to mean all people without respect to gender. It was common in his era to use masculine pronouns as a generic reference to everybody. But perhaps he did not." The editors also made other changes to the point while reading the text one must wonder the original intent of the author.

I exchanged my copy for the 1994 edition which is the classic that Sanders actually wrote in the 1960's.
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on November 24, 2009
Right up front, I have to admit that J. Oswald Sanders had a difficult job with me in that I admittedly have a generally negative opinion of leadership books in general. In various employment and educational situations, I have been required to read a variety of books written by leadership gurus (ranging from Tony Robbins to John Maxwell) and have found the whole `leadership book' idea to be inherently kitschy and shallow; almost the entire genre is composed of creative re-packaging of ideas that either seem complete common sense (i.e. don't yell at employees) or involve making up words and phrases (i.e. "Synergistic Visionization"). Admittedly, I went at 'Spiritual Leadership' with low expectations but was both surprised and dismayed by what I encountered.

On the positive front, I was impressed at how Sanders seemed to focus quite a bit on aspects of leadership that are often missing from other, more popular treatments on the subject. Sanders incorporated biblical concepts of leadership and biblical theology, articulating how leadership involves suffering, recognizing God's sovereignty, has a spiritual component of power and empowerment, involves spiritual qualifications, is built upon the principle of servanthood, etc. Being a book written for a Christian audience on the subject of leadership, it was not surprising to see theology and biblical references included in the process of argumentation but it was refreshingly up front and consistently incorporated throughout the book, not something tagged onto the book to make it marketable to a religiously slanted audience. Far too often, `Christian' books on leadership have a whole lot of `leadership' and very little `Christian'.

More specifically, Sanders seemed to spend a large amount of time focusing on the moral characteristics of leadership. The majority of the book talked about what a leader should be as opposed to what a leader should do. Many books on leadership, including many books written for a Christian audience, do not sufficiently address the foundational character of leaders in a general sense. Sanders laid a strong foundation for an understanding of leadership that was rooted in principle and moral characteristics.

On the weak front, I found Sanders that Sander's argumentation for his various positions was often shoddy and not compelling. I was dismayed at how Sanders seemed to flippantly base some of his arguments on quotations of famous or obscure persons and others on scripture. To me, testimonial arguments carry little weight compared with the solid interpretation and application of scripture. An example of this would be in his eighth and ninth chapters where he lists essential qualities of leadership. Of his sixteen essential qualities, six of the ten are not built on any scripture at all. One can find famous people in history who say things that are both amazingly wise and laughably ignorant, and sound-byte quotations are no replacement for solid, biblical exegesis and argumentation. If one wants to persuade a reader, one must build a case on a solid foundation; for the Christian reader that should be biblical exegesis and application.

Sanders seemed to be somewhat inventive in finding scripture to support his positions as well. An example of this is on page 119 where he uses Mark 5:30 to make the point that the demands of leadership involve "the expenditure of nervous energy and personal power". Now whether or not the principle is true, Mark 5:30 is in no way a commentary on fatigue in leadership. To say that Sanders stretches some of his scripture references is generous indeed. If 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (among many other passages) is true and the scripture is all-sufficient, Sanders should put a little more serious work into his scriptural support.

All in all, the book is good and the principles inside are mostly decent. It reminded me of many essential character issues that I need improvement in, and it reminded me of the many facets of leadership that I often forget. I wouldn't recommend the book as an example of biblical exegesis, but if you're reading 'Leadership' books, you're likely not caring much about that anyway. I would recommend the book for someone who's wanting a little more biblical depth than your average John Maxwell "you go get 'em champ!" tirade, but isn't really bothered about examining an author's exegesis (or lack thereof).
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on November 30, 2004
Mr Oswald is a powerful voice on leadership. His principles and teaching is clear and to the point. In this day and age, we can not afford to have any fluff in our reading. This book is highly recommended...And not just for one time read and back on your shelf. This book should be read over and over again. As a avid reader the section on... The Leader and Reading was on target for me. For example, Oswald ask this question... Why Read... and he provides five reasons why. These reasons are solid. Another thing he suggest is this, " Today the practice of reading spiritual classics is on the wane. We have more leisure time today than ever before in history, but many people claim to have no time for reading. A spiritual leader cannot use that as an excuse." This is defintely a true statement which make us look at our own reading habits.

Invest in this book, because this is one you should not pass up. Spiritual Leadership will encourage you to place your talents and powers at the Lord's disposal so you can become a leader used for His glory.

Another Great Read with Principles

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on July 30, 2000
Oswald Sanders was a missionary in Far East Asia, and field director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship for many years. This book, Spiritual Leadership, is one in a series of three on serious discipleship. The other two are Spiritual Discipleship, and Spiritual Maturity. Chuck Colson called Spiritual Leadership the best book on Christian leadership that he has read.
For Christians who have been demoralized by the shallow and superfluous popular "fluff" that abounds on the topic of discipleship, this series will come as cool water in a desert. Sanders deals with the brutal struggles in discipleship, and makes it clear there is no spiritual growth without a price. If we are not willing to pay the price--we will not grow towards maturity. As Oswald Sanders said during a series on dispcipleship at Gull Lake Bible Conference, "There are spiritual Christians, and there are unspiritual Christians. And most are unspiritual."
This kind of brutal language needs to be revived, in an age in which most Americans confuse Christian discipleship with self-help or self-optimization. In reality, the gate is still narrow, and the path hard, which leads to life (Matthew 7:14).
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on November 16, 2004
Spiritual Leadership focuses more on introspection and being a leader than on how to get things done. It is divided into 22 chapters, and it isn't a long book. Each chapter covers one aspect of what a leader should be, including relevant scriptures and examples from the lives of more modern spiritual leaders. Each section is packed with info and it is better to read each separately and study it. Just reading the book straight through is not likely to result in you getting as much information.

As I said above, the emphasis here is on being a leader. The first chapter is a discussion on ambition and why one might want to be a leader. The introspective and God centered view runs through the book. Even in dealing with leading a group the emphasis is on keeping an open prayer relationship with God and on aspects of how to do that. Every chapter is based on scripture.

I recommend this book to christians only, since the entire basis for what Sanders is saying is biblical. This is a book you will want to refer back to periodically so it is better to buy than borrow. Read the first chapter on amazon to see if the book will be helpful to you.
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2004
I have just endured the challenge of reading this volume as part of a men's discipleship group at my church. And when I say "challenge", I mean just that! This is a short but very pithy analysis of those qualities that are indispensible for a Christian to exercise spiritual leadership in a successful and dynamic way.

As a low-level lay leader in my church who is reasonably certain (if such a thing is possible) that God has bigger plans in store for me, I was deeply convicted as this book laid out in very simple terms what it takes to make it as a leader in God's kingdom. Obviously first and foremost is the need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, without which we cannot possibly hope to achieve anything of eternal significance.

That's only the beginning, though. Attributes like tact, diligence, vision and decisiveness are just a few of the many leadership traits that are explored one by one. With each new segment, the reader is forced to ask himself three questions: 1. Do I possess this quality? 2. Is my exercise of this quality empowered by the Spirit of God? 3. Am I exercising this quality for God's glory or my own? Step by step, the layers of the reader's character are peeled away and examined, and the motives of his heart are laid bare. Throughout this process, though, the author's intent is not to discourage, but to help the reader understand the sheer weight and seriousness of the task, and to exhort him to change and develop those areas that are deficient. I, for one, came to realize just how cavalier my attitudes were -- very convicting indeed! Probably the most penetrating statement, however, was the reminder that a spiritual leader must pay a heavy personal cost to lead, and that cost only grows as the level of leadership increases.

The book is laid out in a series of twenty two concise but weighty chapters, most of which are conducive to a separate meditation if the reader is so inclined. The author makes liberal use of illustrations and quotations from both the religious and secular spheres to show that these qualities carry over into all areas of life. I particularly like the quote (I forget to whom it was attributed) which said "It seems to me the best test of effective leadership is to see if anyone is following." Statements like that will either deepen your resolve to rise to God's leadership challenge, or else will make you reconsider whether you're suited to the task at all. Excellent book!!!
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