Some book reviews write themselves. Not this one. I have this holy sense that the subject matter is so important, so timely and so prophetic that I dare not mischaracterize the guts of this profound message.
Author Scott Rodin's transparency is just the warm-up. "Here is the confession: in my role as a leader, I have been mostly wrong."
Wrong? How could that be? Rodin has sterling leadership credentials: seminary president, author of five books, Christian Stewardship Association president, consultant to nonprofit ministries, and Ph.D., University of Aberdeen. He knows the leadership literature--and he knows God. He also has laser-like wisdom and courage to target the inappropriate leadership practices of Christian leaders and pastors.
In framing his discussion that Christian leaders are called to be leaders "of no reputation" (re: Henri Nouwen's call for downward, not upward mobility), Rodin writes:
"Perhaps the hardest place to decrease is in the influence and the power we hold over people and decisions. For this reason we find Christian leaders who are overly directive at best and autocratic at worst. As a result we produce churches and ministries that are rife with learned helplessness. By overestimating our worth we help our people depend on us for everything. And that dependence feeds into our need to be needed, to be the visionary, to be in control. We tell ourselves that the more we lead in this way, the more our leadership is valued and our presence desired. Of course, this is not real leadership but a counterfeit that contributes to our increase and expands our kingdom. This type of leader is an owner-leader."
The antidote to the owner-leader trap is what Rodin calls the steward leader. He skillfully contrasts the classic leadership styles (servant leadership, great man and charismatic leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, etc.) with his unique and deeply biblical insights on the concept of a steward leader.
"If I could put one Bible verse on the desk of every pastor and every Christian leader in the world, it would be this: `If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us' (1 John 1:8)."
He says that the true steward leader "must be involved in a constant process of self-evaluation and repentance." He adds, "...the greatest tool for effective steward leaders is a mirror and a group of friends to be sure they are looking into it with clarity and focus."
Rodin is amazingly refreshing. He promises no set of techniques, no course on "Twelve Steps to Becoming an Effective Steward Leader." The marching orders are pretty simple: "Obedient and joyful response--that is the only requirement of the steward leader."
Sometimes an author comes along with new insights and whack-your-head labels that open your eyes (and heart) to deeper truths--life-changing truths. Rodin does that with this book and his convicting message. When you finish the book, you'll intuitively recognize the chasm between "steward leaders" and "owner-leaders." You'll hunger to be a steward leader. You'll grieve your years as an owner-leader, but you'll rejoice in God's generous grace, with mercies new every morning.
Rodin talks about unfolding and molding. "Steward leaders seek to help people unfold the talents and character which God has gifted them." (Picture the amazing spring unfolding of a blooming flower.) On the other side, "This is in contrast to leaders who try to mold their people into shapes and sizes that best serve the organization in achieving its goals. Owner-leaders must maintain control over their people, and that includes the manipulation required to get them to do what the leader wants. The savviest owner-leaders play on the imbalance in people to their own ends."
Here's a good question for your next staff meeting: What's our people strategy? Unfolding or molding?
Rodin's immense gift to Christian leaders is clearly one of my Top-10 book picks for 2010. Warning: the first 90 pages build a formidable and important theological case. Hang in there because the remaining pages are practical, prophetic and powerful--and all the more so because of the foundation he built, not with proof texts, but with scriptures that jump off the page with new clarity.
Yikes. This review doesn't do justice to the book. Forgive me. But please read it. Even better, read it with your colleagues and look in the mirror together.
on February 17, 2016
Over the last few years, I have been hearing some good words concerning this book. As a minister, I am always looking for great leadership material, and especially material that is directed toward church leaders. Often leadership material is a revision of someone else's thoughts. Rarely do you discover a new helpful paradigm in leadership writing. This book impressed me for a few reasons. The first was that it did provide a new perspective in leading within the church. The major thought was releasing the element of control in the congregation, and placing greater trust in the Lord. This might not sound like much, but for those who lead, often the desire for control can overwhelm someone. This does not mean you sit back and do nothing, rather, you create space for God to work, and you create a better place of peace because you place your trust in God. The second reason is because of the need for being a steward leader. Too often ministers function for the applause of the people. This means that we take criticism to personally, and we take praise too personally too. The problem is that we need to lead a congregation, and for those who struggle with the applause of the people, you cannot accomplish much. Leading causes resistance, and if your ego is attached to the people's praise, good luck moving a church to growth. The third thing is that leading submission is so powerful for a leader. We must learn to submit to God in all things. This submission is putting the first things first. Often minister function in unhealthy ways. You need to focus on your spiritual growth before you can lead people. But sadly sometimes our church systems and expectations drive ministers to action, instead of to their knees. Overall, this was a great leadership book. It provided new thoughts, helpful thoughts, and needed thoughts for church leaders.
on August 11, 2010
There are literally thousands of books on Church leadership on the market. More than you can probably read. Which makes it tough for another book on Leadership to get noticed. R. Scott Rodin's book The Steward Leader, should be noticed. Don't let this book pass you by.
Writing in the same vain as Henri Houwen did in In The Name Of Jesus (Rodin quotes from this book a number of times) we are challenged about how we do leadership in the church. Too many leaders are what Rodin calls `owner-leaders', that is leaders who have a drive to succeed in the belief that they own their ministry, own their employees and own their vision. Such a leader will place value almost exclusively on what is accomplished, regardless of the consequences for those around them.
You may say that you are not that kind of leader. Really? Haven't we all fallen into this thinking? In fact, is it not, to some extent, the dominant thinking in Church leadership, if not implicitly then explicitly?
Rodin does not dismiss the notion of `results' but the question is from where does the motivation and practice for results come from and what form does it take.
Rodin says that his definition of the godly steward is:
As God's people, we are called to reflect the image of our creator God, through whole, redeemed relationships at four levels - with God, with ourself, with our neighbor and with creation - bringing glory to God and practicing in each the ongoing work of the faithful steward.
The book revolves around these four levels, or as he calls them in the book, transformations and trajectories. The focus of this book is that a steward leader nurtures his relationship with God first and foremost. That is the first priority of a leader - nurture, develop, grow and be steeped in your relationship with God, recognizing that this is not about you but about Him (God) - that it's His Church, not yours, His vision, not yours. We must let go of our reputations and our desire to be `successful'. We do not make it happen - God does. We are not building our kingdom but God's kingdom. What a steward leader does is to help cultivate people into godly people who are also godly stewards. That is the success mark. A Steward leader joyfully lives life in obedience to God. A Steward Leader knows the correct priorities of life and ministry.
Reading this book made me feel both excited and free. The insidious burdens and pressures of Christian leadership which are heaped upon ministers MUST be broken. Ministers MUST feel free to spend LARGE quantities of time in prayer, contemplation and the scriptures. Vestry's and Leadership Boards must stop seeing days spent by the minister in quiet retreat as `extra days off' or `slacking' but as a vital component of serving God in his Church. The extreme over-busyness of current leadership models are not just ungodly but they are destructive.
As a minister, read this book. The hardest part of this book will be the conflict between the freedom you will experience as you read and the realization that you MUST, MUST put it into practice, NOW.
on April 3, 2011
This book is just great! I think the first chapter and the last chapter are the best parts because the main premise of the book is great and the "big idea" chapters are more interesting then fleshing out the details. That is probably in keeping with how the author would like it, since he said it's not a "how to" book, but a "who to be" book. It's important to note that this book is about leaders, not about leadership. The emphasis is on the heart, not on what you can accomplish.
on April 12, 2010
Although not amazingly innovative (which would have taken it to a five star rating), content like this never gets old. Christian leaders need to read a book like this once a year from all sorts of different authors. I found the content compelling, convicting, and encouraging. Put this book on your wish list right now.
on October 19, 2013
This book helped me understand more clearly that every leader is a steward leader, especially since we are all servants of Jesus and stewards of all He has given us. The last chapters have a "save the earth" spin which I thought was inconsistent with the rest of the material. Overall, though, a thought provoking read.
on May 21, 2014
Scott not only challenges traditional thinking in the meaning of steward but also restructures our thinking in what it means to be a spiritual leader. This book is worth taking the time to read thoughtfully.
on March 3, 2014
This book opened my eyes to the true meaning of Christian leadership. One of the factors I learned is the difference between ownership leadership and Steward Leadership is how a person looks at "things." The bottom line is a Steward Leader sees things as belonging to God not himself/herself. While I am still consuming this book, it has caused me to reevaluate my leadership style and to take a different approach to leadership.
on June 1, 2014
An excellent book that helps the Christian focus on the most important aspect of being a leader which is loving, trusting and obeying God. This is an excellent book for all Christians, even those who don't think they are leaders.
on April 18, 2013
This book is exclusively related to Christian leadership. It makes sense when a leader is in stewardship of God's given tasks, he or she would lead in Steward Leader position. It is all about four stages of spiritual transformation of a leadership. Recommended for Christian leaders and theological students.