There can be seasons in a church leader’s life when reading leadership books is a bad idea. If one’s devotional life is weak, Christian worldview is not firm, or compassion for people is waning, then church leaders should flee from leadership books.
However, if devotional life and Christian worldview are solid and accompanied by a growing love for people, church leaders can benefit from reading leadership books. Here are three reasons why:
1. To learn from outsiders
Yes, we can learn from others, even those who write from a worldview that is not distinctly Christian. The most classic leadership development story in the Bible is when Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) confronts Moses for being an unwise leader who is failing to delegate. Jethro was a priest of Midian, meaning he was not a Hebrew but an outsider, and Moses listened to him because the counsel was wise (Exodus 18).
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable about a wicked and shrewd manager who, in a savvy way, ensures that people will welcome him into their homes when he is no longer employed. Jesus affirms his shrewdness, not his wickedness, to challenge believers to be more shrewd with eternal matters than the wicked are with temporary ones. Jesus says, “For the sons of this age are more astute than the sons of light in dealing with their own people” (Luke 16:8). There are some things we can learn from the sons of this age. Reading is a great way you can learn an outsider’s perspective.
2. To grow mentally
Reading leadership books can help sharpen your mind. John Wesley believed this so strongly that he told young ministers to “read or get out of the ministry.” Of Wesley, A.W. Tozer wrote, “He read science and history with a book propped against his saddle pommel as he rode from one engagement to another.” Meaning, Wesley did not only read books that were distinctly Christian. Oswald Sanders, in his classic work Spiritual Leadership, devotes a chapter to the subject of “The Leader & Reading” and insists that “the leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually will be constantly reading.”
If you value your development, then reading is essential. Many have said that you will be the same person in several years except for the people you meet and the books that you read. Books can help develop you. It is a great leadership blunder not to use them wisely.
3. To understand culture
When a pastor reads leadership books, the pastor is stepping into the world of the leaders in the congregation. The pastor gets a view of the language, values, and priorities that are discussed in staff meetings and around leadership tables in the city where the church is located.
Reading leadership books can help you understand the everyday culture of the people whom you serve. With a better view of the culture, you are better prepared to apply the Word to their specific issues, concerns, and challenges.