Solomon said that “the writing of many books is endless,” and had he lived to glimpse the sheer volume of volumes on the subject of leadership that sags the shelves of pastoral libraries, he would have surely felt he’d understated the matter.
Does the Christian world really need another book on leadership? If we are talking about the kind of books crowding the aforementioned pastoral libraries, then the answer is a resounding “NO.” These books tend to endlessly tweak the notions of the nature of leadership already endemic and fully engaged in the Western Church. Church leaders read them and “step up their game” without ever really being challenged to completely change the game they are playing.
The only book on leadership that the world needs is one that points to the one Book that really matters—to inspire pulling it out for re-examination (or maybe for many, deep examination for the first time) of the Jesus-style of leadership found there. This leadership can be observed in the way both Jesus and Paul modeled it to the Early Church. If someone were to write a leadership book like that—saturated with applicable Scripture—to challenge our organizational and structured traditions for “ruling” the Church, that would be a book worth writing and reading!
Jonathan Brenneman has produced just such a book in “I Am Persuaded: Christian Leadership as Taught by Jesus.” In this book he pulls out, pulls apart, and dissects our cherished assumptions and traditions about leadership in the Church, and he does it all with a surgeon’s skill under the bright and penetrating light of New Testament Scripture.
I have been amazed and delighted at the contradictions exposed and fresh insights garnered. Brenneman’s book has the potential to calm and bring light to the sea of change that many are experiencing in their journey from institutional to organic expressions of Church life. In that sense it is timely. Every previous reformation has brought great change and purification to doctrine and spiritual practices, but left the structure and hierarchy basically untouched and untroubled in patterns forged under Emperor Constantine seventeen centuries ago.
The ideas in this book, if applied in new wineskins—new structures made for the new wine the Father is pouring out—have the potential to complete the Reformation. That is, what is expressed in I Am Persuaded has the potential to free the people of God from domination by a priestly class and re-launch what Jesus gave us: the priesthood of all believers.
I had personal experience in planting the Church in absolutely virgin soil in Outer Mongolia in the early 1990s. The entire story is in my book: “There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub: Birth of a Mongolian Church Planting Movement.” Our church planting team worked very hard to leave the “heavy package” of Westernized institutional church at home and use the New Testament as a filter for practices we introduced among the Mongolians. We were largely successful and were led by the Spirit into a number of the concepts found within Brenneman’s book. I would, however, have considered I Am Persuaded an absolute treasure had it been available at the time.
One chapter in particular is “worth the price of admission.” In Chapter 2: Three Misleadingly Translated Words, Brenneman discloses a disturbing and amazingly erroneous word choice by the King James translation team that has blinded us to what Jesus really taught about leadership ever since 1611. The Greek words translated there as “rule over,” “rule” and “obey” all clearly mean something else—something that actually agrees with the teachings of Jesus!
In a similarly brilliant manner, Brenneman plows on to demolish the concept that a hierarchy in the Church is envisioned in the New Testament; that is, he begins with and clarifies how we have defined the roles of pastor, bishop, and deacon to imply false ideas of authority, and then goes on to rectify so much more! Brenneman calls on the Church to go back to a trust in the Holy Spirit who has never resigned the job of building and leading his Church. Even sacred cows like the teaching of “Spiritual Fathering” and “Covering” come under his scriptural scalpel with devastating effect. He calls each of us back to more biblical patterns of relating one to another, as opposed to ruling over each other “as the Gentiles do.”
This stuff is pure gold! It is potential dynamite to the status quo of church as we know it—exactly the church as we know it that Brenneman urges us to consider “letting go” of in order to follow Jesus into Church as God desires it.
Finally, I was greatly stirred and encouraged by what this book has to say about Youth With A Mission and its founder, Loren Cunningham. Loren had to put the vision and call God had given him first, even though his spiritual leaders were forbidding Loren’s pursuit of what God had spoken.
The result? The fruit of Loren’s obedience is the world’s largest mission taskforce!
I have personally experienced opposing human authority every time God spoke into my life. In order to push through to the call of God on my life, I had to learn that many of the familiar tenets of submission were just plain sub-biblical. Because I would not take my pastor’s “No” as final, Jesus is worshipped today by tens of thousands of Mongolian disciples, plus their disciples in dozens of other nations. I am excited that as you read this important book, you will understand how this book hit home for me.
I am filled with thanks to the Father that he has inspired Jonathan Brenneman to write a book with such incredible promise. It is a book with the potential to not only lead us out of our 1700 year “Babylonian Captivity” to human principles of control, but to point us on into the promised land of family relationship with him and one another in Christ!
Serves with Church Planting Coaches
and the Frontier Mission Leadership Team of
Youth With A Mission (YWAM);
Author of “There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub:
Birth of a Mongolian Church Planting Movement”,
and “An A to Z of Near-Death Adventures”