John MacArthur’s latest book, unimaginatively titled The Book on Leadership, has one of the finest-looking covers I have ever seen. With its leather-looking cover, rough-cut pages, gold lettering and marbled inside pages, it looks like a wonderful, valuable, antique book. Truth be told, I probably would not have purchased it were it not for that cover. I am not so shallow that I would purchase it based soley on the cover, but a great cover and an author I respect are too much for me to pass up.
In this book, MacArthur provides his spin on a topic that is gaining prominence in the church. I suspect the books published on the subject of leadership in the church in the past five years would by far outnumber thoese published in the prior 2000 years of Christianity. Leadership has become a buzz-word, and leadership skills are more highly-valued by many than the ability to write good sermons, to relate to people or to express clear doctrine. For many people today a pastor’s role should primarily concern leadership with the preaching of the Word taking on a secondary role. In this context I looked forward to gleaning from the wisdom of John MacArthur.
This book is based around the apostle Paul (rather than Nehemiah, who seems to be the subject of many leadership manuals), drawing lessons about leadership through two of the situations he faced: his time in prison and his time pastoring the church at Corinth. I was surprised to find that the leadership principles outlined by the author are not expositorily drawn out of the Scripture, for expository teaching is what we have come to expect from MacArthur. Instead, he uses Paul’s life to point to principles of leadership. For example, the sixth principle of leadership is that a leader is optimistic and enthusiastic. MacArthur shows this in Paul’s life by referencing Acts 27:25 where the apostle tells the men aboard his doomed ship to “take heart … for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” There are twenty six of these principles introduced in similar fashion throughout the text.
While the book does a respectable job of introducing principles of leadership, I found its primary value in serving as a commentary on portions of the books of Acts and Corinthians. MacArthur is a skilled expositor and does deep research in the Scriptures. Thus he brings to light many situations and tidbits of information that helped me better understand these passages of the Bible and to understand Paul. Reading the book purely as a commentary will be rewarding in itself, with the principles of leadership serving as icing on the cake.
I have to admit I found this book a little disappointing, primarily because it was not entirely expository in nature. The twenty six principles of leadership are sound and will no doubt serve to strengthen many future and current leaders. In the final analysis, though, while they are proven from the life of Paul, they were not drawn explicitly from Scripture. Despite that, a man who exhibited those qualities would no doubt be an godly man and one well-suited and eminently qualfied for leadership in the church. I do recommend this book both as a commentary on parts of the life of Paul and as a guide to important qualities necessary for godly leadership.