Mike Bonem, author of In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, combines the best of business concepts, thinking and leadership principles in order to better equip pastors and other church leaders. Bonem describes the need for leadership training for pastors, “Many pastors and Christian ministry leaders, have little, if any, training or experience in business or organization leadership” (16). The lack of training in business or organization leadership can handicap pastors from leading their churches to all that God has called their church to be and severely impact their mission.
The goal of Bonem’s book is to encourage pastors to lead with integrity, while using principles that display greatness and godliness (19). Bonem crafts the book using a variety of sources, including but not limited to the following: interviews from current church leaders, quotes from business organizational leaders such as Jim Collins and utilizing the five practices of exemplary leaders defined by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge. Bonem encourages church leaders to pursue great and godly leadership in their leadership roles.
Mike Bonem provides a blueprint for leadership principles that each pastor and leader should understand, those principles are described in detail through chapters. The chapters are grouped into sections that help make the concepts easier to grasp and process. Part one supplies the pastor with proper tools for great and godly leadership; part two attempts to apply the tools from part one and explain concepts the pastor needs to have a firm grip on.
Part one first begins with Bonem writing that pastors and church leaders should understand that business thinking is not the enemy. “Perhaps we should think of business the same way: there are some bad apples, but we shouldn’t conclude that business thinking is the antithesis of Christian leadership” Bonem writes in chapter one (9). Bonem makes great use of using Kouzes and Posner to describe how a pastor should lead. Their quote sounds like it comes from a Christian leadership book, however it comes from one of the best secular leadership books, “Exemplary leaders have a passion for something other than their own fame and fortune. They care about making a difference in the world” (Kouzes and Posner 16). Pastors and their churches want to make a kingdom impact in the world, and to spread the fame of Christ.
This writer believes that one of the clearest points that Bonem attempts to make in part one of the book is the description of grace versus stewardship, relating to personnel situations. Personnel situations can be an Achilles heel for pastors. Bonem uses quotes from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, to prepare pastors to understand the importance of the right team members, “first get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive it” (74). The concept applied is that for pastoral leaders to be good stewards of the church’s resources, they must demand proper accountability for staff leaders.
The final important concept that this writer believes comes from part one is clarity of mission and purpose. Bonem, again quoting Collins, describes the importance of narrowing the focus of the organization, “in the social sectors, the critical question is… ‘How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” (109).Understanding the concept of mission focus, establishing metrics, and measuring goals is key for the pastor to lead a church effectively in today’s climate (Bonem 116).
Part two of Mike Bonem’s In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, begins with applying and understanding the value of teamwork in organizations. Bonem makes the strong church-business connection by applying a quote describing exemplary leaders not being able to lead alone from Kouzes and Posner (153). The quote is paired with scripture describing the importance of the body working together from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 (Bonem 153). Emphasizing the need for teams, Bonem writes, “We need each other, and we all need to take concrete steps toward collaboration and teamwork” (156).
The next major focus of part two connects directly with clarity of mission from part one, the need to develop culture. Bonem quotes Patrick Lencioni encouraging pastors and church leaders that clarity in culture should be something that a pastor should obsess over in order to create unity (175). Lencioni states, “An organization that has achieved clarity has a sense of unity around everything it does” (Bonem 175). The understanding of culture is key to the pastor if they want to attempt any changes (Bonem 180). “Culture is not only what we do but also why and how we do it,” writes Bonem (178).
The final tool that is applied is accepting change. Pastors must be willing to change programs in order to clarify mission. Bonem writes that change should be common nature of pastors because, “at the heart of the gospel is the message of life-giving, supernatural change” (184). Pastors need to understand what is not open for change in their churches, items that are core. Everything else is open for change, items that are not core. The core is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bonem quoting, Collins and Porras from their book, Built to Last, explain this process for pastors, “it is absolutely essential to not confuse core ideology with culture, strategy, tactics,operations, policies or other noncore practices…. Ultimately, the only thing a company should not change over time is its core ideology” (192). Bonem uses this moment in the book to encourage pastors to be courageous leaders, “It requires courageous leadership to change well- established programs because they will get in the way of something even greater that God seeks to do” (202).
Mike Bonem describes in detail business concepts that can easily be applied by pastors to the church leadership environment. The strength of In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership is the connection of business concepts from Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, James Kouzes and Barry Posner and their easy application to scripture and church leadership. Bonem puts the reader at ease with a narrative that reinforces the value of business thinking in the church world. The book encouraged this writer as he applies these concepts in his current ministry role, and future ministry role as an executive pastor. Mike Bonem’s book should be required reading of pastors and other church leaders, in order for them to pursue great and godly leadership in their current leadership roles.
Bonem, Mike. In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.
Kouzes, James, and Barry Posner. The Leadership Challenge. 4th. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.