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Book review: Designed to Lead

| by Brian Thorstad

What? Another book on leadership? Yes, it is, but Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Developmenthas a different take on the subject. As the subtitle suggests, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck’s book focuses on the place of the local church in developing leaders for the whole wide world.  

Their thesis is that the local congregation is ideally suited for growing, not only its leaders, but also the leaders needed in every legitimate area of society.  

As a heart-felt believer in the value of local churches of all sizes, this was music to my ears. We don’t necessarily have to send off our potential leaders to be equipped by experts in some far-off locale; we have the resources for developing leaders for institutions beyond the church.  

Think about it: If leaders for every area of society need to be men and women of integrity, men and women of emotional intelligence, selfless men and women of conviction, compassion and empathy, who better to train them than their congregation’s senior leaders? 

I stumbled on this a few decades ago but never embraced it as Geiger and Peck have. I created a  vigorous ministry within my congregation for equipping people for Christian ministry (including the Christian ministry of leadership). Accidentally, I found that the glimpses of growth we saw within individuals was not only blessing our church, but also blessing multiple spheres of life in which our people were involved.

Ironically, there were folks whose growth in management and leadership skills led to promotions in the workplace that forced them to reduce their volunteer commitment to our congregation! This is exactly the kind of results which our authors are aiming for: Churches blessing the world with their “blessed product” of mature Christian leaders. 

Specifically, Geiger and Peck insist that it’s not enough to have a conviction regarding leadership development, to create a cultureof leadership development or to have constructs(programs) for leadership development. All three are needed.  

Either of the two without the other will result in frustration and failure, and the authors warn that the process of creating all three in a congregation may take some serious time. 

I appreciate their candor. Creating servant leaders who can guide a congregation or a corporation into the future with selfless devotion and real concern for their followers is not an overnight project. 

I was probably typical of many readers of Designed to Lead in that I couldn’t wait for the authors to get to the constructs—the programs, the magic-bullet solutions which will automatically kick out dynamos for Christ. However, the book wasn’t constructed this way because that process doesn’t work.  

The authors, in fact, want their readers to think of leadership development as a natural extension of making disciples, as opposed to a stand-alone program. In this sense, the book is a natural follow up for Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s deservedly famous Simple Church. 

If the simple church has a simple process for creating mature followers of Christ, Designed to Lead advocates the creation of a culture and some simple (of course) constructs for helping believers become adept at the ministry of leadership. 

Here are a few great insights from this book:

  • “…above all other requirements for Christian leadership, one attribute stands apart from the rest: Men and women that lead in God’s kingdom must be controlled by the Holy Spirit of God.” 
  • “…people grow when godly leaders apply the truthof God to their hearts while they are in a teachable posture…Leaders are developed as knowledge  (truth), experiences (posture) and coaching  (leaders) converge.” 
  • The material on leadership pipelinesand leadership pathwaysin chapter eight is invaluable and has applications far beyond the local church. 

If you want your church to bless the world with Christ-honoring leaders, you will be blessed by Designed to Lead.


Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.



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