Sandy Grant continues his examination of Zac Veron's book Leadership on the front foot, courtesy of The Sola Panel

In his introduction, Zac explains that

I can be very black and white! I have strong views and I express them in a fairly matter-of-fact way. (p. 7)

I'll try to review similarly! But my style probably errs towards precision and details. This is a roundabout way of saying sorry to Zac for where I've not dotted an ‘i’ in my review.

Zac's introduction also explains the division of his book's leadership principles into four categories:

  1. Personal—regarding a leader's godliness in ministry
  2. Operational—advice on day-to-day ministry concerns
  3. Tactical—what to do over the shorter term in ministry
  4. Strategic—long-term and directional ministry decisions.

The remainder of this blog series will address each section.

1. BE PERSONALLY PREPARED

Zac presents four principles under the ‘Personal’ section. The first urges Christian ministers to be personally prepared.

Each principle is developed by the statement of a corresponding error to avoid. In this case, it spells out exactly what Zac means:

Error: Neglecting your own spiritual life and ministry development. (p. 15)

This is a great first point. Time for development so easily slips away. (I'm grateful to the people who suggested that I make reading a regular part of my weekly commitments.)

Given the importance of the topic, I longed for more than the two pages Zac has provided on this. In particular, I wanted more than one paragraph on how to avoid dryness in our spiritual lives as pastors.

Zac is also correct to say that theological college, rightly, focuses on teaching a minister how to handle the word of God correctly. So college does not (and arguably, it cannot, in its context) focus on teaching leadership and strategic planning skills. This is why we need to keep on developing our skills in this area after college or seminary!

To his list of areas in which to develop knowledge and skills (such as financial and legal matters, property management and governance and reporting), I would add IT, AV, time management, graphic design, industrial relations and property development. These are areas in which I have had to develop skills or gain an awareness of as a Senior Pastor.

I also suspect many of these skills are better learned via courses and personal coaching rather than via the conferences that chapter 1's application guide commends to ministers.

2. BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, AND KEEP DOING IT

The second principle urges pastors to be clear about what needs doing, and to keep doing it. This excellent chapter urges us not to lose our resolve for a godly and considered change of direction under pressure. You don't have to keep on doing all the ‘done things’ your predecessor did, or the things expected by your congregation! Zac's call is a call for the courage of leadership convictions.

I think it might be helpful to make clear that this inflexibility is better applied to matters of principle than to matters of method. There can be more than one way to skin a cat! Being stubborn over an operational method that is gaining absolutely no traction when the same result could be achieved by another method might be silly and needlessly alienating. But inflexibility over a priority adopted for strategic reasons—especially when you can demonstrate the scriptural foundations—is to be commended.

3. MAINTAIN YOUR MARRIAGE AND WATCH OUT FOR THE BONDING THAT TAKES PLACE WHEN PEOPLE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX SHARE A MINISTRY

Zac's third principle urges marriage maintenance and the avoidance of sexual relations with someone you are not married to. This is obvious. But it needs to be said, and said again! Zac's “10 ministry commandments” for ministering to children and people of the opposite sex provide some excellent safeguards that are worth discussing with your pastoral staff and key lay leaders.

I think the critical insight here is that adultery in ministry does not occur simply because raw sexual urges overwhelm pastors. Rather it's because of the emotional bond that can easily develop among people who share a ministry: it's this bond that can open the door to sexual sin.

(As a corollary, I have found it easy to err on the side of being overly distant from female pastoral staff and staff wives. However, they still need to be cared for, and a senior pastor has some responsibility to oversee that. Perhaps you could catch up with them in groups, or together with your wife, or by speaking to them in public places—for example, over morning tea after church—from time to time.)

4. A SPOUSE DOUBLES OR HALVES THE MINISTER'S EFFECTIVENESS

The last principle in the first section states that a spouse doubles or halves the minister's effectiveness. This is a good example of Zac's dogmatism. Zac makes a wise observation of how things often work—in line with the Proverbs he cites. Obviously it's best if a pastor's wife shares her husband's beliefs and passion for ministry, and also has the character and resilience that would suit a public ministry lifestyle. However, more could be said in this section. It's just as well that Hosea did not follow Zac's principle, for his wife's unsuitability was part of his enacted prophecy (see Hosea 1 and 3!)

More broadly, the Scriptures reveal that God's strength and grace are often displayed in our weaknesses (e.g. 2 Cor 12:7-10). In addition, think of BB Warfield's devoted care for his invalid wife—care that restricted his ministry in many ways, and yet adorned the doctrine he preached and defended. (It also perhaps gave him time to write that he otherwise may never have enjoyed.)

And so a spouse's temperament and interests are important in considering the shape of a person's ministry. In some cases, it may mean a different course is wiser. But you must never despair and think that your wife's infirmity or reluctance automatically halves your ministry effectiveness. You might never know this side of heaven how God will turn your weakness towards his glory.