A neglected gift to the Church by the Protestant Reformers was the recovery of a biblical understanding of vocation, the conviction that believers are called to a specific task in the world that is informed and empowered by Christian faith. Luther could claim with a straight face that the scullery maid on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor renders more effective service to God than the priest on his knees at prayer in the chapel. John Calvin, who taught that the work-a-day world is “the arena for the glorification of God,” was allegedly asked by a skeptic if that meant Christian cobblers made Christian shoes. “No,” replied Calvin, “it means they make good shoes.” Few Christians of Protestant persuasion today would readily understand or agree with either Reformer.
In The Spirit-Led Leader, Timothy Geoffrion recaptures this important insight and makes it accessible to a postmodern generation by reacting to it in terms of institutional leadership and Christian spirituality. Writing out of his pastoral and managerial experience in the church and para-church organizations, the executive director and president of Family Hope Services makes a compelling case for authentically blending administrative and spiritual leadership. Although designed for pastors, executives, administrators, managers, and coordinators who wish to fulfill their “God-given purpose” in Christian organizations, this book also provides guidance for those who seek to serve God vocationally in secular settings.
While American popular culture today tends to divorce spirituality from religion (as in the common disclaimer, “I am very spiritual but not at all religious”), Geoffrion defines the term in a Christian context simply and straightforwardly as “our sense of connection to God”—namely, the One who is Other than a dimension of the human ego or of the created universe. The reality of this relationship, based as it is according to the New Testament upon grace as God’s unmerited, undeserved, and unearned love, impacts a believer’s life in a manner analogous to the way in which we are influenced by those significant others in our lives who love us and whom we love. Our author devoted much of his book to pointing up the ways (disciplines) in which our relationship to God can be strengthened, developed, enriched, and even shared. For it is his deep conviction that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is One who actually works in human life in transforming, illuminating, and empowering ways. In this regard, the reader is encouraged to move quickly to chapter eight where Geoffrion offers personal and moving testimony to our human struggle to trust God with our lives.
Spirituality, thus understood, is crucial for organizational leadership because there is more to administrative and managerial responsibilities than establishing goals and meeting deadlines. Other dimensions underscored here are the emotional, relational, psychological, and spiritual aspects of working together with others. Leading a team, a staff, a department, or an institution requires “multi-dimensional, holistic” skills. It is important to note that our author is not talking about how to be pious (spiritual) or even pastoral on the job. His point is that our relationship with God informs and empowers the task we are given. Leadership entails sharing that vision of and enthusiasm for the common endeavor with those who are colleagues. Thus Geoffrion contends that “every aspect of leadership is influenced by our spirituality,” meaning by that simply, “our sense of connection to God.”
Individual chapters develop this theme by treating such crucial issues as envisioning leadership flowing out of a deep spiritual life, activity cultivating one’s spiritual life, developing specific spiritual disciplines, seeking to serve God’s purposes, creating a vital spiritual environment within the workplace, making change a personal priority, leading by listening, trusting God, and opening oneself fully to the love and grace of God. Each topic is developed with ample attention to analysis and theory, and each concludes with a practice section under such rubrics as “Questions for Reflection,” “Instructions for Triads” (discussion groups), or “Something to Think About.”
This is not another “self-help” book. As the title intimates, leadership is fundamentally a matter of being led by Another. “To align our will with God’s will means that we believe and behave as if God is our personal leader and the leader of our ministry or organization,” Geoffrion contends. In a word, The Spirit-Led Leader is a worthy resource for all, whether scullery maid or cobbler or executive director, who desire to connect with God by faith not only personally but vocationally as well.
Thomas W. Gillespie
Princeton Theological Seminary