The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler

The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler November 15, 2012

Are you a reluctant leader? Or do you lack convictions, yet pursue leadership anyway? Al Mohler will help you become one of the rounded leaders the church so desperately needs. The Conviction to Lead is now available to purchase. This book grabbed my attention early on with its bold claim,

“Let me warn you right up front–my goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one more voice to the conversation; I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced

Having found this book hard to put down, I really do think it lives up to its promise. I would encourage every leader to read this book. Now, before you rule yourself out, everybody is a leader of some kind, and it is not wrong to aspire to be a better leader in the future. I know that there are many reluctant leaders, believe it or not I am one of them. I think I only really began to embrace the idea that I was a leader myself in 2008 when I found myself nominated for a “Most Inspiring Leadership” blog. I didn’t win by the way! Interestingly my first thought when I saw the nominations was “but I am not a leader.” It’s funny really, as this was 5 years into writing this blog, which has always been read by pastors, and even more years than that after having begun to be given leadership roles in Jubilee Church London.

Why are so many of us afraid of being leaders, and shy away from it? Is it just a godly humility? I think that may be some of it, after all who wants to follow a Christian leader who is eagerly seeking advancement for themselves? But at the same time, if the call of God comes (and this is often expressed through others) for you to take up a leadership role, it is important not to turn it down too hastily. Moses’ example as the reluctant prophet is not given for to us to copy. But the good news is that God was gentle with Moses, and helped him to accept the role that God had for him. God is still the same today, and will help you also if you are facing a challenge that you are not sure you are fit for. The truth is that none of us are really capable of fulfilling the leadership roles that are so needed in the church today, as Paul puts it “who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:16, NIV). But God makes us able. He does this through, among other things, the wisdom of others. And so we come to learn from Al Mohler, a man who’s leadership ability is evident and long-tested.

Mohler highlights the difference between mere management and leadership, but is eager to underline that while not all managers are leaders all leaders must be managers. He underlines the shocking lack of real leadership in our society today and stresses that,

“The church desperately needs . . . effective leaders who are authentically Christian-whose leadership flows out of their Christian commitment.”

Mohler is also insightful in his razor-sharp diagnosis of a big problem in those who currently take charge of Christian endeavors. He sees them as divided into two cultures, groups which he terms the “believers” and the “leaders.” He explains,

“The believers are driven by deep and passionate beliefs. They are heavily invested in knowledge, and they are passionate about truth . . . The problem is, many of them are not ready to lead. They have not thought much about leadership and are afraid that thinking too much about it will turn them into mere pragmatists, which they know they shouldn’t be.”

The chances are very good that if you are a regular reader of blogs you fall into this group. I certainly immediately recognized myself. Many pastors and others who are at the helm of Christian organizations are like this, and it is one reason why many of our organizations do not flourish and grow.

Mohler’s second group didn’t escape lightly, either,

“The Leaders, on the other hand, are passionate about leadership. They are tired of seeing organizations and movements die or decline, and they want to change things for the better. They look around and see dead and declining churches and lukewarm organizations. They are thrilled by the experience of leading and are ardent students of leadership wherever they can find it. They talk leadership wherever they go and are masters of motivation, vision, strategy, and execution. The problem is, many o them are not sure what they believe or why it matters. . .they lack a center of gravity in truth. They often ride one program after another until they run out of steam. Then they wonder, What now?”

Mohler has a grand goal, and I pray that it may be achieved in all of us as we read this book, he says,

“I want to turn the Believers into Leaders and the Leaders into Believers. My goal is to know the blocks out from under the current models of leadership and forge a new way. I stake my life on the priority of right beliefs and convictions, and I want to lead so that those very beliefs are perpetuated in others . . . My goal is to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and so motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership.”

The conviction to lead, at the same time a gloriously simple idea, yet Mohler is so right in saying that it is rare to find these two things entwined. I remember well stopping at this point as I read the book and praying something similar to this, “God make me a leader like this. Take away my reluctance, and help me to lead with conviction.” You would do well to pray the same thing, and just go immediately and buy this book. You need not stop to read the rest of this review if you don’t want to!

Mohler spends a good portion of time outlining the vital importance of convictions, he stresses, “Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip.” Over thousands of years Christians have been willing to die for their beliefs. We get afraid of a little persecution that some argue is not even persecution at all. We must allow our convictions to drive and determine everything else.

But Mohler also talks about the skill-set of the modern leader. He argues that we must learn “self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill,” which is often termed emotional intelligence. He speaks about the need to tell the “story” of your organization and draw others into it. He instructs in how to make decisions, how to write, how to speak and how to engage the media and internet. He also addresses the need for character and endurance.

Mohler stresses the important place of true passion in leadership saying,

“Passion arises naturally or not at all. It happens when convictions come to life, and deep beliefs drive visions and plans. The passionate leader is driven by the knowledge that the right beliefs, aimed at the right opportunity, can lead to earth-shaking changes.”

Who knows what earth-shaking changes God might have you initiate? Don’t look at your current situation and say, what impact can I really make? Don’t be discouraged at the lack of progress so far. Let this book examine you as it has examined me to see what mistakes you may have made, and to help you move forward in a different way. Yet, also remind yourself, your job is not finished yet. As Mohler says,

“Observers of leadership have long noted that leaders often overestimate what can be accomplished in a single year, but underestimate what can be accomplished in a decade.”

I urge you to get ahold of this book and read it. May God use it to release many leaders with real conviction and passion into the work of ministry, whether that be in a so-called “secular” job or in full-time Christian work. Pray for me also that I may learn to apply the lessons of this book, as I have the feeling that I may look back on it as being foundational for my life in years to come.

This post is part of the sponsored Patheos Book Club.

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