With my wife Sue, in 1983, and Mr J. Oswald Sanders,
whose books have had a profound impact on my life.
John Wesley knew the importance of reading good books when he exhorted the younger ministers of the Wesleyan Society to “either read or get out of the ministry.” Obviously Wesley had a passion for reading in the midst of a very busy life. Most of his reading was done on horseback. Often he rode 80 kilometres (50 miles) and sometimes 145 kilometres (90 miles) in a day. His habit was to ride with a volume of science or history or medicine propped on his saddle. In the process he consumed thousands of books.
Great leaders have almost always been great readers. The apostle Paul chained like a common criminal in a cold Roman dungeon, with his work done and his life nearly at an end, could still write to Timothy, “Also bring my books, especially my papers.” 2 Timothy 4:13 (NLT). He knew that leaders should be readers right to their dying day.
Consequently, it has always been my habit to have my leaders and emerging leaders study selected books that would help them in their growth as spiritual leaders. In the leadership courses that I regularly conduct, there are always nominated text books for study that are included in the courses.
I usually have made it a habit to select books that were written by people who can write from their own experiences and who have made a significant impact with their life in this instance, as spiritual leaders. J. Oswald Sanders in his book Spiritual Leadership, said, “If people are known by the company they keep, so also their character is reflected in the books they read. A leader’s reading is the outward expression of their inner hungers and aspirations. The vast number of titles pouring from presses today makes discriminating choice essential. We can afford to read only the best, only that which invigorates our mission. Our reading should be regulated by who we are and what we intend to accomplish.”
Since mentoring can be defined as one life empowering another, I have always considered certain authors to be among my best mentors. Their lives were there to be lived out in my study as I would spend countless hours reading their books, hungry to learn and grow to the next level. Mr Sanders described it so well when he said, “The leader should read to have fellowship with great minds. Through books we hold communion with the greatest spiritual leaders of the ages.”
When I first started out in ministry, after being called out of the business world, I was lead to read two books that would form the foundation upon which I would build my ministry. After reading these books, I determined that to build a ministry, I would focus on building leaders. The two books were Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders and Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. Every leader that joined my ministry was required to fully familiarise themselves with the contents of these books. With these books as a foundation, a discipleship based ministry was raised up that would impact hundreds of youth and young adults in Australia and to regions beyond.
Currently, I am conducting a leadership training course which meets one night a month for 12 months. As part of the course, three books are included for study and group discussion.
HUDSON TAYLOR’S SPIRITUAL SECRET – the biography of a great spiritual leader. Some of the themes from this book are self- leadership, vision, calling, trusting God for every need, discovering the secret of the “exchanged life”, obedience, moving people through God by prayer alone, team building, setbacks and disappointments, the burden of leadership, resilience, spiritual warfare and team building.
What an amazing mentor Hudson Taylor has proved to be to the many emerging leaders that have completed one of my courses. His life still lives on and is transforming lives today. Ruth Tucker in her book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya said, “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”
ABIDE IN CHRIST by Andrew Murray – inspiring companion to Hudson Taylor, describing how a person can discover the secret of the “exchanged life” (which was the spiritual secret that Hudson Taylor discovered), of abiding in Jesus as the branch abides in the vine.
THE BIBLE – the best book on spiritual leadership there is, with a long line of leaders sharing a lifetime of lessons to equip us for our own life of leadership. When God wanted to get something done, He raised up a leader. His method hasn’t changed. In my leadership course, leaders learn how to read through the Bible in a year studying each chapter using the SOAP method developed by Wayne Cordiero.
The combination of these three books spread out over a year of intensive study has radically transformed the lives of many who have participated in my leadership course. Further, they have gained a fresh passion for reading that has stayed with them beyond the course.
Leaders are readers :-
- to have fellowship with great minds for we become like the company we keep.
- to get to the next level as we learn from those who got to the next level. They serve as guides along the pathway of life and ministry.
- so that they will finish well. Like Paul in a Roman jail, nearing the end of his earthly life , it is always too soon to stop learning.
- to keep up to date with the world and culture in which we live and serve.
- to learn how to communicate by teaching us to think and speak and write with clarity and impact.
Timothy, bring the books. I am not finished……..yet !