R-UnLeader, by Lance Ford

This review was original posted on my futuristguy blog, December 10, 2013.

Hear ye, hear ye … I have just posted my first-ever book review on Amazon!

It is for UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership … and Why We Must, by Lance Ford (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012). I received a review copy in September 2012 and read it then — and have peeked at it (and the stack of notes I wrote!) off and on ever since. I was planning to post a review last year, but other circumstances took over for a while and many things disappeared into that vortex.

However, what the time-lag added to the writing of my review was the reality that for 16 months, UnLeader keeps coming back to mind as really something extraordinary. I hope what I’ve posted will give a fresh and helpful perspective on grasping the value of what Lance Ford has produced, and the gift it is to the Kingdom. I also hope you will buy a copy, read it, and be changed by the  powerful and empowering message that Lance Ford offers!

And here is that review …

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5.0 out of 5 stars

A hope-filled, realistic, redemptive guidebook that can change the course of both the Church’s and our church’s future …

December 10, 2013

Several years ago, I ran across a link to a blog post from Lance Ford on “leadership immunity” and the dangers of a “leadership-driven culture.” That caught my attention, as one involved with church planting, missional ministries, and social transformation enterprises. I resonated with what Lance said there about some of the core problems the Western Church has with “leadership.” So, when I heard that he was writing a book on the subject, I looked forward to more of his thoughtful questions and commentary. When the book was due to be released, I even requested a review copy, which the publisher kindly supplied.

That was over a year ago. I wasn’t able to post a review then, due to some pressing life circumstances. But I can tell you that in the many months since my first reading of *UnLeader*, my reflections and critiques on our usual leadership paradigms have frequently been drawn back to Lance’s illuminating book. Not so surprisingly, I found we had come to similar conclusions about the toxic trajectory of much leadership culture in our churches. Lance perceived it from the inside of a mega-church machine that can become inhumane. I survived being a victim of spiritual abuse from some Christians who were UNqualified for leadership due to their immaturity or lack of ministry skills, and others whose controlling tactics and lack of character DISqualifies them for being what I can only term, “malignant ministers.”

Lance does a superb job in giving solid answers to common questions about leadership structures in a program-oriented paradigm. Those practical points can help us change our decisions on organizational leadership strategies, and that contribution in itself is valuable. But, in his writing style, he does something far less usual — he “externalizes.” Lance paints vivid pictures of his unsettling and dissatisfying leadership experiences, poses the questions that naturally emerged from the chaos, and then drops us right into the midst of his thinking process for moving from deconstruction to reconstruction. “How-to’s” can help, but they don’t usually hold the “wow” factor of ah-ha moments that externalizing often does, as we find our own real-world questions and problems embedded in the author’s relevant storylines. This is a kind of writing that stretches our skills for discernment, so we can ask ever-better questions in order to make ever-wiser decisions.

His masterful, transparent writing equips us to move past the “what” of practice to the “why” and “how” of paradigm. We need this if we’re to move beyond just changing our strategies to transforming our systems. Deep organizational-culture change is essential, if we want our churches, ministries, agencies, and projects to survive in a post-Christendom world. All of this is absolutely necessary if we are to role-model investing ourselves in ministry work that can become sustainable — and I believe *UnLeader* provides a unique, providential platform for launching into these very challenging processes.

So — this book is for you if you are feeling at all unsettled or dissatisfied with your own leadership style, or how you see an organization you deeply care about being led/misled. It will help you clarify your questions and work toward comprehensive ways needed to create a culture of ministry participation and collaboration, instead of maintain one of dictation and control.

And, if you’re curious about the cultural upheaval that the Church in the 21st century faces, this book is for you, too. It illustrates many aspects of these global and generational paradigm shifts that we have no control over, and it will challenge you with new ways of processing and practicing ministry that is culturally sensitive and suitable for a postmodern, post-Christendom context.

I’m thankful for Lance Ford’s processing through his own difficult circumstances and questions that led him to write *UnLeader*. He has given us a hope-filled, realistic, redemptive guidebook that can change the course of both the Church’s and our church’s future …

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