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David McKenna: Christ-centered Leadership

The next step in the incarnational model is to die to all and crucify our selfish desires daily. It is not what matters to us but what matters to God that should drive our leadership vision and attendant attitudes and behaviors. McKenna laments that Christian leaders are held to a double standard, in which they are told they should be humble and avoid the temptations of leadership, and yet at the same time, they are held to secular standards of success. Leaders are judged by the results they bring to and for their organization. The proper response, for McKenna, is for leaders to leave the results to God. When leaders submit themselves to God’s will for themselves and their organization, at the risk of being seen as weak or crazy, God will bring the results he wants. Only in this way do leaders lead with the mind of Christ. Indeed, the mind of Christ takes us to our full potential as human beings. McKenna declares that “our highest calling as leaders is to be models, mentors, and mediators in the Spirit of the exalted Christ on behalf of others” (p. 83). Emerging leaders depend on mature models of Christian leadership, wise mentors, and compassionate mediators. Just as Christ mediates on our behalf to the Father, so ought Christ-centered leaders to mediate for others in a spirit of reconciliation.

If you’re not already convinced that this is a book you should read, consider that McKenna advises executive search committees to consider what kind of candidate they want and suggests they ask pointed questions that discern the candidate’s character. In the final section, McKenna asks what if the disciplines of the mind of Christ were included in the profile for selecting Christian leaders. What if committees asked candidates questions such as: 1) How strong is your sense of God’s call to this position? 2) What will you have to give up in order to answer God’s call? 3) If you take away the position, power, and prestige of this role, with what qualities of character would you lead? 4) How have you resolved the drive for success with Christ’s example of being faithful and letting God do the honors? McKenna also provides questions to ask of the candidate’s references related to calling, character, and sacrifice. He asserts that where there is no sacrifice, there is no call from God. He warns, “If you can’t stand to suffer, stay away from leadership” (p. 94). At the end of every chapter, McKenna offers readers the opportunity to reflect on a question to discern their motivation for leading.

Readers may not agree with everything McKenna writes, but this book is a particularly useful tool for provoking emerging Christian leaders to think beyond the prevailing servant leadership model to consider a model of sacrificial leadership that is truly Christ-centered.

Reviewed by Michelle Vondey


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Category: Ministry, Winter 2015

About the Author: Michelle Vondey, Ph.D. (Regent University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), has more than twenty years’ experience working in non-profit organizations. Her interests are focused mainly on developing followers in their roles in organizations. She teaches courses in leadership, critical reasoning, and Christian discipleship. 2012 dissertation LinkedIn

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