Leading a Church to Maturity in Love by David R. Tomlinson
'An impressively wise and original book on church leadership: its advice resonated so closely with my lived experience as a minister'
Leading a Church to Maturity in Love - A Theological and Practical Guide to Church Leadership
By David R. Tomlinson
Reviewer: Rosa Hunt
This is an impressively wise and original book on church leadership. Its suggestions arise from the author’s many years’ experience of parish life. The examples he gives of situations in the life of the church left me nodding wryly in recognition – on one occasion, I actually wondered whether he had visited my church! This speaking out of experience lends weight to his recommendations.
There were three main ways in which I found this book startlingly original. Sometimes, books on church leadership seem to set the church up as a problem to be solved. This author has a radically different attitude - he loves his church and his people, and has committed to serving them faithfully and with respect. Flowing out of this position, Tomlinson insists that a good leader must first themselves be secure and grounded. Thus a large part of the book consists of examining the minister’s own emotions, relationships, sense of identity and spirituality.
And so finally, and most importantly to my mind, this book is original because it insists that church ministers can only be great leaders if they treat their own relationship with God as absolutely foundational, and of the utmost importance.
Tomlinson starts by using insights from systems thinking to understand how churches function. He then goes on to examine what it means to be a consultative leader, and how to serve in true humility. He then unpacks the importance of his conviction that leaders who enable others to grow are growing themselves, by considering topics such as modelling good conversations. The next few chapters are intensely practical, looking at coping with difficult individuals and groups, building teams and community, leading in conflict situations, being prepared to have difficult conversations, and learning to mediate. These are followed by chapters on collaboration with external bodies, and an important chapter on forgiveness. Having studied how a leader can lead a church to maturity in love, the final chapter is a theological reflection on how such a church can lead the world to maturity in love.
I trusted this author from the opening pages, because his advice resonated so closely with my lived experience as a minister over the last twelve years or so. I have learned so much from his distilled wisdom – not just about leading my church, but also about how I function as a leader, and why I react as I do in certain situations. I would recommend this book without hesitation to any minister or ministerial student.
Rosa Hunt, Capel Salem Tonteg / South Wales Baptist College