Leaders Who Last, by Dave Kraft. Wheaton, Illinois: Crosway, 2010. 155 pages.
Dave Kraft is a Jewish convert to Christianity. He has served in full-time ministry for over forty years. He currently serves on the staff of Mars Hill Church with the mission of developing Christian leaders.
The title Leaders Who Last captures the main purpose of this book in a nutshell. Dave Kraft writes, “…as a leader, your goal is to finish well – and not just finish by yourself” (19). There are not many leaders today who “finish well.” In fact, Dave Kraft claims that of all Christian leaders in God’s church only 30% finish well. The remaining 70% of Christian leaders quit, disqualify themselves, or simply plateau. Some may get through forty years of ministry but they are just hanging on for dear-life, waiting to get a retirement check and pension. From Dave Kraft’s perspective, there is a serious need in the Christian church for leaders who finish well.
The premise of Leaders Who Last is that “you can learn how to be a good leader and finish your particular leadership race well” (19). Kraft develops his premise in three parts. Part 1: Foundations. Part 2: Formation. Part 3: Fruitfulness.
In Part 1, Foundations, Kraft introduces the readers to the “leadership wheel” (27). The center of the leadership wheel is Power. A leader’s Power comes from being rooted in Christ and his grace. Kraft tasks the leader with tapping into this Power through spiritual disciplines. He lists as possible spiritual disciplines:
- The Study of Scripture
- Spending time in prayer and worship
- Taking time for extended periods of solitude, meditation, and fasting.
From this Power center juts out the spokes of the leadership wheel: purpose, passion, priorities, and pacing. Under purpose, Kraft asks the reader to write a personal purpose statement. This purpose statement allows the leader to prioritize time easily and also inspires passion for the task stated in the purpose statement. Kraft reminds leaders to carry out the purpose statement over time. You need to pace yourself or you will burn out.
In Part 2, Formation, Kraft focuses the leader on being introspective. Leaders are to consider their calling, gifts, character, and personal growth. He asks the leader to remember his personal calling from the Lord. He is convinced that realizing your true calling from the Lord will solve the problem of so many leaders failing in ministry. After discusing the personal call into leadership, the leader will evaluate his gifts. Do I have the gift to speak? Do I have the gifts to be a lead pastor? If you are not in the right place for your God-given gifts, you will not thrive. Apart from gifts, character must be evident in leaders. Kraft even quotes one author saying, “The greatest crisis in the world today is a crisis of leadership, and the greatest crisis in leadership is a crisis of character” (95). Finally Kraft makes the point that leaders will be hungry to grow professionally and personally.
In Part 3, Fruitfulness, Kraft brings the whole book to a practical close. He asks the leader to develop and share within his community his vision for the church. This leader then wisesly uses his time and invests in the right people to bring this vision to fruition.
While this book is thin on research and professional commentary on leadership, it is an extremely practical little book. Kraft’s comments on a proper “pace” in ministry are timely in today’s extremely fasted paced society. Kraft is also right to attribute the power for growing leaders to the gospel. Finally, it is always appropriate to reevaluate our gifts and how they fit into specific ministries.
Although many of Kraft’s comments are insightful and practical, it is sad to see him miss the point on some important biblical teachings. In the most important chapter of the book where he discusses the Power center of a leader, he urges to reader to find “his own pathway to deep intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ” (32). In this entire chapter, there is no mention of God’s established means of grace: the Word of God, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
He also spends a whole chapter speaking about a call from the Lord, a concept which he struggles to define. He even says, “Calling is a subjective but extremely important element in being a Christian leader. It’s sort of like being in love. You can’t exactly explain it, but you know when you’ve experienced it” (78). This is tough reading for a confessional Lutheran as we understand that we have a divine call from the Holy Spirit through his church.
While Kraft’s doctrine gives us pause, this book is valuable to the tired, stressed-out parish pastor. Kraft shares wisdom from decades of ministry and leadership that can help leader lead from a gospel center with his own gifts of talents and time.