Sid Buzzell, Gen. Ed.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013
Did you know that there are approximately one hundred different study Bibles on the market today? The one I’m reviewing, given to me by a friend, is one of the most recent and unique.
If you are looking for a study Bible that helps you understand the meaning of the Bible by giving book summaries, outlines, background information, interpretation of particularly difficult passages, this is not the one for you.
If you are looking for a study Bible that really gets to the heart of the message of God’s Word, again this is not the one for you. (I believe the main purpose of the Bible is not to teach us about leadership, but to reveal the redemptive plan of God from eternity to eternity. Jesus is the central character in the Bible—the whole book is really about Him. The Old Testament predicts His coming and sets the stage for His entrance into the world. The New Testament describes His work to bring salvation to our sinful world and His coming again to bring about the new heavens and the new earth.)
However, if you are interested in practical applications of God’s Word for living your life and for helping others live theirs, this study Bible will give you much to think about and hopefully put into practice. You don’t have to be a “leader” in the traditional sense of the word to appreciate the lessons brought out in this book. In fact, most of the book’s insights will prove useful to every Christian, “leader” or not. And don’t forget – a mom at home with two kids is definitely a leader and a very important one at that!
One thing I appreciate about the NIV LEADERSHIP BIBLE is that the notes are written in clear every-day language that anyone can understand. On the other hand, I’m ambivalent about the generous use of quotes from Forbes magazine and various business books. It’s not that in God’s common grace we can’t learn from these secular writers, but I feel uneasy about using them as notes in God’s inspired Word.
NIV LEADERSHIP BIBLE is quite well organized. I especially found helpful the following four features:
- The “Introduction” of each book of the Bible which summarizes the leadership lessons in that particular book.
- The “Home Pages” and “Daily studies” which are laid out in 52 weeks of study and walk the reader through numerous leadership lessons.
- The “Insights” scattered throughout the Bible which give a specific practical application on leadership from different passages.
- The Character Profiles which vividly show good and bad examples of leadership from the lives of Bible characters.
In addition, there is a “Topical Index” and a “Character Profile Index” at the very end. They make the book more useable when looking for a particular topic or person of the Bible.
The “Home Pages” treat many important topics grouping them in three main areas. I resonate with the order in which they’re listed because I believe who we are and the relationships we have are more important than the leadership skills we possess. Skills can be learned, but if someone does not have godly character and strong personal relationships, there is no way he will see ultimate blessing in his or her ministry.
Here are the topics dealt with in each of these three main areas:
- Personal development: character, commitment, courage/risk taking, dependence on God, humility, integrity, leader qualifications, obedience to God, priorities, purpose/passion, self-discipline, values, vision, and wisdom.
- Relationships: encouragement, exhortation, healthy alliances, interpersonal relationships, power/influence, and servant leadership.
- Skills: accountability, change/innovation, communicating vision, communicating skills, conflict management, decision making, double-loop learning, empowerment, justice, leadership development, the learning organization, management of human resources/human resources development, problem solving, quality/excellence, rewards, situational leadership, stewardship, stress management, structure/organization, systems thinking, team building, and time management.
There are some wonderful quotes scattered here and there throughout the book. I really like this one from The Reformed Pastor, the 17th century classic by English Puritan, Richard Baxter:
“Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, and lest you lay such stumbling blocks before the blind, as may be the occasion of their ruin; lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your labours.”
Though not primarily a leadership manual, the Bible is full of examples of great leaders and poor leaders. To me personally, the saddest examples are the leaders who begin well, but end poorly. I resonate with the following statement: “Leaders need to start well and lead responsibly. But they’ll be remembered for how well they finish.” As an example of starting well and ending poorly, I challenge you to do a Bible study of Azariah in 2 Kings. (He is called Uzziah in 2 Chronicles.)
Finally, a sample from the book – this note on the subject of accountability, an important one for me as a discipler, is found alongside the story in 2 Kings 5:20-27 of Elisha’s servant Gehazi. He was gripped by greed, lied to Naaman about what his master wanted, and to make matters worse lied once again when Elisha confronted him.
On accountability the editors write:
“Our ability to deceive ourselves is virtually boundless; that’s why accountability is so necessary. Without submitting to the counsel of others, we can rationalize almost anything, especially if what we’re doing involves a series of small compromises. Thus, accountability is needed, not so much to protect us from others, but to protect us from ourselves.
“Those who say that they are accountable only to God fail to realize the spheres of human authority that God has established for our good (see Hebrews 13:17). Like the centurion who told Jesus, “I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me” (Matthew 8:9), we must recognize that we must submit to the authority of others.
“One of the benefits of accountability is that it is consistent with the human condition that makes us more concerned about what others think than what God thinks. But accountability is only as good as the information upon which it is based. Accountability without full disclosure is a waste of time.
“In what areas of your life do you sense the greatest need of accountability? Do you have an accountability partner, someone you trust, with whom you can be totally honest and who is willing to ask you tough questions about various areas in your life?”