Book Review: A Work of Heart

“A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders” by Reggie McNeal

In theory, this should have been a good book. It had endorsements from a lot of prominent leaders, and it’s premise is very interesting. The author breaks the book up into two parts. In the first, he examines the leadership style and qualities of four Biblical leaders: Moses, David, Paul, and Jesus. In the second, he applies what was gleaned from these leaders to our own lives, breaking these qualities down into six alliterative (he is Baptist, after all) categories: Culture, Call, Community, Communion, Conflict, and Commonplace.

Unfortunately, A Work of Heart fails to deliver on its promise. Despite a few practical and pragmatic suggestions that are genuinely good advice for leaders, the theological foundation for most of McNeal’s assumptions is terribly weak. I am not entirely sure what his gauge of “success” in ministry is, but it does not appear to be the proclamation of Biblical truth, the genuine conversion of the lost and discipleship of the saved. On the rare occasions when Scripture is used to back up the author’s assertions, it is consistently misapplied.

There are plenty of great books on leadership, both sacred and secular. A book which seeks to offer merely pragmatic advice under the guise of a vaguely “Christian” spirituality is ultimately pretty useless. Pass on this one.

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