Musings on Sanders

Posted: September 20, 2011 by Ty in Musings, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer


            Oswald Sanders’ (2007) Spiritual Leadership Principles of Excellence for Every Believer is an easy read, that is to say not easy concepts, but rather targeted around a grade five or six reading level, much like the daily paper. It is a resource that can be used for private study, devotional times, or better yet a small group discussion tool or within a mentoring relationship. This short review will look at whether or not this tool should be used though in those situations, not whether or not they are. To that end, what shall be reviewed are end chapter questions; main topics; and within each area commentary upon stylistics. The final thoughts from this writer are simple, like with any text on leadership it is neither the first nor last word and should be used within a context of learning and discipling.


            As we move through each chapter, at the end they have questions for personal reflection, as well current editors have added a study guide. But are these useful? By the 2007 edition, editors have also deemed the reader in need of updated language so as not to get trapped in confusion by the context of a preacher/teacher in 1967 (rather paternalistic actually, when if someone is embarking on leadership they should have the skills or have someone with them with the skills to research simple contextual answers).

            The questions themselves are rather pedestrian, and on personal reflective journaling without having the self-efficacy to bring them into your own context will be simply glanced over and simply answered.  The same can be said within a mentoring or small group study; one has to be willing to open him or her up within the depth of relationship for actual reflection fear of recrimination or abuse before more than superficial answers will be granted. It is unfortunate that these questions detract from the content of the work.

Main Topics

            Sanders is easily read, yes I am commenting from the revised edition in 2007, but forty years earlier if the rhythm of the talks was preserved, Sanders himself could be coined as another C.S. Lewis, for he does strike at the heart of the issue by using Biblical archetypes as they were intended in teasing out spiritual truths. Whether it was looking to Paul, Peter or Nehemiah he pulls out the best and worst in their leadership to build hope for the student leader. The challenge also being showing yes there are earthly examples, but a overt and covert resonance in his words is that the leader to be looked to is Christ, that is Jesus of Nazareth’s life and teachings.

            For within these we see that we are to reproduce leaders, and not to worry about replacing for the central leader of any movement of G-O-O-D is Christ (within). This centre cannot be replaced for it is eternal, what happens is transitions, and what is needed in leadership is handling transitions well so as to ensure that leadership grows under strong leadership, the true focus is kept, and through these choices as with Nehemiah—the wall is built, that is the goal is achieved.


            In spite of the updated language to “contemporary” that actually detracts from the message; and the “fluff” reflection questions, the text itself is a useful tool to aid a growing leader in learning some skills or theories. For the seasoned leader, it is a good reminder that in conversation with peers, mentors, and mentees if used appropriately for building ones leadership skills and self-reflection.


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