Marcus Honeysett – Powerful Leaders: When church leadership goes wrong and how to prevent it
“Authority, used correctly, is a deeply positive, nurturing thing …”
The author adds: “The key principle, however, is this: power must be exercised wholly for the benefit of others and not for the benefit of the leader. Christian leadership, modelled on Jesus’ leadership, is self-giving, not self-serving.”
This book is timely in the light of recent high-profile reports on how Christian leadership can go very wrong, leaving behind a trail of broken trust and wounded people in its wake.
Marcus Honeysett makes it plain that this is a first word on the subject rather than the final definitive word. Powerful Leaders does not namecheck the figures at the heart of many recent high-profile church scandals.
The book mainly focuses on how Christian leaders can operate within a healthy church environment that has all the necessary checks and balances in place. These seven chapters raise some vital questions of how leadership can be structured and regulated to help prevent misuses of power.
Two chapters address the subjects of victims and survivors, and whistleblowers. The author apologizes for the brevity of this treatment, and while there is much practical help in these chapters, this is the part of the book which would have benefited from some amplification.
The final three chapters ask the questions: What next for leaders, churches, and cultures and tribes?
The thrust of the chapter on leadership could be summed up in the wise words:
“Living unobserved lives in ministry is incredibly dangerous.”
The author urges Christian leaders to make sure that their leadership is well ventilated by openness, accountability and an honest self-evaluation.
For churches there is the warning not to contribute to the isolation of a leader by unrealistic expectations, or by allowing them to be a law unto themselves.
For cultures and tribes there is a timely warning on detecting the signs of unhealthy and toxic structures, attitudes and actions.
In an appendix the author explains why he does not use the term “spiritual abuse” in this book. He says that he is cautious about the term because it is in danger of becoming an umbrella term that has come to include things that we don’t like or agree with in Christian leadership.
Throughout this book the author seeks to use biblical wisdom to shape a healthy view of Christian leadership. The Church would be a safer space if the lessons of this “first word” are engaged with seriously.
John Woods is a Bible teacher and writer based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training for the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia