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Revised and updated edition of the classic work on spiritual leadership
In A Work of Heart, bestselling author and missional expert Reggie McNeal helps leaders reflect on the ways in which God is shaping them by letting us see God at work in the lives of four quintessential biblical leaders: Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. McNeal identifies the formative influences upon these leaders, which he sees as God's ways of working in their lives: the same influences at work today forming leaders for ministry in our times. He explores the shaping influence of culture, call, community, conflict, and the commonplace.
- Offers guidance for church leaders to let God shape their hearts from the inside out
- Reggie McNeal is the author of the bestselling book Missional Renaissance
- Gives reassurance for maintaining perspective while doing the demanding work of ministry
The book includes illustrative stories of contemporary leaders opening their hearts to God's guidance.
Read an Excerpt
DAVID -- A HEART AFTER GOD
Israel's greatest king is one of those larger-than-life characters who captivates our imagination. The David described in Hebrew scriptures reveals many fascinating and sometimes contradictory characteristics. Humble birth. King of the most extensive empire in the Middle East a millennium before Christ. Courageous. Conniving. Loyal. Self-serving. Hero. Fugitive. Military strategist. Architect. Adulterer. Protector. Brutal. Sensitive. Vengeful. Forgiving. Murderer. Lover. Warrior. Musician.
No wonder we find so much in David to admire and so much we wish we could ignore. Yet David's nobler qualities win out and earn him three thousand years of prominence. David's saga reveals a person obviously and genuinely open to the heart-shaping work of God in his life.
Rise of a Nation
The cultural backdrop of David's early years provided the stage for his entrance into Israel's history. Born the youngest of eight sons to Jesse of Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah, David grew up in a time when the identity of people in Israel revolved around their tribal affiliation. Upon entering Canaan, the twelve tribes of Israel settled in territories assigned to them. This parceling out was done after initial warfare had generally established Israelite dominance in the region. Once secure, the Israelites began to tame their new land for their own use through animal husbandry and farming. Life centered on the village. Threats to peace from the surrounding hostile populations were addressed with the help of neighboring villages and sometimes villagers from other tribes.
A Secret Anointing
Some leaders' calls are gradual. They almost steal up on the person. Rather than an immediate and dramatic burning bush episode, the call for them is progressive. Perhaps it initially comes quietly with little shape to it. It may first be perceived as just a direction toward some major assignment. Clarification may come only after the journey has begun. Sometimes this clarification process takes years. The dynamic of David's call fits this description. It was a long way from Samuel's mysterious and secretive anointing in Bethlehem to the public anointing of David as king over Israel by the elders at Hebron.
The Fight with Goliath
God's anointed one rose to national prominence through a spectacular conflict involving David's defeat of Goliath, the Philistine's great champion. Several leadership lessons emerge from this event. The first is obvious, yet it cannot be overlooked. It took raw courage, significant "chutzpah," for David to go up against Goliath. Saul had promised to reward Goliath's slayer with the king's wealth, the king's daughter, and a tax break. David inquired about the reward, but no amount of reward could engender by itself the courage it took to face Goliath. This character quality had to come from within; it could not be generated from extrinsic motivations.
(1 Chron. 21:1-30).
The Cauldron of Conflict
David had to fight to become king, not just against Goliath, but against Saul's family, with and against the Philistines, against the Jebusites, and eventually against his own son. Without question, David's life was bloody, so bloody that he was not allowed to construct the Temple. Yet the demands of his situation required gruesome solutions. Kings fought to become and remain kings in those days. Any attempt to retrofit the cultural mores of David's time with those of today will obscure the larger picture. For David to have shied away from these conflicts would have meant an abdication of his life mission. Our interest focuses on how these conflicts shaped David's heart.
David played by different rules of engagement with Absalom than when he confronted others. He was reluctant to fight against his son. He actually abandoned Jerusalem and went into temporary exile. When Absalom was ultimately killed, David despaired as at no other time in his life. His judgment became clouded to the point that he temporarily demoralized his followers by failing to honor their victory over his enemies. Only Joab's sharp rebuke helped David regain his leadership composure to look beyond his own grief to the needs of his followers (2 Sam. 19:1-8). Their sacrificial efforts needed to be legitimized and appreciated.
Community of the King
David did not fit the leader-as-loner model. He apparently craved community. As the baby boy in his family, he had been surrounded by older brothers. He was never really alone, except on shepherding assignments. He kept people around him always, people who were close to him, beginning with Jonathan, then Abner, then Joab. These relationships stand out, but scores of others, including the thirty mighty men of valor, created for David a web of people connections.
A Man After God's Own Heart
David's passion to pursue God's heart fostered a communion between him and God so powerful that the very words of their conversations still inspire the communion of millions seeking after God's heart themselves. The psalms of David serve as a journal of divine heart-shaping. From them, we learn several key insights into how God molded David through their intimate encounters. First, David's communion with God supported his sense of destiny. Second, David was transparent in his relationship with God. The full range of emotions poured out in David's discourse with his King. Third, he reflected on commonplace experiences of his boyhood shepherding to create new insights into God's heart. Finally, David saw God everywhere he looked.
A Sense of Destiny
Throughout the psalms, David revealed a strong sense of personal destiny. He combined two major sets of imagery to express this theme-warrior imagery and regal imagery.
Heart to Heart
David was honest with God. He did not pretend in his conversations with God, playing games to avoid confronting the truth about life, about his circumstances, and about himself. He felt he had nothing to hide from God; rather, he viewed his life as an open book. For this reason, David did not feel a need to sanitize his prayers. He brought to God the raw stuff of his heart, uncensored, untidied up. He was not afraid that God would be repulsed by his heart, because God, knowing his heart, still wanted communion with David. (Ps. 69:22-24, 27-28). And these verses are not even the most explicit in David's prayer arsenal against his enemies!
The Shepherd King
Like Moses, David had a leadership curriculum that involved shepherding. Shepherding provided David with some of his richest imagery about God. The commonplace experiences of his boyhood afforded him new ways to talk about the God of Israel. The notion that God looks after us in protection and provision, that we are the sheep of his pasture, provides an incredible dimension to the Old Testament revelation of God. In Moses' time, God lived on the mountain, in fire and smoke. He was unapproachable. No one looked on him lest they die in their tracks. David painted a picture of a God intimately involved with and concerned for his people.
God Is Everywhere
The shepherd of Bethlehem also developed a deep appreciation for the handiwork of God. Waterfalls, mountains, valley streams, still-water ponds, lush vegetation, craggy hillsides, caves, open vistas, snow-capped peaks-all and each of them inspired David and caused him to worship God.
Table of Contents
About the Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series ix
Preface to the Updated Edition xi
Introduction: Looking for God in All the Right Places xix
PART ONE How God Shaped Moses, David, Paul, and Jesus for Leadership 1
1. Moses: A Heart on a Mission 3
2. David: A Heart After God 21
3. Paul: A Heart Captured by God 36
4. Jesus: The Heartbeat of God 51
PART TWO Recognizing God’s Shaping Work in Our Own Lives 71
5. Culture: Meeting the World 73
6. Call: Figuring Out Why We Are Here 94
7. Community: Connecting with Others’ Hearts 114
8. Communion: Rehearsing for Eternity 137
9. Conflict: Learning to Die So We Can Live 154
10. Commonplace: Discovering That the Ordinary Is Extra-Ordinary 175
Conclusion: Collaborating with God’s Heart-Shaping Project 187
The Author 195
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Highly recommend this book. Very spiritual but a little bit of a difficult read but well worth the time for those in a leadership position in the Church.