The 5 Best Christian Leadership Books

Editor’s Choice

  • 6 session study guide to lead “off the map” and into uncharted territory
  • “Reorientation” lessons to lead with confidence and courage
  • Offers a new vision of pastoral leadership

Best Overall

  • Every Law of Leadership has been updated and revised
  • 17 new stories on leadership included
  • A new leadership evaluation tool that will uncover your strengths—and weaknesses

Budget-Friendly

  • Twelve gospel principles to combat leadership crisis 
  • Each principle focuses on humility, dependency, and accountability
  • Geometrical shape book cover design as a representation for each principle

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best Christian Leadership book is then I’d recommend The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell as the best one.

Leadership has been a never-ending cliche in many organizations today. It has also become an industry of its own. The statement that “everybody needs to be a leader” is always implied whether at church, at work, or in the bookstore. Even most corporate entities make huge investments by sending their people to recent leadership seminars. There has also been constant growth for the last 20 years in leadership literature. With a lot of insightful leadership materials provided for us, this could also bring confusion as to which materials are best to use. 

With all the thousands of leadership resources available today, ranging from books, podcasts, seminars, we are led to ask a few questions. 

Does the Bible favor a specific leadership style over the other?

What does genuine Christian Leadership look like?

Is there a difference between a Christian Leader and a Worldly Leader?

Every leader must discern and practice a Biblical style of leadership so that they can meaningfully impact society. 

Here are the Best Christian Leadership books we’ll be reviewing:

Christian Leadership vs. Worldly Leadership

Saul stood tall with a striking appearance, David was dark and smaller in stature. Saul is impulsive by nature and tends to overstep his bounds. God himself describes David as a man after his own heart. Saul was terrified, deeply shaken, and hid in his tent when Goliath mocked the Israelites. David stood and took action for his people and God and defeated Goliath. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

The ultimate contrast in their leadership is not their physical appearance or experience; it’s their relationship with the Holy Spirit. Worldly Leadership focuses on the world as both its beginning and end. Their philosophical and logical premises are thoroughly worldly. Inevitably, ideas and presuppositions that begin with the world are doomed to end with the world. 

Christian Leadership is distinctly different because their leadership is away from the world. The best source of their leadership principles is deeply rooted in the Word. Christian Leadership focuses on Jesus as the greatest leader role model. It recognizes the fact that unless the person is changed on the inside, no amount of tactical external changes will make a lasting difference.

Christian Leadership is built on love, grace, forgiveness, and putting others above self. It acknowledges that leaders are stewards entrusted by God with certain responsibilities. 

Biblical Models of Leadership

The Bible chronicles different approaches to leadership in various scenarios. A genuine Christian leader is a person of character and competence who influences a group of people to achieve a God-honoring calling through the power of Christ. I know it is a struggle to be an effective leader while at the same time holding to Christian values. But it is possible to be one while performing your role and glorifying God. 

Here are some of many biblical characters illustrating a rich variety of biblical origins when it comes to leadership. 

Paul

Many often call Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. Nobody, aside from Jesus himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the apostle Paul. He was sensitive to God’s leading and always did as God directed despite his strong personality. Paul was able to change and challenge the lives he touched by meeting Christ through him. It is a reminder for us that God does not waste our time. God will make use of our past and present so we may serve him with our future.

Moses

The burning bush experience is a perfect illustration of Moses’ character. Moses always manages to react to conflicts around him. He always feels responsible for what should be done right. But leading two million people in the wilderness changed his mindset to react correctly. Leadership often involves reaction. However, developing habits of obedience to God leads to reacting with instincts consistent with God’s will. Moses’ character is a reminder that consistent obedience to God is best developed in times of less stress. It is a preparation that when stress comes, our natural reaction will be to obey God.

Nehemiah

Nehemiah is a model of committed, God-honoring leadership. He displayed excellent leadership among the Jews. He was spiritually ready to heed God’s call. Nehemiah used careful planning, teamwork, problem-solving, and courage to get the work done. He never avoided the extra work necessary for good leadership. The important lesson from Nehemiah’s leadership is to lead others, we need to listen for God’s direction in our life. 

Attributes of a Christian Leader

Gratefully, Jesus modeled the perfect leadership for us to follow. Being a leader is a calling from God for immense work. The responsibility of Christian leaders is to serve and influence others out of Christ’s interests to accomplish God’s purposes for and through them. Here are attributes we should exhibit and be evident in us as we lead.

Servant

In Matthew 20:27, Jesus described leadership in a new perspective. Instead of using people, we are to serve them. Jesus’ mission was to serve others and to give his life away. A genuine Christian leader has a servant’s heart. Servant leaders appreciate others’ worth and realize that they are not above any job. Take the initiative and do it like a faithful servant.

Faithfulness and Reverence

The key character traits that qualified the men in Nehemiah 7:2 to govern Jerusalem are faithfulness and fear of God. Faithful leaders can be trusted to carry out their work. God-fearing leaders can also be expected to do so in line with God’s priorities. These men had both qualities. Look for faithfulness and reverence if you are in a position to select leaders as these two traits pass the test of time. 

Fear of God

The most important attribute of a Christian leader is found in Psalm 111:10. The only way to become truly wise is to fear God. Too often, leaders want to skip this step thinking they can become wise by life experience and academic knowledge alone. Our foundation for making wise decisions is shaky if we do not acknowledge Him as the source of wisdom. As a result, we find ourselves prone to mistakes and foolish choices.

Modest

God wants leaders who are modest to serve the people. He despises proud people who take little account of their weaknesses and do not anticipate stumbling blocks. Pride is the inner voice that says, “My way is best.” It is resisting His leadership and believing that we can live without his help. Christian leaders should eliminate pride so that the Lord can help them become all that He meant them to be. 

Responsibility

When David realizes his sin in 1 Chronicles 21:8, he takes full responsibility. He admitted that he was wrong and asked God for forgiveness. Many leaders today want to add the Creator and the benefits of Christianity to their lives without acknowledging their sin and guilt. Like David, we must take full responsibility for our actions. Confession and repentance must come before we can expect the Lord to forgive us and continue his work in us. 

Genuine Christian leaders are readers. If you are serious about being a leader, then you should start reading them too! Therefore, you can never go wrong reading some Christian leadership books. Other authors such as Henry and Richard Blackaby, Jim Collins, Andy Stanley, and Henri Nouwen are a great read too.

Here are some Christian Leadership books that could provide a nice cross-section between leadership development, inspiration, prayer, church growth, and challenging personal development.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is a best-selling author, leadership expert, and recognized speaker who has sold over 13 million books internationally. His 10th-anniversary edition of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You has been revised and updated with major revisions from the original edition. The original book was published way back in 1998. 

In this 10th anniversary edition, John C. Maxwell updated the 21 Laws of Leadership based on what he learned from leaders applying the principles in real life. In this book, he summarizes the basics of effective leadership. He outlines the exerting influence, determining priorities, empowering others, and implementing team strategies. 

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership book is essential for anyone who wants to make a positive difference whether at work, home, or church. Various updates to this edition include 17 new stories, application pieces following every chapter, and a leadership evaluation. There are also 2 new additional chapters – “The Law of Addition” and “The Law of the Future” (replacing “The Law of Reproduction”).

Pros:

  • Every Law of Leadership has been updated and revised
  • 17 new stories on leadership included
  • A new leadership evaluation tool that will uncover your strengths—and weaknesses
  • Two new Laws of Leadership are launched
  • Includes new application exercises in every chapter that will help you grow

Cons:

  • Some chapters are highly redundant with a few logical flaws with the content

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger

Published in 2015, Canoeing the Mountains is a helpful, insightful, relevant leadership book needed by most churches today. This book follows the epic journey of explorers, Lewis and Clark, on a mission to discover the best route to the Pacific Ocean. Instead of a waterway leading to the Pacific Ocean, they were led in the Rocky Mountains. And at that point, they need to make a decision. They could admit failure and go home, or they could adapt.

Tod Bolsinger uses the explorers’ story as a metaphor for the kind of courage and adaptability needed to lead in uncharted territory. The book challenges especially those in church leadership to draw on their courage and utilize their instincts while also drawing new maps of leadership in real-time. In some instances, we have to abandon our canoes and oars to move forward.

Pros:

  • 6 session study guide to lead “off the map” and into uncharted territory
  • “Reorientation” lessons to lead with confidence and courage
  • Offers a new vision of pastoral leadership
  • It is shaped by theologically informed hope, not just optimism
  • Provides guiding principles for doing church in this new era

Cons:

  • Few Biblical citations
  • Not an easy read

Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck

Authors Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck believe that many churches do not develop leaders intentionally and consistently. Some leaders emerge by accident – something is off, something is missing. Designed to Lead focuses on the positive aspects of spiritual leadership especially for pastors. This book demonstrates how local churches can make leadership development a core part of their organizational DNA. Their goal is to promote God’s Kingdom both inside and outside the walls of the parish.

Designed to Lead revolves around three foundational themes that they label conviction, culture, and constructs. Strong conviction means the intense, heartfelt desire of churches to develop thought leaders. A healthy culture for leadership development is not defined as the “vibe” of a church, but as “what we truly believe and value over a sustained period”. Healthy Strategies labeled as “constructs” are helpful to systematically and intentionally build leaders. All three are vital for leaders to be formed through the ministry of a local church.

Pros:

  • Includes practical implementation of their argument
  • Lead to the centrality of the gospel for the life and ministry of the church
  • Biblically and Theologically grounded 
  • Emphasis on the connection between the Great Commission and leadership development
  • Rich and organized foundational themes

Cons:

  • The first parts of the book is a bit redundant

Lead by Paul David Tripp

Lead is very similar to Paul David Tripp’s heart-exposing book for pastors entitled “Dangerous Calling”. In this book, Tripp focuses on twelve gospel principles necessary for gospel-centered leadership. Aimed at ministry leaders, the focus of the book is how to apply the gospel to the way we think about leadership. 

The leadership crisis among churches is one reason many pastors fail, face burnout, and quit pastoral ministry completely. Tripp proposes twelve leadership-community gospel principles – achievement, gospel, limits, balance, character, spiritual warfare, servanthood, candor, identity, restoration, longevity, and presence. 

Pros:

  • Twelve gospel principles to combat leadership crisis 
  • Each principle focuses on humility, dependency, and accountability
  • Geometrical shape book cover design as a representation for each principle
  • Aimed at pastors and ministry leaders as well as any Christ-following leaders who operate in the sacred or the secular

Cons:

  • Essential issues of smaller churches are not adequately addressed.

Help! I Work with People by Chad Veach

This book from Chad Veach is not a book about leadership theory. Rather, it is more of a handbook on how to connect with people and making a good impact. The author’s signature transparent and relatable storytelling encourages us to lean into your leadership potential regardless of your level of influence or experience. Chad Veach uses modern research and biblical principles in short and easily digestible chapters. 

Leaders are found everywhere, they aren’t limited to corner offices and business dinners. Help! I Work with People talks about the three phases to become a quality leader. This book highlights the importance of self-awareness, people skills, and effective organization. It teaches the readers that the heart of leadership is winning people and making a good impact.

Pros:

  • A great resource on leadership
  • Handbook on how to connect and influence people
  • Short, research-packed chapters
  • A transparent and relatable storytelling
  • Foreword written by John Maxwell

Cons:

  • Has shallow examples and redundant chapters
  • Void of deeper spiritual ideas or connection to pastoral work

Conclusion

If you are serious about becoming the best leader, start reading them too! You can never go wrong with books as they can be a big help in your development. Rooting and anchoring ourselves in God’s Word is a great source of wisdom, guidance, perspective, hope, and encouragement for our lives. 

To equip you in your ministry, I’d recommend reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. This masterpiece from John Maxwell is a combination of insights he learned from his thirty-plus years of leadership. The 10th Anniversary Edition has been revised to showcase his observations from the worlds of business, politics, sports, religion, and military conflict. It is an encouragement for leaders to go and apply what they have learned.

Alex Shute
AUTHOR
Alex Shute
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow. In his free time, he enjoys perfecting pour-over coffee, smoking meats, and discovering new cycling routes around Southern California.