Rick Nichols

About Rick Nichols

Rick's Blog
Rick serves as the Lead Pastor of Wildwood Baptist Church in Mesquite, TX. He has an M.Div in Christian Leadership and a D.Min. in Pastoral Counseling. He also serves as the Board President for Raising the Bridge, a non-profit teenage mentoring program. He has been married his beautiful wife, Amy, for 17 years. They have a 12 year old daughter and a 14 year old son. Rick enjoys woodworking and all things nerdy! His loves Star Wars, Star Trek, and science fiction in general.



The Pastor and Counseling Book Review

The Pastor and Counseling Book Review

The Pastor and Counseling

by Deepak Reju, Jeremy Pierre
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (159 pages).
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Pastors are often surprised at how much time they dedicate to counseling. “The Pastor and Counseling” prepares pastors with the basics of Jesus-centered and Gospel-focused counseling. It is simple without being simplistic and practical without losing its theological foundations.

Who should read this?

This book is for pastors who want a clear and simple guide to understanding the basics of pastoral counseling. It helps the reader to understand the motives, struggles, frustrations of counseling as well as providing a concise plan to help those people who come to them for help.

The Pastor and Counseling Book Review 1

SUMMARY

This book is written with a simple, focused, and straightforward presentation of biblical, Gospel-focused, and Jesus-centered counseling. It is simple without being simplistic and practical without losing it theological foundations. It does not overwhelm the reader with technical jargon as many counseling books tend to do. The authors write with pastoral concern for both the reader and those entrusted to the reader’s care.

The book is structured in three main parts: concept, process, and context of biblical, pastoral counseling. The concept of counseling explores the point that shepherds shepherd and, therefore, counseling is part of the job description of every pastor.  The process of counseling is explained from initial contact to final meeting.

The context of counseling helps the pastor understand they are not counseling in a vacuum, but has access to resources and help within the church and community.

The purpose of the book is to provide a primer for pastors as they approach the problems brought to them by those seeking counsel. It is to constantly remind pastors that their confidence lies in the transformational power of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Pastors are not expected to solve other people’s problems, but to bring the problem under the light and authority of the Gospel. The authors are seeking to help pastors better serve their congregations and communities by giving them a greater understanding of biblical counseling and a plan for approaching counseling.

The basic premise behind the counseling approach of the authors is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ informs and provides solutions for every problem that any person can experience. The problems we all face are directly connected to the fall that has infected all of mankind and tainted the image of God in us. Through biblical counseling we help people recognize their need for a Savior and the full implication and application of salvation.

The authors support their suppositions about ministry directly from the Bible. The outline and responsibilities of pastoral ministry are taken directly from the lives of Jesus and other major biblical characters.  For instance, when presenting how ministry is personal, the authors reveal that it requires identifying with the weakness and sin of people, speaking to God on behalf of people, and speaking to people on behalf of God.

Biblical support for identifying with others’ weaknesses and sin is found in the life of Christ as is revealed in Phil. 2, Heb. 4, and Isa. 53. Support for speaking to God on behalf of people and vice versa, are found in passages such as Matt. 6 and Col. 1.

The authors also draw from their own personal education and experiences. They have received many calls for pastors in search of advice about how to give the best counsel to someone who has come to them for help.  

Both authors have great experience in counseling as Pierre serves as the chair of the department of biblical counseling and biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reju serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC as well as the president of the board for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.  As pastors and counselors, they know the struggles and challenges of counseling in their time of need.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

While I am not an expert in this field by a long shot, I do have personal experience in pastoral counselors. I am a lead pastor of medium sized church and have many requests for counseling.  I also have a Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling. I say all of that to say this, I wish I would have had this book when I first began ministry.

It would have helped me have a better foundation for counseling. Unfortunately, early in my ministry, I was not tender-hearted or compassionate towards those who came to me with their problems. I did not love or shepherd them well.  This book would have helped me have a better, more biblical understanding of how I should approach people who are broken to the point of seeking help. The authors achieved their goal of giving pastors a simple tool to help them better shepherd their people.

Strengths

There are many strengths to this book, but I believe the top three are: simplicity, addressing the motivation behind counseling, and giving an applicable plan.  First, as I have started already, the book is presented simply with precision. Rather than being wordy or technical, it uses plain language to excise the heart of biblical pastoral counseling.  

Second, rather than focusing primarily on the skills needed to counsel well, the authors focus first on the heart that should drive counseling. The counselor should seek to follow Christ’s example in serving, suffering, and identifying with those who need help.  Lastly, the authors give the reader a process as a launching pad. This gives the reader a framework to begin immediately applying the material to their own ministry. Too often books on counseling present theory without following up with practical application.

Weaknesses

Any weaknesses would likely be to people not understanding the purpose and intent of the book. If someone was expecting this book to be an in depth expounding of the intricate details of counseling or a technically extensive treatise of all potential counseling encounters, they will be disappointed. However, the book is not meant to do either of these things. It is meant to be an introductory primer for the novice pastoral counselor.

CONCLUSION

I believe this book is required reading for ministers who either lack experience or confidence with pastoral counseling. I will be adding it to the required reading for ministers who I am mentoring. This book is needed because many seminarians are not required to take more than an introductory course on pastoral counseling. However, they will be asked regularly to counsel others.  They need to have a biblical understanding of how and what they should do to help those who trust them enough to seek out their counsel.

 

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Your confidence is not in some super-developed counseling technique, or even in yourself, but in God’s power to change people.” (p. 17)

“Shepherds do not smell good. At least, good shepherds do not smell good. A good shepherd identifies with stinking sheep, and the scent rubs off.

But shepherds stink not only because they smell like sheep. They stink because they smell like sweat. And blood, too. Like common laborers, their faces are streaked and their backs are bent. Like common soldiers, their eyes are strained and their arms are scarred. Like both, they often feel overspent and undersupplied. And they’ve made peace with the fact that this kind of work requires as much. You’ll never meet a good shepherd who is still shower-fresh by the afternoon.” (p. 23)

“Sometimes we are more bothered by the thought of people leaving our church than we are by the thought of them hurting.” (p. 28)

five-stars
By | 2018-06-13T02:11:52+00:00 June 17th, 2018|

Recovering Redemption Book Review

Recovering Redemption Book Review

Recovering Redemption

by Matt Chandler, Michael Snetzer
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (211 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Recovering Redemption reveals a full picture of how the Gospel is meant to impact every part of every person’s life. We are without any real power to make good changes in our lives without Jesus Christ redeeming believers in such a way that it makes a practical difference.

Who should read this?

Any person who wishes to make good changes in their life should read this book. Many people struggle for years trying to overcome bad habits, addictions, or unhealthy relationships. Our world tells us that the power for real change comes from within us, but the Gospel tells us the change is only possible in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Recovering Redemption Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How

The first author, Matt Chandler, is well-known as the Lead Pastor of The Village Church (TVC) in Dallas, TX.  The second author is less well-known, but equally as important. Michael (Mike) Snetzer is the Groups Pastor at the TVC and oversees their recovery ministry.  These two men are constantly brought into contact with hurting people who want to make practical changes in their lives.

The authors write in a pastoral tone that reflects the hearts of shepherds who care greatly for people. They include personal stories throughout the book about their own personal spiritual walks. It is endearing to hear real-life struggles and application from contemporary giants of the faith. Neither Chandler nor Snetzer present themselves as experts who have mastered every aspect of the Christian faith, but, rather, as fellow journeymen who face difficulty like everyone else. They constantly move the spotlight away from them and onto Jesus Christ.

The audience really is “any person.”  Every person is looking for some level of change in their lives.  The good positive change that all seek often is elusive due the fact that many people are looking to the wrong power source for the change.

The structure of the book is patterned after the biblical model of salvation. It starts with the need of salvation initiated at the Fall. It explores functional and false saviors many people pursue. It clearly presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of this happens in the first three chapters! The remaining nine chapters explore the practical application of the Gospel to one’s life. They include chapters devoted to justification and adoption as well as sanctification. While almost any Christian book dealing with salvation will include chapters with similar subject matter, Recovering Redemption goes further by showing how the Gospel is applied to the ups and downs of the Christian experience.

The Why

The purpose of this book is to help people understand true, life-changing power through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This reminder is especially needed for nominal Christians who have professed Christ for salvation, but follow worldly philosophies to try to find peace and freedom.

I believe it adds much to the subject of Christian living. Increasingly, Christians are becoming more syncretistic in their worldviews.  Chandler and Snetzer bring the focus for real, practical life-change back to the Gospel.  This is where true peace and freedom is found. Too often there are many people who view the Gospel through a negative lens because they have only experienced Christians who are concerned with irrelevant religion.  There are many people who leave churches every year because they are disenchanted with preachers who preach about the power of the Gospel, but do not possess it.

Many preachers have resorted to worldly motivational speeches in place of biblical teaching centered on the Gospel. Those who are disenchanted are becoming disenfranchised and leaving church altogether. Christians should be encouraged to see the practical effects of the Gospel which result in real life change rather than just believing in principled theology and denomination defenses. They want to experience real freedom in Christ instead of water-downed platitudes that never translate into reality. Recovering Redemption addresses these issues and more.

The What

The main arguments of the book are that real change is possible in Christ and that believers need to trust in the completed work of Christ just as much as the unbeliever.  The Gospel is not meant to be just the initial step into faith, but is the all-encompassing ethos of the Christian faith and lifestyle.

It attracts people with something we all want: a better life and preferred future. Those who want freedom from addictions, broken relationships, and past injury need to know these are all found in the Gospel. Too many people have reduced Christianity to legalism and moralism without understanding the heart transformation required to motivate good works and behavior.

Most people would agree that our world is broken.  They see it globally as nations wage war against one another.  They also see it played out personally in their own lives. They try to lose weight and fail. They want relationships mended only to find greater division. Every person knows the frustration and disappointment of making resolutions for positive change, but falling short.

The functional saviors that most people run to are summarized in the second chapter of the book. Titled “Attempted Redemption,” Chandler and Snetzer reveal how we all try to create our own redemption by placing our trust in things that have already proven themselves to be redemption failures. The four faulty redeemers are: ourselves, others, the world, and religion. When we trust in these things we are guaranteeing disappointment. These are the broken cisterns that Jeremiah speaks of in Jeremiah 2:13.

The only true Redeemer is Jesus Christ.  He is the only one not limited by our human failings.  It is only when a person trusts His completed work over all other advertised redeemers that they find true power for recovery and life change.  Each of the false redeemers is deceptive in its own way, but probably the most heinous of all is religion. It is a cheap substitute for a powerful, life-altering relationship with God through Jesus.  Religion is often reduced to traditionalism, legalism, or moralism. It does not bring any real freedom, instead it just shackles people with more-attractive chains. Being a Christian is not about religion, but life found in a real relationship.

After sharing the power of the Gospel, Chandler and Snetzer spend the most time on revealing what a lifestyle centered on the Gospel produces. They address practical issues of the new identity given to believers as children of God. They also present what should happen when Christians fail in their walk. They capture the heart of how the Gospel is to be applied to every area of life including how to overcome addictions, shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety. They constantly remind the reader that God, through the Gospel, has a prescribed plan for all problems we can face in this life.  Every proposition is backed with adequate Scriptural support without being so exhaustive to overwhelm the common reader.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

I enjoy this book immensely.  It is one that I have read multiple times and occasionally revisit during trying times or embarrassing failures.  It reminds me of the true power of the Gospel to all areas of my Christian walk. In my justification, I find my Savior who took the punishment I deserve.  

In my sanctification, I find my Savior who, as a human, lived a sinless life, and has, through the Holy Spirit, empowered me to seek the same. I am reminded that I am not expected to live a sinless life, but God has already made provision for my failures through the grace of confession, repentance, and forgiveness.  In glorification, I am encouraged that one day God will restore me to His image and eternal presence.

Strengths

While there are many strengths to the book, I will list only a few. First, the book is simple without being simplistic. It presents the essentials of the Gospel in a way normal people can understand. Second, it is based on the Bible. Every principle presented is supported Scripturally. Lastly, it is relatable. The authors share personal stories of failure and victory throughout the book.  This makes the authors feel familiar, like visiting with a good friend who is challenging you to change, but is not condemning in any way.

Weaknesses

It is hard to list weaknesses of books you really enjoy so this part is challenging for me.  I think those who want a more scripturally exhaustive treatment of this subject may be disappointed.  However, I personally do not see this as a weakness because it was not the purpose of the authors to teach a seminary level course.  They wanted to connect with everyday people who are seeking change. I view it as the difference between being a seminary professor and being a pastor.  

There are two very different approaches to teaching. When I first entered the full-time ministry and was preaching weekly, I fell into the trap of trying to preach to my congregation the same way my professors taught me. I found myself trying to teach their minds without regard for their hearts. I have since learned that I need to preach to both heart and mind in a sensitive and intentional manner which inspires practical application. I am thankful that Chandler and Snetzer did the same with this book.  

CONCLUSION

I think this book is a needed addition to every believer’s library.  Pastors and clergy benefit from being reminded that real power is found in the Gospel and not the latest trends coming out of megachurches or Christian magazines.  Lay men and women benefit from having a precise presentation of the Gospel that extends beyond evangelism and speaks to true discipleship.

There are many Christian books that deal with recovery and recovery ministries are becoming more common, but, unfortunately, many are adopting secular psychology’s approach to healing.  This book reintroduces the world to the biblical terminology of “redemption.” Where the world proposes that your problems are all external to you and the solution is in you, the Gospel presents that the problem is internal through sin and the solution is external in the person of Jesus Christ.  We need to be reminded of this daily! The book makes real life change possible.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “In order for good news to be good – the gospel is good (literally means ‘good news’) – it must invade bad spaces.” (p. 12) 
  • “So if you struggle with being able to run hard after the Lord because you feel so unworthy, so unclean, so unsteady, listen up: ‘While you were still weak, at the right time.”  God came to your rescue. And still does. And still is. 
  • “So mark this down: You have no shot at experiencing real change in life if you’re habitually protecting your image, hyping your spiritual brand, and putting out the vibe that you’re a lot more unfazed by temptation than the reality you know and live would suggest.” (p. 77) 
  • “If the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart – which it is – you’ll never cure the disease you’re suffering from by doing X-rays on other people.” (p. 108)
five-stars
By | 2018-05-02T21:28:55+00:00 April 10th, 2018|

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling Book Review

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling Book Review

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling

by Everett Worthington
Length: Approximately 11 hours. To read (311 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Many couples seek advice, counsel, and wisdom from their pastor about how to overcome marital struggles. In Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling, Everett Worthington presents a plan for pastoral counselors to help couples restore hope in their marriage by faith working through love.

Who should read this book?

This book is for pastors and pastoral counselors who want a clear and simple guide to marriage counseling based on biblical truths and principles. It is helpful if the reader has at least a foundational background knowledge in pastoral counseling. However, the author does spend time orienting the reader to the basic principles behind this counseling strategy.

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How

Everett Worthington’s book, Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling (HFMC), is a well-written book that presents a model of marriage counseling based upon the Bible and Worthington’s personal experience in counseling.  It is an update of an earlier book he wrote called Marriage Counseling:  A Christian Approach.

The focus of the book is on promoting hope that positive change can occur within a marriage when the couple works hard at loving one another better.  The author proposes a three-part strategy of building hope by “fostering motivation (willpower to change), showing couples tangible ways to change (waypower to change), and strengthening their resolve to wait on God’s work in their marriage (waitpower).”  The book is divided into two overall parts. The first part outlines the theory behind hope-focused marriage counseling. The second part presents interventions for specific issues.

The theory behind this counseling approach is covered in four chapters.  Chapter one presents brief marital counseling. Hope-focused marriage counseling is usually done in less than 10 sessions.  Chapter two gives an overview of hope-focused marriage counseling.

It has six major aspects: therapeutic relationship between counselor and each partner being counseled, the goal of producing stronger marriages, the focus is to promote hope, the strategy is to correct weaknesses in valuing love, faith, and work, the target for change is based on an assessment that directs the counselor toward interventions.

Chapter three is entitled “Using the Strategy to Promote Hope.”  It presents that the causes of most marital problems are loss of love, faith, or work in the marriage.  To help people overcome these losses, the couple needs help valuing one another and the marriage better.  Chapter four presents how to apply the strategy to nine areas of marriage: central beliefs and values, core vision, confession and forgiveness, communication, conflict resolution, cognition, closeness, complicating factors, and commitment.

Part two shares specific interventions for different problems.  Like a good Christian presenter, Worthington has alliterated the interventions with “C” words: central values, core vision, confession and forgiveness, communication, conflict resolution, changing cognition, closeness, cementing commitment, and couple commencement from counseling.  Each chapter includes discussion about a specific problem to be resolved and its solution.

Then it provides suggested interventions to help the couple work through the problem. The interventions include activities to do in a counseling session as well as homework of the couple to work on apart from the session.

The book ends with two helpful pieces of information.  First, chapter sixteen concludes the body of the work with a reminder about the essentials of this counseling strategy.  It includes discussion of the combined theories it presents as well as Scriptural support for its counseling position. Second, the appendix shares a case study of HFMC being used to help a young professional couple.

The Why

I believe most pastors have a biblical understanding of what marriage is, how God has designed it to function, and how it benefits individuals and society.  However, not all pastors feel equipped to handle difficult marital problems nor do they have a succinct strategy to address a broad spectrum of issues. Worthington provides pastors and pastoral counselors with such a strategy in a simple format that is not bogged down with technical counseling jargon or confusing competing theories.

The What

The goal of HFMC is to produce stronger marriages and decrease the amount of divorces that happen.  Instead of focusing on all of the potential problems within marriages, Worthington focuses on biblical solutions that promote hope in the marriage and have the byproduct of also solving the problems found in marriages.  Hope is defined as (willpower to change) + (waypower to change) + (waitpower even if change is not happening yet).

Another way of stating this is hope is the desire for things to get better plus the ability to help things get better plus the patience to wait for things to get better.  This hope is obtained by increasing love, faith, and work.

The overall strategy is to correct the weaknesses in love, faith, and work that each couple may experience in their marriage.  Love is defined as the willingness to value and the unwillingness to devalue your spouse. Faith is defined as believing that things hoped for will come about.  Work is defined as intentional energetic effort to help the situation. The strategy is based on Galatians 5:5-6 where Paul writes, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.”

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

I found this book to be refreshing and informative.  As I read it, I could see myself and my own marriage in it.  My wife, Amy, and I have been married for 17 years and have a great marriage, but we struggled through the first two years of our marriage.  Many of the suggestions and skills that are offered in the book we learned the hard way through studying Scripture, learning from mentors, and seeking God direction for us.

While my wife and I do not have a perfect marriage and we often remind ourselves and each other of the right focus and goals for our marriage, there is at least one area that I remember vividly as a major obstacle in our marriage.  When we learned to navigate through it, our marriage greatly improved. It is confession and forgiveness. I grew up in a family where no one admitted they were wrong. The phrase, “I’m sorry,” was rarely heard and when it was muttered under someone’s breath, it was not to express guilt, repentance, or a promise to change, it was done to end an argument.  

When Amy and I got married, I came to the marriage with the mentality that everything I did was right. If something upset Amy, the problem, in my mind, was with her perception, not with my actions. This led to many arguments. And naturally, I followed the example that was set for me early on. I would apologize, but not because I really meant it, but because I was tired of arguing and I wanted Amy to stop being upset.

Through Bible study and prayer, God convicted me about my insincerity in apologizing.  He showed me that apologizing did not make me weak, but took great courage. It was during this time that Amy and I developed our understanding of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  We committed ourselves to being completely honest with one another, even when it hurts.

We would rather trust the wounds from one who loves us than be comforted by falsities. We made up a saying about apologizing that we now teach our children.  We say, “When you say, ‘I’m sorry for…,’ you are saying, ‘I’m not going to do that anymore because I know it hurts you.’” I wish we would have had some of the tools that are presented in this book early in our marriage, but then again, we were both so stubborn and prideful that we probably would not have listened to them.

On the other side of the coin, when someone confesses and repents when they have hurt us, we offer true forgiveness.  We choose to not hold the hurt over the other person’s head. We do not keep a record of wrongs with which we conveniently wield as weapons during the next argument.  

While I do not believe that God forgets our sin, I do believe that He intentionally refuses to recall them. I think this is more powerful than the idea that God forgets our sin.  Amy and I try to follow this example. We are teaching our children what true forgiveness looks like. They are still learning, but they see the difference in the way our family operates and how un-forgiveness tears other families apart.

Strengths

I believe the greatest strength of this book is its simplicity.  It provides great definitions of love, faith, and work as they pertain to marriage as well as a step-by-step strategy to guiding couples on the path to reconciliation and healing.  The book also has solid biblical foundations that guide and powerfully propel the whole counseling process. Any pastor or pastoral counselor can find great encouragement for being able to help most couples.

Weaknesses

While I agree with the underlying principles and the simplicity of its presentation, the counseling strategy is presented in a formulaic way that could lead to frustration for the counselor and couples being counseled.  Worthington calls the book a “blueprint for marital counseling” (p. 18) which conveys a one size fits all mentality.

If a pastor or pastoral counselor adopts this one size fits all mentality then he or she could become legalistic about its application.  I believe this is a great tool for the counselor to have in his/her toolbox for helping others, but he/she still needs to have other tools for different situations they may encounter while counseling.

There is one other weakness.  This book was written with pastoral counselors in mind.  Many pastoral counselors are not clinical professionals and may encounter situations that may require a different, more informed approach.  The author would have done well to have included situations in which the counselor should refer a couple to a more experienced professional licensed Christian counselor.  There are times when a ill-equipped, well-meaning pastor has done more harm than good by trying to counsel situations beyond their depth.

CONCLUSION

Overall, Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling is a great addition to any Christian counselor’s library.  Its biblical foundations are solid and its presentation is simple, albeit, formulaic.  The tools and teaching in the book will benefit any person wishing to help others who are experiencing marriage difficulties.  Above all else, the book glorifies God’s design for marriage and His way of providing reconciliation, redemption, and restoration to marriages.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “The opposite of love is not fighting; it is noninvolvement.” (p. 56)

  • “Happiness is performance divided by expectation.” (p. 111)

  • “What distinguishes good marriages from troubled ones is whether couples reconcile after inevitable hurts and how well they do it.” (p. 128)
five-stars
By | 2018-03-11T00:29:47+00:00 March 11th, 2018|

Humilitas Book Review

Humilitas Book Review

Humilitas

by John Dickson
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (280 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

What is the missing key to great leadership? John Dickson presents that outstanding and inspiring leaders all possess one common characteristic: humility. Any person who wishes to have lasting impact and influence on others must understand the value of this elusive virtue.

Who Should Read This?

While this book is directed towards those in leadership positions, it is beneficial for any person. It confronts the world’s highest virtue of tolerance and replaces it with humility. The reader will not need any prerequisite knowledge to enjoy and benefit from this book.

Humilitas Book Review

Summary

The How

The author, John Dickson, is a scholar, musician, TV presenter, historian, and minister from Australia.  He writes in an easy-to-read style.  The book will attract the attention of leaders first, but it possesses treasures that can greatly benefit any person.  The book is written in a simple structure that seeks to address many of the ways humility impacts leadership.

The Why

The purpose of this book is to simply present the value of the forgotten virtue of humility.  Dickson seeks to add a historical perspective to the discussion of “what makes a great leader.”  While the most prominent writers in the lucrative genre of leadership development are trying to discover what the future of leadership looks like, Dickson looks to the past and examines what has previously produced influential and inspiring leaders.  He shares the reproductive nature of great leadership.  If someone wishes to be a great leader they should follow the example of great leaders who have come before them.  His thesis is clear and concise: “The most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility.” (p. 19)

Dickson brings an argument that is both biblical and historical in nature.  Many Christians have adopted worldly philosophies of leadership.  As more and more churches are adopting business models and corporate mentalities about leadership, biblical teachings on leadership, such as servant-leadership, compassion, humility, are being discarded as old-fashioned or outdated.  However, Dickson’s perspective reveals the power behind the paradox of humble leadership by examining the lives of leaders throughout history including religious figures, social activists, and great CEO’s.  

He reveals that authoritarian hierarchy does not produce great leaders.  People do not follow, support, or imitate those who have positional authority alone over them.  They follow, support, and imitate people who have vision, compassion, authenticity, and, most importantly, humility.  They follow leaders with high character.  Every person instinctively knows that positional authority does not increase personal value.  The leader with humility understands this and knows that he is not different than the people he leads.  Therefore, in the midst of humility, he grows, persuades, inspires, and promotes harmony.

The What

While humility does not automatically produce great leaders, all great leaders who had any kind of lasting influence possessed humility.  Humilitas presents that humility is beautiful and attractive to others, promotes personal growth, edifies others, and exceeds the world’s greatest virtue of “tolerance.”  Pride, the lack of humility, produces the undesirable opposite in each of these areas.  Prideful people are repugnant and insulting to those around them.  They are not compassionate and do not see the need for personal growth nor do they inspire growth in those they lead.

Dickson examines various life situations and quotes from great leaders’ lives in support of humility, but he presents the greatest example of humble leadership as being found in the person of Jesus Christ.  He points, specifically, to the shame of the crucifixion as the most brutal of capital punishments which Jesus voluntarily experienced despite his innocence.  Jesus demonstrated humility by voluntarily lowering himself to the point of death so that all of humanity could experience salvation.  This is the prime example of humility!  It is the example that every person should imitate.

Dickson primarily uses historical evidence to support his position.  He does touch on biblical support for humility, but he seems to be trying to build a bridge between secular and Christian audiences by not being overly focused on supporting his position with Biblical exposition.  He, instead, reveals biblical truth in historical observation.  He seems to hold to the statement, “Truth is truth no matter where it is discovered.”

Analysis

Personal Perspective

I found Humilitas to be a refreshing and encouraging read.  Dickson’s writing style makes reading easy and effortless.  I am not a fast reader, but I found it hard to put the book down and was pleasantly surprised that I completed the book much faster than I expected.  Dickson accomplishes his goal of presenting the value of humility in leadership by exploring the results every leader longs for, such as: inspiration, growth, persuasion, and harmony.

Strengths

Dickson’s background as a Senior Research Fellow for the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University provides a powerful foundation for his argument from a historical perspective.  He provides life examples and quotes from great leaders throughout history that are entertaining as well as educational.  He does not recycle familiar stories that many have heard before, but provides new and insightful material.  For example, in chapter two, hee writes of how three teenagers tried to pick a fight with a stranger on a bus in the 1930s.  The stranger refused to respond to their taunts and name calling.  They would later discover that the stranger was Joe Louis, who could have easily destroyed them in a fight.  Joe Louis restrained his great power and boxing skills for the sake of the teens.  A clear demonstration of humility in the boxer’s life.

Another strength is Dickson’s ability to speak to two worlds at one time.  He writes in a non-threatening way to readers who may not be religious or Christian while at the same time communicating principles that Christians hold dear.  His terminology is not technical or intimidating.  If he uses any technical terminology, he explains it clearly for the reader.

Weaknesses

While I do not think this is a great weakness, some may see it as so, but Dickson explains early in the book that he is not an expert in leadership.  While some people may see this as a negative, I felt it was refreshing, honest, and authentic for him to reveal his limitation on the subject.  However, by revealing his limitations in leadership, he provides a perfect example of the humility he promotes throughout the book.

Another potential weakness could come from the lack of exclusive biblical focus throughout the book.  There are some Christians who love every book they read to be primarily an exposition of Scripture.  Dickson provides a way to connect believing and non-believing leaders together through historical observation of the power of humility in leaders’ lives.  He reveals that truth is always true no matter where it is observed.  He promotes the biblical truth of humble leadership by examining the great leaders many people seek to emulate.  

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership
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Conclusion

Humilitas is a refreshing oasis in the expansive fields of leadership development material.  While most leadership development books will focus on techniques, habits, structures, and systems, Dickson dives deeper into the leader’s character.  Many people view character as exclusive FROM success within a leadership position, but character is necessary FOR lasting success in leadership.  Leaders who only possess skills and systems may produce great numbers and bottom line results, but leaders with high character lift people and inspire hope.  They inspire people to work for things greater than money and material benefits.  Part of being a leader high character is to be humble.  

Humility is honest about limitations, talents, and worth.  The humble leader recognizes himself as first among equals.  He recognizes that while he may be in a position of authority, he is under divine authority.  This humility causes him to lead in a way that is contrary to cut-throat business models.  Instead, he leads out of compassion, understanding, and empathy.  He knows his value is not determined by the title he holds, but the character he possesses.  This type of leadership is revolutionary and ancient at the same time.  I would recommend any leader to read this book and spend quality time in reflection about their own leadership style.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “Humility stands alone among the virtues in that as soon as you think you have it, you probably don’t.  And, yet, the reverse does not follow.  Not thinking yourself humble is not indication that you are.  You might be right!” (p. 11)

  • “Leadership is fundamentally about others.” (p. 34)

  • “Heavy reliance on authority is often the result of laziness, since enforcing is much easier than energizing and creating momentum.” (p. 38)

  • “…human pride is in fact the engine of mediocrity.” (p. 120)

  • “The perceived character of the persuader is central to his powers of persuasion.” (p. 140)
five-stars
By | 2018-02-16T01:30:09+00:00 February 16th, 2018|

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