The following is a reading critique of Myra and Shelley’s “The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham.”
What is the author’s main purpose in writing this book?
The author’s main purpose in writing this book is to define the leadership development and strategies of Billy Graham. Their study includes interviews with his dearest friends, writings focused on his life and teachings, additional leadership resources, and Graham’s favorite Scriptural references and church historical works (Myra and Shelley, 15). Each individual will be held accountable for what they did with what they had. The authors suggests, “Whatever the challenges and hurdles, whatever the limitations, he steadily led by full commitment to his biblical values. His lifetime of vigorous leadership invites us to engage with the same spirit, to consider his examples, and to reach as he did, into the rich resources of leadership literature that resonates with scriptural principles” (16). His life reminds me of what David described as he proclaimed, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you” (1 Chronicles 29:17, ESV).
What insight from the material will be the most helpful to you in ministry? Why?
The author’s description of a leader who dares to dream was the most helpful information to apply to a ministry context. Harry Truman once said, “Make no little plans. Make the biggest plan you can think of” (207). One can learn so much from observing how Billy Graham started new ministry ventures. First, he paid attention to those who he wished to reach or work alongside. Second, he processed through all of the information and ideas (209). Third, he was one of the key implementers. Fourth, he raised the funds that were required. Fifth, he developed a team that was self-sufficient but accountable for their results. Sixth, he communicated the strategies and systems with his board. Finally, he continually commemorated, encouraged, and complimented the contributions of those who carried out the mission (212).
The authors suggest, “Leaders positioned to birth dreams know they can’t become managers but must hand off those roles. [They] work under lots of pressure, handle demands and opportunities and address new challenges. But [they] cast a continuous eye on events and at pivotal moments have focused on a pressing need” (218). Likewise, they must also recognize when their dreams are dying – whether it be due to the team, the timing, or the training. Leaders cannot be afraid to say enough is enough and accept the short-term failure. Otherwise, they place the mission, the organization, or themselves in great jeopardy of complete destruction. Such decisions are rarely easy and never without anguish. Above all else, leaders should heed the advice of Billy Graham who counsels, “Prayer is not just asking. It is listening for God’s orders” (219).
What idea(s) in the material do you struggle with? Why?
One of the more difficult concepts for a leader to apply is Billy Graham’s unwavering integrity as it relates to financial dealings. He warns, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost any other area of his life” (107). So many pastors – like any leader, celebrity, communicator, or artist – become distracted by their own popularity or power that they fail to carefully consider their monetary practices (111). The more a person hears their own voice, the more they begin to thoroughly enjoy it. Likewise, the more a person receives an honorarium, the more they begin to expect it. There is little more dangerous than entitlement that derails a leader’s love of God and an organization’s commitment to the mission. The authors propose, “Greed in any organization can devastate it. In contrast, if the bottom line trumps other values, it can also devastate. Some organizations scrimp and cut every possible cost; others spend to build momentum and create new realities” (117).
The church is currently in the midst of unparalleled consumption and continually morphing financial climates. To exemplify economic integrity is a lifelong process and takes wisdom and devotion (119). Such an approach takes a team with diverse gifts and insights. Myra and Shelley recommend, “Generating funds, administrating them, strategizing their use – all are vital components. Strong, able players must be put into the best-fitting harnesses and given clear mandates” (119). Each leader and association must confront exceptional and multifaceted economic hardships. They ought to deal with these challenges with answerability, honesty, and responsibility (121).
What results do you believe would occur following the implementation of this philosophy in the typical Pentecostal/charismatic church? Why?
One quotation from the book that was particularly important was when Fred Smith Sr. states, “Leadership consists in getting people to work with, not for, you – particular when they are under no obligation to do so” (123). Pentecostal leaders must design creative and clear processes in which disciples are equipped and entrusted with the mission. Mentoring and mobilizing occurs only as one is immersed in the process, prayed with, instructed to, communicated with, and supported and defended (126). The authors speak of Graham as having a cascading trust. They define this attribute as by the following, “When you have a great leader . . . and his character and worldview cascade through the enterprise, the enterprise can accomplish great things! [Graham] surrounded himself with people who cared for him, told him the truth, and got results” (128).
Entrusting others calls for one to give comprehensible direction, allow for creative liberties, ensure and embody unwavering faithfulness, and offer ready support (130). There is a delicate balance between motivation and management (132). Richard Farson counsels, “Effective leaders do not regard control as the main concerns . . . [but] approach situations sometimes as learners, sometimes as teachers, sometimes as both . . . Their strength is not in control alone but in other qualities – passion, sensitivity, tenacity, patience, courage, firmness, enthusiasm, wonder” (133). However, in reality, people often attempt to do all of the essential tasks on their own. They must strive to keep their influence in its proper light. Leaders have to constantly resist the enticement to think that they can do everything better than everyone else or forget that they too have been entrusted with such leadership responsibility themselves.