Neil was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new book for us on the blog.
Can you describe how this book is different than your other books?
My previous books were all written to do two things, expose some unhealthy patterns in the way the church does ministry and reveal a more organic and healthy manner. These books all focused upon four areas that are part of my mission statement: to reproduce healthy disciples (Search & Rescue, Cultivating a Life for God), leaders (Organic Leadership, TruthQuest), churches (Organic Church and Beyond Church Planting) and movements (Church 3.0).
Journeys to Significance, while also addressing leadership, is written in a narrative form following the life of one of the greatest leaders to shape history-the apostle Paul. It is easy to read because it tells a dramatic story. It is also a leadership book because it draws principles of how God matures a leader from the story.
There are a lot of books written about Paul and leadership, why write another?
I found that in spite of the volumes written on Paul there wasn't a single one that brought to light some of the observations in this book. Most of the books on Paul's life view his missional strategies as being the same approach varied only by circumstance. What I found was that he is a great example to us of a missional leader who is willing to learn and improve with each venture.
I also was able to offer some plausible explanations for some long standing questions regarding the book of Acts, such as: why would Paul and Silas receive a beating in Philippi when they were both Roman citizens? Why did the Holy Spirit forbid Paul and his team from preaching the gospel in Asia on the second journey? There are a lot of simple explanations that make sense within Luke's narrative.
One thing that this book does as well is it gives a solid biblical framework for the expansion of apostolic mission-- and why it works.
What was the process you went through to write this book?
I have this value that I can't write a book on a subject that I haven't experienced myself. This book is about how a leader matures through the various phases of life, so I had to learn the ideas of this book first hand. It literally took me 16 years to write it. There is evidence of this on the internet where you can find early editions of articles or sermons I would give that touch on these ideas. Even my first publication with Bob Logan in 1995 (Raising Leaders for the Harvest) has a fragment of this idea in it. Even though I had these ideas about Paul and the book of Acts, I needed to walk some of the paths of maturation that Paul went though before I could write this book with any authority. Not that I have arrived at maturity mind you. I still hope to have many more years of learning, but I have experienced enough to back up my observations and not sound like a kid who doesn't know what he is talking about. Over the last 16 years, not only did I learn more about how a leader matures, but I also gained experience in mentoring others through various phases of growth and all of that adds substance to the book.
I calculated that I have read Acts at least 100 times in those 16 years as well. I have studied other people's works on Paul and Acts and stand on the broad shoulders of some great scholarship as well.
What is the big idea of the book?
Most see Paul as an expert teacher. I see him first as a great learner, and that is why he is such a great teacher...and missionary. The idea of this book is that God brings all leaders through some similar phases and processes of development, and Paul is no exception. So the main idea of the book is examining how Paul was prepared by God to change the world, and how each time he learned something he got better...as a person and as a leader. He is the one who challenges us to follow him as he follows Christ. Too often people immortalize Paul as a saint who can do no wrong, but when we do this we steal from him one of his greatest qualities-his ability to learn. We learn, along with Paul in this book, how to become a leader whose influence spreads further with each life-lesson until we finish well as he did.
What are some of the missional lessons Paul learned that we may also need to learn?
There isn't the time or space in this venue to explain all of them, but one that is very interesting is how Paul learned to do more by doing less. On his first journeys he did the majority of the evangelism work and left behind weak and immature churches susceptible to error (such as the Galatians). Near the end of his second journey he was instructed by Christ to stay in a place longer and find future leaders in the harvest fields. After this lesson he stayed a year and a half in Corinth and then 3 years in Ephesus. While in Ephesus Luke tells us that every person in all of Asia heard the message. Wow! Paul stayed in one place, did less and less of the actual work, but empowered others to carry the work on where he could not. It meant he stayed in one place longer, but after he left the church was not just viable and indigenous, but had already proven it could do the work without him. They were not dependent upon him. That is a leadership lesson that we definitely need today where so much is done by our leaders while the vast majority of the congregation simply receive and do little. Paul learned to do less so that others could do more.Be sure and pick up Neil's book, Journeys to Significance