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No Silver Bullets

The summer months are often a time for reading and reflecting. Adrian Reynolds is back from his summer break and has been dipping into a few books about Christian ministry. Here’s his review of 'No Silver Bullets' by Daniel Im.

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I’m pretty sure that leaders should think about leadership a bit more than we do. I know that’s true for me. It’s almost certainly true for you too. For sure, the key way that leaders lead is to exercise a ministry of the word. But leadership – whilst not less than preaching – is more than it too.

I may well be wrong about this, but Paul sets apart preaching/teaching from ‘directing the affairs of the church’ in 1 Tim 5:17. And the spiritual gift of kybernesis (sometimes translated ‘administration’) is the act of managing and piloting the ship.

I’m always keen therefore to see books which promise much when it comes to leadership development. I’ve recently finished No Silver Bullets: 5 small shifts that will transform your ministry by Daniel Im (whom you may know from books he has co-authored with others, for example Ed Stetzer).

Five Shifts

Daniel is the teaching pastor of a multi-site church in Nashville and also Director of Church Multiplication for Lifeway Resources, so he has a lot of pedigree and experience with which to write such a volume. The first two thirds is a description of five shifts that he asserts we need to embrace in order to lead our churches through healthy change.

They are worth repeating in full. See what you make of them: from destination to direction; from output to input; from sage to guide; from form to function; from maturity to missionary. Straight away my radar is on alert for I spend much of my time telling people to move in the opposite direction to some of these!

But it turns out that Daniel and I are in agreement.

His headings, then, are provocative in this sense, but it means they are not always helpful. For example, by moving from output to input he means moving from output goals to input goals. For example, it is not enough to say ‘I want to lose weight’ (an output goal, p50). An input goal says ‘I will do something today that will make a difference tomorrow and help me lose weight.’

You may begin to see the dilemma. Daniel sets up classic false dichotomies in some of his headlines and early explanations: you won’t make a decision about weight/exercise today unless you have an output goal of losing weight. Indeed, as Andrew Heard often says, it is the output that needs to drive things: shaping and forming the inputs.

A good leader will not choose between the two.

A similar point could be made about form and function. I once told a colleague that I really liked the Barbican conference centre because ‘function has beauty too.’ He replied ‘Are you a communist?’ Ha! For the record, I’m not, but setting up form against function can be another false dichotomy, especially as in Daniel’s case he is talking about the structures of church.

Each of the chapters then goes into some detail showing how these changes are essential and can be brought to bear upon local church life. There’s lots here that’s useful – but it is overwhelmingly complicated. You will be able to pick out useful stuff, but you could also get lost in the detail.

A Helpful Conclusion

The second section of the book contains two very useful chapters – one on steps for change and another on setting and measuring vision in the local church. These two chapters are strong for me and I liked them – though they have been added as a complement to the first section, rather than on their own merit.

So in summary this is a useful book in places – but not particular user-friendly, at least for Brits who are not so used to programmatic approaches to leadership and ministry.

But buy it and read it by all means; and by the end you will be better for it. Just don’t expect it to transform ministry as it might promise.

Adrian Reynolds photo
Adrian Reynolds - FIEC Associate National Director

Adrian has been on FIEC staff since April 2017. He previously served as one of the leaders of The Proclamation Trust and as Associate Minister of East London Tabernacle. He is married to Celia, they have two married daughters and another at home.


Follow Adrian Reynolds on Twitter – @_adrianreynolds