For the Bookshelf: Upside Down

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

Stacy T. Rinehart’s small volume Upside Down: The Paradox of Servant Leadership (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998. 170 pages) focuses on the leadership model that Jesus gave the church. The author details briefly the transformation of his own leadership philosophy from that of a “hard-nosed, aggressive” style leader to one with Jesus as its model. He describes how dangerous the CEO models are for the church, where “failing to submit is to rebel against God.” (p. 36).

Rinehart sketches a historical development of leadership philosophy within the church, demonstrating the “dark side of leadership,” the abuse of power by leaders in the church, and the criteria for leaders set by the Apostle Paul which the church ignored. Chapter 6 offers a Trinitarian “rotating functional leadership” model which emphasizes the “relational nature of spiritual leadership.” Rinehart discusses the outcome of those forms of leadership that leave congregational members feeling impotent and irrelevant. Rinehart asks, “Is there a better way, and what will further the equipping of God’s people and release them for ministry?” (p. 143). The final chapter describes some of the temptations for leaders and outlines the differences between “power leaders” and “servant leaders.”

The concept of Servant Leadership has been treated in depth in other works, and Rinehart offers a cursory treatment at best. His strategy for unleashing the laity by recognizing each individual’s unique design using spiritual gifts is not well developed. Rinehart provides a passionate argument against the personality-focused omni-competent model of leadership, where all that is needed to do a ministry is to be committed (p.l17). While he offers little guidance for implementing change his personal journey provides helpful illustrations about the concepts. His treatment of the theological foundations for servant leadership is one of the most helpful parts of the book. This is a useful book for lay church leaders.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.

His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H), and Theories of Learning for Christian Educators and Theological Faculty.

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans and to the Digital Flipchart blog.

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