Maths Textbooks and Thrillers

When I was at school maths textbooks were designed to allow the student mathematician to progress in a systematic and orderly way from one concept to another, and from one subject to another. The necessities of the subject demanded that if prose were needed it would be sparse and clear, sufficient and subservient to the requirements of logic and concept, and most importantly, formatted under Section Headings to guide the student forward.

In contrast to maths textbooks, American crime thrillers – my favourite genre – use no Section Headings (generally) and more prose, but they are equally effective at keeping the reader locked into a specific place in the story. As in maths, one thing follows another, but unlike maths, the signposts can be more subtle and yet there nonetheless.

The contrast between maths textbooks and American crime thrillers came to mind as I was skimming through some leadership books in the bookshop on Paddington Station. Leadership books often deal with process, in a narrative of sorts, and yet they fail reach the effectiveness of either a simple maths textbook or an elegant crime thriller. Why are leadership textbooks so ineffective?

Perhaps it’s because they fall between the two camps of logic and story that they manage to do neither efficiently. Which is in tis own way a parable of much leadership practice.

Or perhaps it’s because leadership is best caught from others not taught from books.

Sunday Worship

11.00am. Buzzing. Crowded. All ages. All types. Especially families. Not many older people. Engaging presentations. Great lighting. Music – could be different but not overwhelming. Building – big and dull(ish) but lots to look at. Great kit – TVs. Sofas. Bistro. Bistro! Good coffee and snacks.

Ahhh … I love Ikea on Sunday mornings.


If you see a one-man-band consultant in business it’s a fair and reasonable questions to ask, where are his weaknesses.\n\nSome areas must be fuzzy. Administration perhaps? Finance? Communication?\n\nAnd what’s fuzzy in their consultancy will be fuzzy in your organisation.\n\nSo beware.\n\nHowever, when it comes to church leadership, we love one-man-band leaders.\n\nThey save us so much effort and responsibility and so …\n\nWe may say they are multi-talented.\n\nWe may say look at how they can do anything they are given to do.\n\nWe may say how well they face difficult situations.\n\nWe may even say that this is obviously the anointing of God.\n\nBut beware.\n\nNo-one can do it all. Some areas must be fuzzy.\n\nAnd what’s fuzzy in their character will be fuzzy in your church.\n\nWhere’s the fuzziness? Where’s YOUR fuzziness?\n\nAnd who knows?

Subservient to the people

I recently found myself in a discussion about preaching.\n\nThe arguments flew around – could the people in the congregation be capable of giving proper feedback to the preacher.\n\nSome said no, they weren’t capable of it.\n\nOthers said yes, of course they could.\n\nSome said to aim for the best advice possible – bishops or Americans.\n\nSome said keep it local, build the community, be vulnerable.\n\nBut on reflection,\n\nIsn’t the point of preaching that one person reaches a handful of other people in a particular context with words which could be from God and should therefore in some way change the lives of the people listening .\n\nAnd if the preacher doesn’t know if that’s actually happening, then asking a Bishop or an American for advice is … well, misguided.\n\nIn other words, the gift of the preacher is given as a gift that is subservient to the people listening.