***DISCLAIMER: I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FOR FREE FROM MOODY PUBLISHERS TO REVIEW***
Ryan Lokkesmoe’s book Paul And His Team: What The Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership And Influence represents the second book I have reviewed for Moody Publishers. Heather Zempel wrote the book’s foreward, claiming Lokkesmoe gives the reader a “fresh” window into Paul’s leadership and influence (p. 10). Already there is a problem because one has everything he/she needs to know about Paul’s leadership and influence via the Bible (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Furthermore, God’s Word is living and active, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 4:12, 13:8). Nobody needs “fresh” windows or the like to get insight on what the Bible says about the apostle Paul.’s leadership and influence. The Bible itself suffices.
After the introduction, Lokkesmoe states how God has given us all the gift of influence (p. 13). Ironically, he cites no biblical text to support such a claim. Given Lokkesmoe called this concept a “gift”, it would make sense if it was one of the spiritual gifts that the apostle Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 12. Unfortunately, it is not listed. Lokkesmoe states that his book’s goal is to “help you in your journey as an influencer” (p. 23). However, nowhere in Scripture are we called to be influencers per se; instead, we are called to be disciple-makers of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:33-48). Another problem exists here because Lokkesmoe’s goal is off-mission compared to what the Scriptures say. While there is nothing wrong with being an influencer, it is not what believers are called to do in a technical sense.
In the eleven chapters that follow, this book features mediocre sentence structure scattered throughout the book, false teachings, allegorization, narcigesis (reading yourself into the biblical text) and eisegesis (reading something into the biblical text that is not there; Lokkesmoe does this practice by reading his own manmade ideas into the biblical texts). While he does have some decent ideas (i.e., the importance of seeking common ground in chapter one and picking worthy conflicts in chapter five), he has bad (perhaps even heretical) ideas in some places. For example, to conclude the chapter on offstage leadership (an opinion he tries to fit into the biblical texts), Lokkesmoe says, “God has a beautiful purpose for your influence if you’ll make it available to Him” (p. 69). Lokkesmoe says something similar in chapter ten when he says, “If we make ourselves available to God, He will do through us the work that only He can do. We just have to trust Him” (p. 173). This type of thinking, which is a false belief, suggests God is powerless to use a believer’s influence unless the believer makes his/her self and/or his/her influence available to God, thus elevating the creation over the Creator. What Lokkesmoe seemingly fails to understand is that God is in the heavens and He does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3). It is interesting that Lokkesmoe does not use a biblical text to support any of his heavy emphasis on the believer’s needing to make his/her self and/or his/her influence available to God. Moreover, he does not clarify what it means to make one’s self and/or influence available to God in a practical sense.
Finally, Lokkesmoe states some refutable things in the book’s conclusion. First, he states the apostle Paul cast a vision for Philemon (p. 196). This is a false statement. The whole concept of “casting vision” is not found in Scripture. Furthermore, websites such as piratechristian.com, bereanresearch.org and christianresearchnetwork.com have posted resources that show how vision-casting is unbiblical. Second, Lokkesmoe, in writing of Paul and his team, states, “…they were also working for spiritual reconciliation – letting the world know that God loves them and desired so much to be in relationship with humanity that He sent His Son as a means of final reconciliation” (p. 197). This concept of God’s desiring so much to have a relationship with humanity is mistaken. God already has a relationship with humanity. First, He created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, a Creator/creation relationship exists. Second, for the non-believer, another relationship exists; God is judge over the non-believer. Furthermore, the non-believer, dead in his/her trespasses and sins, stands in condemnation before a holy God (Exodus 34:7; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 2:8-10; Revelation 9:2; Revelation 19-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:14-46; Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24). Needless to say, this is a bad relationship. One would want to have a good relationship with God by being a penitent, born-again believer in Jesus Christ, the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12, 16:31; John 1:29, 3:3, 14:6; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21; Matthew 3:8). Because of that and the aforementioned commentary about God’s creating man in His own image, this concept of God’s desiring “so much to be in relationship with humanity” is a false conclusion. God already has a relationship with all humanity based on the fact He created humanity. Whether or not the individual is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation determines whether or not the relationship between the individual and God is a good one.
Overall, this would not be a book I would recommend. It has too much eisegesis, mediocre sentence structure and false teachings to be considered helpful. The only thing this book is good for is research purposes. Aside from that, stay away.