This review first appeared on The Gospel Coalition’s excellent new book review site, tgcreviews.com. Thanks to Mike Pohlman and John Starke for the great job they are doing there.

Leaders Who Last. Crossway/RE:LIT, 2010. 155 pages.

Not another book on leadership! Yes and no. Yes, it is another book on leadership; but no, not just another book on leadership. This is an exceptional book on leadership, especially on pastoral leadership, and easily finds a place in my top three leadership books.

What stands out is Dave Kraft’s experience. The book exudes the maturity of Kraft’s 70 years of life, 50 years of following Christ, and 40 years of Christian leadership.  It is a book written from the realistic trenches of long Christian service, and bears the unmistakable stamp of a humble Christian man who longs to leave a valuable legacy of leadership wisdom to the Church of Christ. As a taster, how about this for his definition of a leader:

A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed upon vision from God.

Kraft begins by identifying a major problem: only 30% of leaders last, or finish well. But instead of mistakenly concluding, “See, the church should not have leaders,” Kraft’s biblical premise is, “that you can learn how to be a good leader and finish your particular leadership race well.”

Kraft distances his approach to leadership from the business and marketing model. But he also “warns” that his book is not a “Successful Leaders in the Bible” survey. Rather it is “a personal and extremely practical account of essential leadership principles I have learned and used…a simple, down-to-earth guide to Christian leadership.” However, it is not just a nostalgic meander of inspirational personal anecdotes. It is a tightly and clearly structured book in three sections.

The first covers the leader’s foundations. Kraft uses a memorable hub illustration to show how Jesus Christ is the foundation of the leader’s power, purpose, passion, priorities, and pacing. In the chapter dealing with the leader’s purpose, Kraft relates how, in the office of his daughter’s high school counselor, he read a motto that was to change his life: “Some people come into our lives and quietly go. Others stay awhile, and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” That produced a prayer in Kraft’s heart, “Lord, make me a person who leaves footprints in people’s lives. I don’t want to be a person who comes and goes with no lasting impact. Because of contact with me, may people never be the same again. May I be a person who intentionally and lastingly influences others.” And that prayer birthed Kraft’s purpose statement: “To leave footprints in the hearts of God-hungry leaders who multiply.”

The second main section is the leader’s formation. Here Kraft deals with calling, gifts, character, and growth. These chapters demonstrate Kraft’s ability to combine the inspirational with the practical. Some books are inspiring, but you walk away thinking, “That’s amazing….eh, what do I do now?” Other books are so full of step-by-step formulas that you slump defeated and powerless before you even take step one. Kraft is both inspirational and practical. He motivates and empowers, but also leads you through the steps required to turn aspiration into reality.

The third is the leader’s fruitfulness, and this is where Kraft demonstrates the immeasurably huge potential of godly leadership to impact and influence the rising generations. So often leaders can get bogged down in day-to-day administration and crisis management, but Kraft calls us to look much further than the horizon of today, this week, or even this year. He challenges leaders to pour their lives into future leaders: exhort the eager beginner, empower the struggling learner, encourage the cautious contributor, entrust to the independent learner.

The only danger here is that some might focus so much on developing future leaders that they neglect the sheep who will never be shepherds, and ignore the cries of the lost sheep in the wilderness. I know this is not Kraft’s intention, but I have seen this happen when men begin to focus exclusively on their leadership legacy.

With that caveat, I will certainly be adding this book to the required reading in my Leadership course at Puritan Reformed Seminary. In fact, I can see myself re-writing my course and using this as my textbook!

But this book is for far more than seminary students. Kraft would like to see the book in the hands of Sunday school teachers, small-group leaders, volunteer leaders and pastors at all levels of leadership. And even teenagers can profit from this book. How do I know? Well, a couple of Sundays ago I tried an experiment. When we come home from church on Sunday morning, I usually read a Christian biography with my two sons (age 12 and 14). Like all Christian fathers I long to see my sons not only come to faith in Christ and follow Him, but also to become strong pillars in Christ’s Church. So, instead of reading them a biography, I read Leaders who Last to see how they would respond. And they were captivated. We got up to page 47 before their concentration began to wander. They had great questions and conversation continued through Sunday lunch. We will finish it in the coming weeks.

It’s been a long time since I have read such a well-written and well-edited book. With hardly a wasted word, a lifetime of profound leadership wisdom has been packed into 150 pages. You can probably read it in a few hours, but you will read it again…and again. It has the potential to change the rest of your life. And, hopefully, through you many other lives will be changed too – both for time and eternity.

I’ve never met Dave Kraft, and probably never will this side of eternity. But he is one of those rare authors who, after reading, you feel that you not only know them, you love them too!

  • Dave Kraft

    First of all thank you, Dr. Murray, for this very kind and extensive review of my book. I would love to contact you. Please email me or call me at 206 816 3767.ThanksDave Kraft

  • David Murray

    Thanks so much for the note, Dave. I look forward to getting in touch in the next few days.

  • Kevin

    Thanks for this David. I’ve purchased and begun to read the book after reading your review on the tgcreviews site, and have found it very helpful so far. What other books would you place in your top three books on leadership?

  • A. Amos Love

    Leaders who last? Hmmm?The front cover of the book says, “Only 30% of leaders last.”Doesn’t that mean, 70% of leaders – FAIL.Seems like a very dangerous “position” to assume. “Leader.”Just wondering how you reconcile the useof the word “leader” With what Jesus said in Mt 23:10 KJV.The word “leader” seems like a “high place.” Yes?Jesus always took and recommended the “low place.” Yes?Jesus humbled Himself, made himself of no reputationand took on the form of a servant.Php 2:7Jesus in Mat 23:10 KJV told His disciples“NOT” to call themselves master/“leaders”for you have one master/”leader” the Christ.King James Version -Neither be ye called masters:for one is your Master, even Christ.The Interlinear Bible -Nor be called leaders,for one is your leader the Christ.Phillips Modern English -you must not let people call you leaders,you have only one leader, Christ.Today’s English Version -nor should you be called leader.your one and only leader is the Messiah.The Amplified-you must not be called masters ( leaders )for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.Jesus told “His disciples” not to be called “leaders” and none did.Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus,the servants of Jesus Christ…Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, servant of Christ…Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God…Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God…2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant…His disciples “all” called themselves “servants.”None called themselves “leaders.” None? None.None called themselves “servant-leader.” None.And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:them also I must bring, and they shall hear “my voice;”and there shall be “one” fold, and “one” shepherd.John 10:16One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.If Not Now, When?Be blessed and be a blessing.

  • Dave Kraft

    The Bible encourages people to step into Leadership roles. I Tim 3:1. Humble leadership-yes. Dependent leadership-yes. Leading and living in such a way that you finish well-yes. I Peter 5 is a chapter that puts leadership in perspective. Jesus never told his disciples not to be leaders, but not to be the wrong kind of leaders! He trained them in leadership and left the leadership of the early church in their hands.

  • A. Amos Love

    DaveAppreciate the effort and time in service for the Lord.I’ve developed a few grey hairs myself. Seen a lot.Lot’s of challenges. Lot’s of broken hearts. Lot’s of broken dreams.I also appreciate your determined attempt to help folks who find themselves in the impossible “position” of being“The Leader” of people sheep. God’s ekklesia. God’s called out one’s.Lot’s of pain, tears and “Spiritual Abuse” for both “Leader” and “Led.”Your own statistics say, 70% don’t finish well. 70% FAIL. Ouch! :-(How about the folks these dysfunctional leaders “Lead?” What is the price they pay?I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of “Pastors/Leaders.” “Spiritual Abuse” for both the “leader” and those “being led.”IMO – The “Title” “Pastor/Leader” is very, very dangerous for both.In my experience…No matter how loving, eventually…No matter how humble, eventually…No matter how much of a servant, eventually…Pastor/Leader = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = alwaysSeems we’re seeing the same thing – Pastor/Leader is NOT working.We just have differing ideas on how to approach this catastrophe.I’m for letting Jesus “Lead” “His Disciples.” He’s the best “Leader.” Yes?I’m not not new to “ministering healing” to those who have been “abused”by those who “thought” elder/bishop = pastor/leader.Folks who have been **burnt,** ** burnt out,** ** kicked out,**and **crawled out** of “The Religious System” most call “church.”with it’s leaders, submission to authority, tithes and offerings,and other unbiblical “heavy weights” put on folks shoulders.I also spend time with pastors, “so called leaders,” who can’t do it anymore. Trying to please the denominational leaders, the congregation and it’s leaders, his family, and of course Jesus. Who is often relegated to last place. Hmmm? Serving so many masters, that’s tough; Yes?Preaching every week… and it better be good, being the CEO, the team leader, councilor, marrying, burying, smiley face. etc. etc.After trying for 1700 years, “clergy – laity” still doesn’t work.Jesus said we are “All” brethren. Mat 23:8 -10If “pastors/leaders” (as we see them today) are of God? He’s not taking very good care of His Pastors; Is He?This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.http://www.pastorcare.org/PastorCare/Healing___Health.html• 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.• 71% have felt burned out or depressed.• 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.• 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.• Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each monthDave – Think we might have a problem here with “Pastor/Leaders?” 70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out. 70% Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?That’s who is running the show. “Clergy?” “Pastors/Leaders?” 77% who say they don’t have a good marriage. Hmmm?That’s who is “abusing” God’s sheep. Dysfunctional “Clergy/Leaders.”1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year are pushed out. Wow!!!That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.1600 families a month suffering “abuse” from a “Corrupt Religious System.”Maybe, the denominations, seminaries, leader conferences, who claim they are training and preparing these “Pastor/Leaders,can tell young wannabees, before they spend lot’s of money for a degree,they are entering a very dangerous profession? “Pastor/Leader.”Dangerous for the “Pastor/Leader” and family. Yes?Some more statistics. This is serious business. Yes?http://pastoralcareinc.com/WhyPastoralCare/Statistics.php# 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.# 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. # 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.#1 reason pastors leave the ministry.Church people are not willing to go the same direction of the pastor. Jesus said, “You can’t serve two masters.”And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:them also I must bring, and they shall hear “my voice;”and there shall be “one” fold, and “one” shepherd.John 10:16One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.Be blessed in your search for truth… Jesus.