Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 8:1 (Spring 2011) p. 102
Catastrophic Crises: Ministry Leadership in the Midst of Trial and Tragedy. By Steve F. Echols and Allen England. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2011. 192 pages. $19.99, paper.
The preacher in Ecclesiastes claimed there is no end to the writing of books (Ec. 12:12). Writing a book that glues the reader to the narrative, however, is an appropriate end that justifies the mean of diligent research, keen analysis, and thoughtful prose. Steve Echols and Allen England have given us a rich resource of transformational leadership for times of catastrophic crises. They define catastrophic to mean an event of overwhelming destruction and ruin. While all leaders face crises in their tenure of ministry, a catastrophic crisis usually occurs once in a lifetime. Consequently, the authors selected, examined, and evaluated eight catastrophic situations: seven that struck churches and one that almost devastated New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. By combining case studies with strategic leadership lessons the reader feels the weight of the trial or tragedy and learns the cruciality of effective leadership.
Several practical examples stand out. For those of us who endured the destructive fury of Hurricane Katrina the authors stir provocative memories of the long and laborious assessment and recovery. Dr. Chuck Kelley along with the trustees and the administrative team of the seminary tackled the New Orleans catastrophe swiftly and decisively in order to minimize the loss of students and faculty to the seminary. Hard times require hard decisions from leaders. As a result Dr. Kelley asked the faculty to make a personal sacrifice by meeting on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 10 days after the hurricane in order to reestablish communication, foster support, and allow for an opportunity to collectively grieve. Maintaining a clear perspective during emotionally volatile circumstances creates a potential for serious conflict. Nevertheless visionary leaders like Chuck Kelley provide hope in the midst of heartache and direction in the midst of chaos that enables everyone to adapt to a new normal.
Leading during a disaster is also what Echols and England emphasize when an F2 tornado leveled Bethel Baptist Church in Moody, Alabama. Pastor Chris Burns discovered the importance of creativity when his congregation had no place to worship. Furthermore he learned the art of navigating through conflicting congregational opinions while leading Bethel to reach out to the community. Transitioning an established rural church into a growing suburban church takes a toll upon both pastor and people, but servant-leaders help a congregation move from survival to revival during a malevolent crisis.
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