ABSTRACT. Summarize what you have read, boiling the book down into 400 words (no more than 2
pages). Prove you comprehend the readings by writing a no-nonsense summary. The abstract is not a
commentary or listing of topics but rather an objective summary from the reader’s viewpoint. Abstract
equals �boiled down.� This section should include a minimum of 2 footnotes to the text being reviewed.
- CONCRETE RESPONSE. Get vulnerable! In no less than 250 words and no more than 1 page, relate
a personal life experience that this book triggered in your memory. Relate your story in first person,
describing action, and quoting exact words you remember hearing or saying. In the teaching style of
Jesus, this is a do-it-yourself parable, case study, confession. You will remember almost nothing you
have read unless you make this critical, personal connection. What video memory began to roll? This is
your chance to tell your story and make new ideas your own.
BOOK REVIEW 2
McNeal, Reggie. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006. ISBN: 9780787977535.
Spiritual leaders in most cases do not desire or aim for greatness because they fear that
they would seem to be lacking humility. Even so, greatness in spiritual leadership is what all of
us really need – in our businesses, churches, in the social sector and in all sectors of the society.
The crucial question is: in what way do good spiritual leaders become great spiritual leaders?
Basing upon his broad experience as a mentor and coach to numerous spiritual leaders across an
extensive range of ministry settings, McNeal in this text assists spiritual leaders to know that
they would self-select out of or into greatness. The author illustrates the way that great spiritual
leaders are deliberately and consciously dedicated to 7 key spiritual disciplines; that is, habits of
mind and heart which shape their competence as well as character.
These 7 are: (i) discipline of aloneness – the deliberate practice of soul-making seclusion
and meditation. (ii) Discipline of belonging – fortitude and willpower to foster relationships and
to live in community with other people, who include friends, mentors, and family. (iii) Discipline
of decision-making – understanding the aspects of good decisions and learning from failures. 1
(iv) Discipline of mission – this entails enjoying the authorizations of sustaining the sense of
God’s purpose for the spiritual leader’s life and leadership. (v) Discipline of self-development –
an enduring, lifetime dedication to growing and learning, as well as building on one’s own
1 Reggie McNeal. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. (San Francisco: Jossey-
Bass, 2006), 12.
BOOK REVIEW 3
strength. (vi) Discipline of self-management – this entails handling difficult temptations,
expectations, emotions, physical well-being as well as mental vibrancy. (vii) Discipline of self-
awareness – this is one very significant body of information that a spiritual leader has. 2 All in
all, this text goes further than just simple clichés and inspirational thoughts to be an imperative
resource for spiritual leaders who are aspiring to move from being merely good enough leaders
to becoming great leaders who bless other people.
This text has triggered a particular personal life experience in my memory. In this book,
McNeal points out that spiritual leaders who are genuinely great actually do not whatever they
do for themselves. They also never do what they do in order to gain recognition as great leaders.
For spiritual leaders, their end game is about expanding God’s kingdom. 3 This paragraph in the
book has triggered an experience in my mind that involved ministry work that I did roughly 14
months in which my goal was not to be recognized as a great leader, but rather to expand God’s
kingdom. Expanding the kingdom of God basically entails bringing other people into the
kingdom of God and with them their institutions, organizations and families. 4
To me, expanding the kingdom of God included evangelism among other things. I
developed kingdom life in the church, and exported it to the world through every Godly means
possible. As a spiritual leader, I helped expand the kingdom of God by establishing relationships
with people. I allowed the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ through me. In essence, my life
3 Ibid, 8
4 Aubrey Malphurs. Being Leaders: The nature of authentic Christian leadership. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
BOOK REVIEW 4
groups acted as a net for collecting the people who interacted with me. Furthermore, during that
time, I utilized community activities, entertainment, educational programs and businesses in
reaching individuals who did not yet follow Christ. Christians are generally part of the kingdom
of God. The Lord wants us not just to represent his kingdom, but also to expand the borders of its
kingdom. It is notable that the work of expanding the kingdom of God included representing
God’s kingdom to members of the public.
One of the 7 disciplines that Reggie McNeal has pointed out in the book is self-
development, which entails a lasting devotion to learning and growing, as well as building on
one’s own strength. However, the author has not specified how a good spiritual leader will learn,
who to learn from, and what will the spiritual leader learn and grow in? McNeal could have
made this book better and more appealing to those in my field of service by stating explicitly
how spiritual leaders are learners and how they can learn instead of merely saying that self-
development is a lasting devotion to learning and growing; he should have been more specific.
The author could have pointed out various ways that spiritual leaders can learn for instance by
setting a goal of reading no less than 1 book on a weekly basis, or by listening to sermons or
podcasts while having a long drive. The author could have expressed clearly how spiritual
leaders can maximize their time in learning and growing. A lot of people fail to maximize their
time and do not manage themselves and therefore they miss out on growth. The other question
that pops up in my mind after reading this text is: if a good spiritual leader does not choose
greatness, does it really mean that he will die prematurely as the author puts it? According to
McNeal, a spiritual leader faces the option of greatness. As many others have done, he or she can
choose to settle for less, but this means that he or she would die a premature death, adding that
BOOK REVIEW 5
the spiritual leader will rob other people the chance of living a better life. 5 This sounds scary to a
good spiritual leader who may feel forced to choose greatness or die. McNeal could have put his
point across in a different way that is less frightening to good spiritual leaders.
As a result of reading this text, the actions that I am going to do in my life are as follows:
first, I will practice greatness by developing some disciplines. In the next 2 years, I will develop
self-awareness by recognizing what I am good at and what I am not good at, and understand how
to maximize my strengths. Moreover, by developing self-awareness, I will get to know why I
react to things in a particular way, why particular things draw my attention, why I am prone to
particular sins, or why some individuals rub me the wrong way. This action will entail a
commitment to my close friends and family members since I would need to know from them
why some of them at times rub me the wrong way. The second action is about enhancing
belongingness. It is notable that the discipline of belongingness typifies the ability of a great
leader to enjoy significant relationships which actually cultivate and develop his or her life. 6
Even though leadership is lonely, it does not necessarily have to be as lonely as some leaders at
times make it seem. In the next 16 months, I will develop and nurture relationships although this
may take a considerable amount of effort, time and work, and it might be difficult and hurting
along the way; to be a great leader I would need to thrive. I will need to belong in my family as
well as marriage considering that this is actually the life blood for a married spiritual leader.
5 Reggie McNeal. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. (San Francisco: Jossey-
Bass, 2006), 32.
6 Ibid, 15
BOOK REVIEW 6
Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders: The nature of authentic Christian leadership. . San Francisco:
McNeal, Reggie. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006. ISBN: 9780787977535.