Building Leaders

According to authors Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini, the purpose of Building Leaders is to:

“present a leadership development process, providing leaders with a universal format that applies to all churches no matter their size, location, or ethnicity. The goal of this book is to help leaders walk their unique ministry organization through this process to arrive at their unique ministry product or model, ensuring that they touch all the necessary bases.”

The way Malphurs and Mancini seek to accomplish this goal is by explaining why such a process is needed in churches today, the biblical foundation for developing leaders, and the step-by-step process of training people to do the work of ministry.

Why Leadership Development?

The first part of Building Leaders explains why church leaders should consider implementing an intentional leadership development process in their congregations. The authors define a Christian leader as “a servant who uses his or her credibility and capabilities to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God-given direction.”

Leadership development is “the intentional process of helping established and emerging leaders at every level of ministry to assess and develop their Christian character and to acquire, reinforce, and refine their ministry knowledge and skills.”

Many church leaders have stunted ministries because they are unable to overcome the delays and obstacles for leadership training, or they are reticent to empower others to make decisions.

A Biblical Foundation

In the second part, Malphurs and Mancini lay a biblical foundation for leadership development. They point to the life of Jesus (His calling, equipping, and sending the disciples), the teaching of Jesus (particularly the metaphors He used to describe His followers), and the early church’s process for developing leaders.

Readers who believe many of the events in Acts are prescriptive in their particulars, not just in principle, may find elements of this section problematic. Most Baptists, for example, would not agree with the idea that polity is “situational” and that the early church had no prevailing view of church government.

A Process for Leadership Development

Building Leaders becomes increasingly prescriptive in Part 3 – the “process” stage, and it is here where the book loses some of its vitality. The authors move step by step through the decisions necessary for developing a leadership process.

Unless you’re currently working through the development of a process, you may get bogged down in some of the details. That said, there are areas that shine.

Don’t miss the chapter that lays out multiple ways of accomplishing the training of leaders, with a brief analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Reading this section, I began to understand why some of the training events I have been a part of did not accomplish the lofty goals we had when we organized them.


Two additional things make this book helpful.

First, there is a distinction made later on in the book between “building leaders” and “making disciples.” Mancini and Malphurs are right to emphasize that these are not the same thing. The end goal of a leadership development process is not a smooth-running church operation, but more disciple-making as a result of people’s gifts being utilized in the service of God’s kingdom.

Secondly, I appreciated the authors’ desire to consult churches of all sizes. The last section includes two test cases (one small church and one large church). These examples go a long way in helping the reader recognize the different ways this book’s insights could be implemented in unique situations.

In the end, I believe there is one aspect of this book’s stated purpose that was not fully accomplished, but this is due not to any inherent weakness in the book, but to an overly ambitious goal. The idea of presenting a process – a “universal format” that applies to any church no matter its ethnicity would have been bolstered by more examples of church leadership outside of North America. I believe many of the particular elements recommended in their leadership process would be difficult to implement in countries with an Eastern orientation, or an African conception of time and relationships, etc. (I considered what would work and not work in Romania – where I have spent much of my life.)

Overall, Building Leaders is a helpful guide to pastors and church leaders seeking to become more intentional in their development of leaders.