How do you grow as a leader in the church? Should you read church growth books? Take a few seminars? Or just wing it? Scott Thomas, former President of Acts 29, church planter, and pastor has a different approach. He unpacks how leaning on Jesus empowers not just your teaching, but also grows the humility and biblical wisdom you need to lead.
Through many years of ministry experience, Thomas has seen the importance of the “soft skills” of leadership—empathy, kindness, and listening—and how not developing those skills negatively impacts churches. Yet simply knowing the need for what the world calls “emotional intelligence,” doesn’t guarantee growth in these areas. But understanding and applying the gospel will bring transformation.
Thomas gives practical, specific help in navigating spiritual and emotional challenges that leaders commonly encounter and unpacks how a gospel-shaped response brings healing. Complete with reflection questions at the end of each chapter to encourage self-inventory and further study, The Gospel Shaped Leader will encourage church leaders of all ages in the categories of self-awareness, self-management, relational awareness, and relational management, with the goal of recognizing strengths and weaknesses so they can continue growing more like Christ.
Scott Thomas, MA, is the Executive Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, and has previously served as President of Acts 29 and Executive Leadership for C2C Network in North America. He is the author of Twenty Great Truths: Equipping Leaders in Biblical Doctrine, Gospel Coach Workbook, The Gospel Shaped Leader, and coauthor of Gospel Coach. He and his wife of forty years live in Nashville, TN.
“I have known Scott Thomas for nearly two decades, and The Gospel Shaped Leader is a true reflection of how I have personally experienced his leadership. I encourage every current and aspiring church leader to read and apply this book. It is filled with wisdom and is a much-needed and timely model for healthy local church leadership.”
Brian Howard, Executive Director, Acts 29
“My friend Scott Thomas has written a book that is biblical, practical, and above all, encouraging. I will be commending it on a regular basis in the years to come.”
Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“In this wise and searching book, Scott Thomas takes us into the heart of true leadership as defined by the gospel itself. Shaped deeply by the eternal truths of Scripture, informed usefully by the broader world of psychology, and reflecting clearly a world of ministry experience, The Gospel Shaped Leader gives all of us an accessible but comprehensive vision of true Christian leadership.”
Dane Ortlund, Senior Pastor, Naperville Presbyterian Church; author of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers
“Concerning mentors on leadership in the church, I am much more interested in learning from those whose character exceeds their ability and whose humility exceeds their influence. Scott Thomas is such a mentor. Don't get me wrong. Scott has great ability and has enjoyed many years of fruitful influence by God's grace. But even more than these things, it is Scott's emphasis on becoming a person known chiefly for the qualities of grace, truth, love, and zeal for gospel culture that make his insights so compelling. If you are a leader whose chief concern is to grow as Christ's disciple as you help others do the same, you will get so much out of this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.”
Scott Sauls, Senior Pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee; author of Jesus Outside the Lines and A Gentle Answer
“In a time of burnout after burnout in church leadership, it can seem like practical questions of leadership can sometimes come too late, if at all. In this book, Scott Thomas helps the reader frame a healthy life, Christlike leadership, church accountability, and gospel-rooted productivity. This is not a book of quick fixes or productivity hacks; we have enough of those. This book speaks first not to the week’s calendar or to a life’s résumé but to the soul of the leader. This book will come as good news to those who want to model healthy leadership that can last.”
Russell Moore, Public Theologian and Director of The Public Theology Project, Christianity Today
“There is no debate regarding the church’s present need for gospel-shaped leaders. Scott Thomas does a wonderful job of giving us practical and biblical descriptions intended for those God called into leadership. Though many books have been written on Christian leadership, Thomas’s book offers thorough insight on being a leader that comprehensively follows and leans on the beautiful example of Jesus.”
Doug Logan Jr., President of Grimké Seminary and Dean of Grimké Urban; associate director of Acts 29; author of On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement
“Drawn from over three decades of ministry, Coach Thomas supplies twelve principles, reminding us that souls formed by the gospel become leaders who finish the game. Leaders, if you want to run strong and last long, start training with The Gospel Shaped Leader!”
Dave Harvey, President of Great Commission Collective; author of When Sinners Say I Do, Am I Called?, and The Plurality Principle
“Books on leadership are a dime a dozen. Do we really need another? My answer is a resounding Yes! We need this one. I can’t think of anyone more ably suited to write a book for pastors on leadership than my friend Scott Thomas. Scott’s insights don’t come from an ivory tower and are not couched in the language of theological abstraction. He has spent years in the trenches of local church life and has seen both the best and worst of pastoral leadership. In a day of almost constant bullying, burnout, and moral demise, it is heartening to know that there is one volume to which I can always turn and direct others for guidance. The way Scott consistently tethers leadership principles to the truth of the gospel has led to a wonderfully helpful and hopeful book for those involved in local church life. Highly recommended!”
Sam Storms, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK
“Why are so many church leaders struggling with burnout, discouragement, or moral failure? Scott Thomas understands the unique challenges of ministry and what prevents churches (and their leaders) from flourishing over the long haul. He teaches us how ministry flows from intimacy with God, and directs us toward skills we often neglect—things like self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and relational intuition. Whatever ministry role you are in, this wonderful book will help you find pathways to long-term health and vitality. Get a copy for your staff and elders!”
Gavin Ortlund, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Ojai; author of Finding the Right Hills to Die On
“Scott Thomas has lived through the best and worst of church leadership and brings a lifetime of wisdom and experience to this book. I can't think of a more timely resource on authentic, Jesus-shaped leadership. Experienced and would-be pastors alike will find much here to encourage and help. We really need the lessons of this book in our churches today.”
Sam Allberry, Pastor; apologist; author of 7 Myth about Singleness
“When I read The Gospel Shaped Leader, I was reminded of Paul's command to Timothy: ‘Keep a close watch on yourself.’ Leaders must keep an eye on their own souls if they are to endure long, difficult seasons. Scott’s book will help leaders embrace and embody these commands so that they might not only endure, but enjoy leading in difficult seasons.”
Brian Lowe, Lead Pastor, Exodus Church, Belmont, NC
“As I finished reading The Gospel Shaped Leader, I was so impressed with how much this book enriched my understanding of emotional intelligence as an essential resource for church leaders to promote their emotional and spiritual health and to enhance their ministry efforts. Too often, pastors labor and sacrifice without all the necessary tools they need to survive and thrive within the internal demands and emotional stressors of ministry life. This work from Scott Thomas is written in a way that is approachable, personable, readable, challenging, practical, and life-changing. I predict that many church leaders will keep their copy of this book within close reach as a source of comfort, guidance, healing, and hope.”
John West, Licensed Professional Counselor; National Certified Counselor; lead author of Emotional Intelligence for Religious Leaders
“At Serge, we recognize leaders are as needy, if not more so, than the average person. But often we are reluctant to seek help. Our pride and unbelief can quickly compound the isolation of leadership. When that happens, it's all too easy to lose the music of the gospel—the joy that comes from relying on Christ, instead of our successes and failures, to establish our identity. Scott helps us see what a gospel-shaped leader's life looks like. By paying attention to how we lead ourselves and the impact that we have on others, The Gospel Shaped Leader reminds us to see ourselves the same way God does: as his beloved children serving a heavenly Father who delights to use weak people to accomplish his mighty purposes.”
Bob Osborne, Executive Director, Serge
“The mark of a great book is accessibility and depth—this book displays both. You will be encouraged and challenged from the wisdom of a mature pastor who has walked this path with others. I can’t wait to reread this book and process the coaching questions!”
Mark Reynolds, Senior Strategic Advisor, Redeemer City to City
“I have the privilege of serving alongside Scott in pastoral ministry, and I see him live the truths in this book and pour them into the lives of younger, less experienced ministers—like me—constantly. I am eager for other church leaders to benefit from his wisdom and faithful ministry through these pages. It will be a blessing to their souls and their ministries.”
Barnabas Piper, Assistant Pastor at Immanuel Church Nashville; author of Help My Unbelief, Pastor’s Kid, and Hoping for Happiness
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This book is quite different from others I have read on leadership. Thomas realized the current leadership model is not working. He suggests daily examination because leaders cannot direct others if they cannot properly direct their own lives. Rather than arrogance and manipulation, he advocates gospel wisdom in guiding themselves and others. He gives twelve principles to evaluate gospel leadership, giving good suggestions for action. Thomas is open and honest about his own leadership failures. He writes from experience. By far, my favorite section in this book was the one on humility. “Gospel-shaped leaders must make a comfortable home for humility in their lives and give pride a daily eviction notice.” (1882/2737) That attitude, Thomas notes, is contradictory to today's celebrity culture in the church. Refuse to take credit for what God is doing, he suggests. My goodness. Wise words that would prevent many church disasters. What a challenge, to be free of self-importance, as Jesus was. (1966/2737) This chapter alone makes this book necessary reading for every Christian leader. This is a very good book for leaders who desire to reflect the gospel in their lives and their leadership. You'll read about sacrifice, self-awareness, God's purpose, submitting desires to the Holy Spirit, rest (Sabbath), insights into relationships like love and humility and grace. Thomas' teaching is full of wisdom and insight and practical suggestions for putting it into practice. It is a great book to be read and studied by church boards. I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.