Journal of Christian Ministry | Building Below the Waterline – Book Review

Building Below the Waterline – Book Review

Building Below the Waterline – Book Review


Building Below the Waterline:
Shoring Up the Foundations of Leadership
Gordon MacDonald
Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2011,
250 pages, $21.95, hardback
Reviewed by Kenneth H. Mayton, Ed.D.,
Director, Doctor of Ministry Program
Oral Roberts University
Graduate School of Theology and Ministry
Tulsa Oklahoma

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With a plethora of books available on leadership in today's market, this book on leadership makes a great contribution to the literature on the subject because its focus is more on the leader than leadership.
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Gordon MacDonald uses the illustration of the Brooklyn Bridge to demonstrate the need for character in the leader. He reports that the bridge took thirteen years to build and three years of that time nothing about the bridge was visible to the public. The engineer pointed out that the most important work was in building the bridge’s foundations hundreds of feet below the water’s surface. The author compares this “beneath the water line” to the need for an emphasis on the inner life of the leader.

This message is on point and very necessary in today’s leadership landscape, both in the church and outside of the church. Too many leaders, even Christians, build a large ministry or church, but it collapses because the inner life cannot support the structure. Someone has said, “Don’t build a ministry larger than the character base upon which it is built.”

The author is Gordon MacDonald who is a highly respected author, speaker and teacher in the Evangelical World. He is Pastor Emeritus of Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA where he was senior Minister for twenty years. He is author of more than a dozen books, the most famous being, “Ordering Your Private World” (more than one and a half million copies are in print worldwide). Other books include: “A Resilient Life;” “Secrets of a Generous Life;” “The Life God Blesses,” “Renewing Your Spiritual Passion,” “When Men Think Private Thoughts,”; “Mid-Course Correction” and “Who Stole My Church?” He currently serves as Editor-At-Large for Leadership Journal. He and his wife, Gail, live in Canterbury, NH, and have two grown daughters and five grandchildren.

Reverend McDonald’s academic achievements include a B.A. from the University of Colorado (1962) and an M.Div. from Denver Seminary (1966). Denver Seminary awarded him and honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2011 and Barrington College (which merged with Gordon College) awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1979. He was named Chancellor of Denver Seminary in 2011. He also served as interim president for the 2008-09 academic year.

This volume is true to its title in that it is filled with basic, hard-hitting lessons about building the inner life or soul of the leader. It is divided into two clear parts–the inner and the outer lives of the leader. The chapters under these two sections are more personal than practical (although they are practical) and as stated earlier, more about the leader than leading or leadership.