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Book Review

Building Up The Body of Christ


“To build up the Body of Christ most effectively, church leaders need to know what things have the power to tear them down and where Satan may be able to exploit them.” — Dr. Bruce M. Hartung

It’s not easy being a church leader. The devil, the world and our sinful flesh have doubled down on making life miserable, sabotaging relationships left and right.

Healthy relationships are essential to a healthy congregation and community, which author and retired professor Dr. Bruce M. Hartung argues, all starts with the church leader. He or she sets the tone.

“This is the central point about spiritual gifts and church offices: they are given for the common good, for the building up of the body of Christ,” Hartung writes in Building Up the Body of Christ (Concordia Publishing House, 2016).

The book is an honest, clear-cut analysis of the characteristics, attitudes and behaviors of congregational leaders, such as pastors, teachers and deaconesses. Through a combination of fictional narratives, practical application and Hartung’s personal reflection, each chapter unfolds a leadership element that fosters connections and sincere communication.

The narratives—sometimes lifelike,
semi-autobiographical—offer lessons that help
illustrate or explore the author’s point.

The practical applications explain the leadership characteristic or behavior in question by way of Bible verses, experience and current research. One of the joys of reading Building Up is the intriguing concepts you’ll encounter, like Johari’s Window; the difference between positions and concerns (essential to understand during negotiations); and the Universal Upset Patient Protocol (a clinical sounding, but sensible and handy conflict management model).

Located at the end of each chapter are Hartung’s personal reflections, what he calls “Speaking Personally.” You’ll discover some pleasant not-to-miss book recommendations for further reading, such as Dan Sloat’s The Dangers of Growing Up in a Christian Home and George Bullard’s Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict.

Overall, this book is not about quick fixes or short-term techniques. Instead, it’s about developing long-term behaviors and attitudes that support and encourage a church leader’s ability to nurture healthy relationships in the congregation and community.

Pick up a copy of Building Up the Body of Christ at cph.org.