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Justin Lewis-Anthony

You are the Messiah, and I should know

ISBN: 9781 4411 8618 8

Bloomsbury, London, 2013, 295pp, £12.99

What do you look for in a leader, especially a Christian church leader? Lewis-Anthony explores concepts of leadership in the church and in the secular/business world. According to various surveys, a leader is expected to conduct and to direct, to facilitate and to provide, to give permission and to withhold permission, to be a steersman and a rower, so that the conclusion the author comes to is that as in business and in secular society, so in the church, the concept of leadership is vague, even when it has a managerial style or ‘missional’ style.

However, there is a third style, which he calls ‘mythological leadership’, prevalent among church and business leaders, which is seen most clearly in movies of the ‘wild west’ genre, or in the setting of a military ‘hero’. Lewis-Anthony examines this ‘great man’ model of leadership with reference to the character and roles of John Wayne and the promise and use of violence as a characteristic of leadership in films as diverse as Saving Private Ryan, The Life of Brian, Patton, and the character of Hitler in Kolberg.

In the third and final section of the book Lewis-Anthony discusses the ‘antidote’ to the styles discussed above, with the examination of scriptural passages often used in support of the concept of ‘leadership’. He shows how they can be used to ‘resist the heresy and temptations’ of mythological leadership, ‘fatally tainted’ by the threat, use and acceptance of violence. Ultimately, Christian leadership must be modelled on Jesus. The films and characters he discusses in this section include Of Gods and Men (the way to powerlessness), The Way (the recognition that we rely on one another) and Bonhoeffer (the call to discipleship is a ‘costly grace’).

This book will interest those who feel pressured to exercise ‘leadership’ according to the expectations of others, especially in the church; students of the cinema and how movies shape culture; those interested in the subtle use of violence or the threat of violence as a control mechanism; and finally, followers of Jesus Christ who would like to understand better the influences of our culture on their discipleship.

Maureen CSF