Published on 10/1/2012
By Warren Bird
I’m amazed by how many older pastors name Lyle E. Schaller’s writings as the best ministry advice they’ve received outside of the Bible itself. And I’m amazed by how many younger pastors have never heard of him.
This month both groups can meet Schaller afresh through Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller: The Elder Statesman of Church Leadership. A short read, this unique new book combines a short bio, a collection of stories by pastors influenced by Schaller, and a wide-ranging series of excerpts from Schaller’s writings. The quotes cover everything from change strategies to advice on leadership development.
Schaller, who turned 89 earlier this year, has been highly influential both on Leadership Network’s direction as an organization and on literally hundreds of the churches we serve. As Bob Buford, co-founder of Leadership Network says, “My admiration of Lyle Schaller knows no bounds. He's been a fly on the wall in more churches than any other human being alive.” Buford describes Schaller as “the most important and clear-headed observer of American Christianity in this century.” He also says, “Schaller is to American Christianity to what Drucker or Alexis de Tocqueville is to the broader culture.” Schaller was a frequent guest at many Leadership Network gatherings, which helped him gain exposure to more large and evangelical churches.
The only problem with Schaller’s lifetime of prolific achievements is that it’s hard to find his advice on a specific topic, such as following a long-term pastor or his guidance about working with a church board. His books total over three million words, not including over 500 magazine articles and published interviews. He wrote or edited 96 books, none with an index and most with vague chapter titles like, “What Time Is It?”
That’s why his long-time publisher Abingdon asked me, knowing that I’m a long-time Schaller fan, to interview him and also people influenced by him. I also poured over my heavily underlined library of Schaller books to find his most helpful, practical and ever-relevant insights. Not only is Schaller a man of deep faith, rooting for churches to be successful, but he’s also someone with the rare ability to apply social science concepts in helpful ways.
Reading this excerpt of Schaller will help you ask better questions, whatever your circumstances. He’ll help you identify with far more accuracy the underlying issues affecting your congregation and how best to respond. He’ll help you find new ways to invite and welcome unchurched people into your congregation’s fellowship. Most of all he’ll increase your skill as a change agent as you lead your church toward a better tomorrow.
Over two million copies of Schaller’s books are in print. This one will help you experience the best of that rich world of insight.