Book Review: “Intuitive Leadership,” by Tim Keel

Posted: November 6, 2008 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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Reviewed by Matt Horanintuitive-leadership

Need that the book seeks to meet:

            The reader is invited to diagnose in themselves the paradigms that are ingrained in us by the culture of the church, in order to be set free to hear the voice of God in their own intuition, unfiltered by ideas of what is acceptable or orthodox in the church, and what is not.Content:


  • Keel begins by exploring the gripping power that stories have over us.  More than a list of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, the Bible is a …collection of stories, making it more powerful as a result.  He poses the question: did powerful stories stop with the canon?  How might our stories have power as well?
  • What’s even better is that we might live out stories in the context of relationships—interacting with other people’s stories.  He challenges the reader to experiment—explore different responses to the stories of Scripture, and to our stories and the stories of others.  Share ideas and possibilities in community.  Let our stories and relationships and interactions and responses develop organically through unfiltered and authentic sharing.
  • Context is everything.  Christian community should unfold as a result of the localized interactions and shared experiences of the individuals in it.  This is why it’s bad practice to assume that prepackaged formulas about how to do church are to be carefully considered.  Just because it works in one context does not mean that it will work universally.  Accepted models of success can easily become idols, relegating the real experiences of the community to the back burner as numerical and programmatic success is pursued above all else.
  • What this means to the church is that we should ask ourselves, “What can we uniquely do that no one else can do?”  “What is uniquely us?”  “What is our local niche, based on our exploration and experimentation with the meaning of our stories.  Through these conversations, coupled with exploring the stories of Scripture and the 2000 year old Christian story, we can begin to hear the voice of God in fresh ways.
  • Keel inserts an insightful summary of the postmodern context in which the 21st century church finds itself.  As a result of the mass printing of the Bible, Christianity became an individualized faith.  No longer did people have to gather to hear the Scriptures—they could read them on their own.  Postmodernism craves interaction, an intersection of ideas, conversation, and borrowing elements of different interpretations and stories to create new ones.  Scary as it might be to the modern thinker, Keel see exciting new ways in which God might be speaking to us through such conversations. 
  • The challenge is to move away from the top-down unidirectional teaching and preaching where the church leadership imparts spiritual direction.  In order to hear the voice of God, we have to turn off the enculturated filters that have been bestowed upon us, and look for revelation from the bottom, or from the margins, from where Christ Himself came.  Keel asks us to trust that our stories are unfolding through the power of the Holy Spirit, that God is at work in our stories, just like in the stories from the Bible.  We should expect that God’s revelation will “emerge” from places where we’ve not been taught to look.
  • Rather than seeking quick answers, Keel invites us to feel at home within the tensions that confront us as we seek meaning in our stories.  He calls the proposed approaches “postures,” and suggests that we need to adopt them in order to lead the church in its organic life together.
    • A posture of learning: rather than issuing answers to questions, leaders should respond by offering even more and deeper questions to foster exploration and conversation.
    • A posture of vulnerability: leaders should be an example of engaging the heart as well as the head.  We’re good at the head, cerebral part.
    • A posture of availability: leaders can’t just espouse the words of Christ, they must live them out—paying the price for such a life.
    • A posture of stillness: leaders much approach God without an agenda.  Being in God’s presence needs to be enough.
    • A posture of surrender: leaders must come to embrace chaos, trusting that, just as God created from chaos in the beginning, the same can happen in our lives.
    • A posture of cultivation: leaders should be like gardeners—creating an environment optimum for the growth of those that they lead.
    • A posture of trust: leaders need not be adversarial defenders of positions, but rather open experimenters ready to hear from God in the conversations around them.  There need not be enemies whenever there is change.
    • A posture of joy: leaders must create opportunities for people to play together.
    • A posture of dependence: leaders need not be “all or nothing” advocates; nor do they always need to be facilitators of resolution.  Leaders must welcome people into the tensions of life, trusting that revelation that God might offer is better than any ordering or resolution that we might devise.
    • Keel ends with a benediction, inviting us to put away our filters, and trust that God intends to speak to us locally, through our stories and the stories of others, as we follow Christ together.

Brief Summary:
Keel’s key idea is that we should expect God’s revelation to emerge out of an exegesis of the Scriptures; but also organically, out of an exegesis of our own experience done together.  We need to trust that our instincts and gut-responses are not always to be resisted and explained away, but perhaps they are a part of God’s creation.  When we can sit in uncertainty together, sharing our experiences and observations, and living between the tensions together without settling for the quick answer, we can leave God space to speak to us in ways specific to our context.  Christianity is not a formula, but rather a movement of communities living faithfully as best fits their location.Quotable:


  • “Postmodernity is a sampled culture.  It is a culture of the remix, of borrowing ideas, images, and sounds from disparate sources and blending them in ways that are startling and at the same time, stimulating.” (pg. 113)
  • “We love the literal and avoid the metaphorical.” (Pg. 133)
  • “The powerlessness and suffering that characterized the early church did not inhibit its life or growth… chances are they never dreamed of a time when their religion would rule the day.” (Pg. 139)
  • “We honor the reformers not by saying what they said, but by doing what they did.” (Pg. 159)
  • “The early church radically engaged their world as a community of sojourners located in a context under negotiation, a colony of heaven contending for their new faith and struggling mightily to understand the implications of the incarnation for life in the wake of Jesus Christ.  Talk about having to reorient your theological imagination!  We read the narratives of the early church found in the book of Acts , and we are captivated by what we see playing out before us.  But rather than marveling at the ways in which the church responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and learning what it means to be likewise discerning and responsive, we instead often want to duplicate these stories.  We read Paul’s instructions to the churches his apostolic and pastoral direction and forget that the epistles were written in a context much different from our own.” (Pg. 166)
  • In discussing the move from “comprehending” to “apprehending”, Keel says, “Comprehension is understanding, apprehension is beholding.” (Pg. 173)
  • “My experience tells me that when you try to reach someone or some group or some thing, you end up not just chasing a nonexistent caricature but the wrong thing altogether.” (Pg. 215)
  • “Ministry is always the by-product of something else.  What?  The pursuit of God.” (Pg. 220)
  • “It is to a servant of Yahweh emptied of his own agenda and strength that revelation comes… What if leaders began to invite their people with them into these kinds of spaces in order to engage with God on agenda-free grounds and discern the still, small voice?” (Pg. 237)

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