In an age when the traditional methods of formation for leaders in churches are dwindling, and new churches like the Vineyard are exploring ways to develop healthy leaders, there is always a need for good books and resources to help leaders disciple and develop other leaders. Hence the book I’m reviewing today, Tom Camacho’s Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching. Tom is a pastor and coaching co-ordinator in the Vineyard movement in the USA, and Mining for Gold is, as far as I can work out, his first book. So, to review it, published by IVP whilst I wasn’t working for them, I would say three things.
Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I’m a bit sniffy about books about leadership in general, as they so often aren’t rooted anywhere, and ones that are Christian in author or intent often end up being re-heated secular ideas with a sprinkling of out of context Bible verses. Not so with this book. Tom writes well, and the entire text is infused thoroughly with biblical references, themes, quotes and humility. Indeed, the theme of gold and refining in terms of developing leaders is a rich biblical picture. Tom argues that “We are called as leaders to mine for the gold in others, cooperate with God as he refines that gold and then help them invest that gold in the kingdom“. This is not a quick-fix book, but if used appropriately then I can see it being a helpful tool for the long obedience in the same direction that characterises Christian discipleship. This is reinforced by Tom’s self-deprecating and honest sharing of his own story and engagement with leadership, through the military and business, into the pastorate.
Secondly, this book is explicitly Christian. The general idea of coaching could work for anyone – but Tom has his eye on developing kingdom leaders, not just leaders. This is an important distinction – and as such Mining for Gold is a very honest book with a high view of sin and an even higher view of the goodness of God. There is no easy pop-psychology view of human flourishing here: “we will never experience real and lasting thriving when we begin with ourselves. To thrive we must begin with God“. This is an important point. So, too, is Tom’s consistent emphasis on the reality and necessity of pain as part of discipleship. He rightly observes that “Pain is not the enemy. False beliefs are the enemy. Lies are the enemy… Pain is not our enemy; it is a warning light“. There is an echo of that truth in the theme of gold that shapes this book – weakness is the way, and “God likes and prefers to use Gideons because his goal is that people see his power in our weakness“. Leadership is not about us. It is about servanthood, pointing to God and God’s Kingdom beyond ourselves. This is, however, not an unrealistic or falsely victorious book, Tom recognises that “we have grown up in a world flooded with sin, hardship and pain“. And into this reality, Tom writes beautifully of the deeper truths, that God is “Sovereign. Whatever difficult circumstances we have endured, God knows where we are and has allowed us to be there“. Amen!
Thirdly and finally, this book focuses on character and not competency, calling and not charisma. Running through this book is a rich seam of helpful reflection on what it means to find our identity in Christ, and then to lead out of this. Recognising our limits is key, “The Bible gives us freedom within healthy limits… Healthy boundaries are the building blocks of a thriving life“. This is rooted in a health understanding of where our identity comes from: “We carry the treasure of his image in our earthen vessels. We bear the image of God himself in our weak human condition“. Our new identity in Christ is secure, because of who God is and what God has done. Mining for Gold is ostensibly a book about leadership, but it is also very definitely a book about identity.
Overall, then, I found Mining for Gold to be a very enjoyable, readable, and timely book. With a biblical understanding of leadership and identity, and the practical tool of coaching (Which Tom playfully maps onto some key biblical characters, though not dogmatically), I honestly believe this book could be a very useful tool for developing kingdom leaders. It will particularly resonate with leaders in Vineyard and related churches, but I think that language-aware evangelicals of all types should be able to find this useful and helpful in recognising and developing leaders within the life of their church – and beyond!
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can get the book direct from IVP. You may find the following posts interesting too:
- Book Review: Radical Leadership – a great little book on leadership by the late Michael Green.
- Unburying the Lede: Identity – a short post about the model of identity that should underpin our discipleship.
- Book Review: Challenges of Christian Leadership – an excellent book on leadership, with a great chapter on/for younger leaders.
- Leadership is… Making Hard Decisions – a short post about one of the harder parts of leadership.