On April 9th 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender and the end of the Second World War, Hitler’s orders to hang Dietrich Bonhoeffer were carried out. Bonhoeffer had been imprisoned for almost exactly two years. His legacy, however, is not just as an opponent to Nazism through involvement in the active resistance to Hitler’s evil regime, but is primarily as a preeminent theologian and humble Christ-centred servant leader. He was a ‘deep-well’ leader… combining depth of theological insight together with fruitful ministry… the fruit of which has extended into the century beyond his physical life.

Grab a Towel presents a contrast between two types of leadership: the superhero and the servant. I am constantly reminded of the importance of this distinction - whether considering leadership in politics, business or church ministry.

The following is an extract of a speech that I gave at The Message Trust’s Urban Hero Awards. The Awards celebrated stories of transformation - men and women who, against all odds, were now exerting a positive influence in society. This speaks to the heart of what Grab a Towel is all about… providing an environment for emerging leaders to flourish in faith and life - this is an ultimate act of service.

The history of humanity is a litany of devastation and destruction when the 'us' rises against 'them'. Even in leadership speak we have 'leaders' and 'followers'… which risks causing an unnecessary “us” and “them” divide in our organisations, on our teams, and in our churches. Grab a Towel seeks to break down the myth of us and them... recognising that as Christians we are all followers, and we are all leaders - carrying influence in this world. There is no them, it's only us…

The Superhero movie is a film genre that still reliably draws crowds to the cinema. The depiction of a person with superhuman powers, willing to battle for justice against forces of evil, has been a winning formula on screen for over a century. But in recent times I’ve noticed that there has been a significant shift in the way superheroes are portrayed…

Maybe a more critical question for Christian leaders is not ‘are we born leaders’, but, ‘are we effective followers?’ The essential unifying quality of every Christ-centred servant leader is that they are first and foremost a follower…

We live in the age of personal branding and self-promotion… where people are serious about making a name for themselves. How, as Christian leaders, do we avoid the temptation of pride and selfish ambition that can so easily ensnare us?

The following extract is from the book ‘Being the Message’ where Andy Hawthorne (International CEO of The Message Trust) advocates that, in order to avoid the danger of being a people-pleaser, we need to take serving seriously and focus on following the example of Christ…

A common question I’ve been asked since releasing Grab a Towel is, ‘why did you write the book?’ Clearly asking why is always a great question before embarking on an enterprise or project… So maybe it will help you to understand why I wrote Grab a Towel and encourage you to not only read the book, but consider how the concepts in the book should not remain words on a page, but motivate you towards action and change.

I was at work preparing for the launch of Grab a Towel… when a colleague came up to me to ask about the origin of the name. “Oh,” she said – rather disappointedly when I told it was from Jesus’ example in John 13, “I thought it also referred to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. I was intrigued…