SPARK: Five Essentials to Ignite the Greatness Within. By Tracey C. Jones. Boiling Springs, PA: Tremendous Leadership. 2020. 138 pp. $12.95 paper.
Reviewed by: Arnette M. Wright, Doctoral student in Leadership Studies, Lancaster Bible College and Capital Seminary and Graduate School, Lancaster, PA.
As the Sovereign God’s creation, we have the potential for greatness, not as defined by the world’s standards (namely, charisma, power, prestige, and money), but greatness that begins first within our inner being, deposited by the Holy Spirit. Specifically, we are created to illuminate God’s glory, his greatness. However, due to sin, the Fall of humanity tarnished the image of God in us. Though sin marred God’s original purpose, it did not change his plan for greatness.
In the book SPARK: Five Essentials to Ignite the Greatness Within, Tracey Jones challenges us to strive for the “greatness within” by provoking us to want to change by asking the question, “Do you want your dry bones to live”? Using the acronym, SPARK (S—singularity, P—Persistence, A—Advocates, R—Resources, and K—Knowledge), she suggests that these five tools will motivate us to move from very dry places in our lives to fruitfulness, not for our sake alone, but primarily for the manifestation of God’s glory.
The book consists of five chapters that provide a prescriptive step-by-step process that may facilitate one’s comprehension and the acquisition of essential tools toward revealing and perfecting the best within one’s being. Specifically, these chapters include the following:
- recalibration of expectation through the process of singularity,
- persistence through concentrated efforts,
- the necessity for advocates,
- acquisition of appropriate resources, and
- gaining of knowledge.
Chapter 1 presents the first step of igniting the “greatness within”—singularity. Singularity, having a vision for direction, is foundational for igniting the greatness within because “it sustains and fuels it” (15). Specifically, the author suggests that we can “be crystal clear about who we are by avoiding costly distractive detours” (15) through one’s self-awareness and comprehension of one’s value. Moreover, change must first begin with us, for it can only “occur from the inside out” (10).
Chapter 2 is the second step of the prescriptive process. It emphasizes the need for individuals to be tenacious because persistence is the tool that fuels forward propulsion. Specifically, the author purports that the ability to move forward toward our “God-given future” (37), supernaturally provided by the Holy Spirit, is critical, especially in times of adversity or when obstacles arise. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, one’s ability and subsequent action to remain vigilant toward greatness within “requires building one’s spiritual energy and eliminating negativity such as bad habits, naysayers, and unnecessary non valued added tasks” (55).
In Chapter 3, the third step is a requirement for others to walk alongside us (advocates), regardless of one’s station or position in life for “no man is an island” (see John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Cambridge University Press, 1624). The author contends that individuals should never walk alone, for “we need others to bring out our innate greatness (65) by giving us a divinely inspired word when we need it most” (67) in specific areas such in our personal life, in our finances, professionally, spiritually and physically.
In Chapter 4, the author discusses that working with appropriate and sufficient resources, namely, “the right people, processes, and pieces” (81), is essential if one is to move toward their inner greatness. Moreover, through the spiritual discernment from the Holy Spirit (Jn 4:26), leaders should seek the approval of God to hire individuals who are “critical thinkers and who can provide valuable input, come to solutions on their own and make ethical decisions” (84).
In Chapter 5, the final step is the continuous gaining of knowledge. The author defines knowledge as having God’s discernment and growing in godly wisdom (114) (2 Tim. 2:15). In our pursuit of knowledge, Jones advocates reading widely and wisely from life-changing classics so that we may cultivate a “love of learning” (114) and be developed for the sake of being changed. Therefore, the author contends that we should be lifelong learners because “the more knowledge you possess, the more peace you possess” (106).
This book’s discussion on igniting one’s inner greatness is timely given the ongoing world chaos as evidenced in recent events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustices, economic fallout, and unethical leadership. In addition, this prescriptive process is not just about individuals procuring inner greatness but also being productive in serving others by “producing good works in this world to benefit fellow men and women” (53). According to the Word of God, Christians are called to be “helpers, one to another” (1 Thess. 5:11, KJV).
Given the escalation of societal issues that continue to emerge because of the Fall of humanity, there is a need for Christian leaders—that is, educators, ministry workers, students, and others—to lead with purpose, values, and integrity. Specifically, there is a need for individuals to achieve authentic greatness by changing within through the grace of God. The book SPARK: Five Essentials to Ignite the Greatness Within speaks powerfully to one’s inner man without being preachy, that is, without the author saying “thus saith the Lord’ and without merely parroting an abundance of scriptures or harsh rebuke. The book is biblically sound as the author’s discussion is established on a solid foundation that embraces a comprehensive Christian worldview while integrating leadership principles.
In Chapter 3, the author brings up an interesting point by stating that one’s advocates should be Christ-followers. Jones says, “we need the Holy Spirit so that we can wisely discern our advocates who meet God’s approval” (67). However, does this mean that non-Christ followers cannot or should not be our advocates toward excellence within our inner man? Specifically, while the author’s intended audience has focused primarily on Christ-followers, does this mean that God will only use Christ-followers to be our advocates? To her credit, the author admonishes us to seek God’s approval for our tribe, who will facilitate the greatness within. “But you always need to go before the Lord for the ultimate seal of approval” (76). However, throughout biblical history, there are many illustrations where God used secular leaders to direct his chosen people. For example, King Cyrus, a non-Jew and not a Christian, was used by God to repatriate the Hebrew people from Iraq and back to Jerusalem (see faithmatters.wooddale.org, Cyrus—The heathen king God chose, 2000). Under King Cyrus’s leadership, the exiled Jews were returned to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was rebuilt (Isa. 44:28–45:1, KJV). Biblical history has demonstrated that there is no separation of secular or sacred in God’s economy, for “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights from above” (James 1:17, KJV). Therefore, the question begs to be answered, should or could secular leaders be advocates for Christ-followers?
The author is well qualified to write this work. Her formative years, under the tutelage of her father, Charles “Tremendous” Jones, were “internally focused and results-oriented” (6). In addition, her twelve years as a junior officer in the United States Air Force and her doctoral research in the theory of motivation allowed her to impart these experiences in personal stories that were easy to read, generated interest, and provided practical application.
Throughout the book, the author’s continuous discussion on the need to seek God and the empowerment of His Holy Spirit makes this book different from other works. Many books have been authored on how to be successful by emphasizing attributes deemed to denote success, such as charisma, power, prestige, and money. However, such unharnessed characteristics have often led to negative results. For example, in leadership, there has been a proliferation of scandals by unethical leaders who have yielded power by serving themselves at the expense of their followers and organizations in “escalating negative worldwide economic, [political, religious, and psychological] distress” (see Janice P. Tanno and David K. Banner, “Servant leaders as change agents,” Journal of Social Change, 2018; Franck Renand, “Genuine leadership, and the global financial crisis,” International Journal of Peace and Development Studies, 2015).
This book calls for a return to moral aptitude, informed through God’s Word and empowered by his Holy Spirit, to achieve greatness within, a critical element in character-driven, godly leadership. Moreover, through God’s perspective, the author implores individuals’ need to be self-aware, recognizing their value as vessels (2 Tim. 2:21b). Therefore, the step-by-step process delineated in this book may be instrumental in facilitating our exodus from self-imposed societal greatness back to igniting the SPARK, the excellence that reflects God’s glory.
As a leader for more than forty years in various venues, namely, health care and pastoral ministry, I enjoyed the discussion. Specifically, I frequently read and reread this book to sustain my focus on God’s purpose for my life. This book is a must-read for any Christian leader, in education, church ministry, military or government settings, or any Christ-followers who desire to walk with the greatness of God present in their inner being. I believe when we begin to examine our inner man through the lens of God’s perspective, and exercise the prescribed steps as outlined in the book, we can potentially and positively motivate others to embrace internal changes that may lead to revealed transformation, observed by others, and facilitate positive societal transformation. True greatness is not based on the world’s definition of success, but it results from one’s obedience to the will and Word of God.