The Most Helpful Book on Productivity

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I am a big fan of being more productive, organizing your life for effectiveness and I’m always on the lookout for a helpful book in this area. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman is one of the best books on this topic.

What sets this book apart from others on productivity:

  1. Its emphasis on understanding how the gospel impacts productivity.
  2. How the gospel frees us to be productive.
  3. It also brings together some of the best ideas from other books on productivity to show a better system that combines the strengths of different systems.

If I had one criticism about the book, it would be how much time he spent convincing the reader that it is biblical to be productive. I know why he did this and the reasoning is sad: Christians seem to think productivity, organization or systems are unbiblical and have no place in the church. Sadly, this is why most churches are ineffective and why business leaders often feel like they don’t fit in churches.

One of the best reminders I took from this book and it immediately changed my stress level was planning my day in advance. I tried doing this the night before, but I then laid in bed thinking about the coming day. I now spend my first 5-10 minutes each morning at my desk, praying through and thinking through what I need to accomplish and list what is most important and remove everything else from my calendar or to-do list for that day.

If productivity is a struggle for you, or if you want to take your productivity to the next level, I’d highly recommend checking out this book. You won’t regret it.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

bookBen Horowitz’s new book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is quite possibly one of the best church planting books I’ve ever read and it has nothing to do with church planting.

Horowitz shares so many insights from starting businesses, which is very similar to church planting. The hard road of raising funds, building teams, keeping great people and how to handle the high’s and low’s of being a CEO. The insights for lead planters are incredible. I found myself nodding over and over with all the lessons for pastor’s.

The whole book is great. If you are a church planter, thinking about planting or leading a church right now, this is the next book you need to read. It is that good.

Here are a few insights from it:

  • If there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.
  • A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news.
  • Build a culture that rewards—not punishes—people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.
  • You don’t make yourself look good by trashing someone who worked for you.
  • Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.
  • If your company is a good place to work, you too may live long enough to find your glory.
  • Being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.   Things always go wrong.
  • There are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training.
  • The most important difference between big and small companies is the amount of time running versus creating. A desire to do more creating is the right reason to want to join your company.
  • If you don’t know what you want, the chances that you’ll get it are extremely low.
  • The right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory. The wrong kind of ambition is ambition for the executive’s personal success regardless of the company’s outcome.
  • While I’ve seen executives improve their performance and skill sets, I’ve never seen one lose the support of the organization and then regain it.
  • A company will be most successful if the senior managers optimize for the company’s success (think of this as a global optimization) as opposed to their own personal success (local optimization).
  • Nothing motivates a great employee more than a mission that’s so important that it supersedes everyone’s personal ambition.
  • The CEO job as knowing what to do and getting the company to do what you want.
  • When an organization grows in size, things that were previously easy become difficult.
  • The further away people are in the organizational chart, the less they will communicate.
  • Evaluating people against the future needs of the company based on a theoretical view of how they will perform is counterproductive.
  • There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a specific company at a specific point in time.
  • Everybody learns to be a CEO by being a CEO.
  • If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic, don’t become CEO.
  • When my partners and I meet with entrepreneurs, the two key characteristics that we look for are brilliance and courage.
  • Some employees make products, some make sales; the CEO makes decisions.

To see other book notes, go here.

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Cheap Kindle Books [6.9.14]

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Just in time for summer reading, here are some great ones:

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10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read

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Summer is just around the corner, which means longer days, summer vacations and hopefully if you are a leader, more reading. I’m a big reader and think that if you are a leader, you should be too.

I often get asked about leadership books that pastors should read. If you haven’t read these books, I highly recommend them. Let’s just say, these are 10 books every Christian leader should read:

The Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley

To this day, this is still one of my favorite leadership books and one of the shortest.

Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda by Henry Blackaby

The chapter on decision making in this book is the best I’ve ever read when it comes to figuring out God’s will and how to make wise choices. This was one of the first leadership books I’ve ever read and has been marked up and written in, more than any other leadership book I have.

Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

Hybels is one of those leaders that you should read everything he writes on the subject of leadership. It is always insightful and helpful. This book is 30 years of leadership experience put into one book.

The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker by Brad Lomenick

Lomenick leads the catalyst conferences and this book is a great one for younger leaders as they figure out what is next for them, understanding when to step up and lead and when to follow. Tons of great insights for leaders of all ages and experience, but incredibly helpful for young leaders.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Like Andy Stanley’s book, this is still one of my favorite leadership books. His chapter on level 5 leadership has been life changing for me as I think about how to lead with humility and will to move my church forward and lead in a way that puts the health of Revolution first.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman

I just read this book and it is one of the best books on productivity. If you believe Christians should be productive, you will find the first 65 pages boring, but once you get to chapter 11 this book rises above every other book on productivity that I have ever read.

Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly by Mike Myatt

I read this book this year and was blown away by all the insight in this book. If you are a leader, this is a book you need to read and then follow Mike’s blog. His writings are incredibly insightful.

People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership by Charles Stone

Approval is something that everyone struggles with to one degree or another. Pastors are no strangers to it and can often fall into the trap of making decisions based off of what others think of them. This book helps a leader (and someone who isn’t a leader) see how they gravitate towards approval in living their life and how to find freedom from it.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan & Chip Heath

If you preach or are a communicator, this is a book you need to read through. I go back to this book on a regular basis to think through how to make my sermons more clear. Incredibly helpful.

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

So many people in our culture struggle with burnout and not managing their time well. This book points out that it is more important to manage your energy than your time. That point was incredibly helpful. It’s summer time and you are probably tired, and if that is you, this is a book worth picking up so you can head into the fall with more energy and perform at a higher level.

And a bonus one…

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

You should read everything that Lencioni publishes. This book essentially is everything he has ever written all in one book. So, read it. So, so good.

What’s your favorite leadership book that every Christian leader should read?

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8 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

book I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. You can read the first 10 here and the next 9 here. Below are 8 more:

  1. The more people there are in the room, the more pressure there is to perform well. This is counterintuitive, which is probably what makes it correct. The more people who are part of making the decision, the more clouded it will be. Everyone fights for their turf, their perspective and it is easy to get off track. As well, if you lead a team, the larger it is, the harder it is to connect with them all. I’m not advocating for smaller teams, but smaller amount of people who report to a leader in terms of giving that feedback. I know many pastors have committees with 20 people on them so everyone has a voice. That is often problematic and halts things from happening. Give a chance for people to give feedback and then have a smaller team make a choice.
  2. People need to be wrong as fast as they can. The sooner someone can move into leadership, have a chance to mess up, the better. The fastest way to learn is failing yourself. Churches can wait too long to give someone the room and authority to fail and learn. This doesn’t mean you should make a second time guest an elder or teacher in the kids ministry, but give people a chance to lead and fail faster than you might normally.
  3. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail. If you haven’t tried anything that might go poorly recently, you aren’t really trying. Experiment, think outside the box. If you’ve never used a video sermon, use one. If you’ve never tried a certain style of music, use it. Bat around the craziest ideas and see if something sticks.
  4. If you don’t use what’s gone wrong to educate yourself and your colleagues, then you’ll have missed an opportunity. If someone makes a mistake, discuss it with them, walk with them through it, talk about it with them. Don’t miss this chance to coach them and help them learn.
  5. There is no growth or success without change. Churches and pastors don’t want to hear this because we love what we are comfortable with and what we know, but the reality is, if you don’t change, you’ll die. If you don’t adapt, you’ll fall behind. It is that simple. That doesn’t mean you change the message of the Bible, it means you figure out how to communicate things best to the environment you are in.
  6. We were going to screw up, it was inevitable. And we didn’t know when or how. We had to prepare, then, for an unknown problem—a hidden problem. From that day on, I resolved to bring as many hidden problems as possible to light, a process that would require what might seem like an uncommon commitment to self-assessment. Failure is coming. If you aren’t failing now, it is around the corner. Churches though are in the habit of playing it safe and working against failing. It isn’t that we are trying to succeed, we aren’t often trying not to fail. That is a recipe for disaster.
  7. Use the schedule to force reflection. If you are like most pastors, you have very little time for reflection. You run from one thing to the next, one fire to the next, one crisis, one email, one call or text to the next one. You are constantly dealing with what is urgent, not what is important. You have little time for solitude, thinking, planning, reflecting on your heart or what is working or not working. Build it in. It is that important. Build time into your schedule to learn, grow, and reflect.
  8. While everyone appreciates cash bonuses, they value something else almost as much: being looked in the eye by someone they respect and told, “Thank you.” This is one area I think churches have an advantage over profit companies. Our vision must be clear for people to serve, otherwise they won’t see it as worth their time. We can’t give people raises, but we can say thanks for what they do. We can show them their value by how they serve and help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through this great leadership book with me. I’d highly recommend you add this to your summer reading list. Such a fascinating story of how Pixar got started, the in’s and out’s of their movies and the leadership behind it.

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Book Notes | Soul Keeping, The Heart is the Target & Replant

Normally on Saturday’s I share some thoughts on a book I read recently. You can read past book notes here.

This week, I want to share some quick hits. I had a cross country plane ride recently, so I had the time to get through several books (and one of them was really short).

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First up, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.

This book was so good. Easily one of the best books of the year. As soon as I was done with it, I made Katie read it. Her take, if you love what Dallas Willard has to say but have a hard time understanding what he says, this is a great book. I found myself challenged, encouraged and challenged some more. It is a mix of how to care for your soul, how to rest and ultimately, how to connect with God at a deeper level.

Can’t recommend this book enough.

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The second book is a preaching book called The Heart is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text by Murray Capill.

This is a book that every preacher should read, but especially if you are an expository preacher. This book is written to that audience and seeks to help pastors who are good at giving information, making sermons feel like seminary classes or preachers who excel at “deep preaching” but struggle to see transformation, apply what they preach to their churches or see hearts changed through their preaching. This was a stretching book and very timely for me and I’ve already seen a change in my preaching because of it.

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Lastly, Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Darrin Patrick & Mark DeVine.

Having replanted a church I was interested in the knowledge this book could provide. I also think replanting is something we will see more often in church planting circles in the coming years as more and more older churches die and their buildings sit vacant or with a small crowd. While this book tells a great story of a church that was replanted, it lacks a lot of how-to’s on the topic. If you want to see how one leader did it, this is a helpful book, but you will not find a ton of transferable lessons, only encouragement if you can relate to the situation Darrin and Mark found themselves in.

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9 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

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I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. You can read the first 10 here. Below are 10 more:

  1. The health of the team outweighs the results. Sadly, this is something churches and pastors can learn from Pixar. Catmull said, “The needs of a movie can never outweigh the needs of our people. We needed to do more than keep them healthy. A company must have strategies to prevent the deadlines from hurting their workers. What is usually considered a plus – a motivated, workaholic workforce pulling together to make a deadline – could destroy itself it left unchecked.” It is the leader’s job to put things into place to keep other leaders, volunteers and staff from burning out. Yes it is an individual’s job to keep themselves healthy, but they often get to a place of unhealth because of expectations or what they think are expectations. At Revolution, we require our MC’s to slow down in the summer time. It isn’t because we don’t value community, mission or want to see people get connected. We also run the risk of people not getting connected or losing momentum for things happening. We do it to help ensure our leaders slow down and not burnout. 
  2. For a senior leader to stay engaged, they must make new goals. At one point, when Toy Story came out Catmull had the empty feeling that he had reached his goal of producing a computer animated movie. When he did that, he had what all leaders have, the feeling of wondering if there is more to leadership and life. To stay engaged, a senior leader must continually set new goals, look to new heights personally and organizationally. They must look to new hills to climb or else they will quit or become disengaged.
  3. The team is more important than the ideas. This is surprising to come from Pixar since they are so focused on the story. But according to Catmull, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” I think many lead pastors and churches, in an effort to get things done or have people to take care of things, they don’t spend a great deal of time thinking through who is on the team. They have their requirements, whether that be schooling, experience, character, doctrine, agreed upon vision or a combination of the above, but they move too quickly and don’t hold out for the best team members, the best leaders.
  4. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In churches, we often keep power to a few at the top. By doing this, we often miss how knowledge can be found everywhere and answers can be found everywhere. There is also a fear that many churches and pastors harbor and not having a willingness to learn from other pastors and churches that are not in their camp. Acts 29, my camp does this. We are fearful of seeker-sensitive churches and only read books by dead guys or a few pastors we respect. Why not read books by business leaders? Or pastors of churches that have a different viewpoint than we do?
  5. Whatever happens, we have to be loyal to each other. I’m sure loyalty is talked about in most churches and leadership teams, but I wonder how often it is held. Without loyalty, teams will fail, leaders will fail and churches will fail. If you teams aren’t able to continue working together when it gets hard, they won’t last. This is also seen when a lead pastor has someone come to him and say, “Did you hear what that leader did? Did you know this was happening?” I’ve often told our leaders, keep everyone up to date so that when a problem arises, we are able to have each other’s back.
  6. The first impression sticks. First impressions always stick, they are almost impossible to break. That’s why the first moments on a Sunday morning are the most important minutes. There is something else about this that churches miss and that is the idea of being thought well of by outsiders. Many churches and pastors seem to want to stir up controversy, say stupid things so their blog gets more hits or they get more RT’s on twitter. Nothing brings in people like a controversy. That’s true, but your church doesn’t want any of those people. It also makes those outside the church think poorly of us and the gospel. Yes, but what if it is true? It won’t matter if it is true because they won’t hear it. A church and its leaders should strive to be thought well of, while at the same time being faithful to the Bible. It is possible.
  7. Story Is King. For Revolution, the sermon is the most important piece of our gathering, but it is the thing that drives our gathering. Everything we do stems from the text and the theme for the day. The songs, videos, stories, readings, art, responses, next steps, etc. Everything stems from the passage and sermon. Start with that, start with what will be communicated and use everything to get that across. This is one of the things that sets Pixar apart, their stories are incredible and memorable.
  8. Trust the Process. This is hard for leaders to do, especially pastors. We often want to control people, outcomes or how things will go. We see a problem brewing or a person who isn’t making it and we want to step in and end it or make something happen. We need to trust the processes that we have put into place. If you have an assessment process to be a leader, trust it. If you have a membership process for people, trust it. Let the process weed people out.
  9. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. One of the most important, if not most important, aspect of leadership is getting your leadership team right. All effort needs to be put into this because your church will rise and fall because of the caliber of leaders you have. The amount of time you spend developing leaders, finding leaders, hiring the right leaders needs to be more important than you probably make it.
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10 Lessons for the Church from Pixar

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I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. Here are the first 10:

  1. If we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it too. This was the standard in how they decided on when they made Toy Story and has stuck with Pixar as they have made other movies. This is crucial for churches. Pastors need to lead churches they would want to attend and we need to create churches we want to go to. Otherwise, no one will bring anyone. Also, when a guest comes, they will feel our lack of excitement and enthusiasm. It is like going on a trip with someone who doesn’t want to be there.  
  2. Leaders of companies that go off the rails focus on the competition, not looking at themselves. Churches are notorious for this. We complain about culture, how no one cares about church anymore, the culture is shut off and hardened toward the gospel, there is more competing against church attendance today, on and on we go. We try to out market the church down the road. When we put up road signs for our church in front of where we meet, the megachurch 1/4 mile down the road put signs up near ours. Churches tend to fight and target the Christians. Instead of being the best, most healthy church God has called them to be, we settle for something less because of a focus on the wrong things.
  3. Protect the culture of Pixar. One of the most important roles of a leader of a church or ministry is keeping it focused on the main thing. The lead pastor is the primary vision caster and primary vision protector. It cannot be delegated, it cannot be relegated to the back burner. If it is not protected, anything can happen, anything can be important, anything can be the win.
  4. Pixar starts from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. Too many pastors think they are more committed than their people or other leaders. A church planter can easily get distracted and fearful of another talented leader and keep them from leading. A lot changes when a pastor believes everyone is bought in and wants to contribute.
  5. Turn down opportunities that are a diversion from your goal. 
  6. Devote your life to a goal. For Ed Catmull, his life goal was to create an animated movie strictly with computer technology. Too many leaders and churches do not have a goal they are devoted to. They give credence to the great commission, but their budget and actions do not back up their supposed passion for this. For me and Revolution, we dream of planting churches so that everyone in Tucson lives within 10 miles of a church we’ve planted. I pray I see that before I die.
  7. Have total confidence in the people you hire and let them do what you hired them to do. Many pastors are micromanagers, church planters can be even worse. I understand the tension: you started the church, put your livelihood on the line, you have the most skin in the game. Consequently, you don’t trust others, you have a hard time believing someone can do something as well as you can, let alone better than you. This thinking though is shortsighted and keeps a church from growing and keeps people from using their gifts to their full potential.
  8. Fear is groundless. Christians are fearful people. We are afraid of culture, afraid of what politicians are doing, the left-wing lobby, Satan, the economy, you name it. Yet, we serve a God who conquered sin and death. Pastors are fearful of elder boards, powerful lay leaders and influential church members. We don’t say what we should, we don’t preach what we should, we don’t take the risks that we should, all because we fear failure or make a god out of someone else. Fear is groundless, it has not power over you because of the God you serve.
  9. Hire people smarter than you. This is closely related to #7 and if you don’t believe #7, you won’t hire smart people. I am blown away at the caliber of leaders that God has assembled at Revolution. All of them are smarter than me at something. I’m good at a few things, but need others who are great at many things for us to reach the goals God has given to us.
  10. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In many Christian circles, the leaders attend conferences, read books, visit churches, follow blogs of people they agree with. This is shortsighted. You should read people who don’t think like you. Read business books, if you preach, read books by vocal coaches. In theology, you should be pushing yourself in your reading. Look outside of your camp for good ideas. Be willing to learn from anybody on how to do church the best way you can.

I’ll share more lessons as I continue working my way through the book. Highly recommend it so far.

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How I’m Growing as a Leader Right Now

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I have heard leaders say, “This is a book that I re-read on a yearly basis.” Until recently, I have never done that. Once I read a book, I write a review of it, organize my quotes into evernote, put it on my shelf and pick up a new book.

Until now.

Recently, I struggled to think of a new leadership book to read and then I thought about this statement I’ve heard before. I thought back to the most inspiring, mind changing books that have shaped how I lead, think about church and my philosophy of ministry.

Here’s what I came up with:

I read these books sometime in the last 5-10 years. At the time, I was a student pastor in a large church overseeing volunteers. Now, I’m a pastor of a growing church, overseeing staff and hoping to plant more churches.

These books were incredibly foundational to my leadership and I think re-reading them in a new stage of leadership will be helpful as I continue to grow and hone my skills as a leader.

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Book Notes | Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches

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Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International said,

I can think of many Christian organizations that have lost their spiritual commitment. I can’t think of one secular organization that found its way to a Christian commitment. Any leader who inherits a strong Christian commitment must shepherd the culture and steward that commitment.

In a nutshell, that’s why this new book by Peter Greer and Chris Horst Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches is so important. Having just preached a vision series at Revolution and going through a process of re-clarifying the win or why of Revolution Church, this book was incredibly refreshing to read, as well as incredibly challenging as I think through the task of keeping the mission clear, putting things into place to protect this clarity and keeping everyone on the same page.

The stories they tell of organizations who less than 50-100 years ago who were Mission True and had a clear Christian identity, to now simply collecting money is scary.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission.
  • According to studies, 95% of Christian organizations said mission drift was a challenging issue for them.
  • Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.
  • Mission True organizations decide that their identity matters and then become fanatically focused on remaining faithful to this core.
  • If we aren’t entirely convinced that our Christian faith is essential to our work, then we won’t be willing to make the tough decisions to fight for it.
  • It’s often Christians who seem most likely to be the biggest critics of bold Christian distinctiveness in our organizations.
  • Mission drift is a daily battle.
  • Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.
  • The single greatest reason for mission drift is the lack of a clear mission and vision.
  • If leaders aren’t bleeding the mission, drift will always trickle down.
  • When we begin to see our priority as a growing ministry, instead of a faithful one, we sow the seeds of drift.
  • Leaders always act in accordance with their beliefs.
  • Mission True organizations find a way of stating and measuring what they believe matters most.
  • What’s not measured slowly becomes irrelevant.

Highly, highly recommend this book to any pastor or leader who works with a non-profit.

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