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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How to be a Better Author

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Recently, I watched the author platform conference online. This was a series of interviews with authors, bloggers, marketers and other experts to help writers, speakers and bloggers be as effective as possible.

Below are the lessons from each interview that I watched:

Jonah Berger

  1. Create a connection with your book. Give something to people so that they make a concrete connection to what you are saying. At book events, he gave out tissues with the word Contagious: Why Things Catch On on them for his book and made the connection of “wouldn’t your like your ideas to be as contagious as the cold?”

Chris Brogan

  1. Be married to the outcome more than you are to the idea. This will allow you to enjoy the content you create.
  2. When it comes to branding, people think about people. The person sticks in the mind of people if you know who the person is.

Chad Cannon

  1. Books that sell come from authors that hustle.
  2. An author needs to provide value to the audience outside of their book.

Chris Ducker

  1. Writing a book is not like writing a blog post. Editing is by far the hardest part of writing a book.
  2. Just be you. Your readers and listeners will know if you are being real or not.

John Lee Dumas

  1. Failures happen when people don’t listen to their intuition. Successes happen when we do listen to our intuition.

Carmine Gallo

  1. Ideas are the currency of the 21st century and you are only as successful as your ideas.
  2. Most speakers fail because they don’t have their message down, they don’t know their story.
  3. The difference between a great speaker and a good speaker is the great speaker is always looking to improve.
  4. The 3 components to any great presentation: Emotional, novel and memorable.

Jeff Goins

  1. Activity always follows identity.
  2. Offline relationships still do matter in the midst of our social media worlds.

Chris Guillebeau

  1. A lot of people can launch a book well, but successful authors need to think about how to make it successful in 3, 6, and 12 months.

Derek Halpern

  1. The best way to promote yourself is to help others, to give a benefit to someone else.
  2. Content is not just about what you say, but how you say it.

Michael Hyatt

  1. Know your audience, who they are, what their needs are, and what questions they have.

There was some incredibly helpful things in these videos.

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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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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Millenials and the church.

Media consumers in the 0s, 10s, 20s, and 30s have no such print alliances. To them, the idea of printing on a dead tree and then trucking it to houses and newsstands seems ludicrous, old-fashioned, inconvenient, and wasteful. To these folks, paper-based publications are a pain to carry and search, easy to misplace, and hard to share, and the information in them is outdated the moment it appears. For those who weren’t raised on paper, digital is superior in almost every way.

Chuck Lawless on Reflections on leadership.

You are the leader now, but you will not lead forever. Callings change. Health issues erupt. Organizations restructure. And – though this thought is difficult for some of us to imagine – those organizations often go on well without us. We sometimes become only one of the pictures of past leaders hanging on the wall, all photographic reminders that an organization is much bigger than we are.

Erik Raymond on Can you keep your kids from running away from God after graduation?

Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) Read / Understand the Bible, 2) Pray, 3) Talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, and family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.

David Murray on 50 reasons to sleep longer.

We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives.

Don’t waste your loneliness.

I have found that the sooner a friendship boldly makes Christ the center of the relationship, the deeper the roots have grown.

Eric Geiger on Read or get out the ministry.

While I would not consider myself a “reading expert,” reading has been a significant part of my development for the last 20 years. I view reading as an opportunity to interact with great thinkers and leaders. I typically am working through multiple books at a time. Before kids entered our world, I averaged reading two books a week. The quantity of my reading has slowed for this season, but I still take reading very seriously. Here are some suggestions based on my experiences with books.

Common problems in modern preaching. This is right on. Listen up expository preachers.

Too many of our sermons are actually theological lectures, and our aim is usually to inform the mind rather than melt the heart.

How to preach in an age of distraction.

The preacher’s business is with the mind; we have to get people’s attention, and hold their attention, if we hope for our message to make a difference. Anything that distracts our listeners or readers from our message can impact our hours of work and prayer.

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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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10 Lies Leaders Love

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This is from Tim Irwin’s new book Impact: Great Leadership Changes EverythingIt is a list of the lies leaders believe that drive self-deception in their lives and often lead to not reaching their potential or falling completely out of the leadership game because of moral failure. They are lies leaders tell themselves to allow them to act in ways they shouldn’t. Sadly, I have believed these at different times and have seen countless pastors fall prey to them.

  1. I’m the smartest person in the room. I have better ideas and better judgement than anyone on the team.
  2. I’m responsible for these results. They could not have done this without me. I did this. 
  3. Everyone is out to get me because they are envious. I am so good, and they can’t stand it. They know I’m on the fast track and are going to try to get me off track.
  4. These people work for me. They have to deliver to my standards. I need them to focus on helping me.
  5. I don’t have to follow normal rules…I deserve special consideration. I have a big job and need to ignore some rules to get my goals accomplished.
  6. I’m entitled to that. I worked hard and made this place what it is. This place was a wreck before I took over. Through my leadership we are finally making some money.
  7. It’s not material. This is a rounding error. No one would begrudge me for taking this.
  8. No one will ever know. We can fudge these numbers a little. Next quarter should be spectacular, and we can restate this quarter’s earnings.
  9. It’s not my fault. I did everything I was supposed to do. Those other guys dropped the ball.
  10. I don’t need to be accountable to anyone. Nobody here really understands what I’m trying to do. It’s only results that the board is after, and I can get those if the rest of the team would get out of my way.

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Women and the Cycle of Defeat

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I’ve spent the last 3 weeks speaking to the women of our church in our series BeautifulTo prep for it, I read a bunch of magazine articles, blog posts and books on the struggles women have and what teenage girls struggle with.

Reading stats on body image and eating disorders, depression, feelings of loneliness that they have and how most women live with a sense of defeat and that they will never live up to a standard they have in their mind, a standard their parents or spouse have for them.

While photoshop make the struggle women have with their bodies unwinnable, it is almost like they look though the lens of photoshop for everything in their lives.

I preached on Proverbs 31 this past weekend and beforehand I got a number of emails from women saying, “I’ve read those verses, they are impossible so I simply give up.”

The reality is that most everything in the Bible is impossible on your own.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

While the standard for women in Scripture is high, it is for everyone. It is meant to stretch us and cause us to rely on God. That is why Proverbs 31:30 says that this woman fears the Lord. The fear of God takes away all fear, all defeat and refocuses on us on what matters and what will get us through what lies ahead.

Proverbs 31 is a story of a woman through the course of her life. Did she do all those things in the season her kids were small or right after she got married? Probably not.

One of the reasons I believe many women are defeated in their lives (besides the impossible standards they or others set for them) is that they often lack a vision of what their life could be like. I’m not sure if this comes from a personality trait, that men tend to be more logical and linear in their thinking but one of the common threads I heard from women after church this week was how easy it is for them to get stuck in the details of everyday life and not lift their heads above the fog to see what God has for them.

One of the challenges of Proverbs 31 is to have a larger vision for your life. To think bigger than what you do. Your life is meant to be more than what it is. Your life is meant to have a legacy. The problem is that most of the time, legacy is talked about strictly to men. We need that reminder. But women do as well. What you do with every minute of your life makes an impact down the road. This is true for everyone.

Yet, we often spend our moments on the wrong things.

Arianna Huntington said, “Eulogies celebrate our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.”

That is important to keep in mind.

I’d add that God celebrates our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Mike Leake on People don’t become angels and you shouldn’t want them to.

You won’t be an angel when you die. And thank God for that. Angels aren’t in union with Christ. But real flesh and blood people like you and I are in union with Christ. We’ll enjoy Him forever in a way that an angel cannot.

Ron Edmondson on 7 warning signs a leader is about to crash.

I’ve learned there are some common indicators that a leader is heading towards burnout. The sooner we can recognize them, the sooner we know to reach out for help.

Archie Parrish on Avoiding burnout.

The term burnout was coined by rocket scientists to describe shutting down a jet or rocket engine by exhausting or shutting off its fuel. Dr. Herbert J. Freudenberg, in his 1974 book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, was the first psychologist to use this term. He defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Aaron Armstrong on Is church growth all about the pastor?

When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is good at his job, the church grows. If he’s bad at his job, the church shrinks. Sounds unspiritual—but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way—but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon.

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Top 13 of 2013

In case you missed them last week, I shared my top 13 of 2013 lists:

The Top Blog Posts of 2013

This has been a week of sharing my “Best of” lists.

It started with the top sermon downloads from Revolution Church, then my almost best books & almost best albums of the year. Then I shared my favorite books and favorite albums of 2013. Today is the last list: the top blog posts of the year. To make this list, it had to be a blog post published in 2013, of which there were thousands to choose from. One of the things I love about this list is how many blog posts Katie wrote (which is a new addition to my blog this year).

Here they are:

13. I Can’t Compete With Your Perfectly Coiffed Hair & other Perfections

12. What Now for our Family (And How You can Be a Part of our Lives Now)

11. Adoption Trip Update #3

10. What do Stay-at-Home Mom’s Do All Day?

9. The Most Important Minutes to a Guest on a Sunday Morning

8. The Five Stages of Discipleship

7. My Arms are Too Short

6. The Power of Habit

5. Bring our Child Home from Ethiopia & Serve a Widow

4. Meeting our Son who we Didn’t Know Much About…

3. What our Family Does on Halloween

2. 21 Skills of Great Preachers

And the most read blog post of 2013 was:

1. Finding an Accountability Partner as a Pastor