The Best Books I Read in 2013


It’s that time of year again, time to share my top lists of the year. Monday, I shared the top sermon downloads from Revolution Church. Tuesday I shared the books that almost made my “best of the year” list. And yesterday I shared the albums that almost made my “best of the year” list.

To see my list of favorite books from past year, simply click on the numbers: 200920102011 and 2012.

To make this list, it does not have to be published in 2013, I only needed to read it in 2013. As always, this list was hard to narrow down, but here are the top 13 books of 2013. Buckle up book worms:

13. How to Deliver a TED Talk | Jeremy Donavan

If you speak for a living or are a pastor, this is a must read book. Donavan takes the best and worst of TED Talks and breaks them down into do’s and don’ts for speakers. You can read my review here.

12. Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Serial Innovators Succeed Where Others Fail | Larry Osborne

I love Larry Osborne’s stuff. It is so simple and straightforward. In this book, he looks at why some churches and organizations works and others don’t. His chapter on mission statements is worth the price of this book. You can read my review here.

11. Eat Move Sleep: Why Small Choices Make a Big Difference | Tom Rath

Health books are everywhere. Good health books are hard to find. This is one of the great ones. Two things stood out in this book: One, every choice we make matters. They all impact every part of our life. Two, Tom Rath looks at how to eat, move and sleep so that those choices make the most positive impact in our lives. You can read my review here.

10. Sex & Money: Pleasures that Leave You Empty and Grace that Satisfies | Paul David Tripp

There are some authors you should read everything they write. Tim Keller is one of them and Paul David Tripp is another one. No matter the book, you should read their stuff. Tripp takes the two biggest temptations and sins in our culture and shows how they leave us empty. Definitely a convicting book. You can read my review here.

9. Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge | Henry Cloud

The primary message of this book for leaders is you get what you create and what you allow. You can read my review here.

8. Chasing Francis | Ian Cron 

I read this book one Saturday night, one of those hard, dark Saturday nights many pastors have. I could not put this book down as it resonated with me on so many deep levels. So, when you have that dark night, this is a book to read. Here’s my review of it.

7. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the work of Christ in Your Life & Ministry | Jared Wilson

This book is very similar to Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous CallingA challenge to pastors to apply the gospel they preach to their own lives and hearts. A great book for doing the deep dive for a pastor and confronting their idols. It also helps that Wilson is hilarious in this book. You can read my review here.

6. Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples who Make Disciples | Jim Putnam, Bobby Harrington, & Robert Coleman

The effects of this book will be felt at Revolution for years to come. As we’ve moved more and more towards a missional community model, this book has helped us hone our system of making disciples. This graph has been huge for us. You can read my review here.

5. Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus | Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson 

If you are a parent or will be a parent, this is the one parenting book you have to read. It shows you how to parent to your child’s heart, which is the only way to change a child and see them become who God created them to become. You can read my review here.

4. Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence | Crawford Loritts

What set this book apart was that it had very little “here’s what a leader does” advice. This book is all about what influences and shapes a leader. Ultimately, what shapes a leader will eventually come out in their actions. You can read my review here.

3. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World | Paul Miller

This is the book on prayer.  So good. I love the idea of prayer cards and have since created them on Evernote to use. You can read my review here.

2. In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness, and Heart of Christianity | Jim Belcher

This book almost made the jump to #1, it was close. This book is part parenting book, part history, part travel, and faith. It shows the roots of Christianity and how to bring those into your family. One thing Katie and I want is for our kids to know the history of Christianity and that it is not a faith that just appeared in the last 100 years. You can read my review here.

1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action | Simon Sinek

I love leadership books, so it makes sense that one of them is #1. A leadership book was #1 last year too. This book was insanely good. If you are a leader, this is the one book you have to read in 2014. So good. You can read my review here.

Tomorrow you’ll get my last list of the week: the top 13 albums of the year.

Necessary Endings

bookEvery Saturday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, & Relationships that all of us Have to Give up in Order to Move Forward (kindle version) by Henry Cloud.

As the title indicates, the book is about how to know when things have run their course. It looks at how life, business, church, relationships and organizations all have a life cycle. We all know this. We aren’t friends with everyone forever, we don’t have ministries that run forever (although it might feel that way at some churches), we don’t have products that last forever. Things end. People move on. Sometimes that ending is hurtful and sometimes productive. But they happen.

What Cloud does and it is something every leader needs to learn is how to know when that ending is happening (before it’s too late) and how to end it and move on in a healthy way.

For the longest time I’ve been terrible at this. I hold onto relationships too long. I let people who hurt me stay in my head for years. While I’ve grown in this area, I’m nowhere close to where I need to be, which is why I found this book so helpful.

Here are a few things I highlighted:

  • For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them.
  • Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.
  • In many contexts, until we let go of what is not good, we will never find something that is good. The lesson: good cannot begin until bad ends.
  • Often, there are no good business reasons for waiting to do something that should be done now.
  • In the simple word pruning is the central theme of what a necessary ending is all about: Removing whatever it is in our business or life whose reach is unwanted or superfluous.
  • Make the endings a normal occurrence and a normal part of business and life, instead of seeing it as a problem.
  • One of the most important aspects to any high performance is the ability to separate one’s personhood from any particular result.
  • the great leaders make “life and death decisions,” which, as he pointed out, were usually about people. Those are the decisions that cause big directional changes in businesses, where the life or death of the vision depends on someone stepping up and acting.
  • What is not working is not going to magically begin working
  • If you comb the leadership literature, one theme runs throughout everyone’s descriptions of the best leaders. The great ones have either a natural ability, or an acquired one, as Collins says, to “confront the brutal facts.”
  • In the absence of real, objective reasons to think that more time is going to help, it is probably time for some type of necessary ending.
  • When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.
  • People resist change that they feel no real need to make.
  • In my experience with businesses and individuals, not paying attention to sustainability is one of the most common reasons that they get into trouble, sometimes unrecoverable trouble.

As a leader, this is a book worth picking up. I think for many pastors, knowing when to end a ministry, a relationship or how to handle a leader who is not performing, this book can be extremely helpful.

Sustainability Questions


I recently read Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, & Relationships that all of us Have to Give up in Order to Move Forward by Henry Cloud. He had a great list of questions to help someone determine if the life they are living, whether in work, pace or a relationship is sustainable for a long period of time. Here they are:

  1. Are you in an emotional state right now that is not sustainable? I am not talking about just a “hard time” or a time that you would not want to continue forever. Life is full of difficulties, but with proper support and other resources, we can endure them if we have to and if we have a good reason to. What I am referring to is a hard time that is truly not sustainable and often continues for no good reason. Are you in a state that is eating your heart, mind, soul, or energy in such a way that you are headed for some sort of crash or burnout?
  2. Are you in a physical state right now that is not sustainable? Too much travel? Too little sleep? Too much “on the go”? Too much taxing of your physical system? For a prolonged period of time with no end in sight? Too little exercise? Too much junk food?
  3. Are you in a state right now in your relationships that is not sustainable? Is there some relationship that is depleting or damaging you? Is there a context in which you feel compromised or forced to adapt to another person’s needs and demands out of fear? Are you in a situation where someone has power over you and is slowly diminishing you?
  4. Are you in a professional state right now that is not sustainable? In your work, is something going on in the culture or in your relationship with your boss that you cannot continue long-term without some sort of damage to your drive, talents, or passion? This does not include all difficult cultures or bosses, as most people have some period of time in a setting like that, which really builds them or equips them over time, even if it is hard. What I am referring to is something that is not equipping you or causing you to grow but is slowly wearing you down or killing something inside of you.
  5. Are you in a spiritual state right now that is not sustainable? In your spirit, is something causing you to be diminished? Is hope being deferred in some way that is causing a sickness of spirit? Are you losing a sense of meaning in life? Is something happening that is causing you to feel depleted of a sense of purpose, mission, transcendence, love, or other spiritual dimensions? A diminished belief in humanity or diminished faith? Is your ability to hope being affected?
  6. Are you in a financial state right now that is not sustainable? In your business or personal finances, are your expenses greater than what’s coming in, with no end in sight? Is the curve between investment and certain returns way out of whack? Do you not know how your real, fixed, non-negotiable expenses are going to be covered in the current path that you are on? Said another way, if something does not change, are you going to run out of money and have no options? If “cash equals options,” are you on a path of diminishing options?
  7. Are your energy reserves being depleted in a way that is not sustainable? Is there something so draining to your energy that you have to make yourself keep going? Do you have to drag yourself in a particular path continually? Is there a clear drain that is causing that? • Are you letting your strengths fall into disuse in a way that is not sustainable? Are you on a course where your strengths are not available to you? Are you being cornered, at work or elsewhere, in a way that requires you to be “not you” most of the time? Is the real you slowly going to sleep? Do you fear that it may not be able to be reawakened?
  8. Do you find yourself in a situation where you are overextended in some way, one that began as an anomaly but now has become a pattern? Many times this happens with a person’s schedule or workload. What they thought was going to be a lot of work or extra hours or effort for a while has now become what is required to keep it all going, as the entity or enterprise has become shaped and formed around exactly that ingredient, all that effort from just one source—you. So what was supposed to be a season has now become a pattern, the new normal.


When Choosing a Spouse, the Past is the Best Predictor of the Future


This story appeared in Henry Cloud’s book Necessary EndingsCloud told the story of a father who knew his daughter’s boyfriend was about to ask for her hand in marriage and he asked Henry Cloud how he should handle it, what he should ask the man asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Here’s the story

My friend told me that his daughter’s boyfriend had called and asked him to go to dinner, and he expected the proverbial “asking for her hand” conversation. He wanted some advice on how to handle that question, and I could understand his trepidation. Few thoughts are scarier to a father than wondering, Will this guy love her, treat her well, and take good care of her? As a father of two girls, as I look into the future, I could already feel what that must have felt like for my friend. We talked about how to handle it, and then I said, “After all of that, tell him that you would like to see his credit report and his last two years’ tax returns.” “What? You have got to be joking!” he exclaimed. “Not at all. I am dead serious,” I said. “Why? I can’t ask him how much money he makes. That’s so intrusive and the wrong message. Marriage is not about how much money he makes.” “Exactly, and money has nothing to do with my suggestion. I don’t care about the numbers at all, how much he makes. Tell him to blot them out if he wants. I only care about two things. First, the credit report will give you a peek into how he has fulfilled other promises he has made to people who have entrusted things to him. If he can’t be trusted to fulfill the promises he makes with something such as money, which is not nearly as valuable as your daughter, how are you going to trust him with real treasure? I would see a big yellow flag if he has a history of bailing out on commitments he has made to lenders or others.” While my friend was still trying to absorb the idea of asking for a credit report, I homed in on the tax return. “I don’t care what the numbers are. I just want to know if he has done them. Does he take responsibility for his life and get things like taxes done? If he hasn’t, then that is a sign of what your daughter is signing up for in the future: chaos and uncertainty that come from his character. That would be another big warning. No matter what his financial situation is, I would want to know that he obeys the law, has his affairs in order, gets his taxes done, and sends them in. “So, the message here has nothing to do with money. It has to do with looking at his past behavior in some areas that count: promises, commitments, and responsibility, and then seeing what the track record has been. That is important because the best predictor of the future is the past. What he has done in the past will be what he does in the future, unless there has been some big change. You can bet on it,” I told him.


Tuesday Morning Book Review || Boundaries for Leaders

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge (kindle version) by Henry Cloud.

The primary message of this book is as a leader, you get what you create and what you allow. 

This message is crucial for pastors and church leaders. Many pastors and leaders allow things that are frustrating, get the church off mission or cause division or create a culture that is not welcoming or one that won’t allow for growth.

This becomes especially true the longer a leader leads a church. The church begins to take on their personality and passions.

The point of this book for leaders is, you are in charge, start acting like it.

Here are a few things worth writing down:

  • Leaders can motivate or demotivate their people. They can propel them down a runway to great results, or confuse them so that they cannot clearly get from A to Z. They can bring a team or a group together to achieve shared, extraordinary goals, or they can cause division and fragmentation. They can create a culture that augments high performance, accountability, results, and thriving, or cause a culture to exist in which people become less than who they are or could be. And most of the time, these issues have little to do with the leader’s business acumen at all . . . but more to do with how they lead people and build cultures.
  • Leadership is about turning a vision into reality;
  • Whatever culture you have, you are either building it or allowing it.
  • What are boundaries? They are made up of two essential things: what you create and what you allow.
  • The leaders’ boundaries define and shape what is going to be and what isn’t.
  • Besides giving direction, good leadership boundaries also establish the norms and behaviors that drive success. They build unity and energy. They focus that energy and attention on what is important. They build optimism and empower people to do what they truly have the power to do to drive results. They set the conditions and standards for great teams and culture,
  • Leadership must set the stage and ensure that: What is important is always being attended to—attention. What is not important or destructive is not allowed in—inhibited. There is ongoing awareness of all the relevant pieces required to fulfill the task—working memory.
  • If executive functions of the brain are working well, and people are structured enough to focus, inhibit, and be conscious of what is important, they can execute the following list of behaviors, which actually are involved in producing results.
  • The way the curve works is that as stress goes up, performance goes up—until a certain point. If the stress gets too high, the curve goes the other way and performance diminishes.
  • As the person in charge of setting emotional boundaries, your job is twofold. First, do everything possible to create “good fear,” the positive performance anxiety that activates healthy stress. The drive that says, “If I get with it, I can get something good and avoid something bad.” Second, diminish destructive fear, which is communicated through tone, lack of structure, and the threat of relational consequences—anger, shame, guilt, and withdrawal of support.
  • That is what people need from their leaders, the knowledge that their leader is for their success, and if a mistake is made, that leader will stand beside them and help them learn and improve, not punish them.
  • Unity grows when people come together around a shared purpose or goal.
  • You cannot lead them to another place if they do not feel like you understand the place that they are in.
  • Before you try to move people to your position, make sure they feel that you understand where they are coming from, what they are feeling, and what they are dealing with.
  • The prevailing thinking patterns of a team or an organization—its norms and belief systems—will define what it is and what it does.
  • The reasons organizations get stuck in one way of thinking are manifold, but one of the main causes is the failure of a leader to spot negative thinking and effectively set boundaries that prevent it from taking root while also making sure that optimism rules.
  • Research has revealed time and again that a belief that one will be successful is one of the strongest predictors of goal achievement. Great leaders build this belief into their people, teams, and culture. They believe that they can do it, and when things get tough, they find a way
  • Focus your people on what they have control of that directly affects the desired outcomes of the organization.
  • The higher you go in leadership, the fewer external forces act upon you and dictate your focus, energy, and direction. Instead you set the terms of engagement and direct your own path, with only the reality of results to push against you.
  • Great leaders simply don’t buy the old saying that it is lonely at the top, even if they do accept that the buck stops with them. When it does stop with you, the last thing you need to be is isolated
  • One of the most performance-limiting and devastating ways of thinking is to overidentify with a particular result.

If you are a leader, this is definitely a book you need to pick up and work your way through.

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • Had a long, but great week in Tacoma, WA at Soma Communities.
  • Mike and I were up there for some more training and to connect with other leaders from around the country.
  • Seeing where Soma and other churches are makes me very excited about the future of Revolution.
  • It has been cool hearing from other pastors in Tucson and other states asking questions about missional communities and wanting to learn more about what Revolution is doing. I love the opportunity we have to serve other churches and leaders and help them move the gospel forward.
  • While I hate being away, getting back into the swing of things is always difficult.
  • It was great having the night off from preaching at Revolution.
  • I heard Mike hit it out of the park tonight, pretty excited to check out the podcast.
  • I also heard the band killed it. Love how more and more artists are being developed at Revolution.
  • We kicked off our Christmas offering tonight.
  • Our goal is to raise $11,000 for church planting in hopes of moving the gospel forward in Tucson.
  • On the plane I read Henry Cloud’s new book Necessary Endings. Really, really good.
  • While it was great having a break tonight, a week off always makes me excited about preaching.
  • I’m continuing our Titus series next week and talking about how the gospel shows itself in our homes, neighborhoods, dating, marriages and being single.
  • We all preach a gospel in those areas, the question is if it is one centered on us and our culture, or Jesus.
  • It is going to be a powerful night.
  • One of the cool things over the last few weeks for me is hearing from our MC leaders about how their communities are gelling and people are striving to live on mission and build relationships in their worlds.
  • If you haven’t gotten into one, you need to stop waiting and get into one.
  • For me, one of the relationships Katie and I have been developing has led to me performing a wedding tomorrow.
  • I’d definitely appreciate your prayers as I preach the gospel at this wedding, knowing that there will be very few Christians there.
  • Grateful for the opportunity.
  • Needing a huge win from my Steelers tomorrow and my fantasy team to get back into the playoff hunt.
  • Should be a fun filled day.
  • Weddings are always a blast.

My Notes from the Leadership Summit

I went to the Leadership Summit last Thursday and Friday with some of our team from Revolution. It was by far one of, if not the best Summit I have ever been to.

In case you missed them, here are my notes from the Summit, in order.

  1. Four Lessons for Leading in a New Reality – Bill Hybels
  2. Hiring, Firing & Board Meltdowns – Panel Discussion
  3. Manage Differently NOW – Gary Hamel
  4. Four Steps to Spiritual Renewal – Tim Keller
  5. Jessica Jackley & the KIVA Story
  6. Against All Odds – Harvey Carey
  7. Third Culture Leadership – Dave Gibbons
  8. Aid vs. Trade – Andrew Rugasira
  9. Leveraging Your Past – Wess Stafford
  10. Eyewitness to Power – David Gergen
  11. Switch – Craig Groeschel Interviews Dan & Chip Heath
  12. Bono, the Church…3 Years Later
  13. The Irreducible Core of Leadership (An Interview with Tony Blair)

Hiring, Firing, & Board Meltdowns – Panel Discussion

Here are my notes from session 2A of the Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, Patrick Lencioni, Henry Cloud, David Ireland and Carly Fiorina were on a panel to discuss the issues surrounding hiring, firing and board meltdowns.

  • There needs to be a connection from the person being hired to the culture of the church
  • A cultural fit is a must when it comes to a church
  • Whenever you make a decision about a person in a great state of need, you will idealize the person
  • What are the 2 or 3 behaviorial things, that if a person doesn’t have, they don’t get hired?
  • A healthy hiring sequence
  • An interview is an easily managed situation
  • Spend time with a person, drive in a car with them, take them to a store, play golf, ask them what other people would say about them
  • Ask the same question 3 times
  • Ask questions that are not yes/no answers:  what are 2 weaknesses/strengths, what are the challenges to managing you, how do those weaknesses affect our organization
  • Talk less
  • Ask questions about their answers
  • Ask open ended questions:  tell me about yourself
  • A can’t miss when it comes to hiring:  organizations with a strong culture that the people who fit their are drawn to them and the people who aren’t are repulsed by them, list in advance what are the needs of the organization, the job description is not just about skills but personalities and strengths, take the time to talk about why you are hiring and what you are expecting, find out a lot about the person, the process will do its work if you have a correct process
  • Board meltdowns
  • The reason meltdowns happen is because you didn’t do something before the meltdown, they don’t just happen
  • You must decide your tone, how will you operate
  • Will you have non-board members at a board meeting
  • You can’t build trust on a team if you aren’t vulnerable
  • Take 10 minutes at the end of a meeting and ask, “How did we do?”
  • Board members serve 3 purposes:  influence, affluence, a unique skill set that helps to lead the organization
  • Can a person help move the ship forward and if they can’t, why is that person on the board?
  • Firing
  • People consider it compassionate to not be honest with people, that is not compassionate
  • A firing should never be a surprise
  • If you hold someone accountable, they are either going to improve or decide this isn’t right
  • 3 steps to firing someone:  re-train them, could they serve the organization in a different position, if those don’t work, retire them
  • “The kindest form of management is the truth.” – Jack Welch
  • Are you prepared to demotivate your best people if you don’t have the hard conversations
  • Clarity and care have to be best friends in the situation of letting someone go
  • Be upfront about the process, especially if the firing is a financial decision, not a personnel decision